Day 26: The Foundation of Hope

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The battle for Hope Reinvented begins at the foundation of our hope and is a battle in the mind.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 15:4

“For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope.”

Ephesians 2:12

“In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.”

1 Corinthians 3:11

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

When we are at the place of broken dreams, trying to rebuild our hope can seem futile, especially when the future ahead does not appear to have hope in the natural.

If you have been reading this series on Hope Reinvented, we have walked through all of the pitfalls and detractors from having a living hope in Christ. We have examined our former hope and let it go if it was not the hope God has for us. We have also seen that real hope is only found in Christ. Now we will examine what is at the foundation of this Hope Reinvented in Christ alone.

God’s Word. At the foundation of this Reinvented Hope is God’s Word. Man’s word or promise could never fulfill the demands of a hope that never fails. His promises speak life when death is all we see, but another friend at the level of foundation must be present to apply God’s word . . .

Trust. Trusting when everything is going well is not trust at all. But trusting when nothing is going well – now this is trust. Some people think it is foolish to trust in what you cannot see, but this is the definition of faith, as well. Without faith no one can please God. God delights in us and in giving us His promises. He loves it when we look to Him and hope in Him. This is another layer of the foundation of hope – relationship.

Relationship is a necessary layer in our foundation, for without it we cannot claim the promises given by God. Sometimes we can be guilty of just wanting relief from the burdens of this life and seeking the hope of God to escape. Having a relationship with God enables us in times of adversity and also becomes our beacon of hope as we have confidence in the promises He has made to those who trust Him.

Action. As we begin to live out this Reinvented Hope we see another layer in our foundation – action. Living hope in action means we live boldly in the face of dashed hopes. We exemplify this reality by going against the flesh and taking God’s promises at face value. Studying His Word, applying it, memorizing it and living it out is what makes this eternal hope come to life. Action must accompany mentally agreeing with God’s hope.

Discipline. Consistency in nurturing our hope is necessary to cultivate and grow our confidence in this secure hope we have. Taking captive hopeless thoughts and replacing them with God’s, coupled with studying His word daily are not optional. We will be tossed to and fro, otherwise.

When my world was encompassed by constant strife (and this still happens from time to time), I thirsted for God’s promises and read them constantly. I put myself in a place to receive those promises by seeking Him fervently and crying out for Him to deliver me instead of running to other vices or “hopes”.

The challenge in such times is to not look around you at the waves or the supposed failures. They work to tear down our hope. Mental toughness is created and our faith strengthened when we choose to focus only on God and His Word. Sometimes we have to guard our heart to keep away the “hope stealers”. These hope stealers or crushers can be pretty convincing, but they are not eternal.

The battle for Hope Reinvented begins at the foundation of our hope and is a battle in the mind. We must choose which hope we believe in and fight for it with all we have. I close today with words from Woodrow Kroll from his series, “Back to the Bible”: “No one who utterly despairs will pray, for prayer is the proof of lingering hope. Even in the midst of despair, the psalmist recognizes that, should there be any hope, it will be found only in God.”

Lord, You are awesome and faithful, our only Hope! Help us to stay rooted in this hope and to share this hope as stewards of the only real eternal hope that only You can give.

Day 6: Revelation in the Darkness – Who Was the Thief?

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

“In all the strife of life, no one can steal our hope except ourselves.”

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 119:116

“Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.”

Hope is a necessary ingredient to life. Without it, we perish. The ultimate definition of hope, the daughter of faith, is trusting that God said He will do what He said He would. But sometimes we can feel that is for everyone else except ourselves.

Holding onto hope can take all we’ve got sometimes. So many things in this fallen world threaten hope’s survival. Maybe we are in the desert, seemingly with no end in sight and just find it too difficult to dare to hope. Maybe we are on the other side of a significant trial but are afraid to hope. Circumstances, discouragement and fear can surely hold us back from hope, but they are birthed in an environment all our own.

It might help to know where we stand, to set expectations aright. We are hated by an enemy who delights to steal our joy and hope, because he is angry that He can never take away our salvation. He will settle for wrecking our witness or get us sidetracked with trivial matters, but he really wants to discourage us from having hope at all. If he achieves this goal, God’s people go through life living defeated lives, without hope and ineffective to share God’s hope with others because our own hope has been extinguished.

Added to our enemy’s activity of destroying hope in us is his influence on others who are used, sometimes unknowingly – to try and dash our hopes, too. Who would want to do that, right? But we do it all the time when we try to discourage a brother or sister in the work of the LORD in their lives.

Naivety gone, we recognize we are surrounded by enemies, but we might not readily see the enemy within. Sounds dramatic, I know. But what we do with the pressures in this life that try to snuff out hope is on us. It is not easy to stand up to all of the attacks on maintaining our hope in God, but it is a fight God can help us to wage and win.

So, who’s the Thief? Who is it that ultimately steals our hope?

Satan, Satan working through people, circumstances – they contribute to our downfall, but there is another thief we do not recognize, because wait for it – it is ourselves. Why would we bear the blame – why would we ever want to harm ourselves or take away our hope?

Sure, the instigator was likely from another source, but what we do with the “hope killer” is our choice alone. We must consider where our hope is placed. Is it in others, ourselves or in the only One who is capable of making and keeping promises?

Here are some “Hope Builders” that have greatly helped me to hold onto hope:

Where our hope is placed. When hope is in Christ alone, we have a consistent source that does not sway with man’s fickle opinion or momentary circumstances. Reinvented hope is not dependent on a temporary goal or the success of achieving that goal – it is fixed on the author of hope itself.

Recognizing the battle and its source. People’s opinions are often formed in jealousy. Jealousy is hatred. Discouragement, gossip and negativity only come from one place – they are of the devil. His end is certain. Dismiss attacks from people or the devil as being evil and having a just end.  God already waged war against the enemy of our souls – satan is defeated and our hope is secure.

Pressing in and seeking God’s promises. Reality hits us square in the eye and sometimes it can be LOUD. We don’t have to let life’s troubles confuse us, even though they are convincing that hope seems like a futile effort. We have to go against our feelings and place our hope firmly in the hands of God’s word. It is hard work keeping the flames of hope alive, but God’s promises fuel that hope.

Crying out to God. We need help in this quest for this hope from another world. It is found only in relationship with Christ. Crying out for help and perspective helps us to overcome and triumph over hopelessness or false hope that always disappoints. Instead of adopting the world’s hope, we begin to see formed this new Reinvented Hope as we gain God’s view instead of our own.

Focusing on God and His Word, not the hope killers around us. This one is a tough one when our hope killers are not just in our mind, but flesh around us, focused on tearing us down. When we listen to the voices all around us instead of to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we easily succumb to the strategy of the enemy.

In all the strife of life, no one can steal our hope except ourselves. We have to get up and fight and resist pouring over the negativity of other people or our own self-doubt and insecurity. A great assurance for this soul is that nothing in this world can take away our hope – it is impossible, for our hope is certain. We might feel like hope is gone, but it never is for those whose hope is in God. Picking up the pieces of our shattered hope, we form it into a new hope that never disappoints.

In Christ Alone is a worship song that reminds us where our hope needs to be placed. Worship Him, our God of Reinvented Hope, a hope given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Hope is alive!

Lord, thank You for keeping our hope secure in You. Help us to hold on to Your promises firmly.

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.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Source of Strife

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Yielding to God in the midst of conflict uses that strife for good and God’s glory.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 17:14

14 Starting a quarrel is like letting out water; stop it before strife breaks out! 19 The one who loves a quarrel loves transgression; whoever builds his gate high seeks destruction.

Proverbs 20:3

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.

James 4:1-2

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”

James 3:14

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.”

I am afraid I might step on toes with today’s post, but the truths in this post have stepped on mine in the past, too. You can’t go through life without strife, but finding the source of that strife helps to move through it.

Motives of the heart are not so easy to discern, but eventually God reveals the source of dissension. Whether it is a competitive spirit, selfish ambition, jealousy or just our flesh being sensitive or irritable, the root of all conflict is spiritual.

Recognizing the battle is spiritual takes away offense. Instead of thinking about self, what we want or being offended, we start to think about why the conflict happened in the first place and how God can be glorified in it. It might be our flesh or the enemy influencing our thought patterns, but we still have a choice. The battle is not against another person – it is ultimately the LORD’s.

After we recognize the spiritual aspect of our conflict, at the heart of discord is self. Somehow in someway we take on an offense for an impression that someone else did not treat us the way we thought we deserved or maybe we assume they did.

I like to avoid drama and needless strife. Seems scriptural, too – not to get involved in civilian affairs. But sometimes God allows strife in and accomplishes amazing fruit in an unlikely way.

What used to break my spirit when others would misjudge or mistreat me is now something I am grateful for. I know it seems pious, but God has shown me how some of the hardest moments of persecution, strife or being shunned have truly served to draw me nearer to God and to trust Him. It hurts, but it no longer affects me the way it once did.

Instead of trying to have everyone like us, we can pray for them and choose to rise above the fray. Maybe we need to examine ourselves and maybe we just need to surrender it over to the LORD. The end of a matter is better than its beginning, but yielding to God in the midst uses that strife for good and God’s glory.

Lord, thank You for helping us to rise above problems and difficulties and for choosing to delight in You, instead. Help us to remember the battle is a spiritual one and to seek Your glory and not our own.

Truthful Tuesday: Whose Lead Do You Follow?

Whose lead do you follow

Romans 8:5

“For  those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

We’d all like to think that we are led by the Spirit and are making decisions that are wise, but often we do not see the spiritual realm all around us, affecting our thoughts and actions.  The impact of flesh versus spirit affects our lives and those around us.

The choices we make moment by moment are filtered by our mindset which is impacted by many factors in our environment.  Evident in our choices about what we eat (ugh . . . chocoholic confessions here for me), to the clothing we wear, the words we say and the attitudes we have toward other people, we have impressions or feelings that bombard us constantly.  If we are not careful and discerning, we can allow our perception or someone else’s opinion to affect our own behavior.

One main way this flesh is played out is how we treat one another.  Rejection of others who aren’t like us is common in the world, but unfortunately, it also happens at church. People shun others or just plain old don’t like other people who are made in the image of God.  Where does this come from?  If it is not from God, then the answer is obvious, but all too often we do not stop to consider why we don’t like someone.  We might all have different personalities, but we ought to love one another so the world can see that body of Christ is indeed different.

The truth is we are more apt to be carnal than spiritual beings and when we are spiritual, we often get in the flesh and think it is us who are righteous, when Christ alone is our righteousness.

While this is a humbling truth, maybe it can provoke us to be aware of our thoughts and behaviors.  Do they honor God?  Are they of the Spirit or of the flesh?  If we could grab a hold of this reality, Christians would turn this world upside down with godly lives and choices that no longer appear hypocritical, unconditional acceptance and love instead of judgment and forming cliques.

Pleasing self or others and seeking acceptance from God’s creation does not compare with living for the audience of One.  Like Paul, we will have to battle the flesh, but staying in the battle is far better than not recognizing the battle of the flesh versus spirit in the first place.

Lord, may You increase and may we decrease.  Help us to recognize the things that are from You and the things that are not and to walk in the Spirit.

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Illusive Discipline

Photo Credits: quotivee.com

Photo Credits:
quotivee.com

Proverbs 5:11-12, 23

11 “And at the end of your life you will groan when your flesh and your body are wasted away.  12 And you will say, “How I hated discipline! My heart spurned reproof!” 23 He will die because there was no discipline; because of the greatness of his folly he will reel.”

1 Timothy 4:7

“But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”

1 Corinthians 9:27

“But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Our flesh despises discipline.  Routine is agony and seemingly inhibits freedom.  I have struggled for most of my adult life to be consistent in exercise, healthy eating and devotions.  Just when I thought I mastered one of these areas, I saw how woefully wrong I was.

We never arrive.  So what is the point of still trying?  It is in the trying, the persisting, the pressing on that character is formed, often unknowingly to the soul that seeks to follow God closely.

Discipline gets bad publicity.  It is seen as wrong in today’s society when applied to the parent/child relationship.  It might even be viewed as abusive to apply punishment for a wrong done.  Denying self seems brutal to many, too, because flesh is the god this world bows to.

Christ knew we would struggle to be disciplined, but He did not lower the bar.  He raised the bar and demonstrated a disciplined life, yielded to God.  We all prefer lavish grace – we are only human, after all.  But God expects more and so should we.  Lowering the bar because we are imperfect is not grace – it is laziness.

We would never accept a lackluster job performance for something we paid for, yet we expect forgiveness, mercy and understanding when we live our lives -which were bought at a high price – for self.  The dichotomy of our expectations and contributions brings us to a crisis.  A crisis of seeing God’s requirement and our inability to carry it out.  In that moment of realization, though, we see our need of Him to help us exercise our will toward righteousness and kingdom purposes.

Being disciplined is so very hard.  The flesh wars against our soul and is a pushy personality.  It wants what it wants – when it wants it. Paul understood this and battled against his flesh, too.  This is where victory lies – staying in the battle. When failure after failure pile up as witnesses against us, we rise again to battle, because the war is already won.  To give up is not an option – we are not defeated if we will only continue to deny the flesh and ask God to help us choose the disciplined path.

Lord, thank You for your grace.  Your laws and precepts are perfect and medicine to our soul.  What we perceive as discipline is what we really need.  Thank You for Your patience, LORD.  Help us to walk in victory, faithfully following Your decrees all for Your glory.

Worshipful Wednesday: The Real Golden Rule

Photo Credits monkeysocietyblog.blogspot.com

Photo Credits
monkeysocietyblog.blogspot.com

Psalm 111:7-10 His acts are characterized by faithfulness and justice; all his precepts are reliable.  8 they are forever firm, and should be faithfully and properly carried out.  9 He delivered His people; He ordained that His covenant be observed forever.  His name is Holy and Awesome.  10 To obey the LORD is the fundamental principle for wise living; all who carry out His precepts acquire good moral insight.  He will receive praise forever.

Our society has many anecdotes for how we ought to live.  We are told that the golden rule –  treating another person as you want him to treat you – is the main principle to live by.  This is a biblical principle – “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” But here in the Psalms we see a very simple rule, given by God: obey Him! So simple, and yet difficult to carry out.

The constant battle with the flesh can make us want to give up, to become deceived that this principle of always walking in wisdom is impossible.  It is in the obedience of God’s precepts, however, that our eyes become opened and we can see.  Herein is the mystery: we cannot gain this insight by just merely assenting or believing in God’s precepts – we understand by doing it.

And what are we choosing to obey?  Not principles or fads that change depending on what we feel, or upon humanistic ideals, no – it is on the reliable precepts of God Almighty.  It is based upon the One Who has never failed – never sinned – the Perfect One, Who truly knows the best path we should take. He is trustworthy and faithful and His principles last forever.  We can know this by His past deeds, by His Word and His promises for the future! Go with God today.  Go with His revealed Word and obey what He has revealed to you.  Continue to seek Him and discover what other principles He has set for His people – not to confine you – but to establish healthy boundaries that will set you free and be a blessing to you.  Walking in wisdom with our God is truly the most joyful life one can have.

Lord, I love You!  How wise and Holy and awesome You are!  Your precepts are life and I thank You for them!  Help us to live for You and to walk in wisdom to bring You glory and to reach this lost world!