What Do You See in 2017?

As we work our way into this new year I want to encourage you to make time not just to make resolutions about what you’re going to change or what you want to accomplish with this year, but really to take stock in what’s in your life, what you might be blind to and what you’ve been ignoring, and see what’s really going on around you.  Part of this is about facing the things that have hurt you, the things you may do that hurt others, the things that are holding you back, and the things that you’ve let influence your life for too long.  But the other part of this is about really opening your eyes to see the world around you and see what God wants you to see and what He has created.

In today’s verse God’s promising Abram all the land that He sees around him and letting him know that a thriving, plentiful life for himself and his future generations is all around him.   Would Abram have know that if God hadn’t pointed it out to him or took the time to listen to God and see what God was trying to show him? I think God would have blessed him anyway but Abram would not have known the impact that he would have on future generations without taking the time to look and listen.

I know that we can get really busy in our lives, let things take over, let the concerns of others take priority and forget to take time to really look around and see the world around us, not just as others are telling us it exists, but truly seeing what God wants us to see.  I encourage you to make time this week to really take a good look at your life.  Don’t let any overwhelm you feel discourage you and don’t let the problems you see stop you from trusting that God has a good plan for your life (and can and will forgive you if you repent, and will help you work through the challenges).  And maybe you’ll get lucky like Abram and see some really incredible promises.

“The Lord said to Abram after lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west.” Genesis 13:14

The New Year Before Us

Today I thought the best way to start our year off was with some words of hope, wisdom and encouragement from the Bible and wise spiritual leaders.

“None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed.  Everything was fulfilled.”  Joshua 21:45

“Be still and know that I am God. Lord, may your Spirit guide me to seek your loving presence more and more. For it is there I find rest and refreshment from this busy world.”  Loyola Press

“He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.”  Acts 9:18-19

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Let’s live like we believe God is for us.”  Melinda Mattson

“Let them all praise the name of the Eternal! For His name stands alone above all others. His glory shines greater than anything above or below.”  Psalm 148:13

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“When we take delight we gain the very thing that was our goal all along.”  Stephanie Bryant

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  Genesis 18:14

As we start this new year and reflect on the one that has just ended I’m reminded by these words and thoughts that not every year is a great one, not every year is one of forward progress, and not every year is one that produces tangible results.   Some years are years of personal reflection, tearing down, and rebuilding.  These tend to be years that you feel really beat up by at the end and even though some really good things may have been started, you’re still a long way from seeing results yet.  But regardless of what type of year last year was or this year will be for you, we can depend on God to be there with us and guide us through it.

I encourage you to choose to look at the year ahead with a positive attitude and confidence that it will be a good year in one way or another.  Don’t let your doubts, failures or fears rule your life.  Instead trust that God will go with you through it and you will find reasons to celebrate in 2017.

The Hope of Autumn

This week is the beginning of Autumn here in the US.  I’m not a big fan of the cold winter nights which follow autumn, but there is something awe insipring about the colors and what the trees go through every year during this season.  As a summer person I always struggle a bit with letting the summer go and moving into autumn.  Don’t get me wrong, I love curling up in a sweatshirt and with blankets in front of a fire with a cup of tea or coffee, a good book or a snuggle with my partner.  But the freedom that we have with the summer and late nights and relaxed schedules plus the warm days and lack of necessary clothing are super appealing and make it much easier to plan what to wear each day.

So every year when fall rolls around I seek out encouragement to help me get through it with a good attitude and maybe even enjoy it a bit.  As I was contemplating it today I read Genesis 8:22 which says: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”  

This verse reminds me that God has a plan for our lives and the world, one that is often very orderly and regular. One of those things that we can really count on is the change of the seasons.  While we talk about the seasons as things ending or starting, God sees it as all part of His cycle of life, and a reason for us to keep hope alive.  This verse says that the change of seasons is very much like seeing the rainbow in the sky.  It’s a reminder that God hasn’t forgotten us, that He still has great plans for our lives and that there is still hope for the world to become a better and more faith-filled place.

What hope does this autumn bring you?

Keeping the Faith

I don’t know about you but sometimes I need some encouragement and a reminder that God is aware of what’s going on in the world and in my life.  One of the ways I get those reminders sometimes are through one of several verse of the day emails I subscribe to.  Recently a verse that was shared was from Genesis 50.  If you remember, the last part of Genesis is all about the amazing leader Joseph who started his life loved by his father and subject to the jealousy of his brothers.  As a result of that jealousy, the brothers shipped Joseph off to Egypt to work as a slave (or whatever, they didn’t care).  The story turns out however, that after much struggle and years of just trying to get by and stay alive, Joseph became a leader and hero and saved lots of people’s lives.  The verse goes:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.  Genesis 50:20

I love this verse because it’s such a reminder of God’s ability to turn anything into good.  There’s very little that God can’t fix, but sometimes He chooses not to fix it right away, or to let us exercise our freedom of choice and lets the bad decisions we make stand as a record and reminder.  That said, it’s not to say that the bad things that we’ve done or were done to us can’t be turned into good.  I’ve heard countless stories of people who were really falling down in life and reached their rock bottom to finally turn their life around and help others do the same.  The people who aren’t able to turn their lives around are sad reminders that we live in a sinful world.

If you’re going through a rough patch in your life, make sure to ask God for guidance and to give you the strength to get through it to the other side.  Don’t give up before you’ve seen what God has waiting for you on the other side.

Take Time to Remember

Today is all about remembering in the USA; we are celebrating Memorial Day.  It’s an opportunity to honor the soldiers who have given so much for our country today and throughout history.  Throughout the Bible there are lots of examples of the people of Israel being told to remember: like the Passover celebration celebrated every year, the 10 Commandments, the celebration of Purim, and even the writing of the Bible and the events that happened to the Israelites is an aspect of remembering.

It’s important to remember so that when you struggle or are challenged by the bad stuff of life you’ll be able to look back at the memories and make it another day.  You’ll remember that lots of people have gone through rough situations and made it, and you can too because you’re made in the image of God.

Which brings us to the one thing that comes up over and over when it comes to remembering: we think God forgets us or doesn’t care, especially when it seems like we’re not getting an answer from Him about our situation.  But Genesis 9:15 says “I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

What does this mean? It means that God promised to remember us.  And what God says, He means.  Don’t be tricked into the lies of believing that God doesn’t know exactly who you are or what you need.  He knows better than you do, and unlike us, He doesn’t forget.  So this week make sure to thank a service man or woman for what they’ve done and let them know that we haven’t forgotten them, as well as God for all He has done for you even if you don’t remember it.

With Open Eyes

“The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.””  Genesis 12:1-3

This is just one of many stories in the Bible where God asked someone to take a big step of faith.  In Abram’s (Abraham’s) case he followed God’s guidance.  In the case of another Biblical figure, Jonah, he was much less willing to go.  Jonah chose eventually to go on the journey, but he went miserable.  He chose to see the people of Nineveh as unworthy of God’s love, and as a result his story in the Bible ends with him unhappy with his lot in life.  Abraham chose to take an active role in his God-directed journey and while it didn’t all go right, his story ends with him at peace.

We too have a choice at how we see our lives, those around us and the world we live in.  We can see people go hungry and feel sorry for them but not do anything, we can also see people who are hungry and help by donating time or money to help them.  One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the ability to see beyond what is visible to just the human eye.

This week when you face problems and challenges that seem insurmountable, stop and take a fresh look at the situation with your eyes and heart open to what God would show you.  You’ll be able to react better to the situation, handle it with grace and clarity and come out of the situation with pride and peace knowing that you did the best you could.   There is always more than one story to each person and situation, it’s up to us to accept that truth is often not displayed at face value, and see what God sees in a person or situation, including ourselves and our story.

God as Father

This week in our discussions we’re going to talk about fathers, since this coming Sunday in the USA is Father’s Day.  Our inspiration today comes from Genesis 26:23-24 which says:

“From there Isaac moved to Beersheba, where the Lord appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” he said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.”

Now, depending on who you had as a father, you would be very suspicious of this God, run for the hills or be thrilled He showed up.  Over the years we’ve put a lot of pressure on fathers (and men) to be these incredible role models and many seem to fail, some more spectacularly than others.  Now, I know no one is perfect, and we’ve all fallen short of the amazing people we could be.  But some of us have made some significant decisions to not live up to the potential we have.

The reality is that no one will always live up to our expectations and some people will continue to make poor decisions, even when it directly impacts others.

The good news is that that’s not the case with God.  It’s not His nature to leave you hanging, forget the child support payments, ignore you when you call, or brush off your excitement about a drawing or accomplishment.  Nope, He’ll always be thrilled when you make time for Him or reach out to Him for understanding and support.

No matter what your father was like for you, you don’t have to follow his footsteps.  Instead you can follow the footsteps of God the father and set a good example for your kids and those around you.