Seven Faith Actions to Restore Hope

Seven Faith Actions to Restore Hope

“He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how” (Man’s Search for Meaning, 121).  Victor Frankel

What pain pushes you into yourself? We do that.  We retreat into our world and our need when pain pushes.  Hope will bring us out.  Hope will draw us closer to God instead of closer to self.

Our nation has pain.  There is the pain of being asocial.  We are a nation of Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and gaming and netflix.  Researchers and health professionals alarm at the impact of constant stimulation that over stresses youth to the point of needing medication.  Dr’s increasingly point to our disassociation and electronic trends as roots of further social disorder.

“Children or teens who are “revved up” and prone to rages or—alternatively—who are depressed and apathetic have become disturbingly commonplace. Chronically irritable children are often in a state of abnormally high arousal, and may seem “wired and tired.” That is, they’re agitated but exhausted. Because chronically high arousal levels impact memory and the ability to relate, these kids are also likely to struggle academically and socially….
Time and again, I’ve realized that regardless of whether there exists any “true” underlying diagnoses, successfully treating a child with mood dysregulation today requires methodically eliminating all electronics use for several weeks—an “electronics fast” to allow the nervous system to “reset.”
If done correctly, this intervention can produce deeper sleep, a brighter and more even mood, better focus and organization, and an increase in physical activity. The ability to tolerate stress improves, so meltdowns diminish in both frequency and severity. The child begins to enjoy the things they used to, is more drawn to nature, and imaginary or creative play returns. In teens and young adults, an increase in self-directed behavior is observed—the exact opposite of apathy and hopelessness.” Victoria Dunkely MD

Our nation has pain.  There is the pain of amoral existence.  Some states report active belief through church attendance below 5%.  Nationally it is 16% and expected to drive lower.  Just a half a century ago this was 60%.  We had a moral standard of respect of life and decency toward others and self. Moral compass gives stability. Moral compass gives a staff on which we can rest in hard moments of indecision.  Moral compass provides a rally point. There is no accepted moral compass at a time when our immigration is at all-time highs.  How do you assimilate into nothing?  We need a national ethic and morality and conscience more than we need a wall of separation.

Our nation has pain. There is the pain of amarital community.  40% of our children go to bed without dad in the home.  41% of new births are into never married situations.  The impact is huge.  Poverty, criminal behavior, emotional and mental distress, school performance, suicide and more key off of fatherlessness.  We are birthing a generation with no chance of a normal or peaceful life.

Our nation has pain. That pain is a mess.  Intimate partner violence and intimate terrorism show up in 1 of 3 women.  Sexual assault is 1 of 4 women by age 16.  The highest rates of domestic violence are with those 20-29.  The angst and anger is violent.  We are crying in our homes for solutions.  This is not about percentages and political punditry.  This is about me and my house.

The Faithful
Yet, you are faithful.  You are doing what you know to do in faithful obedience and sacrifice. With the pains, each of us is impacted.  A father, mother, sister, brother, child, cousin, or you is impacted.  Why?  We live in this pained world and it touches us and we bleed.

Stand there for a moment.  Where has this pain touched you?  Who around you is impacted?  Where are you personally impacted?
We can feel rejected of God and cry, “Unfair.”  He is with you.  He is here.  Hope points to answers and secures a path.  Put your hope in God and in His presence.

Most often our experience of pain comes from living apart from God’s influence and presence.  In Christ, we have choices.  We can be in the world and not of the world.  We can make choices that give us stronger whys in the land of hows.  He has not left us on our own.  He has not abandoned us.

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews 6:10

This Hope
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20 NKJV

So let’s talk about how hope works behind the veil. When I am in His presence, I am secure.  I am hopeful.  I can see a future with beauty and success.

Last Fall, Dian and I spent the day in the beautiful New England countryside and on to the coast of Maine.  When we allow ourselves to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, we are refreshed. Those images will walk with us for decades. It is good. Dian and I have a small lake cabin in Oklahoma in the wooded part of the state for this reason. I love to watch the birds and listen to the stillness.  Whenever I post a calm or strikingly beautiful picture of nature on facebook, it gets the most likes. We like the calm. We need the calm and the beauty.  Is not the presence of God more beautiful than nature?  Have you ever enjoyed Him beyond any touch natural beauty can produce?
How often do you stop the noise and the pain and let God be God?  This world with all the pain and problems that prick and provoke is there.  It is there 24/7.  In the middle of all of that, we have the privilege to walk with an amazing God of light and joy.  His overwhelming presence permeates and puts us on top and covered.  Yet, this is not some Pollyanna denial of a painful world, but a determined joy in the face of assault.

Brutally Confront The Facts
It is unrealistic to ignore the pain.  It is incorrect to deny reality.  After an opponent to Abraham Lincoln painted an unrealistic view, Lincoln responded.  “Now a horse has four legs.  If I call his tail a leg, how many legs does the horse have?
One in the audience answered, “Five.”
“No,” Lincoln responded.  “The horse has four legs.  To call a tail a leg doesn’t change the fact it is a tail.”

Don’t deny reality.  Face it. Deal with it.  Put yourself in the presence of God and allow Him to adjust and protect and secure and strengthen.

But, Phil
But, Phil, it just keeps coming back and I can’t seem to hold my footing. It drags me into wrong action and disturbed and depressive days.

Walk with me into God’s Story
In the Old Testament the priest would go into the Holy of Holies on assignment.   There was great ritual and preparation for his time in the presence of God.  There was great fear.  If he did one thing wrong, put on the wrong piece of clothing, or touched a forbidden object prior to going into God’s presence, he would be struck dead.

The people would tie a rope around his leg and put bells on his robe.  If the bells quit ringing, they would pull him out, dead.  He was anchored in the world.  He had to come out.  He could not stay in God’s presence.  The world owned him.

In Jesus, we have a new and better life.  Each of us is called into the presence of God 24/7. It is no longer about one person going for all.  Jesus did that and opened the path.  We don’t pull Him out, He pulls us in.  His Holy Spirit is provided for 24/7 presence and provision to all.  Yet, we don’t live in that awareness.  We allow the world, the pain, and the problems to displace us from our rightful position. We drift from our anchor point.

Watch for a moment what is happening in this verse.  Hope is an anchor.  Anchors have ropes fastened to a point.  As the current of life pummels our bow, the anchor point holds us steady.  If I want to be closer to the anchor point, I pull in the rope and shorten the extended line.

Hebrews 3:6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

In life we pass from pain to pain and from victory to victory.  At each of those moments there is opportunity to fasten the rope tighter into our grasp.  If I want to get a good grip on a rope, I put a knot into it.  My grip, my hold is more secure and firm.  Every test in life, we can secure our grip on hope.  Every time we see God provide for us in a hard moment, we can station our feet and tie another knot in the rope for a future need.  Whether it is a pain to which God applies a solution or a victory in growth, each can become a knot that secures my grip and shortens the distance between the anchor point and me.

Our journey can be a series of choices to draw closer to God, to live in His presence.  Our journey can also be a series of choices to drift.  I can chose to gripe and groan and complain and my rope will stretch and extend and I will float further from my anchor point.
Make the choice at every point of pain and every point of victory to shorten the rope. 

Seven Faith Actions
The anchor point is in the realized presence of God.  In the presence of the Lord there is joy forevermore.  A. Increase your dependence on Him in prayer and tie a knot.  B. Build a closer relationship with a fellow Christian and tie a knot.  C. Hammer scripture into your memory and meditation and tie a knot. D.Increase your personal and public worship times and tie a knot. E.Tell others of His goodness and tie and knot.  F.Give out of the abundance He provides and tie a knot.  G. Rest and trust Him in faith in hard moments and tie a knot.  Live as a Christian disciple and tie a knot.  The life of discipleship is not about obedience and duty, it is about drawing closer to God and He draws closer to you. The distance to the anchor point becomes less and less.  In time of need you can pull in the line and be to that point faster when you live a life of tying the knot.

But, Phil
My rope is extended. I’ve not lived the Christian discipleship provided for me in Christ. Ah, the grace of God has been provided.  You see, the anchor point is Jesus in the presence of God.   We are no longer anchored in the world.

Before Jesus, that anchor would pull us back into the world.  Now, Jesus will pull you back into His presence.  He sees you drifting.  You have hope.  He will pull you into His presence as you drift.  His grace is huge.   Of course it is better to live close to the anchor and we will have fewer pains and fewer defeats.  But, He is on your side.  He is the anchor and He will pull you into His presence even if you chose to drift when your hope is in Him.
In this world of toils and snares tell me Jesus just who cares. None but thee Lord, none but thee.
Summary:  Life pummels. Christ in me, the Hope of Glory, anchors me in the presence of God.  Joy and answers are in His presence.  Christian discipleship will pull me closer to the presence of God.
Live your life of Christian Discipleship in hope and healing.  Tie a knot.  Every opportunity.  Tie a knot.  Keep the rope on your anchor short and your time in His presence continual.  Tie a knot. Don’t drift.
If you find yourself drifting, call out in hope.  He will draw you in.  Your anchor is in His presence.

;- { ) #phil@hclive.org

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On the Mountain of My Messes

On the Mountain of My Messes

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copyright AP Photo Steve Gooch

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
Matthew 5:1-2 NKJV

In the stirring of my storm,
The Lord is by my side.
On the edges of my ledges,
The Lord is by my side.
In the low spots of my loss,
The Lord is by my side.
On the mountains of my messes,
The Lord is on my side.

The Lord is on my side.
No matter the pain, problem, pursuit, or persnippity persistent pest,
The Lord is on my side.

On the Mountain of My Messes

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And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
Matthew 5:1-2 NKJV

In the stirring of my storm,
The Lord is by my side.
On the edges of my ledges,
The Lord is by my side.
In the low spots of my loss,
The Lord is by my side.
On the mountains of my messes,
The Lord is on my side.

The Lord is on my side.
No matter the pain, problem, pursuit, or persnippity persistent pest,
The Lord is on my side.

Clear Thinking

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Most weeks, I teach a class on thinking.  Tonight we are back in session. By altering our attitudes and beliefs and premises and promises, we alter our behaviour.  A subtle change at the core of being effects feelings, thoughts, and behavior.

Yesterday was a big modifier. Prayer interrupted some lives and set them on a different course.  Music and worship shifted others.  A movie modified a few more. Teaching worked.  Small group discussion engaged.  Covered dish conversation caused growth.  Many means influence our thoughts.

Tonight it is all those again in class with the sons and daughters of Gainesville.  Many are sent to us by the courts. They look for a new hope and a a new life. The Spirit of God is able.

A young woman recently released from drug rehab came into the lot yesterday.  Unlike most, she did not ask for $. She wanted hope and healing. She wept as we prayed.  God intervened.  As long as I kept my head stuck through Mississippi’s truck window, we kept audience.  Some thoughts got to her.  Some hope intersected.

On Facebook we grew 10 new families and hundreds engaged with devotions.  Secular radio touches thousands a day.

Via text, the word went out to some 200 in OKC and this Texoma I35 corridor.

In a classroom in Marietta, an auditorium in Gainesville, over FB, secular radio, in the parking lot, at Starbucks and  McDonalds, in a meeting room, and windshield time in my car, people had thoughts strengthened and straightened with God’s word.

Oh well, another day dawns.  The are 4000 waiting for an email devotion.  Thoughts drive action.  Words drive thought.   Jesus should drive words for the righteous.

The Prayer Has A Life: What Happened Next

One of the stops this week in my journey was the weekly breakfast of a county Chamber of Commerce in Texas.  Community Transformation Initiative is active in the area doing Life Skills and Parenting and 1-1 counseling.  Each person gets 2 minutes to speak.  Lawyers, doctors, mechanics, marketers, resorts, bankers, the county attorney, and this  community transformation/business/minister person share.  I usually give a quick story and a smile and sit down.  Something different happened this week.

Here’s the story I shared and what happened next:

In 2004, our Information Technology team was designated as number one best place to work in IT by Computerworld magazine.  That is a Super Bowl moment.  We out ranked Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and hundreds of thousands of other businesses.

As one of a handful of directors on that team, it was moment of personal pride and accomplishment.  I keep telling myself I’m going to have a ring made.  Every day and every year is not the same.

During an annual review with our CIO one year I felt defeated.  That year was okay, but nothing outstanding.  As I discussed my feelings of struggle with John, the number one CIO of the number one team, he looked at me and said, “Phil, you will find during your toughest times, you grow the most.”  He was less concerned about  the areas I directed and managed than he was about me.  That attitude is part of what made us number one.

After the story was shared, the prayer was shared.

As I finished the prayer, the Chamber of Commerce breakfast group spontaneously and loudly said “Amen.”

More people on social media are responding to this prayer than anything I’ve every posted. I pray it over you. I pray it “Amens” in your life.

 May the gentle breath of God’s Spirit lift you, friend, beyond your problems.

May the forceful shaking of His power break barriers that hinder.

May the excitement of His love impassion you, friend, with joy.

May you find Him waiting in your path with answers.
www.evotions.org

Delight in God’s Surroundings

By Grace – Delighting In His Surroundings

Psalm 84:1 How lovely is Your tabernacle (are Your dwellings), O Lord of Hosts.

 

I don’t remember all the failures and frustrations I’ve faced in life. There are plenty. I remember enough to feel the twinge of defeat and enjoy the pleasure of the Holy Spirit’s release in me of healing. Forgetting those things that are behind me, I press for a new prize. I remember enough to realize I am frail and He is strong.

 

But we do remember them don’t we?  I remember when the company for which I worked sold and was scuttled.  28,000 employees were put on the street nationwide.  I was one of them.  My family was threatened.  It was frightening, and we overcame with great struggle and long hours.

 

I remember working on a ministry to the working poor once.  There had been agreements and disagreements conclusions and consternations.  For two years, we had worked hard to get this outreach working.  Here it was running and in partnership with an urban church.  800 people came for Christmas.  10,000 meals a month were being given out.  By March the minister asked all the volunteers to leave.  There were 50 of them.  At the moment of defeat, I was in Caracas, Venezuela teaching leadership to local ministers.  The call came ten minutes before I was to take the platform.   I wept. I cried out.  I turned my face to the wall of the room where I was getting ready to speak and just heaved sighs of defeat.  Then I got up and taught and prayed for others.  Then I came home and had to face 50 faithful people and tell them we would find another place and continue to give food and faith to the poor.  I remember their eyes looking back at me in disbelief and faith all at once.

 

I remember when the doctor looked into my eye at the clinic and told me to put my 12 year old in a car and drive as fast as I could to a hospital across town.  He had just been diagnosed diabetic and needed emergency attention the clinic could not provide.  There was no time for the ambulance.  Move.  Don’t go home.  Do it.  My heart raced and my mind faltered.  This is my son, my boy.  I cried on the inside with this mind blowing situation as I raced to the hospital.  As soon as I walked into the emergency room a nurse came out and said, “Are you Phil Larson?”  Before the registration desk could give me forms, my son and I were whisked to the back and they took him to another room.  20 minutes later they came and told me he was admitted to the hospital and I could now see him.

 

What holds us together in those moments?  How do we survive and go on to be able to tell stories of victory and faith and great interventions of God.

 

I mean this stuff is exhausting.  I know I live victorious through it all, but it is through it all. Can’t we just have a year of none of this?  Can’t I just have a year of fuzzy, warm moments with no life threatening, finance threatening, health intruding, peace of mind assaulting events?

 

One of the ways I’ve found to make it through all this thing called life is delighting in the surroundings of God and His people.  We are the tabernacles of God, the temples of His Holy Spirit.  And it is the people of God, family, friends, and members of the church I go to or the businessmen’s group to which I belong that stand strong with me and my family in such moments.  So I need to delight in them.

 

Preference

Each of us has certain accouterments that please us.  One likes a flowered field, another likes soft cello music, another likes Victorian furniture, another likes cinnamon tea, another likes the smell of automobile leather interior, and another thrives on word puzzles.  Each of us has preferences that please our nose, our eyes, our ears, our touch, our taste, and our mental processes.  Surrounded by those preferences, we would be ecstatically stimulated and express a sheer delight in living.  None of us get the privilege of living 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the pure preferences of our life.

 

Persistence

Life imposes certain environs to which we become accustomed.  Waking early in the morning to be at his place in the market is required of the businessman.  Gathering the sounds of many little children on a school playground adjacent to her home teases the patience of one retired widow.  Inhaling the morning stench of the stockyards becomes the daily routine of a cattleman.  For each of these, the choice is to persist in what may not seem pleasant for the moment in order to achieve some joy.  To rise early is to profit quickly for the businessman.  That is his focus and life and purpose.  To live in the neighborhood where life was lived out makes the somewhat irritating noises meaningless to the widow and her memories.  The stench of cattle is a sweet aroma as the cattleman counts his gains in the trading of the day.  The impositions of life can be easily assumed in stride when we move toward our life’s purpose and the joy of our heart.

 

Thomas Edison was always one for changing his world.  At his summer home, he delighted in showing guests labor saving devices throughout the property.  Following the path back to the gathering, each guest was required to push through a tough turnstile.  With such propensity for saving labor, one guest was perplexed and asked why such a hard turning device was necessary.  “Everyone who pushes the turnstile around pumps eight gallons of water into the tank on my roof,” was Edison’s smiling reply.  He then used the tank to water his garden.

 

Choices

Whatever the surroundings have become, they are the product of the accumulation of our daily choices.  While we take pleasure in trying to lay the blame at the feet of destiny or life, any of us with the smallest abilities can change our environment a moment and a facet at a time into something entirely different.  Some choose to deny the realities of choice and responsibility and create worlds of their imaginations.  Even at that, they have mentally created a new environ of choice.  Others choose to carve out worlds that did not exist before them like Thomas Edison bent on pursing a land of light and electricity.  For him it existed at first only in his mind and now for us exists as a given condition.

 

Environs of God

Have you ever thought what the environs of God’s choices are like?  You would love to live there, wouldn’t you?  Or would you?

 

Choosing the surroundings of God means leaving the surroundings of our accumulated choices.  It is no neverland of Captain Hook and Peter Pan in which He lives, but a real dwelling place to which He invites us.  The choice is to overcome the impositions of life and carve out a world that for some exists as joy unspeakable and full of glory and for others is only a haunting dream.  Dreams come true when lived out with choices actively expressed.

 

We can choose to live in the lovely dwellings of God.  We can choose and act to inhabit with Him, His environs.  The trappings of His gathering can be ours.  But we must love them.  We must desire them.  We must overcome the pleasured choices we have made and take on new ones.  Our minds must be renewed into His mind, and our inner man must take on His image.

 

The funny part about this whole journey of delighting in the dwelling of God is that when we enter His dwelling, we become a part of the environ.  We become a choice of God for His pleasure.  We become a part of His persistent will to create a new heaven and a new earth.  He chooses us as part of His lovely tabernacle, the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit.

 

His environs are the family and friends to which He groups us.  Many times they were not our choice, but they are the right choice. When the company was sold, it was the small group meeting in my home that held us together.  They were God’s hands and mouths of grace to us. They prayed with us and stood with us and watched God conquer the situation.  They were young and old and male and female and black and white and they were the family that surrounded.  Building relationships with them, the tabernacles of God, proved out value in my hard moments.

 

When the outreach to the poor hit the wall, it was the very people looking back at me that carried me through.  We had driven to grocery stores early in the morning together and sorted through stale food to find good together and prayed for the sick together and watched new bicycles given to a child be stolen before they could get to the end of the block.  Together, we had melded and become a joint tabernacle and together, we pressed through.  We carried each other through.  I delight in His tabernacles, His surroundings.

 

When that awful day attacked my son, it was my mother-in-law, who happened to be visiting that day, that stood strong with us.  It was friends, I had walked with for years that said, “You can do it, Phil.”  It was my 12 year old son, who gave himself a shot in less than 24 hours from the event, that gave me courage and hope.  It was my kids and wife, tabernacles of His love that rallied together and continue to rally everyday to support this situation 12 years of daily moments together.  I delight in His tabernacles, His surroundings.

 

 

Are you resisting His surroundings and the people of grace that today might seem hard to connect, but tomorrow might be your life blood?

 

What part of your surroundings would you have to give up to spend more time in His?

 

Is there a part of your life’s environs conflicting with the environs of God?  Is there no time in your life for others to which He has attached you?

 

While the physical house of God, a church building, is only a part of God’s environs, it is an important part.  Take time this week to break your schedule for His.  Go up to the physical house of God and actively take on a short project.  Clean a room, cut some grass, wash a row of windows, fix a broken hinge, dig a sewer, and put your hands on His gathering.  While you are there, remember you are in His environs at His invitation.  He chose you.

 

Now, find something you can do for one of His other living tabernacles.  Call a friend and invite them to come to Dad’s University with you.  Grow together.  Find a single mom and take her kids for a day so she can get a breath.  Give back to those that give to you.

 

Delight in His tabernacles.  They are the life blood of Jesus flowing in your life and you need them.