These are socks…Hope

29 10 2014

In my last post I shared about how Coach Wooden, the legendary basketball coach for UCLA, would begin his first practice. He started off each season by teaching his team how to wear their socks stressing the importance of protecting their feet. Getting a blister on your foot makes you ineffective on the court. Bottom line remembering the basics helps you win the game.

What are the Christian’s socks? What are the basics we have to remember to be effective? I believe there are three; faith, hope and love. Today I want to focus on hope.

Hope is a well-grounded confidence that allows us to face reality. Let that sink in.

The two most common verses I use as a Chaplain are Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4. Both of these passages talk about what can happen during hard times. In Romans “we rejoice in our suffering” because we will gain perseverance, our character will be revealed and we will see where we have placed our hope. James wants us to “consider it pure joy when we face trials” because the end result will be full and complete maturity.

Two people can go through the exact same circumstance. One person comes out stronger and one person comes out weaker. What was the difference? I believe it is often perspective and choice. We have to choose to become stronger and we need the right perspective to overcome our circumstances.

For Christians I believe life is a win-win situation. When we don’t have bad things happen, it is a win. When we do have bad things happen, it is also a win because we can grow and become stronger as a result of those difficult times. There is a practical truth to this. When we look back on what helped us become a better person, many times it was a difficult circumstance. There is also a profound spiritual truth to this.

As Paul mentions in Romans, our hope comes alive in suffering. If we truly believe that Jesus overcame both sin and death and one day will return, everything we are experiencing here is temporary. This does not mean I want to go through hard times. It does mean when I go through them I can have confidence this is not the end of the story. I have hope.

This hope actually allows me to face the situation for what it is. I am so thankful Jesus cried at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11. Why? Jesus knew he was going to raise him from the dead. He knew this was not the end of the story. He also knew people were hurting. They loved Lazarus and watching him die was hard and painful. He was able to connect with them and share in their sorrow. He faced reality but was not overwhelmed by the situation. He had confidence in the rest of the story.

When my socks of hope are on, I face reality with confidence. If there is injustice I can stand against it and call it injustice. Why? Because I know Jesus will one day return and make the final judgment. If I have sin in my life I can deal with it effectively. Why? Because I know Jesus died for my sins and conquered sin therefore I can overcome this area of sin in my life. When I see suffering or death I can cry and mourn with those who are mourning. Why? Because this life can be hard however I will not be overwhelmed by grief and sorrow because I know the rest of the story.

Christian hope is not simply being optimistic. It is grounded in the reality of who God is and what Jesus has done. When we let this reality settle all the way down into our socks, we have a profound hope that anchors us. We face reality boldly and we impact our world radically.

Is there something you need to face? Is there a situation you are avoiding or minimizing because your socks of hope have holes in them or haven’t been put on properly? This is when a mentor is really helpful. Talk with someone you respect who has hope in spite of difficult circumstances. They will give you wisdom and insight that will inspire you. You will need to be in prayer and take the time to really learn what the Bible has to say. God will lead and guide. The result will be a confidence to look at reality and see…hope.





#GodsNotDead

29 03 2014

Yes I have joined the world of Twitter. You can follow me at @DevosByChaps.

This last weekend I had the opportunity to watch the new movie “God’s not dead.” It was a great movie. It captured the reality that belief in God is not an intellectual debate but a personal one. I wanted to offer my thoughts on why people reject God and how to respond.

Pain and suffering. Many have begged God to cure a family member or friend from cancer or have asked for God to intervene in a horrific situation only to experience silence. They may have experienced abuse and begged God for protection only to face more abuse. Tragically some have been hurt by those claiming to be Jesus’ followers.

I don’t think there is an easy answer because they did not face an easy situation. Grace, love and prayer are the best things we can offer. We also need strong healthy churches. A healthy church creates a safe place for people who are hurting and in the middle of pain. When done well, the church offers real hope and true peace to those who suffer from the harsh realities of this world.

Avoidance of accountability. Let’s be honest, there are some things we do that we know deep down are wrong. We either justify it or remove the standard that says it is wrong. If there is no higher law ordained and established by God we can live how we want. We end up living by collective relativism. In other words, we agree as a group what is right and wrong which can and will shift depending on what we think or more often feel in the moment. God forces us to be accountable ultimately to him but also to each other.

To respond I would offer the church has to be a standard bearer of what it means to live a life of submission and obedience. That does not mean we are perfect. It does mean we role model a life of honor and integrity that is transparent. We seek forgiveness when we mess up. We also influence those around us to a higher good. We can’t live by legalism and the world has seen plenty of hypocrisy. This is a hard challenge that can really only be done if we seek to follow Jesus and submit to his leading in our life…wait! That is what we are suppose to do. I love it when a plan comes together.

Experience. We also have to be honest that you don’t need God to live a good life or even make a great impact on the world. Many people experience life apart from God and are happy and content. Then, they hear talking points explaining why God is an antiquated idea and it matches with their experiences. Therefore, those talking points become theirs.

Jesus does not promise an easy life or even a good life. He does offer a meaningful life filled with purpose. He helps us focus beyond the here and now and enables us to have broader perspective. Once again I find myself calling for churches to be healthy places that send out healthy Christians into the world. Our lives and our experiences can present an alternative to their talking points. It can create a space where faith is a possibility. Combined with prayer and an understanding that ultimately it is between God and that person, I believe we can offer a compelling case.

Here is the great part. Our faith has incredible depth. I am thankful for people like Ravi Zacharias and Tim Keller who do a phenomenal job of explaining why we can have confidence in our faith. I am also thankful for a movie like “God’s not Dead” that demonstrates we do not need to shrink back from a debate about our faith. We just have to recognize that at the end of the day it is a personal relationship. If all it took to win someone to Jesus Christ was a really good argument it would have been done a long time ago.

So what can you do? Step back and pray about the people in your life who have rejected Christianity. Let God lead and guide you. Trust me God cares about having a relationship with that person way more than you do. If there is an opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation don’t seek to win the argument instead seek to understand the person. If there are questions, know that there are great resources out there. Look at those resources together. Second, be authentic. If you struggle with something admit that you struggle with it. Role model being genuine. Next, pray, pray and pray some more. It will remind you only God changes hearts. Finally, make sure your church is a healthy place for people to come. We need healthy faith communities where we can encourage one another and be a beacon to the world.

It is amazing that God invites us to be his ambassadors to the world. He desires to work through you and me to touch lives and make an impact. It is a great privilege. Oh and in case you were wondering…God is definitely not dead, he is ALIVE!





Double fisted grip

16 08 2012

Today we drop our oldest son off at college.  There is a crazy mix of emotions.  We are excited for him.  We are proud of him.  We are scared.  We are sad.  We will miss him.  When I was sitting in the parent orientation and they were showing a video on dorm life, I could feel the tears trying to surface.  My son is leaving home.  I have to let go.

I am thankful God never does.  In John 10:28-29 Jesus gives us this picture of his grip on those who follow him.

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

He is confident that no one can grab them from him.  Then, He goes a step further and says his Father also has his hand in the picture.  I love this picture of a double fisted grip.  I see it as us being in Jesus’ hand and Jesus’ hand being in his Father’s hand.

When our son was 10, I demonstrated this by putting a small rock in my hand and then wrapping my other hand around it.  I challenged him to try and get the rock.  He worked hard but was only able to pry a couple of fingers off the outer hand.  He still had to make through the second hand.  Needless to say the rock stayed secure in my double fisted grip.  (After he wrestled through High School and worked out all summer I am not sure I would try this now.)

How does this apply to our lives?  It gives us confidence as we face the day.  Situations and circumstances will constantly change.   We will have good days and not so good days.  No matter what our day brings at the end of it we will still be in the double fisted grip of God.  This leads to a change in perspective.  It is easy to see that this life is not always fair.  God sees it from a much broader perspective that includes all of eternity.  As I am sitting in God’s hand, I can begin to look at the world from God’s perspective (much easier said than done).   God never promised us an easy or safe life.  He promised a rich and rewarding life.  We live out our faith trusting God has a better perspective.  This gives us confidence.  A continuous loop is started.  As our confidence grows, we gain a better perspective which increases our confidence.

I want my son to have a rich and rewarding life.  I know he will face hard times.  I know he will face times when life will be unfair.  I also know God will hold him in that double fisted grip.  I will have to let go and have confidence God won’t (also much easier said than done).

Sometime today take a small object and put it in your own double fisted grip.  Thank God for his double fisted grip on your life.  My prayer is this simple exercise will increase your confidence and change your perspective.





Humility as a verb

19 01 2012

Being humble is still regarded as a worthy attribute.  In fact, Jim Collins wrote an excellent article called “Level Five Leadership” in which he highlighted that truly great leaders have the combination of deep personal humility with intense professional will.  Basically, they focus on doing what is best for the organization to succeed (professional will) and they have the ability to look to others for reasons things go well and look at themselves when things go wrong (personal humility).

Being humble takes a lot of confidence.  We have to be okay with who we are and what our strengths and weaknesses are.  Humility takes us one more step in that process.  It allows us to look at our weaknesses through someone else’s strengths so we can grow and mature.

A practical example:  I admit I am sick and I go to the doctor.  That is a start.  Humility steps in when I actually submit to the doctor’s recommendation and prescription.  I know I made some of you smile.  How many times has a doctor advised us to do something but we felt we didn’t need to listen to her and we did our own thing?

There are two opposites of true humility.  One is pride and arrogance.  We assume we are smarter and don’t need to submit to another person’s strengths or ideas.  The second is when we devalue ourselves and have a low view of ourselves.  This one looks similar to humility but actually is a form of arrogance.  We believe we are of so little worth that not even God could step in.  Therefore, to sink that low must mean we have more power than God.  (It is not so humble when we look at it from that point of view.)

The reason humility is a Christian virtue is because it is rooted in two basic truths.  One, we are human and therefore we will fail and have shortcomings.  We sin and hurt others.  Two, God is a good and loving God who has the strength and ability to transform our lives.  As Christians, we can look at our weaknesses through God’s strength and we can grow and mature.

Jesus was the ultimate level five leader.  Philippians 2:8 says “he humbled himself and became obedient to death.”  His focus was on the wellbeing of creation and wanted what was best for humanity (professional will is only a shadow of this).  He knew submitting to his Father’s will was the only way this would work (personal humility).

Please understand Jesus had great confidence in who he was.  He knew he was the only one who had the power to face death and conquer it.  Many people “lose their life” but it is not through obedience like Jesus but because they do not believe their life has value.  Jesus was focused on his Father’s will and our best interest.  He was relying on strength that only comes from God.  That is true humility.

We are invited to view life in the same way Jesus did.  Philippians 2:5 says “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  We need to have true humility.

I invite each one of us to look at our lives and find areas where we have the opposite of humility.  Maybe there is an area of pride and we are limiting ourselves by shutting out others who have strengths that could help us.  Maybe there is an area that you are ashamed of.  You can’t even look at it and are covering it up with false humility.

Once you have found an area, look to God.  Look for God’s strength and view your weakness through it.  This may require you to talk with someone you trust and open up about the struggle you are having.  It may require that you ask for forgiveness because of arrogance.  Yes, you will need to ask for forgiveness if your arrogance means you think so little of yourself that not even God can transform you.  This is about true humility.

The great thing is God truly is the best leader.  I have always respected leaders who say “do as I do, not just as I say.”  God is not asking us to do anything he has not already done.  I want to view my weaknesses through his strength.  I want true humility.  How about you?