The Foundation of Hope

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We all hope in something. Some of us place it in fate, in our abilities, our jobs, our education, in the government, or maybe our family and friends around us. Maybe all of the above. A lack of hope or hope that doesn’t come to an expected in can get us down and depressed. God says in Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” We have all expected something, hoped for it and then when the outcome was delayed or didn’t come to pass, were heartbroken over it. Maybe you prayed for your marriage, only to see it come to a divorce, or prayed for your child, only to see them walk down the wrong path. There are so many letdowns in this life, not getting that promotion or that raise, no tax return, no weight loss, no publishers sweepstakes, etc. That is why it is so important that we place our hope in God. All the other places aren’t able to give us what we hope for. They will come through part of the time, or part of the way, at best. But they will never give us our hearts desire. (Psalm 37:4).

“But I have placed my hope in God, and I still got passed over for that promotion, my child is still in jail, and the government kept my money and I didn’t get a return.” Sound familiar? I’ve heard it, thought it, and (surprise) even said it.In Hebrews 11, verse one says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We tend to hope, but leave out faith. We hope for it, that is the foundation of our faith. Faith only comes when we first have hope. We hope for better, then we ask God for it, next we stand in faith, in His promises, and believe He will do it. It may not be in our timeframe, or exactly how we envisioned it, but it will come. I waited twenty three years for the miracle in my marriage. I had “hope deferred” and a sick heart. But God came through. I honestly think it would have happened so much faster had we both cooperated more and whined less.

Maybe you are facing the hardest battle in your life up until now, cancer, betrayal, death of a loved one, financial ruin… Let’s take a look at Job. We all know his story. Satan accused God of too much protection and favor, when God pointed out His righteous servant Job. (Yep, God called attention to him.) Satan in his love for suffering asked God to take His hand of protection off of Job and promised God that Job would curse Him. Job lost everything, and I mean everything. All he had left was a wife, who told him to “curse God and die” after Satan was given permission to inflict his body, but not take his life. In Chapter 17 he seemingly loses hope, “where then is my hope—who can see any hope for me?” But later in Chapter 19, versed 25-26 Job responds in hope, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Finally in Chapter 33 Job not only gets more than he started with concerning his possessions, God grants him seven more children. “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” (verses 16-17).

Hope in the wrong source is worthless. Hope in God without faith is useless. Get to know Him, and you will trust Him more. Hope makes us stronger and stronger. Hope is the only foundation for faith. Romans 8:24 says,
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?” We hope for things we do not already possess. Then true faith is the evidence that we are hoping for it. If there is no faith, then there isn’t a true hope. No true trust in the one who is able to perform for us. (Hebrews 10:23).

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

FREE TO BE WHO WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE

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Knowing who God is, is a very important aspect of following Christ. We can learn so much about Him by reading the books of the prophets in the Old Testament.

There is a study help in the Amplified Bible that says:
“One may read the writing of the prophets only as a valuable contribution to History and may become enriched by familiarity with their forecasts of events which have been startlingly fulfilled, thus proclaiming the diving inspiration of the books and the wisdom and power of the God who prompted their writings. BUT, to stop there is by no means to grasp their full and outstanding purpose for today. Though the prophets God is speaking definitively to every individual and nation on earth, right now, demanding that we see ourselves as He sees us!”
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the lord, thought of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

God’s plans and purposes for us have been there forever. Before He formed us in the womb.
Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed substance. In your book were written everyone of them, the days that were formed for me when as yet there was none of them.”

He recorded His plans for us in His book. He wrote them down…before He even made time? “Before the days were formed for me.”

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

We can’t worry about our past. We can’t worry about what others think. Let’s read Jeremiah 1:5-10, The Message Bible.

“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations— that’s what I had in mind for you.” But I said, “Hold it, Master GOD! Look at me. I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!” GOD told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’ I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there. I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it. Don’t be afraid of a soul. I’ll be right there, looking after you.” GOD’s Decree. GOD reached out, touched my mouth, and said, “Look! I’ve just put my words in your mouth—hand-delivered! See what I’ve done? I’ve given you a job to do among nations and governments—a red-letter day! Your job is to pull up and tear down, take apart and demolish, And then start over, building and planting.”

God didn’t listen to his excuses. He doesn’t want to hear ours. He promises to be there, and to look after us. He’s given us a job to do! We have to know who He is and who we are to be able to do what He has asked. To be able to fulfill the plans that He has for us. He had wonderful, awesome things in store for His children-for you-for me! In Philippians 2:13 He says, “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” We don’t have to do it in our own strength and wisdom!

Ephesians 3:19-21 “and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

What are some of the plans that He has for you?

What Does God Want?

Really, what does He want? You could ask dozens of people and get dozens of different answers. Those answers would range from- obedience, praise and worship, money (tithes and offerings), time, energy, loyalty, attention, commitment, and the list could go on. All of those things are true, but doesn’t that make God sound like some ego-maniacal, dictator who lounges on a throne demanding attention and glory? Who wants that for a Father?
Simply put, God wants you. I know cliché. But He wants your heart. He asks all of those other things from you because those things benefit us. Let’s break this down a little. God doesn’t need your money, but He asks us to give 10% (tithe for the running of the Church and the support of the staff) and offerings (to help others), because He knows that “if we give, it will be given back to us”. (Luke 6:38). Also when we give to God, He promises to “Open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing” (Mal 3:10). God wants us to praise Him because praise “stills the enemy and the avenger” (Ps 8:2), it makes Satan shut up and stops his actions against us. He asks us to work because He works with us (I Cor. 3:9). He doesn’t sit while we work, in fact “He works while we wait.” We work because the Church toilets need cleaning, those little noses in nursery need wiped. Those things bring us together as a family.
God is love! He doesn’t just possess, show, or talk about love, He is love. It is the very nature of God (I John 4:7). That’s why He loves everyone. He loves the drug addict, the prostitute, the serial killer, the child molester, everyone! But don’t be deceived they are not His children, or part of His family. His children are the ones who have surrendered their lives to Him. Those are the ones he promises to take care of. Because He is love and He wants all to be His children, He asks us to work together with Him to build His family. He doesn’t want this love to remain one sided. What does it benefit them if He loves them, but they never experience love for Him? Those others who have Satan as their father (and they don’t even know it), they need to be reached. They need to know God’s love. How can they be reached if we aren’t co-laboring with Christ.
Our ‘work’ for God, those things all mentioned in the first paragraph, and any other thing God may have asked of us, should come out of our love for God. If they are coming out a sense of obligation, duty or fear, the motivation is wrong. Even worse if they are coming out of self-righteousness and pride, it’s going to be harmful to you instead of helpful. What motivates your work? It’s easy to “grow weary in well doing” (Gal. 6:9) if we have the wrong attitude. I know I’ve been there. I’ve screamed in my head, “What do you want from me!” on more than one occasion. I had allowed the thoughts to take root in my heart that I was doing so much for him already, but that somehow that wasn’t enough, that He was demanding more. That I was lacking. Those are just a bunch of ugly lies, God doesn’t demand, we have a choice. At my worst moments of fear, illness, weakness and depression, God patiently reminded me that He loved me, that He wasn’t asking for a slave (being forced), but that He wanted a daughter who served from a heart of thankfulness and love. I had gone back to Egypt (slavery) when He wanted me in the Promised Land (a place of rest, provision and peace).
God showed His love for us through the ugliness and the shame on the cross. Jesus not only poured out His life’s blood on that tree, but also His great love and longing for us. When we know Him, (not know about Him with our reasoning mind, but know Him intimately in our hearts), we understand what He wants. He wants a relationship with Him, two way conversations, and fellowship. He wants us to spend time with Him, not in work or service but in relationship. Get these pictures in your head. First think about how you feel when your child obediently cleans their room, to the best of their ability. Now think of your little one sitting on your lap, with each of their little hands on either side of your face, looking into your eyes, and saying “I love you”. Which one touches you more?
Sure their room needs cleaned and we have to teach them responsibility, it’s for their own good after all (sounding familiar?), but first we want their love. The Church needs cleaned, bills need paid, and the lost need reached. But first and most importantly we need to accept God’s love for us, and love Him back, build a better relationship with Him. We don’t do that by work, but by sitting in His lap. All of those other things will get done and with the right motivation. Sounds easier, freer, and way more fun!
“Yes I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3