Don’t Give Up!

Christmas Eve I was driving home from a family get together when I saw a sign in a yard. It jumped out at me in that weird way that sometimes happens, like God highlighted it for me. There were just three words: Don’t Give Up. It felt like God was speaking to me, but then I shrugged it off and continued on. Since then, that phrase has jumped out at me from a variety of sources including a random movie line, a random song lyric on the radio, and a book I was reading. I decided that God was trying to tell me something, so my word for 2021 is Hope because hope is the reason we don’t give up.

I wanted to start the New Year out with a special 40-day study/project of some kind, and after throwing ideas around, it occurred to me that I could combine a couple of my goals for the coming year into one project: Hope Notes. Every day for 40 days I will draw from a list of scriptures on hope, write out the scripture, meditate on it, journal it, and then post a picture from the notebook on Instagram. This will cover my goals for Bible study, practicing journaling, writing more, stretching artistically, trying something new, and working on growing my Instagram account. Besides, I just think after 2020 we could all use a little hope. So, let’s focus on the good things and start the New Year off right.

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.   

Colossians 1:27

My first scripture was Colossians 1:27 which couldn’t be more perfect because hope originates in Christ. The reason we have hope is because Christ lives in our heart. Our relationship with Him results in a right relationship with God, so we have hope not only for a future in Heaven but also in our everyday lives.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

One of the movie lines that related to the topic said perfect love casts out fear because it brings hope. Perfect love only comes from God because He is the only one who is perfect, so when we are in His presence, there is no fear. The trick is to remember that we are always in His Presence if Christ lives in our hearts.

So, we can have hope everyday and not just because it’s a New Year. In order to reinforce this idea, I am posting from my notebook to Instagram for the next 40 days with the #HopeNotes. I want to cast out the fear that has been hanging over our heads and replace it with the hope we have in Christ. The only way to do that is to focus on God and not what is going on in the news or on social media. If we want the world to change, we have to start with ourselves. Be a force for change and a beacon of hope in a dark world which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Little Blessings

Sometimes it is the little blessings that bring us joy and comfort at just the times we need them. One day I caught a glimpse of a fawn drinking from a misty creek on an early morning commute. It made the daily grind a little brighter. It was a small thing really, but it brought a bit of joy.

Sometimes it is a bit of companionship. Last night my cats all stayed near me, keeping me company. It was a bit of joy on a sad day. They didn’t do anything in particular. They just sat with me and purred, happy to be in my presence. Sometimes that is all someone needs, a companionable silence.

Sometimes it is a word of encouragement. If you think someone looks good today or did a good job on a project, then tell them. It might be the little blessing they need. I am not suggesting making up things to tell people because people can sense insincerity, but if you think something good, then share it. We have no problem sharing frustrations and anger, so we should not have trouble sharing good thoughts.

Sometimes it is just a simple gesture, like a smile or holding a door or helping carry a burden. When you are in line at the grocery store, smile at the cashier and wish them a good day. Give your waitress a smile and a good tip. These are little things but they can make a bad day better.

It is the little blessings that can bring joy to us and to others, so try to be more of a blessing in a world that is caught up in anger and mistrust and pettiness. This will make more of a difference to a person and possibly to the world than a rant on Facebook ever could. So, be a little blessing to someone because life is made up of a bunch of little moments and how we act in those moments eventually adds up to a lifetime.

Reality Check

Everyone once in a while we all need a reality check. It is not fun, but it is necessary to keep us in right standing with both God and our fellow man. It is very easy to point out failures in others and ignore our own. It is even easier to feel superior to others, especially non-believers who are living in the world; however, even missionaries, ministers, and mature Christians need to remember from whence they come.

In the book of Titus, Paul reminds Titus of the gospel. Now Titus was a missionary left by Paul, so why did he feel it necessary to remind Titus of the gospel? Titus 3:3 says, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Another translation says “we too.” At some point even the strongest of Christians was once lost in sin, and we were only saved by the grace of God, not our works. Something we would all do well to remember.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we are still sinners saved by grace and are not impervious to failure ourselves. Matthew 7:3 says, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”Before we start criticizing someone else, we should take a good look in the mirror first. None of us are pure enough to cast stones.

So, the next time you or I are tempted to point out someone’s failures or criticize with a smug smile, I hope we remember from whence we came and take a good look in the mirror. Then, maybe we will find humility and a desire to help instead of criticize. I know this world could use a little more humility and love and a lot less criticism and hate. Like Michael Jackson wrote, “Start with the man in the mirror” if you want to make a change in the world.