Cry for Hope

“That’s depressing.” Have you ever said those two words? I’ve watched U.S. politics lately and found myself frustrated, angry, and discouraged. I may have even said that certain events or reactions have been “depressing.” As we move toward what seems like an all-out war between presidential candidates, I find myself shaking my head and dreading the next year. While events may get me down, am I really depressed?

Over seven percent of American adults will experience depression this year and fifteen percent will struggle with depression at some point in their lives. Over three million young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen have experienced at least one depressive episode this year. Sadly, I think we’ll see these numbers growing in the years to come. Why? Why are we struggling with depression as a culture?

Depression can come from a variety of places in a person’s life. It may result from chemical imbalances, physical or emotional trauma, or cultural challenges. Regardless of its source, depression is both promoted by and fed from feelings of hopelessness. While counselors can offer several solutions, one key solution is hope. I’m so grateful for gifted therapists and counselors, and I am most grateful for the God of all hope.

The great news I have is that we find hope in Jesus Christ. God spoke words of encouragement to a troubled nation in Jeremiah 29:11. These words also have great application to us today: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Do you struggle with depression today? As you reach out for hope, I encourage you to reach out to God. He will walk with you through your darkness to help you find the brightness of His presence.

Divine Appointments

I recently hiked about 230 miles on the Appalachian Trail through the state of Pennsylvania. It was awesome and got me much closer to completing the entire 2200-mile trail. On the morning of my fifth day, I got up early and started hiking by 6:45. My goal was Boiling Springs because the trail went through the edge of town. Once in town, I ate breakfast at a restaurant, visited an outfitters store ,and stopped at a few displays that were a part of the Founder’s Day event of the town that day. Little did I know, but this meandering that I thought of as wasting time was actually God setting me up for a divine appointment.

I hiked another eleven or twelve miles, including a section of about a mile where I practically ran through swarms of mosquitos, and ended up at a farm or storage place used by the Appalachian Trial conference. I read earlier that I could find a cooler of cold water at this location. I saw the water cooler on the end of the table and a hiker sitting at the table talking on her phone. When she got off the phone, I learned that she had started hiking south somewhere in New Hampshire while I was hiking north from the Maryland/Pennsylvania state line.

Machu Pichu (an amazing place in Peru) came up in our conversation. I mentioned that while my son and I were doing mission work to study unreached people groups in Peru, we had visited the ancient ruins. She replied by asking me if I was a minister and then asked if I wouldn’t mind answering a question. She told me that she was Buddhist, but she had been considering Christianity. She had some questions and didn’t have anyone she could ask. Her question related to the exclusivity of the Gospel. Why was Jesus the only way to salvation? I had a thirty-minute conversation with her about God’s plan of salvation. She thanked me and agreed to think about the things I had shared before we parted ways. She went south; I went north.

I’ve thought a lot about that encounter. I was first amazed that many things could have kept me from meeting this seeker, but I happened upon the picnic table at just the right time for an eternal conversation. That was not an accident. My first thought was that this encounter happened that morning when I decided to start hiking at 6:45, but then I realized that it actually started thirty-five years ago when I started hiking the trail in Georgia. It may seem far-fetched, but I’m confident God orchestrated this meeting when I first decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, or even before. He loves Venus (that’s her trail name) and sent me on a mission to tell her about Jesus. I thought I was just hiking the Appalachian Trail for fun and to accomplish a life-long goal, but I was actually on a mission to keep a divine appointment.

God has divine appointments for all of us. The key is that we need to be attentive and prepared. We should start each day by asking God to help us to be sensitive to those appointments and not miss the opportunity to be used by Him. I’m honored to have been used by God to tell Venus about Jesus. I hope to meet her again one day in Heaven. I’m sure that I have missed opportunities in the past, but this encounter has sharpened my resolve to never miss an appointment again.

Who’s Your Somebody?

Everybody knows somebody who needs Jesus. Who’s your somebody? If you are a Christian, have you ever considered the fact that God wants to use you to help somebody find their way to Jesus Christ? Being used in this way could be something as simple as inviting someone to join you at church this Easter Sunday. Do you know that most people will go to church if someone simply invites them? Your thoughtful invitation may affect someone’s eternity. Have you thought about inviting someone to church this Sunday? Go ahead. Who’s your somebody? Write down their name, pray for them, and give them a call.

Helping people find their way to Christ can involve more than inviting them to church, though that’s a great start. It can also include openly sharing your faith with them. You may be thinking that you could never witness to people about Jesus. You’re not alone with this thought. You may think that if you dared to share your faith, someone may ask you a question you couldn’t answer, or you may say the wrong thing. I’d like to address these two concerns.

No one knows all of the answers, so allow me to go ahead and prepare you with a dose of reality. When you start talking about Jesus or sharing scripture from the Bible, someone will probablyask you a question that you can’t answer. It happens to me. I’m sure it happened to Billy Graham, C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and any other breathing believer on the planet who dares to open up with someone about Christianity. You know what I do when someone asks me a question I can’t answer? I say, “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out, but what I do know is…” and then I get back to presenting the Gospel. If anyone expects you to know everything about the Bible, then their expectations are unrealistic. Go ahead and prepare yourself for the inevitability. Don’t let someone’s unfair expectations cause you to keep from being obedient to Christ’s command to be a witness. Don’t let your fear be used by our spiritual enemy to impact someone’s eternal destiny.

As far as you saying the wrong thing, that’s also possible. Being a witness is essential, but being a prepared witness has an even greater impact. You can hopefully avoid saying the wrong thing if you’ll prepare yourself to be a witness. I suggest that you, first of all, write out your personal story. Be prepared to tell someone how you personally became a Christian. Then I suggest you memorize, or at least know where to find in the Bible, several key verses including John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10, John 1:12, and Acts 16:31. While it’s impossible to be prepared for everything, you can be prepared for the mainthing.

Easter’s coming, and people are more open to spiritual things this time of year than any other time. Are you willing to at least invite someone to attend Easter service with you and your family? Are you ready to help somebody find his or her way to Jesus? Who’s your somebody?

Prayer of Confession – Day 5

prayer3Today is the fifth day of our week of prayer. If you have not read the previous four blogs on prayer, I encourage you to do so. Today, we will focus on prayers of confession.

King David prayed, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” What do you think about that prayer? I have used the whole fifty-first chapter of Psalms in my prayer life, taking the words of the Psalmist and making them my own, on numerous occasions. Here’s something we should consider about this verse. It was written in about 1050 BC, which was over a thousand years before the death and resurrection of Jesus. David’s perspective on sin and forgiveness is different than ours. He was praying this prayer before Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The cross changed everything! Once we are a Christian, we are not asking God to wash away all of our iniquities, because they were washed away at our salvation. Consider this. If you are a Christian, you received Christ into your life, confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness, and Jesus forgave you of all of your sin. Romans 4:25 says, “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” This passage says that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sins are forgiven and we are justified. To be justified means to be made “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned: justified. Since the resurrection, believers stand before God clean and forgiven. The fact is, you were cleansed from your sin the moment you became a Christian.

How does this truth affect our prayer of repentance now? God still wants us to confess our sin, and we should repent of our sin. The difference between us and King David is that the permanent sacrifice for sin has now been made through Jesus, and Christ’s blood has cleansed us from our sin. When we go before God to confess our sin now, we are not really asking God to “forgive us of our sin,” because He already has. We are acknowledging our need for the cross, agreeing with Him on how wrong our sin was, and thanking Him for our redemption in Christ. We are reminding ourselves that it was for that particular sin that Jesus died. It is because of this truth that God says in Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

This is a wonderful truth. We do not cower before God asking for forgiveness as if He may not forgive. We should be broken before God over our sin, but grateful for the forgiveness that is ours through Christ. This means when Satan tries to wear us down with accusations and shame, we remind him that we are justified through Christ and not condemned. When we pray David’s prayer of Psalm 51, maybe we should add the words “thank you” to the beginning: “Thank you for washing away all my iniquity and for cleansing me from my sin.” Confess your sin to God today with the full knowledge that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Thank Him for the cross and for the privilege of being His child.

Sing A New Song

sing a new song 1I considered it a joy and a privilege to write the book Songs from the Heart: Meeting with God in the Psalms. It has been encouraging to see how God has used the book thus far to encourage people in their personal spiritual journeys. I recently received a letter from someone who had been encouraged and challenged by the chapter on Psalm 33 from my book. Psalm 33:3 states, “Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.” I challenged readers to consider singing a song to the Lord as an act of worship, though this song would be a “new song.” Basically, it was a challenge to just sing from your heart to God. I sought out the writer of the letter and asked for permission to share her thoughts on my blog, and I was granted permission.

Dr. Tim,

 I decided to take your challenge of singing a new song to God. I am not a musical person. I can’t carry a tune, read music, or play an instrument.

 I sat on my patio and started singing a song to a tune I did not know and words that flowed perfectly, even as the tune changed. It was an amazing experience, and yet I cannot remember any of the words nor the tune. So thank you for your guidance. With your encouragement and the Holy Spirit’s help, I was able to meet my God in a way I never thought possible.

God wants to meet with you too. You may have this encounter simply through reading the Bible, praying, or listening to worship songs. You might have a meaningful experience with God by singing a “new song” to the Lord that overflows from a heart filled with love and gratitude. Why not give it a try? God is longing to hear from you.

Lawlessness Points to the Return of Christ

Evil_EyesSomething is terribly wrong! I recently read of an unbelievable crime that took place last week in Waukesha, Wisconsin. This crime did not happen downtown in a large city like Atlanta or Chicago. Waukesha is a small town with a population of less than 9,000 people. This was not gang related or even connected to drugs. The crime involved an attempted murder on a twelve-year-old girl by two of her friends. The victim was stabbed nineteen times by her friends as the perpetrators sought to impress a fictional, ghoulish character on the internet who appears in horror stories. Both suspects had a fascination with stories about death and horror and planned this assault on their friend in an attempt to act out their fantasy.

The Bible teaches that the last days will be a time of incredible lawlessness. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 says that this lawlessness must happen before the return of Christ: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” While this passage is speaking specifically of a time called the Great Tribulation Period, we know that the days leading up to the beginning of this seven-year period will be times of great spiritual darkness. The “man of lawlessness” will be a chosen leader during the Tribulation Period, but I believe it also means that he will be alive and well before the Tribulation starts and before the Rapture of the Church takes place. I also believe that Satan is working to create an environment where the “man of lawlessness” will be accepted. This is happening now. The story of this attempted murder in Wisconsin sends chills down my back as it seems to be nothing less than demonic. Satan is working to lead people, and even children, to do the unthinkable. The darkness around us is growing as the stage is being set for a spiritual conflict unlike any conflict ever experienced in history.

I have no doubt that the last days are upon us. Jesus told us to be alert and to be on watch. He is coming again. Let’s be diligent and faithful as we await His return.

The Midnight Hour

Have you heard the story of the Missouri principal who angered atheists with his comments about God in a graduation speech? You can view a news report online or read an article about the incident. The principal reminded people at the graduation ceremony that even though the nation’s motto, “In God We Trust,” is on U.S. currency and “God is reflected in the very fabric” of the nation, it is inappropriate to mention God at a secular ceremony. Being that prayer is not politically correct, he gave the crowd an opportunity for a moment of silence. After the silence, he told the people that “in case you’re interested, during my moment of silence, I gave thanks to God for these great students, their parents, their teachers and for this community.”

 As you can imagine, there has been a backlash from atheists and the P.C. police, who feel called to make snuffing out religion and its free exercise their mission in life. I can’t help but feel that our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves. George Washington would have been banned from the podium with this comment, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” If John Adams were still alive, I suppose he would never be asked to speak at a graduation ceremony if he included this quote from a letter he wrote to his wife: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival

It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever.” Patrick Henry is remembered most for his “give me liberty or give me death” quote, but here’s another one that would stir up the p.c. police: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Last_Days_ClockI could go on with so many quotes from founding fathers pointing to our religious heritage, but my purpose is to emphasize that we have drifted far away from the original moorings of our nation. You could look at this from a number of angles, but consider the fact that a moral and religious decline is prophesied in the Scripture. The Bible says that this kind of deterioration will happen before the return of Christ. Is it possible that the hands of God’s clock are ticking ever closer to the midnight hour? Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:9-12: “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Paul was led by God’s Spirit to write these words in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.”

 I think by reading these words, you can see that we must move into a time where Christianity becomes a small voice in society. Should we be surprised that principals are being threatened if they use God’s name in a graduation address? This is just a small step to lead to a Matthew 24 or 2 Timothy 3 kind of world. Jesus is coming again. I believe we are in the last days. The Church must stand strong and be obedient to God’s call.

Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah ends tomorrow. I’m not Jewish, but as a Christian, Jewish holidays have significance for me. At first thought, Hanukkah may have less significance than other Jewish holidays, but after some contemplation, maybe its implication for my faith increases. Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is a celebration of the cleansing of the Jewish temple. The Jewish people lost their independence in 586 B.C. when they were taken captive by the Babylonians. Though their subservience changed throughout the following years, they continued to be under another nations’ rule until Jerusalem fell in 70 A. D., and the Jewish nation ceased to exist. They became a nation once again on May 14, 1948 when the United Nations recognized Israel’s sovereignty. Even though the Jews were controlled by other countries after the exiles returned to Israel, their practices were often respected, but in 167 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanies, of the Seleucid Empire, erected a statue to Zeus in the Jewish temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar. A Jewish priest, named Mattathias, and his five sons let a revolt against Antiochus and led Israel into a period of peace. In 165 B.C. the temple was restored to the Jewish people, it was cleansed, and rededicated to God. Though the Jews really had not won their complete independence, they were able to remain fairly unmolested until the Roman Empire asserted their control and authority over Israel. Hanukkah is a celebration of the cleansing of the temple in 165 B.C., and in a sense is a celebration of Jewish independence and freedom. It is not an Old Testament festival, such as Passover, but rather it is a celebration of an event in Jewish history. It is called the “Festival of Lights” because there is a story connected to this cleansing that says when the priest went to light the menorah, he only had enough oil to last for a day. The story goes that the candles burned for eight days, therefore the festival is now celebrated for eight days.

 Here’s the implication of Hanukkah for me, as a Christian.  It is interesting that Hanukkah is celebrated at the beginning of the Christmas season. While the brief remission of domination for the Hebrew people is important to me, the greater importance is the freedom from tyranny and domination of sin offered through Christ’s redemption of humanity. The “Festival of Lights” is strategically placed around the beginning of December, and I can connect it to celebrating the real light Who came into the world, Jesus Christ. The Apostle John wrote of Christ, the Light, in the opening words to his gospel: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”

 To my Jewish friends: Happy Hanukkah. For Christians around the world, we have a wonderful reason to celebrate as well. The greatest Light, Jesus Christ, has come into the world offering hope and forgiveness to mankind.


Gratitude is a feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. One dictionary calls it a “state of being” while Psychology Today calls it “an emotion,” There’s really a pretty big difference between a “state of being” and an “emotion.” Emotions come and go based upon circumstances whereas a “state of being” describes one’s core or center. I realize, however, that gratitude can be either a state of being or an emotion. It really depends upon us. I can have a feeling of gratitude in response to someone’s kind action, but then the circumstance passes, and I return to being selfishly driven, oblivious to the kind actions of those around me. Or, I can wake up every morning and acknowledge that I am the beneficiary of many things and expressions I do not deserve – first and foremost God’s kind expression of grace through Jesus Christ. This daily attitude develops in me a “state of being” that affects all of my actions and attitudes all day long. I want gratitude to be a “state of being” for me. This will require several things to take place in my life and mind.

  • First, I must daily admit my desperate need for God. If I live a life of self-sufficiency, I will never become a grateful person. I would live as if the only person I should be grateful to would be myself. When I recognize that I am lost without God, hopeless without Christ, and clueless without His Spirit working in my life, I become more cognizant of God’s activity in and around my life. Not only am I aware of my need, but I am relieved and grateful as I constantly see ways in which God is working on my behalf.
  • Secondly, I must acknowledge that there are people around me every day who are doing things that benefit my life. Sometimes they do these things from a selfless motivation desiring to serve me and make my life better. Other times, they do it out of obligation because of job requirements, but nevertheless, they are still serving me in a way that benefits my life. We have a tendency to more readily recognize service from the first group of people, the selfless people, allowing gratitude to swell within us. If we really want gratitude to be a state of being, it means that we consciously look for things and ways we are benefiting from the service of others. This might lead us to notice the garbage man picking up our stinky trash, the police officer driving slowly through our neighborhood, or the co-worker who gets his work done on time. Regardless of one’s motivation, we should go out of our way to express gratitude. I have found that when I thank people for their service, the act alone causes me to be even more grateful. I heard a conversation the other day where a young man met an older man who had served in the army sometime in the past. I loved it when I heard the young guy thank his new friend for his service to his country.
  • Thirdly, the state of being grateful is accentuated when we give ourselves in selfless service of others. Hopefully, as we become more aware of God’s blessings on our lives and others who are serving us, we have a desire to serve others grow within us. I do think that service to others is a natural byproduct of gratitude. We realize how much we have benefited from others, and we in turn want to bless those around us. I really have found that the more I serve others, the more grateful I become.


Thanksgiving is upon us, and it offers us a time to stop and reflect upon those who have blessed our lives. God should obviously be at the top of the list. I encourage you to take some time out in the next week and make a list of things God has done and thank Him. Also make a list of ways you have benefited from the service of others, and figure out a way to communicate your gratitude – it could be an e-mail, a note, a phone call, or a visit. It could be a tangible gift or a kind word of thanks. If we do these things, we will find our state being shaped by these actions and discover gratitude to be ingrained in our core.

Sermon 7 questions – Part 2 on Forgiveness

Here are my final thoughts in response to Sunday’s questions:

Is unforgiveness sin?

Yes. We are commanded over and over in the scripture to forgive others. Consider Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

How do you handle a friend who is divorced and in a relationship with another person who is also divorced but they are not married and having sex?

Sex outside of marriage is sin. It really is that simple. If we have a friend committing any sin, the loving thing to do is to confront that friend about their sin. We don’t confront out of pride or arrogance, but rather out of brokenness. We don’t confront to condemn but rather we confront to correct. Many adults in relationships are drawn into intimate experiences, but that does not make it right. When two people are dating who have been previously divorced, it seems to me the temptations for sex would be even greater than that experienced by two teenagers who have never had sex. It requires a real commitment to Christ and moral purity by both parties. When a friend is struggling in the spiritual life, we can step in to encourage them and help them by praying for them and talking with them about their spiritual commitment. We might could offer to help our friend do the right thing by agreeing to hold them accountable. The problem is that in our culture, many people do not see anything wrong with sex outside of marriage. We might should have a heart to heart talk with our friend to help them see how important it is to follow God’s plan outlined in the Bible.

When I forgive, am I condoning sin?

No. When you don’t forgive, you are practicing sin. When you do forgive, you are being like Jesus. Forgiving does not mean overlooking sin or not requiring change or accountability. All of those are different things. God has forgiven you, and He certainly doesn’t condone sin.

Does God really “forget” our sins since he’s all knowing?

The Bible states in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins,” and in Hebrews 8:12, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Finally Hebrews 10:17 says,. “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Consider this definition of forget: “to treat with inattention, overlook, or to disregard … intentionally or unintentionally.” If you consider the definition of remember, the opposite of forget, it means pulling something up to the front of your mind that has lain dormant in a memory data bank. It doesn’t mean the data is not there, but it does mean that you have not thought on it. It could be retrievable, but you have not retrieved it. So, God forgetting our sin does not mean He is not omniscient (knows everything), but it does mean he chooses not to pull up your sins and dwell on them because they have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus.