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 23: Exploring Hope – Making Sense in a Fallen World

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

While the tragedies of this life do not make sense to our fleshly finite minds, God’s word illumines our minds and hearts and helps us to see everything this life brings in light of eternity.

Scripture of the Day:

Ephesians 1:18-19

18 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength.”

Living in a fallen world, we can get lost and become hopeless. There is no hope in a world without Christ, but in Christ we have discovered a new kind of hope.

As we have processed our grief and sought to understand the heart of God in our struggles, we come to a place where we apply this new hope in this broken place we live.

Looking over the rugged landscape ahead of us, we learn to apply all that we have learned as we have sought to not just restore our hope, but have a living lasting hope.

Our Compass. At the core of this new reinvented hope is viewing the world through a biblical lens. The old default method of letting feelings and thoughts rule our mind is taken captive and we search the word of God for guidance in the bumps and blessings we encounter.

While the tragedies of this life do not make sense to our fleshly finite minds, God’s word illumines our minds and hearts and helps us to see everything this life brings in light of eternity.

Trust. Proverbs 3:5-6 says it well – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. 6 Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.” This new hope cannot be based on our own understanding. When we trust the LORD with moments of life that don’t make sense, we experience an abundant joy and a peace that the world can never remove. He is trustworthy.

Expectations.  The expectation of the righteous is joy, but that does not mean a problem-free life. “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:8). Our new reinvented hope never ends. Breathe that truth in. It is not based in this earth, nor in anyone or anything but God alone and He has no beginning or end.

Lord, thank you for providing a hope that is secure and lasts forever.

Day 22: Hope in Sorrows & Affliction

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our hope was always supposed to be in God Himself.

Scriptures of the Day:

Exodus 3:7

And Jehovah said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.

2 Chronicles 33:12

“And when he was in affliction, he sought Jehovah his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.”

Job 36:15

“He delivers the poor in his affliction, and opens their ears by oppression.”

Psalms 119:50

“This is my comfort in my affliction; for Your Word has given me life.”

Kneeling on the ground I looked up to the ceiling and cried out aloud. “Why, God?” “Why did I have to lose this child?” I reached for my Bible, asking God to help me understand. I opened up to Psalm 119:67-72: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. 68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. … 71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. 72The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”

How could a miscarriage ever be good? But that day my tears were turned to joy as I was in awe of the truth that it was in love that God allowed affliction into my life. He is good and in His faithfulness He afflicts those he loves. How can it be faithful to allow affliction? Affliction works to deliver us from waywardness and causes us to draw nearer to God.

“Deep calls to deep” is a phrase that is at the foundation of my ministry and how God has used the greatest sorrows of my life and in others. We would never want to walk through such deep waters of affliction, but it is the affliction itself that accomplishes miracles within us and a closeness with God we never knew before.

The hardest moments of my life have only caused me to go deeper with my God and I would not trade those precious gifts for the world. The hope in affliction is sure. The word says that God sees us in our suffering and He Himself will comfort us. There is no greater comfort than this.

It is affliction and sorrow that bring us to God. When we see how He cares for the lilies of the field and that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from His will, we know that nothing happens to us apart from His sovereign good will and purposes.

The hope in affliction is different than the hope we had before the affliction. The hope for no suffering becomes a hope to glorify God in it. But more than that, we realize our hope for temporary gain pales in comparison to the hope that God has in store for us.

Our hope was never supposed to be in the hope the world offers. The world’s hope ends. No, our hope was always supposed to be in God Himself.

“There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:18)

I wrote this song, “Deeper” as part of our Seeing Deep EP. I pray that in whatever rejection or pain you have had to bear you will know the hope we have in affliction – we will go deeper with God and draw nearer to God!

Lord, You are our hope. Nothing else and on one else could ever be a living hope. Help us to abide in You always.

 

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 20: Uncovering the Goodness of God When Life Hurts

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We are often unaware of all the good God is accomplishing while we are surrounded by troubles.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 10:23

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

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.”

Psalm 119:68

“You are good, and do good” 

In a barren wasteland covered in snow, we don’t often think there is life underneath. All seems lifeless, suffocated by the layers of ice and snow. But when the “Son” rises and shines on all of creation, everything underneath the surface is exposed and brought to life.

I don’t know where the errant theology slipped in that everything should be perfect in my life, but it did, almost unnoticed. I felt like I was owed a comfortable life because I was one of the King’s daughters who ordered my life in a way to please God. Yep, if I am honest I really thought that. Subconsciously perhaps, but the expectations of my heart came to the surface.

It feels like a slap in the face when circumstances reach a painful climax that leaves us stunned and disillusioned. It was not what we were expecting.

Suddenly in a landscape we did not anticipate, we are lost. We manage to remember the faith we profess, but our deceitful hearts silently question why and sometimes start to cover over hurt that we don’t dare expose.

In this crippled state, we feel engulfed by our emotions and the world feels blurry. Basic functioning is hard. But in the bittersweet place of brokenness there is a seed of hope that looks to our Creator. We want to believe Him, but we are afraid to have our “hopes” let down.

Confusion sets in as we try to understand what being “good” means when we consider the character of God. We live in a world that lives by the mantra, “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours”. “You be nice to me”, and vice versa. So when things happen that don’t feel “nice”, we cry “unfair”. But let’s consider what might be going on underneath the surface . . .

This God who allowed his people to be enslaved for 400 years also parted the sea and defeated their enemies. The slavery they bemoaned saved their lives from the famine in their own homeland. I am sure there were times where God’s people saw this, but the burdens they bore distracted them and made them forget.

This same God who gave His people over to Babylon also restored them. He destroyed all living creatures on the face of the earth, but kept a remnant alive on the ark of every beast of the earth along with Noah and his crew.

So often we have no idea all that God is doing behind the scenes. He is not surprised by our dilemma. He knew about it already and He wants to carry it for us. And maybe what we despise He actually has a divine purpose for allowing it in and it will ultimately bless us.

I don’t know why Job had to suffer so much. I don’t really get why satan was allowed to ask God to destroy poor Job. That’s because so often we tend to think from our flesh. It does not make sense that any suffering at all could be defined as “good”. Flesh cannot fully understand the ways of a Holy God.

Flipping our perspectives upside down, the Holy Spirit reveals what we really deserve and we accept the plan our Creator has for us. We belong to Him and He will heal all our pain and redeem it for His glory and our good.

The theme of discipline and redemption occurs many times in Scripture, and the discipline is not necessarily a lack of kindness. In His faithfulness, He disciplines those He loves. All hardship is to be endured as discipline by a loving Father. Discipline is a tough word. None of us like it if it is punitive.

We are often unaware of all the good God is accomplishing while we are surrounded by troubles. We wonder why we have to go through it all in the first place.

We do not have to be hypocritical and fake and pronounce when evil occurs in our lives that it is good. Of course it does not feel good. But in the Master’s hands, what was meant for evil will be turned into good. That is just Who He is.

Have we lost someone we cared about? Have we suffered a horrific trial in our lives? In every pain, there is One Who identifies with us and chose to walk that path first. It will not be wasted.

Like Job, who said, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him”, may God help us to trust God at all times. A goal for a perfect life void of pain is a shallow goal focused on self. But when we consider that we were made for His pleasure, we find our greatest peace in surrendering to His plan even when it includes pain.

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.

Lord, You are good all the time. Thank You for being our everpresent help in time of trouble.

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 16: Understanding Sin & The Sovereignty of God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God redeems our mistakes and uses them to fulfill His perfect purposes.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 130:7

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.

Romans 8:28 ESV

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Ephesians 1:18

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”

Sovereignty is a word that at once evokes comfort and fear simultaneously. We want to believe in a God Who is all-powerful and all-knowing, in complete control of everything. We just aren’t so comfortable with the fact that the other side of sovereignty sometimes means this awesome God also sovereignly allows suffering into our lives.

We tend to translate the truth of God’s sovereignty into believing Christians will have a painless life – if they have enough faith. The mystery of God’s sovereignty is much more complex than our simple definition of what is good or bad, though.

Enter mankind and his sins. How in the world is God sovereign over that? 

As only our infinite God could, He weaves the reality of sin with His perfect plan and uses it all – for good. I know, we have all heard that verse many times, and frankly, it was not one of my favorite verses when I was smack dab in the middle of intense suffering. It was hard to see anything good that could possibly come from the mess I was in. But that was before I understood that my definition of good was skewed – in favor of me.

Dispensing with the perception that God’s sovereignty means inactivity on His part or a fatalistic, apathetic view on our part, we still have to wrestle with the reality that God sovereignly allows suffering. But without the pain we would not be grateful for the times when we do not have pain. 

If God knew ahead of time that we would sin, how is man to blame?

God’s foreknowledge of our sins does not equate to culpability on His part. We cannot have it both ways. Either we have free will and are able to choose to sin or not, or God creates us to be robots with no will of our own. Man’s free will and God’s overriding omniscience work in tandem and somehow amazingly God redeems our mistakes and uses them to fulfill His perfect purposes. In the hands of God, He is able to take what was meant for evil and use it for good.

When our expectations for life are shattered, there is peace in resting in God’s sovereignty. We are seen by a loving God. He will never forsake His children. He is All-Powerful and able to take our circumstances and turn them around. The patience, perseverance and beautiful character formed in the midst make it all worth it.

How about when other people’s sin causes us pain?

Why do we blame Him in the first place when sin and free will cause most of the messes we encounter? The same free will we want for ourselves we cannot take from others, even if they wrought pain in our lives. Can God restore our faith when it has been dashed to pieces? Can He use the death of dreams to bring new life?

Yes and Amen! Will the pain ever stop and the shame ever go away? Absolutely! But we might be surprised at how God uses the very thing we scorn.

Like Paul who said he was “under great pressure far beyond his ability to endure…but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead”, we begin to understand that we will be tested beyond our ability, but never beyond God’s. His grace truly is sufficient. We just need to learn how to access it when the world is upside down.

We can learn much from the Israelites. It was in their suffering that God made Himself available to them. 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.

For the Christian, there is hope in suffering because of our hope in God’s sovereignty. He is faithful and He is a Redeemer of everything that transpires in our lives, all for His glory.

Lord, I stand in awe of You! I am so grateful that You are in complete control. Help us to surrender to Your sovereignty and trust in You always.

This song by Chris Tomlin says it well. Our God is sovereign.