Jun 20, 2017

Hope to the Hopeless

Dear Friend,

I know two girls who are hurting. Their names are Ellie and Deanna. Both are beautiful, young ladies who have been broken. The ones who should have loved them most have destroyed their trust, and they are left alone without hope. Their smiles are gone, and depression has laid hold of their hearts.

I wish I could hug Ellie and Deanna and tell them that someone loves them. Tell them that there’s still hope. But I can’t; I have no way to share my heart with them. I only wish I could get in contact with them, but all I can do is pray.  And I do. I pray for them, yet I wish I could do something more.

I can’t reach Ellie or Deanna. I can’t help them, encourage them, or love them. But maybe I can touch your life, whoever and wherever you are, dear reader. And maybe I can touch the lives of others around me.

So if you’re hurting and alone, this is what I want you to hear. This is what I wish I could tell Ellie and Deanna.

You are not alone.

You are loved.

You are treasured.

You were bought with a price.

Bad things happen to all of us. They hurt. They sting. They break us. Sometimes we feel like we’re grasping at the wind as hope slips through our fingers. People betray us and trample on our hearts. Those we love are stolen away forever, and the future looks dark.

But we don’t have to go through trials alone. Jesus is with us, even if we can’t hear His voice or feel His hands. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Today I heard His comforting voice through Isaiah 30.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” – v.15
“For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” – v.18
“You shall weep no more.
He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry;
When He hears it, He will answer you.” – v.19
“…in the day that the Lord binds up the bruise of His people
And heals the stroke of their wound.” – v. 26
Dear friend, wait on the Lord. Trust Him and rest in His strength. He will give you strength, wipe away your tears, answer your desperate prayers, and heal your wounds. You might not see the answers immediately or even in your lifetime, but He has a plan and purpose in this pain.



“Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14

"...rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer."Romans 12:12
We can have hope in trials because of God's promises!  Having hope is to believe, desire, and trust in the One who loves us.  Believe that He has a plan, desire to know Him better and to seek His will, and trust in His loving kindness.

I have a challenge for you.

People are hurting out there. The world is full of bitterness and discouragement, but we can make a difference.

Maybe you know someone like Ellie or Deanna. Or maybe you think you don’t. Guess what?Every person you come in contact with could use some encouragement. There’s no one who doesn’t appreciate a helping hand or loving word.

So make a difference this summer and beyond. Send someone God’s message of hope. Tell someone they are loved. Write a letter, an email, a text message, or talk to them in person. Point them towards Christ.

If you’re hurting, know that I love you. Christ loves you even more; you’re never alone.

Now go – love someone else, and make them smile.
“I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me…
…Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:1-2, 5b.

How are you going to bring God's hope to the hopeless and make a difference in someone's life?  Comment below! 

Jun 13, 2017

What I Learned From The Sound of Music

Several months ago, I commented on the power of languages. (read here)  They hold secrets that are often only discovered in a deep, diligent search.  Sometimes there are words in other languages that simply cannot be translated to one English word because they hold deeper meaning.

In English, the word "love" has so many flippant meanings.  We love our pet goldfish.  We also love chocolate, our best friend, our siblings (sometimes, that is), our possessions, our gifts... and oh yeah, we love God too.

I like how the Greek language writes out love.  Instead of a "one word fits all" thing, there are different words for different types of love.  Philia is a brotherly love such as affection or friendship.  Eros is a passionate, romantic love.  Storge is like a familiar love... such as love shown between friends, parents and children, pets and owners, etc.  But my favorite is the last one.  Agape is a sacrificial love like the Love God showed us on the cross that day long ago.

Now I don't know anything about the Greek language (correct me if I made an error in my interpretations), but I think it's interesting to consider.  Is our love merely a brotherly love?  Or are we willing to make sacrifices?  Is our love for God and others a love that can never be broken?  Can it last through every trial, storm, and drought?

I assume that most of you have watched The Sound of Music, a musical based during the time of World War II.  If not, I'll let you know in advance that I will be sharing spoilers.  Read on at your own risk.  ;)

This movie is secular. (Yes, despite the nuns, I don't think the movie was created with the intention of sharing Biblical truth.)  Despite that, I learned from watching it.

Maria is a - unique - nun who doesn't really fit in an Abby.  She ends up becoming a governess for a household of seven children and is worried to discover that many governesses before her have experienced trouble with the children.  Throughout the story, Maria encounters resistance from them, hostility and resentment from the widowed father, and, despite her best efforts, is completely embarrassed and mortified on several occasions with the father.  His strictness and displeasure towards her is obvious.

But what happens throughout the story?  Maria ends up turning the household upside down.  She has a servant's heart and brings joy to the children's lives.  And, of course, the father falls in love with her and they eventually live happily ever after as husband and bride.

As I was thinking about that story, I wondered what it would have been like if I had been Maria.  I'm very sure that I would have quit the job right away instead of humbly accepting undue blame and criticism.  I would not have bowed my head to an unloving man and shown him the respect that Maria did.  The end of the story would have been much different, and likely I wouldn't have made a difference in the broken family.

But she did.  Why?  What was different about Maria?

Although the story isn't a Christian one, I think Maria displayed a sense of Godly humility, love, and joy.  She resolved within herself to become a servant.  Instead of demanding her own rights, Maria spent her time trying to improve the lives of the children by bringing songs back into their home.  And the story was beautiful.

We have a quote on our wall that summarizes it well in my opinion.

Are we like Maria, sending joy everywhere we go?  Is our love a selfless, others-centered love?

Paul the apostle wrote a verse that stood out to me in this area.  I know this post is already growing long, so I'll try not to tarry too much longer here.  =)
"Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith."  - 1 Timothy 1:5
During the summer months we are focusing on loving others.  But it's important that our love isn't "me" focused.  

  • Is our love from a pure heart? What are our secret motives?
  • Do we have a good conscience? Are there wrongs we haven't cleared up or are we offended at someone? 
  • Do we have sincere faith? Do we not only have love for others but also a passionate love for Christ?

As we strive to develop a heart that loves, perhaps these questions can evaluate why we do the things we do.  Let's resolve to have Godly humility, love, and joy - an agape type of love - towards God and others.  Let's have a life that radiates Christ's joy to everyone around us.

Put yourself in Maria's position; would you have responded in a similar manner?  How can you make steps today to have a selfless love for others?  Comment below!

(ps)  This same week a year ago, I actually posted a blog post that was on a similar topic.  =)  (good timing, right?)  You can read it here.

Jun 6, 2017

Don't Put God in a Box

If you could spend a whole day with someone, who would you choose to spend your time with?

Think about the question before you continue reading.  I'm curious who you would choose.  If you're like me perhaps your first thought was your favorite music artist, a preacher or writer who inspires you, or a friend who lives far away.  It's easy to imagine the hours that would fly by as you sat together discussing life, sharing dreams, and asking questions.  You might continue long after the sun has set, savoring the limited time you have with that special person.  Wouldn't it be simply wonderful?!

What about this:  How many of us would quickly answer the question by saying "Jesus."  How many of us would enjoy spending a whole day with Him?  And horribly, how many of us could actually stand a day like that?

It's like we put God in a box.  We almost esteem Him to be something like a sci-fi character, a remote Being who has superpowers to do anything He likes.  We just have to stay on His good side, ask Him for things, and try to live decent lives.  Then His job is to shower us with blessings.  Right?

Maybe that's a little extreme, but I think a lot of us live our lives with that attitude.  We have a place for God - in Church, in our quiet times, etc - but we don't give Him control over our whole lives.  We don't actually love Him.  Maybe God is like the president.  He rules over us, but He is so distant and powerful that we just can't imagine having a relationship with Him.

The Bible says that we should fear, honor, and revere God.  (see Deuteronomy 6:24, 1 Samuel 2:30Proverbs 19:23 and Hebrews 12:28)  He created the earth, set the stars in place, knows the number of hairs on your head, and the angels bow before Him.  He can move mountains, part seas, and knows your innermost secrets.  God is mighty beyond imagination.  It is so important not to take Him lightly or to esteem Him as something less than He is.

But we often fall short of what He truly wants.

Growing up as a Christian, I always knew that God loved me.  I knew that He was my Father and wanted me to give my life completely to Him.  Paul writes,
"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will"- Ephesians 1:4-5
And Romans adds, 
"...you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.'" - Romans 8:15
We are adopted.  That means that God literally chose us to be His children!!  How mind blowing is that?!   That is amazing love.

But I failed to realize that Jesus wanted something more.  Yes, He was my Father, and He cared for me.  Yet more so - He wanted to be my best friend.

Remember the verse I shared last week?  The greatest command in the Bible?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." - Mark 12:30
In my opinion, that sounds like a lot of love.  If I loved God that much, is there any possible way that He wouldn't be my Best Friend?

As I've thought about it more I realized something.

It's great to have human friends.  God gave us relationships for a reason.  They encourage us, impact us, and bring us closer to Him.  Friends make you laugh when you're feeling discouraged.  They are gifts from God.

But friends fail.  If you wake up afraid in the middle of the night, will your best friend be there to talk to you?  Does she understand your deepest struggles?  Does she know what it's like to be you?  Of course not!

He does.

Christ knows everything - the fear you keep hiding from those around you, the struggles you face every day, and the doubts that plague your mind.  And guess what?  He. Still. Loves. You.

Did you catch that?  God (the great I AM, the Creator of the Universe, the One who is clothed in glory and power!) loves you.  He loves little, tiny, unimportant me. 

I read Song of Solomon last week.  The whole book is a beautiful dialogue between a Shulamite maiden and her beloved who are madly in love.  But as I read it, I imagined something deeper.  Perhaps God wrote the book as a love letter to us.  His bride.  His Church.

He sees us as beautiful, loves us despite our failures, and wants to be with us and hear our voice.  And doesn't He want us to cherish the relationship as well?  Should we be in love with Him as He is with us?

Think of an engaged couple.  Do they ever stop thinking about one another?  Don't they desperately want to be together and talk with one another?  Wouldn't they give up anything in their way just so their relationship could be stronger and more heart-felt?  Would anything be too much of a sacrifice?

But is that us?

This summer we are focusing on love, and the greatest command of all is to love the Lord our God with everything in our being.  I think that means something more than spending an hour every day reading the Bible.  It's more than praying whenever you remember to.  I believe that we are supposed to have a personal, intimate relationship with God.  He is our Best Friend.  We are madly in love with God, and we can't wait until the day we can see Him face to face.  But while we wait, we are remaining pure, set-apart, and holy for Him as His bride.

Is that what your relationship with God looks like?  Are you living your life for Him, looking forward to that day when He will bring us home to be together forever?

This is step #1 in Project Love.  Before we start focusing on relationships with others, let's make sure that we are seeking God and giving Him our whole heart.  Don't put God in a box.  Open the doors of your heart and embrace Him.  Love, thank, cherish your Savior.  Only then will we be able to truly make a difference in the world.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8
What a beautiful romance story.  Christ died for us while we still hated and reviled Him.  He rescued and redeemed us - dirty, broken hearts.  What love.  ♥

Have you ever thought of God as your Best Friend?  Are you willing to give up anything for your relationship with Him?  How are you remaining pure for Christ as His bride?  Comment below!