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!

Manic Monday: Trusting God in Your Calling

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Genesis 32:9-12

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, you said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will make you prosper.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the faithful love you have shown your servant. With only my walking stick I crossed the Jordanbut now I have become two camps. 11 Rescue meI pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, as well as the mothers with their children.12 But you said, ‘I will certainly make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand on the seashore, too numerous to count.’”

Jacob had fled his past troubles years prior to God calling him to go back from whence he came.  At first blush, he was walking in obedience when he did what his parents expected and left his household to marry a believer. Truthfully, his momma wanted her son protected from the older brother who had threatened to kill him for his deceit and cunning.  Isn’t that like us all?  We want to be right with God, but sometimes try to achieve that position by placating our mistakes with an instance of obedience.  Perhaps the right we do will outweigh the wrong.

Jacob wrestled toward the calling of God on his life, tried to make it happen in his own timing and way.  Jacob’s striving backfired big time, yet God was not going to retract that calling.  He uses imperfect people and His calling is irrevocable. Thank God for His faithfulness, despite our mess ups.

A calling is a funny thing.  Burning inside us is this relentless urging, and yet we are so fallible, we doubt that this calling is really from God.  It is the stepping out that confirms the calling.  It is in the authentic moments of acknowledged weakness that our calling is strengthened.  It is in our frailty and failings that God is glorified, if in those moments we fall prostrate at His feet and take no pride in what He is accomplishing in and through us.

We were never chosen because we are all that.  We were never chosen to be esteemed or to receive glory.  We were chosen in His sovereignty and for His purposes.  We may never understand why.  Facing our failures is what enables us to see God’s purposes and plans for our lives fulfilled.  That is what Jacob did, shaking in his boots (ok, maybe sandals), he went to face the one he had offended – because God said so.  God was positioning Jacob (now Israel), where he wanted him to be.

Sometimes we want God’s calling to be comfortable, but instead sometimes He has us ministering before an unappreciative people, or encountering many roadblocks or discouragements along the way.  Jacob understands.  But in the midst of all the turmoil and drama, he became Israel.  He answered the call and God was glorified by imperfect Jacob, scrappy and daring, but in the end a follower of the one true God.  His pride became humility, His hope became God’s promises and His greatest joy was God.  He was not defined by his failures, but by the great God He followed and who called Him.

Lord, help us to not focus on the calling, but on You, the One Who calls us.  When we are discouraged or doubt Your ability to use us, help us to be obedient and to never tire of seeking your glory in our lives.

The Trusting Fool

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Jeremiah 17:5, 7

“The Lord says, ‘I will put a curse on people who trust in mere human beings, who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength, and whose hearts have turned away from the LORD.  7 My blessing is on those people who trust in me, who put their confidence in me.  10 I, the Lord, probe into people’s minds.  I examine people’s hearts.  I deal with each person according to how he has behaved.  I give them what they deserve based on what they have done.'”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5&6

Trusting in a God who is not visible seems impractical in our sophisticated world.  Laughter perhaps emerges from others over our foolishness to place our faith in God as our Deliverer rather than something or someone seen.  It seems naive, fantasaical, maybe even crazy.  It is far easier to depend on flesh and blood – a relative, a friend, a government.  But what happens when these are unreliable?  Seeking to protect ourselves from being let down by others, we attempt to be self-sufficient.  That does not work for long, either.  What are we afraid of?  Why not trust God with every aspect of our lives?  Perhaps we are even afraid of God letting us down.  Is He really good?  Does He really control everything?  Why does He permit difficulties in our lives and seemingly tolerate evil?  Can He be trusted?

It might seem harsh to think of being cursed by God for leaning on someone else.  Depending on a friend or a family member seems harmless enough.  In fact, a brother is born for times of adversity.  So why such strong language in the above verse?  The hearts of God’s people had turned away from the LORD – because of looking to someone else for salvation.  Worshiping the false god Baal, God’s people stooped to offering their own children in flames and participating in cannibalism.  While the level they sank to seems like something we would never do, are we guilty of equivalent actions by our heart serving false gods, too?  Are we diligent to protect our children from the influence of the world, or do we offer them up to the god of this culture – materialism, entertainment or comfort?

It can start easily enough – we are tired and worn – maybe a little entertainment will bring some relief.  The gradual drift away from running to God becomes a craving to be numb from pain, maybe sprinkled with a little country club Christianity or religion.  But these things were never meant to satisfy the God-placed hole in our heart that can only be satisfied by knowing God.  God does not want us to be deceived – He alone is the One Who supplies all we need. He used other people and organizations to provide for us, but it is Him – the One Who made us, the One Who saved us, who we need to place our trust in.  A job is not our Provider – it is a vehicle of provision.  A generous friend or family member is not our Savior – God moved on their heart to bless.  So how do we place our trust and confidence in God?  By going before Him, crying out and searching His Word.

There are so many testimonies of God’s goodness and answers to prayers, I could fill a novel.  But one case in particular, I hope will encourage your heart that God is trustworthy and will never let you down.  His answer might not be what you want, but He will carry you through all of life’s trials.  I was twenty-six and expecting with my daughter, Deborah, when the doctors informed me that the pregnancy was going to end in another miscarriage.  My spirit said differently.  I opened God’s Word and placed my trust and confidence in Him.  I also did practical things such as resting, but the blood work continued to show that the pregnancy was not viable.  The doctors insisted that they would need to give me a shot to reabsorb the fetus – it was not a valid pregnancy.  I declined their solution and told them I knew God was going to save my child.  They called me a fool for trusting God.  Deborah is now a lovely 18-year-old with a lot of wisdom and love for God.  I thank God for His promises and for being a living God, an ever-present help in times of trouble.

There are also testimonies of God allowing hardship in, but amazing faith and grace to walk through them.  Comfortable?  No – but at peace.  Do you need hope today?  It can be hard to keep that optimistic spirit alive when troubles abound, but our confidence can be in the Alpha and Omega, the One Who has always been and will always be.  No matter what surrounds us, we can trust in and be encompassed about by the living God.  There are a lot of fools who have gone before us – who did not belong to this world and who lived lives that glorified God.  This great cloud of witnesses might not have been esteemed by man, but the fellowship with God they shared sustained them and ultimately led them to eternal bliss in Heaven.  God loves us so very much, and wants to walk through this amazing gift called life with us.  We can trust Him because of His character – He is Who He says He is – trustworthy, faithful and loving.  Let’s put down the false idols and trust solely in God!

Lord, thank you that you are trustworthy.  Thank you for modeling dependency on the Father and help us to walk with You.