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We live in a fast-paced world in which social media, the internet and rapidly changing cultural values are placed front row, and center in our lives. It seems like everything that those in my baby boomer generation counted as stable is falling away. Some of that, to be honest, is a good thing. I’m beginning to realize the ‘simple life’ I grew up in was often a cover-up for an undercurrent of things that never should have happened.

The trade off, however isn’t always positive. With all the ‘advancements’ our society has made, one thing that seems to have been left behind is hope. HOPE. Such a simple word, yet so complex. Wars have been fought in the name of hope; lives have been destroyed in the search for hope.

Hope is elusive on the human plane. We seek it in relationships. We seek it through political and social action. We seek it, or at least try to escape it’s evil twin– hopelessness — through chemicals. We may even try it through religion. But none of that really satisfies. People fail. Government fails. Gaining rights for one group rapes other groups of their ‘rights’. Religion only offers surface comfort for the pain.

There is only one thing that offers total hope and that is Jesus. He’s not about rules and religion. He has no expectations for you to measure up to who he is. When we place our focus on who he is, and what he has done; when we realize the hopelessness of this world is temporary and a better world awaits us; when we realize the pain we suffer now is nothing compared to the joy we have in him, we also find that elusive thing we’ve sought for: HOPE.


“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. Matthew 18:15

conflictEach of us have gone through those periods of time when relationships fail. Those relationships that are closest are the most painful to lose. Some translations leave out the phrase “against you”. Others include it. In reality, as followers of Jesus it doesn’t really matter if the wrong is committed against you (most painful) or against others. Either way, the offense is destined to hurt a brother or sister in Christ and others!

So what do we do? It’s easy enough to say we need to pray. Sometimes prayer is a scapegoat and can be better paraphrased as “I don’t want to get personally involved” or “I hate conflict” or “It’s really none of my business, it’s God’s job to do the work.”

There is some truth to each of these excuses. But, the reality is, Jesus never shied away from involving himself in the ugly part of ugly people’s lives. Aren’t we called to do the same?

Here are some suggestions for what may help. I’ll say up front that I’m still working on these in my life and it’s not easy. I have a long way to go! Praise Jesus for grace!

Pray: This is the obvious but be specific. Pray for your wisdom. Pray for the welfare of the one who wronged you or who is in danger of hurting themselves or others. Pray FOR them, not ABOUT them. Remember prayer is a two way conversation with the wisest, most loving being in the universe!

Reflect: This mixes in easily with prayer. As you are praying ask God to reveal anything YOU may have done to bring on this situation. Rather than focus on what the person did, try to ascertain why the person may have acted as he did. Most of the time, actions are a symptom, not the disease.

Ask: This is a tricky one and must be used with the utmost care and wisdom. If you have a close friend you can trust to make sure this goes no further, ask them for insight into the situation. Be careful not to turn this into a gossip session!!

Restore: Restoration demands action! To be done well, restoration is done with love. It can’t be hurried. First attempts often fail. Compassion and patience are the two best tools to use. If at all possible, refrain from step four until steps 1-3 are firmly in place!

Rest: The Psalmist states that during the storm we rest in the arms of almighty God. Remember that once we have done all we can to lovingly, gracefully and compassionately strive for resolution, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate source of healing.

PRAYER: Father God. Right now, I pray for those with whom I am in conflict and those I’m concerned about because they are in danger of destroying themselves or others. Give me wisdom to know what I need to do to begin the healing process. Help me follow you. Amen.

 


Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord! Psalm 31:24 (AMP)

The amount of courage we have is dependent on what we put our hope in.

If I put my hope in my own ability to follow God I’ll be frustrated. I’m weak. I follow my own desires far too often. Selfishness sneaks up on me at the least likely time. I’m full of lust. My past haunts me.

If I put my hope in relationships I’ll be lonely. People fail us. The promise things, but fail to honor that promise. They all too often put demands on me that I can’t fulfill, or if I do fulfill them to the best of my ability, expect more.

If I put my hope in finances I fall short. Too many times that I have way too much month at the end of the money and if I do have the finances to get what I want, it’s often outdated by the end of the week.

Putting hope in religion is demoralizing. Religion puts far more expectations and demands on me than God would ever do. Churches seem to be ivory palaces full of dead man’s bones. Pretty on the outside but full of politics, judgmental attitudes and hypocritical leaders on the inside.

If I put my hope in living healthy, you know, doing the diet thing, exercising, and all the rest, someone else always seems to be trimmer or enjoying life more than I. And I still get sick. Some of the ‘healthiest people I know’ have suffered from debilitating illnesses or accidents that have robbed them of life.

Maybe you have felt some of the feelings listed above. Your strength to go on seems to have left you. Increased effort has only brought increased frustration and feelings of failure. It doesn’t have to be that way.

If we put our hope in God’s hands our frustration turns to a realization that our success has never been dependent on our ability. God has never put much hope in our ability to follow his rules, that’s why he offers me Jesus. That’s why he offers me forgiveness and grace.

He’s never measured our success by the amount of money in our bank account or the number of friends we have on social networking sites. He’s never demanded anything that he doesn’t first give us the ability to follow through on. He knows your heart. He knows your deepest fears. He knows your past and wants to walk with you into the future.

Losing hope? Frustrated? Worried? Tired of losing sleep. Have courage based on a loving forgiving God. Worship and praise him for fact that he has reached down to give you peace through his son Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father God, there are many things that scare me today. I have lots of worries; lots of fears; failure seems to follow me wherever I go. Thank you that I can find my hope and rest in you. Help me have courage through your son Jesus Christ. Amen.


Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil. Jeremiah 13:23 (NLT)

It really shouldn’t surprise us, but it does. News reports come across every day of parents brutally abusing children; of domestic violence; of people we put in political office because of their integrity only to find out they lied to us.

Professional athletes fail as role models for our children while those who are out in left field attract them. Marriage is made a mockery and faith has become a ‘personal thing’ based on personal feelings and ideologies.

We ask, the question, ‘When will this all stop?’

The answer is, sadly, never. Sorry to burst your bubble, but we as humans are doomed when it comes to making the world a better place by our own initiatives. All the protest rallies and government intervention and foreign aid won’t solve the problem.

Scientific research may be able to pinpoint certain things to alleviate the symptoms of our disease. But the sad reality is, science has never been able to cure the wound of the human soul.

A brave preacher may on occasion stand before his people and preach a moving sermon against homosexuality, or divorce or pornography and be applauded for his call to repentance.

On the other hand, a preacher that stands before the congregation and speaks out against gluttony or critical spirits or intolerance will be roasted along with the beef at the dinner table.

We who are believers in Jesus Christ like to point fingers at those who don’t believe as we do. We shake our heads at those who follow after a life of sin. We create entire denominations to take a stand against this sin or that sin. But we fail to remember that we are all the same; all humans; all victims of the same disease.

When Jeremiah speaks to God’s people he reminds them that there is nothing good about them and there is nothing they can do to change. Nothing. They were evil from birth; they will be evil until the day they die.

Hopeless situation you may think? Not so. That’s why Jesus came into the world. Galatians 3:13 reminds us that Jesus didn’t take our sin away. He became our sin for us. There is nothing you can do to change your DNA. There is nothing you can do to change your past. There is nothing in your own power you can do to change your desires. Only Jesus Christ can do that when you accept his forgiveness.

Don’t be surprised at the evil around you. Don’t be surprised by the evil you fall into yourself. You are simply doing what humans do. But fear not. In Jesus Christ there is freedom in spite of yourself!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I’m appalled at the evil that surrounds me. I’m equally appalled at the evil I do in word, thought or deed. I praise you for the fact that even though I can’t change, you have changed me and taken my sin upon you. Praise you Lord, Amen.


 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10

We’ve all been misunderstood from time to time. Our actions, while well-intentioned go awry, the outcomes we hoped to achieve fall short of expectations or even accomplish exactly the opposite of what we’d hoped.

Some of those actions can be real relationship breakers. In our homes we do what we think best of our kids only to realize we were way too harsh, or too easy. It happens at work when we make a business decision that, even when well thought out, and looking like it will benefit everyone, ends up hurting everyone instead. We try to help that person of the opposite sex and end up in a relationship that we never intended that destroys our reputation and shatters the faith and trust others had in us.

Great motives in no way guarantee great results.

So what do you do when you find yourself miles from where you’d hoped to be? When those who once stood by you and believed in you turn their backs on you. When the well intentioned decisions of your life have left your situation looking like a jig-saw puzzle scattered on the ground with no hope that all the pieces will be there or that you can ever put it together again.

You can ask for forgiveness. God will forgive instantly, people may never do so. Time heals lots of wounds so you can pick up where you left off and rebuild. Reality is, the consequences of your actions may change things forever.

But in the midst of your pain and struggle here’s a word of encouragement from the one that knows you better than you know yourself. Your heavenly Father knows. When others question your intentions, when others doubt your sincerity. He looks to the most inward parts of your soul, to the very depths of your heart and sees whether your motives are hypocritical or sincere. One author writes, “[the Lord sees] the most inward and remote parts, covered with fat, and out of sight: these are the seat of the affections; and the Lord tries these, whether they are towards him or not; and whether sincere or hypocritical.”

It works both ways of course. Eventually the lies and motives of those who have hurt you, or the hypocritical motives we’ve had, will come to light. But take comfort in the fact that even though your best intentioned plans may fail and the results accomplish the exact opposite of your intentions. Even when others refuse to believe you. Your Father knows. He knows you better than you know yourself and he’ll stand by you when others won’t. You can come to him for forgiveness and he’ll walk with you through the rebuilding that may be necessary.

PRAYER: Father, some days it seems like no matter what I try to do I’m misunderstood or mistrusted. Some of the things I’ve don have destroyed my relationship with others and damaged it with you. Forgive me for the time I’ve hurt you or others, Help me to rebuild where I can and learn from the rest. In your name, Amen.

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