Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

hope reflected 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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Thursday

2

August 2018

Hope Reflected | Truths about Pride

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

Truths about Pride

Truths about pride from the book of Proverbs.

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday

26

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Forgiveness

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

God’s Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday

18

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Peace

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

Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday

13

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Matters of the heart

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

Matters of the heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday

4

July 2018

Hope Reflected | What does the Bible say about Insecurity

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

Insecurity

What does the Bible say about overcoming insecurity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday

8

March 2018

Hope Reflected | 6 Characteristics of a godly Christian Woman

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

6 Characteristics of a godly Christian Woman

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

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

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

Loyalty.

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

 

Focus.

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

 

Strength.

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

 

Industriousness.

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

 

A nurturing spirit.

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

 

Faithfulness.

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

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

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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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