Archives For hope

I wish I could forget

Ben Reed —  January 31, 2014 — 3 Comments

Ever said this? I bet you have. There’s something that’s happened to you that you wish you could wipe from your memory forever. You wish it would never pop up when you hear that song. Or visit that restaurant. Or smell that smell or see that movie. You wish you could go back to the time before it ever happened because the reminder is so deeply painful.

I was recently meeting with someone who had been deeply sinned against. He had been hurt by someone else, and he made the statement, “I just wish I could forget that this ever happened.”

Maybe you’ve said something like that.

You wish you could forget

  • that relationship
  • what she did to you
  • how he treated you.
  • when your dad left.
  • when you failed at ___.
  • when you quit ______.
  • the pain of divorce.
  • when you started your addiction.
  • when he hit you.
  • when you got fired.
  • when you had to ask my kids to forgive me.
  • the time he sinned against you.
  • the time he sinned against you again.
  • the time he sinned against you again and again.

It would be easier to just forget this pain, wouldn’t it?

But remembering the pain of someone hurting you allows you to love them in a way you couldn’t otherwise. It gives you the chance to offer grace where it is not deserved. Forgiveness where it hasn’t been earned. And it encourages you to seek God in a way you wouldn’t otherwise, being forced to lean on Him for support in a fuller way than you may have without the pain.

God doesn’t let us fully forget. Because by leaning more fully on God, and offering more grace, love, and forgiveness, we become more like Jesus.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – the Apostle Paul, Romans 8:28-29

 

This is a guest post from my friend Pete Wilson (Twitter, Facebook, Blog). Pete’s just released his latest book, Let Hope In. You can pick up a copy HERE.

If you’ve not read anything of Pete’s, please do yourself a favor and pick this book up. His writing is fresh and pointed. It’s easy to understand and apply…but the principles are difficult to live because Pete pulls no punches.

And a book about hope? Good grief, pick this book up now.

Let Hope In

____________________________

There are two very different types of hope in this world. One is hoping for something, and the other is hoping in someone.

Eventually everything we hope for will disappoint us. Every circumstance, every situation that we’re hoping for is going to wear out, fall apart, melt down, and go away. When that happens, the question then is about your deeper hope, your foundational hope, your fallback hope when all your other hopes have disappointed.

All of Scripture points to one man, one God, not because he gives us everything we’re hoping for but because he is the One we put our hope in.

For the past year I’ve been working on a new book I just released entitled “Let Hope In“. I knew from the beginning that this book would fall short of helping people find life-changing transformation if all we do is identify the problems, challenges, and painful moments of your past. Identifying these memories from your past alone doesn’t help you. If all you do is remember the source of your pain, then something has gone horribly wrong. Why drudge up the past if you can’t find healing from the pain?

And for there to be real healing, for your past to really become your past, what needs to happen here is that you discover or discern the lie that your memory contains. This is fundamental to your healing.

It is important to understand that your past is not really the problem. The real problem is the lie you believed when an event happened in your past.

The truth is that memories don’t hurt us. It is what we believe about those memories that hurts us.

Trusting in the loving care of God regardless of what has happened in my past has been an ongoing process in my journey. And it’s only when we trust his loving care that we’re able to really begin to allow the hope of Christ to shine through us. Yes, hurt people do hurt people. But what’s equally true is that free people free people. And becoming free starts with being able to fully trust the loving care of God despite what we’ve possibly been through in our past.

 
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image credit: ParkerLineStriping.com

It was a balmy Saturday afternoon, bits of pavement sticking to the bottom of my flip flops as I picked up my 4 year old to carry him through the parking lot. Sweat beading across each of our foreheads instantly, he asked me to pick him up. This also gave me a better vantage point to hear what he was going to tell me amidst the throng of moving vehicles and people.

We were walking in to one of our favorite restaurants, Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex chain that’s opened up in Nashville. He always gets Mac-n-cheese, and he’d already started telling me how that’s what he wanted this time, too. It was hard for me to think about warm, gooey cheese, when that’s about what the black pavement beneath my feet felt like.

There were cars everywhere. Some with their blinkers on, waiting for a spot soon to be vacated. Some whipping through ready to leave. Others frustratedly circling the lot for a better vacancy closer to the air-conditioned indoors. I was glad I was holding Rex.

An old beater car pulled up beside us, turning left back towards the sea of parked, sun-baked cars. The paint was chipping a little. It made grinding noises when it stopped, and screeching noises when it began to turn. The cloth on the inside roof was sagging, held up by a few staples not part of the original design. Smoke billowed from the back end, blending in with the black of the pavement it was blanketing.

Rex noticed something. One of the wheels had evidently been damaged, replaced by a cheaper replacement that barely seemed to keep the axle from falling to the ground. Instead of a new polished, chrome rim with a deep black tire, it was just an old tire with a dusty, dirty rim. It served its purpose, but not well.

It stood out like a…dirty, dusty wheel.

“Ooh dad, did you see that? That car?”

“Which one?”

The one with the different wheel?”

“Yeah, buddy, I sure do. What about it?”

“We should get one like that.”

I chuckled. I told him that something was wrong with the car. That it was kinda broken. He responded:

“Dad. Did you see it?!? It was cool! That wheel!”

I reminded him, again, that this car was broken, and that we didn’t really want a car like this. We’re blessed to have a car that isn’t broken right now. But he was having none of that, as he continued to gush about the cool wheel that we needed to get.

What I saw was a broken-down car at the end of its vehicular rope, hanging on by a thread. It needed work, needed love, and more than anything else, it really just needed a junk yard.

What Rex saw was completely different. He saw something that was out of the ordinary. Something that was cool, and useful, and that we needed. He saw a car that wasn’t done, but that still had life and value.

I wish I saw the world like that.

I wish I saw people like that.

We see weaknesses. 

God says, “I can use that.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

We see crippling failures.

God says, “I’ve still got something for you.” (Judges 16:28-30)

We see an old washed up life.

God says, “Moses was 80 when he led my people out of Israel.”

We see insecurities.

God says, “Be courageous. I’ve got your back.” (Joshua 1:9)

We see someone so young they can’t do anything.

God says, “Don’t let ‘em look down on you because you’re young.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

We see pain.

God says, “I’ll rescue you. Then turn you into a rescuer.”(Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

We see unloved and alone.

God says, “I’ll never leave you.”(Deuteronomy 31:6)

We see useless.

God says,“I am your hope.” (Psalm 62:5)

It’s time we stopped seeing the world for what it is. And started seeing it through the eyes of a God that longs to redeem.

We can start by learning from a 4 year old.

 

 
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image credit: ESPN

 

Lance Armstrong will announce to the world tonight that he used performance enhancing drugs as part of his run to dominate the cycling world. You may or may not think that cheating at cycling is a big deal. I get it. National exposure for cheating at a niche sport is pretty weird, right? Probably not enough to get national exposure and receive the kind of press that it’s received.Until you consider that Lance is a hero outside of the racing world. See, Lance contracted testicular cancer at age 25. Left untreated, it spread throughout his body, and he had a massive, very public, battle with cancer. Knowing not whether he would live or die, he launched the LiveStrong Foundation, and began advocating and fighting for the life of people stricken with cancer. LiveStrong has done tremendous work in the area of cancer research.

But Lance has learned what many of us have learned. As he covered up his cheating by lying about his steroid use, he had to lie even more. Sin compounded sin compounded sin. The more people he deceived, the more people he had to deceive as he spiraled downward.

Sin loves to hide itself behind layers of more sin.

Lance lied publicly and privately. As people questioned his actions, he went after them, publicly and privately. In the public courts and the courts of public opinion, Lance trampled on people as they called his integrity into question. Threatening phone calls, law suits, and nasty emails were sent to try to “disprove” Lance’s guilt.

The Reaction To Confrontation

Which is no shock to us, right? When you’re called out for something you’ve done, you tend to not react so positively, right?

Sin has a way of masking itself. With masks on top of masks. The deeper you go, the deeper you have to go. The more people you deceive, the more you have to continue to deceive.

In Scripture, King David knew this, too. (see 2 Samuel 11) He saw a beautiful girl, and he wanted her. So he summoned Bathsheba to his quarters, and slept with her. He sent her home, only to soon find out she was pregnant. So to cover up his sin, he decided to pull her husband, Uriah, home from the war. He got Uriah drunk, and urged him to go home and sleep with his wife, hoping to cover up his sin by leading everyone to believe Uriah had gotten Bathsheba pregnant. Sin covering sin.

Uriah didn’t take the bait.

So David had Uriah sent to the front lines of the war so he would be killed. David had Uriah killed to cover his sin.

Adultery, murder, lying and deceit.

You know what broke the cycle? Nathan, the prophet, confronted David on his sin.

David was absolutely broken. He confessed his sin and received forgiveness. He was completely open with God about his rebellion and need for grace. He admitted he’d messed up in a big way. And you know what the crazy thing was? God heard David, answered him, and restored to him joy!

Finding Hope

Maybe you’re on that spiral right now. You’ve messed up, and very few people know. You’ve got your public persona…and your private persona. And you don’t like that. I know you don’t. It’s not making you happy, and you’re scared to death of the consequences that your exposure could bring.

To stop the spiral, you’ve got to take off the mask. Live life freely in transparency, confession, and ample portions of grace. Quit pretending, quit hiding, and quit living life in fear. Quit acting like everything’s ok, because it’s not. God longs to restore joy to you, and free you from the chains that you’ve shackled yourself with.

Sin loves to hide itself behind layers of more sin. And that cycle won’t stop by itself. In fact, If you want to break that cycle, take a cue from David. Then bask in grace, and be quick to give it away.

If you want to have true joy and true freedom, it’s time to be honest.

Was David’s life easier once he confessed? Nope. In fact, he still had a long, hard road ahead. But it was a brighter, more hopful, more full road than the dark path he was sprinting down.

The road to healing isn’t easy. But your moment of exposure and fleeting shame will lead to a lifetime of restoration and love from our Savior.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Then I will teach your ways to rebels,

and they will return to you.

Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;

then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.

Unseal my lips, O Lord,

that my mouth may praise you. – Psalm 51:12-15

 

 

 

There are lots of social meda “rules” that form over time. Just as with any product or service, usage often determines the unspoken set of ground rules. And if you’re not careful, those “rules” can pigeon-hole you.

And nobody likes a pigeon hole. Well, nobody but pigeons.

image credit: CreationSwap user Paule Patterson, edits mine

Whether you’re a pastor that’s a casual user or a power user, a rookie or a veteran, there are certain rules that you should adhere to. Rules that will help you with engagement…and help you not come across as

1. Completely out of touch with culture.

2. A self-centered self-promoter.

3.  A person that others unfollow when they read your updates.

So here are 6 rules that every pastor should break daily with social media.

6 Rules Pastors Should Break

1. Only quote the Bible

We know that you’re in love with the Bible. We get it. But there’s got to be more to who you are than random quotes from Scripture, right? Didn’t Martin Luther say anything good? CS Lewis? Can’t you come up with anything worth saying that’s at least remotely original? How about reading your Bible and applying it…and making that an update?

2. Keep up your “professional pastor” persona.

You’re not a walking Christian zombie, are you? You don’t only read Christian books, only watch Christian movies, and only eat at Christian restaurants, do you? There has got to be more to you than the Christian subculture. Building relationships with those outside of the faith isn’t going to happen if you’re tweeting YouTube videos out like this one, of Michael W Smith from the late 80s. Gotta love the vest. I think the song should’ve gone, “Nobody knew I could rock a vest like this…”

3. If you’re frustrated, complain. A lot.

Twitter can become a megaphone for you to voice your complaints about a lot of things: culture at large, politics, “other” pastors, or even your own church. Complaining doesn’t become you, though. In fact, Paul urges us

Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, especially on Twitter… – James 5:9 (additions mine)

 4. Never update during “work” hours.

Give people an inside peek into who you are and what you do during your normal day. A behind-the-scenes, if you will. Social media can be a great voice for Truth and engagement throughout your week. Don’t have time to update during your work day? Schedule updates when you’ve got a few minutes.

5. Never share personal information.

Bologna. Share who you are. Share what you value. Talk about your family. Talk about your struggles. Share your pain. Your joy. Your victories.

6. Only follow other Christians.

If pastors want to bring hope to the hurting, grace to the downtrodden, and Truth to the places where people engage, we’ve got to track along with those outside of our Christian bubbles. And here’s a freebie for you…nobody judges your theology by who you follow on Twitter and Facebook.

 Question:

Do you interact more on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or on your blog?

 

The Burning Plow

Ben Reed —  July 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

I had the chance to speak yesterday at Grace Community Church, where I serve on staff.

As I looked through the life of Elijah and the calling of Elisha, the heart of my message was this:

Doing what’s right doesn’t always feel right, and many times when you do what’s right, it won’t make sense to everyone else.

If you’ve not heard the story of Elisha’s calling to ministry, it’s one of the most dramatic in all of Scripture.

 

The Burning Plow from Gcomchurch Sermons on Vimeo.

 

I started working out at the gym a couple of months ago. CrossFit is my deal. I find it much more enjoyable…ahem…as *enjoyable* as lifting weights can be.

It’s a combination of lifting weights, aerobic activities (running, rowing, etc.), jumping/climbing, and gymnastics-type moves. Whereas normal weight-lifting can get boring through repetitive movements, I’ve never once been bored.

I’ve also never once gone home not sore.

As I was finishing up one of my runs just the other day, rounding the last corner before the mile run was over, I was about to go into cruise control. The last 400 meters were going to be easy, I thought. I was a sizable distance behind the next runner, and…who cares? It’s just a run…I don’t have to win this.

image credit: Creative Commons, user ConvergingPhoto

Until one of the coaches barked a word of encouragement my way.

I didn’t see it coming. I had already pushed the cruise button. I had taken my foot off the gas and was ready to coast. But the coach jarred me back to the grind. When I was tempted to coast, I was reminded to work even harder.

There have been a number of times where I’ve been directly encouraged. Sometimes it’s been in a cheerleading-type, “Way to go!” way. Other times it’s been a more constructive, “If you’ll just change ____, things will be easier” way.

In the process, I’ve learned much about how encouragement works.

7 truths about encouragement

1. Encouragement speaks things into existence that are not yet.

Am I good at working out? I don’t know…ask my stick arms. But they won’t be stick arms forever. Encouragement sees things that will be, based on trajectory instead of current circumstances. It focuses on potential, not only current reality.

2. Encouragement breeds hope.

When I’m ready to quit, a word of encouragement gives me a burst of energy. It breathes a bit of life into my fatiguing body. Encouragement is the breeding ground for hope, where none currently exists.

3. Encouragement builds relationships.

I feel a closer connection with those that have given me a timely encouragement. I feel like they believe in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. And I’m convinced that relationships are an under-valued key in so many areas of life. Especially decision-making.

4. Encouragement propels you further, faster.

I felt a surge of adrenaline when I heard, “You can do it, Ben!” When you encourage someone, your words help carry someone a little further. Even when you’re trying to climb a couch.

5. Encouragement tells you what can be.

Encouragement tells me that I could be better than I am right now. That I could run a bit faster. Lift a bit more. And not give up. Encouragement helps close the gap between the deficiencies you see in yourself right now and the picture of who you could be in the future.

6. Encouragement communicates, “I believe in you.”

Everyone needs to hear this. You need to know that someone else sees the same vision you do. Someone else believes you can close that gap. Someone else believes you can produce more, and become the better version of you that God intended.

7. I don’t always want encouragement.

Strange and twisted, no? Sometimes, I just want to give up. My body’s tired and my mind is mush. I’d rather throw in the towel for the day. But when I press through, I find potential that I didn’t know existed. “When you feel like you’ve used every ounce of energy you possess, you’ve still got extra reserve you can draw on,” my friend told me. Turns out he was right. And I hated him for it. :)

You’re an influencer of someone. Maybe you’re a pastor. Or a banker. Or a small group leader. Or a dad. Or a coach.

Those you lead can’t continue to do what God’s called them to do without a timely word of encouragement. Daily.

You’re also influenced by someone. Maybe your pastor. Or your banker. Or your small group leader. Or your dad. Or your coach.

Those who lead you can’t continue to do what God’s called them to do without a timely word of encouragement. Daily.

Time to put this on your to-do list.

Genuine encouragement is a gift you can give.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

Question:

Who needs your encouragement today?

 

 

photo credit: creation swap user Drew Palko

I meet with leaders regularly. Mostly, those are small group leaders at Grace, where I’m on staff.

Nearly every leader struggles with feelings of insecurity about their leadership (I put myself in that boat, too). It’s just part of living life as a broken, fallible human trying to lead people.

Leaders wonder

  • whether our upcoming decision is the right one.
  • whether the decision we just made was the right one.
  • if we’re strong enough for the job.
  • if we’re pleasing the right people.
  • whether we’re being successful.
  • whether we’re the right person for the job.

Leaders say

  • It’s too tough
  • I’m too busy
  • People aren’t responding
  • I still have so much in my life I need to work on
  • I don’t know enough
  • I haven’t experienced enough
  • I’m in over my head
  • There are better leaders out there
  • I’m not the best leader available
  • Do you know my past?

If all leaders, at some level, struggle with insecurity, then all leaders need to hear these words spoken to them:

You can do this.

Moses and Joshua

When Moses was about to die, he knew he needed to pass the baton of leadership for the people of Israel. There was a huge task in front of the Israelites, and they needed a strong leader. Moses knew it wouldn’t be him (we learn this from Numbers 20:12) In Deuteronomy 31:1-8, we see Moses addressing the Israelites in preparation for his coming death. After addressing the people, he called Joshua to him and we read this:

“Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land…”

Joshua was taking on a huge responsibility, following the greatest leader that the nation of Israel had known. I can only imagine the feelings of insecurity that were coursing through Joshua in that moment. A confirmation from Moses was what Joshua, this young leader, needed. He needed to hear from another leader, “You can do this.”

Moses told Joshua that he believed in him. He believed that Joshua was the man for the job. He believed that Joshua had what it took to get the job done. Not on his own, of course…”it is the Lord who goes before you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) In fact, this was so important that Moses affirmed Joshua “in the presence of all Israel.” Joshua needed this encouragement and affirmation.

Encouraging another leader

Every leader needs to hear this from another leader. They need to hear, “You can do this” from someone they respect. They need to hear this from you. It’s vital to their continued growth.

If this is so important, how can you honestly and helpfully encourage and affirm another leader?

Listen to them. Ask good questions. Look to affirm the work they’ve been doing, and speak hope into them. You’ve been where they are, and you’ve had the feelings of insecurity they’re having. Give them these 4 words:

You can do this.

 

 

A curious thing about worry

Ben Reed —  November 17, 2011 — 5 Comments

photo credit: Creation Swap User James Cronin

Worry is a curious thing.

We think we can buy our way out of it.

We think we can think our way out of it.

We think we can outlast it.

We think we can out will-power it.

We think we can beat it.

But in the end, it will beat you.

In the end, it will destroy you.

In the end, it won’t give up.

In the end, it will dominate every area of your life.

In the end, it will leave you afraid.

In the end, you’ll be its slave.

Worry withers under the burden of Hope.

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? – Jesus (Matthew 6:30)

* Photo credit: Creation Swap user James Cronin

 

 

Shepherding Realities

Ben Reed —  November 9, 2011 — 4 Comments

image via iStock Photo user IB

Self-perceptions are more spoken into existence by others than they are self-taught.

Don’t believe me?

  • Why do you think that some kids feel awkward? It’s because they’re told that they are.
  • Why do some kids feel un-loved? Because they’re told that they never measure up.
  • Why do some leaders perceive themselves to be weak? Because everyone tells them that they are.
  • Why do some wives feel like they never measure up? Because they’re never told that their work investing in their homes is worth the effort.
  • Why do some older people feel like they have no life and wisdom to give? Because they’re devalued by those who claim to love them.

We speak perceptions into existence every day through conversations and interactions we have with coworkers, family members, and the annoying guy at the drive-thru. The words, tone, and attitude you share with others can literally change the way that others view themselves.

I am speaking my son’s reality into existence every day: I tell him that he’s courageous. And strong. And that he’s a leader. And that nothing can hold him back. And that God’s going to use him in big ways. And that my love of him is secure. He can’t do anything to lose it.

Speaking Realities in Leadership

Want to lead someone? Then change their perceptions of themselves. The Bible calls this ‘encouragement.’ Encourage even the smallest step in the right direction. As you feed the work of God in someone’s life, people see where God is working. Your encouragement acts as a new set of glasses, changing the way they see everything. As you encourage with love, people feel loved. As you encourage with grace, people feel graced. As you encourage people with hope, despair melts away. Negative perceptions are overcome with a timely word and action.

Without your encouragement, though, they’re going to continue feeling an absence of love and grace and motivation. Without your encouragement, they won’t know which direction to head.

  • Encouragement focuses not on what is, but on what could be.
  • Encouragement focuses not on past failures, but on future hopes.
  • Encouragement focuses not on current shortcomings, but on timeless Truth.
  • Encouragement focuses not on overwhelming fear, but on a big God.
  • Encouragement focuses not on weaknesses, but on gifts and strengths.

Through encouragement, you have the chance to shepherd a person’s reality of themselves.

Correction may be warranted at times, but right now, just point out the bright spots. Help them see what you see.

There’s someone in your life right now that needs encouragement. Let them hear it from you today.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

*image via iStock photo user: IB