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!





Thank you

27 05 2013

Memorial Day is a day we set aside to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country.  This year Memorial Day falls on the three year anniversary of when this day became personal. On May 27, 2010 my battalion experienced our first loss.

I will always remember that night.  I went out and God and I had to talk.  I had been praying for what I thought was a pretty valid request.  I did not want to lose anyone.  God was gracious with me.  He let me vent.  He let me tell him this was unfair.  I knew I didn’t understand but I also knew I trusted God (as much as any of us can).

The cross stood out boldly.  God had personally faced the unfairness of this world.  God had faced death. During my season in Afghanistan I went from simply loving God to respecting God.

As a battalion we had to move forward.  We still had a mission to accomplish.  We would lose others.  I was honored to serve as their Chaplain.  I was thankful for a God with the depth to deal with the realities of war and a hope bigger than our circumstances.

So for this Memorial Day I want to say thank you.

First, thank you God.  Thank you for the peace you give.  Thank you for the comfort you provide those who grieve.  Thank you for your understanding and your grace.  Thank you that you are God who “gets it.”  We can come to you with the realities of this life and you walk with us.  Thank you for your church and your people who are faithful in prayer and are your ambassadors to those who are hurting.

This leads to my second thank you.  It is to you.  Thank you.  I have always felt supported.  I can tell you while I was in Afghanistan I could tangibly feel the prayer support.  I have been thanked countless times for my service.  It is humbling.  It will continue to be an honor and a joy to come along side young men and women serving our country.  I will continue to be grateful for your support and encouragement.

I will end with what Jesus said when he instituted the communion meal.  Jesus said, “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)  While we honor those who died in the service of our country, let us never forget there is a day we look forward to.  One day Jesus will return and on that day there will be an end to war and suffering.  There will be no more deployments.  He will lift his cup and I will be able to say “thank you” face to face.





But I have prayed for you

23 03 2012

Sometimes life is hard, really hard. As a Navy Chaplain I have walked with people down some very difficult roads. One of the hardest parts of facing difficult situations is dealing with “why.” Why did it happen? Why am I going through this? Many people assume it is God’s will or a part of God’s plan. Others attribute it to fate. I disagree with both of those perspectives.

Christians believe something went terribly wrong in the world. We call it the fall of humanity. It is described in Genesis chapter three. We see Adam and Eve choose to violate God’s command. The results are ugly. The very next chapter tells the story of two brothers, Cain and Able. Able does everything right but is murdered by Cain. Very early in the Bible we see evil and unfairness.

God’s response was to stay involved. In fact, God is personally involved. Christians believe Jesus is more than a man. We believe he is God who became a man. Jesus faced the evil and unfairness of this world. The verse that hit home for me this week was when Jesus was talking to Peter (aka Simon) just before he faced the cross. He told him:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Just as Jesus had to face the cross sometimes we have to face difficult circumstances. Peter would blow it. He would deny he even knew Jesus when Jesus was facing his darkest hour. But Jesus had prayed for him. Jesus was watching over Peter and knew that he would make it. He also wanted Peter to know he expected him to help the other disciples. Peter was the leader Jesus had chosen. He would walk with Peter through the difficult circumstance and Peter would be the leader he was suppose to be.

I like the way the Apostle Paul put it. He said “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). This is a better perspective. This paints the picture of God being able to enter into the evil and unfair situations in our life and redeem them. He takes a bad situation and brings good from it. It wasn’t his plan for that to happen. He just doesn’t let evil and unfairness have the final word. He gets the final word.

Jesus is treated unfairly and experiences the consequences of evil men. He is not a distant God but a personal God who understands the realities of this life. You and I hate evil and unfairness but we only understand a small part of the larger picture. God sees the big picture and I promise his heart breaks in ways we can’t imagine. His deep love for us is why he got involved and why he faced the cross.

Why doesn’t God just make everything okay? I don’t know and God doesn’t seem interested in answering why. He just prays our faith won’t fail.

God promised to make everything right one day and in his timing. Until that day I trust him and I follow him. I commit to getting personally involved and I am going to pray. When someone makes a mistake, I will help them get back up and encourage them to become the person God knows they will be. Will you join me?

Of course we will need people who will pray for us. We need people who will get involved in our lives and when we make a mistake encourage us to get up and continue becoming the person God knows we will be.

How does all of this happen? It happens with a God who is personally involved, who has prayed for us and encourages us to keep going.