Hope in God

I've been studying the Psalms lately and a verse stuck out to me the other day.
Psalm 43:5
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
I know lots of people who struggle with depression. I'm one of them sometimes. What I've come to know in my own struggles is that it ultimately comes down to a choice. I have to choose to get unstuck. I'm not trying to oversimplify, but the first step is not wanting to be down and then changing your thoughts and actions. The truth is it can take a long time to get there.

This verse just made me think of all the times I've been down and looking for solutions in a hundred different places. Wishing for better finances, a saner family, a thinner waistline, more success, etc... It's a great reminder that we have ONE hope. Focus on him. Focus on your relationship with God, his grace, his gifts, his calling on your life, advancing his Kingdom and caring for his children. Hope in God!

Blogging Again

I've decided to start blogging again. I've been missing it and think the habit of writing regularly is good for me. Start checking it out occasionally. I look forward to sharing!


Faith, Hope, & Love

I often talk to people struggling through difficult circumstances. Relational, moral, occupational, financial, or health issues. Generally speaking, this is true--one of the greatest statements of faith in the wake of difficult circumstances is to claim the truth that "for those who love God all things work together for good." God loves us so much, that he will take the tough times of those who place their faith in him and use those tough times as a catalyst for hope, and ultimately good.

The next time you're faced with a trial or a failure, claim that truth. What seems like a failure now, will soon be transformed into a good thing--a victory--by the God who loves you. It could be the thing you were so sure was the best plan for your life, was actually less than best. Trust that God knows what's best for you and loves you enough to work out the best for you even before you know it's the best!


Searching For God Knows What

I'm a big fan of Donald Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz. So when I picked up his book, Searching For God Knows What, I expected a similar reading experience. BLJ was raw, honest, humorous, and just resounded with my soul. SFGKW came off as if Miller was trying too hard to be clever. There was just something missing. It wasn't awful. It just didn't strike the strong chord that Jazz did. So I guess this is a mixed review. I'm not saying it's not worth reading; but if you haven't read Jazz, read that instead.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Contentment (and the blog lives!)

I haven't posted anything to the blog in about 6 months. I needed a break from it, but lately I've been feeling the urge to share again.

Last Sunday I started a new series called AVOIDING THE NIGHTMARE AFTER CHRISTMAS. We're just looking at some sound Biblical financial principles. Last week I talked about contentment. I really do believe that contentment is one of the strongest indicators of spiritual maturity.

Sunday we looked at 4 ways to cultivate contentment in our lives, but now I wanted to bring up a counter-point. Buying stuff is not always wrong! In fact, often, it's necessary or helpful. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make a purchase:

  1. Do I have the money for this?
  2. Do I only want it because it's shiny and new?
  3. How will this item improve my work/life?
  4. Have I shopped for the best deal or read user reviews?
  5. Is there anything more important I should be spending this money on?
  6. Is this purchase good stewardship of the money God has entrusted to me?
There's nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while. After all, you work hard for your money. Just remember, that it's called a "treat" because it's something different/special. If you never say no to your shopping urges, it's not a treat -- it's just undisciplined, unwise discontent.


Into Thin Air

I finished another book last night -- Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. This is the story of the deadliest single day and year in Mt. Everest's climbing history. On May 10, 1996, 8 climbers lost their lives (and a total of 15 for the entire '96 climbing season). Krakauer was on assignment from Outside Magazine to write about the commercialization of Everest expeditions. Due to a deadly storm that hit on their summit day, the content of his article and subsequent book changed dramatically. Of the 11 expedition members on Krakauer's team, 5 lost their lives.

I loved this book as much or more as I loved Richard Preston's The Wild Trees. It was truly a page-turner. I have to admit I'm somewhat fascinated with the whole Everest thing and mountaineering, though I've never attempted it myself. I've actually set a goal to climb a fourteener in the next couple of years. I want to climb something like Shasta to see if it's a sport I'd actually enjoy (or if I just enjoy reading about it). Don't know that I'd ever attempt Everest, but I totally understand it.

One of the aspects of Into Thin Air I found interesting was the way Krakauer depicted the loneliness of climbing Everest. Krakauer is an experienced climber and all his previous expeditions were very team-oriented. But evidently there's something about the nature of climbing Everest that forces the climber to really depend on themselves and overcome their own mental and physical anguish, despite the fact that their supported by a team of dozens. It honestly made me think of church work.

In church we definitely have a team of people to rely on as we follow Jesus and tackle different missions, but sometimes I experience crushing loneliness in ministry. Maybe it's the nature of ministry, maybe it's a ploy of our enemy... Whatever it is, it can easily be crippling. I've often described discipleship as a team sport that requires incredible individual effort. My point is that no one can do discipleship for you. They can encourage you, support you, equip you... But ultimately, like Everest, it requires you making the decision to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

Part of this incredible story was a man named Beck Weathers. Who was twice left for dead on the mountain. He had been stranded, exposed overnight, severely frostbitten, and more. No one on his team could conceive a reality where he would be able to recover and make it down the mountain. He was once assumed dead, then found alive, and then abandoned as a lost cause -- left for dead (which is the title of his own book). To everyone's surprise though, he came walking on his own power, mummy-like, into camp. After another brutal night on the mountain he was even closer to death. His team decided to leave him on the mountain a second time! Beck was able to rally though and get down the mountain.

It's just a reminder to me that in this process of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, whether you feel left for dead, or are considering leaving someone behind that seems to be a lost cause --- I don't believe "lost cause" is in God's dictionary. Ask and allow the Holy Spirit to give you the extra power to keep going (or to help someone else keep going).