Hope

Rooting Our Expectations

Rooting Our Expectations

Encouragment, Hope
Expectations are tricky things. They can elevate our hopes to rarified heights, darken our fears, or land somewhere in between. We can even fear to hope lest that we somehow jinx our plans. For instance, when our daughter Rebekah was in High School, she refused to get excited about an upcoming mission trip to Mexico out of fear that her hopes would be dashed. I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another. We also have a set of expectations about God. Things we hope for or dare not hope out of fear of failure. Our expectations are often based on what we’ve seen or heard from the experience of others. But I propose that the root of our expectations needs a completely different source. One day early in Jesus ministry Philip was called by Jesus with the familiar “follow me.” Phili
The Greatest Blessing

The Greatest Blessing

Encouragment, Hope
What is God’s greatest blessing? Is it being healthy and whole?  Or is it wealth and prosperity? Perhaps it's family? Success seems like a blessing, but is it the greatest blessing? Life, surely life is God’s greatest blessing, isn’t it? "Blessing" is one of those words used but not understood. It is said with care but without the surety of what it really means. Achoo - bless you. Some Bible translations equate blessing with happiness, but it is so much more. Some see blessing as a mark of God’s acceptance and approval. Yet Jesus instructed his disciples to “bless those that curse you” and noted that some God’s blessings fall on saint and sinner alike. "Blessing" is a favor of God, sometimes an emotion, sometimes a fact, sometimes a status, sometimes a comfort. Some blessings of God are
Slave or Free?

Slave or Free?

Encouragment, Hope
Imagine being chained. Heavy iron links binding your hands, feet, and neck. Around you are a couple hundred other folks in the same condition.  The place where you sit is dark and stifling hot. Flies and mosquitoes mercilessly attack your skin. A door opens allowing a spear of light to pierce the darkness. An unknown hand grabs your chain and growls something in an unknown language. You stumble, your legs stiff from sitting immobile.  The growler, however, doesn’t care and yanks your chain leading you through the light. As your eyes adjust you can make out a platform, a crowd, and a chaining post.  The growler pulls you up the steps and points to where you are to stand.  Before you is a sea of strange faces wearing strange clothes. Another man in fancy clothes begins to speak, some of the
Light Always Wins!

Light Always Wins!

Encouragment, Hope
Who's going to win, Bears or Packers?  Or perhaps NASCAR is more your speed, care to name the winner of the next race?  Or how about baseball, who is going to win next Cubs vs. Cardinals contest?  In sports, in business, in war the outcome is never certain. Sure, there are favorites and probably and shoulds, but there is nothing is for sure.  Except for in one thing, light always wins over darkness. Now any High School physics student should be able to tell you that of course light always wins since darkness is defined as the absence of light.  However, the truth that we see in the physical world tells us something about the spiritual world.  Light always wins, it always dispels darkness. Light is often used as a metaphor for understanding. Like the light bulb that comes on in our mi
Perspective Lost

Perspective Lost

Encouragment, Hope
Sometimes our world can get pretty small. Problems at work, strife in the family, pain in our bodies, lack in our wallet all push our thoughts inward. Our world becomes ourselves and our chains. Like a prisoner whose world is a 6x9 cell it seems that all we can see, feel, and know is the cage of our pain, anxiety, and self. Whether we realize it or not our perspective has become skewed by our nearsightedness. How do we break out the chains and escape our prison? In truth, the answer is deeper than I can cover in a 600-word article. Finding freedom involves being honest with God about our sin, pain, and worries. I can, however, suggest a starting place; a way to regain some lost perspective. Consider these lines from Psalm 33, By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And by t...
Rainbows in the Storm

Rainbows in the Storm

Encouragment, Hope
God often speaks to us through the world around us.  The other day I saw a storm in the distance. Beneath the dark and heavy clouds, a partial but wide rainbow could be seen. The thought which came to mind, and the inspiration for this article, was that if anyone was under that cloud or in that storm they couldn’t see the rainbow. The truth that God speaks through the rainbow began with Noah.  God’s immediate promise to Noah and all living creatures was to not flood the earth again in the same fashion as Noah’s flood.  But there is also a deeper promise which God speaks through His rainbow.  It has been expressed in many different ways and I won’t come close to the eloquence of others.  The rainbow reminds us of God’s promise to always be with us, even during storms so fierce that w
Futility vs. Success

Futility vs. Success

Encouragment, Hope
In greek mythology, there is this king named Sisyphus that was condemned to a particularly futile eternal punishment.  In the myth, Sisyphus must roll a large boulder up a hill only to have it fall back down when he was near the top.  Not once but over and over and over again.  I think that there are some days that we all feel a little like this unfortunate fellow. While Sisyphus was condemned to futility we have a different promise. Proverbs 16:3 says,  “Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.”  I wonder how many times someone has stood at a convenience store counter, purchasing a ticket for the latest mega-multi-jackpot-bonanza praying something like - “Lord, I’ll give half to the poor if you let me win.” I don’t have to wonder how many they didn’t win.  From w
Worry, Stress, Anxiety, Oh My!

Worry, Stress, Anxiety, Oh My!

Encouragment, Hope
“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7, NASB95) Sounds simple, right? When worry, stress, and anxiety find their ways into our lives all we need to do is pile them on to Jesus and go along as if everything is hunky-dory, a-okay, zipadee do da - what a wonderful day. Can I tell you that over my lifetime there have been several times when it seems that Jesus and I were playing catch - pitching the anxieties of life back and forth? I’d throw them his direction and find some peace, only to have them return a few hours or a few days later. Do this often enough and it can make you anxious over your anxieties! Worrying about why you are worrying.  What I eventually learned is that there is a second part, well, actually a first part to this promise of God. The
Misplaced Hope

Misplaced Hope

Encouragment, Hope
There is a military philosophy called overwhelming force.  Essentially, the philosophy states that you bring enough firepower and manpower so that any battle becomes a “sure thing” instead of an even contest.  Yet, history has many instances where a smaller force trounced a larger, more powerful army.  The Bible also contains several examples such as David and Goliath, the Battle of Jehoshaphat, and Gideon’s army, to name a few.  How did these men triumph against overwhelming odds? Let's look at Psalm 33:13-17. The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; From His dwelling place He looks out On all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works. The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered b