30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 27 – Our Humble God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

While the kings of this earth choose to dominate their subjects, our God chose to humble Himself before the very people He made.

Scriptures of the Day:

Philippians 2:5-11

5 “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross! 9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow–in heaven and on earth and under the earth–11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

2 Corinthians 8:9

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

Being humbled is embarrassing – I ought to know. I took a spill in a grocery store last week that left me flat on the floor, covered in oil, glass and chocolate. Almost death by chocolate. Ok, not really, but the whole chocolate chip display falling upon me was a wee bit humbling.

Humility is not something we desire, certainly not to be shamed in front of people. But our Almighty God, Creator and Ruler over all – is humble. He chooses the path of humility and shame to win our stubborn hearts. What an oxymoron to the world where power is often wrapped in pride and self-sufficiency. While the kings of this earth choose to dominate their subjects, our God chose to humble Himself before the very people He made.

When we disobeyed Him and were faithless, He relentlessly pursued us and came in humble flesh as a helpless babe, demonstrating how we should live on this earth and bearing all of our burdens.

One Who is LORD over all is typically thought of as commanding His followers. God gave commandments of His righteous decrees, fulfilled them when we couldn’t and offered Himself in our place.

This kind of behavior is foolish to men who view humility as a weakness. But then that is how our God chooses to appear to us, in beautiful, perfect humility. He then chooses the weak among us, too, to demonstrate His power.

Satan thought He overcame when He crushed the Son of God, Who seemingly was too powerless in His surrender to death. But His surrender was our salvation and Christ overcame the grave and our souls in humility.

Lord, thank You for coming humbly to us when we deserved Your wrath. Thank You for revealing the wisdom of Your humility, which triumphs over man’s pride every time. Help us to be a humble people, recognizing that all that we have is Yours. Be glorified in Your people, O humble King of our hearts!

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 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 25: The Promise of Hope

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Keep it simple like Abe. Hope in God alone.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 71:14

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”

“The LORD took him outside and said, ‘Gaze into the sky and count the stars–if you are able to count them!’ Then he said to him, ‘So will your descendants be.'”

What a picture of our Father, delighting in revealing the hope He had for Abraham. In that moment, standing next to the Creator of all that surrounded Him, Abe must have been overwhelmed at such a statement. His descendants would be  more than he could count? He wanted to hope that he would have descendants, did he dare to?

Barren and childless, Abraham believed God and the hope He promised and it was reconciled to Him as righteousness. He did not get caught up in his circumstances or the very raw reality that his wife and he were old, beyond the years of procreation and, well, childless. Abraham was 75 years old when God first called him to leave his country. He was 90 when God renewed His promise to him. It would be another ten years later, at age 100, that Abraham and Sarah finally had their son.

25 years. In our instant society, hope would be all but dysfunctional and destroyed if we were told a promise and God took 25 years to have it come true. We are prone to doubt, but there is such an amazing example in Abraham’s simple belief. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

When we seek just to find hope, we miss out on the relationship with God. When we seek God, we find Him and discover a hope unending.

The promise in a Reinvented Hope is that the One Who made the promise is always faithful to keep every single promise He has ever made. God cannot fail in delivering on the hope He offers. It might take a little while for the promises to unfold, but the One Who spoke them rules over everything and surely will bring it about. Keep it simple like Abe. Hope in God alone.

The hope of wanting things for ourselves or this earth cannot compare with a hope in Christ that ultimately never will disappoint. Earthly hopes fade away. But God’s hope is built on His promises  – it simply is and always has been.

Lord, Your promises are sure. You are faithful and true! Thank You that we are people of hope and of Your promise.

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 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 15: Facing the Future

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

As we look through the ruins behind us, the past does not have to define us, but serves as a monument of what God brought us through.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

We have been facing a lot of difficult strongholds in the past couple weeks – fear, depression, disillusionment, judgment, sin, memories, reality and enemies. Some struggles we may have been aware of, some maybe not. The future on earth is a little more difficult to define, though. We cannot know it. At all. Such is the human condition. So how does one face the unknown? By faith.

Faith is the daughter of hope. We are confident not in faith itself, but solely in the object of our faith – our unchanging, faithful God.

The nebulous nature of what is to come can create in us a dependence on God or a shrinking back in fear, unsure of what God will allow across our path. This place of insecurity is beautiful, as it strips us of ourselves and brings us to our God, Who alone is our future.

Sometimes the past hurts so much that the future seems impossible. But, like the faith-filled saints who have gone before us in Hebrews 11, we can have a firm hope in the future because we know God’s promises are yes and amen.

In the hall of fame of faith, we see saints of old who did not receive what was promised on this earth, but their faith in God led them to live sold-out to the promises of God. Sobered by life’s often harsh realities, we learn that we cannot live for this world – it could never fully satisfy.

This hope in what is to come is not for our lives to be perfect and not just for the promised reward. It is a hope that God will make every wrong right, that we will finally no longer be apart from Him and be in His presence. A hope that we will be like Him.

Let those words sink in. To be like Jesus. That is our chief goal in this life and God promises to fulfill it. Delivered from this earthly frame, there will be no more burden of sin. No more fear of man. No more tears, no more pain. What a hope this is!

As we look through the ruins behind us, the past does not have to define us, but serves as a monument of what God brought us through. As we seek to process the past and ready ourselves for the future, the lessons learned in all of our struggles and victories can prove invaluable.

Nothing is wasted in God’s hands and everything is redeemed for use in the future. Wow, what a hope. No longer do we have to fear what this life brings, for it is temporary and our hope is fixed on Christ alone!

Lord, thank You for a living hope that never fades – kept in Heaven by You. Help us to not lost sight when life makes us weary. Give us a new hope that is only in You.

 

 

 

 

Day 14: Facing and Embracing Reality – The New Normal

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Change is a stepping stone in the path of life that is necessary for our final destination.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 37:9

“Those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”

Coming to grips with our new normal is no easy task. We are creatures of habit and prefer comfort and stability to change – especially if that change is abrupt and unwelcome.

But while we are waiting for our circumstances to change, looking to the future is not our only solace. Right smack dab in the middle of our new normal we can be not just content, but at peace – knowing we are exactly where God has us to be in that moment.

This truth might also create some misunderstanding between ourselves and God. Why would He allow it? Can’t He see that we are uncomfortable?

In a land not their own, the Israelites wondered if they would ever reach the promise land. Many of them didn’t. They did not like God’s provision, doubted His goodness and His promises. It did not make sense that they should stay so long hanging out in a seemingly purposeless trip in the desert, yet they determined the length of their stay by their actions.

If our chief goal is to glorify God with our lives, then we don’t just accept our new normal, but embrace it as being in God’s will for a purpose much higher than our own.

Hanging onto yesterday will leave us discontent and ineffective for the Kingdom of God. But being Kingdom-minded will help us to have a perspective that thrives when things around us are unsettling and uncertain.

Did we somehow forget that our stay here is a temporary one? This is not our home. Having a mentality of flexibility helps us to process change and view it as a stepping stone in the path of life that is necessary for our final destination.

Each presumed off-course path that we take is instead a fulfillment of our calling. Will we accept our mission? Having our hope in the character of God enables us to overcome a lack of faith when it seems we have been forgotten in the new place He has brought us too. We hold firmly to God’s hope because of the character behind His promise. He cannot be unfaithful. It is impossible for Him to do so.

If we could see the end goal of where God is bringing us too, we would not try to avoid each station of life. Instead, maybe we would learn to get comfortable with discomfort and joyful when things are doubtful, for it is in the dark places that a new hope is born. 

Adversity in the dirt of life creates a beautiful pearl of substance and a hope that is no longer easily shaken. Staying in one place in a perfect surrounding could never achieve such beauty.

This worship song really sums up well how God can use our momentary problems and turn them around as blessings disguised. Blessings by Laura Story

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for changing our hope into one that never fades. Help us to trust you in the transitions of life that threaten to steal our hope and find ourselves filled with a reinvented hope, instead.