I Am Living In Hope

Romans 8:22-25 (BSB), “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.”

Hope is a wonderful thing. It keeps us from giving up, from throwing in the towel, or tucking tail and running away. In that long dark tunnel, hope is that little bit of light way off in the distance that promises you will come out on the other side. Romans eight tells us that we patiently wait for something we hope for, especially when we can’t see it.

Knowing God has healed us, that He wants us healed, can help us be patient when the symptoms are still there. We can pretty much apply that to any promise God has given us. Just because we can’t see it, or maybe it is only that tiny speck of light, doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. God isn’t a liar. If He said it, it is a done deal.

In I Timothy 1:1 Paul calls Jesus our hope, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” (Emphasis mine).

Think about that for a minute… Jesus IS hope.

I know that He is in me and I am in Him. So, it isn’t a stretch of the imagination to say that I live IN HOPE.

What will make me lose hope, only me. My wrong thinking, my impatience, my doubt and unbelief, my lack of trust in Him.

I choose hope, I choose Him.

When the Crap Hits the Fan Our Religion Falls Short

John 16:33 (NLT), “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus was very plain, we live in this corrupted, fallen world, and here, there is going to be trouble. He also prayed later in John 17, “Not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” So, we are here till He returns or until God calls us home. So trials and sorrow will be part of our lives. Tribulations and turbulence will be in our future.

So what do we do?

Being “religious” isn’t the answer, going to church, reading your Bible, memorizing scripture isn’t the solution. Though the last three are great things, they are only a means to an end. The end, the final solution, is a close, intimate, and personal relationship with God. Knowing who He is, listening to His voice, getting to know Jesus, talking to Him in a way that isn’t just a list of “do for me” things. Because when the crap hits the fan, our religion falls short.

Jesus said that in Him we might have peace. We only get in Him, when we totally surrender our hearts to Him and allow Him to be Lord of our lives. Just saying a prayer doesn’t change us, or build a relationship. Yielding and pursuing Him does. And only a close and personal relationship with God will get me through the rough places in my life.

A great example was Jairus. He was a religious leader during Jesus time on this earth in human form. His daughter became sick and his religion couldn’t help her. There is no worse report for a parent than your child is a deaths door. This great need, with no religious solution, sent Jairus to Jesus. He had heard about His healing power. He humbled himself and sought the answer. After meeting Jesus and His quick agreement to go with Jairus, someone comes and tells the man that his daughter is dead. Sounds like misplaced faith, that the father was too late, that the answer wouldn’t come.

But Jesus! He assured Jairus that his daughter would be well. His daughter wasn’t just healed that day, she was raised from the dead.

Knowing about God doesn’t save us. Knowing Him does.

Eclipsed

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV), “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

If you have read any of my devotionals, or are familiar with my blog, or know me at all, you have figured out that I use this verse a lot. Why? Because I have discovered, the hard way, that it is very important to keep our focus on Jesus, or as Isaiah says in Isaiah 50:&, to “set your face like flint”.

Think about it this way. The sun, which is huge, can be totally eclipsed by the moon which is about four hundred times smaller. How is that possible? The moon gets between the earth and the sun blocking out the light. In the same way we can allow “things” to get between us and the Son, Jesus. Sometimes it is a person, our problems, our anger, our disappointment, even our success and accomplishments. Other times we end up giving more attention to our surroundings, the devil, or our own selfish desires. No matter what keeps our attention, if it isn’t God, we can eclipse His glory.

A total eclipse pretty much caused darkness, a partial eclipse may still give us a small glimpse, maybe a little light around the edges, but God never intended us to live either way. His plans for us are uncountable, His thoughts for us limitless, as many as the sand (in the desserts, in the lakes and rivers, and even under the oceans).

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV), “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Psalm 40:5 (NLT), “O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.”

Psalm 139:17-18 (NIV), “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand– when I awake, I am still with you.”

We can’t fulfill His purpose for us if we can’t keep our focus. A runner has to keep the finish line in his sight, a scientist has to constantly think about that cure, a writer works toward the end of the story, all of these things take focus.

In reality, His Glory should eclipse everything else. His love should overwhelm us! His light should cause every other distraction to fade away, including our problems. His promises greatly outnumber our afflictions!

If you need a little encouragement, listen to the song “He Is Jealous For Me” by David Crowder Band. Here is just a small sample “all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by Glory”.

So, what are you allowing to eclipse Him?

Or have you chosen to allow Him to eclipse all else?

Choose wisely.

I Won’t Be Moved!

House built on Rock[1]

Psalm 125:1 (NAS), “A Song of Ascents. Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.”

We all go through stuff, from a “bad day,” to acute trauma. Its part of the human experience, part of the earth cursed system. We live in Satan’s domain, right in his territory. He doesn’t like us born-again-believers. He fights us tooth and nail, (that’s a metaphor, because Jesus has pulled his teeth, he can only roar). So, life can be hard. Loved ones pass away, jobs are lost, and sometimes we just make very bad choices with uncomfortable consequences. However, if we belong to God, if we name Jesus as Lord and Savior, we don’t have to let all that shaking dislodge us!

Proverbs 10:25 (NASB), “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.”

We all go through it, saved and unsaved. The difference, and it is a huge one, is that we don’t get blown away. Our foundation is everlasting. We are like the wise man who builds his house on the rocks.

Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV), “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

God doesn’t bring the storm. I have to make that clear. Storms aren’t a “punishment” from God. He doesn’t bring sickness, poverty, troubles, or trials. Jesus said being in this world we would have trouble, but to be of good cheer, He overcame the world. (John 16:33). This world fell, and is falling. If you haven’t noticed it gets darker and uglier by the day. People say all the time, “What’s this world coming to?” I think the answer is clear, “the end.” This time more than ever we need to stand on God’s word and His promises. Do what He says to do. I love the way the Amplified Bible says “the uncompromisingly righteous.” We can’t compromise. We can’t try to keep one foot in the world and one in Heaven. There is no dual citizenship for those who are Children of God. We can’t serve two masters.

The great news is that if we serve Him, without being double minded, those storms pass us by. Sure there may be a few broken branches, maybe a shingle in the yard, but our house will not be moved! We can’t be shaken. In these last days God said that He would shake everything.

Haggai 2:6 (NIV), “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.

Joel 3:14-16 (NIV), “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is ear in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble. But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.”

This shaking will be for the unsaved, those trying to straddle the fence. Those who teeter on that dangerous high wire, they will fall on one side or the other. The final choice will be made.

I want to live on a firm foundation, not a slippery slope. I want to know and be confident that God’s ways are good and perfect. I want to stay rooted and grounded in His Love and remain steadfast, unmoving.

I may shake and tremble at times. I may stand afraid, but I will stand, and I will not be moved!

Choose Your Way

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What looks like the easy way, the way out, the way up, isn’t always the right way. That path strewn with flowers, smooth as a baby’s behind, you know the one that looks sunny and bright, may not be the path that you need to take. In fact most often, in the long run, it isn’t easy at all.

The paths we choose can’t be based on what they look like. We can never rely on our natural senses. The roughest looking road may be exactly the one God would have us walk. I often use the analogy out of the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast.” There is a place where Bell’s father is faced with two paths. One looks lovely and the other is shrouded in darkness, there is an evil looking mist, and some scary looking trees. The horse is the only one who seems to have any sense, and in our hearts we are screaming “take the sunny path!” However, if we watch the scene through, the path he took was the right path to lead us to our happy ending. It is the same with us. Be led by God, not by our fears, anxiety, or laziness.

So why would God want us to take the road that is less traveled? Is it because He wants us to suffer and fight every step of the way? No. Those pits, road blocks, speed bumps, and glare ice have all been put there by our enemy. He wants to stop us from advancing. That’s how we know we are on the right road. Why would Satan hinder our path to Hell? He hinders our walk to the Abundant Life, the road that leads us into a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our enemy doesn’t just try to impede our way, he also tries to distract us from the path. If he can get us to step off of the path, to try an “easier” way, or to completely suck us in by that sunny little path that leads straight to that beautiful oasis. You know, the one that leads to the sunny beach with a life of ease. Don’t be fooled that life is a mirage! All that glitters is not gold!

So why doesn’t God just sweep our paths clear? After all, He is all powerful. Because He knows what is best for us. He sees what’s up ahead. He knows the people we will influence, the trust and strength we will gain. Simply put, He wants us to be led by His Spirit, to learn to trust and rely on Him. In reality, we will never know how many obstacles He has removed! I know that He has protected me so many times. I put myself in some pretty dangerous situations when I wasn’t living for Him, and He brought me through them all. How much more protection do you think I have now that I have committed my way to Him? There are angels guarding around me at all times. I am confident that they have carried me up an over many pits and snares. God knows we need His strength. That’s why Jesus promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Matthew 28:20 (God’s Word Translation), Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”

There were many times in my life when I was tempted to “take the easy way.” I went through things that weren’t easy. My teen years were some of the worst. I struggled with self worth, anxiety, and alcohol and drugs. Several times I almost gave into that voice telling me to “end it all.” Though I had left the path God had chosen for me at the time, He still kept me safe. My marriage is another example. We both came into it with issues and at many different times we wanted to “call it quits.” But, we stuck it out. (Granted sometimes in fear or stubbornness, but God turns it all around for our good.) We found some Godly counsel, many times over the years, and finally went through some deliverance. For years we both lived in a messy marriage, but we knew that God’s best for us and our children was to stay together. This summer it will be thirty years since we said our vows. For about the last ten, they have been better than we ever dreamed of! It was all worth it!

Sometimes the way gets rough. We can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have been known to say, “enough already” and “really?” Those both directed at God. At times in anger, and other times joking with my Father. Thankfully He is patient and forgiving, and He has a sense of humor. Do we always know why we have to walk such a spooky looking path? No. But can we be confident that God is good and He has our back? Yes.

The more we know Him, the more we know His word, the easier this walk gets. Are all the obstacles removed? No, but His word is a light unto our path. We can see them way ahead of time, so we can be built up and strong in the Lord. Whatever you do, keep walking forward. No turning to the left or the right, and for Heaven’s sake, don’t sit down! Never set up camp in a rough spot. Go through! Let His praises be on your lips. Let your heart be full of His joy. That’s where our strength comes from.

Today’s Joy

I had to ask myself today, “Do I have joy in my life?” Not happiness, which is a fickle friend, but that inner joy in my spirit. You know the joy that has absolutely nothing to do with our circumstances. My honest answer is “not as often as I should”, and some days, (especially lately, as our family is going through a trail), I have to admit, “not very often.” It is so easy to allow the mundane experiences of our lives, or the frustrating circumstances chase away our joy. But, if joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances, then how does that happen? I believe it is when we lose our gratitude. It’s easy to take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on our problems, especially if those around us are hurting. Or to simply lose patience with our dreams because they seem so slow in coming.

Even in the midst of hard situations, we can maintain a thankful heart. Sometimes we get stuck in the ‘thank-you-for” rut where we rattle off our tiny list, you know the same one every time. Mine includes, hubby, kids, grandkids, food I eat, house, cars and Church, or pretty close. That just shows we are either in a hurry, or can’t see past our nose. When we slow down and make the effort to be thankful, we can see so many things, people, places that touch our lives. A few examples: a babies smile, doesn’t even have to by your baby, any baby smiling, the smell of lilacs on a damp spring morning. Then there are those things that we really aren’t too thankful for. This category is hard for me, shoveling snow, giving the dog a bath, dealing with that one person who rubs me the wrong way. Yes, we need to be thankful for those things. God has a purpose and a plan for our lives, and part of that plan is for us to work hard, love people, be a witness at our jobs.

It seems like the last few months, my family has been under it. Most due to some poor choices of one family member and the rest either come along with the territory, or just because we have a real enemy. So though it’s been tough, I have still been able to find joy in the middle of it all. If I was a spiritual superhero, I could say I held onto my joy the whole time, but sadly I am not. I can say that I know right were to find it. Because in all truthfulness, despite what I said earlier, nothing can chase or steal our joy away. We lay it down, sometimes absentmindedly, like a spare pair of reading glasses. Psalms 16:11 “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand there are pleasured for evermore.” We find our joy in the presence of God. Simple really. Sometimes we willingly lay down our joy to trade it for fleeting happiness or satisfaction. Usually that comes out of willful sin, which includes harboring bitterness, and nursing un-forgiveness. We lay down our joy when we disobey God.

How do we hold on to our joy? By being thankful, a heart full of gratitude. When we keep our minds fixed on Jesus, His promises, His goodness, and remember those who have gone before us, we can keep that unspeakable joy in our lives. Hebrews 12:1-3 “therefor, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrances and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of he throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and love heart.”

Push On

Peace is not the absence of war or turmoil. Peace is a sure confidence in the midst of war and turmoil. Let’s face it-life can be scary, filled with bad news, death divorce, illness, financial stress and ruin, just watch the news (or better yet, don’t). But we, who put our hope and trust in God, need not fear (He is trustworthy). Though we might not always feel Him near-we can stand on His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

We tend to want God to pull us out of our circumstances, vanquish all our enemies (right NOW please), and keep us out of all trouble. But God, in His sovereign wisdom, knows the plans that He has for us-plans to prosper and not to harm us-He knows the beginning from the end. When we stumble into trouble, or a circumstance crashes over us like a mounting wave, He isn’t surprised; He has already seen you come through. God, who loves us and wants what’s best for us, knows that getting through is what brings strength, not running from. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” may be some popular lyrics from a song, but the saying has been around forever. We overcome our trials, hardships, circumstance by trusting in His strength and love to see us through. When we come out on the other end, we have more confidence, wisdom and strength. We have learned more about Him and His faithfulness.

Be assured, God isn’t the one who sends the hard stuff. He never makes us sick, poor, pained, lonely, fearful (the list goes on); all GOOD gifts come from the Father above. All that other stuff, that we hate and dread, comes from living in a fallen world, from a real enemy, and sometimes from our own stupid choices, but God allows us to go through those things because He knows what we need in the future. Don’t ‘camp out’ there, or ‘set up house’ there- hike up your skirt-hitch up those britches-pull up those boot straps-and go through! He promises to never give us more than we can handle. The secret is to not try and do it in our own strength. All the power that created the vast universe is at our disposal-simply ask Him to strengthen you for the journey and press on. The end will be so much better than the beginning and you will be a better person.