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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

As Jesus followers we have access to the most powerful force in the universe.  Paul writes about it in his salutation to the church in Ephesus.

‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, ‘   Ephesians 1:18-20

My last post discussed how our emotions can lead us to believe a lie.  There is so much information being disseminated that is not accurate, whether intentionally or simply in error, that it is easy to absorb, believe, and emote based upon untruth.  Once we have believed a lie, especially when it has evoked strong emotion, it becomes easier to believe supporting lies and harder to discern the truth from the lie.

I do not believe it coincidental that the word in my quiet and prayer following that post was power.  Repeatedly yesterday the reality of God’s power was emphasized… beginning with God’s power demonstrated in raising Jesus from the dead, continuing with the power Jesus exhibited in healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and ministering to the humble and meek.  That power was then compared to our sun which provides our light, warmth, and sufficient energy to sustain life on this big, blue ball we call home even though it is over 93 million miles away.  While the sun in powerful, the One who created it had to be even more powerful to create it and all that is.

Finally, I saw the power of God in the ability to change a mind… to direct us onto the right course… to deliver the opioid-addict and bring them to health and wholeness… to turn a prodigal toward home… to open our eyes to the lies and half-truths we have embraced and to see and seek truth… to bring us ever closer to Him Who is the Lover of our souls.

That same power is continually available to us as Jesus’ followers.  We are encouraged to embrace that truth and to allow Him to guide us into how He wants to make that real in us and through us.  You are saved for a reason – to know Him and to make Him known.  The Holy Spirit living within the believer is the direct connection to God’s power.  In Jesus’ last recorded words before His ascension into heaven He said,  ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ‘ Acts 1:8

I encourage you this morning to lean into Jesus more and more.  Trust in His power which saved you, sustains you, and guides you.  Read the Word and allow the truth of it to saturate your mind and spirit.  As you do so, you will become more aware and dependent upon His wisdom, His grace, and His strength to live the life He has called you to.  You will learn to discern His promptings and respond to them.  I have been fortunate to participate in miracles He has brought about.  My role was 1% of the work which was accomplished simply by being obedient to what I sensed the Holy Spirit wanted me to do.  It was God’s power that did the work – healing in some cases, deliverance in others, salvation at times. In every case God was glorified and people were blessed.

Wherever you are in your faith walk, God has next steps for you which are for your good and His glory.  He will not leave or abandon you, but rather He is right there with you encouraging you to take that next step.  I don’t know exactly what your next step is, but I know God is cheering you on, whispering words of peace, hope, and guidance.  Let today be the day you take that next step in faith.  Let today be the day you take hold of the power Paul said is available.  Let today be the day you experience joy in a new and exhilarating way.  Seize the day my friend by saying yes to Jesus and stepping out in faith.

If you are interested in watching some excellent sermons, our church broadcasts the services on Sunday and they are also saved and accessible free online.  Just go to newspring.cc/sermons.  We are in a series on the Holy Spirit right now which is very balanced and biblically accurate.  Check it out.

With the benediction today, I think I will do a throw-back to the 1970’s and say:

“More power to you!”

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There are many things in life that I have a hard time understanding.  The scale of the universe…time into eternity…what my wife is thinking.  (OK, actually I know what my wife is thinking a fair amount of the time, such as “what was he thinking?”, but most other times I am clueless.)  Of all the deep thoughts that fit into the category of head-scratching realities, the fact that Jesus died for me and for you is at the top of the list.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 NIV.  This is truly mind-boggling.  But the wonder of it does not diminish the simple fact – it is true.

 

I heard a story a few years back that gave me a new perspective on this.  It seems a little girl, 7 years old, was dying of a rare blood disorder.  The doctors had done what they could with medicine, but the prognosis was grim.  In a final effort to save the little girl’s life they offered a new treatment option that had shown promise.  If they found a perfect blood match they could perform a special blood transfusion and potentially cure the little girl.

The parents said yes and the search of databases begin.  The parents plus aunts, uncles, and all extended family members were tested but no match was found.  When the results returned the father looked at his wife and asked, “What about Billy?”  The mother, heart-broken, dropped her head, hoping not to have this question posed.  With a deep sigh, she said, “we can ask him.”

The results of the test showed a perfect match.  The news was bittersweet to the parents as they knew what they were asking of Billy would mean some pain and discomfort for their little boy, but it was their final option.  They called their 5-year old son into the room with the doctor and asked him.

“Billy, Annie is very sick.  The doctors have said she won’t live much longer without special help.  You see her blood is where the sickness is and she needs new blood.”

Billy listened wide-eyed, tears forming and flowing as he thought about his big sister not being there anymore.

“But Billy,” said the Dad, “There is hope.  You see there is a person who was a perfect match to Annie.  A person who can give her blood that can make her sickness go away.”

Hope leapt into Billy’s eyes.  “Really, Daddy?  That makes me happy.  But Daddy, why do you and Mommy still look so sad?”

“Honey, you are the perfect match and it would mean you would have to undergo a procedure to give your blood to Annie,” the Mother said choking back tears.  “But it means your sister will be able to live.”

At this Billy became quiet, his little brow furrowed.  Shortly he asked one question.  “You mean if I give my blood, Annie can live and play, and make you smile Mommy.”

“That’s right honey.  You’re the only one who can do it.”

A troubled look crossed Billy’s face for a moment, but then he brightened as if a pleasing thought crossed his mind.  “OK Momma.  If it will make you happy.  I will do it.”

The medical personnel quickly began making the arrangements.  Billy was given a few minutes alone with his parents.  His Dad knelt down and gave him a big hug and told him what a brave young man he was.  Billy’s smile was sad, but it was evident he wanted to be brave and please his Daddy.  Momma held his hand and looked him in the eye and said, “Billy, this is the most loving thing you can ever do for your sister.  I am so thankful for you, son.”  While a tear ran down her face, she was also giving Billy a smile.  Billy leaned into his Momma’s hug.

“That’s a happy tear, right Momma?  Like you told me last year when Aunt Sally got married.  I wondered why you were crying and smiling and laughing all at the same time, but you said they were happy tears.”

“That’s right dear.  That’s a happy tear, because my little boy is going to help save my little girl’s life.”

Soon the nurse came and took Billy away to prep him.  He cried a little as he looked back at Momma and Daddy, but he tried to smile so they could be happy tears.

In the transfusion lab, Annie, pale and listless, was wheeled in and connected to the blood transfer machine.  Two nurses bustled about checking vitals on machine and patient, making sure the procedure had the highest possible chance for success.

A little later Billy was wheeled in, his clothes replaced with a hospital gown, a pic line already inserted in his arm ready to begin the blood draw.  Because he was so young, a parent, Momma, was allowed in the room.  Billy’s face was tense, something significantly out of place on one so young.  When he saw Momma he relaxed a little.  Then he saw his sister Annie lying on the gurney on the other side of the machines.  His look became determined.  “This is going to help Annie, right Momma?”

“Yes dear, Annie is going to be able to recover because of what you are doing.”

“Then I’m happy Momma.  I’m glad this will help Sissy.”

A few minutes later a nurse bent down to let them know the procedure was about to start.  Billy bravely squeezed Momma’s hand a little tighter.

“OK” he said as he looked into Momma’s eyes.  The machine was switched on, and a quiet whirring began.  Within just a few minutes Annie’s color began to change as her blood was removed, cleansed and then mixed with Billy’s healthy blood.  Billy broke his gaze from Momma just long enough to look at Annie and to see the change.  He turned back to Momma.

A tear was now running down his cheek.  “How much longer Momma?”

“Not much longer,” she said as she too had turned to notice the change in Annie.  Hope was growing in Momma and Billy could see it.

“Will it hurt Momma?”

“I’m sorry dear, does the pic line hurt.”

“No Momma.  I mean when all my blood is gone and I’m dead.  Will it hurt?”

Momma gasped.  Billy had misunderstood.  He didn’t realize he was only giving a little of his blood to mix with his Sissy’s blood.  He thought he was giving it all…

 

‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5:6-8

Jesus held no illusions when He came to earth.  He came on a rescue mission.  There were no other options.  It was His blood that was going to save the day.

But unlike Billy, Jesus was shedding all His blood for ALL mankind.  Every person who has ever lived, was alive then, or was to live in the future were being given an antidote to the terminal illness of sin.

He was also different from Billy, He didn’t just think He was going to die, He knew He was going to die.  He knew not only pain and suffering were in His path, but humiliation and, sadly, rejection.  Yet He bravely faced it.

‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!’  Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus was God, who became a man, who walked this earth for 30+ years, and at the culmination of His earthly life, He paid the penalty for sin for everyone – for you and for me.  And then He put an exclamation mark on this selfless act by rising from the dead three days later and ascending into heaven.  He sits there today at the right hand of God the Father.  But He isn’t grim-faced.  No, He has a warm and inviting smile and His arms are outstretched toward us, beckoning with His nail-pierced hands.

“Come to me.  Come home.  Lay down your striving and join me.  We have much to talk about.  And in the time you have left on earth there are things to do, things that only you and I can do.  Come home to me and let’s talk.  I love you and I desire to live with you and to put my Holy Spirit inside you to help you from now on.”

Say yes to Jesus, my friend.  You will never be the same.

Blessings upon you.

 

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Separation… The distance between us says a lot about our relationships.  It can be reflected in physical dimensions, but in reality it is the total sum of emotional, physical, and spiritual space between us that really matters.

I read a great book which I highly recommend called The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith.  Doctor Smith does an outstanding job of identifying the false narratives we may have about God and comparing them to the narratives Jesus gives us about God.  I’ve thought about this idea of separation and intimacy a lot over the past few months at least in part because of this book.

I love the story of the prodigal son.  At different times in my life I have identified with any and all of the three characters in the story – the wayward younger son, the dutiful older son, and the hopeful father.  In telling this story Jesus illustrates this theme of separation and restoration in a manner that brings out the physical, emotional, and ultimately spiritual distance that exists to be bridged.

‘Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”’  Luke 15:11-32

Even while he was physically present in the home of his father, the younger son was emotionally and spiritually distant.  His heart was drawn toward foreign lands and taboo customs.  I feel certain his father knew this.  Yet rather than force the younger son to stay physically present he not only allowed him to go, he enabled him to physically leave.  I’d never really considered it before, but the father wasn’t obligated to give the younger son his inheritance.  In fact, there are two things striking here.  The inheritance is not due until the father dies.  And the inheritance for the younger children is usually meager.  The oldest son was due the bulk of the estate and the younger children were to be given a small inheritance – enough to start a life, but not half the farm.  Yet that’s what this father did.  In so doing he provided the younger son the means to put into effect the physical distance that matched the spiritual and emotional distance he had always had.  The father gave the son the means to do the very things he had taught his children all their life not to do.

In Jesus telling of the story, the older son doesn’t really show up much until the end.  I want to point out that the older son also had his fair share of distance to overcome.  At the end of the story when the younger son has come to his senses, when he has repented of his sin and recognized his self-imposed distance between himself and his father, we see rejoicing and reconciliation between youngest son and dad.  But the separation between father and oldest son then becomes evident.  I believe that this separation was predominantly spiritual up until this point.  In his pouting, the oldest son expresses anger emanating from a prideful spirit.  The distance that had likely remained mostly hidden was brought to light.

I’ve always been intrigued by why Jesus tagged this on at the end of the story, almost as a footnote.  I think the answer lies in this thought of the distance between us and God.  One of the paramount messages of Jesus was the elimination of the distance between God and His children.  Jesus was Emmanuel – God with us.  That was a radical thought back then, even as it still is for many today.  The entirety of “God with us” is a bigger truth than we can fully comprehend.  But in this story we see the father doing something radical… and painful.  I had never really seen it as what it had to be – the father’s extreme faith.  Toward the youngest son it was faith that when he hit bottom he would look up and realize that the distance he had put between himself and his father was something he didn’t want to exist any longer.  For the oldest son it was faith that he would understand that physical closeness was not the same as intimacy and that one day he would move into true intimacy with his father.

Our Father will do anything to eliminate the distance between us.  He wants intimacy with us and He is willing to suffer to see it accomplished.  For years I’ve marveled at the suffering Jesus endured at the cross.  As my faith matured and I became a dad, I also marveled at the suffering God the Father had to endure to send His Son to suffer on our behalf.  Today I realize that God feels the pain of separation with those He has called to be His children.  Yet He allows us to “walk away” because His greatest desire is for our complete reconciliation with Him.  To achieve this we have to see the distance for what it is – separation from the only Love that is truly healing… separation from the only Love that can completely reconcile… separation from the only Love that completes us…separation from intimacy with our Father Who is Love.

Through my work with our church’s care team and in our home group, I am praying for several folks who have prodigal children.  My heart aches for them because we too have experienced children who walk away from us and from the Father.  I suspect there are those who are reading this who’s feet may fit the shoes of someone in this story… the parent or one of the two children.  Know this, God is with you wherever you are even if you have turned your back on Him.  He loves you beyond your understanding.  He loves you with an everlasting love.  And He has done everything to make it possible for you to experience intimacy with Him and within the family of love He has called you to.  Simply turn to Him.  Call out to Him.  Ask Jesus to help you.  Ask Him to show you how to eliminate the distance between you and God.  You’ll be amazed.  The distance can be bridged in moment through a whispered, “Yes Lord.”

Be blessed today and be a blessing.

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The most difficult care conversations are those where people have lost hope.  Hope is an anchor.  Hope keeps us from being lost when the storms of life break over us and threaten to destroy us.  Persons who lose hope are vulnerable to multiple temptations that will only make bad situations worse.  The downward spiral that is hopelessness is difficult to break once the path is set.  This is when the life-giving words of Jesus are so important to hold on to.  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NIV.

Yesterday we prayed with a man whose family has experienced two suicides within the course of a month.  This is the ultimate losing hope.  Two of my friends then shared nuggets of gold which I want to share with you today.  First Doug, a teacher for many years, mentioned an experiment that he has read about.  Laboratory mice were subjected to a stress test that measured the impact of hope.  The mice were placed in a tank filled with enough water that the mice were forced to swim.  For one group of mice the tank was then covered with a box that completely sealed off the light.  The average lifespan of the mice in the dark box was 3 minutes before they drowned.  The second group of mice were treated the same except for a small hole in the box which allowed a small amount of light to enter the box.  The average lifespan of these mice was 36 hours.  Such is the power of hope.

As Doug finished, Greg asked if we had a good definition of hope.  I think I said it was a belief that things would be better in the future.  Greg said hope is H.O.P.E – Holding On to Promises Eternal.  My definition could be true, but it could just as easily be the definition for wishful thinking.  In reality, that’s what a lot of people accept as hope.  But Greg’s definition is tied to something solid… something that has stood the test of time and proven true.

So, I want to share with you some of the Promises Eternal that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt to be true.

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”  God speaks this to several people in the bible.  He spoke it to me in Sept of 1983 in a small chapel at Camp Hartner in the piney woods of central Louisiana.  This is the first and foundational promise of my faith journey.  I pitched my anchor trusting it would hold fast in this promise.  It has for over 34 years.  I am certain it will hold into eternity.

“I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and future.”  Jeremiah 29:11.  The Lord kept this verse in my thoughts the entire week when I was told my job was eliminated in 2007.

‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ‘  Isaiah 41:10.  The Lord clearly gave me this verse as I was about to go to work one morning fully expecting to hear that my team was being downsized.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. ‘  Matthew 6:33.  In this simple admonition, Jesus gave the recipe for prioritizing life which ensures my needs are met.  While there have been a few times that my wants went unsatisfied, I’ve never missed anything of significant value.  One of the things I’ve learned about “wants” is they usually have a great big “I” in the middle of them and they don’t advance God’s purposes in my life or the life of those around me.  Yet with a few unfulfilled wants, there have been numerous times when God’s blessings have absolutely overflowed into my life and the lives of those I know and love.

‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”‘  Matthew 11:28-30.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve “limped home” to hear the Father whisper the words “Rest in Me.”  He has always carried the bulk of the load.  At times I’ve attempted to shoulder more than I was supposed to and forge on in my strength.  Yet in His gracious mercy, He has always been right there to step in as soon as I realize my error and lean into Him.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.’  Proverbs 3:5-6.  Again there have been times when I’ve gotten focused upon my plan, my work, my way that I’ve lost track of God’s call and purpose.  But He is faithful to His promise here and when I turn to Him fully committing my heart and ways to Him, He has always, ALWAYS been there to guide and direct me.

‘Delight yourself also in the Lord , And He shall give you the desires of your heart.’ Psalms 37:4.  I’ve learned that deepening my relationship with the Lord – delighting in Him, has been the greatest blessing of life.  At times I can clearly see how martyrs and the persecuted saints through the ages have been able to worship God even in the face of intense personal pain and suffering.  He gives eyes to see things unseen.  He causes our hearts to know of things eternal.  He changes our heart so that His desires become our desires.  He accomplishes those things that will bring about His glory and our joy.

I meant to keep this to a short post, but I have failed again.  Please forgive me.  While I am just getting warmed up, I know it is time to sign off for today.  Before I do, I would be remiss not to emphasize, these are your promises too.  God loves with an overwhelming love.  He has written His love story for you as well as for me.  Every promise of God is true and you can rely on them.  Wherever you are in life, you can pitch your anchor into God’s Promises Eternal and that anchor will hold.  Jesus gave His life for you and He gives His promises to you.  That my friend is HOPE.  That my friend is for you.

Blessings to you today.

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As I looked out my window at the rain-splashed tarmac a heaviness strove to lay hold of my soul.  Gray thoughts swirled through my mind –

  • “it’s cold, damp, and nasty outside and this is just the beginning”…
  • “winter’s coming and outside fun is gone for several months”…
  • “I have too much to do and too little time to do it”…
  • “this country is heading in a dangerous direction and I don’t know why people don’t see it”…
  • “this election isn’t going to provide a leader to unite and heal this country”…

A whispered prayer – “Lord help me to see differently.”

Suddenly my thoughts shifted.  Even though the plane had not yet moved my mind went to the ascent we were about to make.  In my mind’s eye I could see the gray giving way to the white of clouds all around.  That white growing gradually brighter until suddenly we burst through into brilliant sunshine.  And my spirit soared.

I know the sun is always there – clouds or not.  Yet there are times when what I see overwhelms and dominates what I know.  More importantly, my mind can then make projections from what I see to build a future that carries me away from what I know.  Worry, anxious thoughts, discouragement, and depression are waypoints on the road my thoughts will wander if I forget what I know.

Jesus is every bit as real as the sun.  In fact Malachi prophetically speaks of Jesus as “the sun of righteousness who will rise with healing in His wings”.  Simply stated that is what I experienced in a small way that morning.

Interestingly my flight was a rather short one so we did not get to a high enough altitude to fully break through to sunshine on that leg.  I watched for it with eager anticipation but the brilliant break-through was not achieved.  But it was not an issue.  I remembered the sun and I was content to wait.

As I sat on my next flight I engaged my seat mate in some light conversation.  He was amenable and so began a 90 minute conversation starting with work but ranging far and wide from family to travel to the election (I usually don’t go there) to church and faith.  And it was wonderful.  I thoroughly enjoyed making a new friend… so much so that I hardly noticed the weather outside.

After landing I grabbed my bags knowing I had a fairly tight schedule, but I felt the Lord’s nudge to linger for a final word with my friend.  As two new friends it would be normal to part with a firm handshake and a word of encouragement.  But as two newly found brothers in Christ we had the opportunity to go to our heavenly Father with a word of prayer and thanksgiving before parting.

As I then hustled to my car I stepped out the front door of the airport into glorious sunshine… and my heart soared with gratitude anew.  It may have taken a little longer than I first thought, but the sun is always there on the other side of the clouds.  Faith reminds us it’s there.  Patience and perseverance help us get to where we can see it.   And thanksgiving is our right response when we arrive.

Thank you Lord for your loving-kindness to us and to all mankind.  Please use me, use us, to point to you, to reflect your grace in a manner that others can see and receive.  Be glorified in us today.  In Jesus Name!

 

 

 

 

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I serve on the Care Team at Church.  We meet people with God’s love and give them hope.  I feel called to this.  But it’s not always easy. 

From the conversations I have I see that Hope is a commodity often in short supply.  Usually the visit for care is the result of multiple crises in a person’s life.  Often it is the result of personal decisions combined with events outside their control.  Almost always there is some degree of loss that precedes the loss of hope… decline in health, the passing of a loved one, a job loss, a broken relationship…  The end result is that the initial loss precipitates a void wherein hope is drained from the individual.

Our goal in Care is very simple.  We seek to allow the Lord to work through us to help the Care Receiver know that Jesus loves and cares for them.  It is amazing how He does this.  Empathy is our connection point.  Often the Father matches life experiences that the Caregivers have walked through with the challenges the Care Receiver is facing.  This empathy is more than just important, it is essential in being a conduit of God’s love and hope.  We do not theorize, postulate, or pontificate, but rather we seek to be like Jesus and know the person as a valued child of God.  With this relationship established we are able to take the next step.

With sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and an attitude of love, we seek to help the individual identify the root of the loss.  In most cases there are decisions that have been made that need to be understood.  While we seek to deal gently with the broken, we do not treat sin lightly.  It is vitally important that sin be clearly identified and labeled as what it is.  While not all poor decisions are necessarily sin, those that are must be confessed and repented of.  The Word of God is the key here.  With Love we share what the Bible says and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  (Sidenote – It appears to me that where we Christians gain a black eye in the public realm is when we take on the role of prosecuting attorney for God.  Don’t get me wrong, we are to flee from sin, to resist the devil, and do all in our power to promote what is good, decent, and godly.  But if we simply speak the truth from the Word of God, we can leave the emphasizing of what that means to the Holy Spirit.) 

Where it is possible, attempts to undo the damage of the sin are appropriate.  Restitution is a bold, and often beneficial step in the process of repentance.  When I became a believer there was a person I had wronged in my college days.  The Lord impressed upon me that I had a concrete step to take with that person so I drove 600 miles for a face-to-face confession of my sin and to ask for forgiveness.  At the time I was just trying to be obedient to what I understood the Lord was showing me I needed to do.  Today I recognize that it was a major step in my growth as a believer which freed me to be ready for what lay ahead.

Many times forgiveness is a key act in the repentance and healing process.  One of the diabolical aspects of sin is that the victim is often the one who ends up bound in cords of unforgiveness.  There is great liberty in forgiving someone who has done you wrong.  I have had a few “done unto” events and I can honestly say that the Lord has blessed me, not in spite of those things, but through those events after I forgave and then gave the situation to Him.  This is something I have personally experienced and it is essential in the healing process.  (Truth in writing, the forgiving part requires persistence.  The enemy will initially bring the event back up to try and revive the pain and emotional turmoil.  This is a good time to rebuke the thought and repeat your decision to forgive and verbalize that it is in the Lord’s hands.) 

This post is about hope, but it is necessary to understand that hope is a tender flower that requires the proper soil.  What I have described above is required to prepare the soil of the heart to receive the seed of hope.  Make no mistake, hope will not flourish in the wrong environment.  There is a plethora of hope-killers waiting to stamp out the flower of hope, but Jesus’ words should encourage us – “Fear not, for I have overcome the world.”  He is the MASTER Gardener and the Giver of Hope.

Which brings us to the next step – sharing the Word of Life.  The bible is full of God’s promises.  In caregiving this is an apt time to share words that speak into the Care Receiver’s life situation.  Frequently after a conversation I stand amazed at how the Lord brought the right scripture to mind at the perfect time in a conversation.  It is important to regularly read the Word so that it performs its transformative work in you (Romans 12:1-2) and becomes the source of your wisdom to share with others.  The final piece of this is the active work of the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the right word for us to speak and then apply that word in the Care Receiver’s life.    

This leads to the climatic step in Care Giving – Prayer.  I’ve mentioned speaking and verbalizing a couple of times already.  I’m prompted today to mention that it is often necessary to speak things into existence.  The bible begins with God speaking all of creation into existence.  Through the Old Testament we see God putting His words into the mouths of His prophets.  When Jesus walked the earth He spoke and people were changed, healed, delivered, saved.  He even spoke to the wind and waves and they obeyed Him.  He is the Lord God Almighty.  To Him every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (Phil 2:9-11).  Now for a time He has chosen in His great mercy to give mankind a little more time to turn to Him.  In this window we do not yet see everything under the heavens fully submitted to Him.  But make no mistake, it is all under His dominion. 

As believers God has placed His Holy Spirit into us.  We are His ambassadors.  An ambassador is a representative of a sovereign nation living and residing in a foreign land.  Even though they live in a different country, the full weight of their home country rests upon them.  When they speak, they are speaking for their home country.  As Christ’s ambassadors, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are to speak God’s Word and His words into lives.  Prayer is how we do this.  God gives us the responsibility and privilege of praying what He wants to do in the lives of those He sends our way.  The enormity and mystery of this overwhelms me, but I have experienced it too many times to ignore or discount.

The final step is living out the hope which God has called us to dispense.  In some instances, it will mean we walk with the Care Receiver for a time, for a season, or as life-long friends.  In other instances, it will mean praying for and encouraging them for just that intersection of time, trusting the Lord to continue the good work He has begun.  In every situation though, God has called us to look to Him in child-like trust and nurture the hope that He promises us in His word and He places in our heart. 

A final application.  Please forgive me ahead of time for this final inclusion, but it is a burden I’ve been bearing for several weeks now.  It is also the primary reason I haven’t blogged in a while.  You see, I, like a lot of Americans, am disappointed in what I see in our political process.  It wearies me to see the division and acrimony blasted forth for all to see and endure.  I do not see hope there.  I have chosen a candidate to vote for, but it is more because I see a terrible choice and a little less bad choice.  My friend this has tended to get my eyes off the Lord and onto lesser things.  This weekend I was able to minister care to others dealing with real world, right now issues and I was able to fellowship with others who love God and are striving to live lives of abundant hope.  In so doing I saw my malady for what it was.  I was being drawn to put at least a portion of my faith in things that are not worthy of my faith, nor able to give real hope. 

And then I lifted my eyes…  Jesus is the only one worthy of my total faith and the only one who gives real hope.  And that hope does not disappoint!  (Romans 5:1-5)

Two final thoughts.  I finished this blog last night, but for some reason I didn’t post it.  This morning I woke and called my wife to do our devotion.  (I travel a lot in my work so we do our devotion together over the phone each morning.) The following scripture just jumped out at me.  It is the exclamation point from the Word on what I have said.

Psalm 62:5-8

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.

Today is the one year anniversary of the passing of four of our youngest son’s friends in a tragic car accident.  James, Josh, Mills, and Sarah are not here with us any longer.  The pain and loss is still very real for their family and friends.  But with eyes of faith we look forward to the day when we will see them again.  They trusted the Lord and were His children.  And one day we too will pass from this life to larger life.  And the reunion will be real and it will be good.  This is hope that we can hold onto.

Take care my friend.  May the Lord richly bless you today as you live a life of tangible hope.

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God is almost never limited by our lack.

We can lack money and yet God can provide the means for whatever He calls us to do.  My thoughts run to a little boy with two fish and five loaves on a remote hillside with Jesus and a crowd of thousands, hungry after a day of teaching and healing.

We can lack strength and yet Paul passes on what Jesus said to Him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9)

We can lack intellect, but God can still use us.  I have been in a number of situations where I did not know “the answer” and yet the answer has always come.

But I realized the other day that there is one definite lack on our part that can constrain God… the lack of humility!  The lack of humility is powerful, ugly, and spiritually deadly.

There is value in specifically saying “lack of humility” and not simply calling it pride.  Being proud of your children, your country, your church can all stray into an unhealthy region, but for the most part these do not capture the attitude that the bible means when it says in a number of places, “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6).  The lack of humility is that kind of proud.  It is a cancer that sucks the life out of relationships, beginning with our relationship with the Father.

God loves us and He wants us to live in intimacy with Him.  The level of intimacy God desires is predicated upon mutual love, trust, and honesty.  Coming clean about every aspect of our life – from acts done or not done, words uttered or not uttered, even thoughts we’ve harbored requires a humility and honesty that does not come easily to us.  In fact it often requires a degree of divine support to achieve.  But He is near to us to lend us this help if we but bend our hearts toward Him in humility.

As I consider what this humility looks like several pictures come to mind.  A child listening in rapt attention and a teachable spirit… a parent returning from deployment falling on their knees and embracing their family… a “terminally” ill patient who is given a new lease on life.  God is the giver of all good gifts.  As He gives what He desires (which is always better than what we deserve) we should recognize the opportunity to give thanks and receive with humility all that the Lord wants for us.  Often, it is in these moments that He will speak wisdom into our lives that we can’t hear otherwise.

This morning I awoke with a very clear picture of what the lack of humility looks like.  It is one of the formational stories of the nation of Israel and it is found in the 2nd book of the bible, Exodus.  What had begun as a flight to sanctuary at the end of the Genesis had become servitude and slavery 400 years later.  The Pharaoh’s government had become a hard task-master and the people of Israel were crying out for deliverance.  God raised up Moses to serve as His human voice.  The message to Pharaoh was simple, “Let my people go.”  But Pharaoh, who was considered a god in that culture, refused.  Time and again God sent signs of His power and authority to convince Pharaoh and give Him the opportunity to bend His will to the Lord Almighty.  But Pharaoh would not.  The bible says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Friends, this is a vital spiritual truth.  The longer and harder we resist the Lord, the more difficult it becomes to respond to Him.  It is not that God’s love is not there nor is it that He won’t accept us.  The issue is that until we are humble enough to acknowledge that He is God and we are not, we can’t bend our knee to Him and submit to the foundational truth of faith that God is the great “I AM”, the wholly, Holy Other.  While I am thrilled that my heavenly Father loves me and desires to fellowship with me, it never changes the fact that He is the LORD God Almighty, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

The lack of humility can keep a person from accepting Christ, God’s provision to reconcile fallen humans with Himself.  But it can also rear it’s ugly head after conversion and stifle the spiritual growth the Lord intends for His children.  When I consider my faith walk, I can see how the lack of humility was a key factor in many of the lulls.

The message of today’s post is simple.  Take a moment to examine your life.  Do you have a deficit of humility that is limiting your relationship with God and others?  Are you thankful for the small gifts of grace you receive or are you disappointed because you feel slighted in some way?  Is God actively speaking to you and using you for positive change or is it quiet when you call out to Him?  If any of these answers make you realize that you have a deficit of humility, congratulations! Recognizing this is the hardest step.  Turn to God with your whole heart, acknowledge your sin (if you haven’t already figured it out, the lack of humility is a sin), accept His Lordship over you, and begin to walk in fresh fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

The limits of our intellect do not in any way limit God’s ability to use us.  The limits of our humility constrain how, and how much God can work in and through us.  Choose humility and throw off those constraints.  Reach for the Father’s hand and talk a walk with the One Who loves you to the uttermost.  You will be so happy that you did.

Be blessed my friend and be a blessing to those the Lord puts in your life today.

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