Book Review – One Thousand Gifts

Thanksgiving is our annual reminder of just how blessed we are, and for how much we can be grateful.  I thought it was a good opportunity to share with you a book about gratitude that has had a huge impact on my life since I first read it three or four years ago.

Ann Voskamp is a Canadian author.  She grew up on a farm, and is now married to a farmer.  Her life has been marked by that lifestyle, as all our lives have been marked by how we were brought up and the experiences that we have gone through.

As a child, she had to endure the loss of a sibling.  Her sister was killed by a delivery truck backing up.  That experience was devastating for Ann and her parents.  It led to major depression for all of them.  For Ann, it eventually led her to attempt suicide as a Bible college student.

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One Thousand Gifts is part personal story and testimony, part encouragement, and part challenge to change your perspective on life by shifting to an attitude of gratitude.  The main thrust of the book is based on an exercise that Ann’s counselor asked her to do.  While she struggled with coping, her counselor told her to stop dwelling on what had happened in the past and on what she had lost.  Instead, she should focus on all the blessings that God had given her.  She was assigned homework – every day, list several things for which she was grateful.  She was supposed to do that until she had listed one thousand things for which she was thankful.

This took her on a fascinating journey.  The more she paid attention to the blessings God had given her, the more her way of thinking and dealing with life changed.  It transformed her entire view of God, of herself, of life, and of the world.  She realized that even in the most difficult of times, the smallest things that can reveal the riches of God’s grace.

Her conclusion at the end of her journey?  In this world, if we have eyes to see it, all is grace.

I benefited greatly from this book – I think most people would.  But if you’re dealing with loss and heartache, I would suggest that it could be a transformative read for you.

As you take time to enjoy family and feasting this Thanksgiving, take time to be thankful as well.  One thousand gifts is a lot…but maybe this weekend, you can take a few moments and write down ten things for which you are thankful.  You might be surprised at what that little exercise can do for your mind.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Oh – and if you decide you want to buy the book, the Kindle edition can be purchased here.

Navigating Change

All of life is change and involves change. Consider:

• the daily journey of the sun across the sky;

• the rhythms of the seasons;

• the steady progress of growth, maturing, and aging;

• the parade of people through our lives – births and deaths; transfers and moves; new neighbors and co-workers;

• the constant development of technological and medical advances;

and the list could go on and on.

But change is difficult. Even when we see the need for habit; even when we are part of the change and desire change; even when we are planning the change; even when we know change is necessary…the truth is that we are creatures of habit. We want others to change; ourselves, not so much.

So how do we navigate change? How do we handle ourselves when we find ourselves in transition? How do we maintain our peace and joy when the transition isn’t what we truly want?

Here are a few thoughts:

Pray. We all know this one. But sometimes we need to be reminded. God answers prayer. God is moved by the prayers of His people. When we are in transition, we need to be in prayer for God to move, to prepare the way, to give us wisdom, and to work in and through our circumstances. And when we have prayed, we need to…

Trust God. As my friend Rob Reimer often says, God is smarter than we are, and He knows things we don’t know. He holds us, and He also holds the future in HIs hands. He can and will take care of us. He will work all things together for our good. Even when we cannot see how that will happen, He does it. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “God is too good to be unkind, and He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust His heart.” And as we are trusting God, we need to…

Be patient. God’s perfect timing doesn’t always seem like it to us. We are stuck in the moment, often thinking of what we are dealing with right now. But God’s perspective is eternal. It can often seem like He isn’t coming through when we need Him to (think Daniel being arrested and put in the lions’ den; Joseph in prison; Abraham living decades with no son, for example). But God knows the what’s, why’s, and when’s better than we could ever hope to. So we need to wait patiently for His moment, the right moment. But in being patient, we also need to listen to God, and when the moment is right, we need to…

Act. God still does His work through His people. Trusting, praying, and being patient don’t relieve us of the responsibility to take action, to do what we can do. We need to hear from Him on the timing; we need to be careful not to rush ahead of Him, and not to lag behind. But we need to act. Carefully, wisely, deliberately – but we need to act.

Psalm 25:9 (NIV) says, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” May we pray, trust God, wait patiently, and then act – all with humble hearts, that we may hear from Him and receive His guidance.

Shadowlands Chapter 2 – Discouragement

Allman had been walking for just a short while, heading towards wealth. The dirt road that he traveled on was winding and hilly. In places, it was covered in deep shadows by trees that towered above, making Allman feel as if he were in some kind of tunnel.

He continued walking through the day, stopping only a few times to rest. Late in the afternoon, he found himself climbing a long, steep hill. He had to stop several times to catch his breath, and for a time, he wondered if he would actually make it to the top, but he finally did.

When he did reach the top of the hill, he saw that he was at the top of an open ridge. He gasped at the view – it was unlike anything he had ever seen before from the tiny village of Average. But then, as he took it all in, he noticed a great city, far off. It must be the city of Wealth – but it was so much further than he had ever imagined it to be. His heart sank as he realized that he spent a whole day traveling only to discover that his goal was much further away than he had realized.

“You lookin’ at Wealth? It sure is a long way off, isn’t it?” a voice asked.

Allman turned to see who was speaking. It was rather scruffy looking man – short, thin, balding at the front but with long, gray hair that framed his face like an unruly halo. His clothes looked bleak – no real color at all, just gray, and covered with dust from the road. He wore a large backpack, carried a knapsack over one shoulder, and held a bent walking stick in his left hand.

“Hello,” Allman said. “I didn’t see you. Where did you come from?”

“I was just sitting under that dead tree over there,” the man responded, pointing. “I live up here on this ridge.”

“On the ridge?” Allman asked. “Where? Do you have a home here?”

“I live just in a cave just below the ridge line,” the man said. “Name’s Discouragement. Who are you? What are you doing up here?”

“My name’s Allman,” he replied. “I left my home in Average this morning. I am going to Wealth, where I will be able to make something out of my life!”

“Ugh. Don’t bother,” Discouragement said. “Can’t you see how far it is from here? You’ll never make it. Besides, look at you. Dressed the way you are? And coming from Average? They’ll never accept you there. You’ll end up in an alley starving, or going back home in disgrace.” He shook his head as if to demonstrate how futile Allman’s idea really was.

“Why would you say that?” Allman asked. “Have you been to wealth?”

Discouragement laughed. “Me? To Wealth? Why would I go there? Nope, not me. Years ago, I left my home in Complacent and hiked up here, just like you did. But then I got up here and saw how far off Wealth really was. I thought I’d go ahead and try, but just up the road a little ways, there’s a gully and the bridge is gone. There was no way I could get past it. So I came back here, and I just found a cave to live in, and I stayed. That’s what you should do too.”

Allman was crestfallen. He had started out with such dreams and aspirations. But now Discouragement was telling him not to even bother trying. He looked around and saw that the sun was sinking low in the sky. Now what would he do?

“Why don’t you spend the night with me?” Discouragement asked. “There’s room in my cave. You can rest for the night and then in the morning, why, you can find your own cave. Or you can head back to Average, whichever you please. There’s just no point in going on, though. You would never make it that far, and if you did, well, the chances that you would ever amount to anything are just…well…it just won’t happen. Trust me. I’m sure you’re a good person, but Wealth – that’s not for people like you and me.” He turned and started to walk back down the path, motioning for Allman to follow him. “C’mon, let’s get inside before it rains or something worse.”

With a heavy heart, Allman followed Discouragement.

Book Review – The Celtic Book of Days

Book Review – The Celtic Book of Days

Two of my best friends recently had an incredible opportunity – to travel to Ireland for a doctoral level class on St. Patrick and the history of the Irish church. As I talked with one of them about the trip before they left, he recommended several books that were required reading for the course. As I looked at some of them, it stirred my desire to learn more about Celtic Christianity and its practices, which led me to a LOT of time browsing on Amazon, and eventually, to The Celtic Book of Days.

The timing was perfect for me. I had felt “stuck” for a couple of months in my quiet times – just sort of going through the motions, not sure where to read in the Bible, not motivated to journal – stuck.

I bought and downloaded The Celtic Book of Days and immediately benefited from it.

In some ways, it’s very similar to most devotionals. There are daily themes, daily Scripture readings, a verse to ponder, a short devotional meditation, and then a closing reading of some kind – often a prayer or a quote from ancient Celtic Christian writings.

The daily Scripture readings are broken down very simply – a Psalm, a reading from another Old Testament passage, and a reading from a New Testament passage. Usually after the list, there is a verse to read and consider.

But the actual devotional material is what sets this book apart. Some are writings from various Celtic theologians and spiritual leaders. But many are stories from the lives of great Celtic saints. Here are a few examples:

• Drithelm, a man who died and then shocked his family by coming back to life the next day. While dead, he had an unusual vision and experience that led him to give away his entire estate and join a monastery.

• Columba, a bishop who had a vision of angels coming to take him home to heaven. Many of his monks prayed that God would spare his life. Much to Columba’s disappointment, God gave him four more years of life on this earth before taking him home.

• Ciaran, a young man who was used mightily by God to plant many churches. He was struck down by the plague. Knowing he was dying, he asked to be shut up in a little church until his friend Kevin could see him one last time. Ciaran died, but was left in the church by his fellow monks. When Kevin arrived, Ciaran’s spirit re-entered his body and he was granted one day of fellowship with his friend Kevin. At the end of the day, he blessed his friend and then passed on.

These kinds of stories fill the book. They are faith-building and inspiring. I have found myself encouraged and challenged as I have read and journaled my way through the Book of Days over the past few months.

I would highly recommend this devotional to anyone who is looking for something different, something unique, or something to help “jumpstart” them out of a difficult time and place spiritually. You can purchase the Kindle edition here.

I Am Third

I Am Third

In the fall of 1985, as a sophomore at Berry College, I had the privilege of meeting Truett Cathy, the founder and (at the time) President of Chick-fil-A. As part of the WinShape Scholarship Program at Berry, I had several opportunities to see Mr. Cathy, even spending a weekend in his home one time.

Mr. Cathy was a shrewd businessman, a hard worker, a great role model, and a man who was much in demand as a public speaker because of his success. I had many opportunities to hear him speak. He had a few “stand-by” themes or ideas that he would often use. One of the ones that impacted me the most – and one that he came back to time and time again – was his message, “I am third.”

The basic idea of Mr. Cathy’s “I am third” talk was this – our priorities in this life should be God first, others second, and myself third. So…”I am third.” A simple enough concept.

It was one that I saw Mr. Cathy live out before others, both in his personal life and in the culture that he infused into Chick-fil-A. This blog is not intended as a commercial for Chick-fil-A, but I spent close to 8 years of my life working at various Chick-fil-A-s – some as a part-time employee, and some as a full-time manager. One of the messages that was consistent no matter who my boss was or which store I worked in – God needed to be first in my life, the customers and their needs, then others around me second, and then – I was third.

The point of living life with the rule “I am third” is NOT that I am unimportant. Quite the opposite, in fact. The truth is that the only way to consistently live out of an “I am third” mindset is to be secure in who you are and in Whose you are. When you know how much God loves you, it becomes an act of gratitude to put Him first. And when you realize how much He loves others, and how Jesus Himself didn’t come to be served but to serve others, well, then putting others second and yourself third is just the right choice.

There are times I forget this simple little message. There are times I am selfish, times I want what I want, times I put my “needs” ahead of the needs of others. In those times, I am thankful for God’s grace and for the gentle reminders He sends my way. Life isn’t always simple when you choose “I am third” but it IS joyful and fulfilling. And it is honoring of Jesus.

I am third.

How about you?

Journey Through the Shadowlands – Chapter 1

Allman finally decided he was going to leave home. He could no longer stand to live in this place; it was time to follow his dreams. For as long as he could remember, he had wanted to leave. He had always hungered for something more, always wanted to explore the world outside, and see for himself if any of the stories he heard while growing up were true.

Those stories had captured his imagination as a child, and as he grew into early manhood, their pull on him had grown. Stories of the wealth and beauty of the sprawling cities of Desire, Wealth, and Pride, and of the people who lived in those places. The kind of people who would never think of visiting a place like Average, let alone living there.

There were the occasional whispered rumors – rumors that few gave any credit, yet the few that did insisted they were true. More true, in fact, than anything else. These people believed and spoke of strange things – of a world beyond the Shadowlands, of a dragon who enslaved the people of the Shadowlands without their knowledge, of a far-off land where a great King ruled in the city of Peace – a King who would one day return to the Shadowlands and claim it all as His own. The people who believed these crazy things insisted that the Shadowlands had not always been the Shadowlands, and that when the King did return, there would be a great Restoring of the Shadowlands to what they had once been – a wondrous Garden.

None of it made any sense to Allman. But all of it captured his imagination.

His heart yearned for something more than Average.

He constantly day-dreamed of something different. He spent hours in his mind, fashioning elaborate fantasies of what his life would be like if he lived in Desire – the adulation and awards he would receive, the desires he would see fulfilled, the desires that he would stir in others. The love he would experience. All of his yearnings satisfied.

And Wealth – he could picture thousands of people following him, looking to him for guidance because of all that he possessed. He could see himself ruling a large portion of the city, if not the city itself, with all the things he had ever wanted and done without out. Vast vaults of gold and precious gems would be his. He would deny himself nothing – he could have it all. He imagined himself returning in triumph to Average, showing everyone what he had made of himself, and perhaps even rescuing his parents from what he saw as failed lives.

But then Pride captured his thoughts as well. Pride was a special place, a city of great rejoicing. Most of the inhabitants of Pride had spent years in either Desire or Wealth, and then moved to Pride where they could display their accomplishments and their accumulated possessions to the greatest advantage. Pride was a place where each mansion was its own neighborhood. Allman saw himself retiring one day to Pride, basking in all that his life had become, and showing the other inhabitants of the city how insignificant they were in comparison to him

Every once in a while, though, a tiny voice whispered to him of the city of Peace and the King. It often caught him unaware, as he looked up at the beauty of the night sky or the glow of a sunrise. In those moments, he wondered what it might be like to serve as a knight in the King’s service, battling the Dragon. But thoughts of Desire, Wealth, or Pride would come floating back, and his mind would go there instead.

Enough of wasting time in dreaming and thinking and wishing and yearning, though. It was time for action – time to get what he had always wanted.

Early on the morning of the day that marked his promotion to adulthood, Allman got up, dressed, packed his few meager possessions, and said good-bye to his parents and siblings. Then he set out on the road to Wealth.

Book Review – David and Goliath

David and Goliath is not just a story in the Bible – it’s a recent book by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell, the author of five books and a staff writer for The New Yorker, is well-known for his creative insights into life using academic research as a basis for his ideas. An English-born journalist, author, and public speaker, he now resides in Canada and was appointed to the Order of Canada in June 2011.

Gladwell approaches the story of David and Goliath from a different perspective than one to which most people are accustomed. To most, the story is a classic example of an underdog (David) overcoming a huge warrior-giant (Goliath). And that is what happened – David defeated Goliath with the help of God.

But Gladwell points out that another perspective on the battle between the two of them shows that David’s victory, in some respects, should not have been unexpected. Goliath was a huge, lumbering heavy infantryman who needed an armor-bearer to help him with all of his weaponry and armor. David, on the other hand, was a nimble slinger who, based on historical information, could likely sling a stone with incredible accuracy at great distances, at a speed close to the speed of a bullet fired from a .45 pistol!

In other words, Goliath was looking for another heavy infantryman to fight in close, hand-to-hand combat; but instead, he encounters a fast-moving, accurate slinger who can attack from a distance and who hits him with stone before he can even thrust his spear at David.

Gladwell uses this perspective to point out that what we often perceive as strengths which can never be undermined – Goliath’s strength – can actually be weaknesses at some point. And that which we often perceive as weakness – David’s youth and experience and lack of armor – can actually be a strength, if applied strategically.

In other words, perceived advantages can often be disadvantages. And perceived disadvantages can often be advantages.

Gladwell goes on to demonstrate this from several different perspectives. A few examples:

⁃ Vivek Ranadivé, who knew nothing about basketball, but coached his daughter’s basketball team all the way to Nationals by teaching them to use the full-court press all the time – a completely unorthodox strategy that helped them defeat teams that should have easily defeated them.

⁃ The advantage of being a Little Fish in Big Pond, which can sometimes draw attention to your uniqueness and create unexpected opportunities.

⁃ Dyslexia – while dyslexia is classified as a learning disability, it seems that an inordinate amount of successful entrepreneurs have overcome dyslexia.

⁃ How Wyatt Walker, one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s lieutenants, used the media to help shift perspectives and empower the Civil Rights movement when it appeared to be facing irrelevance.

⁃ A group of “powerless” Irish mothers, who stood up against the might of the British Army during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and broke the control the British Army had established in Lower Falls.

These and several other examples drive home Gladwell’s major theme – your greatest disadvantage, your greatest weakness, can become a great advantage and strength if you are strategic about it. I would add to that if you can trust on God for wisdom and strength in that pursuit. (It’s a hopeful word for churches in today’s stagnant church conditions in America.)

But it is also a word of warning – beware of trusting in your strengths and advantages. There can come a point where they become weaknesses and disadvantages. (I believe that is part of what happened to evangelical churches in the last decade).

If you want a challenging and thought-provoking read, or if you are a leader who is willing to think outside of the box, I would recommend David and Goliath. You can purchase it on Kindle here.

684

684 Sundays.

That’s roughly how many Sundays there are until the beginning of the year in which I turn 65, and probably retire.

I know, that’s a long ways off.

But it’s not that far off.

And I won’t get to preach every one of those Sundays. I will be on vacation for some of those Sundays; I will have staff members who will want to speak for some of those Sundays; and I will have special speakers for some of those Sundays for things like Missions Conference or other special events. Over the course of those 13+ years, a conservative estimate would be that I would not preach 8 Sundays per year. That’s at least 104 Sundays I won’t be preaching, and that doesn’t account for emergencies or unexpected opportunities to have special speakers. So that cuts me down to 579 Sundays.

579 Sundays. That’s about 100 more sermon series, with a length of 5 – 6 messages. To those of you who have to sit and listen to me preach, it sounds like a lot of sermons.

But to me? That number is the number of grains of sand left in an hourglass, and they’re slipping through steadily.

Every week, that number decreases.

So for the time I have left, I want to be sure that every message counts,

The truth is that I’ve lived a significant part of my life in fear and anxiety. I’ve thought and worried too much about what other people think. I’ve tried too hard to please people, and tried to hard to avoid offending people so they wouldn’t leave the church.

But that kind of living is foolishness.

The truth is that no matter how hard I try, or how careful I am, I will always offend someone, somehow. I will always let people down and I will always disappoint some people.

So I’ve got to live my life according to what I think God wants from me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a license to offend, to alienate, to be inconsiderate, or to just be a jerk.

But I can’t let my leadership of others be governed by fear or by their expectations.

Leadership can be selfish and controlling – manipulative. But it can also be motivational – unselfishly leading people to a difficult place, on a difficult journey, that will ultimately be for their benefit.

684 Sundays. That’s my number. I’ve got to make the most of it. I’ve got to lead differently, invest myself more in young leaders, take more risks, take bigger risks, push other leaders to go where they may not want to go but desperately need to go.

My challenge, my mission, is to fundamentally change the culture and direction of our church so that we are fulfilling Christ’s call. Because right now, while we’re doing some very good things, the hard and honest truth is that we’re failing. And if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.

We have to change. I have to lead change. And I know what it will cost, because I’ve gone there before.

684 Sundays.

That’s my number.

What’s your number?

What are you going to do about it?

Shadowlands – What If…

What if things had happened differently in Eden?


Eve stood in clearing, waiting for Adam.  She was mesmerized by the two Trees in front of her.  Why had they waited so long to come here – to just look at these two majestic Trees?  She told herself again that there was no harm in looking, in enjoying the beauty.

“They ARE majestic, aren’t they?”

Eve jumped at the silky voice.  She turned to see a beautiful creature, a serpent, standing there beside her, gazing up at the Trees.  How had he come up beside her so suddenly without her hearing him?  She was distracted from the Trees for a moment by his beauty.  Variegated fur ruffled in the wind, patterns swirling across his body.

“Yes, they are,” she answered.  “What is your name?  I don’t think we’ve met, and I thought I knew all the serpents that lived in the Garden.”

“My name?” he asked.  “My name isn’t really important.  But you!  You and Adam are the crowning achievements of Creation!  And here you are, admiring these majestic fruit trees in your Garden.  Tell me,” and he put a paw on her shoulder, “how does the fruit from that Tree taste?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“You don’t know?  You don’t know how the fruit of one of your own trees tastes?  How can that be?” he asked.

Eve suddenly felt very foolish.  It WAS her Tree, after all…hers and Adam’s.  She looked up at it again, taking in the lush fruit that hung, ripe and ready to be plucked.

The serpent spoke again.  “Let me guess,” he said.  “Did Elyon tell you not to eat that fruit?  Did he really place you in this beautiful Garden, tell you it was a gift for you, and then tell you that couldn’t eat any fruit from any of these beautiful trees?  What a shame.”  He shook in his head at the thought.

“No, that’s not right,” Eve said, glancing at him for an instant.  But her eyes were drawn back to that fruit.  It hung so low to the ground.  She took a step towards the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, then stopped.  “No, that’s not right at all.  The Three-in-One didn’t tell us we couldn’t eat from any tree in the Garden.  He gave us all of this, but He warned us not to eat from that tree because if we did, our spirits would die.”

The serpent laughed.  “You will NOT die.  That is ridiculous!  Your Three-in-One is holding out on you.  He knows that if you eat that fruit, you will become just like Him.  And He doesn’t want that.”

Eve considered this for a moment, then responded, “I don’t think that’s true.”

“What’s not true?” Adam asked, startling her as he walked up behind her.  “And who are you?” he asked the serpent.

“Who I am doesn’t matter.  Your Three-in-One isn’t who you think he is.  He’s deceiving you,” the serpent hissed.

“Well, let’s talk to Him about that right now,” Adam said.  He looked at Eve and she nodded back at him.  Together, they called out, “Elyon!  Logos!  Ruach!  Please help us!”  In an instant, the Three-in-One were with them, standing around them.

“How can we help you?” He asked.

“This serpent…he told me you were lying to us about the Tree,” Eve said.  “But You have provided so much for us, given us such a beautiful Garden in which to live.  We don’t believe You are deceiving us.”

“What should we do?” Adam asked.  “Help us know what to do.”

“You must choose,” Logos responded for the Three-in-One.  “Do you trust Me?  Or will you listen to the serpent?”

Adam and Eve looked at one another.  The Three-in-One had always cared for them, always provided for them.  The serpent…they didn’t even know who the serpent was.”

Adam spoke for them.  “We trust You.  Always.”

“Then tell the serpent to be gone, and he must leave,” Logos replied.

Adam looked at the serpent.  “You are not wanted here,” he said.  “Be gone.”

The serpent snarled in protest, started to speak.  But Logos raised a hand, pointing at him, and in a flash of light, the serpent was gone.

Now Elyon spoke.  “He has been banished from the Garden, by your choice.  He will never return unless you invite him.  But beware – never invite him.  His true name is Accuser and Deceiver, the Father of Lies.  He crouches like a predator, seeking to steal all that you have, to kill, to destroy all that you enjoy.  However – the choice will always lie before you.” 

And then the Three-in-One looked at one another and smiled.  Then spoke.  “Come, let us take our customary walk together in the cool of the evening.”

When Does It End?

In the last couple of weeks…

  • Two family members have undergone surgery.
  • A couple of close friends have learned that they are facing medical tests which could lead to life-changing or life-threatening diagnoses.
  • A family member has been harassed to the point of requiring police involvement.
  • Another family member has been defrauded by someone close to them and is facing difficult decisions about how to handle it.
  • Another family member is dealing with physical pain that cannot be helped medically.
  • A couple of close friends are dealing with adult children who are making unhealthy and unsafe relationship choices.
  • A couple of friends are dealing with the possibility of imploding marriages.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Those are just some of the issues in my immediate circles of family and friends.  There are a ton more.  And that doesn’t even touch on things like the deepening divisions in our nation, the threat of war with North Korea, and a hundred other disturbing news items that I could highlight.

Where does it all end?  When does it end?  It feels like one one thing right after another, like one thing gets dealt with and before it’s even completely dealt with, another thing is popping up.  It’s like life has become a giant, losing game of Whack-A-Mole.

How do you deal with all of that without becoming cynical, fearful, anxious, depressed – without just throwing up your hands and giving up?

Hope.  We have to have hope, despite all that is happening around us.

And what reason could there be for hope?

Jesus.  And…Jesus’ promise:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  Matthew 19:28-29 (NIV)

Did you catch that?  At the renewal of all things.

Plant

The way things are now is NOT the way that they will always be.

The way your life is now is NOT the way that it will always be.

One day, all things will be renewed.  Re-made.  Re-created, as some Bible translations put it.

All things restored, put back as they were originally created and intended.

I know, it sounds too good to be true.

And there’s so much more there – so much deeper that we could dig into this.  But that’s beyond the scope of one short blog entry.

For today, it is enough to remember that there is hope.  That a day is coming – a day that Jesus called the “renewal of all things.”  On that day, He will fulfill what God promised in Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV):  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”