Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

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Friday

23

February 2018

Hope Reflected | Lessons from the honey bee

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

Lessons we can learn from the honey bee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday

31

December 2017

45 Life Lessons Learned in 2017

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45 Life Lessons Learned in 2017

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

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

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

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

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Saturday

31

December 2016

20 Life Lessons I Learned in 2016

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hope reflected 20 things I learned in 2016

It’s that time of year again! One thing I always love to do at the end of the year is to take time to reflect back on the time that’s just passed, and to look forward to applying what I learned in the New Year ahead. 2016 was a year filled with many answered prayers, challenges, encouragement, and also some important life hacks learned (and re-learned). With this in mind, I’m happy to share with you 20 Life Lessons I Learned in 2016:

  1. Remember to rest. “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him:” (Psalm 37:7a) I’ve been learning the lesson of “remember to rest” for most of my adult life. Ever since Carl Honoré’s “In Praise of Slowness,” I find myself yearning more and more for the slow life. Not just “taking”, but making time to rest – to turn off my phone, to eat dinner around the table, to make eye contact, to enjoy a fulfilled life with the ones I love – rest is a constant education, one that must be studied and practiced. When I purpose to rest in the LORD, only He can give me rest from life’s trials, personal problems, and work.
  2. To be successful, you need a strategy. “The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5) Part of a winning strategy involves learning to the patient, being open to change, and being prayerful in your direction and decisions. As King Solomon said in Proverbs 13:16, “Every prudent man acts with knowledge.” No war was ever won without a solid strategy.
  3. A little encouragement can go a long way. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” (Psalm 103:2) When you’re discouraged, there are a few easy ways to bring yourself out of that rut: Count your blessings. Go for a walk. Buy someone (or yourself!) flowers. Get into God’s Word. Smile at someone. Remember, a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
  4. The emotion of anger is a fact of life; while it can’t be avoided, it can be remedied. “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves you a hundred moments of regret.
  5. There’s a Bible verse for that. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart,” (Psalm 119:11) When you’re anxious, afraid, sad, apathetic, bitter, or impatient, God’s Word is filled with encouraging verses about peace, courage, comfort, happiness, joy, love, forgiveness, and patience. Just open it!
  6. Faithfulness is important, even in the little things. “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) Faithfulness is a virtue that can be developed prayerfully and with good habits. Faithfulness is important in every aspect of our lives, whether relationally, professionally, or financially.
  7. Bad habits can be beat. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (Galatians 5:9) Just like weeds in a garden, bad habits have a tendency to spread – and stick. Bad habits can be beat when you choose to be accountable, pray specifically, and believe you can overcome your bad habits. Bad habits can be beat with God’s help!
  8. Practicing patience is worth the wait. “Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) Planting a seed requires patience and time (which Tolstoy said are the two most powerful warriors). Patience requires rest, the right heart, and a whole lot of humility, and in the end, it’s totally worth it. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.” Patience can be accomplished, one day at a time.
  9. Don’t judge a book by its cover. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Consider an iceberg: What we see on the surface is only about 10% of the whole iceberg; the other 90%, the greater mass, lies beneath the waters. This is an important lesson to remember when we look at one another.
  10. When it comes to devotions, the important part is getting started. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Take the time to get into God’s Word. Just like the saying “six pack abs start in the kitchen,” a strong spiritual life starts in the Bible. Open your Bible, even if it’s just a Proverb a day, seek God, and ask Him to speak to your heart. The benefits will be eternal.
  11. Make time to pray. Everyday. “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) There are plenty of habits you can develop throughout this life, and one that’s worth practicing is prayer. God is powerful, and we have direct access to Him, whenever, wherever, and about whatever. Carve out time each day to pray, and remember throughout the day to pray for people you encounter and to praise Him for the little victories and blessings that come your way.
  12. God created you to be you. “…even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7) God knows the exact amount of how many (or how few) hairs are on your head, and you can rest assured that He created you for a purpose that only you can accomplish and fulfill. I need this reminder daily!
  13. God is faithful and merciful. “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” (Psalm 86:5) A great way to remember God’s faithfulness and mercy is to keep a prayer journal – Wes and I keep note of prayer requests and praises, and it’s nothing short of AMAZING to go back and look through all of our answered prayers. This is especially encouraging when we’re feeling down or like things aren’t going our way. God is faithful and His mercies are new every morning!
  14. God is gracious. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) Read: God gives us what we don’t deserve. He loves to shower His people with goodness and gifts that are exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.
  15. Put things in perspective. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom:” (Proverbs 9:10) Sometimes I get so caught up with to-do lists and being busy that I need a reality check when it comes to setting priorities and what’s truly important – don’t we all? When we have a correct understanding of the fear of the Lord, it makes it easier to remember (easier, not always easy), that whatever we’re facing in front of us is never bigger than the God inside us.
  16. There is always hope. “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider; God also hath set one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14) When you face adversity, ask the Lord what He’s trying to teach you, remind yourself that God is in complete control, and remember that there is always hope. C.S. Lewis once said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
  17. Disappointments are inevitable; discouragement is a choice. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 42:11) You’re not alone if experience a day – or two, or three, or hey, maybe even an entire week, – of disappointment. Life happens to all of us! The key is in how we handle it.
  18. Choose faith over fear. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) One of the realities of life is that we will all face seasons of change. Many thoughts can run through our minds when embarking on a new journey, and it’s in those times of uncertainty that we all need to be reminded to choose faith over fear. Bob Proctor said it like this: “Faith and fear both demand you believe in something you cannot see. You choose!”
  19. We all need a firm foundation. “…remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” (Proverbs 22:28) When we start messing around with our foundations, structures shift. And an unsteady structure is not a safe structure. Having a firm foundation for what you believe is important because when storms come and your beliefs are tested – your foundation is your core!
  20. Less is more. “Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.” (Proverbs 15:16) G.K. Chesterton said, “There are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more, and the other is to desire less.” Too often we look to fulfill our longings with things. Fulfillment doesn’t come from any amount of “stuff” that you accumulate; it comes from God. “It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.” Remember to practice an attitude of gratitude!

Originally published as “20 Life Lessons I Learned in 2016 – Parts 1 & 2.” Reidt, Hope. Independent Plus, Minto Express, Arthur Enterprise-News, Fergus-Elora News Express. December 21, 2016: 5. 2 parts.

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Wednesday

9

March 2016

Hope Reflected: 3 Life Lessons I Learned from my Grama

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mar9_3thingslearned_grama

Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we’re all influenced by those around us, and some souls have a more lasting impact on our lives than others. With the celebration of American Thanksgiving, and the start of Christmas festivities, many of my recent thoughts have been surrounding my Grama (she would have been 85 in November).

During her tenure her on Earth, my Grama imparted a lot of wisdom to her children and grandchildren. Both directly and indirectly, she taught us many lessons through the way she lived.

  1. Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Even if you don’t like them. My Grama always treated others with respect, even if she was encountering someone she didn’t really care for. She was an example, living out the Scripture of Luke 6:31 (KJV), “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
  1. Cherish your loved ones. For my Grama, the best time spent was time surrounded with family and friends. Especially in her later years, the value she placed on this time was obvious. One of my favourite family memories is from the year before she passed, when Grama suggested we all go up to the cottage for a family weekend getaway. Everyone had to bring something – whether it was food or a favourite board game – and we spent much of that weekend eating, laughing, and creating some of the best family memories. We don’t know how long we’re given here, and it’s important to cherish those who are important to us, and to remind them of how they’re loved. Like it says in Galatians 5:13b (KJV), “…through love serve one another.”
  1. Always have faith. There were several people and things in my Grama’s life for whom she was praying. And while several of her wishes for those around her hadn’t come to pass when she passed away, she didn’t lose hope and she always had faith. Though I can’t tell her, seeing her live out her faith has influenced me in an incredible way. We may not instantaneously get answers to prayers or see success, however living with faith and purpose (and patience!) is so important as we journey through life. Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, tells of several individuals who never saw their vision fulfilled in this lifetime, but serves as a great reminder of how important strong faith is. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (v.1, KJV)

These are only three important life lessons that I learned from my Grama, and there are many more. We can learn much from our elders, so the next time you’re privileged enough to spend time with someone older than you, pay attention. Sometimes it’s not what they say, but how they live, that will stick with you.

 

Originally published as “3 Life Lessons I Learned from my Grama”. Minto Express. December 2, 2015: 5. Print.

 

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