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A certain king, known for his brutality, took a stroll one evening on the rooftop of his imposing palace. From his lofty vantage point, he could view the large and glorious city he’d created–with the help of thousands of slaves.

Numerous, handsome buildings made of brick and stone displayed the best architectural design of the time. He had spared no expense in their construction. Many said it was the most beautiful city on earth.

But the king had also been careful to reserve space for parks and gardens. Most awe-inspiring of all were the “hanging gardens” of Semiramis. Planted on the rooftops, they kept cool the rooms below and offered stunning beauty as well. Soon they had earned the prestigious recognition as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

 

(One artist’s idea of what the hanging gardens may have looked like.)

 

The king threw his arms outward. “Look at this great and glorious city I have built,” he cried, “a fitting residence for a king of such mighty power as I!”

Someone heard the king’s boast–someone who detests the proud of heart (Proverbs 16:5), and who wields the power to bring disgrace to the prideful (Proverbs 11:2).

No sooner had King Nebuchadnezzar bragged about his glorious accomplishments, than he became insane and lost his throne for a period of seven years (Daniel 4:28-37).

 

(King Nebuchadnezzar, reduced to groveling among the beasts)

 

Clearly, we’d do well to avoid such boastful pride as Nebuchadnezzar demonstrated. But the repugnant trait manifests itself in other ways too. The prideful person:

  • Puts self first, others second.
  • Craves recognition, admiration, and attention.
  • Takes credit for what others have done.
  • Becomes defensive when differing views are presented.
  • Rarely acknowledges sins, flaws, or mistakes.
  • Blames others for failures.
  • Resists advice, new information, or techniques.

Not a pretty package.

And according to Harry Emerson Fosdick: “A person wrapped up in himself makes a small package” as well (emphasis added).

 

(Harry Emerson Fosdick. (n.d.). AZQuotes.com. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from AZQuotes.com Web site: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/99920)

 

I have to admit, at sometime or other over my lifetime, I’ve exhibited every one of these unattractive symptoms of pride.

But what about confidence? Is that different? And what would it look like, to be confident without pride?

Paul exemplifies confidence in Philippians 4:13:

 

(“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”)

 

The difference between pride and confidence includes the source of each. Pride grows out of arrogance and conceit; confidence grows out of trust in God.

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him”

–Jeremiah 17:7

 

 

And because the source is different, the resulting traits are different.

For the Christian, confidence is the quiet knowing that God is in control and all will be well in the end. Therefore he/she can set aside self-aggrandizement, express convictions, even confront others when necessary with grace and poise.

In addition, confidence fosters:

  • Consideration of others before self (Philippians 2:3).
  • Collaboration and cooperation with others (Psalm 133:1).
  • Disinterest in the spotlight (Philippians 1:15-18).
  • Recognition and praise to God, the Creator of all accomplishments (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
  • The desire for self-improvement with the help of God (Philippians 1:6).
  • The desire for wisdom from God and godly people (Proverbs 19:20).

 

 

Now that’s a beautiful and grand package.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for your willingness to help me eradicate prideful thoughts the moment they manifest themselves. Thank you for showing me the way to live with confident trust in you —no longer over-protective of ego or overly concerned about self-interests—but surrendered to you and dependent on you, the Engineer of what’s best and the Source of all competency.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay. com.)

 

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Hope.

Such a small word for such a big, important concept.

Multi-syllable synonyms seem to carry more clout:  expectation, assurance, confidence, and conviction offer a few.  (Thank you, Dr. Roget.)

Stir them together and we can create a definition for faith-filled hope:  the constant, confident, assured expectation that God will see us through every circumstance until we’re standing before him in heaven.  Those are words with heft that we can hang onto through dark and stormy nights.

 

 

You see, hope is much more than wishful thinking.

But sometimes it hides behind the overwhelming issues we face:  health concerns, financial problems, troubled relationships, difficult circumstances, foreboding futures.

 

 

How can we live with confident assurance that all will be well when uncertainty seems to rule the day, the week, the year?

As always, scripture offers us insight:

  • Understand that hope doesn’t come from a hidden reservoir within ourselves.  According to 1 Peter 1:3, our hope comes from God, provided for us out of his loving mercy.  It’s a living hope, breathing energy and strength into our souls.
  • Remember:  we can move forward with positive expectation because He is our all-powerful, grace-filled God—loving, kind, and wise, too.  He’s not just watching from afar; he’s an involved God, tending over us like an attentive Shepherd (Isaiah 40:11a).

 

 

  • Rest assured that our faithful God will see us through to a satisfying conclusion—either through events that unfold over time, or perhaps through an instantaneous miracle.  It may be the satisfying conclusion will not come until we cross the threshold into eternity (1 Peter 5:10).  But then, in the glorious ecstasy of that moment, our earthly trials will no longer matter (Philippians 1:21-23).
  • God’s plan is designed for our good (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Hope involves waiting (Micah 7:7)—expectantly and patiently.

Sometime during second grade I noticed that being a teacher looked like fun.  And soon my favorite pastime became playing school with whomever I could cajole into being students.  When necessary, dolls were pressed into service.

That desire to become a teacher stayed with me all through high school and college.  Finally, after fourteen years, I was the one sitting at my own teacher’s desk, awaiting the arrival of my first students.  My hope, my confident expectation that I would one day be a teacher, had at long last become reality.  The import of the moment was not lost on me.  I had to fight back the tears.

 

 

Such euphoric joy does not happen often without waiting.  We appreciate more what we have to wait for.  And frequently, hard work is also involved.

God allows us to be part of the process, teaching us important lessons about patience and perseverance along the way.

Here’s what I need to remember:

Long-term waiting and steady hard work toward a dream makes the fulfillment all the sweeter when it finally comes.

For now, we can enjoy hopeful anticipation of a new reality that is coming, perhaps in this new year 2018—good health, financial security, improved relationships, or fulfilled dreams.  We can take comfort from the knowledge that our God, who is unlimited by the constraints of time, already resides there.  And…

 

Through the dark and stormy night

Faith beholds a feeble light

Up the blackness streaking;

Knowing God’s own time is best,

In patient hope I rest

For the full day-breaking!

– John Greenleaf Whittier

 

 

Let’s step out into each new day breaking with trust and obedience, because God is preparing us for that new reality.

And may these words ring in our ears:

 

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him.”

–Lamentations 3:25

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

What hope have you been clinging to?  Are there scriptures which contribute to your confidence and expectation?  What experiences of the past give you assurance for your hopes of the future?  Please share your insights below in the comments section!

 

(Revised and reblogged from January 31, 2013.  I do apologize for posting a reblog again.  Steve and I have been sick, catching a nasty bug on New Year’s Eve.  First I succumbed, and then he did.  A new post will be forthcoming next week!)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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In three short days 2017 will melt into memories, and we’ll greet a new year with all its potential for grand possibilities.

These last few days of December offer a time of optimism and expectancy within our spirits. We wonder if 2018 will be the year for:

  • The fulfillment of a long-held dream,
  • The answer to a frequent, heart-felt prayer, or
  • The accomplishment of a hard-won goal.

It’s also a time when our hearts become reflective:

 

 

  • What might God have in store for me in 2018?
  • What would he desire me to do over the next twelve months?
  • How would he have me grow in character and maturity?

And so I pray.  (Perhaps you’d like to join me?)

Thank you, Father, for the demarcation between one year and the next, giving us pause to evaluate and encouraging us to:

  • Refocus our attention on priorities,
  • Recalibrate those attitudes that hold us back, and
  • Renew our resolve to live your way for your purpose (and experience your effervescent joy in the process).

 

 

To that end:

  • I pray for strength to accomplish what you have ordained for me.

Make clear your plan, Lord, and then help me tackle that plan boldly, mindful that you rarely give strength beforehand; most often you grant strength as we journey.

Remind me also: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). That sense of inadequacy in my spirit is actually a positive force. It compels me to rely on you more consistently.

 

 

  • I pray for wisdom to choose those areas where you want me to spend my time, energy, and resources.

Remind me my days on Planet Earth are growing short (Psalm 90:12). I need to remain focused.

 

 

Thank you, O God, for the delightful promise that the pursuit of wisdom results in joyful satisfaction in life. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding (Proverbs 3:13). May I be diligent to seek wisdom from your Word and then make choices based on that wisdom.

  • I pray for courage to speak of you everywhere, anytime.

As I pick up the phone or head out the door, may I affirm you are with me (Joshua 1:9). You will spread the knowledge of Christ through me, like a sweet perfume (2 Corinthians 2:14)—if I am a willing participant.

 

 

With Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001), I do not pray for my fears of rejection or conflict to be removed; I ask for courage equal to my fears.

  • I pray for faith to relish the adventure of a God-honoring life.

Keep me mindful of your promises, Father, that create a rock-solid foundation for my faith, including: 1) You are always working to accomplish your plan (John 5:17). 2) You are always working in me to mold my character into Christ-likeness (Philippians 1:6). 3) Your incomparably great power is always available for us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).

 

 

And if I proceed into each day with a simple reliance upon your power, with a single eye to your glory, it is certain you will be with me…And if you are with me, then I must succeed (Charles Spurgeon). Thank you for such emboldening words!

  • Last, I pray for passion to experience even more of your abundant life.

I want to participate with you in what you are doing around me, Lord—in my family, church, neighborhood, community, even in the lives of those I meet in the blogosphere.

I want to live with spiritual intensity, acutely aware of your presence around me and your power within me.

I want to experience the abundant life you offer in John 10:10 until even simple moments sing with significance because they reveal your glory.

 

 

O God, as you fulfill these desires and increase these qualities in me–strength, wisdom, courage, faith, and passion–what a year 2018 promises to be!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

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Consider.  Jesus, our Savior, is:

 

  • Incomparable– without equal or rival (Psalm 86:8)

 

  • Incomprehensible– beyond understanding or knowing; unfathomable (Romans 11:33)

 

  • Indescribable– exceeding description (Jeremiah 10:6-7)

 

  • Indisputable— incontestable (Isaiah 40:13-14)

 

  • Inestimable– of incalculable value (Psalm 145:3)

 

  • Inexhaustible– incapable of being used up or consumed or becoming tired (Revelation 1:8; Psalm 121:3)

 

  • Infallible– cannot fail or even make a mistake (Psalm 145:17)

 

  • Invariable– never-changing (Hebrews 13:8)

 

  • Invisible(John 1:18)

 

And those nine descriptors only begin to define Jesus. No matter how many fancy, multi-syllable words we might collect, the attributes of God’s Son are beyond full comprehension.

And he is God’s gift to us.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Oh, Jesus, how we thank you for giving up the splendor of heaven and the glory of your deity, to take on human form and become our Savior.  How incomprehensible that you could love such pitiful creatures as mankind.

Nevertheless you came so that we, too, could become God’s sons and daughters. Even more incredible, many of the descriptors above will be true of us—on that day when you appear again, and we shall be like you. 

(Philippians 2:6-7; John 3:16; Romans 8:29; 1 John 2:2)

 

(Photo credit:  http://www.heartlight.org.)

 

Reblogged from December 7, 2015

 

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Just twelve days to Christmas 2017. Are you too immersed in preparation? In all honesty, I’m scrambling a bit in order to accomplish the remaining items on the must-do list: finish the Christmas cards, wrap the gifts, clean the house before the first guests arrive on Saturday, etc.

And for me, with the scrambling comes that uncomfortable feeling I’ll never get everything done.

It’s so silly, I tell myself. In the final analysis will our friends and family care if their cards arrive after Christmas? Is it necessary the packages be just so? Will our guests mind if every surface of the house isn’t gleaming?

Of course not. But my OCD tendencies still want to press me toward those expectations.

So what can I do to calm my spirit? I’m thinking the answer is worship.  I can express to God my gratitude, praise, and adoration–even while writing cards, wrapping gifts, and cleaning the house.

 

 

Scripture assures me that, as I worship in God’s presence, I will experience:

 

  1. Peace.

 

 

  1. Joy.

You, [O God], will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Psalm 16:11b

  1. Rest.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:1

 

 

What a glorious gift worship is! Isn’t it just like our loving Father to bless us as we seek to bless him?

And so, while writing the Christmas cards, I am praising God for friends and extended family spread all over the country, and praying for them, too.

 

 

Heavenly Father, I praise you for (insert name).

Thank you for their influence in our lives,

Their support and affection.

Thank you for treasured memories of time spent together.

We may have lived apart for many years,

Yet the bonds of love hold firm because of you.

Bless them, I pray, with joy in each day,

Provision and protection too.

 

While wrapping the family’s gifts I can offer praise on behalf of the recipients.

 

 

Your goodness, O Lord, has impacted our family again and again.

Every member has his/her stories to tell of

Your wonders, interventions, and miracles.

I praise you for each loved one—

His/her gifts and personality traits,

The delight You give us in each other.

I praise you we are able to gather once more

In celebration of you, our indescribable gift.

.

While cleaning, I can focus on gratitude. What am I thankful for in each room?

 

 

I praise you, Father for our cozy home,

for the perfectly sized dining set you provided

And the hutch we found rather miraculously.

I praise you for the large windows

Across the back of the house,

giving us a grand view of the backyard trees.

And I praise you that with gratitude

Even housekeeping can be turned into joyful worship.

 

Throughout the day, whatever the task, I can meditate on the wonder of what Jesus our Savior has accomplished.

And marvel again that it all began with his humble birth in a stable-cave:

 

(Gerard von Honthorst, 1622)

 

“O Sovereign God!

You have humbled yourself in order to exalt us.

You became poor so that we might become rich.

You came to us so that we can come to you.

You took upon yourself our humanity

In order to raise us up into eternal life.

All this comes through your grace,

Free and unmerited;

All this through your beloved Son,

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

–Karl Barth

 

Come! Let us adore him—even as we work!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.commons.org; http://www.flickr.com; publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

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“The Church thrills and thrives,

multiplies and advances

on a Holy Spirit breeze of blessing

that we simply call song.”

–Jack W. Hayford*

 

 

And at no time of year is that more true than during Advent. Christmas carols seem to waft on a unique Holy Spirit breeze of blessing all their own.

Part of the blessing is in the familiarity, the memories they evoke of Christmases past. Many of us are predisposed to sentimentality, especially at this time of year. Just listen to how often we wistfully say, “Oh, that reminds of…”

 

 

But are familiarity and nostalgia the only reasons we love our Christmas songs? No, it’s the lyrics themselves that contribute to the breeze of blessing—lyrics that remind us:

 

  • God’s gifts far surpass what is under the Christmas tree.

 

“God imparts to human hearts

the blessings of his heaven” (1).

 

  • Jesus brings wisdom and contentment to our lives.

 

“This child, now weak in infancy,

our confidence and joy shall be” (2).

 

 

  • He is our Emmanuel, God with us.

 

“Love has come—He will never leave us…

Love is Jesus within and among us” (3).

 

  • He has made it possible for us to spend eternity with him in heaven.

 

“Jesus Christ was born for this!

He hath opened heaven’s door

And man is blessed forevermore” (4).

 

 

  • The day is coming when we will be privileged to sing with the angels, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns” (Revelation 19:6)!

 

“When the new heaven and earth shall own

The Prince of Peace their King,

And the whole world send back the song

Which now the angels sing” (5).

 

 

Now that will be a song wafting on a Holy Spirit breeze of blessing.

Can you imagine the scene? Thousands of us in row after row singing our praise to God and celebrating the Prince of peace, our King.

Perhaps we’ll sing harmonies never even dreamt of on earth. And in a perfect heaven with perfectly miraculous acoustics, not only will we be able to hear the voices of those nearby, but the composite whole of the largest, grandest choir ever to sing.

Will there be those who stand in silence and choose not to participate? Impossible. How about folks who barely open their mouths and just whisper-sing? No, I can’t see that happening either.

Surely we’ll all sing with euphoric enthusiasm, hearts bursting with joy that:

  • Every blessing of heaven is now ours (1)—blessings we can’t even imagine now because we’re so limited in our knowledge and understanding.
  • Our confidence in Jesus has been rewarded beyond imagination (2).
  • Our loving, Savior is finally with us in Person as well as in Spirit (3).
  • Eternal bliss will be ours forevermore (4).
  • We’re able to join the angels in glorious song for the Prince of Peace our King (5).

But there’s no reason to wait until we’ve joined the angel choir.

We can sing as if performing for our King now.

Because we are.

Sing a song of Christmas, my friend, on a Holy Spirit breeze of blessing!

__________________________________________________

  1. “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” verse 3, line 2.
  2. “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light,” verse 1, lines 3 and 4.
  3. “Love Has Come,” verse 3, lines 1 and 2.
  4. “Good Christian Men, Rejoice,” verse 2, lines 2-4.
  5. “It Came upon the Midnight Clear,” verse 3, lines 3 and 4.

*from the Foreword of The Celebration Hymnal, Integrity Music, 1997.

 

Which Christmas carol wafts a breeze of Holy Spirit blessing through your spirit?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.army.mil.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.Art4TheGlryOfGod; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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“Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth to Bethlehem,

because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary,

who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

–Luke 2:4-5 excerpts, NIV

 

The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about eighty-five miles. Can you imagine walking that far, nine months pregnant? I can’t. Even if Mary rode on a donkey, she’d have been jostled and swayed from side to side. How comfortable would that have been? I think I’d rather walk.

And yet, in spite of Mary’s unremitting discomfort and Joseph’s growing concern, the couple surely traveled the road to Bethlehem with great hope in their hearts. Her firstborn would soon enter the world—a Child like no other. The angel, Gabriel, had made it clear to both of them: Mary would bear a son, the promised Messiah, and he would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Sure enough, Mary delivered the child while they were in Bethlehem, the exact birthplace identified by the prophet Micah (5:2), centuries before the event.

 

 

That same night shepherds cowered in the grass as blinding light pierced the darkness and a startling figure appeared—an angel. Fear quickly gave way to wonder, however, as the shepherds heard the astounding announcement. The Messiah had finally been born, not in the Holy City of Jerusalem as one might expect, but just a stone’s throw away in their own little village.

Soon the shepherds were also traveling a road to Bethlehem. But this was undoubtedly no midnight stroll; they may have even tried to outrun each other. And the exuberant joy that propelled them was accompanied by confident faith in their hearts. They knew the angel’s message had come from the Lord (Luke 2:15).

 

 

Many miles to the east wise men took note of a special star and shortly thereafter set out upon their own long road to Bethlehem. It’s possible they followed the star westward for two years, in order to worship the Messiah and present him with precious treasure: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Theirs was a road of generosity.

And now it’s our turn to travel the road to Bethlehem—a figurative one. With Thanksgiving behind us, we journey toward December 25, the final destination after a month-long celebration of our Savior’s birth.

Like Mary and Joseph we can travel with hope because our Heavenly Father is a God of his Word, who loves, encourages, strengthens, and more (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

 

 

Like the shepherds, we can embrace the truth of our Savior’s birth and all its implications for an abundant, God-enhanced life now and unending euphoria in heaven yet to come (John 10:10, 1 John 5:11-13).

Last, like the wise men, we can follow the road of generosity, not only with presents for family and friends or contributions to ministries and charities, but also with such gifts as:

  • A smile for the harried store clerk,
  • Focused attention on the toddler who wants to sing “Rudolph,”
  • A listening ear for the elderly lady at the grocery store,
  • Cheerful patience while waiting in line at the post office, and
  • The benefit of the doubt—for everyone.

Best of all, our road to Bethlehem extends beyond December 25—into eternity—where hope will be culminated, faith will become sight, and generosity will be rewarded (1 Peter 1:3-4; Hebrews 11:1; Ephesians 6:8).

 

 

The road may seem long at times.   But the destination will be rapturously worth it.

______________________________

Your turn:

Of course these three–hope, faith, and generosity–aren’t the only roads to Bethlehem.  There are many, including the familiar roads of love, joy and peace.  What road (s) will you travel this Advent season?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.slideplayer.com; http://www.pexels.com.)

 

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