Unquenchable Hope

Maybe what you’re looking at a week into the new year are the ashes and crumbs of what’s left of your hopes and dreams.

Maybe you’ve 99% given up on anything ever changing in your life.

Maybe you need to hear this right about now: your God is the God of the never impossible and the never hopeless and the never finished. There is no such thing as too difficult for this God.

Look at Golgotha. If any dream seemed dead and done for, it was what laid inside of that tomb for three days.

If Jesus could overcome that grave and that death and that hell, there is absolutely nothing in your life that you are facing right at this moment that He can’t and won’t overcome. Nothing.

Maybe what you need is an unquenchable hope built on  an undefeatable God.

It’s never too late to start hoping and dreaming again.

 

 

 

When The Lights Go Out at Christmas

His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
  A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched” (John 1:4-5).

I had an interesting experience at work today. The lights went out.

I was in the middle of my last mail delivery run when all the lights went out for a split second, long enough to catch everybody by surprise and get them freaked out before the backup generators kicked in and some of the lights came back on. It was weird.

Suddenly, everything seemed more sinister. There’s something about not being able to see everything that unnerves me a little. Maybe that’s from all those scary movies I’ve watched. Maybe that’s from when I was little and was deathly afraid of the dark.

Sometimes life feels like that. It’s like someone switched off the proverbial lights and it’s hard to see where you are or where you’re going. You can’t prepare for what’s coming because you can’t see what’s coming. Sometimes you can’t even see the next step.

Advent is all about a light coming into the darkness. Some translations of John 1 say that the light came into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it. Some say that the darkness could not comprehend it. I’m pulling a Forrest Gump and saying maybe both are right.

You can’t overcome what you do not understand. You will always be overpowered until you gain wisdom and learn a better way.

I love that it only takes one candle to defeat darkness. Or one little night light. I also love what a pastor said. The present state of things in our world isn’t due to the victory of darkness but from a failure of the light to shine. We’ve been silent when we should have spoken and sometimes we’ve spoken when we should have been silent (and maybe more discerning about what and when to speak).

 

A Puritan Prayer on Contentment

image

I have a book called The Valley of Vision. It’s essentially a collection of really old, i.e. 1600’s Puritan prayers. I chose one of them at random to share with you (and because it’s just so freakin’ awesome).

“Heavenly Father, if I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty, make my heart prize Your love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all blessings. It is Your mercy to afflict and try me with wants, for by these trials I see my sins, and desire severance from them. Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations, if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, and be delivered from it with gratitude to You, acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Your love.

When Your Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin He became more dear to me than sin had formerly been; His kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny. Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued I must not only labour to overcome it, but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, and He must become to me more than vile lust had been; that His sweetness, power, life may be there. Thus I must seek a grace from Him contrary to sin, but must not claim it apart from Himself.

When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live; that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things. Though now I have His graces in part, I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state where You will show Yourself fully reconciled, and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely, with sin abolished. O Lord, hasten that day.”

Those Puritans sure knew how to pray.

Keep Calm and Drink Coffee

image

Well, it’s Friday. I’m currently house- and dog-sitting for a very well-behaved and gentle dog named Millie.

I’m also reading a very interesting book written by a lady with autism. It’s fascinating to see her thought processes and hear how she sees the world differently than I. It’s also amazing to see how she has basically taught herself how to overcome most of her autistic tendencies.

I still think that ALL of us at some level are fundamentally broken. We all have some kind of phobias or issues that keep us from always acting normal. Some are better at hiding it than others, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are just as broken as the rest of us.

I’m so very glad Jesus didn’t come for the healthy. He came for the sick. The destitute. The abused. The abuser. The lonely. The broken. Us.

In those moments when you feel like you will never be normal and accepted, remember that Jesus doesn’t think you’re normal. He thinks you’re extraordinary.

Addictions: Lessons from Tonight’s Kairos

When you think of the word addiction, you probably think of the junkie with the needle in his arm or the guy staggering from a bar at 2 am, too drunk to even be able to walk in a straight line.

But maybe addiction looks like the man who works 80 hours a week every week or uses food as comfort to ease the pain he can’t handle. Maybe you’re like me and your addiction is the approval of others. Whatever it is, you’re not alone and there’s hope.

The story of recovery from addiction is the story of moving from slavery to freedom. The Bible says that you are a slave to whatever you choose to obey, whether that be God or a controlled substance or a relationship or a hobby or a career.

Whatever it is, it’s a form of idolatry. You are giving power to something or someone other than God to hold your life together. The thing is that nothing else has the power, the weight, to keep your life together and keep you from spinning out of control.

I loved what Mike Glenn said. He says that Jesus doesn’t stop by your unraveling life to inform you that you’re going to hell. He comes to you in your moment of greatest weakness and says, “You are Mine. You belong to Me. And you don’t have to stay here in slavery.”

You will never overcome addiction alone. You need someone else, whether that be an accountability partner or a 12-step group. It takes time and work.

Jesus died so you wouldn’t have to be beholden to anything ever again. He died to provide you a way out.

The hard part is that often Jesus will take you and walk you through the painful event or memory that you’ve been trying so hard to anesthesize or drown out or numb or run away from. He will take you through it rather than throwing you over it, and you face it and overcome it and never have to be afraid of it ever again.

If God is for you, who can ever be against you? No one. Nothing. And if God said it, that settles it, whether you believe it or not.

I have never been a drug addict or an alcoholic, but as a recovering approval-addict, I know that there is freedom and victory in the name of Jesus. I know what it is through His mighty name to overcome and triumph.

I am learning not to rush the healing process, but to believe that the healing is happening. There is joy in seeing the shackles and chains of addiction and strongholds fall away and you find that you are walking in freedom for the first time.

That’s what I pray for each of you– freedom.

Night Volleyball

I participated in a game of volleyball at a Memorial Day cookout with some friends. Needless to say, none of us will probably be making the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 or anytime soon.

From a volleyball purist standpoint, we played the game all wrong. We didn’t set the ball up or even hit it correctly. More times than not, the ball went in the opposite direction of the net or under the net or even into the net.

Whoever invented volleyball was probably rolling over in his grave. Or else he died just so he could be buried and roll over in his grave. It wasn’t pretty.

But it was fun.

We gave each player a do-over on messed-up serves. We complimented each other on near-misses and flat-out whiffs. When the automatic lights went out, one of us would go do our best version of the Riverdance to get the lights back on.

By the time we were done playing, the game was more of a comedy than a competition. But we had fun and laughed at ourselves and with each other.

It was grace in action. Too bad we as believers aren’t that way all the time.

For the moments when I open up my mouth and say something stupid, I need grace.

For the moments when you send the text before you think it through and wish for the next 24 hours you could take it back, you need grace.

For all the times when we break our promises and fail to be light and salt and witnesses of the great God who saved us, we all need grace.

For all the times we screw up royally again after promising God and the world we wouldn’t, we all need grace. For daily falling short of all God meant for us to be to ourselves and each other and to Him, we all need grace. Desparately.

Grace isn’t just undeserved favor. That falls short of what grace is. Grace is undeserved favor in the face of deserved wrath. That’s something I learned recently and something I’m still thinking about.

Grace means that you’re not alone and neither am I. Grace means we walk together, we fall together, and we get back up together. We laugh together, we cry together, we fail together, and we overcome together.

And it took a game of night volleyball to remind me of all that.