30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 2: Root Repair – Ingratitude

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our perspective is altered in the presence of a Holy God.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 1:21

“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

Looking at these roots is a little embarrassing if you know what I mean. I am not talking about the roots from my last highlight job, either. Ingratitude pops up at the least likely times, sometimes easily provoked.

Irritants from everyday life (remember yesterday’s discussion?) threaten to snuff out a spirit of thankfulness as we focus on the immediate instead of the context of the immediate within the whole framework of life.

So how do we root out ingratitude? The motivational statement, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” might offer temporary relief, but more than mantras and pep talks, perhaps examining what created the ingratitude in the first place might lead to fostering gratitude.

An attitude of entitlement quickly crushes an attitude of gratitude. Expectations can become demands if we are not careful. This is where genuine humility is a lifesaver. We brought nothing into the world and can take nothing out. All we have is God’s. With this in mind, now what do we expect?

We need to come to God for a heart change. Our perspective is altered in the presence of a Holy God. Frustration is transformed into delight and anger is turned into sheer gratitude that God allows anything good in our lives at all.

Our great God is generous and merciful. He has provided for us, placed His love on us while we were not seeking Him at all. He has delighted in us. He is, in fact, all we need in this life and He takes care of our practical needs, too.

Oh God, how grateful we are for Your rich grace in our lives! Why should we be allowed to know You? How did we come to discover Your salvation? Please forgive us when ingratitude creeps into our hearts and help us to have hearts full of gratitude.

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 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 24: Superficial Hope

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We have to let go of our hope to find it.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Corinthians 15:19

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Hope is vain if it is in the wrong place. Worse yet, pretending to hope but inwardly doubting really can leave us bewildered and disillusioned.

Hope is a scary thing. We have to let go of our hope to find it. Sounds ironic, I know. But the hope we cultivated in the natural cannot compare with the new hope we have found which is not based on human principles.

We cannot walk on the fence of pretending to have this new Reinvented Hope while trying to maintain our former hope. Often times people remain hopeless because they don’t dare to hope again due to the fear of their hopes getting crushed.

But this new Reinvented Hope cannot be crushed – it is eternal. It is not based on anything temporary or of this world, but in Christ alone. It is not superficial, but supernatural.

Rising above the fear of unfulfilled hopes, this new Reinvented Hope cannot be manufactured or faked – but it can be formed in the deep chasms of life in the word of God.

On the horizons of our lives, there is a hope ahead that never fades, discovered in the pages of Scripture and in the surrender of our hearts.

This worship song from Jeremy Camp called, “There Will Be a Day” says it well. He is the hope we long for!

Lord, thank You for showing me this new hope in You. Through all of the grief process when I was dismayed that my hope could never look the same, You showed me I never would want it to. Your hope is enough for me.

Day 21: Hope’s Debtor: Gratitude & Humility

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

This new reinvented hope longs to please God, not self.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 5:3-4

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

This new reinvented hope is not formed without some friends – gratitude and humility. The beauty in the struggles of life is that they can work precious character into our hearts, if we let them.

Yielding requires trusting God in the face of suffering as well as in times of blessing. Gratitude is not a normal response in heartbreaking circumstances. In the fires of affliction, it is carefully molded through perseverance and a heart and mind change initiated by the Spirit of the living God.

Instead of having the attitude that we deserve what we want, we cry out and ask God to help us “put on” an attitude of gratitude. Why did we think we deserved our way in the first place? The root of our expectations often exists in a self-centered hope. But this new reinvented hope – it longs to please God, not self. Only God can achieve that in man’s heart.

Gratitude can’t be mimicked. Anyone can be thankful in the moment, but an abiding gratitude stems from knowing God and having confidence that nothing ever transpires in our lives without His perfect good will. We can be truly grateful in sorrows because we know God wins in the end. Our hope is fixed on this truth and the fact that every jot and tittle, every moment of our lives – He is redeeming.

Humility cannot be manufactured by man, either. It comes in when we recognize, like Job, that when we question God, we truly do not understand Him or His ways. How can the one who is made know the mind of the Creator? And yet He draws us near to know Him.

Humility is a death to our flesh that wants to reign. There is no greater example of humility than seeing our great Holy God choosing to bear our sins and suffer our punishment. And He did it with joy. Gratitude that souls could be won.

If we have the mindset of Christ, our trials become our triumphs and we see them through the scope of eternity. No more do we regret suffering. Instead we see ourselves as co-laborers with Christ and cry out for Him to use it to save just one.

Mankind does not want to take the blame for anyone else’s actions. Our pride wells up and demands justice. Christ chose to be mistreated in the most extravagant demonstration of humble love ever seen.

Lord, help us to have Your understanding and to seek to honor You in every aspect of our lives. It is for Your glory alone that we live!

Day 19: Fairy Tales Remixed

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

This life might not have a fairy tale ending on earth, but all of our sorrows will be swallowed up in Heaven and for all eternity. 

Scripture of the Day:

John 10:28

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.”

Once upon a time (had to start this blog post like this, right?), ok, where was I? Oh yeah, once upon a time everything was perfect and a perfect looking person (who is the object of this story) suddenly had something imperfect thrust into her life. Whatever would she do? Oh, no worries, there is always a fairy something or another to help save the day after she goes through a significant amount of pain that makes it all worthwhile.

Sorry for the notable sarcasm present in that last paragraph. Fairy tales were not something I read to my kids much when they were little, and while I am at it, we did not celebrate Santa, either. I know – I am a real killjoy. Or am I?

I always wanted my kids to know that I told them the truth. Being fed lies can leave us hopeless and disillusioned when real life smacks you hard in the face. I wanted them to know that when I told them about Jesus that they could trust me, because I had laid a foundation of being a truth-teller.

Back to our story. We all somehow wish we could live in a fantasy world, because things always turn out well there. The “bad guys” always get what they deserve and the “good guys”always win out in the end. Life is good and it all revolves around us. Well, not really.

In the story of our lives, a life well-lived revolves around Jesus, the real Hero of our story. He made us, and though He was God, He came in the form of man and laid down His own life for us. He did not seek a comfortable life nor man’s praise. He, the God over all, humbled Himself! He did not complain about things being unfair, but entrusted Himself to His perfect Father, knowing the story would ultimately be for God’s glory and His good.

Perhaps instead of craving a “perfect” life where we are surrounded by orchestral music constantly cheering us on in our adventures and where everyone adores us, we could have a change in our mentality. If we, too, laid down our lives as Christ did and sought to have Him live through us, then our perspective becomes one with a much different goal.

If my expectations are that all will work out well for me, my expectations can lead to idolatry. Ultimately, it ends well for those who are in Christ Jesus, but there will be times where life just does not make sense and sinful people seem to get away with wicked things. Other heroes of the faith got distracted with this reality, too, but they hoped in God.

When life hurts, we just want to escape. We want to hope in a perfect life. But maybe instead of that vain, temporary hope, we can begin to see a new hope forming. A hope reinvented is a hope in the tragedies and mishaps of life that is focused on hoping to live a life worthy of the life Christ gave on our behalf. It is a passion to be faithful and to glorify God in the pains and the joys that life brings, a life that overcomes obstacles and looks to the Author of our faith instead of the obstacles themselves. That is my hope.

I know it’s hard to have faith when there is turmoil all around. It is a death, of sorts. But this life is not the end goal, anyway, and after death there is life.

This life might not have a fairy tale ending on earth, but all of our sorrows will be swallowed up in Heaven and for all eternity. We may not have a castle that eventually moth and rust destroy, but we have mansions in Heaven that never fade – beside the crystal lake, where we will have no more burdens and no more tears. Sounds better than any fairy tale ending I know – pretty amazing, in fact.

This song, “I Can Only Imagine” by mercy Me has always got me. What a hope we have that never disappoints!

Lord, help our hope to be solely in living lives that glorify You. Take our burdens and use them to make us more like You!

 

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.

Day 12: Facing Memories Through a Biblical Lens

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God still wants to take that place of pain and redeem it into a living testimony rather than a dead memory that comes back to haunt us with sorrow.

Scripture of the Day:

Isaiah 40:31

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the wake of all of life’s experiences, there are reminders that pop up from time to time. Memories jarred from a song that is heard, a familiar smell, a place, a name . . .sometimes at the most inopportune times.

When we try to  move forward in our lives and the past keeps resurfacing, our newly formed hope can feel fragile. Past memories threaten to steal the lessons we have learned and imprison us back into the state we were in that we never wanted to encounter again. But God.

Sometimes it feels like the LORD purposely has us face again and again things we would rather forget. It can feel cruel and tortuous. But God loves us too much to allow us to stay trapped in a place where we only feel safe if we block out any hint of our former pain.

When we are reminded of past mistakes or burdens, He whispers hope and a different perspective. The accusations from yesterday are changed in His presence and understood to be His grace, instead. Failures are seen as vehicles that brought us to see our need of God rather than to separate us from Him.

At times it is necessary to remove ourselves from abusive relationships or situations that really aren’t healthy for us. But God still wants to take that place of pain and redeem it into a living testimony rather than a dead memory that comes back to haunt us with sorrow. When we are overcome with our past, finding Scriptures to infuse with what we falsely believed opens our eyes and helps us to process memories in light of God’s never-ending hope.

Viewing the past through His lens – His Word – helps us to make sense of life’s messes. The past may never be something we understand, but we can come to a place of peace as we see God’s purposes in it. And His purposes are always good, always higher than we could ever imagine.

God is a Redeemer of all things. Former things have passed away, but in the corner of our minds He wants to take that piece of our hope that was ripped apart and restore it. Until we let go of the past, we cannot grab a hold of the new hope that the present offers.

The past cannot keep us, the present is evaporating, but our future hope is certain. Looking ahead, we are informed by the past enough to see that the God who brought us through it can also guide us through whatever life brings. As we look over the landscape of life, we will see how He weaves it all together into a beautiful masterpiece – both the rugged and the beautiful pieces forming a vessel perfected for the LORD’s glory.

Lord, thank You for making a highway in the wilderness, a place of rest for us when we are weary and lost. No matter what the past says, You already know the end.

This song by Casting Crowns really says it well. Already There. Trust God with your past and the future. None of it is wasted.