Tag Archives: hope

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.

August 5; On Fire

Jeremiah 22:24-23:8, 49:1-33; 2 Kings 24:10-17; Obadiah 1:1-21

I will confess I was a bit down yesterday after my time in God’s Word, thinking about the persecution of believers in our world, and what that means for the future of the sweet children in my life. I pray that they will be grounded in the Truth of Scripture, believers in Jesus, and His through His precious blood and the repentance of sin. I pray they will be strong to face whatever the future holds.

I read the passages for today and, honestly, my mind kept wandering. I got to the end of it and realized I hadn’t gotten a thing out of it. So I prayed and asked God to speak to me as I read it a second time.

Sigh. There is a lot of destruction and judgment in these verses. Is that what God wants to say to me again today? I wasn’t sure I could handle another day of gloom and doom.

And, because I’ve made a 10 day commitment to keep my commentaries on the shelf, I started to read these passages a third time. This time I prayed, “God, if you are wanting me to address your fierce judgment again I will. But if there is something else you want me to see, I want to see it.

“Jesus,” He seemed to say.

There it was. Jeremiah 23:5-6. Jesus, the righteous Branch, wise, and just. The One who will protect His children. The Lord our Redeemer! Thank you, Lord, for reminding me there is hope. His name is Jesus.

Then, in Obadiah 1:15-18 I heard God speak of that hope. The day of the Lord is near. There will be deliverance – AND IT WILL BE HOLY.

God’s children will receive our inheritance: eternity with Jesus. And not one of those who reject Him will survive. Not one.

So, yes. Things are heating up in the world. Satan is on a roll. But we who know the Savior have hope. Nothing that snake can do needs to cause us fear, because God is on our side. Jesus will destroy His enemies.

It occurs to me there are two ways God eliminates His enemies. One is death – physical and eternal. But that’s not His first choice to destroy His enemies.

The other way God eliminates His enemies is by making them His children. When they repent of sin and accept His grace, they are enemies no more! That’s His plan. That’s why Jesus died. That’s what He did for me and you who were once His enemies. He saved us and made us His beloved.

So, dear Christian, let’s be that fire Obadiah spoke of. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to set us ablaze with passion and love and boldness. Let’s defeat Satan by leading people to Jesus. Let’s do our part to turn God’s enemies into His children.

Because if we don’t, none of them will survive.

June 9; Good, Bad, and Trust

Ecclesiastes 7-10

Bad things happen. Good things happen, too. We have successes, and we have failures. Some days the sun shines, and some days the sun hides behind clouds. Let’s face it. There are just some things that are out of our control.

Solomon says, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecc 7:14)

We who have placed our faith in the Lord know that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. We count on that with assurance.

Some people question why God allows sin, or tragedy, or hardship. Honestly, I don’t see how He could have done it any other way. If it wasn’t for the night, would we even notice the day? If it wasn’t for sickness, would we appreciate health? If it wasn’t for bad times, we’d take good times for granted. If it wasn’t for sin, how could we understand grace?

Solomon seems to be saying, let God be God. “Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” Quit fighting against God, or wasting your time being mad at Him. He is God. And He’s got this.

King Solomon has a dismal view of life. I don’t. And you don’t have to, either. Do you trust God? He absolutely can be trusted with every detail of your life. You can rest assured that, whether the sun is shining, or if you are in the middle of a storm, God wants to show you what He can do, He wants to draw you to Himself.

Good things happen and bad things happen. Trust God in every circumstance. He can be trusted.

February 3; Discouragement Throws a Shadow Over Hope

Exodus 4:18-7:13

The Jews had it bad enough. Long after Joseph and his brothers were dead and gone, their ancestors found themselves slaves in Egypt. By now these people were born slaves, and the harsh treatment of Pharaoh and his thugs was all they knew.

But here comes Moses with a word from God. “I’m getting you out of here.” When the Jews received the news, they immediately bowed down and worshiped.

Hope. It’s a beautiful thing. Even a glimpse of hope can cause a heart to sing. That glimmer of light through the clouds gives reason to rejoice. And as a Christian woman, I can rejoice in the hope that is mine through Jesus. This life is not the end. These trials won’t last forever. My enemy Satan cannot win!

I don’t have just a glimpse of hope. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood, and His righteousness. I am His. He is mine.

But something happened to the Jews. God didn’t immediately open the doors of freedom and march them out of Egypt that same day. They continued to do the slave-thing, day after day after day.

Then, to make matters worse, Pharaoh didn’t take Moses’ request for a few vacation days so the people could go into the desert to worship God very well. In fact, he made it harder for the Jews to do their job, then beat them when they couldn’t get the job done.

You call this a rescue?

Moses pleads with God on their behalf, and God assures him He has a plan.

“…I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”  (6:8)

Moses assured them God is true to His word. Don’t lose hope. But 6:9 says:

…but they did not listen to (Moses) because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.

Sometimes, even Christians who have placed our hope in Jesus, get discouraged. Health issues, jobs, relationships, plans begin to crumble, and we feel like those Jewish slaves must have felt. ” I can’t…”

Discouragement throws a shadow over hope.

Are you discouraged? Maybe God is using this time in your life to nudge you in a different direction. Maybe He is revealing a sin you need to confess. Or maybe His timing  just isn’t the same as yours.

Don’t lose hope. Don’t let the discouragement stop you from looking ahead, trusting that God’s got this, even if we don’t feel like He does at the moment. If you have placed your hope in the Lord, trust Him to open the doors, part the seas, rain manna from heaven at exactly the right time.

I pray you will let your hope throw a shadow over your discouragement.

 

 

Isaiah 12-15; Waiting AND Watching

Isaiah penned these words when the Israelites were at a very low point in their history. God had allowed hardship and captivity to come to the Jews as a result of their disobedience. Isaiah gave them hope.

“This won’t last forever,” he seems to tell them.”Those who abuse you will be destroyed.”

Matthew Henry tells us the Babylonians were destroyed. The things God told Isaiah were going to happen happened. But not for another two hundred years. The people who first heard God’s promises never lived to see them fulfilled. Many were born and died in captivity.

I am reminded God’s timing is not always our own. But even in our darkest hours, God does not leave His children without hope.

Chapter 15 begins with a prophecy concerning Moab’s defeat. Henry tells us this particular prophecy was fulfilled only three years after Isaiah wrote the words. I love that. God allowed His people to see concrete proof that He keeps His word, that faith in Him is not misplaced. It wasn’t everything He promised. But it was something.

I think God would remind us He hasn’t changed. Some verses come to mind:

We know all things work together for the good for those that love God… (Romands 8:28)

Is any among you in trouble? Let them pray… (James 5:13)

He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. (Psalm 102:17)

Scripture tells us over and over to put our faith in God, and He will never let us down. He hears and answers prayer. You can count on it.

But sometimes it seems like we’ve been waiting two hundred years for an answer, doesn’t it? Reading Isaiah today reminds me that I can trust God with everything, including the timing of answered prayers. He’s reminding me that praying is not the same as rubbing a magic lantern and immediately being granted three wishes.

Reading Isaiah today also encourages me to watch in the meantime; to pay attention to the other answers to prayers along the way; to recognize God’s hand in other areas of my life. Because God wants me to know I can trust Him, And He’ll prove I can trust Him every day.

Reading these chapters in Isaiah strengthens my faith in my God. It helps me know that He is my hope, and I can trust Him with today, and tomorrow. It reminds me that I can pray, put my requests at His feet, and know that He’s got this. And it convicts me to take a step back, and let God be God.

He’s actually pretty good at it.