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Word(s) . Light . Life


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Why Hope?

Why hope? Look at my situation! What’s the point?

Have you ever felt this way? Awful, isn’t it? Losing hope is like losing ground. At its worst, losing hope is like losing everything.

Hope is one of life’s greatest treasures. It’s a gift God designed for us to keep and hold on to – always. We need to picture hope from God’s perspective. Hope is a divine spark, a seed, a vision, a glimmer of a dream, a pearl of great price, a remarkable creative resource…given by Him.

Hope is longing. Hope is an eternal flame fanned forever by a power greater than ourselves. Hope reachs far beyond our own limits. It is a mountaintop climbed with a view beyond our wildest imagination! Hope is a miracle. It is a baby born, a career achievement, a book written and published, a journey taken after years of ‘hoping’ to travel…Hope is awesome! If we could only hold on to hope, we could achieve just about anything.

As with all of God’s great gifts, hope faces challenges. Hope can become stalled by unexpected delays, setbacks, roadblocks, or even by a negative prognosis. When hopes aren’t realized, we can begin to doubt and waver. The Bible says, “Hope deferrred makes the heart sick…”

So why would God design us to be people of ‘hope’ if it’s so hard to hold on to it?  Why bother?…Why hope?

We hope…because seeing hope through to the finish line is worth it all – all the delays and heartaches in between! At the other end of the ‘hope rope’ no matter how tough the spiritual tug o’war, miracles are waiting to happen. The Bible says, “Faith is the substance (the actual living result)…of things hoped for…” (Hebrews 11:1)

So what are you hoping for? For someone you love to be well? For  someone’s who’s been battling unemployment to finally land a great job? For a broken relationship to be mended? Whatever it is…big or small, never let go of hope! Hope abandoned becomes the opposite of hope – hopelessness – the muck of doubt, fear, insecurity, and defeat. That’s NOT God’s plan for anyone. Hope that holds on is connected to a God of grace and love, a God who’s eternally on your side and rooting for you all the way!

Hold on to hope and very soon along comes faith to see you through! Not faith in ‘self’ or even in that ‘something’ you were hoping for…but faith in a God who is closer than the mention of His name and who hopes with you and loves and cheers you on to receive His promises. Hope brings incredible rewards, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope…believed…and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:18)

What are you hoping for today? Are you fully convinced beyond all circumstances you may be facing that God is willing and able to see you through? Hold on to hope in Himuntil the answer comes. If you’re not sure of His presence in your situation, ask Him to reveal how close He is. In the meantime, the faith He’s building up in your life during your journey of hope may turn out to be the kind that moves mountains.

© 2012 S. Michaels
From Notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?


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The Life You Always Wanted?

Many people are into investing and turning a profit. Nothing wrong with smart financial management. Now, let’s suppose someone approached you today with a 100% guaranteed investment option that offered you the life you always wanted.  Would you go for it, regardless of risk?

Investments need to be considered wisely. We know nothing in this world is 100% guaranteed to buy us success or happiness. If someone made the offer above, I would run for the hills.

But Jesus spoke of a different life …an ‘everlasting’ life…a life beyond our earthly existence. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life…no one comes to the Father but by Me…” He told many things about who He was and concerning His eternal kingdom, “…My kingdom is not of this world…I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End…” And Jesus promised His eternal home as a reward and inheritance to all who believed in Him.

Jesus also spoke of a cost involved to invest in His kingdom…

“Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. For those who want to save their own life will lose it, and those who will lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.”

God doesn’t play games with our lives. He has laid out every option in life in His incredible and divinely inspired blueprint, The Bible. When this life ends, God has promised an eternal home with Him. It could be risky to give it all to God unless you know who you’re dealing with. When Jesus cast out demons they cried out not to be sent back to eternal darkness. They knew who He was. When Satan tried to trick Jesus into giving up His divine command and tempted the Lord in the wilderness, Jesus warned His ancient foe three times not to put the Lord God to the test. Satan knew exactly WHO Jesus was…and fled for a season…

God says life is short…and “…but a brief span.” God gave us life and is infinitely mindful of every detail. He cares intimately about us and the choices we make. We can choose now to invest only in this life or we can begin investing with God and His kingdom and getting to know Him — the One who promised us that, “…eye has not seen nor ear heard the things God has prepared for those who hope in Him.”

Free will, and life itself are huge gifts. It’s up to us how we will spend them. We get to decide. And Jesus asked, “What will it profit if you gain this whole world…and lose your soul?”

© S. Michaels
From Notebook: What Have You Got To Lose?


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Oh, Go Ahead – Praise!

There’s a season for everything …including praise. But have you praised God lately? I mean really given it all you’ve got? When’s the last time you gave God such a roar, such a shout that you brought the roof down? The way you hollered when your top team aced the big game of the year…Can you give God the same kind of soul-shaking shout?

There’s a story in the Bible that triggers a reminder about how sad it is when people don’t praise… It happened one ordinary day. Jesus did something extraordinary. All miracles are astounding, but this was wondrous. Jesus reached out and healed ten lepers…ten people who had been doomed to a life of crippling alienation and pain. Ten people who had never dreamed of being made whole…not in a million years.

Suddenly healed! But only one returned to give Jesus thanks.

Is that the best we can give to God? Can we only come up with a one out of ten?

Sometimes I’m guilty of that kind of attitude. God bowls me over with a miracle, then another, and another. I know I ought to praise, but I settle for status quo. I know I couldn’t possibly record in a lifetime all of God’s great blessings, and I may even feel like shouting and praising, but I wonder what people will think. I stop. I hold back. And then every once in wonderful while, I find myself listening to praises at home or in a church service where praise just lets loose and the Holy Spirit takes over. And wow! It’s like soaring. A waterfall roar of praise! And it changes everything.

Praise has power. Praise uplifts the human spirit! Praises break prison doors. It happened for Peter and Paul and the early church. One minute they were praising in a dungeon. Then next thing they knew the jail doors opened wide and out they walked, escorted by angels! Praise shatters heavy loads. Praise levels mountains. It happened in ancient Jericho. An entire city crumbled to dust as God’s people praised Him. God has been demonstrating to humankind the power of praise for thousands of years. And God never changes. His power never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

God says He actually inhabits…lives…dwells in the praises of His people! Praise literally brings God right into our midst. Praise brings the house down. Praise is heaven touching earth! Praise is the glory of God coming alive within the human spirit. Praise is the expression of thanksgiving. Praise is the language of eternity.

Oh for more praise…Oh for a return to giving God thanks with all our hearts!

If you had to thank God today for what He’s done in the past 24 hours, the last week, the last month…or year, how long and how loud do you think your praises would need to be?

Oh, go ahead, give God a SHOUT!

This is the message found in Psalm 107. The writer of this psalm first explains how incredibly God has intervened and brought rescue operations to His people. Great works! Mighty, unbelievable, astonishing miracles. And yet the writer wonders — why don’t people praise God for these wonders? Five times he pens an earnest plea…

Oh that people would praise!

Jesus said if people didn’t praise Him the rocks and stones of the earth would shout.

When we stop to think about who God is we realize only heaven will tell the full story. But are we going to wait until heaven to start thanking God for His gift of life, for His immeasureably great power, goodness,  love, creation, and every expression of His love great and small… or will we begin now?

When it gets right down to it, there’s only one thing to do…

Oh, go ahead, PRAISE the Lord! Give it all you’ve got!

PRAISE IS WHAT I DO (YouTube, William Murphy)

©2012 S. Michaels
From Notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?


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One Thing

Everyone dreams of making a difference in life. It’s a great dream. Question is, what will it take…?Ambition. Hard work. Study. Money. Optimum health. Right connections. Being at the right place at the right time.  All of the above? Maybe.

What if you found out you only needed ONE thing —being available to God…

Let’s look at the life of an ultra rich guy named Francis. He lived during the Middle Ages, a time of great social turmoil and huge gaps between the rich and poor. And Francis was lucky. He was untouched by poverty. He had been born into every advantage imaginable. His family owned immense resources. Their wealth meant Francis could have settled for a life of nothing but ease and comfort. Oh sure, he could have given to the poor and helped out here and there, but by and large, Francis had it made. He didn’t need to do much more than live and enjoy every day to the fullest. But something inside of him wasn’t content with his upper crust comforts. So Francis shocked everyone and said goodbye to ‘the good life’. He began living amongst the poor and spent his life helping those in need. He also became famous for attending to the care and protection of animals. A prayer which was discovered many hundreds of years later in the early 1900’s in France, ended up being attributed to Francis. The prayer reveals the heart attitude of a man who was available to God:  Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

There’s another story about a rich young guy, found in Luke 18: 18-23. He asked Jesus a big question, “Lord, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?” No doubt he didn’t expect the answer Jesus gave: “Go and sell everything you have and follow me.” The young man turned away with regret. Unlike Francis, his riches had a vice grip on his soul. Giving it all up was way too much for God to ask.

What about you? How do you hope to make a difference in life? What’s your plan for getting there? Would you give up anything that was in the way? Do you find yourself  relying on connections, success, money, ambition? Or have you discovered the power of being available to God?

All God asks is one thing.  Be available. Give Him your heart.

©2012 S. Michaels
From Notebook – What Have You Got To Lose?


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The Power of Words

The average human being will end up speaking 20 -30,000 words a day. That’s a whole lot of words. Imagine the number of words being spoken by one person in a lifetime. Think about the power of words…the power to communicate, to convince, to build up or tear down, to deliver positive messages or negative, to speak blessings or curses. Words are arguably, one of the most powerful forces in the universe.

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue…” wrote the ancient biblical scribe of the book of Proverbs. (Proverbs 18:21) It’s true. God made us in His image, and in doing so, He gave us the incredible gift of communication. How we use the gift of our words can mean all the difference between life and death. Our words, like money in the bank, are an immeasureable investment, but it’s all up to us whether they will be an investment for good or not.

Every single word we speak is a seed. And like seeds planted in soil, our words will take root and bring forth a harvest. Words of blessing will bring a harvest of blessing. Words of cursing and blasphemy will eventually reap a harvest of misery and sorrow.

When is the last time you spoke a blessing or heard a blessing spoken? At a wedding? When a child was born? When a new job was started or a new home was purchased? When your neighbor, friend or family member got a promotion? Blessings are benedictions – words or declarations spoken to invoke favor upon another person or persons. Blessings are words of promise-in-action. Words of potential, hope, and destiny. Blessings are so powerful, they are under the governance of heaven.

Both blessings and curses carry a divine ‘legally binding’ power within them. Cursing initiated with man’s initial rebellion with God, and his desire to be like God, “…knowing both good and evil…” Knowing both good and evil is an indescribably powerful knowledge, but this incredible knowledge came with a great cost and another power — the power to also CHOOSE good or evil, blessing or cursing.

God, the source of blessing, gave mankind the power to engage in the spiritual law of blessing — as a protection against harm and cursing. He directed people not to curse, but to bless. “Bless those who curse you…bless…in order that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9, Romans 12:14, Luke 6:28)

When we speak words and carry out deeds of blessing, we raise up a harvest of blessings. We are investing in something that will continue in eternity. The power of blessing seems almost forgotten today, but that doesn’t make it any less real or valid. The words we speak are tied to destiny on a daily basis…”Choose today… blessing or curses…” (Deuteronomy 11: 26, Deuteronomy 30:19)

God directs those who follow Him, not to curse, but to bless. He does this for our own good. God planned from the start, that we should speak a blessing in order to inherit blessings. God promised blessings to those who bless. God’s Word will never pass away. His promises are true. When you begin speaking more blessings, watch what happens…

 

© 2012 S. Michaels
From Notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?


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Big Gifts

It’s always great when gift giving and Christmas goes off without a hitch. When I was about six years old,  I received a wonderful gift – a doll I had hadn’t expected to receive. I was so ecstatic, I actually named the doll, ‘Merry Christmas’. But then there was my brother’s gift. Oh what a gift! A shiny helicopter – batteries included. There was great excitement as the prop whirred noisily and we stood by waiting for the helicopter to take flight. Disappointment. The chopper never got off the ground.

In adult years, life is often less about gifts and more about getting together. Everything went great this year. A perfect fresh tree, wonderfully mild weather…Christmas seemed to being going great until there was a small gift mix- up about the BIGGEST gift under the tree. The gift had arrived a few days early. It included a big name tag, which no one seemed to read. It was somehow assumed the biggest gift belonged to Grandma, and as she opened it to display a lovely red glass bowl on Christmas Day, she proudly set it out on display. Then came the arrival of my older sister, the giver of the gift, who couldn’t believe her eyes, “How on earth did that get there? That’s not your gift!

“It was handed it to me…I’m sure it had my name on it,” Grandma answered uncertainly. BIG gift. BIG mix up. But my sister soon resolved the matter by digging out the original wrapping paper and tag from a recycling bin. Labelled correctly. In the Christmas morning excitement, no one had noticed the name tag wasn’t addressed to Grandma. When my youngest sister arrived later the gift was given to her, the rightful owner, although it was roughly rewrapped. All was well that ended well.

When it gets down to it, whatever gifts we receive at Christmas – big or small, doesn’t matter.  What matters as we all know – is the ‘real’ gift of family, good health, getting together, and counting our blessings of laughter, love – and the gift of LIFE itself. My older sister heard about the tragic loss of a friend’s neighbour over Christmas. At my church, we heard of an old friend who died in hospital over Christmas after a tough battle with cancer.

As you head into a brand new year, why not take a moment to say ‘thank you for gifts that really matter? My guess is you’ll will have a BIG list too long to keep up with, and in fact, you may realize God has outpoured so many gifts, you will have an overflow to share with others.

The gift of God is eternal life… Romans 6:23

No eye has seen what God has prepared… 1 Corinthians 2:9

…and now…about the gifts of the Spirit… 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

© 2011 S. Michaels From notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?


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Roars of Battle, Songs of Faith

I hear sounds of battle. I hear battles being waged for life. I hear battles being waged for moral decency in societies run amok. I hear a battle being waged for justice, political stability, sanctions, economic balance.  I hear fierce battles being waged by the forgotten in third world nations, and the homeless in our own streets. I hear the noise and roar of battles over drugs, $$ and crime. I hear battles being waged throughout the nations, brutal battles of tyranny, greed, intolerance…

Battles are not silent. Battles rage.  Terribly. But above all the clamor and noise, I listen and hear another sound. The sound of a different battle… a battle of faith…and in this realm, I also hear music…praises tearing down walls of unbelief, indifference, greed, and hate…Faith wears an armour that is invincible.  Faith is living, not dead. Faith transforms and gives us ‘God sight’…the ability to see beyond ‘self’ or worldly circumstances into the supernatural realm where God calls things that are ‘not’ as though they are. Faith is the ‘substance’ of things hoped for – the very evidence of things unseen.

Jesus said that the smallest speck of faith holds power to move mountains! He has already demonstrated such faith before religious authorities of his day. He proved to those superspiritual leaders that ‘religion’ just didn’t cut it. During his earthly ministry of healing and in raising the dead to life, Jesus illustrated heaven-sent faith at work. He promised that if we believe in Him we will do greater things in His Name than He did during His time on earth. Yet Jesus was also concerned about lack of faith. He wondered if he would find  ‘alive’ faith in the hearts of people when he returned to earth. Why? Because Jesus knew just how quickly the human spirit faints in trials of faith. Faith gets tested. Faith can waver. However, the rewards of persistent faith are as immeasureable as God Himself. These are troubled times, but God’s not troubled, and neither should His people be troubled. He said, “Let NOT your hearts be troubled…” The thing about faith is that it is not something we can muster up by mere will power.  It isn’t ‘mind over matter’. Faith is a gift from God. Faith is linked to two other great gifts – hope and love. Hope and love fire up faith. And so does…praise! 

If you feel a little short on faith…don’t worry about it. Talk with God. Ask Him to grow your faith and take you to a new level.  That’s the first step. Then, believe His promises! Get to know them and  hold on against all hope. And, start praising! Joshua was a man of faith, and God knew about Joshua’s faith, but He stretched Joshua a little and asked him to praise!Praise changes everything. It can do the same for you.

The Battle of Jericho with Moses Hogan…this is possibly the best rendition of the old spiritual hymn about Joshua’s battle…a song about the victory won by faith before Israel entered the Promised Land (Video includes Hogan’s opening interview and describes how he used music to imitate the ‘sounds of battle’…and victory). (Do I hear any alleluias?) 🙂

© S. Michaels From Notebook: What Have You Got to Lose?
For further insights on faith, read: Hebrews 11,  Joshua 6:1-27