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Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

Whitney sought a foothold and pulled herself up, then changed her hand grips and found another foothold above the previous one. Slowly she inched her way up the 40-foot climbing wall. Though only her first attempt, the four-year-old showed no fear.

Dad recorded the feat, and the video is available on YouTube.

We marvel that such a young child could climb with such confidence. But Whitney knew she was tethered to a rope held secure by the belayer, who also gave wise advice as she climbed. And Dad offered encouragement the whole way up and down.

When she touched ground again, Whitney’s broad smile indicated her delight in conquering the wall.

And the preschooler’s experience proves:

Security, wisdom, and encouragement

contribute to confidence. 

What held true during that preschooler’s rock-climb holds true for us in life. We need a strong Belayer to keep us secure, wise instruction to help us succeed, and inspiring encouragement to help us persevere.

Security

First, our Belayer is God himself. He holds us fast and will never let us go.[1]

And just as Whitney’s security did not depend on her gripping the rope, our security of help, strength, and heaven-to-come doesn’t originate with our grip on God, but his forever grip on us.[2] What we cannot do for ourselves, he has accomplished.[3]

Just as Whitney put her trust in the belayer, we must actively trust God to be our lifeline.

Wisdom

A short distance up the wall, Whitney glanced toward the floor. The belayer wisely advised, “Don’t look down, Whitney! Keep looking up!”

She didn’t look down until the belayer gave her instructions for the descent.

God also offers wise advice through his Word. He wants us to know:

  • True wisdom comes from him.
  • It begins with reverence and humility before God, to be in awe of his holiness, his power over all things–including life and death.
  • He gladly provides this gift to all who ask.
  • Whoever heeds his wisdom will dwell secure.[4]

Encouragement

Last, we have a Father who encourages us, just as Whitney’s dad encouraged her through that rock-climb. Again, what we need is found in scripture—passages such as these that inspire hope:

  • “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
  • “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:11).
  • “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Of course there are hundreds more, assuring us that:

When I allow fearful thoughts to whirl in my mind, I’m really asking, Is God going to see me through this?

How much better to affirm that God will hold me fast until he’s ready to take me home to heaven. He will provide the wisdom and guidance I need for what lies ahead, just as he has in the past,. And His Word will continue to offer encouragement, to inspire and strengthen.

Truth leads to confidence.

What contributes to your confidence when facing challenging situations? Please share in the comment section below!


[1] Psalm 37:23-24

[2] https://www.seeyouinheaven.life/secure-forever-in-christ/

[3] Romans 8:3-4

[4] Proverbs 2:7; 1:7, James 1:5; Proverbs 1:33

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Many who follow Jesus long for the fulness of blessings he’s promised, like intimacy with God, peace of mind, and life to the fullest (1).

When these blessings aren’t apparent, it’s natural to wonder why. A person might think, I just need to try harder, become more disciplined. Maybe I should severely limit recreation and sacrifice more.

Don’t get me wrong. Self-discipline and sacrifice are part of a dynamic Christian life (2), and actually become delights as we mature in our faith.

But what if:

Intimacy with our Heavenly Father doesn’t require a monk-like lifestyle but stillness and spending time with him in scripture.

“The world applauds achievement; God desires companionship. The world clamors, “Do more! Be all you can be!” But our Father whispers, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

If Bible study sounds like a chore, talk to someone who considers it a joy. Learn from them how to experience the same.

Faith doesn’t require long prayers about inadequate faith, but simply resting in what we know about God.

“If you feed your faith, your doubts will starve to death.”

Debbie MacComber

One way to feed your faith is to keep a journal of events that give evidence of God’s work in your life, his guidance, provision, and blessing (3). I promise, you’ll be amazed.

Peace doesn’t come from distracting ourselves with busyness, but from knowing God, focusing on him through worship, and meditating on his attributes.

Reverend Croft M. Pentz expressed it this way:

“No God, no peace. Know God, know peace.”

Croft M. Pentz

And Ruth Bell Graham discovered:

We’d do well to learn from her experience.

Hope isn’t generated by wishful thinking, but by affirming the Word of God.

Some of you will remember the old hymn, “Standing on the Promises.” The second verse offers this encouragement:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
  Standing on the promises of God.

–Russell K. Carter

For every hope—of a problem to be solved, a relationship to be healed, and a need to be met—there are scripture-promises on which to place our hope. To trust God is to trust his promises. 

Contentment isn’t the result of having all desires fulfilled, it’s the result of gratitude for what we already have.

When we begin to thank God for such delights as the friendly wave of a neighbor, the worshipful toll of church bells, the bright lady bug on a stem, we soon realize how many gifts he bestows.    

Add to his daily delights the assurance that God is with us to support, within us to empower, and going before us to lead the way (4).

Most of our wants pale in comparison to the glories we already enjoy. . .

. . . in creation . . .
. . . in relationships . . .
. . . in usefulness.

A rich and satisfying life doesn’t come through self-centered gratification, but through obedience to God’s ways.

“God’s commands are designed to guide us to life’s very best” (5), including the qualities we’ve considered in this post: delightful intimacy with God, restful peace, constant contentment, and more. That’s a life overflowing with joy.

Pursuing this kind of rich, satisfying life is a bit like making soup! Every ingredient that goes in the pot impacts the flavor of everything else in the pot. In the spiritual realm, everything we do, say, or even think impacts the flavor of our faith.

Gratitude produces contentment but also impacts our worship and quality of life. Faith grows our knowledge of God, but also grows contentment and spiritual strength. Scripture study instills peace, but also nurtures hope and tightens our connection to God. The list could continue but you get the idea.

The bottom line is this:

The question becomes, what actions will we pursue to genuinely impact the flavor of our faith?  


1. James 4:8; John 14:27; John 10:10

2. Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:2

3. “Christmas Afterglow” includes several examples.

4. Isaiah 41:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Deuteronomy 31:8

5. Henry Blackaby

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Thomas Jefferson gave us this bit of wisdom:

 https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/brevity.html

Note how the following authors demonstrate this most valuable of all talents:

  • “It is good people who make good places.”—Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
  • “Trials come to prove and improve us.”—St. Augustine
  • “Change always comes bearing gifts.”—Price Pritchett

Conciseness contributes to effectiveness, agreed?

In Romans 15:13, the Apostle Paul wrote a magnificent but concise blessing for the Christians in Rome. He brought together five key concepts of our faith—hope, joy, peace, trust, and power—in just thirty words or so, depending on the translation:

Whole books have been written to expound on each concept. But since this is a blog post, not a treatise, I’ll try to keep it short—and concise!

HOPE

Our Christian hope is not wishful thinking; it is confident reliance on the sacred certainties of our Heavenly Father.

Paul calls him our God of hope because of his glorious attributes manifested in our lives—his omnipotent power, gracious mercy, continual patience, lavish kindness, and absolute reliability—to name a few.

And with statements of faith we can bolster our hope—statements such as these:

  • “God is kind and good, wise and powerful. All his attributes are always at work for my benefit.”
  • “God is accomplishing purpose in these circumstances, just as he always does.”
  • “He will bring me through this situation, and I’ll be a better person for it.”

JOY

Joy is not the absence of all misery and the presence of every whim; joy is found in the presence of God.

Sound silly? Talk to an old saint who has walked with Jesus many years—who’s felt the Lord’s presence surrounding him, heard God’s whispers in his heart, and experienced his guidance and provision again and again. 

This saint will tell you: the pleasures of this life don’t begin to compare to the soul-delight of intimacy with God.

PEACE

Peace is not found in circumstances; it’s found in a Person, the Prince of Peace. The better we know him, the better we know peace.

Tension decreases as we affirm:

  • He is completely trustworthy.
  • He knows everything; he’s in control of everything.
  • He takes pleasure in blessing us with all that we need.
  • He is with us to comfort, strengthen, and encourage.
  • Even in the midst of difficulty, we can experience his peace. In fact, it’s a promise.

TRUST

It’s God’s part to work all things for good; it’s our part to trust.

The question becomes, What can I do to grow in trust?

The answer: express gratitude. “The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness”[1]

So thank God, even in the midst of frustration, disappointment, heartache, and pain. “There’s a good God leading, working all things into good. It is safe to trust”[2]!

POWER

The power to thrive does not come from within ourselves; it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do circumstances appear impossible to rectify? Think on the power of God. He scatters the stars in space. He breathes life into every creature. He provides everything necessary to sustain our little planet.

It’s that kind of absolute, unlimited power that will see each of us through every crisis until we’re home with him.

And so, in one concise verse Paul majestically highlights five pillars of the abundant life.

When we embrace the hope, joy, and peace that God offers, when we trust in him with expectancy and resolve, when we pray for his power to be released in and through us, our lives and outlook will become radiant and alive[3]!

Doesn’t that sound like a glorious way to live?

Scriptures for further reflection:

Hope–Psalm 145:8-9; Daniel 2:20; John 5:17; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4

Joy–Psalm 16:11; Psalm 71:5-8

Peace–Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 John 3:20b; Jeremiah 31:3; Philippians 4:19; Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 40:29-31; Philippians 4:6-7

Trust–Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 9:10; 28:7; 112:7; Colossians 2:7; Psalm 110:4-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7

Power of the Holy Spirit–1 Corinthians 8:6; Psalm 8:3; Job 12:10; Psalm 46:1

Notes


[1] Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 24.

[2] Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts, 155.

[3] The last clause is based on Touchstone’s revised version (1995) of the J. B. Phillips’ translation for Romans 15:13.

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No doubt about it: Christmas is going to look different this year. Some folks (like me) will opt to scale back the decorating. Church and school programs won’t be presented, parades won’t be processing down Main Street, and fewer families will be cozied up at Grandma’s house for gift giving and feasting.

As if mocking the disappointment already rooting in our spirits, Andy Williams comes on the radio singing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”—about friends coming to call, parties for hosting, and caroling out in the snow.

But wait. Perhaps this year could become a different kind of wonderful. Perhaps with less holiday preparation to complete and fewer activities to attend, we’ll have more time to revel in the preparation of our hearts.

How might we do that? According to pastor/author Handel H. Brown:

An attitude of expectancy includes an outlook of hope—hope in God’s provision for the here and now, and hope for what is to come. Even as we celebrate Christ’s first appearance on earth, we look forward to his second coming when he will “take us to heaven, to live with him there” (1).

Too often I’ve counted down the days until the Christmas tree is glowing, or the family is gathered, or the gift-exchange can finally take place. Those are all superb delights, but they quickly fade into wisps of memory.

We Christians can revel with expectant hope in a countdown of more substantive delight and importance. Peter called it a living hope, based as it is on our living Savior (1 Peter 1:3).

This hope is not just a feeling that fades like the euphoria of Christmas—once family members have departed and decorations are boxed and shelved. No, this hope is absolute certainty, placed in our faithful, eternal God . Everything he has promised he will deliver.

So how do we muster expectant hope? By immersing ourselves in God’s Word.

Hope is living constantly, patiently,

expectantly, resiliently, joyously

in the word of God.

–William Stringfellow

Here’s one scripture that fills me with expectant hope. See if these words don’t lift your spirit as well:

“Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death.

“This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away.

“They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time”–1 Peter 1:3-5 GNT (2).

Praise God for his mercy!

Praise him for the new and abundant life he provides!

Praise him for all the blessings of past, present, and future!

Praise him for the perfected life yet to come–with him in heaven!

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas by immersing ourselves in such scriptures, expectant hope is bound to well up and produce wonderful results.

In addition:

“Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.”

–Unknown

So let’s put the WONDERFUL into Christmas 2020 with renewed, expectant hope in our glorious Father.

Let’s create the atmosphere for miracles!

What scripture fills your spirit with expectant hope?  Please share in the comment section below!

Notes:

  1. The last line from “Away in the Manger,” based on John 14:2-3.
  2. Other scripture passages to explore that foster expectant hope:  a) Isaiah 9:6-7 (See also a previous post, “His Name Shall Be Called.”) b) Isaiah 40:28-31, c) Ephesians 1:3-13, d) 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

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Today’s post is an acrostic poem (I use that term lightly!) of praise and prayer, based on the phrase, “peace in the midst of the storm.” For each letter, I chose scriptural affirmations that seemed especially appropriate for this time of upheaval and uncertainty.  (You’ll find the references at the end of the post.)

Why the Bible? There is no better source of hope and strength.

Abraham Lincoln expressed it this way during his time of trouble:

(Photo taken in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War.)

I believe that the Bible is the best gift

that God has ever given to man.

All the good from the Savior of the world

is communicated to us through this book.

I have been driven many times to my knees

by the overwhelming conviction

that I had nowhere else to go.

While collecting biblical truths that apply to our current situation, I felt my own heart uplifted.

May the following be an encouragement to you as well.

Praise be to the Lord our mighty Rock; from

Everlasting to everlasting he is God.

As we cast our cares on him, he will sustain us.

Call on him when in distress and he will answer; his

Ears are attentive to our cry.

I trust in your unfailing love, O Lord.

Nothing is too hard for you.

The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.

He performs miracles and displays his power among the people.

Every promise he has fulfilled; not one has failed.

My shield is God Most High.

In him I take refuge.

Do not fear; he is with us…and will help us. He will

Satisfy our needs and strengthen our frame.

Truly, our souls can find rest in God; our salvation comes from him.

Our Lord is gracious, righteous, and full of compassion; the

Fruit of his righteousness is peace.

Those who know his name trust in him, for he has never

forsaken those who seek him.

He hides us in the shadow of his wings; the

Eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,

who hope in his unfailing love.

Send us your light and your faithful care, O God. Let them guide us

day by day.

Thank you for always leading us in triumph.

Our enemies you will trample; with you we will gain the victory.

Righteous and kind are all your ways and all your works.

My hope is in you.

Scriptures used:

  • Peace–Psalm 144:1; 90:2; 55:22; 86:7; 34:15b
  • In–Psalm 13:5a; Jeremiah 32:17b
  • The–Psalm 1:6; 77:14; Joshua 23:14
  • Midst–Psalm 7:10a; 16:1b; Isaiah 41:10; 58:11; Psalm 62:1
  • Of–Psalm 116:5; Isaiah 32:17
  • The–Psalm 9:10; 17:8b; 33:18
  • Storm–Psalm 43:3a  ISV; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Psalm 60:12; Psalm 25:21b

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(www.thecove.org)

 

Have you visited the Billy Graham Training Center outside Asheville, North Carolina? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for retreat, relaxation, and renewal.

Ruth and Billy chose the location well, tucked as it is onto a peaceful Appalachian mountainside.

My husband and I visited years ago and reveled in five days of morning-and-evening teaching sessions under Warren Wiersbe. The afternoons were unscheduled—for the relaxation part.

One day we decided to tackle a long trail-hike and walk off some of the scrumptious food (and nightly, all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream!) we’d been consuming.

A staff member promised the mountain view from the lookout point at the end would be well worth the effort.

But in no time the hike became rough going. The miles we were accustomed to walking back home in the flatland of Florida hadn’t prepared us for the unrelenting incline of this trail.

 

 

I started to grunt and groan. My leg muscles begged for mercy until we had to stop and rest—several times.

For the entire distance trees surrounded us—lovely to be sure, but not once did we catch even a glimpse of the vista to come.

Finally we approached the rail of the platform lookout, and my grunts and groans turned to oohing and wowing.

 

 

Row upon row of gentle peaks stood sentry before us, stretching immeasurable miles to the horizon. Cumulous clouds above produced large patches of shade below—a jigsaw of light and shadow.

The staffer had been right. To see such a grand panorama of God’s handiwork was indeed worth the struggle.

 

 

“God has made everything beautiful in his time,” King Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

“Everything beautiful” certainly includes the splendorous moments on that platform, especially in contrast to the arduous process to get there.

But equally wondrous, God knows how to create beauty out of difficult life-circumstances—circumstances like:

  • A disturbing diagnosis
  • Ongoing frustration at work
  • A hurtful relationship
  • Financial struggles

How can that be? Because those are the times that push us toward maturity (James 1:2-4)—and maturity is indeed a beautiful thing.

 

 

Our problem is, we crave a smooth pathway through life—level, broad, and full of pleasure. But God knows what spoiled, useless creatures we’d become on such a course.

So he allows uphill climbs as the training ground for developing patience, perseverance, persistence, and self-discipline—important facets of maturity.

All the while we can rest assured the day will come when we finally understand how our ugly struggles fit into God’s great and beautiful plan—“a plan so overwhelming, magnificent, and joyful, we will laugh with wonder and delight”—Arthur Christopher Bacon (1).

And how do we know that’s true?

Consider God’s attributes, including his

  • Love and faithfulness (Psalm 117:2)
  • Wisdom (Romans 11:33)
  • Rghteousness (Psalm 145:17)
  • Justice and fairness (Deuteronomy 32:4)

 

 

Such a God does not allow useless distress; there is always purpose.

And note the verse says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

 

Every detail of your life

is fitting together to create

a tapestry of praise.

–Jane L. Fryar (2)

 

Sometimes we do see the details of our lives fitting together in beautiful, praise-evoking ways.

Our stories of struggle-turned-into-beauty can:

  • Inspire someone to start their own journey with Jesus
  • Offer comfort to another who’s struggling on the same stretch of pathway
  • Provide guidance for a wanderer
  • Encourage a hiker-believer to keep climbing to the heights

 

 

But I have a feeling God is saving the best and most beautiful revelations until we’ve reached the lookout of heaven.

For now we can cling to this:

All things are from him—for a purpose (Romans 11:33-36), and we will behold the beauty—when the time is right.

 

Notes:

  1. From Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reimann, Zondervan, 1997, p. 72.
  2. Be Blessed, CTA, Inc., 2009, p. 60.

 

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It happened again. I was reading a familiar Bible passage when a new question presented itself.

Here’s the scripture:

 

 

The first two reasons made perfect sense. Pushing through difficulty does produce endurance, and endurance results in the formation of character–traits like responsibility, self-discipline, and patience.

If Paul had concluded by saying character produced maturity, I’d have heartily agreed and read on. But he says character fosters hope, which led to my question: Why hope?

To begin, we need a clear understanding of what hope means. Which of these definitions do you find most insightful?

Hope is: a) looking forward with confidence and expectation (Beth Moore), b) the reality that is being constructed but is not yet visible (Eugene Peterson), or c) happy certainty (J. B. Phillips).

 

 

Actually, instead of choosing, let’s weave them together: Hope is the attitude of looking forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to the reality being constructed though not yet visible.

Author Katherine Paterson would also have us understand: “Hope… is not a feeling. Hope is something we do”–such as:

  • Affirming God’s omnipotent power—power that can accomplish anything (Matthew 19:26).

 

 

When we are facing the impossible,

we can count upon the God of the impossible.

–Amy Carmichael

 

  • Remembering God’s promises of the Bible—promises that never fail (Psalm 145:13b).

 

 

Quit studying the problems

and start studying the promises.

–Ruth Graham

 

  • Practicing God’s presence—presence that instills comfort, encouragement, and strength (Psalm 94:19; Isaiah 41:10; Joshua 1:9).

 

 

Few delights can equal the mere presence

of one whom we trust utterly.

–George MacDonald

 

In the 1980s, retired millionaire Eugene Lang was asked to speak to the graduating six graders of his East Harlem alma mater. He planned to share his story and encourage them that effort and perseverance do produce success.

But when he took the podium, Lang changed his mind.

“Stay in school,” he charged them. “In fact, it is so important, I’m going to make you a promise. You stay in school, and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.”

 

 

No doubt some of the students thought, “Yeah, right.”

Most of these kids had already experienced a lifetime-worth of disappointment. Why should they believe this old guy?

Yet even the most cynical among them had to admit: Mr. Lang did have the financial power to keep such a promise—a promise announced in front of numerous witnesses.

Soon Mr. Lang founded the I Have a Dream Foundation and convinced others to add their support. He exercised his own financial power to hire a project coordinator, finance field trips, and provide mentors and tutors for each student.

 

 

Mr. Lang made his presence known by taking students to restaurants and museums. He personally counseled them through crises, and intervened with school officials on their behalf.

The kids responded. They began to work toward the goal of a college education, learning self-discipline, perseverance, and responsibility along the way. As those character traits and more developed within them, their hope grew that Mr. Lang’s promise would manifest itself in reality.

Six years after that impromptu offer, nearly ninety percent of the students graduated from high school, and close to half were enrolled for college in the fall. Character did indeed lead to hope—hope that looked forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to a reality under construction.*

 

 

Mr. Lang typified what God does for us, developing our character so we might grow in hope—a hope for every tomorrow based on his power, promises, and presence, and a hope that can see heaven through the thickest clouds (Thomas Brooks).

 

Addendum: As of 2017, approximately two hundred I Have a Dream programs were in operation in the United States and in New Zealand, assisting more than 16,000 students.*

 

* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/nyregion/eugene-lang-dead-harlem-college.html

 

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Ever had a sleepless night due to a relentless whirl of what-ifs, a churning jumble of distress and anxiety, a racing heart?

Worry will do that. No wonder we’ve been told worry is bad for us.  In fact, according to Charles Mayo (co-founder of the Mayo Clinic), worry causes adverse affects on the circulatory system, heart, glands, and nervous system.*

But what about concern? Is that different from worry? Is it OK to be concerned?

The answer is yes. Scripture gives much evidence that even our perfect Heavenly Father exhibits concern. He demonstrates:

  • Compassion on all he has made (Psalm 145:9).
  • Care for each of us (1 Peter 5:7).
  • Mindful attention (Hebrews 2:6).
  • Watchful protection (Jeremiah 31:10).
  • Careful planning for us (Psalm 40:5).

As God exemplifies, concern prompts beneficial action; worry, on the other hand, accomplishes nothing but harm.

Worry creates a thick fog of fear; concern invites God into our experience with all his wisdom, power, and comforting presence. He is, after all, the only One who can dispel fog, whether it’s water vapor in nature or worry on our minds.

Just the reminder our loving Father is right in the midst of the mess with us will do much to sweep away worry.  And “there is heaven in the depth of that word—Father!” (Charles Spurgeon, emphasis added).

Indeed. If we dig into the heavenly depths of our Father’s love we’ll see:

  • The support of his powerful right hand (Psalm 65:8).
  • The protection of his everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
  • The comfort of being carried close to his heart (Isaiah 40:10).

And that’s just for starters.

If we dig into what we know about him, we can affirm:

  • “Nothing happens in any particular unless God’s will is behind it; therefore [we] can rest in perfect confidence in him” (Oswald Chambers).
  • The God who made us will equip us for whatever lies ahead—even if it’s unpleasant (Habakkuk 3:19).
  • Difficulties most often set the scene for his glory to be displayed (Romans 11:36).

Sometimes, though, the fog of worry shrouds even the strongest mental images and the most affirming truths. We’re forced to admit: trustful concern is not easy.

For most of us, it is a learned discipline that grows over time. Slowly we’re able to embrace the truth that all will be well because all is in God’s perfect and capable hands. Slowly we develop the habit of affirming God’s character and power, to develop a nearly worry-less state of contentment.

And we learn the value of gratitude amidst turmoil—as illogical as that may sound. The very act of thanking God releases our minds from negative focus. When we turn our attention to him, problems fade in significance and the fog is dispersed. That’s why Paul recommended, “Pray with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6).

And that’s how we turn worthless worry into productive concern.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I thank you, Father, that NO situation is hopeless because you are the God of eternal hope. I can count on you because you are the God of universal sovereignty, complete sufficiency, and abundant goodness.

I thank you for your comforting presence, for your power at work (even though I can’t see it right now), and for your glorious promise that you always bring good from every situation. I praise you that, while we may sow in tears, there will come the day we reap with songs of joy. Hallelujah!

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; Romans 11:36; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Psalm 145:7;

Matthew 28:20; John 5:17; Romans 8:28; Psalm 126:5

*www.todayinsci.com.

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flicker.com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.)

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We’re off! The race to Christmas has begun.

The next twenty-six days will include shopping, wrapping, sending, writing (the Christmas cards), decorating, cleaning, baking, attending, final rehearsing and performing. Did I leave out anything?

No doubt some of you are far down the track. Your house is already decorated, the cards are nearly finished, the cookies are baked and tucked in the freezer. You started preparations weeks ago.

 

Tins of Christmas Sweets

 

I am not among you—never have been. What would Christmas be without a little hustle and bustle to get the adrenalin flowing? Except I almost always become overwhelmed, which leads to frazzled nerves.

This year I want to maintain (or recapture as needed) an Advent perspective of tranquil expectation and worshipful celebration—even when the schedule and the to-do list get a little crazy.

How?  The following three ways might be a good place to begin:

 

1. Gratitude.

Gratitude will prepare the way—the way to salvation from discontent and agitation, the way to the presence of God.

 

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(“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me

and prepares the way

so that I may show him

the salvation of God.”

–Psalm 50:23)

 

Gratitude renews my mind and spirit as I remember: “The things [I] take for granted, someone else is praying for”–things like:

  • Colorful Christmas cards in the mailbox
  • An ample supply of sugar, flour, and butter for cookies
  • A Christmas tree filled with treasured, memory-laden ornaments
  • Loving family gathered to revel in each other’s company and hear the story of Jesus’ birth once again
  • Presents aplenty under that tree, to express our love

 

Christmas presents under the tree

 

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward (1921-1994).

What better time than Advent to be more thankful, to experience more joy, to take note of our many blessings in the ordinary? M-m-m. ‘Think I’ll reflect on that question in my journal during these days leading up to Christmas.

 

2. Prayer.

 If someone asked me, “Is there a scripture about the impact of prayer on a person’s emotional state?” I’d steer them to Philippians 4:6-7.

 

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“Do not be anxious about anything,

but in everything, by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God,

Which transcends all understanding,

Will guard your hearts and your minds

In Christ Jesus.”

 

How easy it is to steer others in the right direction, but not take that route myself.

So these reminders are for me:

  • Be anxious about nothing – including the long task-list that requires completion by Christmas.
  • Pray with a grateful heart about everything that needs to be done – including what to say on the Christmas cards, what gifts to give, what is needful to accomplish and what is just my OCD in over-drive.
  • Pray for godly perspective. The result will be as he has promised: peace that transcends understanding.

To keep mindful, I’ve put Philippians 4:6-7 on the bathroom mirror.

 

3. Hope.

 

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Yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, we focused on the word, wait –an action often accompanied by impatience.

But in the ancient language of the Bible, Hebrew, the word wait is the same as the word for hope. How appropriate—hopeful waiting—waiting that includes positive expectation, confident assurance, and absolute conviction, because our God is the One and only God of hope.

And because of him we have confident assurance of:

  • Strength (Psalm 31:24)
  • Blessing (Jeremiah 17:7)
  • Joy and peace (Romans 15:13)
  • Eternal life (Titus 1:2)

 

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What a glorious list.  And that’s just the beginning.

If I focus on my God of hope and all his benefits, my attitude will be transformed (Romans 12:2). If I turn my face to the Son, the shadows will fall behind me.*

Too often in the past, my attitude has turned the season of Advent into an adversary to be beaten.

This year I want Advent to be an adventure of gratitude, prayer, and hope.

 

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*Based on a Maori proverb

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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How would you finish the title-statement above?

The writer of Hebrews described faith like this:

 

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(“Faith is being sure of what we hope for

and certain of what we do not see.”

–Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

 

Other commentators and authors have added the following:

  • “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.” – St. Augustine
  • “Faith is believing that Christ is what He is said to be, and that He will do what He has promised to do, and then to expect this of Him.” – Charles Spurgeon
  • “Faith is the belief that God is real and that God is good…Faith is the belief that God will do what is right.” – Max Lucado (1)

 

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  • “Faith is more than a feeling; it is acting on our belief that God is able to bring a redeeming value to any situation.” – Carole Ladd (2)

And my personal favorite:

  • “Faith is expectancy.” – Selwyn Hughes (3).

Now if true expectancy characterizes my faith, it’s going to be evident in the way I live.

That evidence will no doubt include:

 

  • Optimism and hope, not pessimism and despair.

 

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Scripture provides numerous statements that generate a positive outlook.   One of my favorites:

 

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,

who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long;

they exult in your righteousness.

For you are their glory and strength.”

–Psalm 89:15-17a)

 

Collecting faith-building quotes can also contribute to a positive outlook. For example:

 

“He is beneath me as my foundation, beside me as my friend,

within me as my life. There’s no need to worry about limited visibility.”

–Barbara Johnson

 

  • Gratitude, not grievances.

 

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“Our words are the evidence of the state of our hearts

as surely as the taste of the water

is an evidence of the state of the spring.”

– J. C. Ryle (3)

 

That includes the words I speak only in my mind. Silent prayers of gratitude to God will bolster my faith; rehashing the challenges I face will weaken it.

 

  • Affirmation of truth, not doubts.

 

Isaiah 41:10 might be a good place to begin.

 

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Am I feeling afraid and alone? God says, “Do not fear; I am with you.”

Am I plagued by worries and what-ifs? God says, “Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.”

Do I feel weak and helpless? God says, “I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

  • Pressing on, not giving up.

 

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Exercising my faith will move me forward; giving in to despair will bring me to a dead stop.

But just how do I move forward by faith? Philip Yancey says, simply respond to the next task that lies before me (4)—in a faith-directed manner. That might include making the bed while humming a praise song, sending the kids to school with hugs and a prayer, entering the office with cheerful greetings and a smile.

That monstrous problem may not be solved yet, but positive action while I wait will affirm my faith: God is at work; I can rest in his supreme competency. (That’s easier-said-than-done for me. I must continually reset my mind and spirit on him and the truth of his Word.)

 

  • Confidence, not discouragement.

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Yes, I may be stymied by the circumstances facing me now. And who knows what will happen tomorrow? But you and I do know the One in charge!

He is:

Almighty (Revelation 11:17)

All-wise (Romans 11:33)

An immovable pillar of strength (Psalm 46:1-2)

Rich in love (Psalm 103:6)

Sovereign (Psalm 22:28)

Gracious (Exodus 34:6)

Trustworthy (2 Samuel 7:28)

Our Provider (Philippians 4:19)

Our Protector (Psalm 32:7)*

Our Guide (Psalm 48:14)

Perhaps our exercise of faith should begin with attribute stretches—stretching the mind and spirit with a character-review of the One in whom we trust, to build our muscles of confidence and strength.

_________________________

*Protection sometimes comes through trouble rather than from trouble. If God chooses to bring us through, he provides the wisdom and fortitude necessary.   Either way, the outcome is always for his glory.

 

Notes:

  1. Grace for the Moment, p70.
  2. Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, p93
  3. Same as above, p. 130
  4. Every Day Light , p. 253.
  5. Grace Notes, p233.

 

What evidence of faith have you witnessed in others or recognized in yourself? Please share in the Comments section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.etsy.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.allpoetry.com; http://www.turnbacktogod.com; http://www.godinterest.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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