THE GIVING SAVIOR: HOPE & BLESSING

I recently read “Anything and Everything,” a devotional by Shawn McEvoy that related spiritual significance of a children’s book by Shel Silverstein. I think McEnvoy’s summary of The Giving Tree, a book meaningful to children, parents, and teachers for decades, was summed up beautifully.

A tree and a boy are the best of friends during an idyllic childhood for the young man where he eats apples from the tree, climbs her trunk, swings from her branches, and rests in her shade.

Then things change as things do, and we see the boy approach the tree at all the various stages of his life, caught up — understandably even — more in wanting and needing than in just being.

Every time he has a ‘need,’ the tree obliges… and is happy for having done so. She doesn’t have much but gives all she has until eventually she is nothing but a stump.

At the end of all things however, it turns out a stump is just what the old man needs — a quiet place to sit down and rest and reflect. ‘And the tree was happy. The end.’”  (SM)

McEnvoy’s emotional ties to the book are meaningful to him because of his wife, his father, and his Savior. He ties his personal experiences with Silverstein’s story and presents a clear message of the sacrificial giving of Jesus Christ. Christ alone is The Giving Savior at all stages of our lives.

McEnvoy’s devotionals and those of others are found at crosswalk.com where I often find needed hope and blessing. I encourage you to visit crosswalk.com for a daily dose of hope and blessing.

“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”  (1 Peter 2: 24)

“Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  (Ephesians 5: 1, 2)

“SOAPSUDS & TOY SOLDIERS”:  GRACE & HOPE

I recently discovered a poem by Jason Reynolds. I recognized the importance of its message and will feature the poem today. I want to share it and how it relates to hope.

When poets (or others) express ideas that help the rest of us realize meaningful thoughts it gives me hope. Maybe you will find hope in it also. At least maybe you will enjoy reading a son’s appreciation for His mother as I did.

May this poem be our reminder to express appreciation for our loved ones when we have opportunities.

One specific verse in the Bible book of Ephesians teaches us to share good words and edify others. May we learn well how to use our words to edify others. By doing this we give grace and hope.

I appreciate Jason Reynolds’ poem below for the grace and hope it gives me.

My mother
Is coming home
From the hospital
Tomorrow

And it has occurred
To me  that
Somewhere
Between being bathed
In a bathtub
Overflowing with
“Soapsuds and toy soldiers”

And today

I have learned to appreciate her

Seems like sickness
Becomes signals
To selfish sons
Saying

Trouble don’t last always
Nor do mothers

(Jason Reynolds)

Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  (Ephesians 4: 29)

“WAKE UP, AMERICA!”: PEACE, LIBERTY, LAW, HOPE

In Sunday’s message Rev. John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, criticized the assault on Congress by what he called “a rebellious mob.”

He described a sad event in American history that occurred the previous week, “The Secret Service had to escort the Vice-president of the United States to safety out of the Capitol building. Gun shots were fired. Tear gas was deployed in the Capitol Rotunda. People were killed…. This was an assault on law. Attacking the Capitol was not patriotism, it was anarchy.”

Weak applause followed, but soon Hagee received a standing ovation when he focused on law enforcement: “This is what happens when you mob the police. This is what happens when you fire the police.”

“This is what happens when you watch a policeman shot and belittle his sacrifice for the public…. Wake up, America! America and democracy cannot function without the rule of law. We back the blue.”

I find hope in Hagee’s words and in the standing ovation by Texans in support of law enforcement. These words bear repeating: “WAKE UP, AMERICA! America and democracy cannot function without the rule of law. We back the blue.”

Unfortunately we may see other incidents or even worse in our future, but I believe there will always be patriotic Americans who proudly — and rightly — promote peace, liberty, law, and hope. I have hope when Americans realize important aspects of society that honor God. He wants peace, liberty, law, and hope for His people. Life will be better in a future where they are strong and will continue to be.

“The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace.”  (Psalm 29:11)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
(2 Corinthians 3: 17)

“Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.” 
(Psalm 119: 165)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 
(Romans 15:13)

The above post was inspired by an AP News article, “Trump-supporting Christian Leaders and Their Sunday Messages,” 10/10/2021, by Mariam Fam, Elana Schor, and David Crary.

PSALM 23: SHEPHERD’S HOPE

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

Any day is a good day to read God’s Word to find hope. Recently a sweet friend reminded me of hope to be found in Psalm 23. Those Old Testament verses are so full of the loving benefits of knowing God that I want to share this hopeful reminder here.

The author of the message below that features Psalm 23 is unknown, but I am confident that person knew the Lord as personal Shepherd and was blessed by His hope.

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

“The Lord is my Shepherd
That’s RELATIONSHIP!

I shall not want —
That’s SUPPLY!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures —
That’s REST!

He leadeth me beside still waters —
That’s REFRESHMENT!

He restoreth my soul —
That’s HEALING!

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness —
That’s GUIDANCE!

For His name’s sake —
That’s PURPOSE!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil —
That’s PROTECTION!

For Thou art with me —
That’s FAITHFULNESS!

Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me —
That’s COMFORT!

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies —
That’s HOPE!

Thou anointest my head with oil —
That’s CONSECRATION!

My cup runneth over —
That’s ABUNDANCE!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life —
That’s BLESSING!

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord —
That’s SECURITY!

Forever — That’s ETERNITY!”  (author unknown)

If you know the Good Shepherd, then the above message will be a reminder to you. If you do not, then read it again and ponder the benefits that are available to you when you are His.

ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING:  KEEP CALM & HAVE HOPE

As this new year begins, I believe that God has a message for us. It was given in the New Testament book of Philippians.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4: 6-7)

For anyone plagued by anxiety, I recommend a book by Max Lucado entitled ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. I recommend any of his books for any time, but today in our current situation this one meets a definite need.

This author is gifted to write and has used his gifts to bring hope and to bless many hearts including mine. Inspired by teachings from Philippians 4 and Lucado’s insight, Shawn McEnvoy shares an acrostic, C-A-L-M, for “Philippians 4’s Prescription for Anxiety.”

“Beloved pastor and author Max Lucado sees, via his giftedness in plumbing the depths of Scripture, if not a cure, at least a healing balm. And it’s hiding right in plain sight, right among Paul’s oft-quoted directive to ‘be anxious for nothing’ (Philippians 4:6).” (McEvoy)

McEnvoy interviewed Lucado about why he wrote on the issue of anxiety and chose his title from Philippians: ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World.”

“The book is built around the passage in Philippians 4 that the Apostle Paul wrote. And that gives birth to the title of the book when the Apostle Paul said, ‘be anxious for nothing.’ When he writes, ‘be anxious for nothing,’ by the way, he doesn’t mean ‘never feel anxiety.’ The way that he constructed his Greek verb there is ‘do not allow yourself to be perpetually anxious,’ don’t allow yourself to slip into a mindset of perpetual anxiety. Anxiety is an option, but the Prison of Anxiety is not an option.

And he gives us such a wonderful teaching to deal with anxiety. First he says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ And then he says, ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition let your requests be made known to God.’ And then he says, ‘With thanksgiving.’  And then he says, ‘Meditate on these things.’

So those are the four big ideas. And I took those four big ideas and created this little acronym C-A-L-M: first we Celebrate God, then we Ask God for help, we Leave the problem with God, and then we Meditate on good things.” (McEnvoy)

Max shared his reason for the book. “So basically the idea of the book is to help people have this as a tool with which to respond to the presence of anxiety. Again anxiety’s gonna come; anxiety will always knock at the door, but we don’t have to invite anxiety in for dinner. We respond by Celebrating God, Asking God for help, Leaving the problem with Him, and then Meditating on good things.” (Lucado)

I think “CALM” is one acrostic that will be helpful to remember. Of course it will only serve its purpose if I follow its ideas. In 2021 I intend to Celebrate God, Ask God for help, Leave the problem with Him, and then Meditate on good things. I am looking forward to a calm new year!