Tuesday, August 25, 2020

14 Verses of Hope

How many times in recent weeks have we heard someone say or write, “In addition to the pandemic, we are dealing with . . . “? Insert any number of financial, relational, or health problems. To use a football term, it feels like piling on for so many. Hope sags.
I’ve been waking in the a.m. and instead of worrying, which is what my flesh wants to do (I am so very good at it), I’ve been focused on memorizing scripture. Before I get out of bed. Before I read anything else. It helps immensely to begin my day that way. So, toward that end, I offer these verses as possibilities on which to meditate and perhaps commit to memory.
I’ll resist the urge to comment on them here, but as I was typing these references into the labels I noticed that I've written previous posts on all but about two of them. So if you want to read more, just scroll down and click on the various scripture references in the labels or if on mobile, click for the web version at the end. As you read these verses, ask the Lord to speak to your heart through his word, which is “alive and active.” Praying our hope will only increase, friends.
Photos were taken last week at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Love that place.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23
“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known. . .”
Habakkuk 3:2
“Why my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Psalm 42:11

“But now, this is what the Lord sayshe who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior . . .’”
 Isaiah 43:1-3

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”
Psalm 85:6
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”
Psalm 130:5
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:30-31


“Is anything too hard for me?”
Jeremiah 32:27

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
Luke 18:1
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:3-5

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
Romans 8:24-25
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13


“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Faher, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Cold water and good news

When I read the news article, this verse came to mind: “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land” (Proverbs 25:25).

Exactly five months to the day after we went into lockdown, finally more good news than bad news pertaining to the virus surfaced in my news feed.

To summarize, it seems we may be closer to herd immunity in some places than first thought. Instead of needing 75 to 80 percent of people to be exposed, new research indicates we may only need 45 to 50 percent. That means the spread of the virus would significantly slow and places like New York City which were so hard hit early on, may not see resurgence. Next, more recent studies show immunity may last much longer than originally thought. And in a hat trick of good news, lower numbers of flu in the southern hemisphere this year may mean we will avoid a “twindemic” here in the U.S. this winter.

As I read, it felt as if I was in a misting tent like the one they have at Sanford Stadium on hot games, just a continual spray of cold water to help with the heat.

One of the big challenges in this pandemic is that what we think we know is ever changing. So what I shared above is a switch from earlier thinking. We constantly have to reset expectations. In addition there's hardly been any light at the end of this tunnel. We really need to pray for those scientists and researchers who are working tirelessly to discover the truth in the seeming maze if this pandemic.

Jerry often says, “People aren’t looking for good advice, but they are looking for good news.” So true. In fact, I think these days, we’re desperate for that blast of refreshment. We’re all weary of dealing with this virus.

So for that reason, it’s especially important we focus on the unchanging good news found in scripture. It is not subject to new research but as the Psalmist wrote, “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89). It is truly good news from the “far country” of heaven, unlike any country on earth. And God’s good news is brought to us by prophets, and forerunners, and God’s son, Jesus.

 I was just sharing with someone this week how sometimes it’s difficult to stop having certain thoughts, but we can substitute other thoughts. The best way to do that is to meditate on a verse that ministers to us and let it take the place of those dark thoughts that can dog our heels. As we practice this, we’ll find our thoughts lock in on what cannot be shakeneternal truth.

So here’s to hope. Let’s all stand in the misting tent of God’s unchanging good news together.



Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The smell of new toys and an opportunity

I love this picture of our grandchildren. That little fellow missing the front teeth is headed off to college this fall and our granddaughter is in high school now. Where did the years ago?

They were helping me put together my Operation Christmas Child boxes a few years back. And no, it’s not too early for me to be talking about that. I'm giving you some lead time, because given the circumstances, it may take a while to put your boxes together this year. I checked the Samaritan’s Purse site, and despite the pandemic, they are still a go for collecting the boxes this November. The need for them will be perhaps even greater with the virus and other disasters ravaging so many places around the globe. Again, shopping for those boxes could be more challenging.

Here’s why it’s worth the effort.

I’m an alumnus of Young Harris College, and when I received my monthly magazine this summer, I was thrilled to find a story about a student there who has personal experience with Operation Christmas Child. Dasha Vander Maten grew up in an orphanage in the Ukraine where she received one present a year. It was a box from Operation Christmas Child.

An American family adopted her along with her two biological sisters when she was twelve and now she is a student at YHC. Remembering those yearly gifts she received, last fall she set out to raise money and donors to provide 100 boxes for Operation Christmas Childa goal she more than exceeded. She said, “I remember the smell of the brand new toys when I opened the box (as a child). When packing these boxes myself, it brought that smell back to me.”

Great story, right? There are so many Dasha’s out there. And every child who receives a box is invited to participate in a discipleship program called The Greatest Journey.

As I’ve shared before, my sister and I try to put together around twenty-five boxes each year. In order to do that, I shop all year, so the cost is not prohibitive in October and November. I found a few things on sale after Christmas and Valentines’ Day this year, but of course quarantine hit and all shopping came to a halt. Because we try to limit our trips out, my trips out now are mostly to the grocery store and art and hobby stores. But, even with those limits, my boxes are almost finished.

Here are a few tips.

Maximize your grocery store shopping. Matchbox cars are one of the biggest thrills for boys and many grocers offer them at great prices. Stock up while you’re buying your toilet paper. School supplies are at their best prices now and a must for the boxes. At my grocery store, I can buy four composition books for a dollar. You can also grab soap and toothbrushes in the toiletry aisle. The toy section in many grocery stores provide great choices for the $5 wow toy Samaritan’s Purse asks we provide. At hobby stores, I’ve found stickers, stamps, bolo paddles, balls, and other items all at tremendous savings as stores have been clearing out summer merchandise. If you pick up a few things every week, you can not only fill the boxes you usually do, but perhaps add to their number. Also, you can pick up a few things online as well, but shipping can add to the cost.

A few years ago, I let go the premise that all boxes have to be alike. My boxes will likely not even go to the same town, much less the same country. Just use what you can find, but try to cover the main categories: $5 wow toy, toiletry items (no liquids or toothpaste), school supplies, and fun toys.

As I’m packing my boxes, I pray for the children who will receive them. This year, I’m going to take advantage of the tracking Samaritan’s Purse provides when you make the shipping donation online. I think it will be fun to see where each one goes. But really, only heaven will reveal all that comes of these gifts we send. John Wesley once said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

Let’s give more kids like Dasha the smell of those new toys and the opportunity to find Jesus.

"Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back--given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting is the way. Generosity begets generosity" (Luke 6:38).

If you're looking to do a little early Christmas shopping, Grace Publishing has an anthology called Merry Christmas Moments. I have an article in it about my Operation Christmas Child boxes entitled, "Sharing the Gospel from my Exploding Closet." Authors receive no royalties from this collection. Instead, proceeds go to Samaritan's Purse. HERE if you'd like to order.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Something sweet from the bitter

“Something’s wrong with my phone,” said a friend I’ll call Beatrice. “It’s the only way I can keep in touch. I don’t know what I’ll do if something happens to it.” She paused and I could hear soft weeping on the other end of the line.

My heart wrenched.
Beatrice is one of so many senior citizens with serious health challenges who live in an assisted living/nursing facility. For many of us, our pandemic lockdowns ended at least in part after a couple of months but those who live in these facilities continue in lockdown now almost five months out. They are growing weary. The rules vary from state to state and facility to facility, but my friend cannot leave her room for common dining and she cannot have in person visits. She feels very isolated. Beatrice’s family stays on top of her situation so her phone, which is her lifeline, will likely be repaired today.

These facilities are filled with many from our greatest generationpeople who were used to save the world from tyranny, who fought in a world war, who became Rosie the riveters, and who kept our factories, farms, and shops running to supply the country and its soldiers. Let’s not forget their heroism and valiant efforts now.

Because this facility allows packages to be mailed in, I’ve been trying to send in snacks and cards. But lately, I've been convicted of others to whom I need to reach out.

Would you join me? Today, I’m asking you to do more than read my rambling words. Almost every one of us knows someone in these facilities. I’m asking you to check with the facility to make sure they allow cards and packages. Some don't, but if possible make a card, buy a card, or recycle a card. Then write a little note, spend fifty-five cents for a stamp, and mail it. You will create more blessing with that fifty-five cents than any dollar amount you will spend this week. And make sure you put your telephone number in the card as calling into these places can be challenging for many reasons but often residents don’t hear the phone ring. With your number, they can call out.

Who knows how long we’ll be dealing with this pandemic, so we need to keep these folks foremost in our minds and remember whatever we’re dealing with, their situation is usually going to be worse.

I also want to include those who are care giving at home. These caregivers as well as those to whom they give care have not been out much in these past months for fear of bringing harm to their loved one. They need encouragement as well.
I want to leave you with one of the sweetest stories I’ve heard lately. It’s about a woman in Nebraska who contracted the virus, wound up in the hospital, and then was sent to a nursing facility. Her nursing aide walked in with a name written on a whiteboard. The patient said, “That’s my daddy.” The nurse pointed to herself and said, “He’s mine, too.” These two were separated as children, had been looking for each other for decades, and found each other at last. The aide had earlier seen her sister’s name on a board and recognized it immediately. The woman who was sick said she considers all she’s been through with the virus to be a blessing because “It brought her to her family.” Another reminder of how God can bring something sweet out of the bitterest times.

After the miraculous reunion Joseph had with his brothers despite his difficult journey from when they sold him into slavery, he said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good . . . “ (Genesis 50:20).
Out of this thing, the enemy intends for harm, I’m praying He’ll use us all this week to bring good from it.  


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