Day 30: Hope Reinvented

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

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

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 13:13

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

Romans 8:24-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 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 8: Facing Disillusionment

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Confusion comes in when our definition of good does not fit God’s.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 13:22

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

1 Peter 4:12 (NIV)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Psalm 73 (all)


Like the desert, there is beauty in the forest, but if we focus on each individual tree, we might miss the big picture. Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees.We started on this path simply enough, but somehow in the maze of life we ended up lost in the woods, not sure we will ever find our way out.

Disillusionment is tied not just to failed expectations we have for life, but to our inability to control those outcomes. Disillusionment chokes out hope as we suffocate on what could or should have been. When we are unable to process or accept our circumstances and wonder where God is in it all, hope still remains – cloaked in a different garb.

If we walk with God, we have His strength to cling to in challenging seasons of life, but disillusionment can damage that faith and create space for idolatry if we are not careful – as we try to cling to what we wanted instead. Trying to hold onto our dreams as if we are owed them is ultimately a lack of trust in God.

Trusting the LORD when times are good comes easily, but it is in the rocky ravines that we need to understand His purposes are far wider and greater than a temporary stay in a craggy landscape.

When we want to hope, to believe that God is still good but we are surrounded by death and uncertainty, how do we survive the land of disillusionment without getting a jaded heart? By discovering a new hope.

When faced with his grim reality and the flourishing of the wicked, David said his “feet had almost slipped”. He described his affliction as “All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments”. This kind of hardship was way beyond hope deferred and not getting his own way. Way out of the league of the troubles that Peter spoke of, too, which are common to man. This was deep suffering. David refrained from speaking the raw truth of his anguish and doubt out loud – he struggled to believe he could even have the thoughts he was having – but he did.

It troubled him deeply that the wicked thrived while he sought to obey God. It did not seem fair. God’s character and His will were on the table to be evaluated . . . UNTIL. Until he came into God’s sanctuary – into His presence – and understood the end and their end.

It was there that He saw God’s goodness even while life hurt. He felt God’s presence and knew instinctively that God was with him in the fiery trials and that He held him in His right hand.

As we begin to face all the potential sinful outcomes that traumatic events can wrought into our lives, we begin the process of healing. Are we bitter or angry with God? Let’s be honest – our faith is hurt and we often attempt to hide our hurt from God when He allows suffering to collide with our paths. Understanding the role that God’s sovereignty plays in our disillusionment helps us to face it instead of avoiding it or becoming numb to our pain.

God’s sovereignty is not something we can fully comprehend. How is it that He knows everything before it happens – and yet still allows something in that we disapprove of?

Looking at the foundation of the plans for our life can help us to better understand our path. At the inception of our hopes and dreams, where was God? Was He inspiring our hearts to do His will, or were we inviting him to our dream and asking for His favor and blessing?

An encounter with God puts everything into perspective. While I mourned my broken life and the testimony I never wanted, God revealed His hope for me. He created us for His glory, yet somehow while I wept for my children and myself, I forgot it was all about His glory, not mine. Like David, I looked at other people prospering and wondered why I was so messed up. I did not plan my life this way. Oh. Yeah. I guess that statement is revealing, too, huh?

I longed to be like the other happy couples who never had to walk the dark cold court hall toward a divorce that was never supposed to happen. How did I get into this forest full of problems? Could God raise me from these ashes? Yes, but even better, He could reveal to me that even the hope of deliverance was not the hope that He wanted me to have.

I had to let go of the grief in one hand to grab hold of God’s hope for the future, but I was afraid. If God would allow this kind of intense suffering, could He be trusted? Yes, but I had to die first. My hope had to die in order to get a new reinvented hope in Jesus.

Dying to my hopes was a long, arduous death. Lots of chocolate (yes, I am bringing up the “c” word again), tears and disbelief. But holding onto that old hope was killing me inside and no amount of therapy, chocolate (notice a pattern here?) or buffalo wings could heal me. Only God could, but I Had. To. Let. Go. Completely.

Not my will, LORD. Not my will. All my hopes and dreams I lay at Your feet. You made me and You know what’s best. Help my unbelief and cause my heart to want Your hope and not my own.

God’s plans don’t make sense to us because our plans often come from a place of being self-oriented and formed in a desire for our comfort. Confusion comes in when our definition of good does not fit God’s. But when we come into His presence seeking to understand, he shows us that His thoughts and ways are much higher. And maybe, just maybe, it is actually His mercy.

When I was disillusioned and doubted whether I could trust Christ for the suffering He permitted in my life, He reminded me that He suffered, too. He understood. I had lost sight of what really matters – His glory. Not my reputation or the social stigma. Not that my pain did not matter to God, but somehow in the mess I was in, God needed to receive glory. It was not about me, after all.

This song, Thy Will Be Done is a song that really ministers at the place of disillusionment.

Lord, You never leave us without hope. Thank You for giving us a new hope in You. 

 

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 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.

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.

Mundane Monday: Bless You!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God is for us more than we are.

Scripture of the Day:

Numbers 6:23-27

“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is the way you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 The LORD bless you and protect you; 25 The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’. 27 So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Bless you, friend! It’s always good to start Monday off well. Go ahead – bless someone around you. It does not deplete our joy to give joy and blessing to another. In fact, it is an incubator that increases our joy all the more. Let’s start this week with a blessing, what say you?

Ever just feel like you wish someone would encourage you? Critical judgments come easily, but for someone to take the time out to encourage us goes beyond the norm. We, too, can often be so wrapped up in the busyness of life or preoccupied with self that we don’t notice the deep need around us for some en-COURAGE-ment.

A blessing might be the very thing someone needs to give them strength and courage to carry on or to undertake a challenging assignment. Why not give it?

We probably all know what it is like to be on the giving and receiving end of a blessing as well as being one who withholds it. The irony in sticking ourselves out there to try and accomplish a project or work God has placed on our hearts is that we are often misjudged as being prideful for doing so, when we are actually being vulnerable and obedient, motivated by a desire to honor God and giving ourselves over to our calling. Observers watching the progress can misjudge our hearts as promoting self and withdraw their blessing or seek to discourage us from the work we are doing.

Ever felt like that? Reminds me of Nehemiah. Many detractors sought to undo his work. But He pressed on. Not a lot of blessings flowing his direction. But he knew the One Who had called Him and His blessing was all he needed. It is all we need, too, and this same blessing He has given to us so we can freely give to those around us.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the disciples who were envious of other co-laborers who were baptizing; their methodology wasn’t the same “brand” – must be sinful. Not according to Jesus.

It is easy to encourage someone we admire, but what about someone we don’t? Maybe they just don’t stand out or maybe we envy a person and can’t bring ourselves to praise them. Yuck. Jealousy is insidious and ultimately hatred disguised in a competitive spirit. We all hate being envied, but we can be guilty of it ourselves, if we are not careful.

Ok, back on the encouragement bandwagon. God wants us to bless believers around us – He spoke it as an imperative, not a suggestion. He even spoke the kind of blessing to be given.

Maybe we don’t feel that we deserve God’s blessing or perhaps that an enemy does. Well, none of us do. But isn’t it amazing that the God Who made us, whom we sinned against and violated His Holy covenant would turn around and bless us?

God is for us more than we are.

In that moment of blessing others, Scripture says that we are putting God’s Name on that person. Wow. What a picture of Christ being an atonement cover for us. His Name being placed upon us, blessing us now and for all eternity.

Maybe the hesitation to bless others can be set aside and blessing can become a norm for the body of Christ. As we share God’s kindness and love with all of His children, amazingly we end up just as encouraged – and maybe the blessing we give might impact generations and eternity through the encouragement of one vessel.

Oh God, we are all one body and all need encouragement to run this race. Help us to be on mission to offer Your sincere blessing to those around us.

 

Worshipful Wednesday: Surprised by Joy

Worship

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The very act of worship when we don’t feel like it is where God takes our act of faith and creates joy within us.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 100:2-3

“Worship the Lord with joy! Enter his presence with joyful singing! Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

One of the first things satan wants to steal from us when we are saved is our joy. Nothing as potent at killing the message of the Gospel as joyless believers wandering around this earth telling everyone they need to be saved. Who wants that kind of salvation?

We all want joy. We want to be able to celebrate this gift of life but get dragged down by obstacles and circumstances as if they were supposed to bring us joy in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong – to be human is to feel – and life hurts sometimes. But joy does not have to be connected to that feeling of disappointment. It is when our life is in the gift instead of the Giver of those gifts that we forget our original source of joy.

I am not talking about living an inauthentic life where we go around with a plastic smile saying everything is great when it isn’t. But joy in the LORD isn’t dependent upon our circumstances. That would not be real joy, after all. Just temporary happiness.

So how do we access this joy when life just doesn’t feel very joyful? Worshiping God. With joy. Not the answer you were looking for? Does it seem impossible to worship with joy when you don’t have any? But the very act of worship when we don’t feel like it is where God takes our act of faith and creates joy within us. For it is what we were made to do.

If worship is a sacrifice of praise, then it is in the moment of resisting our flesh and worshiping God anyway that we rise above our sorrows and discover a real abiding joy in Jesus.

When we focus on all our concerns and burdens, it is a joy killer. But when we come to worship God, remember all God has done for us and focus on Who He is, joy just invades the soul. You cannot contain it. Try it.

Each Wednesday I want to share a cover of a worship song at noon EDT on my Seeing Deep Facebook page from our worship set that captures what God has placed on my heart here. This week it is: “No Longer Slaves”. If that does not bring joy, I don’t know what will. We are no longer a slave to fear – we are His sons and daughters! We are no longer lost, but found. We are surrounded with God’s love and will enjoy all eternity with Him. Joy indeed.

Worship God with joy today. You are loved with an everlasting love that has no end. The joy of the LORD is your strength.

Oh Lord, we worship You! Set our gaze on You – for You are lovely. Transform our worries into worship and cause us to rise above it all and be filled with the abundant joy You provide.

Truthful Tuesday – Trusting God Again after Abuse

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The painful reminders of abuse that come will soon dissipate and become reminders of God’s grace and healing, instead.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 6:18

“Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body”–but the immoral person sins against his own body.”

I confess I have had this blog entry scheduled before but just did not want to write it. Still, my Spirit urges me on. I could never do justice to the pain so many have endured, but perhaps I can ease that pain with the truth of God’s comfort in the midst.

Abuse is one of those words that causes the human spirit to want to avoid the subject. We just don’t want to talk about it. It makes us uncomfortable and often victims of abuse themselves feel ashamed or judged, too. The mere thought of such a carnal act happening to one who is made in the image of God is unspeakable.

Sins committed outside the body are bad enough, but harming another person by abusing them physically, emotionally, sexually or spiritually produces devastating consequences that are not easily overcome and repercussions can last a lifetime.

I know what it was like to be a little girl told to be silent. As much as the pain of multiple attempts was on my soul, I can look back and see the hand of God guiding me. I have walked through emotional and spiritual abuse, as well, and the ensuing torment of trying to be free from it. Through it all I learned that God did not cause the devastation of my soul – His character could never do such a thing – but He would heal me and help me to overcome.

Even though the enemy of our souls can use hardship to create doubt in our minds over the goodness of God, our God does not cause the evil that man chooses by his own free will. Instead, our God chose the human suffering we sought to avoid and to bear our pain and sorrows.

So what causes abuse? This fallen world is full of people needful of God, but many who choose to satisfy their flesh instead and fill their righteous need with a wicked counterfeit. The lust of the eyes and the flesh never have their fill, but those who have seen their true need of God and choose to accept His grace and salvation are redeemed from living for the flesh. They see their God-given purpose of knowing God and making Him known, of living a godly life – and don’t waste it on sin.

But what about the wounded people, left in the wake of someone’s decision to harm them and to take the most personal thing they have to offer? What hope is there for them? Abundant hope. Raw, transparent moments. Encounters with a living God. Patient healing.

Hurting another human soul in such a manner is evil and damages the faith of the victim. But God. I love those two words. God is indeed able to take the deepest wound and heal. The process is itself painful, but with such a wound it takes time.

Recognizing our hurt and not concealing it is so hard to do. Seeing what the abuse has caused in our lives and courageously exposing the bitter root and possible resulting sin in ourselves is the path toward victory. Sometimes the pain is so deep we just don’t want to face the reality of it. But the word of God can meet us in that place if we will apply it.

As we peel back the layers of our heart to reveal the root of our hurt – how God could allow this suffering in the first place, we begin to understand our wound is first a spiritual one. Why does God not spare us from the sins of others hurting us so deeply? Perhaps we are even asking, “Why doesn’t He give us a perfect life?” Such questions reveal a desire for God to bless us, but they also reveal a heart attitude that says we will love and trust God only when good is allowed into our lives.

But it is scary to trust God again, isn’t it? How do we trust again? When we feel like God does not see, we refute that lie with the many Scriptures that show He does. When we feel like he will not defend us, we focus instead on the truths in God’s word that He is a righteous judge – our Defender, Protector and Savior.

God cares about our feelings – we can run to Him with our turmoil and grief. But feelings are not facts. He will transform our understanding as we get into His word. This website offers a lot of verses to help. God also helps us to have faith that He can heal us as we place our burdens in His hands.

Whether it is a wound from being abused, or having dear loved ones harmed in such a way, God is able to help us trust again and to forgive, as well. Sometimes life will look a lot different and we have to protect ourselves from relationships that could cause further harm, but in all of it we know that God will use it all for His good and our glory. He promises to and He is not a man that He should lie.

The scars left behind, the searing pain in the soul will soften over time. The painful reminders of abuse that come will soon dissipate and become reminders of God’s grace and healing, instead. Here is a song the LORD gave me when He revealed my lack of trusting in Him from all that I had suffered: Layers. God wants to heal you. He knows your pain and sees you. He is trustworthy and He loves you so very much.

Lord, thank You for setting our hearts free and healing us from all the sins in this world. You have overcome and we walk in Your victory because of Your amazing grace!

Truthful Tuesday: Conditional Praise

It is God's long-suffering and mercy that withhold disaster and it is also His mercy and lovingkindness that allows it.

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It is God’s long-suffering and mercy that withhold disaster and it is also His mercy and lovingkindness that allows it.

Scripture of the Day:

Jeremiah 44:16-23

16 “We will not listen to what you claim the LORD has spoken to us! 17 Instead we will do everything we vowed we would do. We will sacrifice and pour out drink offerings to the goddess called the Queen of Heaven just as we and our ancestors, our kings, and our leaders previously did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and had no troubles. 18 But ever since we stopped sacrificing and pouring out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven, we have been in great need. Our people have died in wars or of starvation. 19 The women added, “We did indeed sacrifice and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven. But it was with the full knowledge and approval of our husbands that we made cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her.” 20 Then Jeremiah replied to all the people, both men and women, who responded to him in this way. 21 “The LORD did indeed remember and call to mind what you did! He remembered the sacrifices you and your ancestors, your kings, your leaders, and all the rest of the people of the land offered to other gods in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. 22 Finally the LORD could no longer endure your wicked deeds and the disgusting things you did. That is why your land has become the desolate, uninhabited ruin that it is today. That is why it has become a proverbial example used in curses. 23 You have sacrificed to other gods! You have sinned against the LORD! You have not obeyed the LORD! You have not followed his laws, his statutes, and his decrees! That is why this disaster that is evident to this day has happened to you.”

This is one of those passages in scripture where I want to push the pause button and help Jeremiah out. (As if I could add to the revelation God already spoke through Him). Ok, I would have nothing to offer, but I would so desperately want to persuade them to see what they are doing.

But deception is a difficult thing to break through. When we let our flesh rise in influence, we begin to protect it and its decisions. Comfort begins to be the popular god of the day and we are no longer spirit led, but just led according to what “seems good”. Hmm. This philosophy sounds familiar.

Although the thought of making cakes in the form of a queen and worshiping them seems ridiculous to me, I have certainly fashioned things in my own mind and life as being temporarily more important than serving and obeying God. It just felt better – for the moment.

But what sticks out to me this time, other than just the standard rebellion/punishment/repentance cycle is that God’s people were making their praise of God conditional on God blessing them. They failed to see that their present circumstances were their own doing.

Poor Jeremiah. He must have just been like, “Really?” You wanna play patty-cake and worship a false “god-queen” and go back to Egypt – the very place God delivered you from? How ironic. But sometimes the familiar has a pull on us that is hard to break. Sometimes we forget the pain of that pull, too, and just want to do whatever seems easiest.

We, too, can make our praise conditional on God blessing us, and not recognize that our suffering is a result of our own unfaithfulness. I know that sounds harsh, but ultimately there is such liberty in understanding that we deserve nothing from God, for we were His enemies. Choices we made in the past might still be reaping consequences, or perhaps just being in a fallen world alone creates enough havoc in our lives. But even at that place of sobering reality, there is grace.

It is God’s long-suffering and mercy that withhold disaster and it is also His mercy and lovingkindness that allows it. Let that truth sink in. That’s right – even the nitty gritty ugly stuff that we see no good purpose in our lives – even that detestable moment or season that we wish we could just wipe out of our minds – was meant for our good and His glory.

Oh that we would always see clearly and understand that we were made for something more – Someone more – higher than any endeavor or achievement this world offers. We are called to live for One.

Lord, help us to live for You alone. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear and a mind to understand how very great You are and how worthy our lives are when they are spent pursuing You, no matter what this life brings.