Our Need to Remember
Need to remember

Three years ago this month, my husband received
a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Two years ago this month, the doctor told him his prognosis
was terminal.

For me, January will always be associated with these events.

For better or for worse, our need to remember is deeply rooted in our nature. But the act of remembrance can lead to one of two outcomes: gratitude or bitterness.

The God who created us knows our deepest needs, including our need to remember. But because He knows us so intimately, He knows we have to be intentional about remembering the right things for the right reasons. So all through the Bible, we see passages that speak about remembering His blessings. Consider these verses from the ESV translation:

  • Deuteronomy 8:2 – “You shall remember the whole way the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.”
  • Psalm 77:11 – “I will remember the deeds of the Lord.”
  • Psalm 103:2 – “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
  • Psalm 119:55 – “I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.”
  • Ecclesiastes 12:1 – “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.”
  • Isaiah 46:9 – “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other.”
  • I Corinthians 11:24 – “When he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Such reminders help us combat the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” syndrome.

Regardless of whether a person is good or evil, a follower of Jesus Christ or not, God allows His sun to rise on all people, and sends rain for the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). We all delight in the beauty of the natural world: rainbows, butterflies, sunrises, and sunsets. We enjoy relationships with family and friends, and have the convenience of material comforts.

Those who are Christians have the added benefit of knowing the pleasures of this world are merely shadows of eternal life. This world is not as good as it gets—there’s a better one coming. And Christians have the added resource of the Holy Spirit to encourage us, prompt our recollections, and comfort us.

Still, if we’re not careful, even Christians can fall into the trap of forgetting God’s past blessings in light of current suffering. We can develop a bad habit of rehearsing negative events and emotions instead of focusing on God’s goodness. And we can become stuck in dwelling on who and what we’ve lost instead of who and what we still have.

It’s not easy, but followers of Christ have a choice. Wallow in self-pity or move forward by trusting God’s faithfulness for what’s to come.

Which will you choose?


 
Lessons from a Weed
Lessons from a Weed

Some say a weed is just a plant flourishing where you don’t want it to grow. The plant I gazed at certainly fit that description. Its tender green leaves and slim stem contrasted with the smoky-blue Florida sky as it grew in the gutter on my roof. Definitely a place I did not want it to flourish!

I had watched the foot-tall plant growing for several weeks. Inch by inch and day by day, I kept expecting the weed to wilt and die as it reached a point of no return. It didn’t belong there. Yet, there it was, tenaciously rooted in a most inappropriate place. A logical conclusion was that the gutter was filled with decaying leaves and dirt. The combination would naturally provide a welcoming environment for seeds carried by birds or the wind.

A kind neighbor offered to clean out the gutter and remove the weed. But when he climbed the ladder, he made an interesting discovery. The plant was not rooted in dirt. It was rooted in a single, decomposing piece of palm bark. The rest of the gutter was clean.

Lessons from a weed

The lessons taught by this weed were not lost on me.

Importance of Perseverance

First, I was reminded of the adage, “An oak tree is just an acorn that held its ground.” This plant flourished because a lone seed tenaciously clung to the only opportunity it had.

How often do I give up when life becomes difficult? It’s so easy to blame less than ideal circumstances for my failures. The characteristic of perseverance is much like a muscle: it needs exercise to grow in strength. James 1:12, says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial” (NIV). Galatians 6:9 reminds us to “not grow weary of doing good” (ESV) and Romans 5:3-4 tells us suffering produces perseverance.

Danger of Passivity

On the other hand, the second lesson I learned sprang from an observation by a friend. After viewing the photo, she noted, “Interesting how little it takes for a weed to take root.”

Hmmm…what about the weeds in my own life? Little sins easily grow into deep-rooted and destructive habits. And they do it with little to no conscious encouragement from me. Sort of how the weed sprouted and flourished while I passively watched it grow on my roof for weeks.

I love how Elisabeth Elliot addressed this warning:

“Spiritual strongholds begin with a thought. One thought becomes a consideration. A consideration develops into an attitude, which leads then to action. Action repeated becomes a habit, and a habit establishes a “power base for the enemy,” that is, a stronghold.”

What thoughts am I tolerating today that will become strongholds tomorrow?

The final lesson reminds me of yet another adage:

Bloom Where You’re Planted

There were many better places in my yard for that weed to grow, but it grew where it was planted.

Am I content in where God has planted me? Am I listening for the prompts of the Holy Spirit to share Jesus where I am and to be a blessing to those God has placed in my life? Or am I looking longingly at other peoples’ lives, wishing I had been planted in their circumstances instead?

One little weed. Three big lessons.
What are your thoughts?


 
Abounding in Hope Despite the Rain
Hope in Suffering

Hurricane Barry made landfall on the Louisiana coast in July as 2019’s first hurricane. As Barry approached, fears about the Category 1 hurricane focused primarily on water damage from storm surge, an already high Mississippi river, and torrential rain.

And Hurricane Dorian is churning in the Atlantic, aiming for Florida’s east coast as I type this.

Even those who haven’t lived through a hurricane can still relate. Life has a way of hitting all of us with figurative storm surges, high rivers and hammering rains.

I’m familiar with the line, “Into each life some rain must fall,” made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and The Inkspots in 1944. I’m equally familiar with another adage, “It never rains but it pours.” A little rain is one thing. Torrential and unending downpours are quite another.

If you’re not in a season where troubles or suffering seem to be multiplying, you’ve either just come out of such a season or you’re about to go into one. It’s part of life in a broken, sin-sick world.

So how are we to respond to life experiences that feel like a combination of storm surges, high rivers, and torrential rains? Experiences that seem to magnify our brokenness, inflame our fears, or expose our vulnerability?

We approach these experiences with hope. Not the fragile, undependable hope our world offers, but the solid biblical hope flowing from our identity in Christ as children of our heavenly Father.

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

What is your “despite”? We all have at least one. It could be a dream that seems continually out of reach. Or a prodigal child bent on their own way. It might be a medical diagnosis or a financial deficit. Or it could be a combination of several “despites.” My own “despite” is this new chapter of my life as a widow.

Still, no matter how dark the darkness is, we can have hope. We can remind ourselves of God’s past faithfulness. Of the hope we have for an eternity through Christ. And of the equipping we have from the indwelling Holy Spirit.

This hope fuels courage. Courage to persevere when we’re tired. Strength to continue when we’re weak. Encouragement when we’re discouraged. Power to endure when we’re drained.

The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote to the early church in Rome:

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

The word abound means to overflow, flourish, or thrive. So when our rivers overflow and the storms of life flourish, so can hope in the child of God. Regardless of our situation, we could all use some abounding, overflowing, flourishing, and thriving hope, don’t you agree?

Besides…we can’t have rainbows without the rain.

What is your “despite”?
How is hope carrying you through it today?


 
The Relationship Between Worry, Trust, and Eternity
Worry

It happens all too frequently. I sing praises to God on Sunday morning and wake early on Monday morning beset by worry.

The cause might be my growing to-do list. Or circumstances outside my control. It could be due to loss and grief. Actually, the reason is less important than my response.

Worry. Anxiousness.

It comes in the form of a thought life that constantly imagines the worst possible outcome for any situation. I might worry about health, finances, relationships, safety, or any of a hundred other topics.

When I find myself worrying, it means several things.

First, I’m depending on myself. Specifically, I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that outcomes are dependent on my own ability.

Being consumed by worry also takes me out of the present. Instead of enjoying today, I’m too busy obsessing about tomorrow.

And depending on myself means I’m not trusting God. Worry means I believe the lie that God is not working for my ultimate good and His eternal glory.

Antidote to Worry

The antidote to worry is to remember who we belong to.

And that leads to understanding what salvation in Christ really means. Our salvation has 3 components:

Past

At the moment we trust Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior God declares us justified in His sight (Romans 5:1). Justification means we have a right standing before God. His wrath is no longer directed toward our sin, for Jesus “drank” the full cup of God’s wrath against sin when He died on the cross for us.

So I have no need to worry about the past. As a Christian, my past has been covered by the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Present

But God did not stop at addressing our past. He also addresses our present. Every committed believer in Jesus Christ has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (II Thess. 2:13). The Holy Spirit does the work of sanctification in our life—a  lifelong process of becoming what God has declared us to be: righteous!

So I have not need to worry about the present. God is at work in my life to make me more like His Son. And He will use every situation in my life toward that end.

Future

Finally, we look forward to an amazing future. At the moment a Christian dies, he or she is immediately in the presence of God. As the apostle Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Our glorification includes having glorified bodies, free from even the temptation of sin.

 

Understanding the full breadth of our salvation reminds us God is in control, so there’s nothing to worry about. Whatever happens in this life is both temporary and will be used by our heavenly Father for our good and His glory.

Kick worry to the door and replace it with trust in the Lord who has us covered: past, present, and future!


 
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