Day 5: Vision From the Pit – Purpose in Crisis

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God can do miracles in the pits of life.

Scripture of the Day:

Jeremiah 29:11-14

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will make myself available to you,’   says the Lord.  ‘Then I will reverse your plight and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’

We are still in the desert in here and things are heating up. In the place of dearth and scarcity, captivity and destruction – there is a promise.

Jeremiah stands as an example of trusting in God in devastating times. He understood God’s sovereignty. He lived it out as the weeping prophet at times, but trusted his God because he knew His character and remembered the deeds of his God.

We are likely all familiar with this well known passage from the book of Jeremiah. Written to the exiles following their abduction from the home they loved and in that place of scorn, persecution and destruction, God sent a message to encourage them through His weeping prophet, Jeremiah. In a place of pain, God wanted them to flourish and enjoy life. Wow. It must have seemed crazy, God allowing them to suffer and promising a pending punishment, but telling them to prosper in that moment. Get comfortable in the pit?

Camped out in a land not their own, the Israelites must have wondered how they got to this place. They were God’s chosen people – chosen for this? Have you ever felt that way? I sure have. All too often we don’t recognize how we have strayed from a path only to find we end up in a completely different place than our original destination. Or maybe someone else formed the path we are walking on that took us far away from our hopes and dreams. Can God’s sovereignty reach this new place and make sense of our suffering? Definitely. But we might have to get comfortable in the pit.

It is hard to see beyond the pit. Feeling like we are enclosed with no way out, the path to victory is in surrender. If we seek to know our God, we know that He is faithful and nothing is wasted in His hands. His character is beyond our comprehension and every promise is always fulfilled. God is always good and His ways are good. But still we can doubt His purposes and think we might have a better plan. When we find ourselves struggling to get out of the pit, we might just be wrestling against God like Jacob did.

If God allowed the pit, He always has a purpose in it. The question is whether or not we can trust Him in that place as well as in the place of blessing. The pit ultimately shaped the character of Joseph and elevated him to the second highest authority in Egypt. God can do miracles in the pits of life. He becomes our only source of strength as we are stripped from any other aid. In that isolation and temporary prison, He longs to be our Deliverer.

When we are sorry for the pit rather than seeking to understand His purpose in it, we might lengthen our stay there. Either way, God is with us in the pit and on the other side, as well. Accepting the pit, the desert, blessings – anything that comes from God’s hand – We begin to understand His purposes are higher than our own.

It was in their suffering that God made Himself available to their Israelites. When they were blessed before, they had forgotten God and were distracted with things of lesser value. Hardship had gotten their attention and had revealed to them that they were missing what mattered most – knowing and enjoying God in this life that He gave – whether He blesses or He doesn’t.

God wanted to bless His people again, but He cared more about their character and relationship with Himself than making their lives perfect. It actually would be cruel of God to do anything less. Jeremiah had a pastor’s heart and his people were suffering needlessly. Because they were also persecuting him and not surrendering to God’s sovereign purpose, they were missing God’s blessings. God did not stop his crying, but He gave him hope during his grief and caught every single tear.

Like Jeremiah and God’s people, you might wonder why God would say to enjoy life when life does not seem so enjoyable. You might apply these principles I have shared but still wish the pain did not visit you. That’s ok. None of us delight in suffering and God understands.  It is just learning to see beyond our circumstances and into what His sovereign purpose really means in our lives.

There is purpose in the tears. Jeremiah understands. Purpose in the pain. There as we gaze at our Savior, we see what He is accomplishing in our hearts. We become more like Him and suddenly our purpose is changed. We no longer want our way and start to understand that His ways are higher. We find His grace, His strength, our perfect peace – as we are wrapped in His perfect love.

When things seem to shift way off course, you can firmly know that God’s plans never fail. You just might not like his plans at the moment, but when you recount what God has done in the past and what He has promised for the future, you can surrender to His purposes because of who He is.

God wants us to surrender to His sovereignty, rise above and understand what really matters, what the purpose of this life and our circumstances really are – about knowing and glorifying our good God.

While I thought I was living before “D-Day” in our home, now I see I was merely surviving. Somehow, instinctively I knew something was wrong. God was not going to leave his children in that place. He is too good for that. Maybe your sorrow is also your deliverance. Maybe another perspective just might help us to trust Him when we, too, have to drink the cup of suffering like Jesus did.

Lord, thank You for creating the pits in life to catch our attention and fix our gaze on You. When life hurts, ignite in our hearts Your purpose and help us to walk faithfully with you.

Here is a worship song for you to go with today’s devotion: Valley of Vision

Day 4: The Grief Process: Finding Our Way & Thriving in the Desert

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The secret of the desert is to not look at all the pain around us, but to look to the One Who made the desert.

Scriptures of the Day:

Job 17:15

“Where then is my hope – who can see any hope for me?”

Romans 15:13

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Isaiah 35:1

“Let the desert and dry region be happy; let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily!”

Isaiah 43:19

“Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it? Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness.”

Hosea 13:5

“I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land.”

Jeremiah 2:6

“They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and of pits, Through a land of drought and of deep darkness, Through a land that no one crossed And where no man dwelt?'”


The desert is a beautiful place if we have eyes to see it. Some just see the dust and the dearth of anything green and lush. There seems to be no life there. Some fear the scary critters lurking and slithering all around. Others see the majestic mountains in the backdrop, and the brave life that sneaks up through the cracks in the ground, bursting forth with promise.

I grew up out west and New Mexico left a big impact on me. Or maybe on my derriere. I recall vividly walking on top of a fence (because this is what sensible people do) and falling to my demise right on top of a cactus. The hours spent having someone else pull needles out of my bum taught me a lesson that I have not forgotten – the desert hurts.

The scorpions and tarantulas added to my distaste of the desert, too. Walking home from school with the mighty March winds stinging my legs while dodging flying tumbleweeds, I confess that while the terrain was beautiful in this desert, it was harsh, too.

God’s people knew the desert well – they spent a lot of time there. They did not appreciate it and complained about God’s provision while they were there.They remembered the provision they had while enslaved and favored that place of shame and suffering instead of being dependent upon God in a dry season. Not a lot has changed with the people of God. We, too, wonder why we have to spend time there at all.

The desert serves as such a palpable analogy to the spiritual desert that we often find ourselves in and out of in this life.

Sometimes we bring the desert on ourselves by forgetting God. And sometimes we are surprised by the sudden appearance of desert all around us. We did not plan to go there. Things might have been going well for awhile … then. Then the other shoe drops and there is nothing but death seemingly in front of us.

When my children and I were trying to navigate the new terrain of life we were thrust into, we did not know the way. The only map we had was God and His Word – oh, and many people offering counsel. Some good, some not so good.

Trying to acclimate to the spiritual desert we were in, it seemed like we just kept falling on cacti. One night, a little over a year of being in the desert, the LORD gave me a strong impression that I needed to pray for protection over my children and I. I stayed up until 4:00 in the morning praying and the next morning a friend called to ask what was going on in our world – she had begun praying at 4:00 in the morning the very same words I had been praying. A robbery had happened that night a couple doors down and my next door neighbor witnessed someone standing at the end of my driveway in the middle of the night.

I still shudder when I consider the mercy of God, calling me to pray fervently and His protection over us. A couple weeks later, I witnessed eight men in two cars coming out of a neighbor’s home. Another robbery. My heart melted within me. My son told me it was time I got a gun . . .

In the midst of an endless court battle, being falsely accused and sued by family members who felt they had a right to invade our lives while we suffered immensely, my health also took a turn for the worse. Autoimmune diseases all flared up, my strength was succumbing to the stress all around me. Finances were a wreck, our home was foreclosed upon, the robberies intensified our feelings of insecurity in an abyss of problems, so I went to buy a gun to protect my children and I.

Little did I know there was fine print on the back of a court document that said I could not purchase any firearms. Later this court error was fixed, but the trauma of this gun toting homeschool mama being arrested, handcuffed and brought to jail was another thorn in the desert that I will not soon forget.

Oh God – do you see me? Do you see this turmoil we are in? How do You receive glory from this? Why is this happening? Joseph must have felt the same way – thrown in prison for a crime he did not commit. But He honored God in that desolate place and he hoped.

When things go from bad to worse, we are not ever forgotten. The thorns and thistles of life often grow on things of beauty. It hurt more than I could ever convey to walk the lonely path we did, but in those broken cries and prayers to my God alone, there was this thing of beauty that He was accomplishing within. Endless hope in the character of God.

I thought I knew the LORD (and I did) before the biggest trial of my life, but now – now I knew Him in such an intimate way that all I wanted was His glory. I did not care how long He had me in this desert anymore. If this is where He wanted me, I surrendered my plans for an escape (it would not have worked, anyway), and worshiped Him right there in the dust. In the jail cell while the police officer explained my innocence. In the court while I was exposed to the most painful revelations a mother should never have to hear. In church when all I could do was weep and hide my face with my long hair to try and disguise my inner turmoil.

Just like God saw Ishmael’s mom weeping for her son in the desert, God saw me. Raw and real, loved and embraced.

You see the secret of the desert is to not look at all the pain around us, but to look to the One Who made the desert. He has a purpose in the desert that far exceeds our purposes in the valley.

In the desert we discover that our perspective depends on what we look at – the problems or the promise around us. God has life in the desert – not just death. We can be overflowing with hope even in the desert…because of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also gave strength to Jesus when He was in the desert. And Jesus modeled surrender and worship in that place.

We are not alone in the desert, even though it feels so very lonely. Though it is tempting, don’t look at the thorns around you – see the beauty in the desert and the oasis God provides for those who thirst after Him.

The pressure of our desert is making us into diamonds and the testimony formed is priceless.

The next time you are in the desert, think of it as going camping with God. He is there with us. The Holy One – with us! The beauty of the desert is lost to those who just look at the rugged exterior. In the arid places, the places that seem like there is no more life at all, we have a new kind of hope forming within us – reinvented, made in the dry places – a thing of beauty to behold. A hope full of God’s promises and fellowship – and our hopes and plans lie fallen on the desert floor. And we are free.

In the place of suffering and disbelief, even disillusionment, we can choose to not just survive, but thrive, even delight in God – Who meets us in the arid places of our lives. Pity parties are exposed, His purposes are seen as higher, and victory is found. This is where God longs for us to rest – not when things are perfect, but with Him in the desert – even when they are uncertain – to know that His blueprint for our lives is perfect at all times.

Oh Lord, we hope in You alone. Whether in the desert, the sunshine or the rain, You are our God in all of it.

We may as well sing while we are in the desert. 🙂 Here is a worship song from Housefires – Never Run Dry

 

Day 3: Where was God?

 

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When we are wounded by life’s uncertainty, God loves to be our hero who uses the pain to wreck our religiosity and cause our hard hearts to become soft again.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 6:15-19

15 “And so by persevering, Abraham inherited the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and the oath serves as a confirmation to end all dispute. 17 In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, 18 so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” 

In the midst of the biggest heartache of our lives, our faith in God is under siege while voices around us as well as the voice of our own heart betray us and beg us to accuse God for the calamity that has come upon us.

Given everything we have, still we feel we have a right to it all.

In His sovereign wisdom, God created us without the ability of being able to control anything and with no certain promises in this world accept Himself. We all want to be able to count on something in this life and it is sometimes frightening when we cannot.

This human condition of dependency causes us to engage in many futile efforts of trying to overcome our dependent status. We can begin attempting to control our life or others, becoming angry with God, people or circumstances that we cannot control, or maybe at the end of ourselves, we bring our hurt to the only One Who can heal us – the One Who designed us to be in relationship with Himself.

Our genius God who made us to depend on Him did not do it with any other motive than love. Our hearts drift away – that is the norm. And when life is hard, our hope begins to fade, too.

So where was God when we suffered our biggest sorrow, illness, financial woe? I know, I know. If I say “he was there”, that is hard to understand. If He was there, why didn’t He stop it?

This question has caused many to doubt God’s goodness and yet the very same part of us who craves independence from God wants dependence if it means He can fix all of our problems. A little hypocritical, perhaps.

God is not insecure. He does not need us, but He loves us so much that He gave His own life for ours and lets us choose how we will live. He gives us a free will and although he is in complete control of the universe, we have the ability to choose sin or obedience. Death or life. There are consequences for those choices and when we or other people in our lives choose sin, we will be impacted. Is God to blame for that?

In the darkest moments of my searching for God in our mess, the LORD showed me that there were many layers in my heart. Layers of hurt, doubt, unbelief. I said I believed in God. But there were layers tucked beneath that could not fully trust the God Who could allow such pain in.

When we are wounded by life’s uncertainty, God loves to be our hero who uses the pain to wreck our religiosity and cause our hard hearts to become soft again.

I did not want my faith hurt or my children’s faith hurt from the actions of their father. The fact that he professed to be a Christian made our trauma even worse. In that place of desperation for healing and crying out to God that He would help me to raise my children and keep their hearts and faith strong, the LORD amazed me.

He did not remove my problems but He did change our hearts. Over and over again His promises stood out. They were not just nice sounding, fluffy wishes. They were real. They were for us. And they were accessed by His Holy Spirit, revealing the truth and helping us to believe and hold on to each precious promise.

“I would have despaired if I had not believed I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Those words from the Psalmist cut my heart wide open. Oh, God. I want to believe that my life will not always be a heap of ruins. God can do a lot with a willing heart who asks for help to believe when everything seems hopeless.

If someone has hurt you seemingly irreparably, know this: God is for you. He does not change, He is incapable of lying. Every single one of His promises are for you, if you will just persevere.

I can hear some saying impatiently, “I need that promise now”. So do I, friend. So do I. But when we begin to trust His promises He also reveals our need to trust Him with what is best for us. What we consider mercy might not be mercy. What we consider blessing might lead us to a curse. Father knows best. He is our Promise Maker & Promise Keeper and His ways are perfect.

As we move on toward maturity in Christ, we are no longer like little children who need to be given what we demand in order to feel loved. Instead, we stand in awe at the character of our God – unfailing, perfect in every way, and the fact that He would offer us promises at all – the ones who violated His perfect law – and we can only worship with gratitude.

Surrendering our hearts to Him and asking Him to help us trust Him when we don’t understand – is complete freedom. He is able to enable us when life is hard and turn our ashes into a thing of beauty.

I wrote the song, “Layers” last year out of this testimony of surrender that God led me through. I pray it encourages you, today, as well. Peel back the Layers of your heart and lay them at His feet. Expose and surrender the hurt and fears before the One Who wipes away every one of our tears.

Oh, Lord! You are so beautiful, so faithful, so good! Thank You for Your precious promises. Help us to cling to You and to Your promises and to never grow weary in doing so.

Day 2: Not in Kansas Anymore

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Hope is fragile if it is dependent on a perfect life. The strength of a hope in Christ is that we hope beyond what we are feeling.

Scripture of the Day:

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Hoping is easier when all is well. But when it seems the ground beneath you has not just been shaken, but disappeared altogether, where is the Christian to stand? On higher ground.

At first this higher ground is on our knees, desperate for understanding and compassion from our God. With no fight left, surrender to God might seem easy, but depression or fear try to keep us from hoping at all.

Maybe we quote some verses or sing a song to try to help pull ourselves up in our new reality. Maybe we get angry, or cry or call friends – anyone who can offer a tonic to numb our pain. Maybe we stare blankly at the walls around us, pinching ourselves to see if we are awake.

We can’t go back to the place we were before the pain entered our lives. We can’t move forward, either. Daily functioning becomes an exercise in futility and feels like walking in mud. Our hearts are gripped with shocking horror that threatens to paralyze any movement at all.

A crisis happens when we encounter this moment when life simply hurts. We grasp for any sense of “normalcy”, whatever that is, and secretly in our hearts can begin to question God’s love and goodness.

Ever felt this kind of hopelessness? Sorry if I paint a grim picture. We have to be real, though, and honest – in order to see our need for a hope that is tenacious in the face of suffering.

The day God revealed to me the sin of the father of my children I could not breathe. The shame, horror and complete shock enveloped me. I did what any sensible woman would do. I ate chocolate. A lot of it. Buffalo wings, too. I spent out of our budget just to try to bring joy to my children. I wept and wept some more. I cried out for understanding and suffered the shunning and new social status that threatened to steal my joy. How did I get there?

This was not supposed to happen. I had waited for marriage and married a Christian man. I had promised to protect my children. In a state of grief, I could not feel my hands or feet and was dragged to court incessantly by the one who inflicted on us all our pain. Trying to homeschool five children while being falsely accused was a mess. But still I had this thing inside of me – what was it? Hope.

Hope that the God who promised to use everything for my good and His glory would do so. Hope that my God saw me. On the witness stand. On the floor, crying out for His deliverance. I read His Scripture night and day, trying to find answers that would help me to hold on just one more day. This hope was a constant anchor that I had to cultivate in God’s word.

If you have never gone through something traumatic that has rocked your world, hang tight. This world does not promise a perfect life. If you have suffered something that has left you disillusioned, you are in the right place.

Suffering is common to man. There are lots of books on the subject, but having genuine joy, hope and victory when the trials continue is uncommon. Finding hope in the midst is not just about coping, but about reinventing our idea of hope and navigating disillusionment to find real hope in God’s sovereignty, promises and character rather than in our circumstances.

So how do we let go of Kansas? It may have been all we ever knew. The grief process of letting go of our perception of what we thought our life in Christ should look like is not easy, but it is a well worn path by many who can testify of God’s miracles reaching into their circumstances and transforming their heart and hope in the midst.

It is not until we are submerged in the most challenging trials of our lives that we realize where our hope is placed. The former hope was based conceptually, this new hope experientially. The former hope was developed when we were surrounded by blessing, this new hope was developed in the fire and is no longer dependent upon circumstances.

Our innocence gone, our hope in the happy fairy tale ending smashed to pieces on the floor, we have to find a new hope that is not manufactured by rote, but rather fashioned in the fire. Tough questions need to be asked to find hope again. Authentic questions that pour out our heart before God.  At this place of raw suffering and crying out to God we present an honest offering – a sacrifice of praise, that becomes an internal hope that cannot be put out.

Paul understands. He wanted everyone to know the fire he had passed through – not to be a whiner, but to be real and to give God the glory. He shared his secret, too. He found his hope in relying on the One Who rose from the dead. Anyone Who can do that can handle our problems.

While we are not in our Kansas anymore, the new place we are at is deep. Deep in Christ. We understand His suffering. We understand that He left Heaven to come and suffer for us. He understands what it is like to leave perfection behind for those He loves. He left Heaven and we had to leave our Kansas.

We cannot get back what we thought we owned, but when we see the amazing treasures God gives us while we process trauma, we would not want to go back there, anyway. In its place is now a genuine desire and acceptance of what God has for us, which far surpasses our former hopes and dreams.

Hope is fragile if it is dependent on a perfect life. The strength of a hope in Christ is that we hope beyond what we are feeling. Supernaturally, God enables us to hope when it seems ludicrous to do so.

Recently, I had the joy of thanking Sara Groves for a song she wrote that embodied what I felt during this season of searching for hope in my life. I thought you might enjoy it, too – Painting Pictures of Egypt.

Lord, I pray for each one reading this blog – that you would fill them with your inexpressible hope and give them Your promises whispered to their heart. You are forever faithful and we worship You!

Day 1: Salvation is Here

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Hope would be meaningless if we did not have a living God Who makes and fulfills His promises.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Peter 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Ever feel like salvation looks a little different than what you had hoped for? I mean, if we are on the Jesus team now, life should be unicorns and roses without the thorns, right? Or maybe you haven’t accepted the free gift of salvation yet because you are not sure you can hope in one more thing that will possibly let you down.

Seriously, life can send us some hard times and it is not enough to quote some nice sounding sayings to get us through it all. Our hope in God can begin to falter when we pray and we pray and circumstances don’t change. Where is God when life hurts? Why doesn’t He choose to end our pain sometimes?

It seems wrong to question, but in all honesty, the only path to healing and finding genuine hope is to walk through the door of pain and seek to understand the heart of God in it all.

It is in the moment of our angst and grief that we find more than comfort in God’s Word and His presence. We discover a purpose and a hope far less superficial than the quest for a perfectly pain-free life, and God surprises us with a living hope in Him.

If you have ever wondered where God was when you discovered the most horrific, painful truth that shattered your life and family, or your home was foreclosed, or when you suffer with multiple illnesses, or your marriage ends in divorce or your pregnancy ends in miscarriage . . . the list goes on and on with the disappointments life can bring . . . you are not alone. I’ve wondered, too, when I walked through all of the things I just mentioned. But that wondering has been transformed into a wonder at how awesome God is – even when life hurts.

Religiously saying He is there or won’t give us more than we can handle doesn’t cut it when the sky is falling. He is not just there when we suffer – He chose the suffering we seek to avoid – because He loves us so much. When He chose to be rejected by men, spat upon and to bear our punishment, the Bible says He had joy. He endured His suffering knowing firmly the hope He had. In His immense suffering, He knew what He was accomplishing in that suffering – the salvation of many.

So it is with us. When we suffer and long for our deliverance, long for just a glimmer of hope again, God is accomplishing something far greater than relief from our temporary pain. He is changing our hope and making us into His image, but He also gives grace in our time of need.

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.

He does not tell us to hope and then crush our dreams. Hope would be meaningless if we did not have a living God Who makes and fulfills His promises. Hope is an overused word that can lose its meaning, unless we begin to look deeper into what this hope is really like that God has for us.

The Scripture above says that when we are saved we are saved into a living hope. Not just a concept, nor a thing to strive for – this hope is alive and given to us. Our hope is alive because our Savior is alive. This does not mean the removal of pain or sorrow, but it does mean He will rescue us. It might be a mighty deliverance that brings Him glory or it might mean an awesome testimony of His enablement throughout. The irony of God’s salvation is that God does not always save us from our troubles, but He often saves us through our troubles.

Some of the most amazing men of God in the Bible died, never having seen their hope fulfilled, yet their hope was certain. Their hope was beyond the grave and eternal.

When we feel without hope, it is in that moment that our hope is in the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong – it is not wrong to hope to see the goodness of God in the land of the living – the Psalmist echoed the same heart cry – but when our hope is in Him alone, we are no longer disappointed.

There is an awe that God will somehow use the mess to bless and also glorify Himself. He promises to. Instead of hoping I will no longer have to suffer, I now hope that I can honor God in every situation that arises.

During one of the greatest sorrows of my life, I was crying out to God and asking Him why He let someone else’s sins destroy my life and why I was suffering consequences for their sins. “I wasn’t angry when I bore your sins” was the answer. God forgive me. I had forgotten about His glory and felt forgotten by my loving Father, when He was inviting me to get hope and strength from Him in the midst of the fire.

On the day God drew me to Himself, I was saved from eternal suffering, but my circumstances did not change. I was submerged into a litany of newfound persecution, but my heart was full of hope. This is the mystery of a supernatural hope – it does not depend on anything this world has, but is firmly anchored in God alone.

This hope is anchored in a future salvation that is yet to be fully revealed. It is not anchored in a problem-free, perfect life on earth.

As we explore this hope together, the verse above reminds us that this salvation is a living hope. Our salvation is a constant hope that we look to and can depend on. It never fades, it is certain. It is a relationship with the God Who made us.

One last promise to keep us going – Jesus is interceding for us. He knows we get discouraged. He will not fail us and will restore our hope if we will just hang on to His word and promises.

Hebrews 7:25: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

Truthful Tuesday: The Gift of Gab – Blessing or Cursing?

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Choose words carefully, for each one can affect the destiny of another.

Scriptures of the Day:

Exodus 20:7

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold guiltless anyone who takes his name in vain.”

Psalm 10:4, 7

4 “The wicked man is so arrogant he always thinks,“God won’t hold me accountable; he doesn’t care. 7 His mouth is full of curses and deceptive, harmful words; his tongue injures and destroys.”

Proverbs 15:2,4

2 “The tongue of the wise treats knowledge correctly, but the mouth of the fool spouts out folly. 4 Speech that heals is like a life-giving tree, but a perverse tongue breaks the spirit.”

Matthew 12:36-37

36 I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 15:11

“What defiles a person is not what goes into the mouth; it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person.”

Ephesians 4:29

“You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 5:4

4 “Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting–all of which are out of character–but rather thanksgiving.”

Colossians 3:8

“But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth.”

James 1:26

“If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.”

James 3:10

“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters.”


 

I know what you are thinking – with the litany of Scriptures I have on speaking blessing instead of cursing that a mighty sermon is coming. 🙂

Well, not really. I hope today’s post will be an encouragement and a reminder of how God wants us to communicate and the sheer joy of it all. And I figured we could use some reminders from God’s word in case anyone tries to rationalize cursing, gossiping or speaking ill of another person as ever being ok.

Words are amazing. They can really encourage or discourage another person on toward greatness, apathy or destruction. It is such a gift to be able to communicate to another person, to praise our Creator or cheer someone on. Sometimes we forget that it is indeed a gift.

Sometimes my heart is so full of joy it could burst. This happens often when I am reading God’s word and culminates in tears flowing, full of gratitude as all I can mouth are the words, “thank you, God”!

With so many words in the human language, it would seem we have a lot of terms in our arsenal to be able to effectively communicate, but alas, words often cannot convey fully what our heart really intends.

Sometimes there are no words that could fully express the soul’s joy, ire or sorrow. It is in those times that my spirit cries out to the living God and I know He understands, even though I have not spoken a word.

With such a tremendous privilege of speaking and writing, it would seem we would have a God-given purpose in it. If ultimately every word is known by God before it is even spoken, wisdom encourages us to carefully consider each one.

He made us to communicate with Himself and with others for the purpose of edification, fellowship and loving one another. But sometimes communication is hard. Sometimes it seems impossible to say anything edifying when our hearts are hurt. Perhaps we shouldn’t in those moments.

One thing I know God did not intend is for us to misuse the gift of language. Like every tool or thing in creation has a God-given purpose, so does our language.

Today it seems there is a carelessness to our communication. Almost like a knee jerk response, we can spew something out of our mouths that brings no glory to God and does not benefit those who listen. Curse words are in most movies, television, music – even spoken by those who profess Christ. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

People who mistakenly profess freedom in Christ yet let vile words flow out of their mouths at whim are deceived. They claim that people are judgmental or perhaps not “enlightened” or legalistic if they would say that cursing is wrong. Hmmm. Maybe a Top 10 David Letterman style list will help here . . .

Top Ten Reasons People Curse, Gossip, Slander, or Speak unkindly:

  1. The person does not fear God or believe His Word when God commands us to bless and not curse.
  2. The person is not respecting their audience and wants to use words to hurt.
  3. The person is not respecting themselves and is insecure.
  4. The person lacks intelligence, using the same word repetitively which does not mean what they think it means. :0)
  5. The person has forgotten why they are given the gift of communicating.
  6. The person thinks they are cool? No, probably not.
  7. The person lacks self control and is led by emotions rather than reason.
  8. The person is deceived and does not think cursing is a sin.
  9. The person did not receive a good education.
  10. The person wants to be part of our culture – they want to conform to society and their brain rewards them for such behavior (contributed by one of my daughters).

The point is, there is no valid excuse for cursing ever. Nada. Never. We can choose not to let them fly out of the mouth. If we will remember the original purpose of words, perhaps we will consider how to spur one another on and glorify God. We don’t know how long we will be able to tell the people in our lives how much we love and cherish them. Use words to bless, heal, minister and spread God’s Word – it never returns void and reverberates throughout all eternity.

LORD, thank You for giving us the ability to share with others our innermost thoughts. Please grant us grace to speak love and grace to those around us and to overcome the temptation to “vent” when we are hurt.

Scriptural Saturday: Inner Strength

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Inner strength is not built ~ it comes from within.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Sam 30:5-6

5 David’s two wives had been taken captive–Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail the Carmelite, Nabal’s widow. 6 David was very upset, for the men were thinking of stoning him; each man grieved bitterly over his sons and daughters. But David drew strength from the LORD his God.”

2 Timothy 1:7

“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4:13

“I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.”


 

The pressures of this life can leave us flat out worn out. I can just imagine David being surrounded by a bunch of tough guys ready to stone him. Talk about stress. But He simply drew strength from God. How?

Scripture says he asked for the ephod and sought the face of God for direction and guidance. Back then, the Urim and Thummim (gemstones) were carried by the high priest of Israel on the ephod/priestly garments, which was used by the high priest to determine God’s will in some situations.

David knew his strength came only from God. Anyone who would sling a stone at a giant obviously relies on God instead of his own strength.

Many years later Paul, Timothy and the disciples followed suit. Nothing was deemed impossible if one relied on the Holy Spirit, given to us for strength and insight.

Feeling weak, discouraged, unable to do the task before you? Jesus understands and He walked the most difficult path of all with joy set before Him. Wow.

Just because a task or situation is difficult does not mean it has to steal our joy.

His strength is enough. Enough for day-to-day drama, illness, court, accidents, any trouble. We don’t use an ephod, but today we have the living Word of God we can run to for grace, wisdom and strength. Run to Him, friend. He is enough and His strength is all we will ever need.

Lord, thank You for your amazing grace and strength. Grant us a willing heart to cry out to you and to never give up.

 

Worshipful Wednesday: Integrity is all in the Mind

jesus-is-our-integrity

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Jesus is our integrity.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 101:1-3

1 “Of David. A psalm. I will sing of your love and justice; to you, LORD, I will sing praise. 2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life– when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. 3 I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. 4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil. 5 Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate.”

Sometimes we can look over the landscape of life and wonder why so much evil is happening. When it happens in the church, we are often surprised. How do godly people acquiesce to wickedness? Very easily. Demonic influence and our flesh point us that direction naturally. But there is hope.

When we truly recognize the spiritual battle all around us, we see that the biggest battle will be that of truly living an authentic life of integrity. But integrity is not just our outward behavior.

Thoughts. The gate of our minds is the first place where we have decision after decision of what we will set our mind upon. Our thoughts matter – for they become our actions or, equally as pervasive – torment and distract us from a godly life – if they are not kept in line. But if our thoughts are brought under the authority of the Jesus filter, we can think clearly and recognize thought patterns that do not glorify Him.

Vain imaginations, prideful thoughts, thinking ill of others, dwelling on unrighteous deeds – all have to be brought underneath the LORDship of Jesus Christ. We are deceived if we believe that we can think a hateful thought about another person and be right in the eyes of God.

Action. But it is not enough just to refrain from evil. We are to be proactive and “Fix our thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8).

Content. What we feast our minds on is the largest impetus or detraction from integrity. God’s Word is living and active. Consistently meditating on His Word and applying it to our lives provides strength, conviction and enablement to walk in integrity.

Maintenance. Our thought life takes constant maintenance, we can never rest. But the beauty in feasting on God’s Word makes the maintenance of our minds a treasure trove and a delight. It does not have to become a daunting task of to dos where we think we could attain righteousness on our own. We just need to position ourselves to be soaking in God’s truth and ask Him to help us apply it to our lives.

Prayer. When we ask the God of this universe to help us live in accordance with His word, He honors a prayer like that. Even better – we can pray for those who appear to be against us. This is spiritual warfare that makes the enemy flee!

Humility. When we see the fruit of integrity in our lives, we cannot think it is us doing it. That sounds strange, huh? After all, we are seeking to do our part. But apart from God, there is nothing good in us. We are just yielding and letting Him live through us. Jesus is our integrity.

Fellowship. We truly were not created to be islands, isolated from others while we struggle and battle against resident and outward evil. We need to point one another to truth every single day, for the days are evil. This accountability is not to be judgmental, but caring enough to get up close and personal win sin is waging war and seeking to destroy people’s lives.

The life of integrity is a pleasant one, despite all the battles to get there. No need to hide anything, no fear in discovery, for all is exposed. Thank God that as we seek to walk uprightly with Him and make our mistakes along the way, that His forgiveness is eternal and His grace overwhelming. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Even now we can choose to be people of integrity for God’s glory.

Lord, thank You for your mercy – new every single morning. Thank You that You walked a life of perfect integrity. Give us the mind of Christ and may the people of God be Kingdom-minded. Help us to not get involved in civilian affairs that distract us from our God-given purpose – knowing and enjoying You and making You known, oh my God.

Truthful Tuesday: One Faith For All

his-love-is-too-great-to-permit-a-sinful-lifestyle-that-enslaves-his-children

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

His love is too great to permit a sinful lifestyle that enslaves His children.

Scriptures of the Day:

Ephesians 4:5-6

“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.”

1 Corinthians 8:6

“But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.”

Acts 4:12

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

John 14:6

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

Matthew 7:13

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Tears fill my eyes as I see Scripture after Scripture telling of only one way to be saved and contemplate the goodness of God that He would make a way, yet so many refuse to accept God’s goodness.

In our pride, we would like to have our way. We think we know best. We think we are deserving of salvation because we are on the throne of our souls.

The standard shifts to accommodate all, yet then no standard remains at all.

It seems fair that we should be able to create our own religion and beliefs, our own list of dos and don’ts. The humanistic philosophy that everyone should be included and everything should be tolerated and allowed seems to make sense. One size fits all. But we, the Created, are not in a position of telling the Creator how things should be done.

In our desire to justify our sin and make ourselves acceptable before a Holy God, we crave a standard that is relativistic and pluralistic. In this thinking, we believe all can be saved. But what is this salvation? Salvation from our sins, not a salvation that allows sins. A great salvation that would cover over our sins but also transform our hearts and minds to be like His.

God is not unloving to have a standard. He would be unloving not to. To have a clear understanding of our need of a Holy God is kind. Further, it is not exclusive to say there is one way, it would be cruel to lie and say all paths lead to God. They simply don’t. God’s word says it over and over again.

There is one Faith, and this is not an ecumenical statement, not a pluralistic view, but a call to the reality that we have One God and One Faith. So simple, yet so many stumble over this reality.

In His incredible mercy, God extended salvation to the entire world, but many miss it. For fear of judgment from the one true faith, people flock to their brand of religion that fits their personality and what they want, when all they would have to do to be accepted is believe and admit that they are unholy, in need of salvation from our Holy God, and ask God for forgiveness.

The one Who laid down His life to bear our iniquity – every single sin – that we could stand in His presence and know our Father – His love is too great to permit a sinful lifestyle that enslaves His children. He paid too high a price to set us free. Too big a sacrifice to allow us to believe in a religion that is a lie, which requires us to try and earn our own salvation. He already bought us with His own blood.

“Jesus paid it all. All to Him we owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, but He washed us white as snow.”

Oh God, may everyone who reads this posting today know that they can be saved and accept Your salvation. Open the eyes of all who read to know that they are loved and cherished and don’t have to live in sin any longer. Remove the liberal view which tries to condone our lifestyle and justify self. We are sinful, wretched, lost without You. Thank you, oh God, for your free gift of salvation which cost the life of Your beloved Son, our Savior!

Mundane Monday: Call Me Chief

Grae abounding.jpg

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When God has forgiven us, man’s judgment no longer has to have a hold on us.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Timothy 1:15

“This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’–and I am the worst of them!”

Self righteousness is one of the slickest tools of the enemy. Pride at the root, we begin to think we are righteous of our own merit. Often unrecognizable as we see the flaws in everyone surrounding us except for our own, it is lethal to our walk with God and hurts those around us.

Paul is refreshing in his transparent view of himself. He did not boast of his righteousness, but instead called himself the worst sinner ever.  It seems kind of demeaning at first. After all, there is always someone worse than ourselves. But God does not grade on the curve and the beauty in recognizing nothing good in and of ourselves apart from the grace of God is not only seems truthful, but fitting.

It is in seeing my desperate condition before a Holy God that I see my need of His salvation. I cannot defend myself based on any deed or belief, for it was only His grace that enabled me to do or be anything that would please a perfect God in the first place.

Admitting we all are Chief in the sin department is at once condemnation and freedom. Gaining access to a relationship with our Holy God only happens through confession of sins and then sweet redemption when we choose to believe and accept His righteousness for our own.

When God has forgiven us, man’s judgment no longer has to have a hold on us. When falsely accused, we realize that although the accusation might not be true, there is something in us that we are guilty of even if we cannot see.

This truth has been such a blessing in my walk with Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation, even though we are guilty. For Christ fulfilled God’s perfect law for all eternity and we stand blameless before a Holy God. What good news this is!

Walking in this perfect freedom, we no longer have to fear, but we also can no longer judge our brothers and sisters, either. We do not know anyone else’s hearts and we all are equally chiefs of sin, too.

Lord, thank You for revealing our sins that we could be set free. Thank you for removing our sins as far as the east is from the west.