This Is Our Hope

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

We have hope. No matter what, we have hope! We have a hope that cannot be hindered by our circumstances. We have a hope that is undefeated. We have a hope that is unfailing and ever-present. We have a hope that does not disappoint. This hope is birthed from the great love that our Heavenly Father poured out within our hearts. And through that great love, we have been given the Holy Spirit, and all the power of the heavenly places. And how is it possible that we could be given such a great Helper and Counselor? Jesus!

Do you believe it? Really. Do you realize that because our God laid down His Son, as the last and ultimate sacrifice, to face death and defeat death…because of this, we can have hope in any and every circumstance. Yes, any and every circumstance! I would never dare to minimize what you have faced and the struggles you have experienced. I myself have shed many tears from a broken heart, and have cried out to God in pain. But I will dare to allow my trials and tribulations to be minimized in light of the incredible awesomeness of God and in light of the HOPE we have in Jesus Christ!

As I walk this great unknown; Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain? Did I cry these tears in vain?
I don’t want to live in fear; I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen; In both triumph and tragedy
I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go
But sometimes my faith feels think; Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear; Or will You just leave me here?
But I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go
So, whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I’ll see Your face
(“I Have This Hope” by Tenth Avenue North)

Choose Life

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” —– Deuteronomy 30:15-20

The chosen people of God, the children of Israel, are approaching the promised land. The promised land. The land promised to them while they were in the midst of slavery, with the hope that one day they would be rescued from slavery and brought into the land “flowing with milk and honey.” The land of plenty. The land of freedom. The land promised to them by the Lord. But even in the “promised land,” they still had the choice between life and death. You see, the “promised lands” of our lives are not the magical places where we are never tempted, the Christian life is full of good feelings and joy, and we experience the presence of God and FEEL Him 24/7. Now there is a place like that, and actually way beyond that and so amazingly inconceivable; a place where by the grace of God we will be worshiping the Lord for all eternity, after this life on earth. But…until then…we live in a fallen world and every day – every second – we have a choice between life and death.

We can experience a promised land in our lives, and in fact it is the Lord’s will that we do. But, anyone who is willing to read through the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy will clearly see that the promsied land was not a place of Sunday naps and comfortably chilling out in the evening on the lazy-boy. No, it was full of battles and temptations, and moments where the only way they made it out alive was to choose life and trust in the Lord God who rescued them from Egypt. This Christian thing is hard! But, as the good word says, FEAR NOT. For the Lord Jesus Christ is with us, and He will never leave us nor forsake us. Amen! (Deut. 31:6)

Let’s break down this passage:

We see a fork in the road. The path of blessings to the right leads to life and prosperity. On this path, we thrive as we love the Lord and walk in obedience to him. Our live is abundant – not easy – but worth it! We walk in realization of the blessings of God. Our fruit is multiplied and we have the security of being covered by Jesus in the land in which we live.

The path of curses to the left leads to death and adversity.  Along this path, we turn our hearts from God, living according to our plan. Our actions and choices are dictated by our fears and insecurities. We bow our heads and submit to false gods. Here, life is hindered, barrenness replaces fruitfulness, and an unsettled spirit resides within us.

And our Father urges us, CHOOSE LIFE. That we may live, truly live. And our children and grandchildren will inherit blessings and not curses. When we choose life, family patterns of alcoholism and divorce and bondage can be reset by the blood of Jesus, and a new precedent can be made for our children. When we choose life, we choose the same path of obedience that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob walked along. When we choose life, we are allowing the very same powerful almighty God who parted the sea and multiplied armies and poured down manna from heaven, to be alive and active in us and through us. Wow! Do you realize this is possible. I have heard people say that God does not work the same way He did in Genesis and Acts. But that just is not true! Is God not omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal and constant?! Of course those things can still happen! It is not God who changed, but us. We stopped choosing life. We stopped believing that the blind can be healed and the small army could claim victory and the dead could be raised again.

So how do you know which path you are walking on, life or death? Let me ask you, what is the last thing that God told you to do? Did you do it? Do you have peace in your heart, or do you have hidden secrets and lies that haunt you at night and steal your rest? Are you tired and weary from trying it your way and always falling short? Do you leap when God says to stand still, but you are afraid to move when God says to go? If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then the gate to the path of blessings is open wide for you. How dare we still choose the path of death, when the blood of Jesus paves a way for us to the path of life!

Every day is a choice. Life or death. Every situation is an opportunity to choose life and honor God, or choose death and honor ourselves. Only one path leads to life and victory and freedom. It is the narrow path. But, as Robert Frost said, when we choose the path less traveled by, it makes all the difference!

 

 

Mountain Top Gems

Why is it that whenever I have an experience with the Lord, in which I learn something new, or I am released of a burden, or I experience freedom in an area of my life…it seems the devil is right around the corner with a strategic snare to tempt me in that exact area? I mean, how fair is this! We have all been there…

We have a “mountain top” experience with the Lord – whether it be in our living room, at church on Sunday morning, at a camp retreat, or just driving in our car on the way to work. The Spirit speaks directly to our souls, and says the thing we need to hear the most. We learn a new Bibilical truth that releases freedom into our lives. We feel the overwhelming presence of the Lord as our burdens and guilt are released. We are convicted by the Lord of a wrongdoing, accompanied by a desire to serve the God who gave His Son for us. We experience the hand of God on our heart and mind, reminding us that we must surrender our control to Him, and inviting us to walk in freedom and to be still and know that HE is God, not us.

And we walk away from the experience with our head held high and our heart beating with new life…until…the temptation comes. And it seems to be specifically tailored to the new gem we just acquired from the Lord. Why is that?

I experience God and I am encouraged to accept the new and unexpected path He has for me – and right around the corner is a temptation to wish I was back where it was comfortable and where I could live according to my plan.

I am released at a church retreat of a burden of guilt and shame I have carried for countless years – and waiting for me right outside the church doors is a temptation to believe that my sin owns me and Christ’ blood cannot cover the ugliness of my past.

I spend a wonderful time with a mentor or godly friend and I am reminded by the Lord that I need to respect and honor and love my husband, even when it is hard (especially when it is hard!) – and right as I enter my home is a temptation to yell at and dishonor and degrade the man who I vowed to honor and cherish.

I witness the simple faith of my child as he prays and the Lord whispers to my soul to come to Him with that child-like faith – and right there is a temptation to control everything, add conditions to God’s love for me, and doubt the sovereignty and provision of the Lord.

Sometimes this doesn’t seem fair. And it makes us begin to question the legitimacy of our faith. “Was that experience with the Lord even real? Maybe God didn’t release me of this burden like I thought, if I am already tempted? Maybe the Lord’s touch in my life is not real. Does God care, or did He show up at all?”

I heard once this saying, “DON’T FORGET IN THE DARKNESS WHAT YOU LEARNED IN THE LIGHT.” I played soccer as a child, from when I was really young until I got into college. We would practice several times a week, all in preparation for the big Saturday game. The season would not have had much purpose if we never played actual games on Saturday. We could practice and practice and practice, but we were only building skills. Our skills did not gain their significance until we had the opportunity to put them into practice. What we learn is most significant when it is utilized. What good are tools sitting in a tool shed that are never used. What good is 100 hours of practice if you never enter “game time” to solidify those skills.

True life transformation does not begin and end at the “mountain top” experiences with Lord. Rather, it happens when we come down from the mountain, and we are tested in that area in which we were just strengthened by the Lord. For then, as we choose in that moment of temptation to remember what we just learned in the Light – and we chose not to revert to our old ways of bondage – that is when true life transformation takes place. And that is when the experience we had with God on the “mountain top” becomes not just an experience but a way of life.

The temptation is an opportunity for the lesson to become truth, for the experience to become real, for the freedom to become reality!

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Romans 5:3-5

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

 

Accepting the New

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”      Mark 2:21&22

I just do not enjoy clothes shopping. Maybe its because I am in a season in my life where every extra penny goes to my children, or groceries, or paying off debt…or maybe its because there hardly ever is an “extra penny!” Maybe its because I don’t like the reminder that I do not fit into the size of clothes I used to be able to wear! Or maybe its because getting dressed and undressed several times in one day is just too much work!

But, I absolutely do love the feeling of wearing a new outfit or dress that fits just right and somehow makes my waist look half the size it is! I think most of us would agree that nothing boosts the mood and amps up the self confidence like the perfect combo of hair, makeup, and outfit…you know, one that gets you lots of compliments and makes you think, “wow, how bad do I normally look?” Ya, I enjoy these moments. Even though they do only come about once in a blue moon!

Oh, and on my wedding day. I felt like a princess in my new beautifully white wedding dress. I will never forget the moment I was walking down the aisle in my new wedding dress, and my hubby-to-be could not take his eyes off of me. I felt like the most beautiful thing in the room.

That is how our Lord looks at us. And He has new “wine-skins” waiting for us. Our pure bridal dress to accept, before we walk down the aisle into communion with Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches in Mark that we need to make way for the new things in our life that God intends to accomplish and work together, for His glory. In the time of His teaching, this was common sense: who would put new wine in old wine-skins? Duh! This would be like me asking you, “Would you eat tonight’s dinner on yesterday’s dirty dishes? Of course not!” The same thought process runs through our minds as it did thousands of years ago. As a child, we want a new outfit for the first day of school. As an adult, we want to wear a brand new outfit to our first day of our new job…with a new purse to match of course! I just love when Jesus relates to our human way of thinking, in order to teach the truths of the Kingdom of God.

Dear sister, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has something incredible planned for you. He is not done with you! He wants to do something in you and through you that is beyond your comprehension! He desires to do a work in your life that is so amazing that the only explanation of its possibility is the power of God! So, He is urging us to put on the new wine-skins – to prepare ourselves – to accept the new bridal gown.

And to therefore release the old wine-skins. We have to be willing to let go. We have to let go of the old wine-skins. To let go of the pit, in which we have made our home and become so accustomed to and comfortable. To let go of the lies that have defined us and directed the path of our life. To let go of the abuse and persecution of the enemy, which we have been deceived into believing that we deserve. We have to let go of the old wine-skins that have defined us…and this may be the hardest thing we have ever done. But guess what, Jesus will give you the strength to let go. All you have to do is ask.

“Precious Jesus, thank you for the life and salvation You bring to us out of Your great love for us. Give us the strength to let go of the old wine-skins in our life and surrender them at the cross. Give us the grace to accept the new wine-skins You have for us. We desire for you to have your way in our lives. We desire the abundant life only You can offer. We love You, Jesus. We want what You want for us today, nothing more, nothing less.” 

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
    so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
    so shall your God rejoice over you.     Isaiah 62:3-5

Let There Be Light

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. —– Genesis 1:1-5

Have you ever stopped to consider the significance of the very first action that God took during His majestic work of creation? He separated the light and the darkness. The very first work of God recorded for us in the Scriptures is Him separating the light and the dark. And have you noticed the Word tells us that God said, “Let there be light.” He did not say, “Let there be darkness.” Darkness was already there. The light had to be spoken into existence by God, made alive by the power of the Lord. This reminds me of the paradox I am all too familiar with in raising my children. I don’t have to teach my children to say “no,” disobey me, hit each other, scream, or lie. This all comes naturally, as we are sinful beings and it is our instinct and our nature to wander from the good will of the Lord. My children were born selfish and sinful – we all were – and it is up to my husband and I to teach them to obey us, and say “yes ma’am” or “yes sir,” and treat each other kindly. The darkness is already in us, through the sin that we have all inherited from the garden of eden…but praise GOD that is not the end of the story!

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.                     —– Romans 7:14-25

Paul was very honest about the war waging within his soul between the dark and the light. And he also does not hesitate to answer this question, “Who will set us free from this battle of good and evil waging within us? Where is the hope? Willl I ever be good enough?” His answer? Jesus! The same power that separated the light and the dark in the very first miraculous moment of creation, desires to separate the light and dark within us. And He will, if we invite Him in.

I have read the creation story hundreds of times. I have learned about it in church since I was a little five year old girl memorizing what was created on each of the six days, to earn my Awanas patch! But I have overlooked this hidden gem until now. The very first thing God did was to separate light and dark! Do you see the significance of it? Nothing else could have happened; no life could have come unless the light was first spoken into existence. Light is vital for life to be successful, even possible. A plant cannot thrive in a dark room. God brought the light in, dissipating the darkness, so that He could then get to work on creating the greatest masterpiece every manifested!

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. —– Matthew 5:14-16

Think about a dark room. How do we brighten the room to see? We turn on the light. And how do we make the room darker for bedtime? We turn off the light. You see, darkness does not cast out light. It is impossible. Light casts out darkness. And the Scpritures tell us that we are to be the lights of the world, a city on a hill for all to see, just as Jesus was the Light, victriously putting darkness in its place. We are also told that where there is light, there is truth. With four words, “Let there be light,” our Lord God illuminated the truth of His love for us, His Word given to us, and His power living through us.

This is the business of God, to separate the light and the dark. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God about this manner of work. Through the stories of the Old Testament, to the word of Jesus in the New Testament. We can never justify doubting His ability to divide the darkness, and His authority to call the light into being. He has been doing it since literally the beginning of time. And He wants to continue this act in our lives. Out of His great love for us, Our King Jesus Christ passionately longs for us to welcome the power of His Spirit into our soul, so that He may speak those same words into our hearts and into our lives, “LET THERE BE LIGHT.” Only Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, has the authority to speak light into existence. And when He does, darkness has no choice but to cripple in fear and go away defeated!

Praise God that we are not left to our own devices! Praise God that there is hope! Praise God that His first act was to bring light to the world. Praise God that He never gave up on this crusade, and brought THE LIGHT into the world to take the punishment for our sins, so that He may bring light into our very souls! And once the light is in our souls, new life will commence.

Dirty Hands

I cower in the corner of this room of shame,

Fear, doubt, anxiety, guilt – they all know my name.

I’m sinful, I’m broken, I’m crippled and torn,

Yet You tell me You knew me before I was born?

My hands are dirty, my heart unclean.

Lord, I’m unworthy. I’ve made too many mistakes,

When I should be living for Your name’s sake.

Turn your face from me, Lord, I don’t deserve Your love,

It takes all I am to believe in Your mercy from above.

My hands are dirty, my heart unclean.

This pure white bridal dress You gave me,

I’ve torn and muddied in my failed attempts to be free.

Doing things my way, in my plan, living by my own accord,

Every time falling on my face, loosing more than I can afford.

My hands are dirty, my heart unclean.

I hide in the corner here, I cannot stand,

The demons mock me, accuse me, imprison me in this hellish land.

This is my curse, by punishment well deserved,

To live this life dead, defeated, and unnerved.

Bondage is my reality and death is my future,

I am cursed with sin, not to be given a cure.

But wait…Could it be? Is that a light I see?

Shining so intense,

Forgiveness to commence?

A hand reaches out…

Revealing what I’ve been without.

Love dirties His hands,

Victory before me stands,

Then kneels so we are eye to eye,

“My daughter, I made you to fly!

Take my hand and I’ll lead you out,

With Me, you will never be without.”

But, Lord, don’t you see my shame and guilt.

I have destroyed the beautiful creation You have built.

My hands are dirty and my heart is unclean,

I don’t deserve this great love I have seen.

“Exactly, my Dear! My love is not to be earned,

But freely given to you, to be yearned.

I loved you before you knew what was love,

I saw you on that cross from above.

I knew the sin and cost, but My love for you overflowed,

As my death on the cross and resurrection showed.

I have pursued you and dirtied My hands to bring you home.

You are Mine, safe, saved, no longer to roam.”

I take His hand, forgiven and never looking back,

With the power of Jesus Christ to stand against any attack.

He leads me out of the dark pit I once called mine,

Toward true freedom and purpose and joy divine.

My bridal gown made new, washed pure with the Lamb’s blood,

My chains broken and heart made clean with a purifying flood.

My King, My Jesus, how can I express my thanksgiving?

My gaze is locked on You, whose praises I sing!

“Your Response, My Daughter. That is your “thank you.”

Respond with a life honoring Me, living in what is True.

Don’t let go of My hand, don’t take your eyes off of Me,

Invite the power of My salvation and Spirit, and you will see.

Seek Me, believe Me, and find in Me your Rest…

And, oh! I surely will give you My very very best!!!!”

 

Like a Child…

Before I finally landed into bed tonight, I went into my sons’ bedroom to catch just one more glimpse of my sleeping angels…and to make sure they are being sleeping angels and not giggling minions. I just love watching my children sleep. Since the day they were born, I could get lost in the serenity and tranquility of their faces. Somehow, when I watch my children sleep, I magically forget about all the havoc they caused that day!

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. —– Matthew 18:1-4

I stood there, and could not take my eyes off of my three year old son. Does he worry? Does he doubt? What matters most to him? All he cares about right now in his small little world is mommy, daddy, bubby, family, his froggy, his many bears (each one carefully named) and his collection of marbles. He does not stay up all night fretting about what tomorrow may bring. He does not worry about whether or not he will be fed and loved. He does not doubt his mommy and daddy’s love for him. When he calls our name, he expects us to be there. When he gets hurt, he knows to run straight to me and he knows my gentle kiss will cure any pain. And oh, I just love listening to him pray! When he prays his simple little prayers to Jesus, He truly believes that He hears him. Is this why Jesus says that children are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Now I know that my little boy has never felt the pain of the death of a loved one, or the stress of worrying about how to pay the bills, or the overwhelming fear from the sudden loss of a job, or all the difficult things we have the privilege of experiencing as adults. But, Jesus’ word is still true. “Unless you turn and become like children…” We were children once. We were little girls dancing in our dresses pretending to be princesses – or playing in the mud and kicking the ball! – without a care in the world. But, we became adults with responsibilities and jobs and bills and children of our own to take care of. So, Jesus tells us to become like children once again and enter the kingdom of heaven with the faith of a child.

The faith of a child? What does this mean? It does not mean childishly walking through life in immaturity. It does not mean making careless decisions and expecting God to clean up the mess and save the day. It does not mean pretending that the storm we find ourselves in does not exist. It does means going to our daddy with every hurt and every tear, being honest about how we feel (have you ever noticed how honest children are about how they feel!), and trusting our daddy to ease the pain. It means not worrying about what we will eat or drink or wear, for our daddy clothes the birds in the sky and the flowers in the fields (Matthew 6:25-34). It means not allowing the “adult” things that have happened to us to harden our hearts and harvest bitterness in souls. Life is hard. It’s not easy and we live in a fallen world. But we have not been placed here without the One who will never leave us nor forsake us. The enemy will use the tough times to lie to us and suggest that we cannot take this verse in Matthew to heart. But the Lord will use the tough times to prove His love and provision for us!

Beloved, we can still approach the Lord with faith like a child. Faith that does not question her daddy. Faith that trusts that she will be taken care of. Faith that does not worry about the things that are clearly out of her hands and completely in the hands of her good, perfect, loving, sovereign Daddy. Faith that believes that her daddy really does love her and will meet her every need. My son does not question that of me.,,at least not yet! How dare we question the love and provision of the Author of Time.

Sometimes we make it too complicated. God says, “My child, trust Me.” We say, “But, God you don’t understand.” God says, “My child, I have this.” We say, “But, God this it too impossible.” God says, “I am Your provider.” We say, “But, God how will I pay the bills?” God says, “Do not worry about tomorrow.” We say, “But, God I am so afraid to face the unknown.” My friend, stop questioning your daddy and stop doubting His provision. Trust Him and find security and peace in His home. Rest in the arms of the Almighty and let him rock you to sleep. Approach the Lord Jesus Christ, and humble yourself to once again be the little three year old princess…and recklessly trust your daddy as He takes care of your every need.