Fresh Hope for YOU and the Church

When you hear the word church, what comes to mind? Do words like comfort, connection, authenticity, excitement, joy, acceptance, or support surface?

Brad Hoefs

Or do words like . . .

  • Condemnation
  • Judgment
  • Rejection
  • Fear
  • Chastisement
  • Anger

Bubble up? Our world today is desperate for hope. The church is the community God ordained to offer the hope found only in Jesus. Sadly, oftentimes, those looking for hope have found rejection, judgment, and hurt—not from Jesus but from those who profess to be Christians.

Brad Hoefs knows this all too well. While pastoring one of the nation’s fastest-growing churches, Brad’s life fell apart due to a mental-health challenge.

The Joy of Painful Growth

This article is by my dad, Chuck Swindoll.

In our backyard in California, Cynthia and I had a couple of fruit trees that supplied our table with luscious, homegrown grapefruits and oranges. Some years, the trees bore more fruit than others.

Fruit Tree
(Image from Pixabay)

And every year, the growth of those trees reminded me about what it means to become more like Christ.

The secret to growing Christlike is found in the tiny word abide. Like branches that cling to the tree for life, we attach ourselves to Him when we abide. When we are attached to Him, we grow whatever He grows.

I would guess that you already know what that fruit looks like. Galatians 5:22–23 gives us a wonderful list:

A Checklist for Living Well

There’s a great NPR podcast titled How I Built This. I love it! It’s about people who have created, invented, or started movements that have become highly successful.

Grateful
(Image from Unsplash)

I’ve listened to interviews with the founders of Whole Foods, Spanx (Every woman say AMEN!), Lyft, Crate and Barrel, and Kate Spade, to name a few.

Every interview seems to involve shared themes:

How to Stop Your World from Spinning out of Control

Sabbatical. It sounded so holy . . . but it was beyond essential. This past winter, more than a few folks “strongly suggested” I take some time off work to rest, refresh . . . and breathe.

Rest
(Image from Pixabay)

I have been at my current job for 10 years but can count on one hand the number of vacations I’ve taken. On top of that, a series of life-changing events had dried up my creative juices. So, I agreed to take some time off.

Sabbatical sounds far more worthy than just “downtime.” The concept comes straight from Scripture: at the time of creation, God’s creative juices were full throttle.

Yet at the height of all His creative goodness, God chose a day (literal or figurative) to sit back and savor His finished work. Genesis 2:2–3 tells us:

Strategic Warfare: How to Thrive on the Battleground

Okay, it’s not a secret in my house, so I might as well share it with you: I hate almost all bugs. God has a purpose for all living things . . . I know that.

Woman_cleaning_toilets
By Emergency Brake [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

However, I find it quite rude when vermin sneak around my house, bite or sting at will, and then mosey back to their little hideaways.

I also hate bacteria and viruses because they are invisible to the naked eye. How well can we fight something potentially deadly that we can’t even see?

An Agent of Change in a Suffering World

Ten minutes and her life was forever changed. It was a beautiful morning as my friend headed out the door for work. She called her husband to wish him a good day as she walked to her car.

Change
(Image from Unsplash)

During the phone call, she heard a sound behind her and looked to see what it was. She was being ambushed. A surge of “fight or flight” chemicals flooded her body just as the first punch smashed her jaw.

Learning to Wait in the Waiting Room

There is a place I used to call my second home: the waiting room. I’ll never forget the hours I spent with my special-needs son in waiting rooms—rooms with tattered magazines, crying children, and tired-looking people who were staring at smudged, blandly painted walls.

Waiting Room
photo credit: jeffk The Cruel Waiting Room via photopin (license)

If there were windows, I watched the outside world whirl by—beautiful women out and about, men in pressed suits connected to cell phones.

I would get stuck in my thoughts . . . somewhere between envious and anxious, weary and worried. I wondered when the waiting would end.

What Does “Trusting God” Mean?

Trust is not one of my strong suits. I could try to blame my struggle on not knowing enough trustworthy people, but I know the problem is rooted in me . . . in my desire to protect myself and in my fear of getting hurt or let down.

Trust
(Image from Unsplash)

I know that not trusting others is one of my defense mechanisms. Whenever I’m faced with an issue requiring trust, I skip right over it and jump into evaluation mode.

I think to myself,

Captive Audience

If you could travel anywhere in the world, with anyone you love, without any financial worry, where would you go? Perhaps a cozy cabin in Canada’s Banff National Park or a reprieve in one of England’s rustic cottages?

Traveling
(Image from Unsplash)

Or imagine roving around Rome’s ancient ruins, adventuring on an African safari, or traveling through Brazil’s rainforests draped with waterfalls.

Such imaginary journeys are endless. I’ve found that time away, regardless the destination, is good for the soul, because time away often leads to contentment.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians was drenched with tones of kindness, contentment, and joy. Repeatedly, Paul used words such as . . .