Friday, 9 May 2014

Where Does Our Hope Come From – Really?

 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:9  N

There are a number of versions of a story about a Sunday school class of precocious five year olds.  The teacher asked the kids, “What has a bushy tail and gathers nuts?” The kids gave him blank stares. “Come on kids!” he tried again. “Bushy tail? Gathers nuts? Climbs trees?” Finally a young man replied, “Well, I know the answer is Jesus… but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”

So the question about where does your hope come from is probably rhetorical.  Intellectually if you are a born again Christian you know our hope comes from the Lord.  To which I would add really?

 Hope is the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or in the world at large.  So far, so good.  Who doesn’t want a positive outcome?  Aren’t most of our prayers phrased in such a way that we are asking God for a positive outcome?  More specifically aren’t we asking God to fulfill our prayers in the way that we deem the outcome would be positive?

When God chooses to remain silent or answers our prayers in an unexpected and seemingly unsatisfactory manner don’t many of us tend to lose hope?  So basically if the infinitely wise Creator of the universe and everything in it acquiesces to our wishes then our hope comes from the Lord, but…

“Well, we’re not exactly saying that.”  Then what are we saying?

We need to remember that Jesus prayed to His Father “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Here is God’s Son saying “not my will but Yours.”  His ways are much higher than ours and His thoughts are well beyond anything we can comprehend.

Is it wrong to be specific, to ask God to help our struggling marriage, to restore our broken relationships, to heal a loved one, etc.?  No. It is not wrong to ask God for outcomes that suit your desires, particularly those in accordance with His will.

Since God’s thoughts are higher than ours it might be more fitting, and more hopeful, to pray “Father show me how my heart needs to change so that I am the husband/wife that you have called me to be.”  “Father please show me how to make amends and reconcile with my estranged son/daughter.”  “Father you know how much I love my mother/father and I would ask that You heal her/him, but ultimately Father you know best, Your will be done.”

The real hope comes from knowing that God’s way is always the best way, and we can count on that.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Confronted with the Obvious

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

I hate it when I am confronted with the obvious.  For example if I need to lose weight, no one needs to tell me to eat less and workout more.  For most people that is a formula that will work.  If I want to improve my putting stroke on the golf course I can watch videos of great putters, and read articles and books on how to putt.  Sadly, in addition to those things I probably need to spend hours on the putting green.  (My putting is atrocious).  So it came as no surprise to me to read a blog by Charles Stanley that suggested that if I need to become more patient most likely I will need to experience situations in which my patience is tried.

Intellectually I know that, even intuitively I know that, but I don’t have to like it.  So as I am writing this blog God is putting me in a situation where my impatience is showing.

At times I feel like an eye doctor who refuses to admit he needs glasses.  I am forever telling people to examine their hearts when they are experiencing a negative feeling.  I offer brilliant advice such as “Ask yourself, what is troubling me right now?  Why am I feeling so impatient?  What is going on in my heart that is causing me to be so anxious?”

Then I might say something sensitive like “Suck it up buttercup.  Get over it!”

As I was pondering this blog I received a call from our realtor that heightened my anxiety level and created in me a greater sense of impatience.  My immediate response should have been, “thank you Lord for bringing this situation into my life, that I may become a more patient person.”  It should have been, but it wasn’t. 

It’s time I give myself the “God’s still in control speech.”  Because He is.  I can fret and worry all I want and it won’t make one hair more grow on my bald head nor will it take away the current situation that is causing me to stress out.  If I don’t believe that God has a better plan for my life then I am not worshipping the Creator of the universe. 


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Fill Your Minds

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.  Philippians 4:8-9 The Message

I assume that at some point I have written on the topic of self-talk but the concept is worth repeating.  We listen to ourselves more than we listen to anyone else.  We believe what we say to ourselves and the majority of the time, at least for most of us, the talk is negative.  “I’ll never amount to anything”; “I know they are talking about me”; “If only I wasn’t such a clutz”;”Why can’t my husband be more thoughtful”; “Why is my wife always so critical”; and so it goes.

Even those who tend to see the world as a glass that is half full instead of half empty think negative thoughts at times.  When we ruminate over negative possibilities long enough they often become self-fulfilling prophecies.  It is not unusual for such thoughts to bring on depression or anxiety and keep us in such a state longer than need be because we can’t let go of the thoughts that plague us.

What a great message is found in Philippians, chapter four verses eight and nine (The Message).  This is not to be thought of as the “power of positive thinking” because it goes way beyond that.  Descriptive words such as true, reputable, and authentic give credibility to our thoughts but more importantly we are only able to have such thoughts because the “filling of our mind” is a function of the Holy Spirit.

How much stronger would our marriages be if we focused on the positive attributes of our spouse?  How much more would you love your wife if you spent part of each day dwelling on those qualities of your wife that are gracious, beautiful, compelling, and authentic?  How much more would you respect your husband if you spent part of each day thinking about how noble, reputable and genuine he is? (Ephesians 5:33)

When we dwell on the negative aspects of life we are playing into the enemies hands.  God wants you to have a marriage that will bring praise, honor and glory to Him.