Tag Archives: hope

Hope-Giver

This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope.
1 Timothy 1:1, NLT* (emphasis mine)

Yes, sometimes I read backwards. It was verse 2 that nudged me last week, and now it’s verse 1.

Christ Jesus, who gives us hope. Let that steep a bit in your mind.

Hope:

  • of new life – and of Heaven
  • that we’ll make it – sometimes life is hard
  • that we’ll conduct ourselves in ways that are pleasing to God
  • of healing and growth
  • of doing what He gives us to do: “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NLT*)
  • of glory – Christ’s glory (His character) shining through us

That’s a lot of hope, and some days we need it all.

God of grace and mercy, You are our strong tower and our hope. Increase our faith and help us seize hold of the hope You offer. Let us live in confidence in You, expecting to see Your work in our lives. Not as we might want to see it, but as You want to unfold it. For the sake of Your glory.

Peter Furler’s song, “Greater is He (Hope of Glory),” helps these thoughts stick with me.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

Remembering God: Hope and Worship

So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.
Psalm 78:7, NLT*

The Israelites passed down their experiences with God from generation to generation, and somehow the Holy Spirit worked an alchemy in believing souls to change “heard” knowledge into “heart” knowledge.

Knowing the stories was never enough; the other nations knew them, and trembled. God wanted relationship with His people, where they could love and trust Him as well as revering and worshiping Him.

When they “set their hope anew” on Him, they thrived. When they forgot what God had done—and He did some highly memorable miracles—or when they stopped believing or rationalized it away, the psalmist describes them as “stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.” (Psalm 78:8, NLT* emphasis mine)

The same goes for us today, and for our children and their children. We have the miracles—and commands—of God preserved in the Bible. We have the testimonies of other Christians in person or in print. We have our personal encounters with the Lord of Heaven.

We need to remember them, and set our hearts and our hopes anew on God no matter what circumstances surround us. We need to pass them on to the next generation, but that generation is responsible to take them personally.

Faith isn’t a history lesson, or literature, myth or fairy tale. Theoretical nods to God don’t do much except set us up to fall.

Father God, You have drawn us to Yourself with a love stronger than we can know. Refresh our faith, rekindle our first love for You, and work in our children’s and grandchildren’s spirits to awaken them to Your love too. Let us not refuse to give our hearts to You. Let none of us be lost.

Let the Newsboys’ new song, “Live With Abandon,” be our prayer.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Perspective

There’s something about a new year that can get us thinking. Here are six good posts that helped me start with a healthy perspective:

At Life So Aware, Jon Rouse encourages us to keep a positive outlook. (Read Perception)

At Beech Croft Tales, Mary Waind points out that our attitudes and expectations have a lot to do with the way we respond or react to others. (Read No Offence Intended)

At Under the Cover of Prayer, Cherry Warrick asks, What is the Size of Our Prayers?

At Other Food: daily devos, Violet Nesdoly  gives three practical tips on how to embrace the new year “with a Caleb-like faith.” (Read A Caleb Spirit)

Bobbi Junior asks “When stuff happens in my life, do I let it take precedence, or do I weigh it in light of all the other things going on…” (Read Top of the Priority List)

And at Captured by God, Jenny shares an example of how to choose to believe God’s perspective instead of our own natural feelings. (Read Spirit of Joy)

Heart-shaped puddle

Will we see the scarred pavement, muddy marks and old leaves, or will we see the heart?

When the Wait is Long

Jesus’ birth ended a period of 400 years of silence from God. The angel Gabriel had brought personal messages to Zechariah and to Mary, and we don’t know how young Simeon was when God promised he’d see the Messiah before he died, but these were private revelations. The nation of Israel as a whole heard nothing. Not even a whisper.

400 years.

No prophets. No angelic visitors. Silence.

A remnant of Israel had returned from exile and begun to rebuild, as God had promised.

He also promised a Messiah, a King to come who would rule in power and justice and break the people’s bondage for good.

Nobody expected the King to suffer and die first.

Nobody expected to wait so long.

400 years.

Are you waiting today?

God hasn’t forgotten, or changed His mind, or discovered He can’t do what He promised.

He’s waiting too, for the best time to unveil what’s coming.

May His peace, hope, love and joy sustain each of us in the waiting.

And Merry Christmas. Christ has come.

In the Hard Times

Crow in the rainThese days I have two prayer lists near to my heart: eight teens numbing their pain with choices that make it worse, and five couples dealing with serious illness. And a third mini-list of friends with heavy burdens.

Trouble is alive and well, and what do we do about it? We can’t wish it away, and we can’t turn into whiners. Here are three posts that pointed me in the right direction this week:

Why do bad things happen? Glynis Belec knows there’s no easy answer and yet she finds strength to face a new round of battle. Bitter-sweet (at My Journey)

In the middle of global or personal suffering, how do we cope? Violet Nesdoly shares the value of a good lament. Job’s Lament (at Other Food: daily devo’s)

Mary DeMuth’s open personal lament shows the difference bringing our hurts to God can make. A Mourning Prayer (at Live Uncaged)

Of the many “songs for the hard times” the one I’m hearing today is from the Newsboys: “When the Tears Fall.”

Hope?

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Saviour and my God!
Psalm 43:5, NLT*

King David is discouraged. He has real, physical enemies oppressing him and bringing down his spirit.

Sometimes our troubles are solid like that, but often they’re not.

Usually I just have my feelings and the “voices in my head.” Circumstances can be fine but some worry or perceived threat will set up in my mind and steal my joy.

I had a weekend like that recently, moping around carrying a load that probably won’t become real and certainly wasn’t then. Saying “it’s been a bit of a struggle.” That’s what I believed because that’s how it felt. And it was a struggle.

Finally the sensible portion of my brain reminded me, “I have a good Shepherd.”

The rest of me said “oh, yeah” like I’d forgotten. Again. But choosing to believe and rely on that fact ended the struggle with my intangible but real feelings.

Shepherd of our souls, You are strong and kind. Whatever circumstances come, You will still be God, still sufficient for our needs. Forgive us when we entertain thoughts that bring us down. And please train us to hear Your truths faster and more clearly so we can learn to walk in Your freedom instead of our former bondage.

Here’s Josh Bates singing David’s psalm in “The Altar of God,” from the first Glory Revealed album.

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Radical Gratitude

And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].
John 1:5, AMP*

This is the verse that strengthened me after the terrorist attacks of 9-11. It’s the same verse that’s echoed in my spirit these past few Christmas seasons, each one leaving me more aware of the darkness in our communities and our world.

We think Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of year. But the darkness is why Jesus came. Israel of 2,000 years past was a pretty dark place, I’m sure, much like today.

His presence—Immanuel, God with us—still makes the difference.

As I’ve prayed for the people and situations nearest to my heart this season, at first the darkness was too much. This young girl—that young family—this elderly woman and her family… where they’re walking is unbearable. They’ve been heavy on my heart, and weighing down my spirit as I prayed. Reciting John’s words about Light in the darkness wasn’t helping.

A few days before Christmas God blew away the fog and let me see: I hadn’t been demanding why of God—that never ends well—but my discontent about what He had allowed said I didn’t think very highly of His management.

Judging God also doesn’t end well. And discontent is poison. Confession, forgiveness, and a fresh start work wonders, though.

Now I’m praying the same verse, but looking at the Light, practicing what Mark Buchanan calls “radical gratitude.”

Thanking God for what He will do in these people’s lives, instead of being dragged down by where they’ve been. Trusting that whatever His plans are, they’re for good. Not just praying for things to get better but for people to be made new and others to see the difference He makes.

Sovereign and holy God, who doesn’t tend to fix things, I praise You for how instead You re-create or make new. And the new is better. Stronger. Useful in Your hand. You waste nothing. Help us trust You. Show us how to pray in radical gratitude and praise, confident in our trust in You. Shine brighter in our darkness, until all will see Your glory.

Permit me one last Christmas song of the year: catch the hope and the assurance in the words to “Joy to the World,” especially verses 3 and 4.

*Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Our God is With Us

Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on their God.
Isaiah 50:10, NIV*

Our first desire in hard times is for escape, and if we can’t have it right away, we at least need to know there’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Even Jesus focused on the joy ahead of Him when His road went through the Cross. (Hebrews 12:2)

Sometimes we can’t even see that light ahead—either because the path looks so long or because the tunnel bends.

What do we hold onto then?

God.

His character, His promises, His presence with us even if we feel all alone.

Each Christmas I think of this more. On one hand it’s a terrible time of year to be struggling, but on the other, the pain can remind us that this is why Jesus came.

We hope and pray things will get better. We thank God for what He’s doing that we can’t see. And sometimes we just have to keep on keeping on, acting in faith that God is still good and in control. Knowing that, worst case scenario, when life ends He will take us to Himself.

Sovereign and loving God, we praise You for Your care and for the many times You make our paths easier. Thank You for sending Jesus as our Redeemer, so that no matter what life brings, we can walk through it with You and we can be assured of a place with You when it ends. Give us the faith we need to trust in You in the dark and in the light, and the courage to live boldly as Your children.

Here’s Michael Card’s beautiful “Immanuel”. Enjoy.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

We Are Loved

Years ago, back when we had to watch television without fast-forwarding through the commercials, there was an ad where people would tell about various hardships they were going through (job loss, health issues etc) and they’d always end with a big grin and “But I’m loved!”

I don’t remember if it was sponsored by a Christian group or by another religious organization, but my reaction was a sarcastic “yeah, right—that makes everything okay, then”.

These were painful struggles, but the glowing smiles implied happiness and laughter, puppies and flowers, all’s right in the world.

Sometimes life hurts. A lot. Denying the pain makes it worse, and that’s what I sensed in the ads: denial.

Yet, we are loved. And that assurance means more to me each year, each speedbump that rocks my life or those of my friends. The heavier the burden, the more we need to rely on God’s loving, strengthening grace.

Nothing can separate us from His love. If everything crumbles around us, if the very worst happens,  He’ll still be there to sustain us. And somehow He’ll make something beautiful, even if it can only be seen from the far side of eternity.

When fear or discouragement jab me these days, I’ve surprised myself by retorting “But I’m loved”.

It doesn’t numb me or give me a sappy grin, but it resonates in my spirit. It stirs my confidence in the God I’m learning to trust, the God who promised never to leave nor forsake me.

Maybe it’s because I’m learning that His staying has nothing to do with me and everything to do with His character. I can’t earn His love. It was never about that.

He loves me because He formed me. He gave His own Son to save me. He sent His Spirit to live in me. And He never goes back on His word.

Because of who He is, I can say, whatever my circumstances, through smiles or through tears, “I am loved.”

And I will trust Him.

The Goodness of the Lord

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14, NIV*

This verse gave me a lot of comfort during a hard time. I don’t know the translation a friend sent to me, but the wording for verse 13 is “I would have despaired if I had not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (It’s similar to the NASB translation of Psalm 27:13)

I clung to that promise, repeated it over and over, and although that crisis has passed the words are still on my fridge. Things were bad, and I needed help believing there would be good days ahead.

The verse has been going through my head again this week, in the form of a song by Carolyn Arends, “Land of the Living”. Just the chorus:

I would despair
If I did not believe
That I would see again
Your hand in the land of the living.

And I saw something deeper: the promise doesn’t say anything about what this goodness will look like. Doesn’t say the pain will go away, health or wealth be restored, wars and natural disasters cease.

What it says is that we will see the goodness of the Lord.

See the goodness of the Lord.

One of the points I took from Ann Voskamp’s amazing book, One Thousand Gifts, is that sometimes God’s goodness—the grace He gives us—is hard to recognize. It comes disguised as what we call more bad news or hard times.

She also points the way to see it: “praise precedes the miracle”. As we pray, praising God for who He is, asserting our confidence in Him, He helps us recognize His hand even in the hard experiences.

If the circumstances don’t change, or while we’re waiting for the change, don’t we need to recognize—to see—the goodness of the Lord present with us? Don’t we need His goodness to get us through? That’s grace.

Father God, Giver of all good gifts, open our eyes and our spirits to see Your goodness here with us, in the land of the living. We will still pray in trust that You will deliver us from our hard places and heal our hurts, but in the here and the now, help us praise You. Praise You with no strings attached: not if You work things out a certain way, but because of who You are. And we will remember that the praise does precede the miracle, whatever that miracle will turn out to be.

 

I couldn’t find “Land of the Living” as an audio file, so here’s a video of my first favourite Carolyn Arends song: “Seize the Day.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.