The Season of Hope

Hope…isn’t it exactly what we all need for this life here on earth?

The typical idea of hope is “to wish for, to expect, but without certainty of the fulfillment, to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire”     (definition from Bible.org).

During the next few weeks you may hear your children saying, “I hope I get…” as they look forward to opening the gifts under the tree at Christmas.

During the next few weeks you may hear yourself saying, “I hope these weeks leading up to Christmas aren’t as busy as last year. I really hope to enjoy this season and not feel so overwhelmed.”

During the next few weeks you may hear your spouse saying, “I really hope that I get that bonus check to pay for all the food and gifts we’re intending to purchase.”

During the next few weeks you may hear your parent saying, “I really hope you kids will be able to be home for Christmas, last year we weren’t able to spend it together and it just wasn’t the same.”

We all are hoping for something, something that will satisfy our heart and bring us joy.

Our hope is a wish, a desire, an expectancy with much uncertainty about it.

The biblical usage of hope according to the words translated from Hebrew and Greek has an indication of certainty. When you read the word hope in Scripture it means  “a strong and confident expectation”   (definition from Bible.org).

There is a certain hope, a sure thing, a strong and confident expectation, one thing that we can count on, it is the Hope we have in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Christmas is the season of hope as we remember His birth, the fulfillment of a promise from long ago.

Isaiah 6:9 promises, “For unto us a child is born, Unto us a Son is given;  And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Luke 2:11 reveals the promise fulfilled 700 years later, “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The focus of all hope must be in Jesus, He is the only True Hope we have for all of life.

  • Jesus is our hope for peace in heart and mind.Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
  • Jesus is our hope for salvation and eternal life in heaven. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
  • Jesus is our hope because He is God. Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated “God with us.”
  • Jesus is our hope because He is love. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” John 13:34     “As the Father has loved me, so I love you. Abide in my love.” (Jesus speaking) John 15:9
  • Jesus is our hope because He is faithful. He will never fail us.   “Jesus Christ our faithful witness.”  Revelation 1:5           “God is faithful who has called us into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:9

This season seek to put your hope in Jesus Christ alone.

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The Lord’s Extravagant Love

“I have done everything wrong!”

I came to that realization recently as I listened to Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way. 

I have been the too busy, driven person, too often unavailable in various ways and not present to those around me. Distracted by and overwhelmed with my to do list, striving to check off one more task. I feel that I have missed so much because of living many years of my life that way. It was doing it the wrong way for me in that I now wish I would have been more present and available to others, and especially to the Lord.

The Broken Way is an excellent book. It makes me want to grow in so many ways. It leads me in doing a lot of deep thinking. It made me realize more of my brokenness. It brought me to a place of feeling a sadness that led me to repentance. I talked with the Lord, I talked with my husband, and I talked with some dear friends, in the days that followed, about my realization. The sadness felt big.

My husband and I were recently walking through some rocky farmland, and I started to hunt for a treasure. I love rocks, but I wanted a really special one. It was freezing cold out and the wind was blustery, so my time was limited. I settled for a piece of a rock that looked like quartz on one side. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I liked the shiny quartz side. I really wanted something that had a special meaning to me, but I could’t seem to find that special rock.

Sounds silly, I know, but it seems more often than not, the rocks I find have a special lesson for me. And as it turned out this one does also.

It was three or four days later after my finding the rock, I was writing in my prayer journal, the rock sitting on my bedside table. I glanced at it feeling disappointed as I wrote to the Lord a prayer about my brokenness.

I picked up the rock and looked at the quartz side under my bedside lamp. It was then I found that this rock is very special and extremely meaningful, more so than I could ever imagine. There on the quartz side in the pattern of the rock is a tiny little heart in the rocks own lines. “There is love in the brokenness.” That is the thought that went through my mind. The Lord loves me in and through my brokenness.

You see, that rock is a broken rock, I have a piece that is probably only a third of the whole rock. It is because it is broken that I can see the beauty of the shiny quartz. It is because it is broken that I could see the heart in the pattern of its lines.

It is now in my brokenness that I see more of the beauty of the Lord’s presence shine into my life. It is in my brokenness that I find that I am more open to my own neediness for His love and to know his heart.

I am thankful, so thankful, to the Lord for the amazing ways He shows me His loving presence. He knows exactly what I need in my brokenness, and even leads me to a rock in the middle ofan entire field of rocks to show me He is with me in my brokenness. He hears my prayers, He knows my heart. He loves me in such extravagant ways.

He is a personal God full of love for His children.

THANK YOU LORD FOR YOUR AMAZING LOVE TO ME!

 

Give Thanks to the Lord – Psalm 107

Give thanks, the Lord is good. His faithful love endures forever!

There is no other faithful love that endures forever like the Lord’s.

Redemption comes from the Lord. He is our deliverer. He is the one who saves. Psalm 107 recounts the many He saved. He gathered exiles, He rescued the desert wanderers, He delivered some from prisons, and He rescued some from ships tossed about in the sea.

The LORD has done many marvelous works in order to help people to recognize His power, His mercy, and His faithfulness. People wander away from God on paths of sin, they get themselves into trouble, then they call on Him, and He responds to their cries with His unfailing love, and abundant grace.

He faithfully provides and meets the needs of people, blessing the harvest, giving them drink, providing them with protection. Oh, how great is the love of our Lord!

The more we come to recognize the provision of our Lord, the more we come to recognize His presence amongst us, the more we see His lovingkindness in our daily lives, and hear Him lead us in wisdom in all walks of life; the more we realize how very, very much we have to be thankful.

His abundant grace reaches into each of our lives giving us new reason for hope and joy every day.

This journey through the Psalms this far has made my heart to swell with thanksgiving as I read how the psalmists recount all the Lord has done. These psalms lead me to look into my own life and see God’s goodness.

He has been making His love for me more and more evident. He tells us He will be found when we search for Him with our whole hearts. His promise is true, the more I look, the more He shows me, and teaches me about Himself. The picture of Him I carry in my heart is becoming more and more clear.

Make this Thanksgiving season a time to come to know the Lord to a greater depth as you recognize all He has done, and realize more about who He is.

Take some time to read through Psalm 107 and see all the Psalmist shares about the goodness of the Lord to His people.

He is such a very personal God, He sees you, He hears you, and He knows all you are going through. He responds to our cries. His love is real. Thank and praise him for He is good.

GIVE THANKS, FOR THE LORD IS GOOD!

All Praise to God- Psalm 34

I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are discouraged take heart.”

 Psalm 34:1-2 NLT

This psalm is written by David during one of the many difficult times in his life. Praising God is good for the discouraged heart. David had much to be discouraged about in his life, especially with Saul chasing after him, threatening his life. David was often in danger, and yet he chose to praise the Lord.

Psalm 34 gives us many reasons to praise God, no matter what your circumstances are in life.

One of the first thing David mentions in this psalm that he is thankful for answered prayer. There is so much to pray about in life, and the beautiful thing is, the Lord is interested in every aspect of our lives. He loves us so much, and nothing can separate us from that love (see Romans 8:31-39).

I know I have read those verses in Romans so many times but recently I realized that I don’t really know His love in a way that keeps me trusting all of the time. He is teaching me about His love in amazing ways. His love is the love of a perfect parent, a love that we rarely experience in relationships with humans on this earth. His love is unconditional, it doesn’t get taken away when you blow it bad. He doesn’t give guilt trips, or tell you how rotten you are.

Our sin just makes the Lord sad, because He knows how much it hurts us and it hurts Him. He doesn’t want us to follow a bunch of rules to be good just for the sake of being good. Sometimes we act as if we think we can make Him love us more by being good, but that is not possible. He wants to protect us by leading us in paths of righteousness.

David knew God’s love, he trusted that love, and he prayed to the Lord, looking for Him to answer his prayers. He expected the Lord to answer. He expected God to hear him and respond to his concerns. And, David learned that God was faithful.

Praise God for answered prayer, whether it is for a close parking space, or for a healed body, praise God!

David learned that in his fears and in his suffering he could cry out to the Lord and he would faithfully answer him.

David praised God for guarding him and being his Rescuer. God rescues those who fear Him (vs. 7). He rescues those who call to Him for help (vs.17). He rescues those who are crushed in spirit (vs. 18). He rescues those facing trouble (vs.19).

Can you see God’s awesome love for His children in this psalm?

Have you experienced the Lord answering your prayers?

Do you have any fears? Take them to the Lord in prayer and watch Him work.

Do you need any help in any areas of your life? Pray, He is our Rescuer.

Are you brokenhearted or crushed in spirit? Draw near to God, He is close to you.

If there is any trouble in your life, pray and look for His answer. And if you have prayed and He has given answer, praise Him for His faithfulness. Or maybe His answer hasn’t come yet or at least not in the way you desire. Trust the magnitude of love the Lord has for you. He will satisfy the desires of your heart. Praise Him!

David also praises God for His goodness (vs.5). David recognizes that God is the one who meets the needs of His people. He tells us in vs. 9 that those who honor Him will have all they need, and in vs. 10 those who trust in Him will never lack any good thing. 

How is God demonstrating His goodness to you? Was it the beautiful sunrise this morning? Or was it that phone call from a friend just when you were at your breaking point? Was it that word from Him as you read your Bible this morning that you knew was just for you? Praise God for his goodness.

Has God met any of your needs today? Praise Him! James tells us that all good gifts come from our Father in heaven (see James 1:17)!

David continues in this psalm by praising God for His protection (vs.20). God takes care of us, He protects us from harm. He delivers us out of danger. He watches over us. He never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4).

Finally, David praises God for redemption (vs.22). God redeems us. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sinfulness. He raised Jesus from the dead and Jesus reigns eternal as our Savior, Lord and King! Praise God!

Give thanks to the Lord for all He has done, is doing, and will do. He is faithful to do what He says He will do. Praise Him for His love for you!

Thank the Lord for He is Good! – Psalm 118

Psalm 118 gives us three main subject areas that we can give thanks and praise to the Lord for.

  1. We can thank Him for His faithful love to us.
  2. We can thank Him for His help in our lives.
  3. We can thank Him for His Son, Jesus.                

Give thanks to God for His faithful love.

The psalmist begins this psalm by calling on various people and people groups to give thanks for God’s faithful love. Each of us has known God to touch our lives with His faithful, unfailing love in different ways.

How has the Lord demonstrated His faithful love to you? 

I recognize His love to me in His patience with me throughout life. I am only beginning to recognize certain areas of failure in my life because of my need to control. I have been so blinded to that. It is in realizing this I can see how faltering my trust in the Lord is. Yet, He has patiently stayed by my side, revealing truths to me little by little, and leading me in understanding the sin exposed so that I may repent. His faithful love for me doesn’t fail.

I recognize His unfailing love for me in His protection over me each day. He has protected me during my many trips, through recent years, to my parents as I helped my mom take care of my dad who suffered with Alzheimer’s. And since Dad went home to be with the Lord, those trips continue as I help my mom. The Lord has protected me on my trips by keeping me from hitting deer, keeping me from being involved in accidents, and by keeping me safe in poor weather-related driving conditions.

I recognize His faithful love for me in His provision. The Lord has blessed me with so much in the way of material goods, but also with a sweet husband, very special friendships, dear family members, and a warm, loving church family.

I recognize His faithful love to me in the many prayers He has answered for me. Keeping a prayer journal is a wonderful way to record the Lord’s faithful love in answering prayer. It is so faith-building to see how He works in our lives!

Give thanks to the Lord for His help.

The Lord has helped me in learning more of Who He is. He has led me in understanding His Word. He has helped me to know Him continually more personally and intimately. He has helped me in dealing with difficult relationships and in growing in learning how to love as He loves. He has helped me by placing key people in my life to walk with me and encourage me at various times in life. All of these ways He has demonstrated help plus in so many other ways that I have not listed!

How has the Lord helped you in your life?

Feed on His faithfulness, look for His loving presence, and rejoice in His work on your behalf because it demonstrates His personal knowledge of you and your life. It is so amazing when you take time to think about it.

Give thanks to the Lord for Jesus.

Our hearts should be filled with unending gratitude for Jesus, our Savior. He died a cruel death on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and God raised Him from the dead, all for the purpose of removing our sin. God’s wondrous plan of salvation freely is given to all who believe. How can we ever stop saying thank you?

The psalmist tells us in verse 22 (NLT), “I thank you for answering my prayer and saving me.”

The Lord our God deserves thanks and praise for so much, so much that we so easily take for granted. Take some time to read Psalm 118 and join the Psalmist in his praise and thanksgiving to Him.

A Heart of Praise and Thanksgiving: Psalm 103

David, the psalmist, demonstrates a heart filled with praise and thanksgiving in Psalm 103. He begins this song by reminding himself to praise the Lord. We need these kind of self-check reminders. David wants to remember the good things that the Lord has done for him, so he starts listing them in this psalm.

We can take David’s example and do the same thing. Consider what the Lord has done for you and give Him praise for His goodness to you. Write them in your journal.

Davids recognizes the gifts of forgiveness, healing, being ransomed from death, God’s tender loving mercies, and all the good things God has filled his life with. What else can you add to his list?

Lamentations 3:23 tells us that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. What a beautiful promise that we can count on.

David recognizes the many facets of God’s character. We can look from Genesis to Revelations to see these truths about our great God. We, too,can praise God for Who He is.

  • He is a God Who is slow to anger. Joel 2:13 “Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
  • He is a God of justice. Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
  • He is a gracious God. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” 
  • He is a God filled with unfailing love. His love remains forever to those who fear Him.               2 Chronicles 20:21b “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
  • He is removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. Hebrews 8:12 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
  • He is like a father to us, demonstrating compassion and tenderness to us. 1 John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are…”
  • He understands the weakness of our flesh. Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet he did not sin.”
  • He rules over everything. Ephesians 1:21 “Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else–not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

David knew His God well. God’s Word is full of examples of reasons to be thankful.

David completes Psalm 103 by reminding all mighty creatures to listen and obey, and to carry out the Lord’s commands. He tells the angels to praise the Lord, and repeats this again for all, for every created being should praise the Lord. And then David reminds everyone that he too will praise the Lord. How about you, is your heart filled with praise and thanksgiving?

This Thanksgiving season take time to read Psalm 103 and find reason to praise and give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and worthy of our praise!

The Path to a Thankful Heart: Psalm 92

Psalm 92 begins by telling us that it is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Him.

Now that it is November and Thanksgiving is really only a few weeks away it seems appropriate to fill these hearts of ours with praise and thanksgiving.

The psalmist says that giving thanks and praising God benefits us. I have never thought of that, but reading this made me want to explore why. One of the first things that came to mind was how when I praise God or give thanks, it comes out of a heart filled with exuberance for who He is or what He has done. I feel this joy in the love He has shown me by acting on my behalf, or just from the recognition of His presence in my life. The book of Proverbs tells us that “A joyful heart is good medicine. But a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 NASB).

Medically, it is a fact that joy or delight in our hearts produces nitric acid in our bodies which provides a good flow of blood. Research also show that joyful people are less likely to have health problems like heart attacks, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Praising God is a way to attract God’s presence. One very real example of this is when the Lord answered King Solomon’s sacrifices and praises as he dedicated the temple in 2 Chronicles 7 by sending down fire.

Another way praise and thanksgiving benefit us is by leading us to recognize God’s great power and sovereignty. Consequently this helps us to grow in humility before our Holy God.

The psalmist suggests two things we can do which can help our hearts be filled with gratitude.

1. Proclaim or declare the Lord’s unfailing love in the morning.

What is the first thing that you think of in the morning when you wake up? Usually with me it is the running list of things I have to do. How different it would be to consider the Lord’s love for me! He has demonstrated His love to me in so many ways. How beautiful it would be to voice those to Him with praise and thanksgiving.

2. Proclaim the Lord’s faithfulness in the evening.

What is your dinner conversation like? How about at dinner or before bed gather the family together to share how they have seen God’s faithfulness that day? If you live alone, call a friend and have that discussion. Psalm 37 in the Amplified version talks about feeding on the Lord’s faithfulness. Graze on how the Lord has shown you His faithfulness, fill up on it, and learn of the magnitude of His love for you by doing so.

One of my favorite lines in Psalm 92 is verse 4 in the NLT. Here the Psalmist says that the Lord “thrills” him because of what He has done. What kind of enthusiasm do you feel for the Lord’s work in your life? Do you sing for joy because of it? Do you readily recognize the Lord’s goodness in your life? It is so easy to be overwhelmed by the mundane that monopolizes us and miss the miracles of God.

The psalmist continues by marveling at the depth of God’s thoughts.  Romans 11:30 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable are His ways.

His wisdom and knowledge are praiseworthyWhere would we be apart from all that He does for us?

There are many people who are blinded to the reality of God’s greatness. The ignorant and foolish still don’t get it. And today, we still see the wicked flourishing, just as the psalmist saw in his day. But the truth remains, their end is eternal destruction. The wicked will perish, but our God is eternal.

The Lord is good to us, He gives His followers strength and refreshes us by His great power. He causes the righteous to flourish, protecting them, and prospering them. He lengthens the days of the righteous and strengthens them in their old age. What a blessing the elderly Christian man or woman is as they share about God’s goodness throughout their lives!

Psalm 92:14 says “Even in old age they will produce fruit and remain vital and green.”  Psalm 1:3 makes this clearer “He is like a tree planted by a streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.” This verse in psalm 1 speaks of a righteous person, even in old age they are stiil “green.” And in their flourishing they declare the Lord is just. His greatness continues to all generations. The Lord is our rock, He is our firm foundation for all of life. He is good, and there is nothing but goodness in Him.

Throughout all of life we can bring glory to His name by our thanksgiving and praise. How will you practice this today? It is good to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to Him!