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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hope Changes Things

I heard myself saying yet again, “I hope all will be well…” What did I really mean?  As I thought about this, I realized I meant, I will be praying for you.

What is hope, really?  Why do we use hope so liberally in our conversations?  Is it wishful thinking, or an expectation?  Is this hope a belief that it will be, and if so, what is this hope based on?

Hope is like happiness.  It is an elusive emotion built on the reality of what is and seeing promise for more.  A hopeful life is one with a future.  When hope is built on wishful thinking, it becomes a temporary illusion. 

Searching all the quotes on hope, I found wishful thinking, not a confident promise.  Then I read this in God’s Word, Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.  I Peter 1:21

Faith, believing, trusting and hope is one package in God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.  Colossians 1:15   When we know Jesus, we know God.  This understanding creates the place from where hope comes for those who love and trust Him. 

A steadfast hope cannot be shaken by world events, cultures or evil. I Corinthians 13:13, Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

Hope is an expectation in Christ, ever new, coloring each day with the assurance that Jesus is and will come again.  Hope is our trustworthy anchor that steadies us and encourages us to never give up.  So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  Hebrews 6:18-19.

It is our response to this Jesus that changes everything.  Fear, death and distractions threaten us daily.  Hoping on earth for power, job, influence, talents will pass away, often in an instant. 
Sitting in a small room in a clinic, I remember seeing a painting of a pastoral scene on the wall as I waited for the doctor.  When he appeared, he gave me the diagnosis for my husband -- dementia, his words echoed in the room. “There is no hope for healing.”  I slowly understood the extent of change with growing awareness of what lay before us.  Our lives changed dramatically as dementia took its toll.  I missed the life that was, but realize my Hope in Jesus remains and grows.  We were not meant to be live in this world forever, but we are here to prepare to be Home with our Lord God, day by day. 

How do I respond to this season of growing and hurt?  I have learned that Hope in Jesus is greater than any other I have longed for or experienced.  No matter how long these days of grieving last, there is one thing I know. I must surrender all to Jesus even as He surrendered all and was crucified, buried and raised again to give me Hope through it all. 

My son confided in me as he sang the hymn and thought about the words, I surrender all, he became uncomfortable.  It should not be I surrender all, but Jesus surrendered all. He rewrote the lyrics:
All for me Jesus surrendered, all for me He freely gave.
I should ever love and trust Him, for my Savior freely gave.
He surrendered all. He surrendered all.
All for me, my blessed Savior, Jesus surrendered all.
Paul Combs

- We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield.  Psalm 33:20
- And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.  Psalm 39:7
- Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. Psalm  62:5-6
- You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.  Psalm 119:116
- I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13
- Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. I Corinthians 13:7


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Self-Control or God-Control

Imagine with me, a young girl, straight blonde hair escaping from the bonnet on her head and tied under her chin.  She is holding the reins to the horse, guiding the plow to make the rich black earth ready for planting.  Her Dad’s instructions were to make straight furrows.  She eyed the fence post in the distance and made that her goal.  Sweat began pouring down across her young face and often blurred the sight of the fence post.  She wiped away the sweat and re-focused to create the straight furrow, as her Dad demanded.  After several rows, she wanted to rest.  She took another breath and renewed her determination. She was spurred on by the love and joy she would see in her Dad’s eyes.

This is the self-control my Mother showed all during her life. The fence post was exchanged for a straight furrow to eternity with God.  The straight furrow was the way she lived life with joy and giving control of her life to God.  Mother’s way of expressing thanksgiving and praise to God including the Doxology! 

Without Self-Control, the fruit of the Spirit could not flow from the heart. It is named last, yet speaks of holy living in every aspect of our lives.  Daniel Lowrie, in his book, Love, Mend, Train, Send writes.  When God’s glory is revealed, it does so in such a way that love is made manifest.  Mercy is his compassionate love and kindness is love’s touch. Grace is his self-giving love, while justice is love making right what is wrong. Holiness is his perfecting love, and sovereignty the freedom of his love.  

Our lives become a tapestry of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control with the jewels of mercy, compassion, kindness, grace, justice, holy living and freedom in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever desired something in the world so much you let nothing stand in your way?  Every decision in life, made daily, leads us to the one thing we desire most.  The small decisions count.  In today’s world, our culture prizes tolerance and correctness to the point that we are enslaved to these earthly goals.  It is often lonely when our hearts are tuned to an eternal life where there are love and forgiveness. There is no forgiveness or love in following the cultural goal. The difference in a cultural and an eternal goal – is that the cultural goal will pass away.

Self-control is the fruit of the Spirit – with these qualities: Peaceful, quiet, gentle, retiring, modest, sedate, self-contained. Composed, serene, tranquil, deliberate, discreet, and steady.  Self-Control has to be practiced by turning away from cluttering our minds and hearts with chaos, murder, and lies.

How does the world see self-control?  Ellen Hendrickson, Psychologist, offers tips on how to achieve self-control. 
#1 - Know That Self-Control Can Be Increased, it is inborn.
#2 = Define What You’re Trying to Control –such as being late.
#3 - Don’t Rely on Brute Force – don’t white knuckle it through
#4 - Reduce the Attractiveness of Your Temptations
#5 - Increase the Attractiveness of Your Task
#6 - Modify Your Environment
#7 - Self-Talk
#8 - Cut Yourself Some Slack

However – Eddie Foster - has a different way of looking at Self-Control.Eddie Foster writes: So where does self-control come in? Everywhere.
1.    It takes self-control to show true godly love instead of lust and infatuation—to love others not as the world loves, but as Christ loved us. “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2, emphasis added throughout).
2.    It takes self-control to have godly joy when we are facing a difficult situation in life. “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
3.    It takes self-control to get along with others and make peace instead of constantly getting into conflict. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).
4.    It takes self-control to patiently bear with others rather than quickly condemning them. It’s very hard to “be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
5.    It takes self-control to not automatically look out only for yourself but kindly look out for other people (Philippians 2:4).
6.    It takes self-control to do good, to go through the narrow gate toward life rather than the evil, wide gate toward destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
7.    It takes self-control to be faithful and not have our faith shattered by the mocking of scoffers (2 Peter 3:3-4).

8.    It takes self-control to be a gentle servant of the Lord (2 Timothy 2:24), showing compassion and mercy with real love as God does with us.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Gentleness, a gift from the Holy Spirit, is one of relationship with others.  It cannot be known unless there is a recipient of this gift.  It is a way of listening to others and encouraging them in peace and joy.  Yet, confront them with truth in love.  Gentleness is strength clothed in soft velvet humility of a quiet and loving heart.  (I Peter 3:4)

We often label someone new to us through our limited senses and determine ‘who’ they are without knowing them and walking in their footprints of life. We are not God, the God who looks on the heart.  (I Samuel 16:7). 

Gentleness means giving up the right to judge what is best for others and us.  This gift of gentleness means we accept storms as well as the sunshine in our lives.  We have been addicted to comfort in this life.  We think this is our entitlement.  Yet, we can be sure that through discomfort and struggles we learn to rely on the giver of gifts for more joy than we have ever known and not our own strength.   We can have confidence in our Father of Gentle Love.  Who else would love us so much He sent His Son to die for the sins of the world?  He made a direct way to come to Him in prayer at any time.

There are ways to perceive a person who walks with God.  One friend sacrificed time and money to drive a cancer-laden friend across the country for a last visit with her sister.  By her deeds of generous kindness I knew her heart was filled with gentleness.  This same person drove across several states to be with me as we buried our oldest son. 

Wait, how can I obtain this gentleness?  How can I erase my limited judgment of others?  Who can help me to be gentle?  How will I know when I have this gentleness?

It is a choice.  A decision made once to accept Jesus is not a here and now decision that will fade with time.  It is an eternal choice.  It is choosing Jesus and His Love.  This gift of Jesus comes with a ‘live-in’ Holy Spirit who guides and teaches each of us. All this forgiveness and rebirth of life are from our Heavenly Father, from whom all blessings flow!  As we grow in grace and the fruit of the Spirit, our earthly desires for power and control, the need for peer adulation lessens and fades away.  Our pride becomes empty and we become aware, it is all about Jesus and His nearness every moment of every day of our lives on earth. 

When I think of gentleness, I hear the voice of Jesus beckoning me to come. He beckons children, the weary the tempted and the downtrodden.  Those in pain, widowed, orphaned, those struggling with addiction, those in battle, victims of hate and abuse.  I hear his gentle voice saying, Come unto me!

-Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28
-But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14
-If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21
-He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” Luke 9:59
-Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever cometo me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35
-“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ Matthew 25:44-45

But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. I Timothy 6:11.  Without righteousness, there is no gentleness, without living a godly life there is no gentleness.  Without faith, love, and perseverance – there is NO Gentleness!  The fruit of the Spirit are woven together with unbreakable eternal threads of the beauty of the love of our Lord God.  Love is the foundation that Gentleness stands on.