Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

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Monday

1

April 2019

Endurance

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

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Because of God, we can find encouragement in endurance

Often used interchangeably with its synonyms tolerance and patience, endurance is one of those things that we get tired just thinking about. Associated with challenges, hard times, and periods of suffering, endurance is not for the faint of heart.

We weren’t called to enjoy this life; we were called to endure it. Some of you reading this will balk, thinking rather that we are here on earth to enjoy our life. The reality is that you can spend your whole life searching and seeking enjoyment and happiness, but without the Lord you will come up short and end up empty-handed. You know what we are called to enjoy? God. As the Westminster Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” You can disagree, but thankfully the Christian faith is based on facts that date back far earlier than you or I.

When you become a Christian, your life is probably not going to be easy. People are going to make fun of you, belittle you, laugh at your expense, and depending where you live in the world, persecute you. The good news is that we aren’t the first to endure hardships, and if we’re being honest, ours are “first world problems” compared with what Christians in many other nations have to endure.

So where’s the encouragement in endurance? The Bible is filled with accounts of men and women who lived in faith before us. Abraham, Moses, Noah, Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Samson, David, – I could go on. By faith they endured (Hebrews 11:27). By faith, they “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, and out of weakness were made strong (Hebrews 11:33-34).

Beyond our ancestors before us, because of God, we can find encouragement in endurance. Our chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Even when we are at our worst, God’s goodness endures forever. “Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? The goodness of God endureth continually.” (Psalm 52:1)

Even when we doubt, God’s truth endures forever. “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

Despite our ruthlessness, God’s mercy endures forever. “Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalm 106:1)

Regardless of our immorality, God’s righteousness endures forever. “His work is honourable and glorious: and His righteousness endureth for ever.” (Psalm 111:3)

Even though we think we’re in charge right now, His dominion endures forever. “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” (Psalm 145:13)

Originally published as “Endurance.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. November 29, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

17

August 2018

Hope Reflected | Listening to God

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

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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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Friday

16

February 2018

Hope Reflected | Understanding the characteristics of a solid church

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

Understanding the characteristics of a solid church

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

So what makes a solid church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday

24

January 2018

Wednesday Wisdom | Make it a habit to hide God’s Word in your heart

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"Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11) Make it a habit to hide God's Word in your heart | Read more at hopereflected.com

Wednesday Wisdom: Make it a habit to hide God’s Word in your heart

You’ve likely heard the saying, “What goes in must come out” or “garbage in, garbage out”. What’s in your heart will show in your life. Do you have low self confidence? You’ll likely seek out others who are the same and who try to put you down to build themselves up. Is there bitterness in your heart? You and those around you can probably taste it in your words. Is there love in your heart? You’ll give that to others in the way that you treat them.

What’s in your heart will show in your life. That’s why it’s important to fill your heart with God’s truth, wisdom, love, and peace!

The book of Psalms is filled with wisdom, and Psalm 119 — in addition to being the longest chapter in the Bible — is filled with the insight of a person who despite living through a world of difficulties, finds joy and “delight” in following the Lord.

Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

A practical way to follow the Lord is to commit His Word (the Bible) to memory. I’m not suggesting you memorize the entire Bible (though some have!), I’m suggesting you start simple and memorize some of the verses that have impacted your life.

What Bible verses encourage you? What Bible verses comfort you? What Bible verses remind you what is right? Start with the Bible verses that speak the most to you, and commit them to memory, one at a time.

Maybe you’ll memorize one verse a week. Maybe you’ll memorize one verse a month. A great way to start is to write a couple of verses down on a sticky note, or an index card. Post it on your computer screen, or carry it in your purse. Make it a habit to hide God’s Word in your heart. After all, what’s in your heart will show in your life.

What is a favourite Bible verse that you’ve memorized?

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Thursday

7

December 2017

Encouragement | Stand firm in the faith

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"Do everything in love." 1 Corinthians 16:13 | See more at hopereflected.com

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

In the day we live in, it can be so difficult to stand firm in the faith. Right is considered wrong; tolerance is considered accepting only one side of the story.

Whether or not you think your opinion is being stepped on or thrown out, and whether you think your side of the story is or isn’t being accepted, we’re called in 1 Corinthians to the following:

  • To be on guard
  • To stand firm in the faith
  • To be courageous
  • To be strong
  • To do everything in love

Note how the thought finishes: “Do everything in love.” In love. Not in pride. Not in arrogance. Not in superiority. In love.

Whether it’s a difference of opinion with a family member or co-worker, or a political divide with a friend, or even a disagreement with a church member, remember to do everything in love.

Love doesn’t mean weakness. Love doesn’t mean backing down. Love doesn’t mean caving to another’s opinion just to appease them. Love is standing up for God’s truth, doing what’s right, and caring enough to share your faith with others.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

 

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Monday

16

October 2017

Encouragement | Colossians 3:2

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Set your affection on things above. Colossians 3:2 | Read more at hopereflected.com

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2

In the midst of life, where our focus so often is set on the day-to-day grind of life, our careers, our families, our friends, and our own dreams and goals, it can be hard to retrain our thoughts to the heavens and to the One who created us.

We’re told in Colossians 3:2 to set our affection on things above, not on things on earth. Our affection — that feeling of fondness or love — is to be set on things above. So what does that really mean? Does it mean that we’re wrong for pursuing success here on earth? I don’t think so, but I do believe that it means we are to live with eternity in mind.

How often are each one of us guilty of concentrating on the here and now, and what’s best for us in this lifetime? It’s like when Jesus said to Peter, “you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)  I don’t know about you, but quite often in the hustle of the everyday, I’m guilty of not having the things of God in my mind.

While there’s nothing wrong with doing well for ourselves here on earth, ultimately we need to remember that we brought nothing into this world, and we’re not taking anything with us when we leave! As Christians, our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). The empire you build for yourself here on earth won’t matter in light of eternity.

Matthew 6:19-21 puts it like this: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasures is, there your heart will be also.”

We tend to focus where we spend the most time. That’s why it’s so important to get into God’s Word, to memorize scripture, to spend time in prayer everyday. Multiple times a day if we’re able. Ask God to centre your focus on Him. Purposefully recite your favourite verses from the Bible. Actively praise the Lord for His goodness to us — after all, His mercies are new every morning so there’s always something for which to worship Him!

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2

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Monday

16

January 2017

Encouragement | Psalm 145:8 | Attributes of God

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the Lord is gracious psalm 145:8 attributes of God

“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” Psalm 145:8

If you’re looking for encouragement this week, turn your Bible open to Psalm 145 and read about some of the incredible attributes of God. In verse 8 alone, we are told about four great attributes of God.

  • The LORD is gracious — Defined as the unmerited favour of God, grace is a bestowal of blessings that we do not deserve.
  • The LORD is full of compassion — God is not just compassionate, He is FULL of compassion. Defined as sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings of others, compassion is something of which the Lord has no shortage. If you’re suffering, or in a valley, trust God to show you compassion. He will lead you through.
  • The LORD is slow to anger — As you face the emotions of others (and even yourself), who are often quick-tempered, bitter, or irritable, remember that one of God’s attributes is that He is slow to anger. Have patience with yourself and those around you.
  • The LORD is of great mercy — As grace is the unmerited favour of God, mercy is not giving us what we deserve. When someone does you wrong, or offends you, instead of reacting with like, try compassion on for size.

“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” Psalm 145:8

 

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Monday

3

October 2016

Encouragement: Isaiah 54:10

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isaiah 54:10

“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.” Isaiah 54:10

If you haven’t already read through Isaiah 54, I hope you take a few minutes today to do so. Give it a read. The whole chapter is an encouragement.

Even just looking at verse 10, check out all the encouraging truths that are right here! Can you imagine a world where the mountains and the hills are shaken and not just moved, but removed from the earth?! Yet all the while, God remains steadfast, with several promises holding true:

  1. God’s kindness will not depart from us. We know that God is slow to anger. The Psalmist in Psalm 63:3 proclaims, “Because your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.” In Psalm 69:16 the Psalmist says, “Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.” Our God is KIND. He loves us. He has our best interest at heart.
  2. God’s peace, the covenant of His peace will not be removed from us. Philippians 4:7 promises, “and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” As Christians, we can speak from experience that God blesses His people with peace (Psalm 29:11). When troubles on earth seem to prevail, there is something to be said about committing it all to our Saviour. He will give us a peace that is far beyond any comfort we can find in this world.
  3. God, our Lord, will have mercy on us. From experience, and from God’s Word, we know that God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). Mercy, by definition, is God withholding the judgement that we deserve and instead granting us the forgiveness we don’t deserve and we couldn’t have earned. David, in Psalm 51 cries out to the Lord, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.” Our Lord is merciful, and He is quick to forgive. He sent His Son to the cross as redemption for our sins.

If you’re looking for encouragement this week, take the time to read Isaiah 54. Not only will God stay with us, show us His kindness, grant us His peace, and show us His mercy; God also promises within Isaiah 54 that “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgement thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”

 

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Monday

26

September 2016

Encouragement: Ecclesiastes 3:11

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ecclesiastes 3:11 God's perfect timing

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

There are so many truths throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, and Ecclesiastes 3:11 is a great reminder of God’s perfect timing. So often in life, we put a plan in motion for exactly how we want and envision things to work out. We think we’ve got things figured out, like we know what’s best for our future.

It’s very easy to forget that God’s perfect timing for our lives can turn out to be completely different from what we imagine as being right. In Isaiah 55:8-9, we’re told, “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.” Our thoughts and ways are usually very different from our Lord’s, aren’t they? I also really like how Ecclesiastes 11:5 talks about the wonders of God: “Just as you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”

How many times have you been in a situation, and anticipated how circumstances would work out, as though you were in control? How many times do you think that you’re the one who’s in control, that you can climb that mountain with your own strength, that you can change someone’s heart through your own actions? The reality is, God is in control, and it’s only through Him that we accomplish anything at all!

In Matthew Henry’s commentary, he says the following about Ecclesiastes 3:11: “Every thing is as God made it; not as it appears to us. We have the world so much in our hearts, are so taken up with thoughts and cares of worldly things, that we have neither time nor spirit to see God’s hand in them. The world has not only gained possession of the heart, but has formed thoughts against the beauty of God’s works.”

When I find myself getting impatient or experiencing disappointment, or when things don’t work out as I think they should, it’s a great reminder to look at verses such as Ecclesiastes 3:11 about God’s perfect timing. It may not make sense right now, but God’s got a reason. Our task, like Job, is to continue praising Him even when things don’t make sense, and to continue trusting Him and growing our Faith. “Who does great and unsearchable things, Wonders without number.” [Job 5:9] Job experienced more testing circumstances and situations throughout his life, and yet he never once questioned what God was doing. He knew that God had a plan and would work every thing out in His timing.

Wherever you are today, whether waiting, wondering, or worrying, take heart. God’s perfect timing is worth the wait! God is in control, and He hath made every thing beautiful in His time.

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

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Monday

18

July 2016

Monday Encouragement: Deuteronomy 4:29

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monday encouragement

“But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

Last Sunday in church, both Wes and I were struck by the speaker’s simple yet profound sermon about surrendering complete control to God.

It seems like such an easy thing, doesn’t it? Or at least easy to say?

God is in complete control.

Acknowledging that God is in complete control is the first step to contentment.

But living it,—acknowledging that in each of our lives, we will only ever be completely content after we acknowledge that God is in control,—living it is a completely different thing.

We think if we pray harder, or differently, if we do certain things, or speak in a particular manner, that God will somehow be more apt to hear our prayers.

And that’s just not true.

The truth is, that it’s when we really seek Him with our whole hearts,—all our hearts,—and our whole souls, —all our souls,— that we will truly find God and He will find us.

Sometimes, all the time, all we need to do, is surrender.

No ritualistic prayers, no special speech, just ultimate surrender. “God, you are the One Who is in complete control.”

“But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

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