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Overflow

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. –Rom 15:13

Hope. It’s such a great word, isn’t it? It tells us that though all is not right in the world, things are not always now as they one day will be. You don’t have to look far, though, to notice that hope is something that’s desperately missing in the world we live in. Christ followers aren’t exempt from the hurts of this life either, but we do have a hope that only God can give and a future that only faith can see. It ’s these “intangible” truths that provide the fuel for us to keep going when the going is hard, to keep trusting when the circumstances seem to tell us otherwise, and to keep loving, because in the end, that’s all that matters and love, ultimately, is all that will last (1 Corinthians 13). Since these “intangibles” are the only things that truly last, whether in this life or the next, maybe they’re more tangible than we often think.

The beauty and gift of pain in this life is that it reminds us that this is not all there is. C. S. Lewis said that one of the plights of humanity is that we are far too easily pleased. He says we’re like the child content with making mud pies in the slums because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  When life is “good” we tend to settle. When life is painful, we tend to hope and long for what is better. Paul gives us this encouragement so that the miracle of hope would overflow and be visible to those around us. Hope implies something better is coming. The good news is that we don’t always have to wait for heaven to experience the “betterness” of God. He longs to give us so much of Himself even now. A favorite passage that is often quoted in reference to heaven actually speaks of the life that we can even now begin to experience through the Spirit of God. “However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’– the things God has prepared for those who love him– these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” [1Co 2:9-10]  What could possibly be more “deep” in this life than a peace that passes all understanding (can’t be explained–only experienced), and a hope that is secure? (Heb 6:19)

So let’s join together with expectation of an outpouring of His Spirit that we may all experience the Kingdom that is “now but not yet” in all of the fullness available to us today. We hope, we long, we yearn for that overflow.

Keep Showing Up

Lay it Down Before the Lord

Sometimes showing up for worship opens old wounds. Sometimes they have to be opened in order to be healed. Hannah’s story in the Bible indicates that she may have understood this even though no one around her did (1 Sam 1:1-28). She so longed for a child. She had no one that understood the battle that was going on inside her, but she kept showing up for worship. She even had to “worship” with those who misunderstood and taunted her. One time the pain became so great that she wept and prayed before the Lord so intensely that Eli the priest mistook her for being drunk! Not only was she misunderstood in her life and desires, but even in her worship—and by those who should have understood her the most!

There are times in life when the only one who understands you is God Himself. It is those times where we need Him most, even when we can’t feel him or see Him at work. Sometimes it is in those times that He can seem the most distant as well. Hannah knew one thing–though she struggled with faith and conflict at home–the only place for this burden was to place it before the Lord and leave it there.

Sometimes when life kicks your guts out and every motive and move you make are misunderstood (even your own worship), we can learn from Hannah in that we just keep showing up. God is waiting even when we can’t always feel Him or perceive what He’s doing (or NOT doing). He’s still there. Just keep showing up. You’ll eventually find Him because He’s never once lost you.

Allow this song (Never Once) from Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons album encourage your heart today.

Experiencing the Prince of Peace

nativity“Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake any more work than I can get through with perfect calmness of spirit.” – John Wesley

There may be no reminder more timely than the quote above especially during the holiday season. The next few weeks for most of us will be incredibly busy and will require intense discipline and focus to navigate it successfully. Because we know the Prince of Peace, we can be assured that His peace is still available for those who will claim it, no matter how much “in haste” we may seem during the holidays.

Paul, writing to the Philippians, reminds us to “…Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Notice that he doesn’t mention our bodies here. There are times where we will be physically exhausted but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have peace. This is one of the things that makes peace “supernatural”.

Anyone can experience tranquility sitting quietly beside the seashore, but peace can be experienced in the midst of a storm and yes, sometimes in a flurry of activity if our hearts and minds are focused on what is ultimate—God himself. Much like real joy, peace goes deeper into the soul. Peace is ultimately knowing that you matter to God and letting God matter to you. Happiness and tranquility are circumstantial, but peace and joy can be experienced regardless of the circumstances.

So, in the flurry of the season, much like Wesley, let’s not be afraid to be in haste, but let’s not be so hurried that we miss the nearness of God and the significance of the season.

Orphans of God

Holy_spiritIn John chapter 13, Jesus had just finished unloading some heavy news to His disciples–His betrayal, Peter’s denial, and in chapter 12, He even tells of His own impending death! This would be heavy news, regardless of the recent surrounding circumstances, however, putting ourselves in the timeline of the disciples, this news also comes on the heals of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem! It only seemed like moments earlier that Jesus was about to take, what many thought should be His rightful place as King and overthrow the oppressive Roman government. We can see from the testimony of Scripture and the events that followed that this was difficult news to process, as nearly anyone could imagine.

Yet, on the heels of all of this, Jesus offers some incredible words to His followers in John 14. In verse 18, Jesus offers them this–”I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  We can be certain that they did not fully grasp the significance of what all of that meant, but I have a feeling that they could hear and see Jesus’ heart as he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled” as He reminds them that this world is not all that there is. BUT, in the meantime, Jesus’ promise to them and to us is that He would be WITH us through the person of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus knew that there will be times in this world where we may feel alone, abused, beat up, not-measured-up, and simply forgotten. In the fallen world that we call “home” (for now), if we are fortunate to live long enough, we will likely be well acquainted with much of the unpleasantries of this life. Yet, Jesus’ promise to us is that He would not leave us as orphans. Our heavenly Father is the very definition of all that is good and His ultimate concern for us is unwavering. We can take that to the proverbial “bank”.

So, in this fallen world, let’s rest assured that no matter what this world dishes out and regardless of the self-destructive decisions and behaviors that so often betray us, we have a God who will never leave us nor forsake us and even dances over us with joy. He does not remember our past, but sees in us the infinite joy and purpose of the child that He created us to be. As the song made popular by Avalon so eloquently states, there really are “no orphans of God.”

Looking Back – Looking Ahead

clock_towerThe Christian faith is a paradox of time, possibly like nothing else. It is in this paradox of time, however, that we find great mystery and yet we also find a strong and lasting peace. We can see in Scripture the many times that God’s people have looked back at His faithfulness, and yet, we are “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13b).

To really live effectively in the present, it is helpful to have a biblical understanding of the past as well as our future. As we look back, we remember God’s faithfulness, not our failures. As we look forward we press on in the faith and power of the gospel–knowing that Christ has already accomplished for us, what we could not accomplish for ourselves.”O God, Our Help in Ages Past” is a hymn that is a singable illustration of these biblical truths. Originally published as part of The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament in 1719 by Isaac Watts. It was also later published by John Wesley in his hymnal Psalms and Hymns in 1738.

It speaks of God’s faithfulness in the past as our assurance of His presence and power in the future. Take a few moments this week and write down moments of God’s faithfulness to you. As you take the time to reflect, I believe you will find that though life can often be hard, God is indeed good. No matter what state I may find myself in, I can know that through God’s faithfulness, I am so much better off than I deserve–and you are too!A couple years ago, Tommy Walker did an arrangement of this hymn and added a chorus that really sums the whole thought up well–“O God Your are–You are our Help, You are our Helper! In all generations You will be–forever and ever–Our Shield and our eternal Hope, O Lord! You are the Ancient of Days and worthy of our praise!”.  As we sing this hymn, let’s remember the unfailing love and faithfulness of our Lord…He is good!

*An updated and tasteful arrangement of this hymn can be found at Red Tie Music (www.redtiemusic.com).

The Joy of Utter “Hopelessness”

“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable”. –Psalm 145:3

Have you ever set out on something you thought was a lost cause? Maybe it was the class ring you lost while riding on a ten mile wilderness trail, or maybe it was that time you tried to convince your father to borrow the car “one more time” only two days after you wrecked it? In any case, whatever the situation, it looked dire and almost hopeless. Well, there is another “hopeless” pursuit that we are called to as believers–one in which the full paradox of the Scriptures comes into full realization. This “hopeless” pursuit is unlike any other you’ve been on, though, because in this pursuit, the more “lost” you feel, the more “found” you realize you are; the more that you pursue in “vain”, the more meaning you actually find; the more thirsty you are, the more satisfied you become; the more persecuted and rejected you are, the more you find real acceptance—and the list could go on.

The pursuit that we’re talking about here is the never-ending pursuit of God. In Psalm 145, we see that His greatness is unsearchable.  It’s not that God cannot be found, because it is God’s very desire to have a relationship with you for He says, “…and ye shall seek me, and find [me], when ye shall search for me with all your heart” – (Jer 29:13).  The thing is, that once you are found in Him, you begin the never-ending journey of discovering how unsearchable and endless God’s love and character truly is. This one “hopeless” pursuit is the only thing in life that can actually provide real and lasting joy.

One of my favorite songs of the last couple of years is “Greatness of Our God” (track 11 on the ChurchLife Worship Band CD). In this song there is a line that says “..and no sky contains, no doubt restrains all You are, the greatness of our God”. Not only is this excellent songwriting, but this is an incredibly simple phrasing of a profound eternal truth. The God that you and I serve is greater and stronger than our most challenging trials, and whether or not we choose to believe Him, He is still the same God and still loves us just as much. The flip side is also true–there is no skeptic or doubter that can make God any less than, well, God. He is God and we are not. The end. Fine. And because of this, I plan to continue my “hopeless” pursuit today of the unsearchable riches of God. I hope you will join me, and in doing so, let us find lasting joy in the journey.

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