My Hope is in God

Today I’m working on two passages as we continue our look at choosing hope. The first Scripture comes from II Corinthians 1:10, “Who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.” (NASB) The second verse is from Psalm 146: 5, “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (NASB) As I was thinking about these verses, the song, “The Solid Rock” came to mind. This is an old hymn that I’ve sung since I was a little girl.

The first stanza of the song says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” The chorus continues in a declaration, “On Christ, the solid rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.” Jesus not only is a rock for us to stand upon, but He is also our hope! Psalm 146 echoes this…our hope is in God! It is He in whom we can depend, it is from Him that all good things come, it is Jesus who delivers us, it is His great love that holds us together.

When I think of hope in God, it brings to me feelings of peace, a quiet confidence in knowing that there is nothing I can’t bring to Him, there is nothing that can happen to me of which He is unaware. He holds me in the palm of His hand, and I am engraved into His hand. (Isaiah 49:16)

The second stanza of the song says, “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In ev’ry high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.” He is our rock, our anchor. He is our shelter in the midst of storms. That is also part of our hope…knowing that He will keep us sheltered through the greatest difficulties of our lives. Psalm 146 tells us that God is our help. He brings us salvation, encouragement, strength, peace, and life everlasting.

Stanza three says, “His oath, His covenant, His blood, Support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.” He keeps His oath and covenant to us through the blood He shed on the cross, and He supports us and is our hope!

The last stanza of the song says, “When he shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found; Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.” This to me, is the greatest hope we have in Jesus. We who have asked Jesus to save us from our sins, live in our hearts and are endeavoring to live for Him, have a future! We have the hope of seeing Him one day. We have the hope of being called to meet Him in the air in one great rapture of the church. We have the hope of eternal life with Him, and to reign with Him during the Millennial Reign. We have a bright future with Jesus!

Psalm 146:5 says that we are blessed. “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (NASB) Blessing follows those who hope in Christ. Where is your hope placed? Is it in the things of this world, the “sinking sand” if you will, or is your hope placed in God, who is your rock, your firm foundation, and your anchor?

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His Love Leads Us

 

As we continue to look at aspects of God’s love, today’s verse tells us that His love leads us. Exodus 15:13 says, “In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; In Your strength You have guided them in Your holy habitation.” (NASB) I love the idea that God leads us through each mountain and valley of our lives.

As I was thinking about this verse, I began to think back at my own life. I can see God’s hand guiding me and I see where He led me even though I had no clue which way to go. I became a Christian at the age of 11 in a Youth Group meeting on a Sunday night. I had been having disturbing dreams for a few weeks, dreams of not being a Christian and finding myself in Hell. I know God was talking to me through my dreams, trying to draw me to Himself. I don’t know why I didn’t accept Jesus after having those dreams, but I didn’t. One Sunday night, a guest came to our Youth Group and asked this question, “Why are you a Christian?” She asked it to the whole Youth Group. Each person gave their reason for why they asked Jesus to be their Savior. When it came my turn, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I couldn’t give her an answer because I wasn’t a Born-Again Believer, and I admitted it. It was then that my pastor asked me if I would like to ask Jesus into my heart, and I said yes. God just wouldn’t let me get out from under His loving invitation.

He guided my life in a miraculous way, at least I think so. When I was in my mid 20’s I wasn’t in the habit of listening to the Christian radio station in our city, but one day I was having a really bad day and decided to tune in. It was then that I heard a promo for their singing group, asking those who wanted to join to come to an audition. I decided I didn’t have anything going on, and it might be nice to be part of the group. I went to auditions and was accepted and it was there I met my first husband. God led me to decide to listen to that station at that particular time, and it changed my life! It began almost 40 years of ministry in broadcasting as my husband and I served Christian radio and television stations for the majority of our lives. I’ve often said God has taken me on an adventure. I had no inkling that broadcasting would be in my life. In high school that was the farthest thing from my mind.

The hardest day of my life was when my husband died. God led me through that dark valley for six years. Being a widow was very hard for me, but God was right there carrying me through that dark time. In the midst of that valley a guest speaker came to our church and he spoke a prophetic word over me, telling me that I would minister to people all over the world using journaling. That troubled me, because I wasn’t a good journaler…very sporadic. But his words haunted me, and about 2½ years ago I found Bible Journaling. Another one of the ways God has led me.

He also led me to get on the Internet and do some online dating and at the end of that six years, I met an incredible man on a Christian dating site, and six months later we were married. God led me to him and birthed a new ministry for me. My new husband has a ministry online and I have a blog into which I incorporate my Bible Journaling.

As I look back, I see God’s Hand so plainly in my life. He has led me every step of the way. It’s good to look back and see from where God has led us. His love is so incredible!
It is because of His love for us that He leads us along the pathway He has chosen for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) He guides us in His strength Exodus 15: 13 tells us. He leads us right to the gates of Heaven, His holy habitation. Oh, how I praise Him for His guidance!

God Sees

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) I decided to read the entire chapter to get a background of this verse. God is giving Isaiah a message to deliver to the Israelites. They observe the fasts as God required, however; they were doing so with wrong attitudes, wrong motivation, and a wrong commitment. They were fasting and observing holy days with an attitude that was not one of complete dedication to God. They would appear to be holy, yet mistreat their fellow Israelite, not feeding the hungry, having an attitude of, “It really doesn’t really matter if I’m totally committed to this, I’m going to do it my way.”

I decided to look up the definitions of attitude, motive, and commitment to be sure I was applying the correct words to the thoughts I’m trying to convey. Motive is defined as, “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking about someone or something…” Commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” In my mind, all of these can be combined in our justification for doing something.

Scripture tells us that God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7) when others see the outside. We can appear to be so holy and yet have motivations and attitudes that are totally opposite from our actions. God was pointing out that they were not totally sincere in fasting and carrying out the observances He required, and therefore, He didn’t recognize their efforts. But if they would change their motivation, their attitude, and their commitment to Him, then He would bless them, He would guide them.

My mind goes to being on the Worship Team. I love being on the Worship Team! God has called me to use my musical abilities for Him, and it’s my outlet to show God how much I love Him! It gives me an opportunity to lift my voice and my instrument in praise to Him for everything He has done for me. But I also have to be very careful, because I can play and sing with wrong motivations and attitudes. Am I doing this for my own self-gratification and to get the accolades of those in the congregation, or am I singing and playing to give honor, praise, and glory to God? Does what I do point others to Jesus or to myself? Every time I get ready to step onto the platform at my church I pray and ask God to check my attitude. Is it proper, does it reflect Him and not myself? I’m committed to playing and singing, but why? That’s where I must look at myself and check that I’m doing this for Him and not me. I must remember it’s all about Him and not about me.

When I am obedient to what He wants me to do, then He blesses my efforts, He blesses my life, and He fills me with joy at having the opportunity to minister to others. He makes my soul satisfied, and I am like a well-watered garden, growing and full of Spiritual fruit. The more I am obedient to what He asks me to do, the more He blesses me and gives me peace and satisfaction. When I have the proper attitude and motivation, He is pleased with me, and my commitment to Him is even greater, and it is a joy to serve Him in everything I do. Doing an attitude/motivation check is a good way to be certain we are in line with God’s will and plan for our lives.

God – Fully Human

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Hebrews 2:17, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God.  Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.”  Jesus was fully God and fully human!  That’s something that our finite minds just can’t fathom.  It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around that.  But God required a spotless, pure, blameless sacrifice for our sins.

In the Old Testament, God required an appropriate sacrifice for the sins of Adam and Eve, a spotless lamb, perfect in every way. (Genesis 3:21, 4:4) Although Scripture doesn’t explicitly say God sacrificed a lamb, it does say that an animal was killed in order to provide animal skins to clothe Adam and Eve.  One commentary (from Abide in Christ Ministries) said that garments were symbols for righteousness.  The fig leaves that Adam and Eve made for themselves is a representation of man’s attempts at righteousness through good works and religious ritual.  Man-made attempts at righteousness are poor substitutes for the proper sacrifice required by God.  Only the blood of a spotless lamb could cover sin.

Jesus is called “The Lamb of God” (John 1:29) and He is our sacrifice for our sins.  He had to be fully God to fulfill the requirements for a perfect sacrifice.  But He also had to be fully human in order to identify with our life here on earth.  He went through all the temptations, trials, joys, sorrows, everything we experience, He experienced.  How else could He understand our predicament?  One thing is different, however; He went through everything we do, but did not sin!   Jesus was tempted by Satan, just as we are, and He came through the temptation victoriously.  There is no way we could ever be that spotless, perfect sacrifice, nor can we ever pay for our sins.  We can’t buy our way, we can’t work our way, nor can we ever be perfect enough to provide the proper sacrifice for our sins.  The work Jesus did on the Cross was the full requirement of payment for our sins.  All we are required to do is decide whether we will accept His free gift of salvation, as punishment for our sins.  God’s plan provided a way of escape for us.  He sent Jesus in the form of a tiny helpless baby.

This past Sunday our church had their Christmas program, and a song was sung that pretty much sums up the feeling of most people who don’t understand what God was doing.  The song is called, “What a Strange Way to Save the World”.  The song is sung about Joseph as he is trying to understand why God would choose to provide salvation for the world by choosing to send Jesus as a baby, by choosing Mary to be His mother, by choosing Joseph to be His Step-father.

The Bible says that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), His ways are higher than ours.  He sees the grand scheme of the plan, and we see only a small portion of His plan for us.  We can’t see how things are being set out, nor can we see the final outcome for our lives.  God’s plan is perfect, and He has the best in mind for us.  His plan of salvation is the best plan, and He put it into motion because of His love for us.  He wants a relationship with us.  Our sin breaks that relationship.  He made a way for us.

The girls in our Youth group did a painting as part of the Christmas program….as far as I’m concerned, it was true Bible Journaling without painting on a Bible page!  As they painted, our worship team sang the song, “He Made a Way in a Manger”.   It was so powerful!  The picture covers Jesus birth, His ministry, His death, His resurrection, and shows His great love for us!  Our girls did such an amazing job on this!  Everyone was just spell-bound!  That’s the Gospel from beginning to end.

Thanksgiving Reflections

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and this year I am so grateful to God for so many things, not the least is His protection. Our family is currently going through a trial, and I am so grateful for His protection over my nephew. Because of some poor choices, my nephew almost lost his life right before Thanksgiving. God graciously spared his life, giving him a second chance to make things right with the Lord.

In thinking about that I began looking for “Thanksgiving” verses and found Psalm 100. The whole chapter is a praise to God. Because there are five verses and it would take up quite a bit of space, I won’t write them out here, but I encourage you to read the entire chapter. David is encouraging us to “shout joyfully to the Lord” and “serve the Lord with gladness.” (Psalm 100:1 NASB)

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, to look back over our lives and remember the things God has blessed us with. For me, I am grateful that I was raised in a home with Christian parents. They taught us kids about God and His love for us. When I was two years old, I got to see the difference Christ can make in a person’s life, first hand. My Dad came to know Jesus through the ministry of our next-door neighbor, who happened to be the pastor of the church a couple of blocks away from our house. That was a night I will never forget! Daddy had been gone for quite a while. When he came home the first thing he did was walk to the kitchen and took a full, never opened, bottle of wine and poured the whole thing down the sink! From that moment on things were different. We started going to church from that time on. We were in church every time the doors were opened. Through the ministry of that same pastor, I was saved at the age of 11 in youth group on a Sunday night. I never had to experience some of the things that some kids did because of the grounding I had from my parents in the Word and through church. I am so grateful for the salvation that Jesus offered to me. He has walked with me through joy and sorrow, through good times and bad, through sunny days and days of hard trial, and He has been Faithful!

I am thankful that God has directed my life since that time. He directed me in my schooling, where I began nurses training. However, I didn’t have good enough grades to pass the courses. But I learned the skills that would become invaluable to me later in my life in caring for my first husband. At the time, I was so disappointed and felt like a failure, and didn’t understand why He would allow me to go through that training only to fail. It was only when my husband had a stroke and required nursing care that I understood why He allowed me to go through training. I am also grateful that He took care of me while I was a widow and led me to my current husband.

God also has directed me in ministry. My first husband was the chief engineer of radio and television stations. We spent most of our married lives in ministry at Christian stations. He also put us together in music ministry. When I was in high school, if someone would have told me that I would have been on radio and television, I would have told them they were crazy. That was the farthest thing from my mind. But God orchestrated things so that I had an almost 40-year ministry with my husband, and then as a widow.

There are so many more things that I can praise the Lord over. As I have been writing this, Chris Tomlin’s song, “Good, Good Father” came to mind. God is most definitely a Good Father! He loves me more than anyone else could! Take time today and reflect on who God is and how He has watched over your life. As you raise your voice in praise to God, listen to Chris’s song, and rejoice!

Remain in My Joy

Today’s Bible Journaling is from John 15:11, “I have spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you and that your joy may be made full.” (NLT) As I concluded this series on joy, the thought that struck me was, the secret to having joy is to remain in God’s joy and be obedient. How are we to do that? If we read the entire 15th chapter, Jesus starts by talking about remaining in the vine. He is the vine, we are the branches. (John 15:5) We are to get our nourishment from Him, and as we grow in Him, by following His commands, He in turn fill us with joy. We are to remain in His joy, and as we do that, we are full of His joy.

That joy comes by developing a close relationship with Jesus, reading His Word, and being obedient to His commands. As we grow in Him, we produce fruit (Galatians 5:22), the more Spiritual fruit we produce, the more joy. Contentment comes, peace reigns in our hearts and lives, and our outlook on life is one of deep, abiding joy. Jesus promises that if we remain in Him that His joy will overflow in our lives.

Growth comes not only from obedience and a close relationship with God, but also through difficult times that could be characterized as a pruning process. In order for plants and trees to grow properly, they need to go through a pruning so that old, dead parts of the plant are cut away to allow for new growth to come. The same is with our lives as Christians, those who are Christ-followers. Those difficult times we experience are times when the Father cuts away those things in our lives that are hindering our growth process. As much as we don’t want to go through the pruning process, it is a necessary part of growth in a Believer’s life. It is during those times that we find it difficult to exhibit much joy. Pruning is hard, but so necessary!

I can look back on my life and see times when God has done some extensive pruning, and it was not a pleasant experience. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I learned so much, and I grew the most during those times. Sometimes those times are preparation time for what is to come next. We need to be strong for the next level. Pruning also helps make us strong to encounter whatever the next level has to throw at us. We also can take the things we learn from those growth spurts and use them to help someone else who is going through the same thing we did, and thereby we become instruments that God can use to help someone else to grow. There is no greater joy for me than to be used by God in that manner. It makes my heart happy when I see that someone has gained strength through something I shared, and that God has brought them so far, and they grow more in Christ!

This is one area in our lives that we can become intentional in pursuing joy in our lives. There are many ways to be filled with God’s joy. I’ve already mentioned studying His Word and being obedient to His commands. Other ways are singing or playing music as a means to worship and praise Him. For me, this is a really big thing. Music is such an important part of my life. I love nothing more than singing, playing my flute, and playing Christian music on my laptop or radio. Participating in the worship team at my church is where I find myself in a state of peace and contentment, and joy. Also, just being part of my church brings me joy. Being in the company of my fellow Believers in unity is the most awesome experience ever! I’m sure there are many more things that could be included, and I encourage my readers to seek out ways to be filled in God’s joy. You may just find that you are filled with a joy that you have never experienced before in your life.

Don’t Worry Be Happy!

Ok, this is confession time…when it comes to being content, I am a long ways from getting to that point. The Bible says that we are to be content in all circumstances…well, sorry to say, I’m not there yet. Today’s Bible Journaling is from Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” (NLT) I must admit, I tend to do the worrying part more than the praying part. I also do quite a bit of complaining. So, this verse is talking to me a lot!

The Apostle Paul was encouraging the Philippians to do the same thing…pray, don’t worry, thank God, BE HAPPY! Remember the popular song a few years ago, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? It’s a catchy little tune, and when things are going well, it’s easy to sing it. But when things are not going well, then it’s not so easy. When we were kids our parents used to tell us not to complain because there was always someone who was worse off then we were. For me, that didn’t help me in my situation. I couldn’t do anything about that person who was worse off than me, and I sure wasn’t happy about where I was…so what was the point of that little lesson? It has taken me a very long time to figure that one out. God has blessed me so much! I have no right to complain. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and a wonderful husband to share my life with. Maybe I don’t have everything I want, but God never promised to meet all my WANTS, He promised to supply all my NEEDS according to His riches in glory! (Philippians 4:19)

This is where contentment comes in. Once we figure out that what we have is what we need, then we can be content in knowing God is watching over us and supplying everything we need, and the wants will come if it’s for our good. This is can be a hard lesson to learn, and for me, it’s a life-long learning experience. I wish I could say I am there, but I can’t. God and I have a lot of work to do for me to get to that point.

Paul said that he had learned to be content no matter what circumstance he was in. For me, that’s hard to understand. I mean, he was imprisoned, ship-wrecked, beaten, left for dead, persecuted…you name it, he was abused in so many ways. Yet, he could say that he was content. So, from where does this contentment come? From Jesus Christ. He is the One who gives us contentment. He is the One who knows and understands all the things we encounter in our lives. He has taught us by His life how to be content. The Bible says that Jesus didn’t even have a place to lay His head! So, He understands being homeless! He was betrayed, He understands when we are betrayed by those we had trusted. He endured so much persecution, even to the point of death, He understands when we are persecuted for our faith. Everything we go through in life, He also had to endure. His life, and how He reacted to each situation, is an example for us. We are to be imitators of Jesus.

Will we do it perfectly? No, but then we aren’t perfect creatures. Only Jesus was perfect, and He was able to be the perfect example for us. We are, to the best of our ability, to imitate Him, learn to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves. With that contentment comes joy. Philippians 4:4 says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (NLT) Contentment and joy are attitudes that we are to incorporate into the very fabric of our being. So, I hope this encourages you. For me, it’s a good kick in the seat to get me to that point of being content in every situation.