Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

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Friday

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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Friday

9

February 2018

Hope Reflected | Time with God: Seeking God

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Seeking God "Seek the LORD and His strength, seek His face evermore!" (Psalm 105:4) | See more at hopereflected.com

Time with God: Seeking God

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been journaling about the references David made in the book of Psalms about seeking the Lord. David was a model of what it is to truly spend time with God. While he was incredibly flawed – hey, what it is to be human, right? – David was also incredibly close to our Lord. While we can learn from many positive examples of how David sought the Lord, here are three that really stand out to me: 

Seek God early. “O God, You are my God; early will I seek you.” (Psalm 63:1) Seeking God early: If you’re not a morning person, I can understand why you’d struggle with this. Reading through the Psalms however, there are so many encouraging verses about the value of seeking God early in the day. It’s such a viable point that David references it at least nine times that I can see in just one book of the Bible. “My voice you shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” (Psalm 5:3) Beyond just early in the day, it’s also important that we seek God early: Before making important decisions, before addressing problems, before we interact with others, before we leave the house. Early doesn’t just reference the morning; it references seeking God diligently and earnestly before making decisions (1 Kings 22:5). I’m no scholar, but the same Hebrew word for “early” used in Psalm 63:1 is also used in Psalm 78:34, “they sought Him, and returned and searched diligently for God.”

Seek God often. “Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His face evermore!” (Psalm 105:4) Some versions of the Bible replace the word “evermore” with the word “continually” or “always”. We are to seek the Lord continually, to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). Maybe for you seeking the Lord often means praying during your daily commute. Perhaps it’s communing with him while you’re out for a walk, or sitting at your desk, or while you’re making dinner. Wherever you are, seek Him! God is always with us, and we’re told in Proverbs 8:17 that those who seek the Lord diligently (read: Often) will find Him. You may think you don’t have time for God, but the key to seeking God often isn’t us making time; it’s making God part of everything that we do. After all, in Him we live and breathe and have our being. “In God we boast all day long, and praise your name forever. Selah.” (Psalm 44:8)

Seek God every day. “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.” (Psalm 27:4) Each day brings with it new challenges and new opportunities. And no matter what the day brings, we are to seek God every day. What a challenge! We aren’t just to seek Him when we feel good, or when the circumstances suit us; we are to seek Him every day. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16) Whether the day is terrific or troubling, we should seek God every day (Psalm 50:15).

David was in no way a perfect man, and I think that’s part of what makes his testimony so relatable – he was human, just as we are, and yet we witness him demonstrate so many times through God’s Word ways that we should seek God. When we earnestly seek after God, He seeks after us. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Originally published as “Time with God: Seeking God.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 16, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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Tuesday

30

January 2018

Hope Reflected | The Church

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“Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.” D.L. Moody | See more at hopereflected.com

The Church

Many Hope Reflected readers grew in a home where Sundays were made for going to church. I can remember as a child one Sunday in particular. I was about four years old, was wearing my favourite purple dress, and I was thirsty (think crawling through the Sahara desert and longing for a drop of water thirsty). I was trying to figure out a way to strategically squeeze out from between my parents and get out to the water fountain for a drink. As I was devising my plan, the pastor asked passionately, “Is anybody thirsty?!” and I immediately thought he was directing his question at me. “Yes!” I called out, “I am!” Of course, my outburst got a lot of laughs from the congregation, and eventually I really did get a drink.

More than an obligation or a ritual, there are so many reasons why going to church is important. A key part of our Faith, going to church can help each of us grow in several ways.

Going to church allows us a time for personal inventory and reflection. “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:40) One thing I love about being part of the Bible Chapel, is that during communion, we’re afforded the opportunity to reflect on what our Lord has done for us. 1 Corinthians 11:28 says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.” Just as much as church is a time for fellowship with other Christian believers, church is also a time for personal inventory and reflection. Through communion, Sunday sermons, Bible studies, and prayer, church provides an excellent opportunity to look at our own lives and look to the Lord. “I considered my ways and turned my feet to your testimonies.” (Psalm 119:59)

Going to church cultivates our character. “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:11) Going to church helps to cultivate character. When you’re being taught truth from a Biblical perspective, and as you learn to discern the difference between right and wrong, your character will grow. Being part of a solid church will help to develop and deepen your relationship with God, and will strengthen your character.

Going to church means being part of a family. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19) Even if your home life isn’t great, you can still be at home in the house of Christ. When you belong to a solid church, you’re part of an even greater family – God’s family. Jesus points out in Matthew 12:48, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?” He wasn’t questioning who his mother and his brothers actually were, He was merely pointing out the importance of our relations in a spiritual sense. Matthew Henry said in his commentary, “let us look upon every Christian, in whatever condition of life, as the brother, sister, or mother of the Lord of glory; let us love, respect, and be kind to them, for His sake, and after His example.”

Going to church is about so much more than going through the motions. When you’re part of a solid church, you will be challenged, cherished, comforted, and more. As the evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.”

Originally published as “The Church.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 16, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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Friday

19

January 2018

Hope Reflected | God’s Faithfulness to Us

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His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) God's Faithfulness to us | See more at hopereflected.com

God’s faithfulness to us

Most of the time, we’re more apt to use a product or make a purchase based on someone else’s testimony of how well a product works or how a certain purchase changed their life. While it’s not a product or service, the Bible works in a similar way. After experiencing God’s faithfulness, you’re more apt to share about your experience with others and encourage them to get into God’s Word and give Him a chance. God’s Word is this amazing, incredible guide to life that works! In fact, without the Bible, without God’s promises and principles, we lack order. Look around!

Reading through the Bible, we’re met with so many accounts of God’s faithfulness. What I love about this, is that each account of God’s faithfulness comes to us courtesy of people who lived before us, who give firsthand accounts of how God changed their lives and changed the way they lived.

Even in my own life, I can’t begin to share all the stories of how God – time and time and time again – consistently shows up in my life and provides exceedingly abundantly above all I can ask or think. Even in the past few days! As David said in Psalm 63:3, “Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!”

God’s faithfulness is always fresh. “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) Lamentations 3:22-23 was the basis for the infamous hymn, “Great is Thy faithfulness”. God’s compassions are new every morning and His faithfulness is great – every morning. Each day, we get a fresh start to experience, recognize, and give thanks for God’s faithfulness! Whatever the day brings – big challenges, facing fears, enduring heartache – God will be faithful to you. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

God’s faithfulness is independent of our faith. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.” (2 Timothy 2:13) Thankfully, God’s faithfulness does not depend on us! There is nothing that we can do that will alter His faithfulness to us. I’m thankful for that as I so often falter throughout life. His love endures. When we are tired, He is enlivened; when we are weak, He is strong; when we are failing, He is thriving; when we are hating, He is loving. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

God’s faithfulness is everlasting. “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Deuteronomy 7:9) Since the beginning of time, God has been demonstrating His faithfulness. He always will! Check out the historical examples of God’s faithfulness in the books of Joshua, 1 Kings, the Psalms, Paul’s epistles, among others. God is faithful!

As we’re told in Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Though it may not always be easy, and though we may have to rest and wait patiently for the Lord to work, the fact is this: He always does. God is faithful, and He will quite often show up in our lives in ways that are far above and beyond anything we could imagine!

Originally published as “God’s faithfulness to us.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 9, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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Sunday

31

December 2017

45 Life Lessons Learned in 2017

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45 Life Lessons Learned in 2017

2017 has been a year of growth. There is so much more that I learned this year than can be compiled in a column. While some of these lessons certainly aren’t new, they are truths that I reflected on or learned from a new perspective in 2017.

Cheers to this year that has passed, and God’s continued blessings ahead in 2018! Can’t wait to share it with you all!

  1. It pays to be prepared. “Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.” (Proverbs 3:28) Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  2. It costs nothing to be kind. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) “Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” (Mark Twain)
  3. When you feel alone, reach out. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) “Look for yourself and you will find loneliness and despair. But look for Christ and you will find Him and everything else.” (C.S. Lewis)
  4. God will love you more in a moment than anyone will in a lifetime. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) If you’re looking for love, the best place to start is a relationship with God.
  5. Jealousy is a bitter cup. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) When you find yourself feeling jealous, stop looking in and start looking up.
  6. Grow where you’ve been planted. “Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” (Psalm 96:2) God brings people across each of our paths for a purpose. Share your faith through your actions and not just your words.
  7. Bitterness will destroy you. “Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:17) Like its cousin comparison, bitterness is a thief. “Bitterness and love can’t live together in the same heart. Each day, we must decide which one gets to stay.” (Dave Willis)
  8. Once you say it, you can’t take it back. “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” (James 1:19) We’ve all learned the hard way that you can’t “un-speak” words. God gave us mouths that close and ears that don’t, so that should tell us something.
  9. Seek wisdom and pursue it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.” (James 1:5) Charles Spurgeon once said that wisdom is “the right use of knowledge.” Use it to discern what is truly important in this world, and eternity.
  10. Get into God’s Word. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) “Whatever keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be.” (A.W. Tozer)
  11. Don’t give up. “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) Whatever trial or difficulty you’re going through right now, you are not in it alone; God is with you. We are weak, but He is strong. Don’t give up; give it to God. He will see you through.
  12. God’s grace is immeasurable, and God’s mercy is inexhaustible. “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) Living a life filled with grace and mercy requires a lot of God’s grace and mercy.
  13. Jesus is alive. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) God’s gift of salvation is free; all we have to do is put our trust in Him! “I believe in Christ, like I believe in the sun – not because I can see it, but because by it I can see everything else.” (C.S. Lewis)
  14. Renovations aren’t just for houses. “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) God can perform a renovation on your spirit and make you brand new. We’re all in desperate need of a Saviour, even when on the outside we appear to have it all together.
  15. There is a time for everything. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) If you’re questioning the timing of something in your life, keep in mind that God frequently answers our prayers in one of three ways: With a “yes”, with a “not yet”, or with “I have something better in mind.”
  16. We have a responsibility to stand up for what is right. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) If we don’t stand up, we’re never going to make an impact. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
  17. Wherever you’re at, God is with you. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismay, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  18. Adversity is an opportunity. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2)
  19. Only God can restore what is broken and make it into something brand new. “Now unto him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) No matter where life finds you, God uses the remnants. He is able to take the most devastating situation and use it for His glory. All you need to do is look to Him and put your trust in Him.
  20. There are countless blessings when you put your focus on the Lord. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
  21. God understands what you’re going through. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. “ (Psalm 139: 2-3)
  22. Take time to rest. “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5) As “You can’t truly rest until every area in your life rests in God.” (A.W. Tozer)
  23. In the face of resentment, when you choose God, He renews and restores. “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:31)
  24. Meekness isn’t weakness. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing…” (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
  25. Rather than putting your focus on the furiousness of the storm, put your focus on the One Who controls the storm. “for in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)
  26. Be humble. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
  27. Christ is our constant companion. “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” (Exodus 33:14) Christ will never turn away anyone who turns to Him.
  28. As part of God’s creation, we are also created to glorify Him with our lives and our voices – and that includes the words that leave our lips. “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23)
  29. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you realize that God is your rock at the bottom. “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
  30. “Don’t shine so that others can see you, shine so that through you, others can see Him.” “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) As C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christ, like I believe in the sun – not because I can see it, but because by it I can see everything else.”
  31. Like ships, we need an anchor. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:19)
  32. It’s not a coincidence that the word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent”. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) The next time you’re feeling uncomfortable or awkward because of silence, use the opportunity to listen.
  33. Following instructions gives life. “He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray.” (Proverbs 10:17)
  34. Don’t grow weary in well doing. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)
  35. Even when you can’t hear God, see God, or feel God, God is still working. “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)
  36. The grateful heart is content. “Be content with what you have.” (Hebrews 13:5)
  37. Waiting on the Lord makes you a more efficient person. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.” (James 5:7-8)
  38. Love others, even when it’s hard. “Love suffers long and is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
  39. God is our source of life, abundance, and security. “He sends the springs into the valleys”. Isaiah 41:18 says that God opens “fountains in the midst of the valleys.” (Psalm 104:10) No matter how low or far down we may feel, God can reach us, especially in our valleys.
  40. God’s faithfulness is always fresh. “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
  41. When you’re part of a solid church, you will be challenged, cherished, and comforted. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)
  42. 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)
  43. In our Christian walk, just like in fishing, the quieter you become, the more you can hear. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  44. God’s economy is different than our economy. “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)
  45. Jesus came to earth for you and I. “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isaiah 57:15)

Originally published as “Life Lessons Learned in 2017.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. December 28, 2017 and January 4, 2018: 7. Print. Web.

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Friday

15

December 2017

Hope Reflected | The Fountain of Life

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"For the Lamb... will lead them to living fountains of waters." (Revelation 7:17) | Read more at hopereflected.com

The Fountain of Life

Easily one of the most recognizable tourist attractions in Rome, the Trevi Fountain is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It took thirty years to construct, is one of the oldest sources of water in Rome (the fountain is built at the end of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct, which was used as early as 19 B.C. as water in the ancient Roman baths), and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Throughout the Bible, our Lord is referred to as many things, one of the most fascinating of which is the fountain of life. Several times throughout Scripture, a parallel between God and a fountain or spring is drawn. During times of spiritual struggle, discouragement, or deep valleys in our lives, looking to God as our source of water, as our fountain, can provide just the relief, encouragement, and light that we need.

God is our source of life. “…on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.” (Genesis 7:11) In the midst of seasons when we are tired, drained, and wondering where we’ll muster the strength for the day ahead, recall this to mind: God is our source of life. While we don’t know when exactly David wrote Psalm 36, we can be sure he was looking to the Lord as his source of strength: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9). In Christ alone, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). When our strength seems small, or even when it seems like we’ve got the world wrapped around our finger, we need to claim Christ as our source of life.

God is our source of abundance. “A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias.” (Joel 3:14) All that we are and all that we have comes from the Lord. As our source of abundance, we can rely on God to provide for our every need, even the things we haven’t thought of. It’s not until we learn (and will we really ever learn in this lifetime?!) to rest in Him, rather than our own power, that we will truly understand the blessing of relying on God as our source of abundance. He truly is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think! “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

God is our source of security. “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17) In a previous column, I wrote about God as our Shepherd. Just as a shepherd protects his sheep, God also protects His children. He’s our source of security (Isaiah 41:10). He is our Great Comforter (Psalm 23:4). He is our fortress (Psalm 91:2). Psalm 46:1 opens with the statement, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

One of the things that I love about the metaphor of God as our fountain is that throughout the Bible, we read how fountains flow down into valleys. Psalm 104:10 says that “He sends the springs into the valleys”. Isaiah 41:18 says that God opens “fountains in the midst of the valleys.” God is our source of life, abundance, and security. No matter how low or far down we may feel, God can reach us, especially in our valleys.

Originally published as “The Fountain of Life.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 2, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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Monday

27

November 2017

Hope Reflected | Loving Others, Even When It’s Hard

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"Be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2 | See more at hopereflected.com

Loving Others, Even When It’s Hard

Chances are that at some point in your life, you’ve read the “love” chapter in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. We usually hear 1 Corinthians 13 quoted or recited at weddings, anniversaries, or other happy occasions. But what about loving others, even when it’s hard?

This world is filled with difficult people, and if each of us were honest, we’d all have to admit that sometimes in life we are actually the difficult ones. Loving others even when it’s hard or when they’re being difficult can be extremely trying, can’t it? The good news is that it’s possible, because God first loved us. Because God first loved us, we’re equipped with the capacity to love others.

How do we love others, even when it’s hard? Let’s look at some practical instruction from 1 Corinthians 13.

Love others by being patient. “Love suffers long and is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) In most areas of life, when you have patience, you will have peace. Loving others, even when it’s hard, means guarding your reactions. It means exercising patience towards those who have difficult personalities. When you’re being patient, you’re less likely to speak out of turn; you’re less likely to add fuel to the fire; and you’re more likely to act with integrity and kindness, and as a result better understand where the other person is coming from.

Love others by being humble. “Love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) Comparison is the thief of joy, and the sooner we learn to water the grass in our own yard rather than seeking “greener” pastures, the better off we’ll be. You may be tempted to “win” the argument, you may really want to have the last word, but part of loving others means being humble and taking the high road – even when it’s hard. And man oh man, can it ever be hard sometimes! Through it all however, we’re called to love by being completely humble.

Love others by being kind. “Love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) It costs nothing to be kind. And while our initial reaction may be to speak out of turn and return bitter barb with bitter barb, the Lord will bless you for taking the high road. Even when it’s hard, we can each demonstrate love to others by being kind. Sometimes being kind means taking time or stepping away, and it also means taking time to pray for others. You might think it’s impossible, especially when someone else is being everything but kind to you, and when that’s the case, prayer can have a huge impact. With God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37), and when you take the time to pray for others, God has a way of making kindness that much easier.

Love others by wanting what’s best for them. “Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6) When you love others, you want what’s best for them and genuinely have their best interest at heart. Especially when someone has been unkind or hurtful, it can be tempting to rejoice when they run into difficulties or when they’re proved wrong, but just like we’re told in Proverbs 25:21-22, the Lord sees when we give to those who only give us grief and He will use it for His glory.

Love others by bearing with them. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) 1 Corinthians 13:7 is a challenge. Love bears all things – not just good things, not just convenient things – love bears all things. That includes difficulties and it includes hard times. We show our love to others by bearing with them. Proverbs 17:17 says that, “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” We are called to love others, not just in happy times, but in sad times. Not just in easy times, but in adverse times.

Ephesians 4:2 sums up the love described in 1 Corinthians 13 like this: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love.” When we’re trying to love others even when it’s hard, remember this: We know true love and we can love because Jesus Christ laid down His life so we might have life (1 John 3:16-18).

Originally published as “Loving others, even when it’s hard.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. October 26, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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Friday

17

November 2017

Hope Reflected | Waiting on the Lord

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"Wait on the LORD, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart." Psalm 27:14 | See more at hopereflected.com

Waiting on the Lord

Waiting on the Lord is something that we will spend our whole lives learning. John Piper once said, “God works for those who wait for Him. We do the waiting and the trusting, God does the working and the timing.”

Beyond producing patience, there are a myriad of blessings that come from waiting on the Lord.

Waiting on the Lord strengthens your heart. “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14) Throughout most of my youth and adult life, Psalm 27:14 is a verse that’s been highlighted in my Bible. I remember the night I highlighted it. My heart was broken. For a long time, I kept asking, “Lord, what on earth are you trying to teach me here?!” I kid you not, after asking that question one evening, I came to Psalm 27, and verse 14 stuck out to me like a sore thumb. “He shall strengthen your heart.” To this day, Psalm 27:14 remains one of the verses that I cling to, because God has proven it to be true in my life.

Waiting on the Lord builds trust. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We may not understand how the Lord is working, but waiting on Him builds trust. We can be confident that He’s got our best interests at heart. Psalm 37 is a great resource on the subject. “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)

Waiting on the Lord renews your strength. “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) Waiting on the Lord renews your strength. It’s during the times when our “best laid plans” aren’t working out how we thought, and when we’re thrown curve balls that we didn’t see coming that we realize the sovereignty of God. We aren’t in control! And there’s something so relieving and uplifting about giving it all to God. When we surrender to Him, He renews our strength.

Waiting on the Lord sharpens your focus. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13) Waiting on the Lord sharpens our focus, and it does this by teaching us the blessing of contentment. You know when you’ve got your camera set to manual focus and you’re trying to hone in your subject? Waiting on the Lord sharpens our focus; it helps us centre our minds on where God has us rather than focusing on where we want to be. Are you so pre-occupied with planning your future that you’re not taking time to enjoy your present? Too often we limit ourselves because of our own shortsightedness. Don’t confuse one chapter with the whole book.

Waiting on the Lord improves efficiencies. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.” (James 5:7-8) Just like sharpening our focus, waiting on the Lord also improves efficiencies. When our focus is on the Lord, when we’re waiting for Him, we learn to take our time, to slow down, and as a result, we’re more methodical and purposeful, and we work with intention. I like how Charles Stanley uses the illustration of gardening to get the point across. After you plant seeds in your garden, you have to wait for them to grow. You wouldn’t spoil all the work you did in planting your garden by pulling all the seeds out just because you don’t see anything happening immediately. No, you have to wait for the seeds to bring forth fruit!

While we’re waiting, God is working. The irony is that the work God performs within us while we’re waiting on Him is quite often just as – or even more – important than what we’re waiting for. “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3:25) God’s “good” is better than your best could ever be and it is worth the wait!

Originally published as “Waiting on the Lord.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. October 19, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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Thursday

2

November 2017

Hope Reflected | The Grateful Heart

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"That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:14 The Grateful Heart | See more at hopereflected.com

The Grateful Heart

Like most holidays, Thanksgiving comes and goes in the blink of an eye. In fact, here we are less than a month after Canadian Thanksgiving, and you’re more than likely already thinking about other things. More than a choice, having an attitude of gratitude the whole year through is possible when you have a grateful heart. So what are the characteristics of a grateful heart?

  1. The grateful heart seeks God regardless of circumstances. “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Take note of this portion of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. He says, “in every thing give thanks.” Not “in some things,” or “in happy things.” In every thing we are to give thanks. Can that ever be a challenge or what?! There are some things and times in which I just don’t want to give thanks! Even in challenging times or difficult seasons, we’re called to give thanks, even if it’s for the little things (because really, the little things are the big things, aren’t they?). Don’t concentrate on the circumstances that will always change; focus on God Who will never change and Who will always be there for you. The grateful heart seeks God regardless of circumstances.
  2. The grateful heart wants to help others. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others.” (Hebrews 13:16) We’re called on several times throughout the Bible to help others. It’s not always going to be convenient, and it’s not always going to be easy. In fact in Hebrews 13:16 “to do good and to share with others” is referred to as a sacrifice. The grateful heart wants to help others. Maybe for some that means lending a helping hand, or for others, it could mean being a listening ear. Whatever the case, we are encouraged in Galatians 6:2 to “carry each other’s burdens.”
  3. The grateful heart is content. “Be content with what you have.” (Hebrews 13:5) The grateful heart remains focused on what it already has rather than looking for fulfillment in other places. I’ve written before about the importance of contentment, and a sure sign of a grateful heart is one that’s focused on all it’s been blessed with. You may have heard the old adage, “the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greenest where you water it.” This wisdom is true. We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing with us when we leave (1 Timothy 6:7) so where’s your focus? The grateful heart is content with what it already has.

Above all, the grateful heart realizes and treasures what is truly important. What’s in your heart? Is your heart a home for our Lord and Saviour? Or is your heart focused on building an earthly empire? Your answer will determine your eternity. The only One who can truly satisfy the human heart is the One who made it. There’s a longing in each heart that only Christ can fill (Psalm 90:14).

Originally published as “The Grateful Heart.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. October 12, 2017: 7. Print. Web.

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