Fear and Hope Don’t Exist On A Spectrum

As I draft this, I can see a church sign blinking outside my window. One of the messages rolling on the sign is, “Hope, not fear.” A nice sentiment, but the more I’ve seen it flashing across the screen, the more it has bothered me.

Do hope and fear actually live at opposite ends of the spectrum? I don’t think so. 

First of all, the hope and fear pairing is not necessarily accurate. I would propose that the more accurate pairings are actually hope/despair and fear/trust.

But while I don’t think the ends of the spectrum are hope and fear, I think that things likely look a lot more like this: 

Fear and despair can certainly be friends, and hope and trust also go hand-in-hand. Thankfully, Scripture speaks to all of these things. I think a beautiful example is Isaiah 41:10: 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

You see the opposites on the grid play out here. Do not fear – trust that he is with you. Do not despair – hope that He is your God who WILL strengthen and help and uphold you. 

Knowing that fear and despair tend to plague me at the same time and that I should turn toward hope and trust help me understand my emotions and tendencies more. Maybe not the deepest train of thought prompted by a church sign, but one I appreciated today.

Read Boring Books of the Bible

Read Boring Books of the Bible

My Bible study plan had me read Leviticus this week. 

Yes, you all may cringe with me. 

This wasn’t my first time reading Leviticus before – I had done Bible in a year plans several times before. But it WAS the first time I was determined to truly digest the book. To not allow my eyes to glaze over while reading. 

And folks, the exhortation from 2 Timothy that ALL Scripture is God-breathed and useful remains true. 

To illustrate this, here are just a few things of note from my study: 

Illustrated The Protective Care of God 

Out of context, a lot of the rules laid out in Leviticus about cleanliness, eating, etc. seem restrictive. But context is key. This book wasn’t written in modern-day America – it was written to the ancient Israelites. 

This means there is one thing that needs to be hammered into us when reading these: Modern medicine and science didn’t exist. 

When you place it in context, you see the care and protection that God shows for the Israelites. I was talking about this with a family member earlier this week, and we were both wishing that we could see statistics about disease rates among the Israelites compared to nations around them. I’m guessing they were much, MUCH lower. 

Emphasized My Need For Jesus

Reading the law in Leviticus is overwhelming. Can you picture that way of life being our only means of salvation? Having that distance between us and God and constantly slaughtering innocent animals in an effort to bridge it?

I need Jesus. Constantly, continually. Jesus, as quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, points out that he is the fulfillment of the law. He is the one who bridges the gap, he is the one who is the better sacrifice, he is the one that lived the law on our behalf. We all need him. 

Exhortation for Holy Living

Leviticus 20:7 captures a reoccurring theme in the book: 

“Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.”

Life after salvation means we’re walking in a new way to be human. While the New Testament calls us to holy living over and over, Leviticus connects that holy living to the God who heads our lives. A much-needed exhortation.

I could continue, but I would rather just leave you with a simple exhortation: Read the boring books of the Bible. They are there for a reason, for your good, for God’s glory.

Fight For The Lovely, Now More Than Ever

At surface level, there’s not a lot that’s lovely or beautiful surrounding us as we begin 2021.

A global pandemic.

Well-documented racism and corruption. 

Seditious actions and a political sphere in turmoil. 

Division, anger, hostility. 

What’s lovely about that? 

It’s easy to succumb to the gloom and fury that are thrust upon us during this time by our friends and family, our digital landscape, and the media. But now more than ever is the time to resist succumbing to those things, and instead, to fight for the lovely. 

A well-known passage of Scripture, Philippians 4:8 (emphasis mine) outlines the things that should be sought out in this world: 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

It makes sense that these things are not easily seen – we live in a fallen world that is broken beyond belief and corrupted by sin. If we want the lovely, the true, the pure, the just, it must be FOUGHT for. 

Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) recently admonished, “Don’t let nihilists become your drug dealers.” His comment is spot on. This world wants to suck all the joy and meaning away from life, leaving nothing but brokenness. We must push back. 

Fighting for the lovely looks like being kind to your neighbor, even when (especially when) you disagree.

Fighting for the lovely looks like a refusal to allow the agenda of the political class and the media to dictate your life, your joy, your priorities. 

Fighting for the lovely looks like ordering your life according to what really matters – God and people. 

And yes, fighting for the lovely expands to include the grim fight against the abuses of people that break God’s heart. Fighting for the lovely is the fight for justice, for dignity, against abuse and corruption. But loveliness brings happy warriors to these fights, not bringers of gloom and doom.

We are not called to just lay down and accept the darkness of the situation. We are called to be light. We are called to seek the lovely. That is exactly what we must do – now, more than ever.

shadowed photo with text

Groaning To Gratitude

A few nights ago, I pulled into a parking lot. I was on the phone with someone, listing my problems and groaning about how the day had gone. 

An hour later, I was driving out of that parking lot. I was struck with the sunset. The city lights starting to flicker on. The feeling of being ALIVE. 

A deeply rooted gratitude that just started flowing out into prayer. And that simple shift from groaning about my life to thanking God because of all the things that I could still be grateful for radically shifted the trajectory of my evening. 

A day or two later, a newsletter I’m subscribed to included this very timely quote from Maya Angelou: 

“Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this… So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

While Angelou’s words ring true, Scripture is even simpler: 

“Rejoice always…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18).” 

Groaning and grumbling and complaining stacks up, but so does gratitude. They both impact our hearts, but only one turns our hearts toward joy, toward Christ. Shifting from groaning to gratitude is a choice – let’s choose it.

What do you do when the familiar suddenly becomes confusing?

When Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

Every part of life can usually be traced with a transition from the simple to the complex. Continue reading “When Nothing Makes Sense Anymore”