Monday, April 21, 2014
Easter and Our Need for Hope
(A Note from Pastor Guy Sayles at First Baptist Church of Asheville)
We have a deep and pressing need for hope.
It takes hope for parents to bring a baby into the world, to hold a little one in their arms and to become, from that child’s first breath, the people most responsible for providing what that child needs and for shaping how he or she feels about the world and about God.
It takes hope to help a friend or family member who struggles with addiction—to believe, on the one hand, that he can quit drinking or drugging or excessively spending or dangerously overeating; and, on the other, to know that he can only do it meaningfully if you don’t try to do the impossible, which is to do it for him. You and he need hope that there are health and happiness on the other side of your tough love and his hard work. Otherwise, you’ll give up when it gets really challenging, and so will he, and the vicious, downward cycle will start again.
It takes hope to begin a new job in a strange place with people you don’t know—hope that, somehow, God and you, in partnership, can fashion your work into a means of growth and becoming, not just of putting-in time and earning a paycheck.
It takes hope to undergo heart bypass surgery or chemotherapy, to get out of bed and take those first painful and halting steps after knee replacement, and to return to routine after a harrowing season of depression.
It takes hope to make a new home out of a new house, to rebuild a shattered life, and to forgive, yet again, people whose ability to hurt you exceeds their capacity to understand the ways they do.
It takes hope to walk to a grave, leave a loved one’s body there, and return to the home you once shared, but where you now live alone.
We have to have hope—the feeling that there is welcome ahead of us and not rejection; a conviction that mercy will mend all our brokenness, and a confidence that grace will set-right all that we got wrong and all that went wrong.
For me, Easter is the assurance that hope lives on the other side of even the bleakest despair. It is the promise that love is stronger than fear and that life is more enduring than everything which threatens it.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light. ~ Mumford and Sons, "Ghosts That We Knew"
Verily, the earth shall yet become a site of recovery. And even now a new fragrance surrounds it, bringing salvation - and a new hope. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. ~ Martin Luther
In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus
Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. ~ Vaclav Havel
Hope is openness for surprise as we stand posed between the already and the not-yet. ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast
We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
As long as a person breathes, he should not lose hope. ~ Talmud
(collected by anne wray at jubilee community church, given to me by a friend)
Saturday, December 08, 2012
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
What is the difference between hope and human wishful thinking? The two have very similar definitions in the dictionary and are often used as synonyms for each other. Perhaps a bit more explanation can be given so that the differences between the two might be more apparent. Either way, as I pointed out before, hope seems to be an emotional bias that can corrode rationality. Also, why include "human" in reference to wishful thinking but not hope? Is hope not just as much a human activity as wishful thinking? My, what a pickle.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Monday, May 24, 2010
"Are you still searching for your calling? Are you still wrestling with your purpose on this earth? Our calling is to please Him--to wake up every morning saying, "Yes, Lord," then live through the day to discover His questions." (Beth Moore, Living Beyond Yourself)
Remember, God is LOVE, and He is only and always good. His Spirit is the evidence of His "Yes".
"Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God's Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete." 2 Corinthians 1:19-21 (in Context)
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Monday, March 01, 2010
My sister, Heather, and I dreamed of taking a trip around the world for over 10 years. (It took us 7 years of talking about it before we started saving money & setting a date to take off... 3 years later: July 2007.) About one year before our journey began, Heather felt compelled by the Spirit to consider this God's trip, not hers, but I rejected the idea. I didn't want to have anything to do with doing "missions" on this trip. I just wanted to see the world, meet interesting people, immerse myself into other cultures, expand my mind, experience life elsewhere, and travel the circumference of the earth... but not through missions. In fact, I was adamantly against it, mainly because I had an archaic, oppressive, crusader-type conception of missionaries. (Little did I know.)
Anyway, I decided that we would start off together but that I would take off on my own while she visited ministries & "did missions". Well, it turns out that traveling separately in Africa (our first stop) was not only dangerous at times, it was also logistically impossible to expect to get back together in a timely manner. Plus, I didn't have any particular direction to follow, and Heather did. So I decided to give up the fight (within myself) and stick with her.*
In the process (because it really has been a process), I realized how stubborn and prideful I had become within myself and also how judgmental and hypocritical I was towards missionaries & Christians, in particular. In fact, I used to boast about how open-minded, accepting & understanding I was toward everyone, but then it hit me -- I wasn't! I swallowed my pride, reserved my judgment, and decided to listen to them... really listen to their stories, their perspective and their journeys of faith.
Around the same time, I really wanted to talk with an old friend, someone I thought would be glad to hear from me, so I decided to call my ex-boyfriend one evening (plus, I was jealous that heather got to talk with her boyfriend all the time). Note: by this time, we were a month & a half into our year-long journey around the world, and I really just wanted that loving & caring connection with a friend, too. That night, though, he was not at all the loving, caring, supportive and excited-to-hear-from-me friend that I thought he'd be or that I needed him to be, so I made the very painful decision to cut those last few remaining heart strings between us and let him go. The result: a whiplash of emotion, a pendulum from hope to hopelessness, a deep depression, a void of love, an emptiness that I thought nothing could fill, and a brokenness below the depth that my heart is capable of feeling (which is very deep).
The very next morning, we went to church with our South African hosts, and there were three significant things that occurred. First, the entire service was in Afrikaans, so one of our hosts had to interpret the whole service for us. Already, I needed to learn to trust and depend on the messenger as well as the message -- translated. Second, the lead pastor humbled himself in such a powerful way by admitting that he was really struggling with his faith and that he needed prayer. The congregation surrounded him and prayed over him, right then and there. This is not something I'd ever witnessed from a leader of faith (to admit his struggles of faith in front of his own congregation). To me, it was a huge testament of genuine humility that proved his humanity, his imperfection, his need for prayer, his desperation for a supportive community, and his loneliness. My pride was on its way out.
Third (and most importantly), the pastor's sermon outlined the PERFECT love of Christ -- in all He said and did -- and how that perfect love can complete us, fill us, mend us & make us whole. I thought, "That's it! That's what I need in my life!" Even though I'd heard about God's love my whole life (growing up in the church, in a Christian home and as a pastor's kid), it never quite hit me the same way until that moment and in those circumstances. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. It was then I realized that no other human being could complete me like that -- only the divine, supernatural & perfect love of God's perfect Son can.
All of this didn't come to me right away, though. Remember, I was still wrestling with some pride, and I was way too stubborn to accept Him all at once. It was an intense process that took months to take root. However, that same Sunday afternoon, I retreated into my room, crawled under the covers (still in a depression from the night before), and cried my eyes out for several hours. In the midst of that brokenness and pain, I cried out, "Okay, God, if you're real, I really need you to prove Yourself to me, and in the meantime, I'll try out this relationship with Your Son."
That night, our host (the same one who translated the service for Heather & me that morning) offered to do some theophostics with me -- an intense inner healing prayer technique that traces a particular & prominent lie back through your memories to find the root and to pray for healing & forgiveness in that area of your life. I took her up on it, because I was still feeling pretty desperate for healing & restoration. However, what blew me away more than the actual healing that took place during that prayer session was her command and use of the name of Jesus, against the powers of darkness that threatened to cloud my vision, to cripple my body, mind & spirit, and to discourage me from healing. I thought, "Can you really do that? Does Jesus' name really have that authority?" Wow. I'd never known that the name of Jesus could have such a powerful affect on my life. It was amazing.
From that weekend on, I really started talking, walking & growing with Jesus, as if He were always really there listening to me, just waiting for me to make the first move, ready to meet me where I am, loving & caring to connect with me, and always glad to be with me.
As for my bold plea for "proof" from God, over that next month, there were too many "coincidences" for me to ignore, too many people who would speak directly into exactly what I was processing at the time, and too many times that the puzzle pieces seemed to fit together so perfectly -- I was overwhelmed with evidence, made tangible to me. For the remainder of our journey, despite all our ups & downs, my faith in Him grew as His foundation under me grew.
Now, there is a whole lot more to say about what happened and what's still happening in my journey of faith, but when someone asks for my story, I point back to our trip around the world and to this particular weekend as my initial transformation by the Spirit, my birth from above, and the beginning of my testimony of faith & my conscious walk with God.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
this is Jesus Calling:
STOP JUDGING AND EVALUATING YOURSELF, for this is not your role. Above all, stop comparing yourself with other people. This produces feelings of pride or inferiority; sometimes, a mixture of both. I lead each of My children along a path that is uniquely tailor-made for him or her. Comparing is not only wrong; it is also meaningless.
Don't look for affirmation in the wrong places: your own evaluations, or those of other people. The only source of real affirmation is My unconditional Love. Many believers perceive Me as an unpleasable Judge, angrily searching out their faults and failures. Nothing could be farther from the truth! I died for your sins, so that I might clothe you in My garments of salvation. This how I see you: radiant in My robe of righteousness. When I discipline you, it is never in anger or disgust; it is to prepare you for face-to-Face fellowship with Me throughout all eternity. Immerse yourself in My loving Presence. Be receptive to My affirmation, which flows continually from the throne of grace.
Luke 6:37; John 3:16-17; Isaiah 61:10 (NASB); Proverbs 3:11-12