Groaning (Part 1)

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

These verses precede one of the most quoted verses from the New Testament. Back to that later.

Recently I’ve been meditating on this passage, particularly focusing on the groaning references. In the past I’ve always focused on two elements of this teaching by Paul (hint to where these verses are found).

  1. Creation is groaning. So the challenges of our physical world-storms, fires, droughts, etc.-illustrate this.
  2. The next two verses that follow (familiar verses about prayer) mention wordless groans through which the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Praying is groaning.

I’ve taken a third focus lately that has brought further peace and clarity to a believer’s identity. And the focus follows this thought pattern:

All of Creation is Groaning

>Humans are part of Creation

>Humans are Groaning

Strange as it may sound, I find freedom in that truth. Not necessarily comfort or satisfaction. But this different view of our status brings deeper understanding. I’ll put it in three points:

  1. We’re all born groaning
  2. Shared groaning births grace
  3. God chose to enter our groaning

Growing up in the church, I’ve heard “we’re all born sinners” all my life. I’ve never heard anyone say, “We’re all born groaners.” All of my being is groaning. My spirit groans. My mind groans. My body groans. I was born this way. And there’s nothing I can do about that.

Although that’s true, I can do at least two things according to these two verses. First, I can wait eagerly for the groaning to end. In other words, rather than sulk over my status I can look forward to what’s ahead in eternity. Second, I can foster hope. Yes, my groaning spirit and mind and body produce stuff I don’t like; but I have the option to choose to humble all of myself to the Holy Spirit who gives me hope by being with me in that groaning.

I was born groaning and continue. It explains much. But there’s more. Stay tuned for Part 2 & 3.

Photo by Felipe Palacio on Unsplash

Now Hope (book review)

If you use the Bible reading app YouVersion, here’s a tip you may not know:

Many of the devotional plans are based on books, many written by pastors. Often, this is how I find books that I haven’t heard of and end up reading.

That was the case with the book I just finished, “Now Hope” by Paul De Jong.

This book is very accessible by all readers. I would describe it as a book of 19 devotionals designed to provide “tools to develop a hope-filled and expansive future.”

Although each devotional is good, the best tool of the book is the introduction. De Jong makes clear how foundational hope is to life, particularly the life poised to receive God’s promises. Quoting 1 Corinthians 13, he discusses the links between faith, hope, and love. His point is all three are needed “to reach the finish line and experience God’s promised outcomes.”

The devotional that provides the best mindset for pursuing hope is in Part Two: Hope Confronts Survival with Significance. In Hope Develops Expectation, De Jong outlines four levels of living:

  • simply survive
  • live an average life
  • commit to impact the world
  • influence the world by fully engaging the gifts God gives

Expectation means you’re going to believe for more, turn up earlier, resist giving up, and focus on the God who can. You’re going to be looking for more in every day and in every season. You’re going to be thanking God for the little things. Make a decision in the now to live on the higher ground of greater levels of expectation.

Hope Rising (book review)

Many years ago while working on a personal values exercise, the word hope surfaced as a personal guide. So it’s no wonder that two connections (work and church) I’ve made in the last year carry that same guide.

And it goes to reason that the book I just finished reading stands out as meaningful. Hope Rising by Casey Gwinn and Chan Hellman hits the mark in explaining much of the challenges our country wrestles with daily. Many people have low hope, and therefore their lives follow down the road to hopelessness.

Hope is a verb involving action and the ability to change the future.

The crust of their objective is to help readers grasp the importance of goals, pathways, and willpower in what they call the science of hope. They recite many research results (there are over 2,000 published studies on hope) that indicate how the concepts move people from low hope to high hope, thus hope rising. The book contains numerous stories of people with low hope working on rising their hope.

We act based on what we believe not based on what we know.

In order to know where you are on the hope scale, they share several examples of domains (academic, health/fitness, family, romantic relationships) where you can assess your hope level. Quite insightful. To take the general evaluation, follow this link to hopescore.org.

They make a believable argument that hope impacts education, work, and health, which certainly impact families and personal growth. This has led them to focus on providing support for children and adults who have experienced trauma in their lives and struggle with hope.

Hope is not a step in life; it is a stance.

Who should read this book?

  • It wouldn’t hurt anyone to read it
  • Anyone who has had any hint of trauma in their life
  • Anyone who works with children
  • Anyone who works with trauma victims
  • Coaches
  • Ministers
  • Counselors/Psychologists
  • Anyone desiring hope to rise

Bring On The Hope!

I’m giving myself a double dose of hope these days in my reading. First, with this book…

Second, with a youversion reading plan by Paul De Jong entitled “Now Hope.”

This quote stood out to me in my reading today:

The level of hope we have today is an indicator of the level of character we’ve developed.

He believes that based on Romans 5:3-4 where Paul wrote that “tribulation produces, perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

We don’t like it, but we know it’s true. So what if we decided to like it? Like spinach. I didn’t like spinach as a kid. Now, I’m a fan. My taste buds have developed.

Given the right time and attention, we can choose to embrace hard times. Rather than run or sulk or wallow, we can declare, “I’m all in for whatever is about to be developed. Bring on the character. Bring on the hope!”

Photo by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash

In The Middle: Where Healing, Conversation, and Change Happen

Tyler Perry’s acceptance speech resonated with me because his story and language align with an affirmation God gave me last week.

Not everyone is called to be in the middle. One could argue that, so maybe a better way to put it is not everyone is ready to come to the middle.

If you are in the middle, know that your hope isn’t in victories. Your hope can’t be but in one person, the One who put you in the middle. He has lifted you up. Keep pointing people to the One that can lift them up.

What’s Left

God is still the God of what’s left. -Jentezen Franklin, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt


This quote is in chapter 11, “Fight for Your Family.” Franklin’s point is that whatever the status of one’s family there’s still something left. Now is the time to let God be God of whatever’s left. Encouraging. Hope-filled.

How ’bout we broaden the story? Like…

  • God is still the God of what’s left of your company
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your marriage
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your friendship
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your finances
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your church
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your neighborhood
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your government
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your health
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your education
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your parenting
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your career
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your retirement
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your life

This Life is Just a Dot

Yesterday I posted thoughts from Bruce Wilkinson’s book A Life God Rewards. Before leaving that, here’s one other quote that could impact your day.

Most of our life happens after our physical death.

That’s “chew worthy.”

Of course, he’s referring to the belief of eternal life. Can’t say I’ve heard anyone put it like this. Gives it fresh reflection.

To make it more clear, he gives six main events of forever life: Life, Death, Destination, Resurrection, Repayment, and Eternity. The thought that this life we know is just a dot on an unending line might bring you joy or fear. Wilkinson’s objective of his book is to help you not wonder or worry about what might await you outside the dot. What you believe and how you live now can give you hope for the rest of “most of your life.”

Chew worthy.

Photo credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

2020: Restorative? 

Recently I received a copy of an essay about grief and COVID-19 entitled “This Too Shall Pass,” coauthored by Alex Evans, Casper ter Kuile, and Ivor Williams. My personal takeaway was I need to grow as a collective mourner.

However, the most intriguing content was the hope of restoration following the pandemic, following the grief. And believe it or not, they referenced two Old Testament concepts-Sabbath and Jubilee years-as their example. Here’s the excerpt:

The idea of self-sacrifice that leads to rebirth found its concrete application in the ancient concept of Jubilee. In the original biblical context, every seventh year was a sabbatical year: a time of “solemn rest for the land.” No crops were sown. Instead, people lived off what the land produced naturally, with the soil given time to lie fallow so as to maintain its fertility. Then, every seventh sabbatical year was a Jubilee, when in addition to normal sabbatical year observances, land ownership would be reset to prevent inequalities building up, debts canceled, prisoners freed, and everyone would return home.

In fact, Sabbath and Jubilee years were the socio-political version of atonement: a set of concrete procedures for how to correct economic, social and environmental imbalances through resting, slowing down, halting economic activity, and sacrificing the grasping ego that always demands more, in order to protect the covenant.

These principles turn out to be profoundly relevant to our own crisis today. Countries all over the world have released prisoners. Low income countries have seen $12 billion of debt payments suspended. Some governments are moving to find homes for all rough sleepers. Proposals for a universal basic income look closer to being implemented than ever before. With the world economy on lockdown, carbon emissions and air travel are in freefall while air quality has improved dramatically; in many cities, people can hear birds singing or see stars at night for the first time.

2,500 years after the rules for Jubilees were codified in the book of Leviticus, they have bubbled up from our ancestral memory once more.

Is there grieving? Yes. Most likely more than we may have taken time to grasp. 

Should we grieve? Yes. It’s natural. It’s healthy. It’s restorative.

Is 2020 restorative? Possibly. Looks like that might be up to us. You in?

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jack Sharp

It’s Coming…Just Not Yet

I’ve decided I want to chat with Caleb in heaven. Of course, by the time we get there this thought won’t matter, but currently I’m curious.

I’ve never thought about this before today, so here’s the deal. Caleb and his pals were sent to spy out the land of Canaan in Numbers 13. The end result, only Caleb and one other guy said they believed God would allow them to take the land; he was outvoiced by the other ten guys and spent the next 40 years waiting to enter the land. Caleb believed God, but his belief didn’t allow him to receive what he could have had in that moment. He had to wait because of other men’s fears and unbelief. He did nothing wrong, but he had to wait.

Scripture doesn’t mention anything about Caleb during these 40 years.  All we know is that when they were up, he was more than ready to claim his inheritance (see Joshua 14-15). Evidently, Caleb waited well. He didn’t allow himself to get focused on himself long enough for anyone to notice. 

No “poor me!” No “what did I do to deserve this?” 

No, he made a choice to “wholly follow the Lord God of Israel” even after watching his spying pals focus on themselves to the point of death.

Maybe your life situation is the result of someone else’s bad choice. Maybe it’s “not your fault.” Maybe you’d rather get what’s coming to you sooner than later. 

May you catch some hope from Caleb. God sees you. He is for you. He hasn’t forgotten you. Your thousand days are a second to him. Hold on. It’s coming…just not yet.

This Is So

(Lyrics to a song inspired by Joshua 4:24)

Verse 1

With each sunrise you refill me

To recount the hope that I see

Looking back to claim your promise

All my words proclaim your goodness

 

Chorus

This is so

All may know that You are God

This is so

I may always fear You, Lord

Write it on my heart

Remind me who you are

May I not forget

This is so

 

Verse 2

Waves behind me tell your story

Ever lifting all your glory

Here’s my song to join in raising

Yours alone the name worth praising

 

Bridge

In your presence I’m made holy

By your strength I’m standing only