Get your hopes up

I don’t think I’ve ever told someone to get their hopes up. On the other hand, I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve used the opposite as a warning to others or a mantra to myself.

We seem to have this cultural fear of hoping in something that may disappoint us. It is as though the thought of disappointment weighs on us far more than the idea of living in a state of cynicism or pessimism.

I am hugely guilty of this, which is why I was so surprised when a song entitled ‘Get your hopes up,’ by Josh Baldwin came up on my Spotify playlist.

The words were so counter-intuitive that I paused to listen, and was surprised at how compelling they were. One of the key refrains of the chorus says

“Get your hopes up, our God is for us, He’s brought us back to life.”

As someone who easily lapses in to cynicism and worry, this was a good reminder to look up. As a Christian, I have every reason under heaven to get my hopes up. Not only have I been given the assurance of an eternity in heaven, by no merit of my own, but I have also been promised that God will work all things here on earth for my good and his glory.

She is no fool who has her hopes always upward in the promises of Jesus.

 

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The power only comes with the truth

Sometimes I think we promote the Gospel like advertising companies promote products. We select our target audience, do some research on what they want, and spin our narrative to match their perceived needs.

While this may be an effective marketing technique, it is entirely ineffective when it comes to the Gospel. Unlike the latest iPhone or breakfast cereal, the good news of Jesus Christ does not need to be adapted based on culture or context, for one key reason: it has the power of God within it.

I think often we forget this, as we look for fancy, eloquent words or clever coercive devices, twisting the message into the most relevantly palatable morsel we can. We forget that God, not us, defines His method of salvation. He has given and empowered ONE Gospel: That Jesus was crucified, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that He was raised to life again for the forgiveness of sins.

We must be careful never to water down the truth, for it is only the true Gospel that has within it the ‘power of God unto Salvation.’

It is not the words, or the persuasiveness with which they are proclaimed, that saves people; it’s the power of God. So if you want to see results that last, preach the truth that has the power, not what elicits a feel-good or emotive response in the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope is a killer

bench-free-photo_385-95Have you ever dwelt in the agonizing wilderness of uncertain hope? A friend and I have discussed this many times. While I have heard it said, that a person couldn’t live even one minute without hope, it has been my experience that hope can also be tormenting.

I came across this verse in Proverbs 13 some time ago, and it resonated with me: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Do you know what that feels like? To feel sick in your heart, even in your whole body, over an unfulfilled hope? A hope that clings on, without closure, deferred week after week? I know what that’s like. Hope is a killer.

But not always.

The pain of unfulfilled hope comes when we put our hope in things that are uncertain. The solution is to hope in that which is guaranteed. Yes, there are things I will wish for that I may not receive, but when my daily, hourly hope is in the promises of God I will experience “fulfilled longings that are like a tree of life.”

If my daily hope is in my salvation; in a God who loves me; in someone who will never leave me; in a future that is secure and a guarantee that all things will work for good; if my hope is in these things, then my heart will not fall sick, because I will discover, daily that my hopes are fulfilled.

Why I hate disappointment

Many years ago, feeling let down by a sudden change of plans, I emphatically said to a friend, “I hate disappointment!”

His response was “Really? I think most people love it,” and his sarcasm put me in my place with the realisation that of course no one likes to be disappointed.

kids-kite-1417233Still, I felt that disappointments and let downs hit me particularly hard. Why is that?

I think one of the keys is how much I can relate to this quote from Anne of Green Gables: “You set your heart too much on frivolous things and then crash down in despair when you don’t get them.”

Even now, well into adulthood, I frequently find myself “flying up on the wings of anticipation,” grasping for things that I think will make me happy, risking and fearing the crash of disappointment.

Today I am reminded, however, that while disappointment is a part of life, it would be greatly diminished if I were finding my joy and security in the One who does not disappoint. If, instead of chasing after frivolous things, I am abiding in Christ, disappointment will not overwhelm me. I would rest with confidence in the deep knowledge that in his love for me, he is working all things for good.

Don’t have Jesus as your backup plan

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Do you realize you don’t have to do anything good to get to heaven?

I’m so blessed to go to a church that is very focused on the Gospel. We are constantly reminded that we are saved by grace, not by works, and the more I am reminded of this, the more I realize I need to hear it.

Because the Gospel of Grace is completely counter intuitive

I was sitting in church last night while a friend preached from Hebrews 11 about the righteous being justified by faith. He reminded us that when we die and come before a Holy God, we will have nothing to commend ourselves other than our faith in the righteousness of Christ and his ability to cover our sin.

I found, in that moment, sin in my heart.

You see, I kind of treat Jesus like my back up plan.

I do good things to gain approval with God, and entrance to heaven, and when I fall far short (which I inevitably will), Jesus covers the rest.

WRONG

Jesus covers it all.

It’s hard for me to accept, and may take a lifetime to grasp, but Jesus isn’t filling the gaps where we’re lacking, he’s doing it all. He’s taking the dead (both spiritually and literally) and bringing them back to life.

When I stand before God, I will have nothing to recommend myself, just faith in the fact that Jesus will speak for me.

He’s no backup plan. He’s all or nothing.

What if God hadn’t told us what happens after death?

corridor-sky--hallway_19-104567My Nanna died last week. She was old, and it was not unexpected, but still the quiet, grey cloud of grief has hung over me.

On the evening after her funeral I sat quietly at home, not sure what to do with myself. I read my Bible and just sat, feeling sad.

After a while I looked at my heater, glowing red and warm and I felt suddenly grateful. I knelt on the floor and thanked God. For the heater and for the many other blessings in my life, including my Nanna: who she was, and how long she was given to me. Not everyone gets their Nanna for 29 years.

I thanked God for looking after her, even now. For cherishing her soul and filling her with joy. I thanked God that I could trust Him with her.

Suddenly I realized something deeper to be thankful for: God’s revelation of the mystery of life after death. If He’d said nothing about life beyond the grave, he could still be trusted. Heaven would be real whether we knew of it or not. God would still be good, even in His silence. But He is not silent, and what comfort that brings us

I don’t blindly trust God with my Nanna, I trust him having been told exactly what will happen to her. Death will have no victory; she will be raised and given a new, imperishable body. This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

The Gift of Death

The gift of death is, paradoxically, the gift of life.

One of my beautiful students asked me the other day, why God would create such beautiful people, only to let them die.

garden_of_edenIt’s a fair question, but it’s one limited by lack of information, because if we understand the fullness of the Bible, we can understand the gift of death.

When Adam and Eve were in the garden they were free to eat from the Tree of Life. They were going to live forever in the bliss and beauty of what God had created.

The right to eat from the Tree of Life was only taken from them after they sinned. Because living forever under the curse of sin was never God’s plan for anyone.

Adam and Eve both died a physical death, but it was not a tragic one. Physical death was one of the gifts that God gave them, along with the redemptive death and resurrection of His Son, in order for them to enter into eternal life.

Death can be a great tragedy, but only when it takes a person who refuses to accept God’s gift of life. For those who have life, it is the beautiful gateway out of an existence marred by sin.

The anti-butterfly effect

UntitledYou know why I often find it so hard to make decisions? It’s because I have this innate fear that I could somehow screw up my life. It stems from something called the butterfly effect.

We all know it. It’s that idea that the smallest decision could potentially have life changing consequences.

What if I don’t go to that party and the love of my life was there?

What if I drive through the back streets instead of the main road and someone runs a give way sign and hits me?

What if I take this job over that one and it makes all the difference in my career?

What if I go on a mission’s trip?

What if I stay home?

What if I marry him?

What if I don’t?

We so often live in fear that our lifelong happiness could hang on our next decision.

But guess what?

It doesn’t.

We’ve been doing a series at church about decision-making and the will of God, and as I was sitting there one night I was struck by the amazing reality of what governs my life.

It’s the anti-butterfly effect.

I can’t screw up the end game.

And my happiness isn’t dependent on circumstance.

Sure I can make dumb decisions and they can have consequences, that’s just common sense, but I can’t screw up my life, because my life is hid in Christ.

He is my anti-butterfly effect because He’s promised to work all things for my good.

The Pain of an Unfulfiled Life

624265_93192944No matter how awesome your life is, you know the pain of unfulfilment. You know what it’s like to be sitting in that dark, lonely place, with the aching knowledge that something is missing from your life.

It hurts.

Most of the time you get over it. You move on and focus on other things. But it will be back.

Is that a bad thing?

What if this life wasn’t meant to fulfil you? What if the depths of your soul and your personality couldn’t be fulfilled by material things, or even by people? What if your dreams were never going to be in reach?

Could you be ok with that?

I think I could. But only if one thing is true: Only if this is not all there is.

Because if this is not all there is, then my temporal fulfilment no longer matters.

If this is not all there is, then this is not my only chance at happiness, and maybe I can be willing to give up that which I cannot keep, to gain that which I cannot lose.

Life Begins at … Singleness

1079363_26838634Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty: Life is pretty tough until you grow up and meet your prince charming and live happily ever after.

With a steady diet of classic fantasies, is it any wonder that countless girls grow up believing that life begins with the meeting of that perfect man?

While the Disney princesses may not have been forefront in my mind, it’s certainly the attitude I tended to have during my teen years. Romance, love and marriage were going to be a given for me. If I’d known I was going to be 28 and still single, I’d have died (in a teenage drama type way.)

I lead a fabulously rich single life, and I wouldn’t take any of it back, but isn’t it a shame that it took me until my mid 20s to decide (and yes, it largely had to be a decision) that life didn’t start at marriage?

Before that, my mind was far too consumed with how and where and when I was going to meet that perfect person. I felt like I couldn’t possibly know where my life was headed until I met them. I felt a bit like I was in a holding pattern.

Eventually I woke up to the reality that life begins at singleness. I wasn’t supposed to be hanging around waiting; God had a plan for me.

His plan means my life is going somewhere whether there’s a man involved or not. And it’s a great life.