From Scars to Stars

Physical, mental, and emotional scars are a reality and byproduct of life.  They mean that you have actually lived, that you survived the cut, that you are in the healing process, and that you now have some valuable experience and expertise to help others along in their journey. Daniel 12:13 tells us those who lead many to righteousness will shine “like the stars forever and ever.” Paul, picking up on this truth, stated, “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15). The Lord wants to take his people from scars to stars.

Many Christians have bought in to the lie that they are just too scarred and flawed for God to do anything special with their lives. Too many identify with the scar letting that scar define and limit them. Some pet the scar milking it for all the pity and sympathy they can get from other people. Some attempt to deny or hide the scar living in shame over what they did or what was done to them. Still others unwittingly begin to serve the scar doing what it tells them and controlling their direction and viability in life.

Contemporary society is filled with examples of people who overcame scars in life to triumph and make a significant contribution to the world at large.  Stephen Spielberg was rejected by the USC film school, twice. Steve Jobs was fired from the company he co-founded (Apple) and then after selling Pixar to Disney for billions, he returned to Apple to eventually turn it in to a trillion dollar company. Charlize Theron overcame the horror of witnessing her mother kill her father to become an Academy Award winning actress. Walt Disney, surprisingly, was fired from a Missouri newspaper for lacking creativity.  What do all these examples have in common? They all experienced wounds and scars in life but  refused to be defined or stopped by them.

Even more compelling are the many biblical examples where God took his people from scars to stars. Rahab went from being a prostitute and brothel owner to becoming a key asset in Israel’s defeat of Jericho (and she is listed in the lineage of Jesus). The woman at the well went from multiple failed marriages and illicit living to becoming an evangelist who influenced her village for Jesus. The Egyptian slave went from being oppressed, abused, and abandoned by his Amalekite captor to guiding David and his men in the pursuit, capture, and plundering of the Amalekites who raided Ziklag.

We can learn from the slave at Ziklag that we too can go from scars to stars by letting the Lord nourish and revive us, by coming over to the other side and turning our back on the enemy and the scar he gave us, by dedicating what we have left to the King, and by doing everything he tells us to do.  Don’t let the past scars in life control your future and snuff out your light. Be God’s star.

No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

Oxygen for the Soul

oxygen-barA few years ago, my wife and I decided to head south to Florida for a few days of rest in the sun.  After dealing with some particularly difficult ministry issues (which is minister code for dealing with difficult people), a very long drive, and haggling over our reservations, I decided to hang out by a beach resort watering hole for a Coke (yes, a Coke, not a rum and coke).  As I sat there waiting for the drink, the bartender, apparently discerning my ragged demeanor, looked at me and said, “Are you doing alright?”  Like most people, and without candor, I replied, “Fine, I’m just fine.” I appreciated his inquiry, but I was dumbfounded.  I remember thinking to myself, “You had to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles and sit at an oceanside bar and grill just to get someone to ask you how you are doing.”  Of all the people in the world, a total stranger (a bartender) had to ask me how I was doing.

Far from turning the episode into a pity party, I was, rather, challenged by the thought of the thousands and thousands of people we come across in our lives each year that are never asked that question as well.  How could something so simple matter so much? People all around us are going through difficult situations, challenges, setbacks, and disappointments.  George M. Adams famously said, “Encouragement is oxygen for the soul.”  This amazing truth explains, like oxygen, people need positive input from others because it is a vital (life-giving and life-sustaining) need.  The well-timed, sincere, and compassionate inquiry into the lives of others can have a powerful and positive impact on them during the darker seasons of life.  “Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time” (Proverbs 15:23, NLT).

Perhaps we are all just too busy to stop and consider how others around us are doing. Perhaps we just assume that the people around us are doing just fine.  As the bartender had the presence of mind to ask, let me challenge you to be mindful of others and look for ways to send some oxygen their way.  Become a walking oxygen bar dispensing life-giving encouragement everywhere you go.  You never know who you will encourage and inspire by your kindness.

 

The Polaroid

PolaroidI remember when everyone seemed to own the old Polaroid instant cameras that allowed you to take a picture, extract the film, and then watch as the picture gradually developed in front of your eyes.  Over the years my family collected hundreds of these instant photos of holiday celebrations and family milestone events (you know those embarrassing pictures where your mom dressed you in onesies).  Eventually, despite the convenience and real-time photography, the photos would fade, losing both their sharpness and color.  All the pictures looked naturally worn and dated over time, no longer representing accurately the people or subjects photographed.

The human heart was designed by God to serve as the canvas for an image or picture on the inside of us that would ultimately guide and direct our lives.  Our lives head in the direction of the most dominant image in our hearts.  Our consistent and dominant inputs in life determine what develops on the inside of us, good or bad, positive or negative. The Holy Spirit, using the paint of the Word of God, fashions an image in our hearts of what we can be in God, what we can have, and what we can do.  The key to the full development of that inner image is to stay consistent in inputting the Word of God.  Like the Polaroid picture, the image will fade over time, no matter how vivid it was originally, if we stop putting the Word of God in our hearts.

Another word for the dominant image in the heart of a human being is a thing called hope.  Hope is actually an inner image of an eager expectation.  The concept is simple. When the inner image is so well-developed that we become eager with faith and anticipation for the thing we see to come to pass, the expectation begins to produce and manifest that very image in our lives.  The problem is many people, due to life’s challenges and hardships, have had the Bible image of a great future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11) literally squashed in their hearts.  Too many believers are walking around with an inner image fading like the old Polaroid photos.  

The key to turning the fading image around is to once again begin to apply the Word to your heart daily so that your inner image is restored to its former vibrant and crisp condition.  The clearer the image the more likely the manifestation of what is seen. Begin again putting the Word of God into your heart in abundance by spending quality time every day reading, studying, meditating, and memorizing the Scriptures.  Before long, the old image of defeat and discouragement will be replaced by an image of victory and success.

The Charlie Browniest

In the Charles Schultz classic 1965 animated CBS Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown, being his usual pessimistic self can’t seem to find the spirit of the season. Linus very astutely points out to him, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” Like Charlie Brown, many people walk around despondent and hopeless during what is supposed to be a season of hope and restoration for all. For too many people, Christmas has become a time of stress, pressure, painful reflection, and depression. In fact, the depression and suicide rates climb sharply during the Christmas season. Leave it to the devil to drive people to hopeless self-destructive behavior when the rest of the world is celebrating the coming of the Lord and the uncovering of the good news!

People were not created to live without Bible hope. Bible hope, unlike the wishful thinking the world tries to pass for hope, is literally a spiritual force which means Bible hope causes amazing things to happen in our lives. Bible hope is a blueprint for our faith. It is our horizon for life that gives us a clear picture for the future. It is an inner mage of an eager expectation whereby we live life with our necks outstretched looking and longing for the breakthrough rather than for the other shoe to drop. Bible hope is said to be the anchor for our souls or the force that anchors the mind, will, and emotions on the truth of God’s Word so that we are steady and stable no matter what storm is brewing around us. Without Bible hope we are easily tossed to and fro based on the circumstances we find ourselves in at the time. In other words, true hope as the Bible describes is an indispensable gift and necessity in the life of every believer.

Proverbs 13:12 says that, “hope deferred makes the heart-sick.” This means that when our hopes in life are delayed or destroyed, the heart or the spirit or core of the man is made sick or afflicted. This “spirit of Charlie Brown” or hopelessness is at the root of so many of the negative consequences in the lives of people (even believers) like depression, suicide, apathy, lack of ambition, lack of self-respect, and even addiction. It is a terrible thing to watch a dream delayed or fade away, but the condition of heart sickness and hopelessness need not be permanent or terminal.

Our hopelessness may be related to a single issue or about life in general but we can get the hope back and get the Charlie Brown out of our lives by applying some powerful Bible principles. First, stop putting your hope in the wrong things like the government, the economy, relationships, employers, etc. or you will be chronically disappointed. Psalm 42:5 encourages us to put our hope in God. Second, wait daily on the Lord. In keeping with Isaiah 40:31, as we wait upon the Lord our hope and strength is renewed and restored. In fact, we cannot absence ourselves from the presence of God and expect to live a hope-filled life. Third, always stay in love with all people because strife, bitterness, and unforgiveness have a way of draining the hope right out of our hearts. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love always hopes. Fourth, keep your focus squarely on Jesus because he is the very source of our hope (Ephesians 2:12-13). Fifth, call to mind God’s faithfulness in your life. Think about all the times He has come through and trust him because the mercies of God are limitless and new every morning (Lamentations 3:18-22). Finally, build your hope on the Word of God. The written Word of God is an inexhaustible source of hope for the believer. If we are feasting on the Word regularly, our hope level will stay strong. There is no question that our expectation rises and falls in life based on the time we have been investing in reading, studying, memorizing, and applying the Word of God to our lives.

Decide today that you are not going to walk around this Christmas season like Charlie Brown. Make up your mind that when people see you coming they are going to be excited to see you because you exude life, hope, and the joy of a person that has a burning inner image of expectation in your life. Charlie Brown takes people down but the hope-filled believer lifts others up. It’s time for Charlie Brown to move out of our hearts and welcome the hope of God back in.

Faith on iTunes

I’m excited to announce that the radio Hope Harbor Show and our brand new Hope Harbor podcast called “The HHC Hopecast” are now available free through the iTunes Store. Within two days you will be able to find the podcasts in the iTunes Store by searching under “Hopecast” or “Hope Harbor Show.” Until then please use the links below to find the podcasts on iTunes. You can subscribe to the Hopecast and the first episode will begin to download. Subsequent programs will be downloaded automatically to your iTunes. Now you can download these hope-building programs directly to your computer, phone, or iPod.

Our goal is to make use of every available voice to spread the gospel and the iTunes platform makes the uncompromising Word of God all that more accessible to hungry believers. Let me encourage you to fill your eyes, ears, and hearts with the Word of God like never before. There’s something on you…it’s the blessing

THE HHC HOPECAST (inspiration and encouragement from God’s Word)

HOPE HARBOR SHOW (iTunes version of the radio Hope Harbor Show)

HOPE HARBOR CHURCH (the teaching ministry of Pastor Art Heinz)
iTunes link coming soon…

The Blueprint

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV). “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

Hope is one of the most powerful words in our vocabulary. Unfortunately, many people define and speak of hope as not much more than wishful thinking. In fact when they say, “I hope that…” they usually mean they wish, and this concept of wishing is very, very different from Bible hope and more often than not does not translate into results.

Bible hope, on the other hand, is eager expectation in our hearts from an inner image on the inside of us built into us through the intake of the Word of God. It has also been defined as “white hot expectation” or like a bird with its neck outstretched looking, longing for something. You see, with Bible hope we are not just “a hoping and a praying,” but fully expecting that the inner image or hope on the inside of us will manifest according to Hebrews 11:1 which states, “Now faith is the being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith causes what we see on the inside to manifest on the outside. Therefore, we must have a breakthrough of hope on the inside of our hearts before we will ever see the actual breakthrough in our lives.

The key to seeing our hope manifest rather than being deferred (which makes the heart sick, Proverbs 13:2), is to push out the unscriptural inner image that has been developed in us over time from input that contradicts the Word of God. The more time we spend in the Word in our particular need area, the larger the inner image of what God promised becomes. This is how true Bible hope is developed.

Hope is like the blueprint for something that you would like to create or become. Contractors begin with a blueprint of what the house or building is to look like when the construction is finished. If we begin the project with just a vague mental picture of what we want we are setting ourselves up for confusion, delays, poor quality, and disappointment. The more accurate and clear the plans, the more efficient the process of receiving will be.  On the other hand, we can have the best set of blueprints and never get around to swinging the hammer (even with the Bible hope, faith without works is dead). We need hope (the inner image) and faith (how we get flesh on the design) to get the job done.

Start today putting the Word of God into your heart in abundance and drive out that old negative, limiting, and unscriptural image that is blocking God’s best in your life. The more you put the Word in your heart the clearer your blueprint with be. That hope will then serve as an anchor for your soul (our mind, will, and emotions) when it looks like things are not going to work out or when you are tempted to just throw yourself down on the floor and have a tantrum. That Bible hope on the inside will bring calm and resolve to your heart so that your emotions do not push you off your stand of faith. Before long the hope working in conjunction with your faith (and corresponding action) will begin to produce on the outside what you have been seeing on the inside.


The Power of Hope

nativity-picThe world Jesus came into was not all that different from our own. People are people and they haven’t changed much in two thousand years. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Israel was occupied by a foreign power, there was political intrigue and upheaval, the people faced economic hardship, there was a national identity crisis, cultural confusion, and serious and overt religious suppression.

We could easily pull the same description from today’s newspaper or internet headlines. The world has always known how to spread and recycle hopelessness (lacking optimism and expecting disappointment – desperate, despairing, and bleak in its outlook). Fortunately, our hope is not in a government, a man, or an ecomony. No, our hope is in the person of Jesus Christ who builds into every heart an inner image of a white hot expectation that with Him we can expect great things ahead of us.

First, with Jesus we have hope for a fresh start. Who hasn’t made a mess of things from time to time. Lamentations 3:22-23 promises that the mercies of God are new every morning. This means that God never tires of helping his people out of messes that they create. It means that his commitment to alleviate our distres will never run dry. Every person that comes to Christ soon experiences the joy of a new positive outlook and fresh start in life.

Second, with Jesus we have hope for new strength. This world has a way of sapping even the strongest of us (and being a Christian does not shield us from growing weary and getting tired). The promise of Isaiah 40:31 is that if we will wait or hope in the Lord he would renew our strength. If we will learn to wait upon the Lord in his presence our strength, vigor, and vitality will be soon restored.

Third, with Jesus we have hope for a great future. Every believer should become familiar with Jeremiah 29:11 which reveals a God that is not for our hurt or destruction but for our well being. He truly has a futue and a hope for each of his children. It’s up to us to seek the Lord in prayer and his Word to discover the path he has for us in this life. But be sure he has a wonderful plan and path just for you!

Finally, with Jesus we have hope for His soon return. 1 John 3:2-3 explains how believers are purified as they long and expect the soon return of the one that came so long ago as a babe. That child grew in wisdom and stature with God and with man. That man – the God man – fully God and fully man – taught and ministered on this earth in great wisdom and power – he died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Father and waits for the command of the Father to return to this earth again in victory and total dominion.

I encourage you this Christmas season to call out to the Lord if you’ve never met him or if you’ve made some mistakes and you find yourself feeling distant from God. He will accept you, brush you off, heal your hurts, restore your hope, and reveal to you the wonderful and bright future he has planned for you from the beginning of time.