Hope in God’s Promises

images (3).jpgWe have hope because of who God is. No matter what is going on in your life, your relationships, and your community of faith, you can trust God is working. He is fulfilling his promises. Of course, our hearts and our willingness to obey are involved in the fruit we will see, but God’s will is God’s will, and God’s promises are his promises. He will stay true to his word no matter what we choose, because he can’t be anything other than true to his word. He is fully and sovereignly authentic, consistent, and reliable.

We have disappointments. Our lives aren’t perfect as we see them. We struggle. We feel lonely. We think we’re insignificant or not enough. Or we think we’re more than we are, and our pride gets in the way. We look at God’s promises and wonder where on earth he is and why is he not saying what he said he would do! Sometimes we misunderstand God’s promises, but most of the time, we’re trying impose our own limited understanding or our assumptions and preferences onto God’s promises. He doesn’t promise we’ll understand everything. He promises to be who he says he is and do what he says he will do.

Remember, God has an eternal perspective. He’s not bound by time, and he’s not bound by the confines of life on earth. As Priscilla Shirer said in a simulcast event, “Exactly what God says is exactly what God means. We need to take God at his word.”

We have hope because of who God is, who he says we are, and what he says he will do. Need a reminder? Here are just a few from Psalm 119.

Lord, you gave your orders to be obeyed completely. (Psalm 119:4)

Lord, you should be praised. Teach me your demands. (Psalm 119:12)

Lord, teach me your demands, and I will keep them until the end. (Psalm 119:33)

Lord, show me your love, and save me as you have promised. (Psalm 119:41)

Lord, I remember you at night, and I will obey your teachings. (Psalm 119:55)

Lord, you are my share in life; I have promised to obey your words. (Psalm 119:57)

Lord, your love fills the earth. Teach me your demands. (Psalm 119:64)

Lord, I know that your laws are right and that it was right for you to punish me. (Psalm 1119:75)

Lord, your word is everlasting; it continues forever in heaven. (Psalm 119:89)

Lord, accept my willing praise and teach me your laws. (Psalm 119:108)

Lord, it is time for you to do something, because people have disobeyed your teachings. (Psalm 119:126)

Lord, you do what is right, and your laws are fair. (Psalm 119:137)

Lord, I call to you with all my heart. Answer me, and I will keep your demands. (Psalm 119:145)

Lord, you are very kind; give me life by your laws. (Psalm 119:156)

God doesn’t give you insignificant, uncommitted lip service through his promises. He lives them out to completion. How are you responding? Can he depend on your trust and obedience?

Just Make a Decision

“Doublemindedness is a refusal to face a choice.” James MacDonald

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Some of the decisions we make aren’t the right ones. That can discourage us from making decisions in the future. We don’t want to take a stand and be wrong. But if we don’t make a decision, we get stuck. We don’t move. Which means, we can’t grow. We might avoid a mistake, but we also miss a lesson from the mistake.

And perhaps we don’t avoid making a mistake after all; indecisiveness can be a mistake.

Double-mindedness is wanting two things that can’t co-exist. We can’t simultaneously be on both sides of a fence. We should certainly pause and discern before swinging a leg over to one side of the fence or the other, and that process can take some time, but we can’t get stuck in the process. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in, yet some people find comfort in it.

We face choices all the time. I’m not talking about decisions about what to eat, who should drive, and what to wear. (Although ambivalence about these things can be as maddening.) I’m talking about significant choices that impact our next steps. We think, if we delay long enough, we can avoid the choice, have the best of both worlds, or fall into the default.

God wants us to be more intentional and willing to engage in the choices we face. Those choices and the way we handle them impacts our faith. They reveal our trust in Him. They refine our hope. They prune our character.

Just make a decision.

The Give and Take of Hope

hope“Why would God give me hope just to take it away?”

I’ve heard it often, and it’s usually in a painful moment. Someone who wanted children so badly was finally pregnant, only to suffer the death of an infant. Someone who had struggled to get on track financially finally gets a job that will provide, only to get hurt and not be able to continue working as the bills pile up. Someone connects with a lifelong partner after a long wait and much pain, only to find out they’ve been deceived and cheated yet again.

In each situation, there is hope, and that hope seems to be trampled on and destroyed.

But hope isn’t about circumstances. We often put our hope in the wrong things. We claim our hope is in God, but then it begins to slide toward hope in what God can provide, what He’s willing to give us. Our hope is in our children, our jobs, our marital status, our financial security, and so on. We claim God provides when those areas of our lives are going well. We are hopeful, because it’s easy to have hope when things are going well by our own perspective, either now or just around the corner. But that hope can easily deflate when things get troubling…when we’ve displaced our hope.

Hope isn’t the same as hype. Hope is enduring, underlying, and chronic. It’s not in what we can see and plan. It’s in God. It’s trust. It’s faith. Pain doesn’t erase it. It can certainly surround it with fog temporarily. But hope still shines.

Our ability to see the sunlight doesn’t determine whether or not the sun shines. Our ability to have hope doesn’t depend on what we can see, understand, and plan.

The Process of Death

a00d8978bbbaa9bbd45840020f0e4c0bWhoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

How have you experienced death in your life?

What feelings do you associate with death?

What has changed in your life as a result of death?

No matter how sudden and jarring death might seem, it involves a process. There’s a process of preparation we may or may not see, and there is a process of coping, healing, and readjustment that many of us know well but are still confused by it at times. Just like birth, death isn’t as clear cut as we think it may be. It’s not just the biggies of physical death but is a series of smaller deaths. We sometimes inadvertently let things die in our lives because of our inattentiveness. And we sometimes intentionally let things die in our lives because we believe we must in order to move on.

Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are not. We let things die that need to live and keep things alive we need to let die.

As far as God is concerned, we need to give up ourselves so that He can prevail in our lives. We claim that we’ve put Him first when we determine we’ll follow Him, but that one claim is followed by many, many additional choices and opportunities. With each one, we can decide to maintain ourselves, put ourselves and our own interests and perspectives first, or set ourselves aside to yield to Him. We get to choose how thoroughly we become less so that He becomes more in our lives. Death is never easy, but just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not hopeful and productive. When in the context of faith in God, death makes way for life. Sacrifice gives way to hope. Humility gives way to faith.

What do you need to give up for God? It might be something tangible and measurable, or it might be an attitude, entitlement, position, or pride. Claim what it is. Let God challenge you. Then, make a decision. Maybe you’re uncertain about giving it up altogether, or maybe you simply don’t see how it can be done. Take a step. Just one step. Facing the long road ahead might seem daunting, but taking one step right now is doable. Sometimes you can’t see the next step until you’ve taken a step and are in a new place. Your perspective changes, one step at a time.

Ray of Sunshine

imagesThe path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday. (Proverbs 4:18)

Faith gives us a ray of sunshine and hope. We don’t have to wait for the sun to actually shine on us. In fact, there doesn’t need to be external light at all. The light shines from within. We’re not the source of it. God is. We’re the vessels. And we can share with others.

What Will We Do?

111426e35a244c302cd35da9b23de562I will praise You with a sincere heart when I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep Your statutes; never abandon me...I will meditate on Your precepts and think about Your ways. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. (Psalm 119:7-8,15-16)

What we do in the present is not our only concern. What we commit to doing and becoming on an ongoing basis is paramount. It’s important to claim today what we plan and hope for tomorrow. What we give attention, we give intention. What we focus on today flows into tomorrow. What we plan for tomorrow ebbs into today.

I will praise God.

I will keep and delight in His statutes.

I will meditate on His precepts.

I will think about His ways.

I will not forget God’s Word.

Always Hope. Always Know.

psalm-71_14Your righteousness reaches heaven, God, You who have done great things; God, who is like You? You caused me to experience many troubles and misfortunes, but You will revive me again. You will bring me up again, even from the depths of the earth. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. Therefore, I will praise You with a harp for Your faithfulness, my God; I will sing to You with a lyre, Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You because You have redeemed me. Therefore, my tongue will proclaim Your righteousness all day long, for those who seek my harm will be disgraced and confounded. (Psalm 71:19-24)

Hope catapults us forward. We can trust God, not for specific outcomes we want, but always for the promises of redemption, reconciliation, and provision. We see how God has worked in our lives and place standing stones of testimony, remembrance, and hope. When we know God, we know hope. When we know God, we can claim who He is and trust His faithfulness.

But we must know Him. We must pursue Him. We must proclaim and praise Him.