Choose Hope

In today’s world there doesn’t seem to be much hope. If we listen to the evening news, most of the stories are depressing, full of violence, and it seems the world is bent on destroying itself. Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Matthew 12:21, “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.” Our hope is found in Jesus Christ!

There are times in our lives when just like the evening news, there seems to be no hope. But God’s Word says that our hope is in Jesus. We can go to Him when life seems to fall apart all around us. Amid trials, Jesus is our hope. When life is going great, it is easy to hope. We are in a good place, circumstances and events are going our way. But in the times of distress, when we can not find any hope in what is going on around us, God has everything in His control, and we do not have to be discouraged.

I’ve mentioned before in other posts that the darkest time in my life was when my first husband had his first stroke. The doctors told me the brain bleed was very serious and if he didn’t get to surgery right away, he would die. At that time, there was no neurosurgeon in our area, so my husband had to be life-flighted to a hospital in another state. I was completely devastated, I could barely think, much less find hope in the situation. At that time, my hope was that he would live, and not die. I prayed so hard for God to save him. The surgery took so long, I was a complete basket case, and on top of that, my family were in other states, so I didn’t have my family with me. Praise God I have a church family who stood by me through the whole process. They held me up when I could barely function. Waiting to find out if my husband would be ok was excruciating. All I could do was hope that God would spare him. God worked a miracle through the doctors, and my husband survived, and this began a long seven-year trial of caring for my husband before God finally took him Home.

We can find our hope in God through faith in Jesus Christ. This is not just a, “I hope so” kind of faith, it is a rock-solid reliance on God for every day of our lives. The enemy of our souls wants us defeated, he wants us to lose our hope, to lose our joy, to lose our grounding in Jesus. He throws road blocks in our way to steer us off the pathway we are to walk. He distracts us, deceives us, and brings discord into situations where we should have our minds focused on God, and listening to the truth of God’s Word, and find peace.

So, in those circumstances we must choose hope. Our first instinct should be to turn to God, our Hope. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” (NASB) We have this assurance found in Psalm 38:15, “For I hope in You, O Lord; You will answer, O Lord my God.” (NASB) We have the promise that not only will He answer our prayers, He will help us in times of need.

But we also have a hope spiritually. Jesus Christ is our hope of eternal life. His sacrificial death on the cross gives us something to look forward to, a life with Him in Heaven. When we accept Jesus into our hearts and lives, He takes us into His family and offers us a life full of joy, peace, and the hope of His return for us, and eternal life with Him! Romans 8:24 says, “In hope we have been saved…” (NASB) We cling to that hope daily. Are you going through a difficult period in your life? Choose hope! Don’t allow Satan to blind-side you and discourage you. Hope in Christ!

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Receiving God’s Love

 

This is the last post this month on the love of God. Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Ephesians 3:19, “and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”(CSB) The New King James Version says, “to know the love of Christ which passes all knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

To know the love of God we must experience His love toward us. We need to receive the love He offers to us, and not just receive it, but desire to experience the height, depth, and vastness of His love toward us. In order to do that requires a relationship. If I didn’t get to know my husband, his idiosyncrasies, his likes, his dislikes, the very heart of who he is, I would never experience the love he has for me, there would be no relationship. I would know about him, but not know him. The same is true about our relationship with Jesus.

Many people know about Him, but they don’t know Him. So, how do we go about knowing Jesus? The first step is to accept Him as our Lord and Savior, to allow Him complete control over our lives, and be the Master of our lives. We must confess our sins, ask for His forgiveness, and determine in our hearts to live for Him, living in a manner pleasing to Him. Then we must get to know who He is. This comes about by studying His Word, the Bible. The Bible is His love letter to us, it tells us of His love for us, it gives us instruction on how to live, and encouragement for walking by faith. He tells us Who He is and tells us of His love for us. His personality shows forth in His Word, it tells us of His attributes, it tells us how important we are to Him.

As mere human beings we can not begin to understand the vastness of His love for us. In Ephesians 3:18, the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesians, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saint what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.” (CSB) God loves us so much that Jesus willingly gave up His life on the cross for our sins. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus calls us friends and brothers, we are His own, and He loves us to death! His death! We must receive His sacrificial death on the cross and accept His love for us to begin to experience a relationship with Him.

I for one, cannot even imagine having that kind of love, to lay down my life for another! It is beyond comprehension. But the more I dig into His Word and learn more about His love for me, the stronger my relationship with Him becomes. The more I learn, the more my heart is overwhelmed with how much He loves me, and I want to receive more of His love daily! His desire for me is to take the love He gives me and share it with others. We are to show the same attributes of love to a lost and dying world. It is the love we have for others that draws them to the foot of the cross.

I hope that you experience the love of God to the fullest. You will find that when you think He couldn’t love you any more, His love surpasses how much you know He loves you!

Guard Your Mind

I’m going to break off today from the Journaling on love for this month. Sunday, our pastor gave a message called, “Guard Your Mind.” This is an area where, I think, most of us, Believer and non-believer alike, are having problems. Satan’s sole purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) and he will use any means he can find to accomplish his purpose. We are looking at II Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (KJV)

Satan knows one fact; the battlefield is our minds! He wants to take control of our minds, what we think on and how we look at the world. As Believers, we have an advantage, God has given us the ability and power to control our minds. We can decide whether we will dwell on negative thoughts or positive thoughts or on sinful thoughts or holy thoughts. Satan’s desire is to corrupt our thought life. He plants temptation through our minds, and it is up to us whether we will dwell on those thoughts, leading us to temptation and sin. We can rationalize and say, “Well, no one else knows what I’m thinking, how bad can this be?” However, we forget there is One who knows our thoughts, God! He knows exactly what we are thinking. He calls us to think pure, honorable, right, and lovely thoughts. (Philippians 4:8)

Satan has a strategy to draw us away from those good and lovely thoughts. The Bible says he is a deceiver. (Revelation 12:9) One of his tactics is to bring doubt into our minds. We see this in the Garden of Eden. The serpent (Satan) deceived Eve by causing her to doubt what God had said about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He said they were not to eat from it, and Satan asks Eve, “…hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” When Eve tells him what God said about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that if they ate from it they would die, Satan tells her, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day that ye eat thereof; then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 KJV) He put doubt into her mind, causing her to think that God was withholding something good from her. When she and Adam ate from the tree, death did come, not physical, but spiritual. Satan had won that bout, he caused her to fall.

Another strategy Satan uses is perversion. In today’s world, it’s hard not to see some pretty awful things. It seems that everywhere we turn we are faced with things that are unholy, whether it’s TV programs or song lyrics. We live in a depraved world and it is hard for a Christian to maintain pure thoughts when we are constantly bombarded from every side. II Corinthians 4:4 tells us that he blinds the minds of unbelievers. Because they have no advocate to help them, they end up succumbing to the temptations of their minds. He also tries to blind us, but we have God to help us. Whether it’s sexually explicit material or other things, Satan plants those thoughts into our minds, and it is up to us fight against it. Matthew 16:19 says that we can bind Satan and loose the power of God.

The door Satan uses is our unconfessed or hidden sin. When we don’t deal with our sin, it gives him an opportunity to enter and plant his deception. But we can defeat the enemy by doing three things, repent of sin, resist him, and renew our minds. Repentance closes the door on Satan, resisting his attempts is our action of fighting against him, and renewing our minds is done through getting into God’s Word, committing every day to God, and praying for God’s help. The battlefield is definitely in our minds. We must be diligent in keeping our thought life pure. Applying Philippians 4:8 daily by thinking on “these things” …what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, anything of virtue, anything of praise. When we do this, we can then guard our minds, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5)

His Love For Us

As we continue to look at God’s love for us, we are focusing on Romans 5:8, “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” This is something I think a lot of us have a hard time understanding or comprehending. We know how much we love our family or friends, but God’s love isn’t like human love; it goes far beyond anything we can even imagine.

I know for some, the thought that God would love us when we were mired down in sin, undesirable, and self-centered is hard to grasp. We were a mess before Jesus got hold of us, and yet He willingly gave up His life for us because of His great love! I don’t know too many people that would naturally say, “Yes, I’ll die for them.” We tend to gravitate toward people that are loving, those who may look like or act like us, those who have attributes that we find attractive and lovely. If we are honest with ourselves, we usually don’t befriend someone who may be from “the wrong side of the track”, or people who are struggling with issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or who are tattooed and pierced over 95% of their body…they don’t appeal to us. But God looks past all of that! He looks directly at the heart.

I know a gentleman, that if you looked at him at first glance, you’d think he was part of a biker gang like “Hell’s Angels”. He’s a rough lookin’ dude! But he is the sweetest guy you’d ever want to meet. He came to our church for a while, and I know it took a little bit before some people in the congregation warmed up to him and really got to know him. He’d come to church on his big, old, Harley Hog, dressed in leathers, tattooed, and a long pony tail. He is a great big teddy bear of a guy! The teenagers loved him, and he was so sweet to everyone. He loves Jesus with all his heart and is part of the Christian Motorcyclist Association (CMA). He has since moved from the area and so I’ve not seen him in a long time. By first impression, most people would steer clear of him. But God saw something in him, and loved him unconditionally, and my friend accepted Jesus as his Savior, and he spread the news about Jesus to everyone he met.

God calls us to love like He does. We are to love those who we may deem unacceptable. Jesus reaches out to them with open arms, and we should also. His love for each of us is more than we can fathom. We don’t have to make ourselves acceptable in His sight, He loves us unconditionally. My friend didn’t have to get himself all cleaned up to come to Jesus. Jesus took him just as he was, loved him and saved him, and gave him to those in his circle of influence to reach for God. My friend would reach people I would never meet. He was put in a position to identify with a certain type of people and be an influence for God. Who knows how many people he’s led to the Lord!

So, as we think about God’s love for us, how deep and wide, how vast…remember that we are to love like He loves. Reach out to the unlovable, the unreachable, the outcast, and the downtrodden. Show God’s love to them, and thereby win them to Jesus.

You are Loved

 

Today is Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! As much as I love my husband, God loves me more! In fact, our Bible verse today is taken from Hosea 2:19, “I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.” (CSB) To give a little background on this verse, God has asked Hosea to take a harlot for a wife. This marriage was to be a representation of Israel’s relationship with God. He loved Israel, but they were unfaithful to Him in many ways, just as Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him. Hosea 1: 2 relates God’s instruction to Hosea, “When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, he said this to him, “Go and marry a woman of promiscuity, and have children of promiscuity, for the land is committing blatant acts of promiscuity by abandoning the Lord.” (CSB)

Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God still loved her, just as Hosea loved his wife, Gomer. No matter how many times she would run to other lovers, Hosea always took her back. Hosea is an example of how God loves us. The Bible says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8) and “We love, because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19) We were unfaithful to Him, and yet He loved us, He loved us first!

God’s love for us is an example of what married love should be like. We are to give each other totally to the other. Their needs come first before our own. God uses the example of marriage to explain our relationship with Jesus. He is the Bridegroom and we, as Believers, are His Bride. We are to be spotless and pure. His love for us is an example of how we are to love each other. Marriage is a covenant between God, the Bride, and Groom. It isn’t just a piece of paper that says we are married, it is a contract, a covenant, promising to love, honor, respect, obey, and be totally devoted to each other and to God. Marriage consists of three people, God as the Head of the family, the husband is to be the head of the wife, loving her and being submissive, obedient, and under the leadership of God; and the wife is to honor, respect, obey, and be submissive to not only her husband, but also to God.

My husband is such an awesome man. He loves God with all his heart and carries that love for God to me. He realizes that my first love MUST be God and he comes second, just as I recognize that his first love MUST be God and I come second. As we love each other, we in turn love God, and together, we serve Him. When we faulter in our walk with the Lord, God loves us still, and draws us back to Himself, just as Hosea pleaded for Gomer to return to him. No matter how many times we turn our back on God or choose to be rebellious, God still yearns for us to come back to Him and love Him just as He loves us.

God is the total embodiment of love, the Bible says, “God is love” (I John 4:8). Love describes God, it is His total essence. The description of love is God! He is the ultimate example of pure love. He is our example! We are to pattern ourselves after Him.

God’s love to us is Agape love, that unconditional, selfless, sacrificial kind of love that Jesus showed as He hung on the cross for our sins. That is the kind of love we are to have for each other – selfless, unconditional, sacrificial, giving ourselves for the other.

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day with our spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, remember to love as God loves us.

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!

He Carries Us


One of the ways God shows His love toward us is found in Deuteronomy 1:31, “And in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.” God shows His love toward us in that He carries us.

To give a little background on this verse, the children of Israel had arrived at the Promised Land. God, through Moses, tells them to go in and possess the land. Ten scouts were sent in to spy out the land and they came back with a report. All but two of them allowed their fear and rebellion against the Lord to influence them, and they told the people that it was too hard, the people were giants, the cities were fortified with tall walls…on and on, giving excuses as to why they couldn’t go in and take the land. Only two came back with a good report, telling the people it wasn’t something they couldn’t do, but encouraging the people to go in and take the land as God had said. Moses reminded the people that God was with them, He had been with them the entire journey from Egypt, and He wasn’t about to abandon them now. Moses tells the people that “The Lord your God carried you” all through the wilderness. But the people let their rebellion win out and refused to go in. They spent the next 40 years wandering in the wilderness until that rebellious generation had all died off. God lovingly carried them through all of that despite their rebellion.

Have you ever watched a father carry his child? That child is precious to him, and lovingly holds that child so that it is safe. I remember as a little girl, my Dad carrying me on his shoulders, he made sure he had a tight grip on me so that I wouldn’t fall off. God holds us like that, with a firm hold on us so that we are safe. It makes no difference what it is we are experiencing in life; His love carries us through every situation. When we are going through mountain top experiences, He is there holding us, when we are in the valley, He is there carrying us when we feel like we can’t take another step. His love for us keeps Him right by our side.

God promises that He will hold us in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you, Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (NASB) Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” (ESV) His love for us causes Him to protect us, guide us, and carry us through life.

I find that reassuring. God knows my every step because He is right beside me, and when I stumble, He holds me so that I won’t fall. He walks this pathway of life with us and we have no need to fear or wonder where He is. He has a tight grip on us, and He keeps us safe from the attacks of the enemy, from the things that life throws at us, and even sometimes from ourselves. Like the children of Israel, we can be our own worst enemy. But He loves us even when we are rebellious, and He keeps His Hand on us. So, remember today, God’s love for you is carrying you. Be encouraged.