The Capricious Nature of Hope

Hope is a fickle thing.

We put our hope in things that will die.
Things that will perish, get destroyed, and fade away.
We put our hope in things that are temporary.
The joy they bring us last a moment, then they become background noise.
The next big thing comes.
The next big event.
The next person.
Then we forget what once gave us joy moments before.

It begs the question…

Why do we hope in things that will fade away, die, or leave?

I hope for the right person one day.
I hope for wrongs to be righted.
I hope for my next steps in writing, ministry, and life to be successful.

But the more I hope,
The more I see,
Hope is a fickle thing.

So the question remains…
If deferred hope makes our heart sick, Why do we bother?

Heartsickness and Hope

We’re all heart sick.
We’ve all experienced the sickness inside caused by faulty expectations.
By longings that don’t seem like they’ll ever be fulfilled.
and nothing hurts worse than hope that’s deferred.

Yet, our faulty expectations tell us something beautiful about the condition of our own humanity…

We were created to be hopeful beings.

Our inner most person cries out for hope and clings to whatever makes us feel it.
When we begin to lose it, we tread down the dangerous waters of despondency, depression, and in severe cases suicide.

(P.S.A. Break : If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or know someone who is, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. )

Hope looks for the right person.
Just like anxiety looks for the right person.
And when that person fails us,
We forget it’s power and out the window our every hope goes.

What do we believe will fulfill our longings?
Where do we place our hope?

(This is the point in my journal where I had to pause, think, and repent. Would you consider doing the same?)

Our Heavenly Father, being rich in love and mercy knows that we have the propensity to set our hopes on what is perishable. I’m thankful for his patience and love that looks beyond our foolish idolatry.

The things that bring us joy, and the things we hope for most in this life are incredibly temporary. They are all destine to fade or perish. Because we are designed to be hope-filled beings, the Father, being rich in love and mercy, through the work of the Holy Spirit brings us a new thing. A LIVING HOPE.

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Mercy.
Born Again.
Living Hope.
Imperishble.
Undefiled.
Unfading.
Guarded.

How beautiful and kind it is
for God to give us new life.
To rescue us from temporary hope
into at hope that is imperishable.

How kind of the Father
to give us new life
and to lead us to repentance.

The same mercy and kindness that lead us to repentance
is the same mercy and kindness
that has caused us to be
born again
into a living hope.

What needless anxiety and fear we often carry in light of this truth!

Because we have been born again into this Living Hope,
we have a reason to rejoice.

Yes, hope is a fickle thing…
when placed outside of the Living Hope.
when we place it outside of Jesus.

But when our hope is placed
in nothing less than Jesus,
Its capricious nature fades away.
Hope becomes our anthem.

Indeed,

when placed in Jesus,

Hope is the Anthem.


Father,

May you continue to re-direct our affections until our sole focus is in the Living Hope, Jesus.

Your Servant,

Matthew

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On Fear

So much of our life is wasted living in fear.

Fear of love.
Fear of the future.
Fear of the next big step.
Fear of the next relationship.
Fear of loss.
Fear of  ________________________.

The list could go on for days.

When it comes to commonalities among mankind, fear seems to be one that unifies us all. Even as I write I’m reminded of my own struggle with fear. It’s exhausting and at times debilitating.

The False Prophet of Fear

Hanging in a good friends office is a banner that says, “Love>Fear” and the words “Fear is a lie.” Every time I see these, it’s a clear reminder of the power fear has in our life.

But we have an odd relationship with fear. The power it has in our life is false. The truth is…

Fear only holds as much power as we give it.

I’m not afraid to preach that truth back to myself, but I also stand by the old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” If that statement has any merit, fear is not a lie. It’s very real and very controlling. I’m not writing as someone who has this figured out, but as someone who is included in this struggle that unites us all.

The Only Thing to Fear…

With an election set amid the backdrop of World War II, during his inaugural speech, Franklin D. Roosevelt exclaimed to a Nation crippled by fear ;

“The only thing to fear is fear itself.”

 

I can only begin to imagine the relief thousands of Americans felt hearing those words. But it raises the question…

 

Why does even the prospect of fear cause our hearts to be so weary?

There are a few practical things to remember when it comes to this battle.

Fear is a primal instinct.

The original intention of fear was to say,
“Hey man… something isn’t right here… and you need to get out of this situation, QUICK.”
It served as a way to protect us. It was programmed into us as a means of survival. Unfortunately, we’ve gone from fearing being chased and devoured by lions to fearing financial loss, a decrease in status, or potential failure. The instinct doesn’t go away, so we have to learn to deal with it in a healthy way.

When we lack the ability to think rationally about a situation, and when our primal instincts kick in, it’s helpful to take two steps back, breathe, and evaluate the situation.

Remember What is True

Fear has a way of quickly clouding what we know to be true and truth is the most helpful weapon against fear. As followers of Jesus, we have very real Biblical promises to cling to in the midst of fear, but the Christian life is a holistic, so there are truths that are physically present as well.

So what truth exist in your life that fear is driving out?

Remind yourself of practical truths presented in Scripture
AND
practical truths that are physically present.

Truth become a weapon again the lies you’re tempted to believe.
If you are firmly holding onto them, there will be no time or energy left to spend on the lies. You now have a weapon to combat the pervasive voice of fear.

Philippians 4:8 seems to have this in mind.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Don’t Fear Prospective Outcomes

A bi-product of fear is anxiety. Anxiety looks into a situation and creates multiple prospective negative outcomes to a situation. It doesn’t look to the future in hope, it looks to the future and cringes at the thought of all that can go wrong. With that said, don’t look into the future with fear, look into it with hope. As you take a hopeful outlook, don’t forget to also enjoy the current moment you are in.

Enjoy the process of getting to know people. Enjoy the newness of a project or relationship. Enjoy the fact that these are all good gifts from a loving Father. Don’t let fear take away the joy that is found in the newness of a thing. This will be a bold statement, but I believe it:

Living in fear of a prospective negative outcome is an act of slavery against yourself, and that’s no way to live.

Here the words of Galatians 5 come to mind:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

How much of following the law, post Resurrection, was out of fear? That may be another post for another day, but for now I cling to this promise heavily.

Christ set us free for the sake of freedom. When we are tempted to fear we are actively taking off the yoke of Christ and replacing it with the yoke of slavery

Thankfully, our Jesus knows we’re prone to wander. He knows our hearts. He knows we easily despair. But hold on to hope. Press into Jesus and he will continue to set you free from the former bondage of sin.

There is so much more that could be said about fear. But the greatest promise I cling to is this:

“…perfect love casts out fear.”
1 John 4:18


Father,

Continue to conform us to your image. Give us the courage to believe your promises. When we don’t believe, help our unbelief. Empower us to battle against fear and to know your perfect love is casting out fear. We eagerly await your return.

Your Servant,
Matthew

A Prelude to Hope : Embracing the Big Picture

For the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching College Age Students at North Hills. It’s been an incredibly humbling and fun experience. One of my great joys is to see such a hunger for the Gospel  and true fellowship in these students. It’s challenging and inspiring!

20140106_10213584754281866_4797503708079988993_n20155984_234713580371761_4395135704242719809_nlife group

The more I get to know them, the more I realize, many of them are facing major trials for the first time. One thing I felt like the Holy Spirit wanted to communicate through 1 Peter 1 last week was this:

If you’re not facing a trial now, there’s a 100% chance you will.

If our goal as followers of Jesus is to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”  How do we do this when the world is so pervasively  broken?

If I could boil it down to one phrase, one single reminder, I think it would sound like this:

THERE IS ALWAYS A BIGGER PICTURE TAKING PLACE.Modern Watercolor Facebook Cover Photo.png

One of my greatest passions in life is to remind sufferers of that.

Trials have a way of “fogging the windshield” of our minds and causing us to forget how to use the windshield wiper. It doesn’t mean God has abandoned us. It just means things are temporarily out of place. It doesn’t change the fact that He is sovereign, it just means it’s a little harder to see hope right now. But even in the midst of trial, the encouragement from 1 Peter 1 essentially boils down to this:

“Rejoice in the Living Hope. Although you’re facing trials, rejoice in Jesus.”

So, Followers of Jesus, remember this:

When you face various trials,
there is ALWAYS a bigger picture taking place.
Lift up your head, Child of God,
And see the bigger picture before you.

And even when you can’t see it…
When trials have fogged your vision…
and the enemy tempts you to despair…
and you don’t have the courage or energy to lift your head,
remember this…

He is your shield.
Your Glory.
The lifter of your head.
In Him, there is ALWAYS a bigger picture taking place.

Press into Jesus.
The LIVING HOPE.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture.

Remember these words in Romans 5:

Suffering produces endurance.
Endurance produces character.
Character produces hope.
Hope does not put us to shame,
Because God’s love has been poured in our hearts
Through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.


How has God helped you see and embrace the big picture taking place in the midst of a trial? I would love to hear your story in the comments below.


 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
-Romans 15:13

Lifter

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
Psalm 3:3

The most fundamental truths about God are often the easiest to forget.
What is constant in our lives often, and rather quickly, becomes shielded by what is variable. I relate with David and have since the Father taught me what repentance truly is through Psalm 51. So reading Psalm 3 has been an incredible blessing. There are so many great reminders there that I invite you to explore.

When you don’t have the strength to fight, the LORD is your shield.
When you don’t have the ability to lift your head, He is there to lift it for you.
Don’t dwell on the things of the past or what “could have been”,
But to boldly go before God and pursue the destiny he has set before you.

“Salvation belongs to the Lord…”
Psalm 3:8

Homeward Bound

 

 

“Child I won’t let you go, we are homeward bound. Child I sing till it’s clear, we are homeward ; and in my voice you will know the sound of hope.”

My Dear Son,

I’ll call you my beloved, and though you walk away from me, my heart won’t be too far away. My voice will call to you many times, but it’s hard for you to hear because your nearly deaf. Your ears are full of mites and your fleece is tangled, but you’ve heard my voice before, and I know you recognize it. You won’t be gone for long. But, my child, if I don’t let you go even for a little bit on this trip you’ve insisted on, you won’t know what it means to return. I safe guarded you. I protected your life. When ravenous wolves tried to attack you in your sleep, I never sleep. I stayed up.  I warded them off. They won’t do harm to my child.

I know your name. How could I forget? Though you wander away, your first steps away from me were the first steps back to me. I’m here. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. Go on my son, for Redemption is near. I will rescue you. But it will come with pain. There will be a price. But the pain will give birth to my promises. They will come alive. They will be your bread. They will be your drink. You will be satisfied. There is a future for you.  A Holy Kingdom.

I will not let you go too far, my son. You are my co-heir.You will never go too far. Listen to my voice. Calm. Speaking. A symphony of forgiveness and love and know,
that in my voice you will know, the sound of Hope.

Faithfully Yours,

YHWH-ROHI


Come See Jesus

Jesus has a way of entering a room and suddenly making everyone and everything else disappear.

Have you seen it?

Have you experienced it?

With the heart of a Savior,
and the knowledge of His Father,
there are no accidental encounters
when it comes to our King.

Today, I was blessed by reading the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at Samaria with a new light.

Recall this story with me.

Immerse yourself into it.

Think of the day.

The Middle Eastern heat.

The sights.

The smells.

Read it, and T H I N K about these things…
~ please take a second to read John 4:1-30. I’ll wait for you 🙂 ~

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I’m blown away by Jesus’ interaction with this woman.

The more I come to know Him, the more I realize that Jesus is less interested in the physical person and much more interested in the needs of the heart.

He saw this woman.

She was both weary from traveling in the middle of the day for water and from the shame of her sinful lifestyle.

Can you relate?

Jesus, our quick, caring, and kind savior speaks to the woman.

After talking about physical thirst, He was quick to address the spiritual thirst this woman felt. A thirst that kept driving her from husband to husband until she was so consumed with shame that she avoided human interaction. Drinking from this broken cistern, the woman, now consumed with shame, does everything she can to hide her sin from the caring words of Jesus.

But, being full of compassion, He again is quick to move from physical needs to spiritual needs.

Jesus address her heart.
As they spoke the conversation shifted:

“you are right in saying that you do not have a husband, in fact you have had five and the man you live with now is not your husband”
(excerpt John 4:17-18, author paraphrase)

When the topic changed and the issue became about differences in worship, Jesus quickly addressed the heart once again:

“The time will come when the place of worship doesn’t matter…. The time is coming when followers will worship in spirit and in truth. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
(John 4:21-24, author paraphrase)

After addressing the heart and interrupting her shame, the woman who must have been longing for salvation, looks upon this man and says these very words

“I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

Jesus said to her,

“I who speak to you am he.”

Leaving her water jar behind, she goes back into the town where her adversaries reside. The very people she had been avoiding for who knows how long.

Suddenly the shame of having 5 former husbands and living in adultery carried no weight, as the word that now leave her mouth are:

“Come see Jesus!”

Shame is interrupted at the sight of our Savior. 
It melts like wax in the blazing sun as we look upon the eyes
of He who came to put an end to all shame; All sin.
Fear no longer has a hold on those who are redeemed.
And when Jesus enters the picture, He takes throne over your life.
Once, where shame and sin ruled, now the light of the Savior melts away the darkness and brings us into light.
There is no room at the table for fear in the Kingdom of God.
Only the freedom found in Jesus Christ our Advocate and Eternal Intercessor.

Come to Jesus. Forsake the shame. Bring it to the light of our savior. He wants the messy places of your life. give it to Jesus. The same compassion our kind and caring King had for this Samaritan woman is the same compassion he has for us today.

Come see Jesus.

Soul Mate VS. Sole Mate

So I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus but now I’m back! I can’t think of a better way to return than writing about Soul Mates!

(insert dramatic music here)

Our culture is saturated with the idea of finding love. From the time we are old enough to watch Disney movies, read books, go on first dates,  have  girl/boyfriends, we begin to be surrounded by the notion of finding a soul mate.

While the idea sounds good in theory, in reality it’s kind of silly…let’s be honest.

I’ve been reading Gary Thomas’ book, The Sacred Search. It’s been the best dating book I’ve ever read about Christian Dating and what the search should look like for those of us in the not yet married phase. (you should totally read it…trust me)

In chapter five, he dives into the idea of a soul mate and what we should focus on as followers of Jesus. What I found most interesting was the actual origin of the soul mate. If you haven’t heard this before…buckle your safety belt…

The Origin of the Soul Mate

Over two thousand years ago, a Greek philosopher, Plato, invented the idea of soul mates (are you surprised as me it wasn’t Disney??) The story goes a little like this:

Once upon a time, giant, round, androgynous humans roamed the earth. These giant beings banded together and became so powerful that Zeus, Greek god of the sky and ruler of the Olympian gods, saw them as a threat to overthrow the gods. In order to deal with this accordingly, Zeus took the super humans and cut each of them in half to make them weaker, thus creating male and female, and a creature who was weak without their other half (a.k.a. soul mate).

Shocking, right?

This is obviously a SUPER brief synopsis of his ideology.  If you’re interested in reading more, the philosophy comes from Plato’s Symposium.

Here’s the faulty thing about that story…

It makes us weaker without our “other half.”

Under this school of thought, without a significant other we are weaker;  an incomplete person.

When I think of God and the account of Creation in Genesis, it’s comforting knowing God didn’t cut super-humans in half to make them weaker out of fear.

He created Eve for Adam to fulfill a longing that only He could satisfy.

That, my friend, gives us a reason to have hope in our singleness.
That, my dear friend, is enough to give you a reason not to get discouraged in the sacred search.

I’m going to make a bold statement that I think stands true, and I’m finding to be true in my own life.

When you discard wisdom from the equation and expect to find a “soul mate” by chance, you may be missing the opportunity to meet some amazing people right in front of you.

If you are blinded by the search for “the one”, you may miss the forest for the trees.

Plato’s philosophy replaces seeking wisdom with a “follow your heart” mentality, and in the Christian worldview, we know that God himself said ;The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9)

If you are seeking God and seeking wisdom, then the next step is phenomenally easy…find someone who will walk along side of you and do the same thing.

Thomas mentions replacing the search for a SOUL mate and searching for a SOLE mate. (and no…that’s not a gruesome spelling error.)

Gary Thomas defines a Sole Mate as :

someone who walks out with us (the sole of a shoe!) the biblical command to seek first the kingdom of God.”

As simple as it seems, can you think of any greater piece of dating advice?

Attraction and compatibility play an important part in our relationships but if you’re dating someone you cannot walk out the command to Seek first the Kingdom of God, then the relationship will be complicated.

My desire, and I hope you share it as well, is to find someone who longs to be more like Jesus every day. Someone who knows the importance of seeking the Kingdom.

If you are seeking first the Kingdom of God while you are single, then you are forming a lifelong habit that will not be easily broken in your sacred search. You’re forming a habit that will carry over into your marriage, too. (BONUS!)

This principle applies to every decision we’ll make in our lives.
The world’s philosophy is “Follow your heart.”
God’s philosophy is “Seek me. Seek wisdom. Seek insight.”
If we can do these things, then perhaps our dating lives would be a little less broken. Perhaps we would begin to see dating relationships through the lens of Christ.

Then we can date in a way that is holy and presentable before God.


I know I’ve opened a flood gate here.

What are your thoughts on Christian dating and is there anything that stood out to you in this article? I would love to hear from you in the comments section!

We don’t have to share the same exact views, I just want to start a conversation that will lead to healthier dating relationships.


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