30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 29 – Health

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It is in weakness that I sense His grace and in struggles that I appreciate the times when I am not.

Scripture of the Day:

3 John 1:2
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

On the 29th day of posting on Thankfulness, sickness hit several members of our household – BUT I still wanted to share how thankful I am for health, even if it is a day late.

There is a degree of conviction as I post about health and realize that I have not always been the best steward of the health that God has given. But even then, when we have not done our part, God amazingly designed our bodies to heal themselves.

Some illnesses or infirmities might be beyond our intervention, but God’s grace is sufficient for us. When I am sick I find I am ironically more grateful for my health. It is in weakness that I sense His grace and in struggles that I appreciate the times when I am not.

The challenge is whether we will praise Him when we are healthy and unhealthy, at all times. The God Who designed our bodies and sustains life is the One Who also heals us, physically and spiritually.

Lord, thank You for the gift of health. Help us to honor the life You have give and to die to self when our flesh is craving what is harmful to our bodies. May You be glorified in our beings and all of our lives.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 16 – Protection

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Threats loom around every corner, but so does the grace and protection of our living God.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Thessalonians 3:2-3

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!”

We live in uncertain times, but perhaps every day in this world has been uncertain in the minds of men. Threats loom around every corner, but so does the grace and protection of our living God.

Nothing is hidden from God’s view, but man does not know what the future holds. This truth keeps us humbly in dependence upon our God for His protection and guidance. Trapped in this capsule of time and surrounded by unredeemed flesh can be a scary thing if it were not for God’s promises and purposes, which are never thwarted.

I delight in how good our God is. Perfect in all His ways, nothing escaping His notice, we who are in Christ truly have nothing to fear. This does not mean that sorrows and hardships might not visit us, but it does mean that the LORD Who is over all things knew it ahead of time and supplies the grace, strength and mercy needed in each waking moment.

God protects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. He surrounds us with His presence and gives us His favor. If. If we are in Him. If we are obedient and trusting in Him. His lavish protection guarding our minds, souls, our entire being – is one of the greatest benefits of being a child of God.

When I look back over the blessings and chaos in my past, I see the fingerprints of my God. Even in the most painful moments where I wondered where God’s protection was, I now see how very much He was present and guarding my heart and life. The times when I despaired because of the attack of men I now see as wasted time that I could have surrendered to God and trusted in His protection.

It has been said that we have no idea how very much God protects us on a daily basis. Near disasters avoided because of God’s protection or God orchestrating circumstances for His glory and our good – perhaps His overarching protection is undetected, but nonetheless every moment is held in God’s hands.

Lord, thank You for your constant protection and sovereignty in all of life. Our hope for safety is in vain if it is not surrendered to Your perfect will. Help us to fully trust You, for You are able and Almighty God.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 4: Root Repair – Forgiveness

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It’s ok to be hurt, it is just what we do with that hurt that matters.

Scripture of the Day:

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ever feel like you have a sign on your back that says, “attack”? Sometimes it seems we can be inundated with people who are angry with us or just plain don’t like us. Any thankfulness we have quickly dissipates while we begin to become self-focused and perhaps throw a pity party or two.

If we are not careful, the actions of others can lead us down a path of a complaining self-absorbed spirit. We are human, though, and have feelings. It’s ok to be hurt, it is just what we do with that hurt that matters.

When I consider that God has forgiven me all of my transgressions, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I cannot receive such forgiveness and be unforgiving, as well. Forgiveness opens up our hearts and enables us to replace the hurt with grace, instead.

Day 31: 31 Days of Reinvented Hope …How Was It?

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Hope Reinvented survives in the harshest of environments and is an anchor, sure and steady.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 6:19

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…”

1 Peter 3:15

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Zechariah 9:12

“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.”

Psalm 119:114

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.”

You made it! (Or, if you just found out about the 31 days of Hope Reinvented, welcome!) Sifting through our hopes and dreams, fulfilled, broken or unrealized, has taken us on a voyage to discover a hope we never thought was possible.

Hope Reinvented survives in the harshest of environments and is an anchor, sure and steady. It reminds us of our core purpose in this life – to glorify God and live a worthy life filled with His eternal hope – and beckons us back to our Creator and His vision for this precious life He has given.

As you have assessed where your hope lies, have you had a change of perspective in hope? Was it all you “hoped it would be”? (Sorry, my corny sense of humor had to chime in there).

If you are in a place of brokenness, hope is not easily seen. How have you navigated through such times?

This knowledge of the hope God has for us cannot be kept a secret. People need to know this life was never meant to be lived for the here and now alone. There is hope when life is not hopeful, but it is not in things or positions or earthly temporary success. Hope Reinvented is found in His precious Word alone as we are in a relationship with the God of this universe, our Abba Father.

Thank you for taking this time to come with me and explore what Hope Reinvented looks like.In case you missed it, below is a table of contents for all 31 days. God makes all things new and His hope for you is sure.

Oh God, You are our portion, our delight! Thank You that You have not left us without hope. We worship You, our Eternal Hope!

31 Days of Hope Reinvented

Day 1: Salvation is Here
Day 2: Not in Kansas Anymore
Day 3: Where Was God?
Day 4: The Grief Process: Finding Our Way & Thriving in the Desert
Day 5: Vision From the Pit: Purpose in Crisis
Day 6: Revelation in the Darkness -Who Was the Thief?
Day 7: Facing Depression
Day 8: Facing Disillusionment
Day 9: Facing Fear
Day 10:Facing Judgment
Day 11: Facing the Sin Within
Day 12: Facing Memories Through a Biblical Lens
Day 13: Facing the Enemy
Day 14: Facing and Embracing Reality – The New Normal
Day 15: Facing the Future
Day 16: Understanding Sin & The Sovereignty of God
Day 17: The Christian Culture
Day 18: Telling Ourselves the Truth – exposing Our Unbelief
Day 19: Fairy Tales Remixed
Day 20: Uncovering the Goodness of God When Life Hurts
Day 21: Hope’s Debtor: Gratitude & Humility
Day 22: Hope in Sorrows & Affliction
Day 23: Exploring Hope: Making Sense in a Fallen World
Day 24: Superficial Hope
Day 25: The Promise of Hope
Day 26: The Foundation of Hope
Day 27: The Formation of Hope
Day 28: The Fruition of Hope
Day 29: Hope Discovered
Day 30: Hope Reinvented
Day 31: 31 Days…How Was It?

Day 30: Hope Reinvented

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God wants to take us to a higher place that far surpasses simply hoping for status quo.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 13:13

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Romans 8:24-25

“But For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Well here we are. We’ve arrived. Well, not really. Reinvented Hope requires maintenance, but “hope”fully as we’ve examined the hope we have, we’ve exposed areas in our lives where our hope was in the wrong place and refocused our hope in the right place – Jesus alone.

We began this quest for Hope Reinvented with the understanding that to be human is to hope – to hope and believe in an ultimate good end. God uniquely made us with a craving for hope and something more than we see around us. This is not ingratitude, but a longing placed there by a sovereign God, who knew we needed to be people of Hope to live worthy lives.

God wants to take us to a higher place that far surpasses simply hoping for status quo, the avoidance of pain or even temporary success in this world. As we have walked through the maze of this life we have learned to navigate disillusionment and suffering by looking up over the walls of doubt that threaten to block our view of God’s hope.

Sometimes our troubles actually give birth to hope and help us to understand our hope was very different from what we thought we needed in the first place. As we walk through many troubled times that we never thought would be a part of our testimony, we learn to trust in our God and see that the sweetness of surrendering to His sovereignty is unparalleled with any other solution this world has to offer. Our solace in suffering is that our Savior willingly chose the road of suffering that we wanted to deny and is able to guide us on that path and give us victory in surrendering to His hope.

Hope Reinvented is not dependent on anything this world offers. The quest for this eternal hope causes us to lift our eyes to the hills and see where our hope comes from – God and His word.

Lord, thank You for being our hope. Help us to never forget the hope we have learned and to share this living hope with others, too.

 

Day 29: Hope Discovered

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Those who “catch” this Reinvented Hope are on the hunt for it.

Scriptures of the Day:

Psalm 31:24

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Hebrews 10:23

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Psalm 130:5

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

We are nearing the end of our journey exploring this new Hope Reinvented, which was found as we applied God’s precious word and promises through all the obstacles life has thrown at us.

Discovering this hope was not easy, but we can say that it was worth it, no matter what the cost – to gain this precious gift of a hope everlasting.

As we run this race and explore this life to see what our hope really is, we first have examined what it is not.

  • Reinvented hope is not in belongings or riches.
  • Reinvented hope is not in having a perfect life.
  • Reinvented hope is not in any person or thing.
  • Reinvented hope is not in any achievements I pursue or gain.
  • Reinvented hope is not in the avoidance of pain.
  • Reinvented hope is not in another man’s praise or acceptance.

Oddly enough, Reinvented hope is discovered when:

  • Rejection comes knocking on our door, causing us to run to our Father for lasting acceptance.
  • Illness comes, bringing suffering that humbles us and causes us to look for a hope beyond our pain.
  • Sorrow knocks on our door unexpectedly, jolting us into the reality that our hopes are no more.
  • When the pressures of this life build to an intense level – finances or relationships in turmoil – and cause us to find resolution.

It is in these desperate moments of life that we look up to our God and need something more. Aware that this life has not delivered what we had hoped, we come before God bankrupt with scarcely a hope at all. We battle through disillusionment and fight to finally obtain an authentic definition of what it means to walk side-by-side with our Creator and really place our hope and trust in Him.

I believe those who “catch” this hope are on the hunt for it. They don’t leave the race of this life, despite many discouraging “hope killers”. They are instead thrusting themselves forward with whatever strength they have left, and placing themselves in the mercies of God.

I am not much of a runner, but I run anyway. I have had to battle numerous autoimmune diseases and have many more days with pain than without. Pain has a way of making things feel impossible. Hope seems futile when just basic functioning is a challenge.

In the midst of some of my greatest pain, I have written love notes to my God that could not have been written had I not been brought to my knees. As I surrendered to the adjustments I had to make to be able to still be productive, a funny thing happened. I was surprised by gratitude and discovered a hope that was greater than when I had been well and I worshiped God in a way I had not before.

I still have to guard my health, but in His mercy God has placed many of my autoimmune diseases underneath my feet in remission. What a good God. But the lessons learned are even more precious to me than the healing He has brought. I will praise my God whether I am well or not, for in all of it, He is my hope and He will use it all for my good and His glory.

When we discover this hope, we need to be like the Psalmist and hold onto this Hope Reinvented with all our being. The storms of life ebb and flow, but God’s hope is constant throughout. As we wait for our ultimate redemption, His hope and His word are our strength and enablement to live a worthy life full of hope for His glory.

Oh God, I am overcome by Your goodness! Thank You for revealing this awesome hope we have in You! Help us to rely on You and not anything You created. Open our eyes when we are tempted to look to anything else other than You for our salvation.

I have a new song called, “You Are Worthy” coming out on November 4th, currently available on my ministry website. This song epitomizes to me a path to find joy. As we focus on God’s worth and character, our problems become smaller, we discover lasting hope and joy and are lost in worship of Him.

 

Day 26: The Foundation of Hope

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The battle for Hope Reinvented begins at the foundation of our hope and is a battle in the mind.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 15:4

“For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope.”

Ephesians 2:12

“In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.”

1 Corinthians 3:11

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

When we are at the place of broken dreams, trying to rebuild our hope can seem futile, especially when the future ahead does not appear to have hope in the natural.

If you have been reading this series on Hope Reinvented, we have walked through all of the pitfalls and detractors from having a living hope in Christ. We have examined our former hope and let it go if it was not the hope God has for us. We have also seen that real hope is only found in Christ. Now we will examine what is at the foundation of this Hope Reinvented in Christ alone.

God’s Word. At the foundation of this Reinvented Hope is God’s Word. Man’s word or promise could never fulfill the demands of a hope that never fails. His promises speak life when death is all we see, but another friend at the level of foundation must be present to apply God’s word . . .

Trust. Trusting when everything is going well is not trust at all. But trusting when nothing is going well – now this is trust. Some people think it is foolish to trust in what you cannot see, but this is the definition of faith, as well. Without faith no one can please God. God delights in us and in giving us His promises. He loves it when we look to Him and hope in Him. This is another layer of the foundation of hope – relationship.

Relationship is a necessary layer in our foundation, for without it we cannot claim the promises given by God. Sometimes we can be guilty of just wanting relief from the burdens of this life and seeking the hope of God to escape. Having a relationship with God enables us in times of adversity and also becomes our beacon of hope as we have confidence in the promises He has made to those who trust Him.

Action. As we begin to live out this Reinvented Hope we see another layer in our foundation – action. Living hope in action means we live boldly in the face of dashed hopes. We exemplify this reality by going against the flesh and taking God’s promises at face value. Studying His Word, applying it, memorizing it and living it out is what makes this eternal hope come to life. Action must accompany mentally agreeing with God’s hope.

Discipline. Consistency in nurturing our hope is necessary to cultivate and grow our confidence in this secure hope we have. Taking captive hopeless thoughts and replacing them with God’s, coupled with studying His word daily are not optional. We will be tossed to and fro, otherwise.

When my world was encompassed by constant strife (and this still happens from time to time), I thirsted for God’s promises and read them constantly. I put myself in a place to receive those promises by seeking Him fervently and crying out for Him to deliver me instead of running to other vices or “hopes”.

The challenge in such times is to not look around you at the waves or the supposed failures. They work to tear down our hope. Mental toughness is created and our faith strengthened when we choose to focus only on God and His Word. Sometimes we have to guard our heart to keep away the “hope stealers”. These hope stealers or crushers can be pretty convincing, but they are not eternal.

The battle for Hope Reinvented begins at the foundation of our hope and is a battle in the mind. We must choose which hope we believe in and fight for it with all we have. I close today with words from Woodrow Kroll from his series, “Back to the Bible”: “No one who utterly despairs will pray, for prayer is the proof of lingering hope. Even in the midst of despair, the psalmist recognizes that, should there be any hope, it will be found only in God.”

Lord, You are awesome and faithful, our only Hope! Help us to stay rooted in this hope and to share this hope as stewards of the only real eternal hope that only You can give.

Day 23: Exploring Hope – Making Sense in a Fallen World

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

While the tragedies of this life do not make sense to our fleshly finite minds, God’s word illumines our minds and hearts and helps us to see everything this life brings in light of eternity.

Scripture of the Day:

Ephesians 1:18-19

18 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength.”

Living in a fallen world, we can get lost and become hopeless. There is no hope in a world without Christ, but in Christ we have discovered a new kind of hope.

As we have processed our grief and sought to understand the heart of God in our struggles, we come to a place where we apply this new hope in this broken place we live.

Looking over the rugged landscape ahead of us, we learn to apply all that we have learned as we have sought to not just restore our hope, but have a living lasting hope.

Our Compass. At the core of this new reinvented hope is viewing the world through a biblical lens. The old default method of letting feelings and thoughts rule our mind is taken captive and we search the word of God for guidance in the bumps and blessings we encounter.

While the tragedies of this life do not make sense to our fleshly finite minds, God’s word illumines our minds and hearts and helps us to see everything this life brings in light of eternity.

Trust. Proverbs 3:5-6 says it well – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. 6 Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.” This new hope cannot be based on our own understanding. When we trust the LORD with moments of life that don’t make sense, we experience an abundant joy and a peace that the world can never remove. He is trustworthy.

Expectations.  The expectation of the righteous is joy, but that does not mean a problem-free life. “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:8). Our new reinvented hope never ends. Breathe that truth in. It is not based in this earth, nor in anyone or anything but God alone and He has no beginning or end.

Lord, thank you for providing a hope that is secure and lasts forever.

Day 18: Telling Ourselves the Truth – Exposing Our Unbelief

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

In the tunnels of life, we see one way out, but there are actually two. One path seeks God and the other seeks our own way.

Scripture of the Day:

Numbers 13:2, 17-20

13:2a “Send out men to investigate the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites17 When Moses sent them to investigate the land of Canaan, he told them, “Go up through the Negevand then go up into the hill country 18 and see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, few or many, 19 and whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or fortified cities20 and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether or not there are forests in it. And be brave, and bring back some of the fruit of the land.” Now it was the time of year for the first ripe grapes. 

It is not until we are willing to examine ourselves and give our sin its worst name that we can begin to declare victory. Sin is deceitful, though, and we often do not recognize the subtleties of deception inherent in the walls of our mind.

Sometimes we can be convinced fully in our mind that we are “ok”, but we are covering over this unsettled feeling that will not let go.

The irony in the discomforts of this life is that God is using them to deliver us from self-preoccupation and into a land of promise.

Reminds me of those Israelites again.

There they were, on the edge of entering the promise land and God told them to go check it out. I wonder if he was delighting to see their joy at the blessings He had in store for them. Kind of like I get more excited than my kids to see their expressions as they see the good I have planned for them for various moments of celebration.

He sent them there when the land was full of hope – the grapes were ripe and plentiful, what a good Father. The scouts had a job to do and a choice to make. Would they focus on all the hope surrounding them, or the potential struggles? They told themselves lies. And they convinced others to believe them. God got pretty angry about it, too. Who wouldn’t? Ever prepared an amazing surprise for someone only to have them say they don’t like it?

Maybe in examining the lies they believed we might recognize our own self-deception, too.

Lie #1 – We are not able

Numbers 13:31 “We are not able to go up against these people, because they are stronger than we are”.

Huge flaw in this calculation – kind of left out the God factor here. They gave a discouraging report that focused on their strength rather than God’s and dissuaded the people from believing God.

Lie #2: Doubted God’s goodness and intentions

Numbers 14:3 “Why has the LORD brought us into this land only to be killed by the sword, that our wives and our children should become plunder?”

Ouch. The first lie focused on our inability, but the second one accused God. To say that God just wanted to bring them out to kill them. After all He had done for them. But our memories fade and we tend to forget all of the blessings when a massive thorn in our flesh comes knocking at our door.

Lie #3: Rebel against God and form our own plan.

Numbers 14:4 “So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

The Israelites are in pretty bad shape to just say it is time to turn around and go home. Um, where was home? Living in slavery, eating onions and beaten all day? Sure sounds cozy.

They even dared to go ahead and try to claim the promised land their way – not God’s. It did not turn out so well for them.

Lies will flood our mind unless we have the truth ready to dispute it. When we are tested like the Israelites were, we have to counter those attacks with the Word of God.

Truth #1: God is with us – do not fear

Numbers 14:9 “Only do not rebel against theLord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection has turned aside from them, but the Lord is with us. Do not fear them!

God demonstrated His presence over and over again, through His Word and through actions. We need to believe that He is with us and He is for us. It will be hard because reality sometimes hurts desperately. Maybe our hearts melt within us and it seems there is no way out – kind of like that tunnel image above. Closed in by our circumstances, we see one way out, but there are actually two. One path seeks God and the other seeks our own way.

Truth #2: Disbelief in God is hatred toward Him.

Numbers 14:11 “The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me, and how long will they not believe in me, in spite of the signs that I have done among them?

Sometimes the fear of the LORD is a good reminder. When we see that our disbelief is wicked in God’s sight, we need to repent and ask God for mercy, to give us faith. None of us would want to say we hate God. But disobedience is not love. As Jesus said, if we love the Father, we will do what He says.

Truth #3: He is good and His plans are good.

Numbers 14:20 “Then the Lord said, ‘I have forgiven them as you asked. 21 But truly, as I liveall the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.'”

Despite the constant disobedience of God’s children, He still forgives and redeems. His plans will not be thwarted. He is loving, long suffering, kind.

Truth #4: He sees you.

Psalm 33:13-15 “The LORD watches from heaven; he sees all people. 14 From the place where he lives he looks carefully at all the earth’s inhabitants. 15 He is the one who forms every human heart, and takes note of all their actions.” 

He rules over everything and still considers us. Wow. He saw the Israelites and He sees us. He knows our every thought and He chooses to love us, anyway.

He saw me when I felt inadequate as a wife and sat motionless in the courtroom. He knew the plans that were ahead of me that I could not see when my life was a blur. When my body felt so weak from infirmity for years on end, He spoke strength, even if I could not feel it at the time. Reality sometimes lies to us with its harsh expectations that are void of faith.

The lies come in innocently enough, sometimes cloaked in righteous garb. But we do not have to fall victim to them. We are never trapped. God has a way out that will blow our mind and restore our hope in a way we never thought possible! At the place of our devastation, there is always hope if we will just hold on and trust God.

 

 

Day 17: The Christian Culture

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone.

Scriptures of the Day:

Philippians 2:19-21

“19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 12:14-15

“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.”

Sometimes our hope can be stolen from an unlikely place. Paul is not mincing words in this passage. To say that all the believers except Timothy sought after their own interests is astounding. Of course this is one verse of many and Paul often spoke with great encouragement about the believers he was working with. Perhaps in this season in particular, he did not “feel the love” from the believers surrounding him.

I confess I have wanted to avoid this topic, but it has played such a big role in my healing as well as in my suffering. It is the elephant in the room that we want to avoid, but needs to be discussed in the hope of healing hearts who have been wounded by spiritual abuse or the Christian culture gone awry.

The first time I stepped into a church that was alive with joy and hope and fervent praise it felt like coming home. This is what it was all about – coming together and rejoicing in this new hope we had found. Church has been rather boring growing up – I did not know the LORD and we rarely went to church.

But then God saved me and I went to an amazing church (http://www.gracecov.org/), unlike any I had ever been to. There were exciting times serving in campus ministry, helping to start a church plant and serving on the worship team. Sweet, vibrant times of discipleship, fellowship and growing in the LORD.

When I was persecuted for my new faith, church was a refuge, the believers all surrounded me and it was family. Sometimes you wish you could bottle up the joy you have from one church experience and open it up from time to time when needed.

The church can serve as a great catalyst and cultivator of hope, but it can also serve as a place of great pain.

The pain is worsened by the fact that church is a place where we come for hope – a place where we know we are all accepted by Christ – but not necessarily by other Christians. When a Christian sins, it just hurts worse. It is not expected, but maybe it should be.

When we understand that the church is a place filled with sinful people, we clear up our disillusionment with the church. There is no perfect church and people sometimes can be prideful, selfish, legalistic, used as tools by the enemy.

Sometimes when life crushes our hope, we run to people or to the church as our refuge. This can be a source of inspiration, but it can also be a place of great stress and sorrow.

When my children and I were suffering greatly, we felt isolated and judged at church. The church simply did not know how to handle our situation. At the time it was very painful, but now I understand that they were just ill-equipped. Sometimes people meant well and sometimes they tried to manipulate us. It really messes with your mind when the body of Christ is not very godly. But God.

Jesus brings healing and opens our eyes to realize that our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone. As we walk through life and encounter seasons that threaten to destroy us, we need to be in God’s word foremost and to find like-minded believers who will stand with us. The others who seek to kick us when we are down, or judge us self-righteously – we can forgive them and realize they are misinformed and focused on earthly matters. Sometimes we, too, are small-minded and need grace.

The Holy Spirit can help us to get over our shock from snubbing, gossiping, jealousy, anger and rejection that come from believers. All of us are desperate for the grace of God and need to keep the main thing the main thing – being a beacon of hope to the world that desperately needs Jesus.

The church is not perfect, but the bride of Christ is indeed beautiful. Christ redeemed her and He will complete the work He has begun in her. Letting go of the judgements of man and embracing the acceptance we have in Christ offers a hope that never ends.

Stay where you are planted and help encourage the culture within your church to be one that pleases God. This song by Twila Paris is such a reminder of Who the church is. How Beautiful. Love one another – Christ bled and died for us all.

Lord, help us to keep our hope in You alone. Everything else disappoints, but You never do! Help your church to rise up and be loving and accepting, able to provide the hope You have given so abundantly.