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).

 

 

 

1 Simple Question for a Hopeful New Year

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)

I love every New Year. Not just because New Years Day is my birthday, but because each new year is an opportunity for a new start, a fresh beginning. As we anticipate the start of 2017, if you are like me, you desire a positive, full of hope, 2017. I can tell you how to have that kind of year. The answer is just one word: Why?

If you have children you understand the question, “Why?” Mom, why does our house not have a fireplace?”  “Daddy, why is the sky blue?” And when your children become teenagers the Why question becomes combative. “Why can’t I go to that party?” “Why can’t I have a new cell phone?”

Asking “Why?” isn’t a bad thing. Have you noticed that when we become adults we tend not to ask “Why?” as much?

Asking “”Why?” Works

And here is the reason. The “Why?” question always takes you to the real reason for your problems, challenges, and opportunities. Let me give you some examples.

  • Why did my personal finances become such a mess this past year?
  • Why does there seem to be some emotional distance between me and a family member?
  • Why does my teenager not want to talk with me?
  • Why did I put on extra, and unwanted, pounds this past year?
  • Why does God seem far away to me?
  • Why can’t I finish many of the projects I start?
  • Why didn’t I see the opportunity that came my way recently?
  • Why did I not save any money this past year?

Asking “Why?” Brings Many Benefits to Your Life.

  • The Why question helps you grow as a person.
  • The Why question makes you accountable for doing things differently and better.
  • The Why question leads you to really live instead of just existing.
  • The Why question will always get you to the root of a difficult problem.
  • The Why question places you in a position to make better decisions.
  • The Why question allows you to spend your money wisely.
  • The Why question brings focus to your life.
  • The Why question opens your thinking to options you have not thought about.
  • They Why question places you on the path to learning some new things.

2017 and the Why? Question

As you embrace 2017, the new year, in what areas of your life do you need to be asking, “Why?” Choose one of the following questions, or one of your own choosing, as your Why question for 2017.

  • Why did I have so many problems this past year?
  • Why did I not read my Bible and pray as I should this past year?
  • Why did I not exercise much this past year?
  • Why did I not read more this past year?
  • Why did I fail to take advantage of so many opportunities this past year?
  • Why did I attend church so infrequently this past year?
  • Why am I not feeling hopeful about 2017?
  • Why am I not spending quality time with my children?
  • Why is my marriage not satisfying?
  • Why ____________________?

Jesus might have given us the best advice about a new year, and He didn’t even mention New Years Day. He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). Remember, when you ask “Why?” you always get to the root of the problem. That is when you quit making excuses, and you get down to business, and you find solutions. And the result? Freedom and Hope!

Christmas and FOMO

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord”                (Luke 2:10-11).

In case you did not have enough on your mind, a new anxiety-phobia has affected many people. It’s called FOMO (the fear of missing out). In fact, the word FOMO was added to the Oxford English dictionary a couple of years ago.

What is FOMO, anyway? It’s that gnawing concern that you might have missed out on something important. Missing out? But on what? On what other people are doing. They’re having exciting experiences that you’re not. Your friends went to the concert of the year, but you did not. Your neighbor’s child was accepted by a prestigious college, but your child was not. A Facebook friend just took the vacation of a lifetime, and you did not. A workmate got married, and you are still single.

Have you seen those books with the title “__ Places to See Before You Die?” Dozens of books like these urge you to see all these places, and if you don’t, well, you got left out because everyone else is taking these fabulous trips. Now do you see how FOMO works?

I suppose the primary culprit of FOMO is social media, what one person has called “Facebook-Instagram Envy.” You see those great photos people share—their new home, their new car, a delicious meal, a cute moment with the grandkids. The cumulative effect of these images makes you feel your “just normal” life must be drab by comparison. You are left with the impression that you have missed out.

So what’s the cure for FOMO? May I be bold and share with you that Christmas neutralizes, and prevents, FOMO. I’m not talking about Santa, presents, and Christmas parties, but the true meaning of Christmas—that God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. Theologians call this truth the incarnation, meaning “in flesh.”

How is Christmas the antidote for FOMO?

God Has Given You the Best Gift You Will Ever Have

That gift began with the arrival of the baby Jesus who was laid in a manger. (Read the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20 in the Bible.)

Think back on all the Christmases you have celebrated. What’s the best gift you ever received? A new coat? A tablet computer? Perhaps an automobile? A super-generous gift card? None of that compares with the gift of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus.

Here’s why. Only Jesus can deliver and save you from your biggest problem—your personal sins. I know it’s not popular to talk about sin, and so many people honestly believe they don’t have any sin. But here’s the straight talk. Your sin violates God’s holy standards revealed in the pages of Scripture. Your sin also separates you from a close and meaningful personal relationship from God. God is holy and perfect, thus, He can’t mingle with our sin.

Jesus did not stay a baby. He grew up, lived a perfect and sinless life, then willingly died on a Roman cross to provide your forgiveness. On that cross, He took upon Himself the punishment for sin that you deserved. He did this because He loves you deeply. What a gift!

And because Jesus is God’s gift, you can’t earn Him or work your way into His approval. He already loves you unconditionally. God only asks that you express sorrow for your sins, and receive Jesus into your life by faith.

So you see, if Jesus is in your life, then you haven’t missed anything that really matters. You have been given the greatest gift of all—forgiveness. You can have the greatest experience of all—personal salvation. You can have greatest relationship of all—a loving and vital relationship with God.

So the next time the anxiety of FOMO comes over you, just look to Jesus. He is your hope, and the remedy for FOMO.

5 Ways to Be Hopeful When Your Christmas Isn’t Merry

Have you ever noticed that many of the songs we sing at Christmastime are reminders that Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Songs like, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” are examples.

But remember, Elvis Presley once sang, “I’ll Have a Blue, Blue Christmas.” And maybe that’s what you are feeling this Christmas season will be like for you—blue, sad, maybe even depressing.

You might have lost a loved one by death this year. Perhaps your car broke down, the refrigerator has died, the heating system has gone out, or there just isn’t much money. Someone you loved walked out of your life. It’s hard for you to have a holly, jolly Christmas. So what can you do to recover some hope this Christmas? Here are 5 practical ways.

xmasblues1

Rethink Your Expectations

People who struggle with feelings of disappointment at Christmas usually put too much energy into trying to make it a “perfect” Christmas. Some things, however, will not go as planned. You might run out of wrapping paper. You will forget to buy batteries. Your turkey could turn out a little dry. The kids (or adults) will squabble and fuss.

Here’s a tip. Instead of asking, “What will this Christmas be like for me?,” Ask, “What will I be like this Christmas?” The first question makes you the center of attention. Instead, make an expectation of yourself. “What will I be like for Christmas? Will I be depressed, or will I choose to be a positive, joyful person? Will I be inflexible and rigid, or will I choose to go with the flow?”

Rethink Your Obligations

If you are like me you have an abundance of obligations from January through November. But what do we do when December comes? We just add more to our schedules. We have to find time to decorate and to shop. We have parties to attend, and more. The overload to our schedules sets us up for declining energy, stress, disappointment, and a case of the blues.

Come to the realization that you can’t do it all. There might be some events you can’t attend. Some gifts that you won’t buy. Some decorating that would be nice, but you just don’t have the time. It’s OK to say, “I can’t do it all.”

Remember Your Blessings

This Christmas, instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. God has not abandoned you, forgotten you, or left you high and dry. Instead, He really has blessed you abundantly. Rather than feeling sorry for yourself, count your blessings.

Why not begin to identify those 3, 4, or 5 things in your life that are particularly precious to you—your children and grandchildren, your health, your accomplishments, your talents, your relationships, your spouse, are examples. Thank God for those blessings. You can wallow in self-pity at this time of year, or you can count your blessings and find much to be thankful for.

Focus on Others

Doing something for someone else has always been a surefire way to beat the blues. Helping others takes your focus off your problems and your personal miseries. Sharing and giving are 2 powerful tools for overcoming the Christmas blahs.

Volunteer to babysit for a busy, overworked mother. Visit someone who is lonely at this time of year. Consider providing Christmas gifts for a needy family. There really is no shortage of ways you can focus on others this Christmas.

xmasblues2Remember How Much God Loves You

The real meaning of Christmas is that God Himself became a flesh-and-blood human being in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a sinless life even while enduring the same pressures and temptations we face. According to God’s plan, Jesus died on a Roman cross, and in doing so, took our sins upon Himself, so that we could be forgiven of all our shortcomings and failures. God did all this through Jesus because He loves you deeply. He wants you to commit yourself to living for Him. Have you done that?

Here’s what I’m trying to say to you. In addition to family celebrations and parties, don’t forget to celebrate Jesus. Without Jesus your life is nothing. With Him your life is everything. And that’s hopeful!

 

 

Let’s Have a Speech Clinic

Are you familiar with speech-action theory? This idea says that the words we speak not only share information, but our words also have the power to help others carry out actions.

Yes, our spoken words do have the power to hurt or help, to inform or to insult, to lift up, or to tear down. The point is, our spoken words carry power. So how can we use our spoken words well and wisely?

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Did you now the Book of Proverbs in the Bible has more verses about our spoken words than any other book in the Scripture? In one sense we could say the Book of Proverbs serves as a “speech clinic” on what God has to say to us about our tongues and our spoken words.

By the way, the typical man speaks 20,000 words per day. And the typical woman speaks  . . . well, moving right along. We are a nation of talkers. Talk shows on TV and radio are among the highest rated shows. Millions of cell phone users talk, text, and email. Some of these cell phones even ring during church worship services. We are talkers. Here’s our speech clinic from Proverbs chapter 15.

Avoid Hot –Headed Replies

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (v.1). A similar statement is made in v.18: “A hot-tempered person stirs up dissension, but a patient one calms a quarrel.”

When was the most recent time you found yourself in an anger-producing situation? When your order got fouled up at a restaurant? An angry parent who thought you had not treated his or her child nicely? A griping customer you had to wait on? An argument with a neighbor?

What kinds of responses did you make during these conversations? Did angry, heated, and enraged words fall from your lips?

The 2 Bible verses shown above remind us that when we find ourselves in an anger-producing situation, we are better off speaking calmly, gently, and softly. Why?

Harsh, hot-headed responses intensify anger, but soft responses reduce the tension and make way for reasonable conversation.

Think Before You Speak

“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (v.2).

The truly wise person, says this proverb, thinks through what he or she is about to say, and when this person does speak, his or her words bring forth knowledge and wisdom.

Verse 28 also gives us some wisdom: “The heart of the righteous weighs its answer.” In other words, this person thinks before speaking. In plain words, get your mind in gear before you engage your tongue because you will have to live with the consequences of what you say.

And there are times when you are better off not to speak at all. One, if your words will hurt you, and two, if your words will hurt others. Think before you speak. This is wisdom from God.

Speak the Truth

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (v.4). Proverbs 26:28 adds, “A lying tongue hates those it hurts.”

The phrase “tree of life” is a reference to refreshment, like rain on parched ground. Truthful words have a refreshing effect on people. On the other hand, untruthful, deceitful, lying words crush people’s spirits.

How honest are your words? Do you have a problem with telling the truth? Lying, deceitful words have this awful way of eventually catching up with you.

Give Attention to the Timing of Your Words

“A person finds joy in giving an apt (or timely) reply. And how good is a timely word” (v.23).

A mark of real wisdom is the ability to say the right thing at the right time. This might be a daily prayer for you: “Lord give me the sensitivity to say the right thing at the right time.”

Who is a person you know who just seems to know the right thing to say at the right time? He or she was not born that way. Rather that person developed that quality through practice, through restraining the tongue when it wasn’t easy, through thinking before talking.

Speak More Positive, Joyful, Encouraging Words

“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones” (v.30).

When you speak good news and positive, uplifting words to people, your words become a tonic for the body and soul. Haven’t you known people who, when they spoke to you, it was like they dumped a truckload of doom and gloom on you?

Make a commitment to yourself that your spoken words will not be put-downs or gloom-and-doom, but that you will speak more positive, joyful, and encouraging words.

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We have in our day clinics for just about everything—drug and alcohol clinics, sports clinics, cancer clinics, eating clinics and more. Proverbs 15 serves as God’s speech clinic. And this wisdom from the Lord is hopeful.