Tag Archives: hope

(Jeremiah 29) No Hope

29:11 is a precious verse. I’ve even used it to encourage friends going through hard times, for High School and College graduates, and in cards celebrating a birth of a child. But I realize today I may have been wrong to do so.

Verses 12-13 got my attention:

You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

The promise in verse 11 isn’t for just anyone. It is reserved for people who go to God in prayer, people who seek God, who search for Him with all their hearts.

God doesn’t promise a future and a hope for people who reject Him. God’s plan for people who don’t accept Him is disaster.

I am convicted today. Let’s not give people false hope. Because there is no hope for people who aren’t right with God through Jesus.

No hope.

(Genesis 3-5) Because I Love You

I never considered God’s judgment on Adam and Eve an act of love before. Had He allowed them to continue to live in the Garden, and had they eaten from the Tree of Life, they would have been forced to live forever in their sin, struggling in this sinful world century after century, millennium after millennium. They would have had no hope of heaven, because they would not have died.

Yes, they were doomed to a difficult existence during life on earth. They were to experience sickness, loss, heartache, enemies, and death. Sin does that to a person.

But God, even as He sent them away, promised the Savior. God did not leave them without hope.

The writer of Hebrews, and Psalm 3:12 tell us:

the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

God always punishes sin because He loves us. He wants us to turn from sin so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him in this life, and forever. We can’t do that if we hold on to sin. He is holy. Holiness and sin do not exist together. God wants us to exist together.

God didn’t wash His hands of Adam and Eve when they sinned. When He threw them out of the Garden, He didn’t turn off the sun, or destroy creation to teach them a lesson They still enjoyed sunsets, smelled the flowers, tasted the food. God didn’t stop blessing them. I’m sure they laughed again, were excited about the births of their children, enjoyed a romantic get-away to the mountains occasionally. (Well, I’m not sure of that last one, really. I’m a bit of a romantic.)

I think they even enjoyed a relationship with God eventually, although much different than the one they knew before sin separated them. God still was involved in their lives as seen in His conversation with Cain, giving Cain a chance to repent. (4:6-7)

I’ve gone through times of discipline because of sin in my life. Our world experiences the judgment of God because of sin. And often our natural response is to ask, “Why?”

“Why is life so hard?” “What did I do to deserve this illness, or this loss, or this hardship?”

“WHY ME?”

And I hear God answer:

Because I love you.

He Will Not Win (The Revelation of John)

God allowed John to see the big picture. He showed him the Church, our role in the world, our blessings for obedience, and God’s judgment for disobedience. John saw God’s enemy at work, and the fact Satan only has power given him by God.

I think we miss the point of John’s revelation when we try to fit it into a material box, or try to place events on a timeline. John’s vision is both an encouragement for us, and a warning we need to heed.

The fact is, there is a war going on, and all of us must choose a side. The enemy is clever. He uses both force and subtleties, to bring people to his side. He is cunning, and a pretty good imitator of God.

But he is not God.

And while Satan tries to cloud the Truth that is Jesus, while he tries to put up a smoke screen against the Gospel, he cannot and will not change the Truth. God will be reckoned with. And only we who are on God’s side will escape God’s wrath.

Oh, Satan has and will continue to enjoy certain victories along the way. God’s Church will be beat up, persecuted, and ignored.

But take heart, dear one. Satan will not win this war!

Twilight (Isaiah 21)

The world was out of control in Isaiah’s day. Nations rose to power only to be overthrown by nations that had previously been defeated by them. People worshiped idols, then they worshiped God, then they returned to idols, and sometimes tried to worship everything at the same time. Isaiah knew, because God had revealed it to him, that the world was on a downward spiral plunging toward destruction.

The prophet longed for peace. We who have lived on this earth for more decades than we sometimes care to admit, can relate. We worked our whole lives. We raised children through lean years, rebellious years, through the laughter and tears. We helped with homework, drove to games, sat through recitals, planned birthday parties, cooked and cleaned and bandaged boo-boos.

We served in our churches joyfully and tirelessly, teaching Sunday School, working in the nursery, serving on committees, visiting the sick, caring for widows. We sacrificed ourselves for the good of others. And we were glad to do it!

But now we are tired. We long for the peace and comfort of twilight, that time of day when things slow down, when the sun sinks in the west amid the purples and pinks and oranges of sunset, when the birds sing their final song of the day, and life slows down. But for some of us, like Isaiah, that twilight has become a horror. (verse 4)

I could sit here and list the many horrific things many of us are facing in the twilight of our years. We all know what’s going on. But I want to point you to the watchman in verses 11-12. The news isn’t all bad, or all good.

Yes, there are times of trouble. But there are also times of blessing. There is night. And there is day. Satan would love nothing more than to have us sit and fret about our current conditions, to worry about the “what ifs,” to be angry if people don’t see things the way we do. Our enemy wants us to live in turmoil.

God wants better for us. Let’s, like the watchman, be on the lookout. Morning is coming, but also the night. God is still in the business of blessing His obedient children. He is still the powerful, loving, just God who hasn’t forgotten us.

Keep your eyes on the sky, your heart in tune with your Creator.  There is joy today. There is peace today. There is hope today. Yes, there are challenges and heartaches and sickness and injustice. But never forget that time marches on. What we face today will be ancient history tomorrow. Morning is coming, but also the night.

I love twilight. Most of the pictures I choose to put as my heading on this blog are of sunsets. The one I’m using currently was taken a few weeks ago when my family and I went on a sunset dolphin cruise. After a hectic day of chasing the kids around, of going to the beach, of putting out little fires when someone had the iPad too long, this boat ride was a time to unwind and take in God’s amazing creation. It was peaceful and absolutely beautiful. A perfect end to a wonderfully chaotic day.

There is every reason to praise God today and every day. Watch for it!

Real Hope (Psalm 59)

I had a conversation with someone recently who doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord. The fear in her voice was strong as she talked about the covid19 virus. That fear paralyzed her. She had no hope.

The hope she expressed was merely wishful thinking. She said things like, “I hope my family doesn’t get it,” “I hope this ends soon,” “I hope the government does something about this.” But the more she spoke, the more evident it became that she had no real hope at all.

David knew what it was like to live in fear. He lived amid a plague of jealousy and hate. Spears and arrows were aimed at his heart. In fact, we’ll find out he self-quarantined in a cave to protect himself from coming in contact with those spears and arrows.

Today, instead of weapons of war pointing at us, we have a virus, germs, disease taking aim. And, like David, we are hunkered down, removing ourselves from the danger of contact. But not all of us are experiencing the same thing.

Some are isolated in their homes, wringing their hands, stuck to the TV news channels, hoarding toilet paper. And some are joyfully spending time with family, playing games, singing praise songs, even reaching out to help neighbors.

I know not everyone is living one extreme or the other. But I think how we approach this virus depends on where we place our confidence.

Do I look to the government or medical researchers for protection? Or do I look to God? Do I trust social distancing, or God? Do I look for answers in the media? Or do I go to the Word of God for answers?

Listen to what David said during this frightening time in his life:

O, my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (Psalm 59:9)

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praises to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (verses 16-17)

David repeatedly called God his fortress. To me a fortress is that sturdy, impenetrable place where no harm can come. David could rest in that fortress, and so can we.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I don’t believe that putting my hope in God will make me immune to this virus. But living in the fortress that is God gives me the assurance, the real hope, that if I stay healthy and don’t get this virus, I win. And if I get this virus and die, I win.

Am I worried about this virus? I can honestly say no. I’m following orders and staying in my home, washing my hands, etc. But I’m not losing sleep over the “what ifs.” I’ve given God those “what ifs,” and I pray you have, too.

I believe real hope isn’t a state of mind. I believe real hope is a constant relationship with the God of Creation, who does all things well. That’s not just wishful thinking.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and His righteousness. It’s that solid rock, that fortress, that strength, that love.

My hope is real because God is real.

The Power Of The Presence (I Samuel 4-8)

God’s Presence was in the ark of the covenant. That gold covered box was holy because God made His dwelling place there. The ark had to be handled very carefully. To mistreat it or dishonor it meant death.

70 men of Beth Shemesh died because they looked into the ark. When the Philistines captured the ark, a plague of tumors and rats infected any city that housed the ark. You couldn’t deny the power that accompanied the ark.

So the Philistines answer to that obvious power was, “Get rid of it! Send the ark back to the Jews.”

Now we Christians know God doesn’t dwell in a gold covered box these days. He doesn’t even dwell in churches (thankfully, since all the churches have closed their doors during this virus outbreak). God’s Presence is in all of us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior.

There are a lot of lessons here in regard to God’s Presence. But today God is asking me what impact His Presence in me has on my town, on my neighbors, on my family.

Just the presence of the ark – no prophet preaching from the temple steps, no choir or musical instrument played – just the Presence of God caused non-believers to recognize God’s power. They saw the disease of their bodies and the filth of their surroundings just by being in God’s Presence.

And they didn’t like it. They rejected it. They could have bowed to the God whose power they’d come face to face with. But instead, they removed it from their presence.

Sometimes God can reveal Himself to a non-believer just by our association with them. Sometimes our choices to follow God speak to them about their choice not to. Sometimes God reveals sin to them, when they see us resisting sin for Jesus’ sake.

Now I’m not saying we have an excuse not to share the Gospel, not to talk to people about their need of a Savior. But I think God would have us be the “ark” so to speak. That vessel through which His power can be seen to everyone around us.

How are you handling this present crisis? Is God’s power revealed in you by your trust in Him? Or are you panicked like so many, worrying about the future as though you had no hope? God wants to reveal Himself through each of His children today.

May the power of His Presence in our hearts be seen, and may it draw people to a relationship with the Savior.

God’s Power In Me (Joshua 1-4)

Rahab’s testimony spoke to me today. She was a prostitute living in Jericho. She most likely had never met a Jewish person before. But when Joshua’s two spies came to her house, she welcomed them based on Israel’s reputation. Hear what she said to them:

I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts sank and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below. (2:8-11)

Rahab went on to save the lives of the two spies, and later we’ll find out her faith and obedience saved her own. But what spoke to me today is what she said about God.

She told the spies that she and everyone around her trembled in fear because of the great things God had done for Israel. They had heard about Israel’s great victories, the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel’s reputation as the children of God made them realize how weak and helpless they were against Him.

In fact, in the case of Rahab, she put her faith in the God of Israel in response to the power she heard about in the lives of the Jews. Which got me to thinking.

Is God’s power seen in me? Is God recognizable in my life to people who are lost without Him? I don’t want people to see me and think what a religious, good person I am. I want people to see what a great God I serve.

The world is experiencing something in this virus outbreak that I don’t think has ever brought us together before on common ground in such a way. It’s not just the US who are practicing social distancing. Countries all around the world share the same restrictions, face the same challenges, and are searching for that last roll of toilet paper. For the first time in my lifetime, I feel we are one in something.

And that puts a responsibility on the shoulders of we who know the Lord. And believe me, people all over the world are watching how Christians handle this pandemic. Let me ask you, what are your family members, neighbors, friends, coworkers learning about God as they watch how you act and react to what is going on? Do they see a powerful God, the God of hope, the God who saves? Or do they see a God who can’t be trusted because you are in a panic, wringing your hands, and hoarding the TP?

Rahab came to faith in God by watching Him demonstrate His power through the people of Israel. Let’s pray that people will come to faith in God by watching Him demonstrate His power through each of us.

December 19; Be Prepared

I Peter 2:13-5:14; Jude 1:1-6

When was the last time someone asked you to give the reason for the hope you have in Jesus? Some of you will answer that you had that opportunity yesterday. Others might have to confess it’s been a while – if ever. Why is that?

God is asking me today if people even know I’m a Christian without me saying anything. Do I stand out in a crowd by being joyful, content, kind, caring, willing to serve, truthful…? If the only thing people know about me is that I go to church, is that enough reason for them to ask me about the hope I have in Jesus? A lot of people go to church, and still have no hope.

Paul tells us to always be prepared for people to ask us about Jesus. I don’t think that just means reading your Bible and praying every morning – although I hope that is the first thing you do before stepping onto the battle field every day.

I’m thinking we prepare to share Jesus by the choices we make, the life we live, the words we say. If we wear His name, can people see Christ in us? Or do we look like everyone else in the crowd?

If people see Jesus in us, they’ll naturally want to know more about Him, because what we have with Jesus is so much better than what anyone has without Him. Do they see that in us? Are we an enigma in a world of distrust, anger, discontent, depression, and immorality? We should be.

If you call yourself a Christian I can guarantee someone is watching you to see if your hope is real. Let’s determine to prepare ourselves to show them it is, and to tell them how they can have the same hope in the Savior

 

December 8; New Life, New Hope

Romans 15-16; Acts 20:7-38

Our family grew by one yesterday. My niece in California gave birth to a daughter. Isn’t the birth of a child a precious, hopeful event? That tiny, totally dependent human entrusted to her parents to nurture, instruct, mold into the person she will become. Those tiny fingers and toes, that little body houses an eternal soul. What a responsibility! What a blessing!

Some people think this world is too evil, and think we shouldn’t be having children. I am not one of them. I rejoice at the birth of my newest great-niece. I see hope in her arrival.

As I read these chapters this morning I thought of baby Keaton. I pray that she will give her heart to Jesus at an early age and be the servant of the Lord Paul talks about. I pray her life will be a testament to the goodness of God, and will inspire others to want Jesus in their lives, too.

I know life won’t always be easy for her. But I pray that she will be grounded in the Truth of Scripture and know the strength that comes from a relationship with God Himself. So, using Paul’s words, let me say to our precious Keaton…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Your Aunt Connie is praying for you, sweetheart.

September 22; Out Of The Depths

Psalms 121, 122, 128, 130, 134-136

What does it mean to cry “out of the depths?” How low does one have to go in order to be considered being in the depths? The author of psalm 130 has come face to face with his past sins, and they seem to have him feeling pretty low. Now, looking at a Holy God, he realizes he has no hope.

I believe having no hope is what is meant by crying out of the depths. There is nothing left when there is no hope, only despair.

Yet the psalmist cries out to God, “Hear me. Be merciful to me.” He recognizes that what he needs, what he longs for is God’s forgiveness for his sins.

So the psalmist waits. He waits patiently, and puts his hope not in himself, not in good deeds or positive thoughts, but in the Lord. He knows that God’s love is unfailing, that God’s redemption is full. And he knows God will redeem Him.

I pray all of us will consider our past sins and know what the psalmist knew – that before we accepted God’s forgiveness we had no hope. I pray that if you have never asked God to forgive your sins, you will consider those sins and realize you have no hope, either. But know this: God loves to forgive our cries from the depths.

I know that, because He forgave mine.