It’s easy to be hasty. Especially in today’s climate. We see uneasiness, suspicion and tensions on the rise, not only here in the United States, but around the world. Inflation of prices and shortages of many day-to-day items can be a huge area of concern and we have all felt the effects. Godlessness is rampant and society continues to try and skew the lines between good and bad, and right and wrong. It is in this climate that God speaks. It can be in our weakest and most helpless times that the Lord shows his strength the most. And to all my brothers and sisters out there, I say to take heart. Don’t be quick to be responsive. Don’t act out of fear or worry. Look to the Lord, whose presence is very real and who has not left you even for a moment. Have courage and remember that for those who are of God the happiest of endings await.
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:27 NIV
I don’t know about you, but I have to be very intentional when it comes to listening. I am not talking about hearing. Listening is much different. It involves a deeper comprehension of what is being said. Listening has an element of learning to it. Simple acknowledgment that something was said does not correlate with taking it to heart. It’s vital to any relationship that both parties develop their skills in the art of listening. That is a key component to any communication. Therefore, it can be said that those of us in relationship with Jesus must also develop our ability to listen to Him, not to merely hear Him.
How often have you read the Bible and the next day or the next week, you couldn’t recall the specifics of what you had read nor the application to your life? I’ve done it. Many times. It feels like a wasted opportunity. I could have grown and matured spiritually. It could have had a tremendous impact of my perceptions for that day or week or even life, and I’ll never know because I let the lessons vanish from my mind. It’s fair and right to say that every time we read the Bible, Jesus speaks. So, isn’t it also fair and right to say that those of us who value a good healthy relationship with Jesus should also be listening?
Those who listen to their spouse, their parents, their kids, or their friends, have an intimate understanding of who they are and what makes them come alive. They know how to interact at a level that breathes life into the relationship. If we are truly listening to Jesus, then we are following Him. We will do the things that please Him. We will love and pursue Him. We will know the value and purpose He has placed on our lives. But we have to really listen. Meditation is not some odd eastern religious practice. It’s Biblical. God has actually asked it of us. Meditation simply means to think deeply or carefully about something. What better to meditate on then what Jesus is speaking into our lives? But are we listening?
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Matthew 5:7 ESV
Recent events in my family’s experiences have reminded me of the immense value of mercy. No one is perfect, therefore everyone messes up. We are all in need of mercy, from one another, and from God. There is no one who doesn’t need forgiveness. When people we know are going astray, don’t abandoned them. For when they return, they will need your open arms to further their healing and recovery.
God makes no room for an unforgiving spirit. That only comes from arrogance and a distorted view of our own “goodness”. It’s easy to look at the choices of others and drift towards judgement. But what God commissions us to is an attitude of compassion and prayer. We need to stop wasting our time with anger and frustration and spend more time pouring out our hearts in prayer for those who are not living the way they should. I have witnessed, time and time again, people’s lives being redirected through God’s goodness. No one is too far gone. Let’s all stop the gossip chains. Let’s stop wasting our voices bashing others. From our lips should come love and truth seasoned with grace and hope. Condemning others never lead to their salvation.
There will come a time when you and me will need mercy to be extended to us. I need it fairly often. I needed it in a big way just a few months ago. I am extremely grateful for those who have shown me grace, and that gratitude should punctuate and attitude of mercy in my own heart. A good thing to remember is that no one could ever hurt us as much as we’ve hurt God. Our sin rendered us underserving. It’s Christ’s sacrifice that opens the door for each of us to find mercy. Our sin gave Him lashes and drove the nails through His wrists and feet every bit as much as those who have hurt us. We too have broken the heart of God, and have received His mercy. If that doesn’t propel us to show grace then nothing will, and we will then be the most pitiable of all.
Would we live our lives differently if we were under the constant knowledge that we are saved and have new life with Christ? Would our struggles be as difficult? Would pain be as severe? Would the little things we worry about fade to the background? Would we be anxious, stressed, angry, or worried like we all get if we lived from a place of redemption, forgiveness, joy, hope, and peace? I have noticed in my own life that when I reflect on the gift God has given me and the person Christ is making me into the trials of this life somehow become much easier to go through. I know I am forgiven, I know I am remade; I know this life is temporary, and I know that God is in control of my entire life. Man, what great joy and contentment there is in knowing these things!
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
Hope is one of those words that when you say it, it rolls of your tongue and immediately brings a glimmer of light to your heart. Hope is something to cherish and be thankful for. It serves as a platform of strength in those moments that seem perilous or without end. It is something that every single person needs. We can’t do life without it. As the verse above says, hope is accompanied with joy and peace. But only when that hope is in something real and constant.
I’ve heard people say to have hope in hope. To hold on to the “idea” that there is a “possibility” that things can get better. This is mere optimism. I happen to be an optimistic person myself. I like to look on the Brightside and believe that things will be ok. But my optimism is based on Someone, not just an idea or a desire to have good feelings. Hope that is not founded on reality is delusion.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)
The Someone I have hope in is an unwavering and eternally faithful God. In our darkest moments we can rest assured in the hope that is brought to us by Jesus. He has a proven track record. He’s never failed. He’s shown His love and devotion to humanity regardless of the fact that we don’t deserve any of it. I don’t have hope because I believe things will get better in life. I have hope because Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I have hope because I’m never abandoned by the One who made me. I have hope because He’s been beyond faithful in my life even when I’ve waivered in my faith. My hope is founded on Him, not my circumstances, past, present, or future.
Hope is that light at the end of every tunnel whether we think we see it or not. If you’ve been grasping for just a glimpse of that light, yet feel lost in an endless dark tunnel, look no further than the cross. Look to the Son hanging for our transgressions, touch the scares of His nail-driven hands, and absorb the love that it represents. In times when life is the most difficult, stop and pray. Realize that Christ faced all the hardships that this world can dish out and He has overcome the world. And more importantly, He did it for you. So that you will always have a hope so solid that it can never be broken. Let us not waver but be forever hopeful in the promises God has given us. Let us seek Him out and be renewed in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Let us not give up on Him, for He never gives up on us.
Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61:2 (NKJV)
Our heart is the most important part of our bodies. It’s no wonder that God tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above all else because this is where the enemy takes aim at. That is what falls into despair. Our heart carries the load and gets beat down through all the stresses life throw our way. Fortunately, we do not have to rely on our own strength in any situation, no matter how extreme or minor it may be. We have a Rock and a Refuge higher than ourselves. We have a Savior that is greater than all that may come our way. We have the endless peace and joy that comes from knowing Him. We have Someone who wants to build us up and encourage us always. We have Him who is greater than all our problems to call on no matter where we find ourselves. We have strength that is greater than anything we ourselves can muster. We have the protection, strength, and love of the One who molded and made us in our mother’s wombs. He who is the author of your life wants what is best for you and only He knows what that is. I pray that if you are in need of hope at this moment, you find that in His love. You are not alone. You are not too far gone. Let the One who began your life, sustain your life.
From an early age we seem to be drawn to wanting more, or wanting different. We say or think the phrase, “I wish _____”. As kids we wish for a new toy, for something different to eat, to be able to do whatever we want, or even to be someone different. We live a life pursuing an alternate reality. Given Eden, man wants to become God. Our hearts are desperate wanderers. Even in the best of circumstances, we still long for something more or different.
He never promised you the job, the education, the spouse, the marriage, the kids, the church, the city, or the circumstance of your dreams.
Garden City Publishing
I think a lot of us actually feel like God did promise us these things. I say that by how we are all so guilty of taking these things for granted. Myself included. Instead of finding overwhelming gratitude and contentment, we see what we perceive as missing in our lives. The ‘haves’ in life are drowned out by the ‘have nots’, and we’re left reeling for more. The pity party begins rather than the praise party which should be a constant in our lives.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13 ESV
Paul was a man who gave his life for the mission of God. A mission that all of God’s children have. And life was by no means easy for him. Prior to speaking these words the man had been beaten, left for dead, ridiculed, shipwrecked, bitten by a serpent, mocked on trials, and yet, with the same breath, he said rejoice always. Not sometimes or in the highs of life. But always. Why? How could he say this? Because there is always something to rejoice about. There is a God Who loves us. A God Who made and designed us for a purpose. A God that has woven value into every single one of us. A God that has pursued us every moment of every day. Even when we didn’t know He was there. And even when we were running away. A God Who paid the ultimate price so that our sins wouldn’t be the final chapter of our story. A God Who has prepared a home for His children to be welcomed into a glorious eternity.
This is so much greater than anything we could wish for. Instead of saying “I wish” let’s start saying “I have”. Dreaming and hoping for things is not a bad thing. But if it wrecks our hearts or sours our souls, then we have lost sight of all that we have so graciously been given already. A heart that requires nothing else is a heart that has found peace. In the midst of Job’s darkest days, he never forgot to praise his maker. Wherever we find ourselves today, in abundance or in trials, let’s make our lives a worship song.
When Jesus said we can have peace through Him, I believe Him. But I will be the first to admit that it’s allusive at times. At least that’s how it seems. The problem is my innate ability for distraction and misplaced priorities make it difficult to maintain a state of peace. I work a lot. I mean a lot. I have a family with three little ones, Bible Study, a business, and a teaching career. I find myself constantly battling the concerns of being a husband, father, teacher, business owner, etc,,,that I don’t often stop to smell the roses. I’m living month to month, instead of minute by minute most of the time. It’s a cycle that deepens as life progresses. But it’s also a cycle that can be broken at any time.
This is my manifesto. I will choose the moment rather than planning all the upcoming moments. I will soak in Jesus presence as often as I can possibly make time. I will choose to look at the silver lining in all circumstances. I will be the rock my family needs. I will stop allowing the stresses of life to have any hold on my heart. My life is good because I have Jesus. And because I have Jesus, I have salvation, rest for my soul, and peace with God. And it just so happens that God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and three awesome kids.
Money will come, because God will not abandon His own. Life will go on and we will all be under His loving watch. His peace will no longer be allusive in my life. How about yours?
Maybe today is the day for you to write your manifesto. Wherever you’re at, today is a gift. Let’s receive it with joy.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 ESV
In your frustrations and disappointments, let Jesus fill your need. He is our hope in the times where hope seems lost. Our problems can be consumed by the eternal fire that God breathes into our souls. Much of life can feel like groaning and yearning for greater things, or even for difficult things to pass. It is both to the future and the past that we must look. Look first at the fact that you are known and cherished and created with a purpose. Look next to the unthwarted pursuit of God in the lives of His creation. Then gaze upon a hill, where a blood-stained cross displays a love far greater than any of us deserves. But that love did not stop there. There is also a tomb…an empty tomb that shows our destinies are not surrendered to death. Our future is written with love’s ink. Glory awaits. Freedom awaits. There will be a day when the pain ceases and joy will be the only emotion we know. Because of Jesus, our hearts do not need to remain downcast. The victory is won and an even greater victory is coming. Hold strong brothers and sisters. Pray for me as I pray for you also. God is good and He has always been for you.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Does the unknown deter you or invite you? The heart for adventure and exploration is divine. It requires faith. Abraham went to a place God would show him before he knew any details. Noah built a giant ark in a world that had never seen rain. Joseph endured many hardships on his way to save nations. David faced down a giant when few believed in him. Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, Isaiah, and all the prophets walked a path against the grain of culture to try and steer a nation back to the Lord. Mary accepted a calling unlike any human has ever been given. Followers of Jesus sold all they had to support one another and the mission of spreading the Gospel. And that’s just dipping our toes in the water when looking at all the amazing stories of adventure and faith in the Bible.
So much of life is unknown. Does that energize you or depress you? Jesus went so far as to tell His followers to go out to the nations with little to no provisions. God took an entire nation through the wilderness. And in both examples, the Lord proved faithful in providing all their needs. Christians are a people built for the unknown, for there faith abounds.
We need to stop living such a controlled and precise lifestyle and get our hands and feet dirty. We need walk into whatever God calls us to without all the answers. We need to stop hiding behind the mantra of “I don’t think I’m called to that.” Our desire to be faithful to God needs to outweigh our fear of failure. We need to be ok with things not being perfect and calculated. A life we attempt to control will be frustrating and so much emptier than the one God intended for us. That life is full of His wonders and there’s no telling what may lie ahead.
His adventure awaits brothers and sisters!
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT