Your Leadership Can Bring Hope to People

“Deborah . . . was a leader” (Judges 4:4)

Because I live in Alabama, I especially enjoyed reading a news story in the July 12 issue of the Birmingham News. Two Birmingham area natives, Jessica and Derek Simmons, were spending time with their family near the M.B. Miller County Pier in Panama City, Florida. The Simmons had moved to Panama City last year.

Jessica’s splashing in the water got interrupted by the sight of flashing police lights at the boardwalk. Everyone’s attention stayed focused on something out in the water. Riptide currents had carried several swimmers out into deeper waters.

Jessica and Derek quickly went into action coordinating a rescue plan. Derek, along with several other persons, formed a human chain. Jessica swam out on a body board, and reached the 9 swimmers struggling to stay afloat. (The swimmers included a grandmother and 2 small children.)

By this time, the human chain had stretched more than 100 yards. Jessica, Derek, and others began pulling the 9 persons onto the board and pushing them toward the human chain. The drama lasted about an hour. The good news—every person had been saved from the riptide currents and possible drowning.

I would say that Derek and Jessica showed great leadership, wouldn’t you? And can you even imagine the hope those drowning persons felt when they saw people coming to help rescue them? John Gardner once said, “The task of leadership is to keep hope alive.”

The Bible, in Judges 4, provides an example of a woman who knew the vital connection between effective leadership and hope. Her name was Deborah. Before I go farther let me get something out of the way.

You might be saying to yourself, “But I’m not a leader. I am more of a follower. Yet, if you are a parent, a spouse, a coach, a supervisor, a grandparent, a teacher at church or school, or have even the least bit of responsibility, you are in a leadership role. The reason is because you are in a position of influence, and leaders influence people.

Deborah served as a judge in ancient Israel. Judges then were mostly military leaders. During Deborah’s day, God’s people had fallen into the hands of Jabin, a Canaanite king who had an oppressing army equipped with 900 iron chariots. God’s people cried out for help, so God raised up a deliverer, Deborah.

To keep Deborah’s story short, she came up with a battle plan. She would lure Jabin’s army to a nearby river. One thousand of Israel’s soldiers were to head to a nearby mountain. This exciting story ends with the words, “On that day God subdued Jabin” (see Judges 4:23-24). Deborah had given effective leadership, and also had imparted some hope.

So, how can you, in your personal leadership role(s), give some hope to the people in your circles of influence?

  1. Be a person of hope yourself. Hope doesn’t come just from positive thinking or an optimistic attitude, though those qualities have some merit. Primarily, hope comes from the promises God makes to us in the Bible. A Bible promise is where God has said He will do something. We believe His promises, and the result is that our lives are filled with hope. To be a hopeful person, then, you should read and study the Bible more, look for verses in the Bible that are promises from God.
  2. Evaluate your EQ (emotional quotient). How emotionally intelligent are you? Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to manage their own emotions, and to understand the feelings of others. Emotionally intelligent people think before they act on their feelings. They are in tune with how they feel, but they do not let their emotions rule their lives. You will find any number of EQ inventories and assessments online. Take several, and see how you score. If you don’t score well, you know you have some work to do on your personal emotional intelligence.
  3. Be an encourager. A word of encouragement offered at the right time can do wonders. Everyone faces challenges and difficulties. Your timely encouragement can help life those people out of their ruts.

I don’t think I can overstate the role of hope in your personal leadership. Inspiring hope in other people is a critical skill for all leaders. These words from Martin Luther King cause us to think: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”

 

The Comparison Game: A Hope Killer

“Do your best and don’t compare yourself with others”(Galatians 6:4).

Have you ever compared yourself with someone and felt like you did not measure up?
Maybe you thought, Why are they more blessed than us? Why is she married and I am still single? Why can’t I have her body shape? Why did he get the job I wanted? Why can’t we drive a car like they drive?
The comparison game, for most of us, probably started about the time we were in middle school when our adolescence began to kick in full force. And the comparison game continues into our adult years as well.
The comparison game makes all of us losers because as Justin Zoradi has written, “It steals your joy, halts your momentum, and brings your greatest insecurities to the forefront of your mind.”

Why Comparison Is a Hope Killer
1. Comparison will cause you to perform at a lower level. When you compare yourself with someone your personal esteem suffers, and thus, you begin performing at a lower level as well. But focusing on self-improvement, and doing your best, leads you to perform at higher levels.
2. Comparison leads to jealousy and envy, two behaviors that God is not pleased with. Scripture says: “Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” (Romans 12:6, The Message).
3. Comparison destroys relationships. Be honest. Can you really have an authentic relationship with someone for whom you feel jealousy or envy?

Once again, comparison is a dead-end street. So, how do we break the cycle of comparing ourselves with others, and gain more hope in our lives?

Beating the Comparison Game
1. Focus on what God says about you, not what others think of you. God created you in His image. You are a one-of-a-kind, unique person in God’s eyes. Your personal worth is not determined by expensive clothing, a boyfriend, accomplishments, popularity, opinions, or your body type. God loves you unconditionally. In fact, He is crazy about you.
2. Limit your time on social media. I enjoy Facebook and Instagram. Are you aware, though, that social media contributes to what is labeled today as FOMO (fear of missing out)? We read on Facebook about the fabulous vacation a friend took, and it makes us feel life has cheated us. Or we see a photo of someone’s new car on Instagram, and we feel that we deserve a car like that one. Social media is like food that feeds the comparison monster.
3. View every day, and every opportunity, as a gift from God. Wake up each day and ask, “Lord, how do You want to use me today? How can I be a blessing to someone? Show me, God, how I can show kindness and love to someone today?” This kind of approach to each day takes your thoughts off what you don’t have and onto what God has for you. Best of all, it builds hope into your life.

 

What to Do When You Are “in the Dark”

“I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life” [Jesus] John 8:12.

Get your super-dark eye protection ready because in August a total solar eclipse will cross the United States, the first since one was visible in Hawaii back in 1991. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth creating near complete darkness for only a few minutes.

This year’s total solar eclipse will be visible across a 60-mile-wide arc of the U.S. on Monday, August 21, beginning in Oregon at 10:15 a.m. local time and ending in South Carolina about an hour-and-a-half later.

You might feel that you are living, operating, functioning “in the dark” so to speak now. Perhaps you’ve lost a job, or a loved one. Maybe you’re battling a serious illness. Did you experience a relationship fall apart, or possibly become more and more strained. Or maybe you struggle with the darkness of your own soul. What dark deeds have haunted you? What sinful lusts or selfish desires? What bitterness do you carry? Or is your darkness a jaded cynicism? Does the darkness of discontent, jealousy, or envy have you in its grips?

I have good news for you! Light has come, and that Light is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, in John 8:12 Jesus described Himself as our Light. Can you recall the last time you had to walk through a room in your house in the dark? Did you run into a wall, or stub your toe on a piece of furniture? You can’t see in the dark.

And maybe you are having a hard time seeing some light in your current situation. You need some some wisdom, some insight, some help for handling your present circumstances. Jesus is that light. So, how does the light of Christ become real in your personal life?

Follow Jesus

You “follow” Jesus, John 8:12 states. What does it mean to follow Jesus? If you were in the military you would follow your commanding officer. To follow Jesus means you make Him the commanding officer in your life. As a citizen you obey the laws of the land. To follow Jesus you obey His teachings. If you made an appointment with a trusted counselor you would follow that counselor’s advice. To follow Jesus you follow His advice given to us in the pages of the Bible.

Maybe your “darkness” right now is that you have a need—a bill to pay or a need for strength. Jesus can meet that need. “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ” promises Philippians 4:19.

Is your darkness worry and anxiety over a problem you face? Jesus said, “My peace I give to you” (John 14:27).

Your darkness might be the guilt you feel because of a decision you made that did not honor God, or a sin against God’s standards that you committed. Jesus delights in forgiving us when we mess up. 1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess sins, [agreeing with God that we have sinned] he [Jesus] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.”

Just as the sun gives us light to see so we can go about our day, there is another Light that shines illuminating the way out of whatever “darkness” prevents us from living a full and meaningful life. Call on Jesus. He will give you the light you need. That’s hopeful!

Is There Any Hope for Me?

“Where then is my hope—who can see any hope for me?” (Job 17:15).

I can remember my grandmother saying, “He is as poor as Job’s turkey.” Maybe you’ve heard this expression, too. Where does this saying come from, and what does it mean?

This expression was common in the 1850s. Novelist Matthew Pearl used the saying, “Poor as Job’s turkey,” in his novel The Poe Factor. This novel is set in Baltimore in 1851.

The expression “poor as Job’s turkey,” takes us back to the Old Testament character Job. A righteous and prosperous man, Job had his faith tested by Satan (with God’s permission) and endured unbelievable suffering, including the loss of his children, his livelihood, and his physical health. But Job maintained his faith and trust in God, and eventually, his humility, faith, and perseverance in the face of terrible adversity were rewarded.

Job lost all his possessions. If he had owned a turkey, he would have lost his turkey as well. But Job never owned a turkey, because turkeys are native to Mexico.

In the course of his suffering, Job did ask a compelling question, “Who can see any hope for me?” Maybe that’s where you are today—suffering, dealing with a big-time problem, facing adversity, and you are wondering, Is there any hope for me? From the Scriptures, I direct you to sources of hope.

Hope Comes from God’s Promises

Hebrews 10:23 states, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” The persons who received the Bible’s Letter to the Hebrews were enduring a time of suffering. This Bible verse reminded them of several truths.

First, God is faithful. He never breaks His promises. He never lies. He always does what He says He will do. Second, we must cling, by faith, to the promises God makes to us in the pages of the Bible. God’s promises will sustain us and renew our strength in times of trouble. Third, hope, then comes from professing our faith in God’s promises.

Hope Comes from God Himself

“Our hope comes from God,” says Romans 15:13. How is this possible? God loves you like crazy. When you hurt, He hurts. He really does care for you when life’s problems overwhelm you. God will always “be there” for you. All you have to do is call on Him in prayer.

God has this amazing way of using our problems to grow and mature us. In the midst of whatever issue you are dealing with today, trust Him. Psalm 39:7 asks a question: “Lord, where do I put my hope?” The answer: “My only hope is in you.”

Hope Comes from Jesus’ Death on the Cross

1 Timothy 4:10 says, “We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” This verse calls to our attention the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ made for you and me. He willingly endured crucifixion on a Roman cross. In that cross event Jesus took upon Himself the punishment we deserve because of our sins. He did this so that He could forgive us redeem everything in this world that is broken, including us.

1 Timothy 4:10 encourages us to “believe” in what Jesus did for us. To believe means we commit our lives to Him and we trust Him to help us be the kind of person He wants us to be. Have you done this?

When things are difficult in your life, and you feel like you are suffering as Job did, look to the Bible, to God, and to His Son, Jesus. You will find hope to face your difficulties.

 

The Hope That Comes from the “L” Word

At a time in my life when I did not know better I bought a new car, and horror of horrors, I financed it. Immediately I become a debtor to the company that financed my car. Every month I owed a car payment.

When hardships, troubles, suffering, heartache, and serious illness come our way, many of us treat God as if He were a debtor to us. We feel entitled to a life without pain and suffering. After all, we go to church. We try to live by God’s commands. We read the Bible. We pray.

And when hardship and suffering come into our lives, we ask, “God, how could you do this to me? I don’t deserve these hard times And besides, you owe me. I’ve served you. I’ve given money to my church. I keep a Bible on my coffee table. God, you didn’t come through for me.” Spiritually immature followers of the Lord actually believe God owes them the “good life.” Do you see yourself here?

But mature followers of the Lord also have their crises of faith. They struggle with doubt when their prayers aren’t answered, when God’s ways don’t make sense, or when serious illness strikes them or a family member. They wonder, “Why is this happening? What is God’s plan in all of this? God I trust you, but I’m confused.” Do you see yourself here?

In my personal reading of late I have been drawn to several books that deal with “lamenting.” You ask, What is that? Lamenting is crying out to God for understanding, asking Him “why,” expressing your pain to Him, letting Him know things aren’t fine, and for lack of better words, giving God an earful while never losing your trust in Him.

Did you know that “lament” is all through the Bible, but especially in the Psalms. Jesus lamented while hanging on the cross. “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Job lamented:  “After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1). The writer of Psalm 13 lamented: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever”?

Don’t misunderstand. Lamenting is not giving God a good chewing out, and then saying, “See I told you God doesn’t care.” No, genuine lamenting is all about expressing your pain to God while at the same time believing He cares and that He can be trusted. In Christian lamenting you maintain your hope and trust in God.

You see, lament is an essential ingredient of honest faith. Lament is actually a response of faith to the brokenness of our sinfully fallen world. Lament is saying, “This world with all its injustice and pain isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. I am longing for God’s day of redemption.”

I have especially enjoyed Esther Fleece’s book, No More Faking Fine. She explains well that God meets us in lament. Lamenting is the pathway to true intimacy with God.

Michael Card says, “Biblical lament is not complaint that goes nowhere. It’s the people of God planting seeds of hope in the soil of exasperation and despair, believing and expecting that the Lord will come through in the end.”

Remember that as you live for God and trust Him, He gives you permission to lament. So many of us, when asked how we are doing, answer with a glib “fine.” But we aren’t really fine. We are hurting. We are confused. We are in pain. We feel sad.

I encourage you to read through the Psalms in the Bible and take note of all the lamenting that goes on in those Psalms. Lamenting is a gift from God. Lamenting always points you in the direction of hope.

9 Promises from God Guaranteed to Bring Hope–Part 3

When my wife and I visit our oldest granddaughter, she pleads with us to take her to get ice cream at a popular drug store in her town. A “we’ll think about it” isn’t enough for her. She presses until we “promise” to take her. (Actually, we enjoy taking her to get ice cream. We love that girl.)

When you need help with your life, guidance for a tough decision, or strength to keep going a “we’ll think about it,” or a “maybe” or a “hope so” just won’t do. You need a strong promise behind you. And that’s where our loving Heavenly Father comes into the picture. Throughout the pages of the Bible, God has made hundreds of promises to us.

Because God is loving, faithful, and fully trustworthy He keeps every promise He makes to us. His promises are never “maybe.” Rather, they are rock solid “yes.”

In 2 previous blog posts I have shared 6 of my favorite Bible promises. In this final installment I share 3 more.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

I read this promise often when I need strength to keep going. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

Allow me to walk you through these 2 fabulous Bible verses. First, the words “hard pressed” are a picture of being squeezed in from every side. We might be pressed on every side, says the verse, but we are never utterly crushed by our problems.

Second, yes, there are times we don’t know what to do or which way to go. We face circumstances in our lives that confuse us. But that confusion does not discourage us, nor does it get is down because we don’t have all the answers.

Third, we might face persecution, opposition, because of our faith and personal convictions, but that opposition never means God has abandoned us. Persecution does not deter us.

Fourth, sometimes you take a big punch in the gut. Life knocks you down. However, we don’t stay down; we are never fully knocked out.

What’s the reason for these 4 assurances? The previous verse tells us: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Inside every follower of Jesus is a special treasure—the life of Jesus strengthening us for the battles of life.

1 Corinthians 10:13

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

“Temptation” in this verse refers to temptation to sin, evil, and bad judgment. This promise assures us that we are not the only persons who have faced the temptation experiences we deal with. All temptation is common.

In addition, God never allows a temptation to come at us that we can’t handle with His help. Yes, if you try to handle temptation in your own power, you will fall. Temptation to sin is stronger than you are.

How does God help us in times of temptation. God knows you load limit, so to speak. He limits the load of temptation He allows you to face.

Even more, He provides a way out of the temptation. Think a doorbell ring, a telephone call, a quick text message from someone, an interruption. God comes to us during times of temptation and helps us gain the victory.

Romans 10:9

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Christians often speak of the need of persons to be “saved.” Saved from what? Saved from the penalty of human sin. God desires to have a vital, real, and personal relationship with each of us. But a problem has entered into the picture—our sin, all those times we have not done what God asks that we do, and all those time we did what God asks that we not do.

Sin carries consequences. The Bible is clear: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin brings death to all that it touches—relationships, finances, goals, dreams, and more.

God entered the picture and did something phenomenal. Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, died on a Roman cross. When Jesus did that He took upon Himself the punishment for sin that we deserve. Jesus made possible the forgiveness of all our sins. Isn’t that some good news?

What should be our response to what Jesus has done? Romans 10:9 shows us.

First, crown Jesus Lord of your life. That is submit to Him. Allow Him to be in charge of your life. Second, believe that He did die on that cross for you, believe He was raised from the dead, and trust that cross-resurrection event to provide forgiveness of your sins.

This salvation is not something you earn or merit. It comes as a free gift from God.

In a changing world where promises are constantly broken, you can know for sure that God keeps His promises. That’s hopeful!

9 Promises from God Guaranteed to Bring Hope – Part 2

My wife and I have promised our 4 grandchildren we will take them on a trip this summer. We look forward to spending quality time and having fun with them. You have made promises before to your family, friends, coworkers, and others.

God also makes promises. His are found in the pages of the Bible. What is a promise from God? It is a pledge from God that something will (or will not) be done, or given, or come to pass. These are not flippant, casual promises such as we often make. Promises from God are rock-solid, commitments made by God Himself. Because God is faithful He will do what He has promised.

In the first article of this 3-part series, I shared 3 promises that mean much to my faith in the God. Here are 3 more.

1 Peter 5:7

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” states this promise. Did you ever watch the Superman television shows or movies? We aren’t Superman. And God doesn’t expect us to be. We don’t have incredible strength, all wisdom, and perfect understanding. But God does!

Rather than us shouldering, or carrying, our burdens and anxieties, God tells us to cast them (actually “roll them over”) on Him. Why? Because He cares for us. Actually He loves us like crazy.

How do you actually do this? Consider this example prayer. “Heavenly Father, you know the burdens I am carrying, the problems and worries on my mind. I need your help. I trust You for the strength, wisdom, and love to get through these struggles.”

Matthew 11:28-29

Jesus promised, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

The burdens you carry can really get you down. Right? Jesus said, when your burdens get you down, come to Me. I will give you rest.

I remember years ago a television commercial for an instant tea. The ad showed a man mowing his grass on a hot day. In the next scene this tired, hot, and sweaty man was shown plunging, fully-clothed, into a cool swimming pool. The word rest Jesus used gives a similar picture of spectacular refreshment.

How do you find this rest when your burdens and troubles have wearied you? Jesus said, “Yoke yourself to Me.” Can you see the picture of 2 oxen yoked together? “Submit yourself to Me, partner with Me, and let me teach you,” said Jesus.

Are you afraid to do this? Jesus will not treat you harshly nor add more burdens on you. Rather you will find Jesus to be gentle and humble.

Isaiah 43:2

“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. 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.”

This promise pictures our troubles and anxieties like having to walk through deep waters or a blazing fire. In difficult times like this, what can we count on? That God will always be with us! He never leaves us to fight our battles alone.

God also promises that, if our trust is in Him, our troubles will not sweep us away or leave us singed. In other words, He will make a way.

Adoniram Judson, the great missionary to Burma, once said: “The future is as bright as the promises of God.” Are you struggling to believe in God’s promises? Have you been hurt by unanswered prayers or expectations? Your future really is as bright as the promises of God especially when you muster the courage to place your trust in them. Even more, hope will fill your heart and mind.

9 Promises from God Guaranteed to Give You Hope – Part 1

Some weeks back I ordered some signs for a church event. The sign company promised to have the signs delivered by a certain date. Three days before the delivery date I received an email from the sign company informing me that the company would not meet the original delivery date, and my signs would arrive late. A promise broken.

No doubt you have been burned by someone who broke a promise made to you. It happens too often today, doesn’t it?

You have Someone who never will break a promise He has made—our loving Heavenly Father. And that’s what I want to write about for the next 3 blog posts.

What is a promise from God? you might be thinking. Throughout the pages of the Bible, God pledges that He will do a particular thing. These are not flippant, casual promises like we sometimes make. The promises of God are rock-solid commitments made by God Himself. You can count on these Bible promises because God is trustworthy and faithful. He always keeps His word. In this, and upcoming Hope Discovered posts, I want to share 9 of my favorite Bible promises.

Romans 8:28

I’m thinking this one is my go-to promise from God. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God.” Note that this promise does not say that everything is good. Nor does this promise say that things have a way of working out. Life can throw some nasty stuff at you. But God’s promise to you is that no matter what comes your way, He will take that situation and work it out for your good, and His glory.

Many of the things that happen in your life make no sense when seen in isolation. But God works in these situations to produce something good in your life. A divine syn­ergy, even in the darkest moments, produces something positive and good.

Psalm 34:18

This powerful Bible verse gives a comforting promise to anyone whose heart has been broken. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” The word close in the verse shows God making the first move. He draws near to us when our hearts are broken. We don’t have to wonder if He is aware of what we are going through. We don’t have to beg Him for His help. He really does give us His full attention. He approaches us, and joins us in our pain.

Psalm 34:18 continues: “And saves those who are crushed in spirit.” The word crushed in the verse pictures someone who is beaten down, crushed like powder. You might be thinking, Yep, that’s what a broken heart feels like.

This promise teaches us that when we feel this way God is there to “save” us. This isn’t the saving like Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sins. Rather the word save here carries the idea of avenging us, defending us, what I call, God giving us the victory. God keeps us going, even through broken-heart experiences.

Philippians 4:19

“God will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Do you have a need in your life? Money? Problems to be solved? A relationship to be mended? God promises that, if we trust Him, He will meet our needs.

I could not count the number of times in our almost 50 years of marriage that Linda and I have laid across the bed in times of need and claimed this promise from God.

And you know something? He never has failed to meet our needs. He promises to meet your needs too. Our source of supply is not American Express or MasterCard. It’s the Lord alone.

Why do we find God’s promises in the pages of the Bible. The Scriptures tells us plainly. “Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled” (Romans 15:4).

When you believe God’s promises found in the Scriptures you have hope. Trust His promises, and you never will be without hope.

 

 

The Two Personal Finance Decisions That Bring the Greatest Hope

I read a news article this week that left me with mixed feelings. The nation’s 3 largest banks raked in $4.6 billion last year from ATM and overdraft fees.

When I first read this article I felt intense anger at the monster banks in our country. I thought, These big banks are stealing Americans’ hard-earned money. But then I thought, Do Americans not have any more personal finance skills than to allow their checking accounts to overdraft, or pay fees to draw money out of an ATM machine? (The average fee for using an “out-of-network” ATM in the United States is now $4.76 according to Bankrate.)

The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College in Vermont recently scored citizens in the 50 states for personal financial literacy. The state I live in, Alabama, scored a D. That’s awful!

Among the many Bible teachings regarding personal finance I believe 2 are paramount: give to God’s Kingdom, and get out of debt. Don’t check out on me, please, keep on reading.

Give to God’s Kingdom

The first thing we must realize is that none of us actually owns anything. That’s right. God is the owner of everything. Heed the words of Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and all those that dwell in it.” Everything we possess now, or ever will, belongs to God.  We are only entrusted with it for a time, and during that time we must make wise choices with God’s resources. It’s the principle of stewardship, said Larry Burkette.

So if we are entrusted by God to be His stewards (His managers of what He allows us to have) then we must prioritize God’s work in the world. Understand that God is not some poor, weak God that He needs our money. Remember, He already owns everything.

But our personal giving to the Lord’s work makes the world a better place. As we give to God’s work in the world we make eternal investments. We help needy people. Our giving to God’s work is the primary way in which we say “Thank you” to God for all His blessings.

God has made a tremendous promise to us in His Word, the Bible. “More than anything else, put God’s work first and do what He wants. Then the other things will be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33). Did you get that? Give to God, and He gives back to you.

Get Out of Debt

Proverbs 22:7 states, “Those who borrow are slaves of moneylenders.” Ouch! The borrower is slave to the lender. When you are in debt to another, you enter into a slave/master relationship with your creditor.

I cannot write this blog post with integrity without sharing that I have not always lived a “debt free” life. In my young adult years I allowed myself to become a slave to Sears, JC Penney, Visa, MasterCard, GMAC, and other creditors. I had so many monthly payments I lived paycheck to paycheck. I never failed to pay a bill on time, but I had little to show for my paycheck. I resolved to become debt free, and thankfully, I am today.

God can’t keep us out of debt. That is our responsibility as good stewards/managers of what God has given to us. For more than 20 years I have been a Dave Ramsey disciple. Dave is hard core “no debt.” His “7 baby steps” will lead to personal financial freedom.

Money problems are unique in that they go to bed with you at night, and wake up with you in the morning. When you have money problems you just feel hopeless.

That’s the reason we give to God, and we get out of debt. These 2 financial decisions always bring great hope.

Truthfulness Always Gives Hope

Webster’s Dictionary recently added 1,000 new words. One new word is fast fashion, when manufacturers quickly bring fashion to the marketplace at inexpensive prices. Another new word is ghost, abruptly cutting off all contact with someone. Other words added were safe space, a place on social media free of bias, conflict, criticism, or threatening actions; and humblebrag, to make a seemingly modest reference to one’s achievements.

I am thinking a word that has always been in the dictionary needs to be reclaimed and lifted up in our society today—truth. A basic definition of truth would be “that which is in accordance with fact or reality,” “sincerity in character, action, and words.”

Sadly, today we are hearing terms like alternative facts (making up your own facts), or alternative truth (truth as you define it), false measures (distortion of accurate facts), and fake news (when the press doesn’t tell the truth or give accurate facts).

Most of these terms are coming today from the political world. But as politicians and others use these terms, the American people are being taught that real-live, actual truth does not matter anymore, that you can make up your own truth, no matter what the facts show. This attitude destroys hope.

Truthfulness Builds Hope Into Our Relationships

Twenty-five percent of couples in their 20s say they have made purchases of $500 or more without telling their spouses. Six percent have taken the deception a step further by maintaining hidden checking or savings accounts or using secret credit cards. We call this behavior today “financial infidelity” (infidelity meaning you weren’t true to your spouse). Just imagine how financial infidelity destroys the hope of a growing, satisfying marriage

Truthfulness Builds Credibility Into Our Institutions

In the Penn State football scandal some years back, an assistant coach was sexually abusing children without the university’s knowledge. Trust in that institution of higher learning was damaged.

My wife received a piece of mail the other day that was inserted into an envelope that claimed to be an “official government notification.” When she opened the envelope, inside was an advertising piece from a car company. We felt tricked. Our trust in marketing-advertising went down.

Truthfulness Builds Trust in Others

If one of your children has a problem with lying, you can’t trust that child. If a parent constantly lies to a child, that kid grows up believing you can’t trust adults. If a person says, “I will do that,” but then reneges, you wonder if you can trust anyone to do what he or she says.

Truthfulness Is Essential to Your Personal Faith

We hear a lot today about “absolute truth” and “relative truth.” Absolute truth says that something is true for all people at all times and in all circumstances. Bible teaching is absolute truth. What God says in His Word, the Scriptures, is true for every person at all times and in all circumstances.

Relative truth, on the other hand, says truth can be true for one person, but not for another person, different people might see truth in different ways, and truth change with circumstances.

The emergence of relative truth in recent years means our children are growing up not knowing what to believe. Relative truth sabotages the clear absolute teachings of the Bible, and diminishes the authority of Bible teaching.

Do you see now how truthfulness brings hope? And can you also see how growing untruthfulness in American life today is destroying our hope that our country can be united as well as a positive influence in the world? Truth really does build hope. That fact is the reason Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).