Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

encouragement Archive

Friday

21

September 2018

Hope Reflected | Be of good courage

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"Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart." Psalm 27:14 | Read more at hopereflected.com

Be of good courage

It’s up to us to make the decision to live a life filled with courage

If you’re familiar with C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, then you’re likely familiar with the characters of Aslan and Lucy. In Lewis’s book Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan whispers to Lucy, “Courage, dear heart,” and it is shortly after this that the ship Lucy is sailing on travels from darkness into light. “And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been,” writes Lewis.

In a recent column, I wrote about the importance of choosing joy, and today I’d like to suggest that courage is also a choice. Courage is a decision that we make in the face of fear, opposition, and uncertainty, and it can change everything.

“Be strong, and of good courage,” are words that, by my count, appear at least 10 times throughout Scripture; these words are written four times in the first chapter of Joshua alone! Time and time again throughout the Bible, we are encouraged and commanded as Christians to be of good courage and to be courageous. To be of good courage and lead by example. To be of good courage and not be afraid or quiet when it seems like the majority of people disagree with you and want to silence you. To be of good courage and to stand firm and to stand up for what is right.

Does that mean that you’re never afraid? No, on the contrary! As Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not the absence of fear.” Does that mean that it’s easy to stand up for what’s right and defend your faith? No, on the contrary! Courage is a choice that as Christians we’re called to make, regardless of the circumstances. Joshua was called to be courageous when it came time to lead the Israelites into a new and unknown land. David reminded himself to be courageous during seasons of persecution. Paul demonstrated courage when he traveled across the world and taught about Jesus and came up against many people who disagreed with him.

Courage. We can take courage in many different areas:

  1. God’s Word and Promises. “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Referenced several times throughout Deuteronomy and Joshua alone, we can take courage in God’s Word and Promises. God is always with us. God will not fail us. God will not forsake us. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t be discouraged, because God is with you! Don’t believe me? Ask Him. If you truly seek God out, you will find Him. And that’s a fact. We can take courage in God’s Word and in His Promises, because they never change. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:8). Not just for one hundred years. Not just for one thousand years. God’s Word stands forever. Some people may not like it, many people may try to fight it, but we can be strong and of a good courage because the Bible is our firm foundation, and Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!
  2. Other Christian Believers. “And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us… whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.” (Acts 28:15) You know that feeling you get when you realize that someone else shares the same faith, or when you discover that there’s someone else out there who totally gets something you thought only you understood? We can take courage in other Christian believers. Each one of us can take time to “encourage” other Christian believers. Just as thousands of candles can be lighted from a single flame, all it takes is one voice to speak out and to stand up for our faith, and that can inspire others to do the same. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John… they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) As Christians, we aren’t called to be silent. We aren’t called to be pacifists. On the contrary, we are called to be strong and to be courageous, and to stand up and be counted. Maybe that means witnessing to someone who doesn’t know the Lord. Maybe that means getting out and voting, even if you’ve never done it before. Maybe that means being silent and not laughing when someone says something crude or makes fun of another. We can take courage in other Christians, and we can also encourage one another.
  3. Our Faith in the Lord. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14) Living our Faith can be hard, can’t it? Especially when sometimes it seems like God is silent, or like He can’t hear us, or during times when we think we’ve got everything under control only to be thrown curve ball after curve ball. As Charles Stanley says, “Obey God, and leave the consequences to Him.” Exercising patience and prayerfully waiting on the Lord before making a decision can be one of the hardest things. But the wait is worth it. When you choose courage and exercise your faith, the Lord will bless you. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24) When we choose courage, God will strengthen our hearts. It may not always be in exactly the way we plan, but part of having Faith means not resting in our own knowledge or following our own leads (Proverbs 3:5-6). “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong,” we’re encouraged in 1 Corinthians 16:13. We can find courage in our Faith.

The greatest place of all to take courage? When you know the Lord as your personal Saviour, you’ve got something that no man, no weapon, no illness, no circumstance can ever take away. The security that comes with God’s gift of eternal salvation should be all the “encouragement” we need to take courage. “Courage,” said C.S. Lewis, “is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” It’s up to us to make the decision to live a life filled with it.

Originally published as “Courage, Dear Heart.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. April 19, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

14

September 2018

Hope Reflected | Choose Joy

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"We have to choose joy, and keep choosing it." (Henri J.M. Nouwen) | Read more at hopereflected.com

Choose Joy

Joy can be found in many places

While many people believe that happiness and joy are one and the same, I’ve often said that happiness is a feeling and joy is a choice. One of my favourite quotes is about joy: “We have to choose joy, and keep choosing it.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

The notion to “choose joy” suggests that joy isn’t so much a feeling as it is a choice or a habit that we purposefully develop. While you may not be happy, you can still choose joy. While happiness resides temporarily in your heart and relies solely on your circumstances, joy indwells your spirit and can be yours at any time so long as you make the choice.

C.S. Lewis once said, “no soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. To those who knock, it is opened.” Lewis also said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me ‘happy’.” Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed the path to Easy street. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from challenges. Just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean that you’ll always be “happy”, but it does mean that you’ve got a relationship with the Creator, and you’ve got direct access to the One Whose arm can move the world.

Mentioned more than 165 times throughout the Bible, joy is a fascinating thing. Joy, when we choose it, can arm us and equip us with many blessings. Joy can be found in many places.

  1. In God’s presence. “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11) When was the last time that you sat and just revelled in God’s presence? We often get caught up going through the motions of our morning or evening devotions and telling the Lord what we want from Him through prayer once or twice a day that we miss out on the simple delight that comes when we stop to enjoy His presence. It’s in His presence that we can experience the fullness of joy.
  2. In sorrow. “Make me to hear joy and gladness;” (Psalm 51:8) This verse continues, “…that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” That’s heavy. David (yes, David as in David and Goliath, that David) wrote Psalm 51 at a very low point in his life. He had an affair with a married woman (Bathsheba) whose husband was away at war. And what happened? Bathsheba became pregnant, and to cover his tracks, David ultimately had her husband Uriah killed at war. The prophet Nathan called David out on his sin, he repented, and that’s the backstory to David penning Psalm 51. In the midst of his sorrow, David asked the Lord to make him hear joy and gladness. And the Lord heard him. David’s testimony isn’t the only place we read about finding joy in sorrow or hardship. In James 1, we’re encouraged and reminded to consider it “all joy” when we experience trials, because it is then that our faith produces patience.
  3. In creation. “For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.” (Psalm 92:4) There’s something to be said about the experience of enjoying (to find joy in) the outdoors and God’s creation. Every morning before the sun rises, I can hear the birds singing for joy outside my window. Joy can be found in taking a walk and breathing fresh air, or in planting and tending a garden. There’s a quote about gardening that says, “he who shares the joy in what he’s grown spreads joy abroad and doubles his own.”
  4. In the morning. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Lamentations 3:22-23 says that, “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Along with the Lord’s mercies, joy comes in the morning. If you’re not a morning person, I can appreciate this may not be what you want to hear, but it’s true. There’s something about the quiet of a new day dawning, an opportunity to start over, and a fresh perspective that makes joy that much easier to find.

Nehemiah 8:10 provides the reassurance that, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” If you’re truly seeking after joy, God will give you strength. And it is only in God that your joy will be full (John 15:11).

Originally published as “Choose Joy.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. April 12, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

7

September 2018

Hope Reflected | 5 things to remember for whatever you’re going through

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"Commit thy way unto the LORD, trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37:5 | 5 things to remember for whatever you're going through | Read more at hopereflected.com

Commit thy way unto the Lord: 5 things to remember for whatever you’re going through

David’s advice in Psalm 37 is wisdom that we should all remember.

David, often referred to as a man after God’s own heart, led nothing short of an adventurous life. Equal parts heartache and heart-warming, the Bible gives a detailed account of David’s life from his humble beginnings as a Shepherd boy to a battle-worn King who conquered many nations.

If you’re familiar with David’s history, you know that he killed a giant named Goliath, he was chosen to be king, he was a gifted musician, he was a poet, he was a bit of a lady’s man, he had his lover’s husband killed, as a result he lost his child, he was Solomon’s father, and he conquered many nations. David lived a colourful life. He went through many things from which we can learn.

David wrote Psalm 37 near the end of his life, so you can be sure that the wisdom he shares in this Psalm come from experience. If you’re anxious or if you need encouragement, here are 5 things to remember for whatever you’re going through:

  1. Fret not. “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 37:1) Fretting, also known as being anxious, worried, concerned, overly analytical, or upset, is something that’s common to all of us! This notion of “fret not” is so important that David mentions it not just once, not just twice, but three times in Psalm 37. “Fret not thyself because of evildoers”, “fret not thyself because of him who prospers in his way”, “fret not thyself in any wise to do evil”. Notice the similarities? Usually our fretting is related to other people. David advises that we shouldn’t worry about those people who do evil, or those who are prosperous, or be envious or concerned about what other people are doing.
  2. Trust in the Lord. “Trust in the LORD, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” (Psalm 37:3) Trusting in the Lord can be very difficult, especially when you only have enough light for where you’re standing and you can’t see the path ahead. Our faith isn’t built on something we can physically see per se. But when you purpose to put your trust in the Lord, He promises that He will direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  3. Delight yourself in the Lord. “Delight yourself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37: 4) Delight, joy, take pleasure in the Lord. We’re promised in God’s Word that when we make Him our delight, He will give us the desires of our heart. “Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob.” (Isaiah 58:14). When you find your fulfillment in Christ, when you choose to keep your eyes on Him, when you take the time to delve into His Word, and when you make Him the centre of your life, that is delighting in the Lord.
  4. Commit it to God. “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) How often are each of us guilty of making plans for the future without first seeking the Lord? When you commit your way to God (i.e., praying in advance about big and little decisions and life choices), and when you put your trust in Him, He shall bring it to pass. Does it mean that God will always work things out exactly how you want? No! Sometimes things will not go as you expect. Sometimes you’ll feel like God’s not answering your prayers. And sometimes, when you ask for A, B, or C, God will exceed your expectations and give you the entire alphabet (as Charles Stanley says).
  5. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) Rest and patience. So often the two go hand in hand. We are able to rest when we learn the virtue of patience, and we are able to be patient when we resolve to rest. When you choose to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him, you can rest assured that He will act with your best interest in mind. “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord,” (Lamentations 3:26). You’ve likely heard the quote that it takes 6 months to build a Rolls Royce and only 13 hours to build a Toyota. The difference between “good” and God’s best for your life is patience.

American blues guitarist B.B. King once said that, “the beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” When David wrote Psalm 37, he had lived and learned throughout his often-challenging life. And yet, at the end of it all, David still claimed God as his buckler, his rock, and his power. You can avoid a lot of heartache by taking the advice of those who’ve gone before you, and David’s advice in Psalm 37 is wisdom that we should all remember.

Originally published as “5 things to remember for whatever you’re going through.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. April 5, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Monday

3

September 2018

Hope Reflected | Seek Peace, and Pursue It

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"God can't give us peace apart from Himself because there is no such thing." C.S. Lewis | Seek peace and pursue it | See more at hopereflected.com

Seek Peace, and Pursue It

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)

Seek peace, and pursue it. You can read through your Bible time and time again, and one of precious things about God’s Word is that there is always something new there to learn, or a new time to learn something you may have heard hundreds of times over.

The word pursue is a verb, and to pursue something means to actively chase after it, to follow it, or to seek it out. “Seek peace, and pursue it,” we’re told in Psalm 34:14. Peace is something that we are to actively chase after, to follow, and to seek out. Peace, that freedom that we all so long for, is not something that will just show up in our lives; we need to actively seek peace out, to chase peace, to follow peace.

In some ways, it makes sense. There are so many people running down paths of yoga, minimalism, meditation, and “religion,” chasing after some illusive idea of peace. They’re seeking after something. Narrow is the way where true peace is found, however. There’s only one true peace, as C.S. Lewis said, “God can’t give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” If you don’t believe it, you’ve likely never given God a chance. As our Lord said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Seek peace, and pursue it. When we have true peace in God, we’ll also discover that there are other areas where we can pursue peace here on earth.

Pursue peace in your relationships. “Follow peace with all men….” (Hebrews 12:14) How often are we guilty of pretending or harbouring the things that bother us, rather than pursuing peace in our relationships? Sometimes pursuing peace means dealing with the difficult and uncomfortable topics so we can cross that bridge and get to the other side. Acknowledging hurts and offenses is often one of the most difficult topics to raise, but the alternative is a life spent bottling up and burying emotions, and we all know how that turns out. Colossians 3:13 instructs us to, “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against another.”

Pursue peace in your work. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace….” (2 Peter 3:14) We’re called to work diligently as unto the Lord, and sometimes the workplace is a place where we neglect to pursue peace. Maybe you always have to be right. Maybe you want to take matters into your own hands and prove that person wrong. Perhaps your co-workers talk about you behind your back. Regardless of your work environment, pursuing peace is just as relevant at work as it is at home. Pursuing peace doesn’t mean that things will always be easy, however it is the right thing to do. Matthew 5:9 says that, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” It could mean holding your tongue. It may mean letting someone else take the glory for your idea. It may mean showing grace even though others don’t treat you kindly. To pursue peace in your work, remember that the Lord knows.

Pursue peace in your spirit. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) How do you pursue peace in your spirit? Philippians 4:6-7 gives us some great guidance on the topic: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Peace for your spirit is possible when you commit your anxieties, fears, and worries to the Lord. Peace is possible when you take your praises and requests to God. Peace is possible when you remember to give thanks to God.

Pursuing peace. There’s only one way to have true peace, and that’s when you have a relationship with the Lord. 1 Peter 3:10-11 says, “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; let him eschew evil, and do good, let him seek peace, and ensue it.” As C.S. Lewis said, “If you want to get warm, you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet, you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.”

Originally published as “Seek Peace and Pursue It.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. March 22, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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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

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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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

Written by , Posted in Hope Reflected, Published Work

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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

Written by , Posted in Hope Reflected, Published Work

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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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Sunday

1

April 2018

He is Risen | Easter | Resurrection Sunday

Written by , Posted in Encouragement, Hope Reflected

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"He is risen, as He said." Matthew 28:6 | See more at hopereflected.com

He is risen! Wishing you a blessed Easter. Happy Resurrection Sunday!

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

Matthew 28:1-7

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