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 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!

Worshipful Wednesday: Integrity is all in the Mind

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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.