Getting Your Hope Back


Hopelessness is at the root of fear. Hopelessness allows suffering to overwhelm. It’s hard to rejoice in our afflictions when we are overcome by the lack of hope.
But if we would just stop and learn to be thankful for one thing while in the midst of our pain, then we will be able to find two things; before you know it, we will find three, and four and even more.
Then suddenly we begin to see that we have the ability to endure and develop trusted character; and finally guess what else we gain?

Hope!

In all of our intentional gratefulness we experience hope, the very thing we lost when our suffering began.

“… We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

 

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The Cry of Your Spouse’s Heart


Nothing breaks my heart more than to see two people who were once married and in love, now treat each other with such disgrace and hatred. It saddens me every time I see a couple lose their love for each other and separate. Why does this cause such a heartache for me? It’s because my husband and I could have gone down this same path if we didn’t learn to do things differently in our marriage.

I believe that if a couple truly understood the cries of each other’s heart and what to do in its response, they just might move from being in love once to feeling loved forever.

As male and female, we can often misunderstand each other’s needs. We are so different. We can misinterpret the other’s need by defining it by our love language. In other words, we think the other should feel loved by the way we feel loved. This is not always the case. Because we are different, we have to intentionally study and learn about our spouse. A couple that wants to make their marriage work will seek to understand their spouse’s love needs.

“What can I do to make my spouse feel loved and treasured by me?” should be the question on our heart.

Unfortunately, the question most asked by people is “What can this person do to meet my need for love?”

My husband and I have been married for over 30 years. The first 13-15 years of our marriage, we asked the second of the two questions above. It wasn’t until a tragedy happened in our marriage that we were forced to face our pride and misunderstanding of what true love meant. I praise God for this tragedy as it righted our focus and caused us to love each other in a way that Christ loves us. (Becoming one is not an easy process!)

From our experience, we learned to treat each other differently. We learned to love in a way that met the needs of the other person. This change in focus and approach has made the utmost difference in our relationship. 

I praise God that He taught us this! And that we listened and obeyed!

I have listed out the cries each woman and man have below when it comes to relating to their spouse; take a look and see if there is anything that you can glean and use today to love your spouse that is best suited for them.

A Wife’s Cry to Her Husband

To love me is to know me.
To value me is to understand me.
To friend me is to join me.
To make-love to me is to relate to me.
To help me is to walk with me.
To talk to me is to listen to me.
To accept me is to encourage me.
To bear with me is to forgive me.
To lead me is to teach me.
To be one with me is to grow with me.

A Husband’s Cry to His Wife

To love me is to honor me.
To value me is to inspire me.
To play with me is to friend me.
To make love to me is to strengthen me.
To assist me is to help me.
To cheer me is to talk to me.
To reassure me is to accept me.
To forgive me is to receive me.
To follow me is to defer to me.
To be one with me is to trust me.

These cries are just a sample of what a husband and wife need. I’m sure there are more. But even more than the cries on our hearts, it’s important to forgive as God forgives, to love as Jesus loves, and to empower as the Spirit empowers. Be the reflection of Jesus to your spouse and you will move from being in love to feeling loved forever.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.”
Colossians 3:12-13
“For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” Romans 12:3
“None of you should look out just for your own good. You should also look out for the good of others.” Philippians 2:4
“A husband also must love his wife. He must love her just as he loves himself. And a wife must respect her husband.”
Ephesians 5:33

Be Not Unequal and Alone


Loneliness can make a person do desperate things — even cohabit with one who isn’t a believer. As a believer, when one’s sole focus is on being free from human loneliness, it can cause them to make concessions with their convictions. They hope that being in a relationship with the unbeliever in their life will cure them of the heartache of being alone. What they don’t understand or refuse to face is that in the end, if the person they are with does not love Jesus as they do, they still find themselves lonely while in a frustrating relationship.

I think this is one reason Paul encourages believers to unite with a believer. He knew the heartache one would encounter if spiritually unequal. He also knew the bond one makes with a believer is closer, and more lasting than one with an unbeliever.

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).

To “team up” means more than just being a friendly acquaintance or a witness for Christ. To “team up” with someone is to make you vulnerable to them, to depend on them, to go where they go, do what they do, and be influenced by their life and decisions.

When we are intimately connected with unbelievers, we give them the power to influence us away from God and His Truth. We may justify our relationship with them by thinking we will lead them to God, when in fact, they lead us away.

At the beginning of this relationship, it might work at first; you have your life with God, they have theirs without. Or they may follow you for a time just to win your heart, but then, time brings out who they are. Your differences will divide you from them, or they will bring you down. You will either leave the person or walk away from the One relationship that matters to you most. The typical pattern in this situation is a person will choose the unbeliever over Christ.

This separation is the devil’s specialty. He wants you to believe that you are doing what’s right. He deceptively tempts you to think your influence will help the other person.

Crafty is the devil.

The Truth is, thinking you’re helpful to a person who distracts you from the Lord is to believe a lie and makes a way for your destruction, pain, and disappointment.

You end up living with regret. It’s not a matter of if, but when. When reality hits, your partnership with this unbeliever will become apparent; you’ll feel hopeless. When this relationship suddenly stops working and more strife is your existence, you’ll be hurt as well as alone. Noting seems to cause more difficulties in a relationship like being spiritually unequal.

Why go here, when you don’t have to? Be not unequal and alone. Make the clean break now. It is better to be alone and united with the Father in Heaven. Paul admonishes you with a warning and a comfort:

“And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people…I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters” says the Lord. His promise is to fill your void of loneliness in the absence of a human relationship. If you wait for God’s best, He will fill your need for companionship as He prepares you for the one person who will grow your love for the Lord rather than take it away.

If you feel like there is no hope for a relationship for you, cast that worry on the Lord. Trust that His best is at hand for you.

I have seen lonely people who are desperate for companionship go in and out of relationships that were unhealthy. They are a hurting group of people. If they were honest, they would tell you not to unite with an unbeliever, but instead to wait on the Lord’s best.

Likewise, I have also seen those who have prayed and waited. God delivered. And they are grateful that they waited on Him. For they did not have to abandon their relationship with God and God gave them a person to share in His love.

Trust these words from the Psalmist for they are true and a promise for you:

“Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” Psalm 27:13-14

 

Live Worthy


“No matter what happens, live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ.
(Ephesians 1:27)

I’ve seen it over and over in parents (me included) where they will say to their children God is faithful and good; He will provide what they need; then these parents go on to live their life in worry and fear.

As a parent, we teach our kids so much by our actions more than the words we speak. I’m not suggesting you stop talking to your kids, but your talk must match your actions. As the old saying goes, “more is caught than taught.” I’ve said this before, but I must reiterate, your kid’s first introduction to the Lord is you. You represent to them their Savior and the only way they will see the truth is by the way you represent Him.

When you and I fill our days with worry and fear, we reveal to others a God who is small. Without realizing it, our actions can often communicate that God “is powerless, far off, asleep, and insensitive.”

I have four children who are very mission minded. Three are travelers. They travel to far off lands and share the gospel. In some cases, they have traveled to places that had travel advisory warnings. They went regardless. The fear of losing them would often paralyze me and cause me to discourage their attempt to go where God was calling them. Then God would get a hold of my heart and teach me to trust Him. Staying in the Word of God has given Him the chance to convict me and correct me when I’m wrong. His truth has indeed cut apart the lies I believed from the truth I needed to rely on.

One of the worst ways we misrepresent Christ and His good news is to allow our fears and worries to get the better of us. Fears and worries are nothing more than transient feelings. Feelings deceive us. Some use the word “gut” instead of feelings. They decide their path on a “gut feeling.” Whether you call it gut or feeling, both are unreliable, because they both lie and depend on one’s momentary “happiness.” When the “good” feeling flees, then a change of course happens. Life becomes nothing more than the wind blowing from here to there with no assurance of a good outcome. This type of living only increases fear and anxiety.

When Paul writes about the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18, he intentionally starts with truth and righteousness. There is a good reason for this. For it is in truth and righteousness we can “live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ.” In other words, we can live our life worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Where fear depends on lies, confidence depends on truth.

Where anxiety makes decisions based on uncertainty, righteousness does what’s wise no matter what is faced.

Truth and righteousness are rocks unmoved by feeling, gut or circumstances. When God’s Word is our guide and when doing what is wise is the rudder for our direction, we can correctly represent our big powerful Almighty God.

I have been there and have seen others struggle in the same way when it comes to making wise decisions in life. I’ve seen and felt the turmoil when I have needed to do what’s right but wanted to do what’s wrong instead. These times remind me that “my battle is not against flesh and blood.”

It’s between evil and righteousness.

It’s between lies and truth.

It’s between worry and trust.

It’s between feelings and fact.

My fearful attempts to discourage my children from going on the missions they traveled were solely based on my wants and needs. They were self-focused. My fears and worries placed limits on my God instead of trusting in His eternal greatness. In this condition I became my kids’ greatest obstacle when I should have joined ranks with the cloud of witnesses, the author of Hebrews speaks about in chapter 12 verse 1.

One way I know that the struggle in my life is evil or righteous is by the weight of it in my heart and mind. Evil is heavy whereas righteousness is light.

Evil weighs us down; it leads us to a state of depression. Depression is more than painful, it is hopeless. Doing what’s right can be painful as we walk away from something that feeds our flesh. But righteousness is always lighter to carry, because doing what’s right takes our eyes off of our plans and trusts that God is a good father who has nothing but a better welfare and hope planned for our future.

If we make decisions based on our worry, fears, and anxiety, we will never know God’s plans for us. We will only continue in the heaviness of our wrong choices. Then the evil becomes burdensome; we end up digging our grave and creating more struggles. Afterward, we may look back and wished we had chosen truth instead of lies and righteousness vs. our “gut” feelings. This unwise path turns our fear into guilt and remorse. We add to the heaviness on our heart when we don’t obey God’s full word of truth.

When people take parts of the truth to justify their wrong actions, they end up living out their Christian life in lies. I’ve known Christians who use the word to enforce their sinful decisions. They acknowledge part of the truth but ignore the areas that convict them. In the end, they misrepresent God to others. They do the opposite of Philippians 1:27: Based on what happens in their life, they bring dishonor to the good news about Christ. They make the gospel of Jesus look bad instead of attractive, delightful and appealing.

As Rand Hummel says in his book, Fear Not, the only way to make the gospel look good is to “replace fear with confidence, worry with trust, and apprehension with faith.” It’s good to always put before us that “our fears affect not only the way others see us but also the way others see our God.”

So, today, choose the brave option in your life, choose truth and righteousness as your armor and take the kinks of fear and worry out of it. Be strong and courageous, do not let fear guide you; for who is with us is greater than the fear we face. If we do what is right, then God’s favor will be upon us. On the other hand, if we do what is wrong, sin knocks at our door waiting to devour us. When we sin, we exchange the right hand of the Lord’s help for the human hand of strength. In the end, our strength wears out, but His continues without fail.

Which do you choose today? Fear or truth? Your gut feeling or righteousness?

Reflecting God to Your Children


Today, too many children are living in homes without fathers. Broken homes or homes with broken marriages reflect a distorted picture of God’s love. Even in our own lives, our parents can reflect the image we see of who God is. We can see Him as a good father or a harsh one. Maybe even a neglectful and unresponsive one.

As a young girl, I did not know my father well. I may have seen him a handful of times. Without realizing it at the time, I gained an imperfect picture of who God was. My growing up years without a dad often made me feel unloved and unworthy to be loved. I felt forsaken, alone, and neglected. I saw God that way, too.

My mom, however, did reflect that unconditional love for me during my childhood, for which I am thankful. One parent reflected a distorted picture and the other showed me a true picture. Thankfully, in time the true picture overrode the faulty.

When I finally gave my life to Jesus Christ, I realized that God was not the neglectful uncaring father to me I had once thought. He was one who loved me and was always there for me. He would never leave me.

This blog is not about fathers being absent; it’s a charge to all parents. As parents, we reflect God to our children. How we do that, depends on how we see God in our lives.

The truth is, God is a good, good Father. He is the kind of Father that is very involved in the details of the life of His children.

He strengthens our weaknesses. He gives power to our meager efforts. When we feel faint, He is suddenly there lifting us up, whispering “We can do this together.”

Even after failing and falling time and time again, He is there to renew our hope and give us a fresh start.

We are His young – the youth of His choice. And like all youth, we can stumble as we learn how to walk in His ways. We succeed, then trip. We show great strides, and then we decline. Two steps forward, three steps back. God expects this because He is a good, good Father. He understands.

He walks with us; He does not rush us.

He leads us, He does not drag us.

As we learn who our Father in heaven truly is, we can then reflect Him to our children.

It is through our interactions with our kids that they can feel His presence in their life. Often it is our behaviors, responses, and involvement that will be the first Bible our children read.

Are we reflecting Him, or something else?

Isaiah 40:29-31 gives us a beautiful picture of Who God is to us, and it also gives us some next step actions that we can model to our children.

We read, “God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

A true reflection of our Heavenly Father to our children means we must:

1.) Be encouraging. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Nothing strengthens and increases potential in our kids like words of encouragement. Yes, we are expected to reprimand, correct, and guide, but sometimes we do this to a fault. We must balance our instruction with encouragement or we will embitter our kids.

2.) Be patient. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.” Our children are in the process of learning. To learn often includes failure. We must realize that the goal of raising our children is not perfection, but progress. Progress does not mean they get to the top of the ladder and then they are done. It means they are maturing more and more each day. Life is a process of constant growing. Let your children learn and fail; praise them when they learn, and help them up when they fail; as a result you will see them progress which is more lasting then reaching the unrealistic goal of perfection.

3.) Be hopeful. “…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.” We can almost live without anything but hope. Hope gives us an inner strength to carry on even when everything in life is bad. Kids today are experiencing a lot of fear and difficulties. As parents, we can help them get past their problems if we can show them they have hope in an eternal loving God, who is above their circumstances and has their best interest at hand. With every challenge in their life, show them that God is more powerful than what they are experiencing. Reading the Bible with your kids is a must, not a suggestion. It’s hearing the word that will increase their faith and ultimately give them hope in God when everything else is failing. 

4.) Be proactive.  “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Don’t passively sit on the sidelines watching your children fail and fall. Join in their troubles, walk alongside them, whisper those encouraging words to them, and adding to all this, show them a way through and a path above their current struggles. If you need to orchestrate better circumstances for them, do it. Then show them how they can help themselves. Equip them. Train them. Resource them. Give them opportunities for success. Start small. For every small success encourages bigger ones. To be proactive means to be involved. Involved parents typically raise children who succeed.

The best way for you to reflect the perfect image of God to your children is first to know Who He truly is. We may not know everything, but the word of God has given us so much that we can know. Read, reflect, and then represent Him.

Your children’s first introduction to God is you.