Friday, April 14, 2017

When I Need a Resurrection Hope - Devotional - April 14, 2017


This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. - Hebrews 6;19

“I hope so….” 

I say the words, but they feel lifeless.  I close my eyes and reach deep inside to find her – hope – but she’s nowhere to be found. 

How did I let her slip away?

That’s when the tears begin to fall.   As I stand at the edge of Easter, looking at the challenges surrounding me, I feel anything but celebratory.  Instead I feel…

Weak.
Vulnerable.
Broken.
….Hopeless. 

Desperately, I start to scroll through my phone.  Maybe I can borrow someone else’s hope for tonight.   My fingers stop as I hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “you’re not going to find hope there.”  I look past my phone to an object that has fallen off my nightstand.  I clear away my tears to see it clearly – a small cross.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 1;3

The word hope has become very watered down in our culture.  A person playing the lottery “hopes” to win.  A student crams the night before an exam and “hopes” to get a passing grade.  From a worldly perspective, hope is nothing more than the desire for a favorable outcome – a watered down optimism.  The problem with this hope, is that when everything around you speaks to the contrary, this hope dies.

But, as children of God, our hope is not based on our circumstances or our own abilities.  In the midst of our struggles there is a tangible hope we can grasp on to.

Hope in Christ’s sacrifice
There’s a beautiful verse in the song Jesus Paid it All that says, “praise the One who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead.”  Every burden that we could possibly bear in life was already bore by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  So when we begin to feel the burdens of life weighing us down, we need only nail them back on the cross where it belongs.

Hope in Christ’s resurrection
His resurrection means we have a LIVING hope.  It is a hope that was torn to shreds, beaten, and afflicted to the point of death – yet lives!  It is a hope that refused to remain dead.

This is the hope we cling to.

When we are in the middle of spiritual warfare; when we feel unloved, abandoned, rejected, weak, or afraid, our hope is no ordinary hope – it is a resurrection hope.

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. - Hebrews 6;19

I pick the cross up off my floor and hold it.

I stare at it and am reminded – God is not finished.

God will bring dead things to life.

I hold it to my chest and lay down to rest.  Hope is not lost. It is always within my reach.  I just need to keep holding on.


Hi, Friend.  Have you ever felt hopeless?  Mind if we pray together?

Dear Lord, Thank you that You make all things new.  Through your death, burial, and resurrection we have a hope that is not based on worldly things.  Your love and power pave the way for new life with you.  I confess my need for you.  I’ve been trying to lean on my own power and strength for too long. Renew my heart and mind, and prepare me for the path you have before me. Keep your words of truth planted in me so that I can experience your full freedom in my life today and always.  Death could not hold you down, and neither will the challenges that I face keep me from experiencing the victory that I have in you. I grab a hold of your resurrection power today. In Jesus name. Amen.
Happy Resurrection Day.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Known. Consecrated. Called. - Devotional - January 17, 2016


"I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations."  - Jeremiah 1:5

I sat on the floor smiling as I looked around the soon-to-be nursery. The books waiting to be read. The clothes waiting to be worn. The crib waiting to be slept in.  The toys waiting to be played with.

What will Isaac's laugh sound like?

I close my eyes and let my fingers trace the carpet.  The same carpet that will cushion Isaac’s little hands and knees as he crawls to and fro in exploration.

Will he have my insatiable sense of curiosity? Or his daddy’s adorable sense of wonder and awe at new things?


A gentle roll from within pulls me back from my visions and wonderings.  I rub my belly and reflect back on the scripture I read earlier in the morning. 

"I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations."  - Jeremiah 1:5

I lean over slightly and whisper gently to the little life growing within me….

“Isaac, you are known. You are consecrated.  You are called.”

Before I realize it, I’m repeating the words over and over, as if each declaration sinks that truth a little deeper into his forming ears drums.  

I may have dreams and visions for my son, but the reality is I’m not starting from scratch. God has already uniquely designed Isaac. 

But here’s the amazing part – that truth applies to all of us.  We are known, consecrated, and called.

You are KNOWN by God
God knows YOU.  Not just in the global sense of knowing all mankind.  We’re talking about an intimate knowledge of who you are specifically.  A knowledge that assures us, “I know you by name” (Exodus 33:12). How? Because you are His design.  It is a knowledge that can only be possessed by the Creator himself.  And since He created you, you are no surprise to God.  He knows your temperament. Your physical abilities. Your strengths. Your weaknesses.  And not only are you not a surprise, you are not a mistake.  The things you see within you as flaws, He carefully crafted into who you are for a reason.  And if God approved your design, who are you to question it?

You are CONSECRATED by God.
Consecrated can be a big and intimidating word.  But all it means is that you were set apart for something special  - separated.  When you are set apart, you are not common, you are a “vessel for honorable use” (Romans 9:21).  So, you cannot behave, react, speak, or live like everyone else – you are not designed to.  What is your design?  You were hardwired to be “ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  And nobody can override that design, but you.

You are CALLED  by God.
You are truly a piece of work!  That’s not an insult, by the way – it’s a promise. 

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.” – Ephesians 2:10

Other translations call you a masterpiece, or His handiwork.  But what is implied in all those descriptions is a purposed creation – an intentionally crafted work for a unique purpose.  There’s nothing mysterious about your “calling”  -- it’s what you were designed to do.  You are HERE for a reason.  God stood back from all His work and decided the world needed your contribution.  That’s either exciting or terrifying for you – fears and insecurities can call us to shrink back from this truth. But the truth remains, you were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
So our job in life is not to manufacture our importance.  Your job is to live according to your design.  Not according to what family you grew up in. Not according to your past. Not according to your present.  Walk in your truth and let God’s marvelous work shine

And, I hope this reminder stirs something in you today, as strongly as my son stirring within me as I close….

You are KNOWN. You are CONSECRATED.  You are CALLED.


Amen.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Promise is On Its Way - Devotional - September 2, 2015




“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Habakkuk 2:3

Chinese Bamboo Trees.
You’ve probably never given these amazingly majestic trees a second thought, but I reflect on them often.  You see, Chinese bamboo trees don’t grow in the typical fashion that we see in nature – they are quite unique.  If you planted one of these trees in your backyard, like any good gardener you would water and fertilize the soil.  After a year of doing this, you know what you would see?  Nothing.  So, the next year you proceed to do the same thing – water and fertilize the soil – and you know what your reward would be? A patch of dirt, still showing no signs of life.  Year three? Same.  Year four? Ditto!

Now assuming you haven’t thrown in the towel and dropped a rose bush in its place, something fascinating would occur.  For four years, while you were looking at dirt, some amazing things were going on beneath the surface: roots were stretching out, the base was getting stronger.  And, in the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo tree would finally break ground.  Not only break ground, but in just over a month the beautiful tree would shoot up to a height of 90 feet!
I know what you’re thinking, “well, who has time for that?!”  And therein lays the challenge of our walk as believers.

One of the prerequisites to a fruitful life with Christ is FAITH. It is, after all, one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).   Yet, how many times does God give us a promise and we sit in the backseat with our arms crossed and whine “are we there yet?”  How often do we throw in the towel too early on the righteous walk and choose our own way?  “Well, who has time for that, God?” 

I want prosperity, NOW.

I want a relationship, NOW.

I want the “good life”, NOW.

Well, you can have “NOW”, and it may look really good, but “good” (or even great) will never come close to the extraordinary promise of God. So if you want “God”, it’s going to require three things: faith, patience, and persistence.
Faith.  Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”  This means that the word of truth that is planted in you needs the nourishment of a godly life.  It needs you to keep removing the weeds of doubt and sin. Even when you cannot see the “reward”, you must proceed with confidence knowing that what you hope for will spring forth in due time.

Patience.  I know…nobody likes this word.   But when Habakkuk flat out tells us that the vision “seems slow”, it almost guarantees that waiting is in the mix.  Honestly, this is not one of my strengths.  But, I have had some pretty significantwaits” in my life (more on those in another writing), and I can say that God’s way beats our way every single time.

Persistence.  This is where being stubborn is a good thing!  We have to be stubborn about following God’s lead.  Paul said, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:14).  The analogy of the race is a great one; because if there is ever a time when a person is laser focused it’s during a race.  No other task matters.  The runner’s path has already been laid out for him – from the starting block he is determined to finish strong.

How about you? Are you determined to finish strong or are you going to settle for a quick fix?

Yes, it’s going to take some faith.  No, you haven’t gotten there yet.  But, find a way to keep the vision before you and keep tilling the ground.
Yes, it’s going to take some patience.  Use this time to get your “house” in order.  Instead of distracting yourself, use the “wait” productively to prepare yourself so that you are ready when the promise does arrive.

Yes, it’s going to take persistence.  God is who he says He is.  We have to be convinced of this truth in order to receive the full benefit of His promise.
And when you start getting discouraged, think of the Chinese bamboo tree.  A miraculous promise awaits you on the other side.

 Let’s pray:
God, your promises are true.  We have seen this time and time again.  Help me live out the “mean time” in a way that prepares my heart and life for the promises You have before me.  I stand on faith knowing that what You said will come to fruition.  I live in patience.  I do not want to disrupt or cut off Your plans for my life.  Show me how to arrange my walk so that it is in step with Your path.  And when obstacles and discouragement comes, I will persistently cling to You word.  I will press toward the mark and I WILL receive my heavenly prize in Christ Jesus. Amen.