Real Hope Inspires a Song

Real Hope Inspires a Song

real hope for your home songI have written four books and countless articles, presentations, and teachings over the past 30 years. And I have had many different responses—but never have I had someone write a song. It is with a humbled and joyful heart that I share the following song written in response to chapter 6 of Real Hope for Your Home.

Chapter 6 describes our new identity in Jesus Christ which brings us joy. So, this is a song that extols the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks Gary!

NOTE: Lyrics follow but we still need music! If your or someone you know would like to put these words to music, that would be great!

 

What a Gift from God

© 2020 Gary A. Burlingame

V: I was

Dead to God

Lost without hope

Living in darkness

I was

I was

Now I’m

Purchased, forgiven

Born of God

Raised in Christ

I am

I am

V: I was

Satan’s slave

Stranger to God

An orphan, alone

I was

I was

Now I’m

Blameless and complete

One with God

Hidden in Christ

I am

I am

C:  What a gift from God

What a joy for life

This Gospel

This Christ

What a gift from God

What a joy for life

This Gospel

This Christ

V: Now I’m

Led by His Spirit

Called by God

Redeemed in Christ

I am

I am

V: I was

Child of wrath

Captured by sin

Broken within

I was

I was

Now I’m

Holy, set apart

Known by God

Seated with Christ

I am

I am

C:  What a gift from God

What a joy for life

This Gospel

This Christ

What a gift from God

What a joy for life

This Gospel

This Christ

Three Ways to Live Joyfully in Life’s Tensions

Three Ways to Live Joyfully in Life’s Tensions

tensionWhy can’t life be a relaxing, sunny day at the beach? 

Home life has a way of arousing tensions, doesn’t it?  From granular tensions such as whose day is it to clean the kitchen, to who gets to go the store with Mom, or which movie to watch; to moderate tensions such as which car to buy, or how to get through a disagreement with a spouse; to the most serious tensions job choice, whether or not to get married, or what house to buy.  Ironically, I think we struggle more from the daily granular tensions than we do from the serious ones.  Someone; a spouse, a child, a mother-in-law: people could be or will be upset with whatever we decide to do which makes any choice seem unacceptable leaving us indecisive.

Almost every decision we face places us in the crosshairs of complex and conflicting forces which raise tension, stress, and the wry if not resigned reflection, “Why can’t this be easier? Why does life have to be so hard!”

Inner and relational tensions come from living in a fallen world.  But there are three positive sides to life’s tensions that I want to encourage you with today.

  1. Tension provides an opportunity to look at life from a godly perspective so that we can have joy. If we’re honest, we struggle to always remember God in our decisions, especially the most granular.  Life happen so fast and we easily succumb to habit, whim, or someone else’s “wishes” er hmm, demands.  If everything went the way we wanted, then we would have no need for God.

As Christians, we are sojourners, exiles, aliens because our real home is in heaven.  Our primary allegiance to God is always challenged.  If we’re living right, there’s a sense in which we should always feel tension on some level.  Tension is a reminder that we need to look at situations from God’s perspective. As the Author of Life, he alone can tell us how to live joyfully in a sinful world.

  1. God is showing how dependent we are on him so that we can rest. As created beings, we all need outside help: God’s “help”.  As The Creator and sustainer of life, we absolutely need God’s wisdom, understanding and guidance in all things. The rugged individualism that we prize in America exalts independence and self-reliance. In proper context and balance, there is value in these qualities. However, our flesh seeks to make these qualities ultimate and we easily carry these qualities over into other parts of our lives such as our spiritual walk and relationships often with devastating consequences.

All spheres of life require ultimate dependence upon God and his word. Tension is an accountability tool that calls us to examine what or who we are depending on.  We can rejoice that God is a rewarder of those who seek, and hence depend, on him. When we depend on him, we can rest, even in distressing situations.

  1. God wants us to exercise our faith to apply his promises. In some cases, especially major decisions, we might cry out, “I want to do God’s will!”  While commendable, God’s will is often not an easy decision that is made with complete clarity on all the factors involved—or the certainty of an ideal outcome.  Seeking to make the right decision can also be a reflection of our own idolatry.  We do not know the future, only God does.

Romans 8:29 tells us what the will of God is: conformity to the image of his son, Jesus Christ.  Previously in verse 28, we read that God uses “all things” which includes good and bad, to accomplish his will.  Life seems to teach us that we learn more from the situations that run the gamut from unpleasant to misery.  They are opportunities to exercise our faith without which it is impossible to please God and to access the precious promises he gives us for life that carry us through tension.

Not every day can be a day at the beach.  I’ve heard it said, “Live joyfully in the tension.”  We can do that when we look at tensions from a godly perspective, accept that each tension reminds us our place a dependent creatures, and that each tension is an opportunity to exercise our faith.

Doing those three things may not make yours a day at the beach, but it will help you navigate the seas of life with resilient hope and the unwavering confidence that gives us peace and draws us closer to God.

All Good Things Must Come to an End. Really?

All Good Things Must Come to an End. Really?

Have you considered that every good thing in this life must come to an end? Whether it is:

  • a great movie,
  • a vacation,
  • an outstanding glass of wine,
  • a perfectly grilled steak,
  • a double digit gains on a 401(k),
  • a youthful physique,
  • good health,
  • a holiday celebration,
  • a kiss,
  • or a sunny day…

Nothing, absolutely nothing, lasts forever. Well, except for one thing. There is one good thing that does last forever. One good thing that:

  • never loses its flavor,
  • never leaves us in debt or loses its beauty,
  • never lets us down,
  • never comes up empty,
  • never loses its ability to make us happy and joyful even in the worst of times.

It is 100% dependable. It. Never. Ends.

The “It” that I speak of is actually He: none other than God himself! Have we considered that our constant search for happiness and joy in this life comes up short because we are too focused on what we can touch, taste, see, and smell, rather than what is unseen: God himself? By Holy Spirit-empowered faith, God can be experienced and known in a way that gives us joy that changes us and changes how we respond to our challenges.

Colossians 3:1-3 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden in Christ in God.”

As I meditated on this passage, it was like a list of earthly joys rolled through my mind and it struck me again just how fleeting each one is. But then the Holy Spirit drew my attention to the fact that God IS. He never changes. Even though the times are ominous, he never changes.

The joy we have in God was C.S. Lewis’ focus during the dark days of World War II. He cut through the temporal joys and struck right to the heart: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Lewis’ “Infinite joy” is an echo of what God has already told us in Psalm 16:11. In referring to Himself, He says through the Psalmist, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

In times of persecution, the writer of Hebrews does not lament the loss of happiness nor does he try to gin-up suffering people with promises or plans for how to restore earthly joys. Instead, he brings his readers’ attention back to foundational joy: Jesus and all that he has done for them.

Let us not exchange what is true joy for what is temporary happiness.

What has God done for you? Is it more than forgiveness? Although forgiveness is essential—yes!  There is much more to be joyful about. Take a quick look by downloading Your Identity from A to Z. Or, consider Real Hope for Your Home! This short, practical book will help you see how all that God has done for you in Christ gives us enduring joy that changes us and restores relationships.

Are We Missing Out on this Incredible Resource?

Are We Missing Out on this Incredible Resource?

comfortWhen was the last time you stopped and really thanked God for your church family?

A few weeks ago, Leslee, our children and I joined my extended and previous church family to celebrate the baptism and fifth birthday of my nephew, Luca.  As some of you know, Luca is dying of brain cancer (please pray for him!)  The time featured a conflicting blend of emotions: sadness, brotherly love, concern, and even joy.

One of the pastors, retired, sat down next to Luca and tenderly shared about God’s love by weaving together two similar but different threads; my sister’s preparation of a special breakfast just the day before and then the pastor’s own story of his wife’s care when he himself suffered from five strokes that he described as “boo-boos in his head” (which is the way little Luca describes the wrenching pain in his head).

What a blessing it was to be with people with whom I had known for over 40 years.  Some, I had served with in the trenches.  While I have not been at that church for 13 years, the mettle of their love has been demonstrated in so many ways to my extended family… always bringing a meal, a gift, providing care, praying, and showing up in hospitals at all hours.

On the lighter side, I reminisced with a couple who helped me grill about 100 pounds of steak and chicken one blazing hot summer day as part of an annual thank you party for our ministry volunteers.  I think we each sweated off 15 pounds that day.

  • My brother-in-law’s sister, a Disney employee, who flew up from Florida just for this event, shared some tricks for doing Disney more affordably.
  • Three of Luca’s grandparents were there. Just the presence of grandparents in distressing times imbues one with confidence, doesn’t it? When all we see is darkness, they remind us, “You will make it through”.
  • A loud mix of teenagers on the porch all so close that you just think of them as family whether they really are or not. Just weeks ago, three of those teens visited my house to watch the Super Bowl with us.
  • This is a group I have seen over and over at birthday celebrations, Fourth of July, Easter, Thanksgiving, at the hospitals, it is a group that ministers faithfully and powerfully. I think it is probably unusual. I know people who attend church but do not have these kinds of enduring relationships.

I stop to think, how would any of us get through this life without the love and support of church family—like this?

And then there’s the pained smile of little Luca, clinging tightly to his mother and who would trade being the center of attention to simply be able to walk to his toy box.  All of these people –I imagine around 75 in total—all there for him but we all benefitted in simple yet profound ways from the bond that is.

As we made the two-hour drive home, Leslee and the kids shared their little conversations, moments, and experiences, and it struck me again how much of a privilege it is to live in the body of Christ.  How often do we take our relationships at church for granted?

Did I Get the Job Done?

Did I Get the Job Done?

moving day

In January, my 21 year old daughter was the first to fly the coop.  Strike up Barbara Streisand singing “Memories” and pass the tissues.  While it has been quite an adjustment for all of us, it has not been too bad thanks to (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the wonders of texting and the Marco Polo app.

On the morning her brother and I drove her to her new home in another state, I wrote a note to her that I planned to leave in her apartment for her to find after we had left.  (It’s the writer in me).  As I was writing, I was partially successful in holding back tears as my mind ran through 21 years of very precious memories.  I kept reminding myself, “She’s not dying or even getting married.  Get a grip!”

As I wrote, I couldn’t help but think about all the things I failed to do well or at all.  My perfectionistic flesh was really whipping me good.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

I imagine that some of you reading this have already had a child leave home through work, education, marriage, or some other reason.  As we wrestle with the changing seasons in family life, we can take encouragement from some principles in the Bible that address our performance as parents.

We are ambassadors, not saviors.

If I could do everything right, then I would not need Jesus.  It was never God’s intension to share his glory with us by making it so we could do a perfect parenting job.  2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are plain ambassadors with a powerful message.  The Holy Spirit is the only One who is able to call and change our children and he does the changing on his perfect timetable.

God’s plan takes into account our failures.

Paul says in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  All things includes bad things.  God is able to use even our worst moments in his work of conforming us and our children into the image of his Son.  It’s never too late to confess our failures and ask forgiveness!  Sometimes, it takes many years, decades even, before we see how God has worked/is working through our good and bad moments—but he is working!

God restores the years that the locust has eaten.

Our failures do not define us as Christians.  God is all about redemption.  Joel 2 says that “he restores the years that the locust has eaten.”  Recognizing what I could have done better strengthens me not to repeat the same failures with my other children who are still at home.  My failures do not have to remain failures!  We can learn from them and change how we disciple our other children and grandchildren.  I can also share what I have learned with other parents, thus helping them avoid our mistakes.

We serve a God of grace and mercy.  He delights in showing mercy.  Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”  I am most grateful that my God—our God—is like this.  It gives us great hope and confidence as we move through the different but challenging seasons of parenthood.

 

Empty Prayers

Empty Prayers

empty prayers“Asking someone, ‘How Can I Pray for You’ is Bull *&%^ !”

These words were spoken to me with blunt frustration by a man after I had just taught a class on being intentional in relationships. Praying for one another was one of several practical exhortations I had made in the class. (There was more to what I said on prayer which I will get to later.) This brother in Christ had been wounded by some bad experiences.

As we talked, I was struck by what I suspect is probably the ugly and embarrassing truth about our prayer lives as Christians: we often take it for granted and become careless and lazy in our prayer habits.

Prayer for one another is an essential habit in our Christian walk. Yet, we can all relate to saying, “I will pray for you”—only to forget. Sometimes we ask for prayer without really thinking about it. It’s an easy (and expected) part of our Christian talk.

How seriously do we really take prayer? Following are three practical ideas to help us be more intentional in our prayer life.

  1. Write Down Prayer Requests

Studies show that we remember 90% of what we write down. Why not write down what people ask us to pray for? It forces clarity and helps us remember to pray. Along this line, one of the ideas I gave my Sunday school class that morning involved writing prayer requests on 3×5 index cards. Index cards are a cheap and wonderful tool. You can keep them in your pocket or tuck them in your Bible.

Make a card for each person we pray for. Put the person’s name on the top line. Beneath their name, write the date and then the request next to it. When the prayer is no longer needed, write down the date and the answer or resolution. Keep the card to add future prayer requests for that person. As you add cards for each person, you develop a powerful story; a tool for recounting God’s work through your prayers in other’s lives.

  1. Ask People to Pray For You Rather Than Telling Them to Pray For You

Have you ever had someone just say, “Pray for me” or “You can pray for me about …“. We’ve probably all done it at some point, however, without a “will you please” in front, it can come across a bit presumptuous or even demanding.  This is not so much an issue of manners as it is not taking prayer for granted. We all should remember to be mindful of the privilege prayer is. It is a gift to be able to minister to each other through prayer. It is also a comfort to know that we can ask our brothers and sisters to pray for us in times of need which in effect allows them to help us carry our burdens.

Consider that if we ask and the person says, “yes” then there is a greater possibility of them following-through which also means their prayers will likely be more intentional and effective.

Following is not so much a literal suggestion as it is a way to expose our own attitudes and expectations about asking others to pray for us. Would it ever be right to say, “No, I’m sorry but I cannot/will not be able pray for you”? The thought of that seems almost unconscionable. But consider: can we realistically pray for every request that comes our way either directly or indirectly? How many more can we add to a long and probably dusty list? At what point are we just being disingenuous?

Here’s an idea. If we’re having trouble being faithful with our current list, maybe a good alternative when asked to pray is to just stop and pray with the person for the need at that moment rather than to say we will pray later –and never do it.

  1. Report Back to People Who Have Agreed to Pray for You

For the person who is being intentional about following through on praying for our request it can be disheartening to pray especially over a long period of time and never get an update on what is going on in that situation. When no report is given, it can convey little regard for the time others invest in praying for us. Write down the names of those we ask to pray for us so that we remember to report back.

A simple report is very encouraging to see how God is working through our prayers. It builds our faith. We keep praying for the specific need. It encourages us to pray for others. It builds our unity in Christ. Frankly, it also helps us to be more serious about asking others to pray for us. We realize there is a cost to them: their time that we should seek to honor.

Evaluate Our Prayer Habits

Prayer is a powerful and effective weapon. God instructs us to pray. He promises to hear our prayers and to answer them. It is good therefore to evaluate our prayer habits and to try to correct areas where we have waxed lazy and unintentional.

Whether we’re asking for prayer or agreeing to pray—it is a sacred privilege; a treasured part of our identity as members of God’s family that helps to build our oneness in Christ.