This is Day 11 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
“O Hope of Israel, Her Savior in time of distress and trouble, Why should You be like a sojourner (temporary resident) in the land Or like a traveler who turns aside and spreads his tent to linger [only] for a night? … Yet You, O Lord, are among us, And we are called by Your name; Do not leave us!”
-Jeremiah 14:8,9 (Amp)
When God feels like a stranger, remember that His name is Hope
Our hope verse today is authored by a prophet named Jeremiah, whom some have called “The Weeping Prophet” because his messages contain a lot of bad news and warnings of suffering and exile, and also because he wrote Lamentations, which is an entire book of lamenting. When Jeremiah writes a verse about hope it’s like a single smile in an ocean of tears.
As someone who writes historical fiction about the period before and during the Exile of Israel to Babylon, I must say that I don’t hear as many pastors or Bible teachers teach about it as I’d wish. So, in case you’ve never heard the set up for this period of Bible history, let me paint up some contextual canvass for you, based on WAY too much research that I do for writing my books.
For hundreds of years (since Moses, actually) God had been warning His kids against idol worship, and had repeatedly and specifically told them that if they didn’t knock it off, He’d send an army from the north to invade and carry them off in chains to slavery. And you’d think that would be enough of a deterrent, but actually, no—idolatry was the besetting sin so tempting that they repeated it, generation after generation, from peasants to kings. One particular king named Manasseh was especially egregious in his practice of false religion, and God said, “That’s it, you’ve had enough chances. Bring on the invaders.”
His grandson, Josiah was the last good king Judah had, and he desperately clung to hope and enforced reforms, removing all of the idols in the nation and burning them to a crisp. (You can read his story in my first novel, Consuming Fire.) But even that wasn’t enough. The people were too far gone, had taken God’s grace in vain for too long, and God was downright fed up. To continue leaving his disobedient kids unpunished made Him look like a fool—like someone who wasn’t faithful to His word. So, after Josiah’s untimely death at the hands of the king of Egypt, God began sending invaders to siege the country—first from Egypt and then from Babylon. And though three of Josiah’s sons and one of his grandsons ruled the nation for another 22 years, it was only as puppet kings of their invaders. Finally, in 586 BC, all but a handful of people that included the prophet Jeremiah, were led off to Babylon in chains as the city gates were torn down and the precious Holy Temple went up in flames. It was the most tragic season in Israel’s history. It was also exactly what God said would happen.
In the midst of all of this tragedy, Jeremiah speaks this hopeful word, with God’s Spirit to inspire him:
“You are the hope of Israel, its savior in times of trouble. Why are you like a stranger in the land, like a tourist spending only the night?Why are you like one taken by surprise, like a warrior unable to act. Yet you are in our midst, Lord; we are called by your name. Don’t give up on us.”
-Jeremiah 14:8-9 (CEV)
When I read passages like this that refer to Israel as God’s people, it helps me to remember that God has since expanded the definition of His people to include Jesus’s Bride, or the global Church. God’s name, His identity, is “Our Hope,” and we are called “People of the Hope-God.”
This verse is yet another example in the Bible where the author is confessing that his feelings don’t match the truth of his faith. Not that his emotions don’t matter. If they didn’t he wouldn’t speak them for the scribe to record and read aloud to the people. But Jeremiah, like David, Paul, and many others who wrote the Bible, fully acknowledge that their feelings about God don’t always line up with what they know to be true about His nature; about His character. He knew that God would bring them all back to their Promised Land one day. God would bring them home.
“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”
― Oswald Chambers
I can remember a few seasons during this past couple of years when God has felt like a stranger. The world turned upside down with a pandemic, I was feeling isolated from my friends and family and church. Trying to adapt every other week to some new change, precaution, or regulation. I think some of Covid’s most difficult effects for many of us have been loneliness and grief. Though I knew He was present―I could see His love and I was hearing His voice in His Word―it felt like I didn’t know Him like I thought I did. He was like a visitor passing through, and I was afraid to lose my grip of Him. Regardless of these feelings, my faith in Him held strong and carried me through the pain because He kept filling me with hope. He would send me little reminders in a friend’s laugh or the embrace of my husband: “This won’t last forever. I will get you through this. I promise.” I knew Him as my Hope. That was His Name.
And how about you, Dear One? Have you ever needed, like Jeremiah, to remind your heart of who God is? Do you need to remember that His name is Hope again today? If God feels like a stranger to you, take this reminder that you’re in good company: The faithful prophet Jeremiah felt the same way, surrounded by death, destruction, and suffering. And God reminded Him of His love, filling him with hope once again. God’s name is Hope of Israel, Hope of Christ’s Bride, My Hope. Whether you’re facing some difficult circumstances today of your own doing, like the exiled Israelites, or even something as far out of your control as a pandemic, remind your soul that He will bring you back to your home in peace and comfort. You will not live in a strange land, feeling like God is a stranger forever. He knows your name and you know His. His name is Hope.
Hope How-to: If you are able, take a walk today and use all of your senses to feel what God is saying all around you. He is in our midst. Breathe deeply of the fresh air and inhale His love. Watch the spider spin an intricate web and marvel at the order He can make in you from the disorder and chaos. Listen to the birds chattering and hear God’s whisper of adoration in your ear. Smell the flowers if you see them, and smell the trees if you don’t have flowers around you. Know the aroma He gives in order to put a smile on your face. Become reacquainted with this Savior who is with you, closer than a breath. Remember that this Holy One in your midst, walking beside you on the path, He is the very One who formed the stars and set them in orbit. And remember that He loves you enough to die for you. He literally loves you to death.
Prayer: Sweet Jesus You know us, even when our feelings feel strange about You. Please be with my Reader today and reveal Your presence as she seeks You. When we focus on our pain and difficulty, sometimes You become blurry. Give my Reader hope today that You can help her through this pain or trouble, and comfort her with Your promises of home. Let her know you today as her Hope, for that is who you are. May she be known as one who follows Hope, one who walks with Hope, one who whispers with Hope. Thank You, Jesus for being our Hope, and for reminding us that Your goodness will prevail. We want to trust that, even when we can’t see it, and we want to be a part of bringing You to others so they can know Hope too. Amen
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P.S. These roses are blooming in all of their gorgeous fragrant-ness at the Rose Garden at Balboa Park. If you come to visit me, remind me to take you there. You’ll really love it.
This is Day 10 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
God remembers those in need. Though they might feel disappointed today, their hopes will one day come to reality.
– Psalm 9:18
Yahweh, you have heard the desires of the humble and seen their hopes. You will hear their cries and encourage their hearts. GOD, you’ve taken notice of these small, hopeful people. Even when they cry out in need, you’ll hear them and answer.
– Psalm 10:17
There is hope for the oppressed and needy
The mere idea that the Maker of the Stars would listen to the cries of the needy is humbling. Twice in one verse, the Psalmist repeats that God hears the desires and hopes and needy cries, and that He will answer. This was a big deal in Bible times, just as it is today.
The Hebrew word for “oppressed” in Psalm 10:17 is the word anav, which means poor, afflicted, humble, meek. In the Bible, we see God labeling these people together with the oppressed: widows, orphans, poor & needy, heavy-burdened, strangers/foreigners/immigrants, prisoners, sick/afflicted, weak, destitute/homeless, and victims of violence. God saw, heard, and listened to the cries of these people. He was not unmoved.
Today we see the same kinds of oppression and the people who suffer it all around us. God hears their cries and He is moved to compassion with action for justice. We see it in every ally who stands up to defend the oppressed, bring justice to the defenseless, and provide generously for the needy. We see God working through people who care for one another. He is not unmoved.
But it does get hard sometimes, doesn’t it? Hopelessness sets in as we see an endless stream of oppression in every direction, if we open our eyes and hearts. Ecclesiastes 7:7 says, “Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,” and who among us isn’t mad from the oppression piled high as the sky, like bodies piled next to redwoods.
I read recently that the proliferation of men who abuse women has made an entire society numb to this violence. We don’t even see the oppression. We don’t hear the cries of the oppressed.
“For women and men involved in the battered women’s or rape crisis movements, especially those who deal daily with victims, convincing people—especially men—of the urgency of the situation may appear to belabor the obvious. Doesn’t everyone already realize how big a problem this is? Don’t they know there are survivors in their own families? Well, not necessarily. A lot of people cannot face the ugly reality—or don’t want to. It is important to remember that coming to terms with the extent of the problem can be disorienting, and profoundly disruptive. As a man, once you are aware of the degree to which women suffer from gender violence and all forms of sexism, you can’t simply go about your business and pretend everything is fine. You have to do something about it, or else risk losing your self-respect. This is where denial comes in. Denial is a tried and true method of coping with disruptive, traumatic, or discomforting information; it is much less painful than facing the truth. Not to mention that many Americans are so desensitized by repeated exposure to violence of all kinds—in their own lives, on the news, and in the popular culture—that denial isn’t even necessary.”
– Jackson Katz in The Macho Paradox
And so maybe we’ve felt the madness as wise people who are surrounded by oppression in a culture of fools who deny and are desensitized to it. Maybe it’s gotten painfully maddening to look at the women around us who are brutalized, or the homeless that line the streets in tents, or the orphans on the streets longing for someone to accept them for who they’ve chosen to be. Maybe we’ve lost some hope that God even hears our own cries of suffering above the cacophony of the oppressed.
Let me be the one to remind you today, Beloved Friend—God is here and He is listening. This verse is true, I know it. I see Him rescuing the orphan today as my husband shows me the photos and tells me to pick one to sponsor. I hear him comforting the cries of the battered sister as she is set free from her abuser. I see Him providing freedom to the sex slave through organizations and restoration homes around the world. I hear Him sending ambassadors like me into prisons to give encouragement and love to men and women behind bars. And I feel Him listening to my prayers and answering them over and over on behalf of the oppressed.
I am not forgotten. You are not forgotten. She is not forgotten. Remember that God sent a messenger through space and time to tell you about His love, and because you are reading these words, He reminds you to hold onto hope today. To hold onto the One who holds you, for He hears you.
Hope How-to: I know it’s hard to keep your faith when oppression prevails all around you. It gets tempting to believe that maybe God doesn’t really care. The times when I face this most is when I’m disengaged from participating in fighting for justice for the oppressed, when I’ve failed to help or give or speak. The truth is, God works most often THROUGH His kids and His Church and through people who care enough to take action. Why? I think it’s because He wants us to have the joy of bringing justice with Him. He wants to share the happiness that comes with generosity. Today, reflect on one or more things you can do to cooperate with God on behalf of serving the oppressed in your community. Can you donate time or money to a battered women’s shelter? Can you sponsor rescue for sex slaves? Can you sponsor food, clothing, and schooling for the poor? And the next time you’re feeling like you’re the oppressed one, remember how much God cared for the ones He allowed you to help. He loves you. He hears you. He listens to your cries.
Prayer: Oh, God. We are overwhelmed, and even sometimes numb to the oppression we witness and experience. I pray for my reader, Lord, and ask that you would speak to her heart in Your unfailing lovingkindness. Remind her that You are not only the Maker of the Stars, but a God who listens and cares. You hear her cries and you send compassion and help through her to others and through others to her. Remind us all of the hope we have in You and in Your justice. Even if we don’t see Justice now, we know there will come a day for it. Help us to trust You and recognize your work in our world. Show us how to not only pray for Your will on earth as it is in Heaven, but to cooperate with You in the ways we can make it come to be. Amen
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This is Day 9 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
“… always continue to fear the Lord.You will be rewarded for this; your hope will not be disappointed.”
For then you will perceive what is true wisdom, your future will be bright, and this hope living within you will never disappoint you.
If we pursue and perceive God’s wisdom, our Hope is unbreakable.
The book of Proverbs was written by the “wisest” king in Judah’s history. I put that word in quotes because later in life, after having married or concubined over a thousand women, he gave up on God and called everything in life “worthless”, but it’s a fair enough assessment, given that he prayed for wisdom and God said He would grant it. Some people credit the wisdom of Proverbs to Solomon, but I lean more toward the idea that the Holy Spirit was working through Solomon’s mind and words to give him “God’s smart ways of living” for the people of his kingdom. The good news is that most of the smart stuff that applied to that culture in that time period is still pretty relevant to our society today. It is helpful to use some of the original context to help us apply it appropriately, however.
If we take the Hebrew word for hope in both of these verses above, it’s the same term, tiqvah, which means cord or rope. I’ve discussed this before, but as a reminder, our hope is like a cord that connects our current situation and identity with our God-filled, and thus good, future. It keeps pulling us forward in time and holds us tethered to that reality, as opposed to attaching us to our past. And if we look at the words for “be disappointed” in both verses, they are the same Hebrew word, karath, which means chewed; completely cut off.
“All [people] relish things that are sweet to the palate; but many have no relish for the things that are sweet to the purified soul, and that make us wise unto salvation.”
– Matthew Henry Commentary (regarding what it means to perceive true wisdom)
C.S. Lewis was an influential theologian and author of many fiction and non-fiction books long-favorited by the modern church, but he resisted Christianity for many of his young adult years. Once a staunch atheist, Lewis was a highly educated, well-read philosopher and thinker in his academic sphere. When he had come to the end of his literary/philosophy education, he concluded that the writers and thinkers he aligned with most just so happened to be Christians, which irked him. He thought, “I could really follow after these folks and their ideas, if not for their blasted ideas about God and faith.” (my paraphrase) Only after coming to that conclusion did he realize that perhaps it was BECAUSE of their faith that they held so much joy, wisdom, and hope that he wanted desperately for himself. And it was after this thought that he began to seriously consider becoming a follower of Christ Himself. The hope that cannot be cut off is the hope that comes from the wisdom of knowing God, and the beginning of wisdom is the fear (reverence) of God.
Do you see how the circle flows?
I have a desire to be smart, or maybe just to look smart to others. When God sees fit to humble me, I catch a glimpse of true, Gospel-wisdom. It’s in these moments that it ceases to matter how much I know and becomes imperative that I know Jesus. That I understand His love and His grace and His power to make me more like Him.
Have you been there too, Sweet Reader? Have you come to the end of your knowledge, only to understand the wisdom that leads to Him, the wisdom that leads to hope? Have you put your hope in something other than Him, only to have it cut off, as if it was a rope chewed by a rodent’s teeth? Let the verses above be a reminder that your hope can never be cut off if it is based on knowing the wisdom of His love.
Hope How-to: Take inventory of your understanding of the Gospel, and try to explain it as if to a fifth-grader. Remind your heart what God’s love did for you, and where you might be without His grace. Read through one of the Gospels in the New Testament, or listen to one in your Bible App. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a full understanding of the wisdom that comes from understanding who God is and what He has done for humanity in His love.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, I pray for my reader today. I ask that you give her a deeper understanding and a full wisdom of the Gospel so that she can be assured that her hope will never be cut off or disappear. The hope you give us is eternal, and unbreakable, and I ask that you would give us a fuller understanding of your grace to fill our hope like a balloon, tethered to Your very hand. Thank you for giving us the wisdom we need to know You, to receive Your love, to feel your Grace, and to accept your gift of eternity. May our hope be found in the wisdom you provide.
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This is Day 8 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
“I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of his calling—that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that he finds in us, his holy ones!”
“Your faith and love rise within you as you access all the treasures of your inheritance stored up in the heavenly realm. For the revelation of the true gospel is as real today as the day you first heard of our glorious hope, now that you have believed in the truth of the gospel … And we pray that you would be energized with all his explosive power from the realm of his magnificent glory, filling you with great hope.”
-Colossians 1:5, 11
A famous Bible missionary-guy named Paul wrote several letters back to the early churches he had planted, and these letters make up a large portion of the New Testament we read today. He begins his letter to the Ephesian church and the Colossian church similarly, as we read in the verses above. Having reminded them of their saving belief in Jesus Christ, he explains that what they have now is a powerful hope to uplift and brighten their minds with joy for what God has guaranteed them in heaven.
I believe one of the reasons Paul felt it necessary to remind the believers that the same excitement they first had when hearing about Jesus’s eternal saving grace was just as relevant after the passage of time is that our brains are reliably forgetful and need consistent re-filling of light. Paul knew that the struggles and dark discouragement of this life on earth tend to crowd out the joy and hope, through no fault of our own.
New believers especially face this phenomenon because their fresh faith is so shockingly good, makes them surprisingly joyful, and excites them with a drive to know God deeply, but their sins or struggles or sufferings tend to derail them easily because they are not disciplined enough to know how to face them with God’s help and guidance. They forget that the power that saved them is also the power that keeps them in step on the path of following Jesus. They find themselves losing faith because they try to depend on their own strength to be a part of God’s family and His plan. They lose hope.
The eternal and glorious inheritance you hope for lights up your mind with love, energy, and power today.
“Hope is important for your brain.
Neuroscientists are investigating the science of hope. It turns out that a feeling of hopefulness changes your brain. Your brain pumps chemicals when experiencing the sensation of hope. These chemicals can block pain and accelerate healing. Hope, which involves belief and expectation, causes the brain to release neurochemicals called endorphins and enkephalins which actually mimic the effects of morphine. The result is that the brain can overcome hurdles and move to a place of recovery. In scientific terms, hope and recovery are not causally connected, but they are correlated.
I believe hope is as vital to the brain as the oxygen we breathe.”
–Terry Small, “The Brain Guy”, Canada’s leading learning skills specialist, and author of the Brain Bulletin.
The Scripture passages above contain two terms in common and one term that is similar but not exactly the same word. In both passages, the word hope is the same greek elpis/elpida, which means hope, expectation, trust, confidence and the word glory is the same greek doxēs, which means honor, renown; glory, an especially divine quality, the unspoken manifestation of God, splendor. The other term that the passages share that is slightly different is the word inheritance. To the Ephesians, Paul used the word kléronomias, which means possessions viewed in one sense as present, in another as future; a share, participation. In this, Paul was describing the believers as God’s inheritance. We are His, now and for eternity, and we bring Him delight accordingly. However, in the Colossians passage, Paul uses the word apokeimenēn, which means to be laid away, be laid up in store. This is the same word Jesus used to describe what the wicked servant did with his talent—he tucked it away, laid it up in the ground for later, as it was.
In essence, God’s glory is our inheritance, already enough, and guaranteed for us to receive on the other side of eternity, which is also what gives us joyful endurance here on this side of eternity while we wait.
Let me explain it once more, now that we have all of that greek context to help us understand:
According to Paul, as followers of Jesus we have tucked away for us an inheritance, which is God in all of His glory and splendor, and this is our hope—the brain oxygen that sustains us today with joy because of what we know is guaranteed for us in eternity. In addition, we are God’s inheritance, which also delights Him, and fills us with energizing hope just knowing that He treasures us.
I often find myself getting caught up in the distractions of this world, forgetting that my treasure is laid up in heaven and His name is Jesus, as well as forgetting that I am His treasure, which He is in the process of preparing, making me holy and glorious for the day I will see His face. Car troubles, gas prices, utility bills, doctor visits, and what to fix for dinner often crowd out any illuminating thoughts of God or the heavenly treasures He has in store for me. It’s no wonder my hope fades as my mind is dulled.
Have you been there too lately, Sweet Reader? Then these passages penned centuries ago are just for you today. Let Paul’s words sink deep into your heart and drink deep of the fountain of hope found there. Let your imagination be ignited with power and excitement. Your thirst can be quenched and your joy can overflow now because of what is in store for you someday. It is God’s very glory—His riches bestowed that will never be spent and never need to be earned. He is your inheritance and You are His.Interest rates and appreciation need not apply, for it is already infinite.
Hope How-to: Take a few moments to dump your brain onto a piece of paper: everything you’re worried or concerned or anxious about, everything that holds too much real estate in your mind. Fold up the paper and hand it across the table to Jesus. Take a fresh piece of paper and write down some of the gifts you have today and some of the gifts of glory you’re hoping for in eternity. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what it is to walk in imaginative hopefulness and explosive joy as He gets you ready for that day when you enter God’s glory forever.
Prayer: Sweet Spirit, I pray that you will minister powerfully in the mind of my Reader today. Fill her with delight at the thought of the glorious inheritance to come. Let the hope sustain her like oxygen today. Blow her mind with excitement and fill her imagination with the delight laid up in store for her, and let all of today’s mundane troubles fade into a blur as she focuses solely on Your love and glory. Amen.
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This is Day 7 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
“I wait for the Lord. My soul waits and I hope in His Word.My soul waits for the Lord more than one who watches for the morning; yes, more than one who watches for the morning.O Israel, hope in the Lord! For there is loving-kindness with the Lord. With Him we are saved for sure.”
– Psalm 130:5-7
God’s Word is a treasure chest of hope
The beginning of this Psalm is a man in anguish. Despair and apparently sin left the author (likely David or Solomon) doing some soul searching and some God-searching. In order to strengthen his soul, he reminds himself in song that even in the deepest darkness, hope can be found in God. In verse five, the Hebrew word for Word is dabar, which means word, speech, matter, or thing. Essentially, stuff from God. In other words he’s saying,
“I’m feeling terribly depressed about my life and my choices, but I’m waiting on God’s help and putting my trust in godly stuff to help me feel better and do better.”
“The great test of faith is to wait on God . . . not expecting to push a button and get whatever we want now.”
– A.W. Tozer
It’s become a cheesy Christian-ese trope to say “wait on God and trust in His Word” but that doesn’t make it untrue or unbiblical. I wish I could push that imaginary “get what I want now” button Tozer mentions, but I can’t. I’ve had to wait for just about everything I ever wanted. Now, finally in my 40s, I’m finding some results coming to pass that I’ve prayed years for, believing and trusting and doing my part to try to be faithful. I’m talking about stuff I’ve asked God for since I was a teenager. And there’s also a whole lot of prayers I’m still waiting on God to answer. I have a feeling it will be several more years.
Waiting is tough on the old hope muscle, isn’t it? The Bible even says in Proverbs that hope deferred makes a heart sick. But waiting also makes hope strong, if we’re leaning into God’s promises in His Word. Because He is faithful. And when, after waiting, we find that His promises have come to pass, our own faith grows, as does our hope that He will show up for us with the same faithfulness again in our future.
I remember a span of about three years when my son was an infant and toddler that he struggled with painful ear infections month after month. It seemed like just as he was getting over one, another one would start, along with his pain-filled cries that lasted through nearly every night. I begged God to heal him for the better part of those three years, seemingly to no avail. I wondered how I could twist Jesus’s arm into letting my baby boy off the hook of suffering, or at least to let me bear it for him. Only to be met with another ear infection the following month. That waiting was hard. There are few things more difficult in life than helplessly watching your child suffer. Eventually, he had surgery to insert tubes and God also showed me some natural solutions to prevent and address the susceptibility in his ears. I discovered God as a healer in a fresh and hugely faith-building way. And I found His comfort in the moment for Josiah, and for me as well. I called Him out on His promises to heal my baby, just as He called me out on my part to wait for His timing, plan, and comfort to arrive.
Have you been there, Reader? Are you there right now? When you’re waiting on the answer to a prayer, hope is stretched thin. The strong rope that once bound you to faith in Jesus now feels like a thread that could snap any moment while the waiting drags on. But you’re not alone, Dear One. The Psalmist had to put his hope in God-stuff, in His Word. He had to wait for the promise to arrive without a magical “give-it-to-me-now” button too. And I know how precarious hope can get when it feels like things will never get better and the answer will never arrive. Allow the faith of others to buoy you up above the waves of hopelessness today. Waiting is hard, but so is weight-training. They both give you strong muscles, though one is for your spirit, and the other is for your body.
Hope How-to: What have you been waiting for in prayer for a long time? How does it affect your emotions or your faith when you realize that you have to keep waiting for it? When it comes to God’s Word, are there any Bible stories or verses that encourage you to keep going when you want to give up? Talk to God with your voice or your pen & journal about what you’re waiting for and what it truly feels like to have to keep waiting. Be honest; He wants that. Then take that Bible reference and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day: on your steering wheel or the refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. Let God’s Word strengthen your faith, hope, and ability to wait a little bit longer, because the answer is truly on the way.
Prayer: Oh, Father, I come before you today on behalf of my Reader and I ask that You would speak a specific and special Word to her spirit that will sustain her hope. Please give her strength to wait as long as she needs to for your promises to come to pass. Thank you for sending your Son to become a human so that we can now have an advocate on Your right hand who understands how hard it is to wait, and how easy it is to let hope fade. Bless my Reader today with words, speech, and matters from Your heart to hers. Show her a fresh vision of what You have in store that will revive her hope once more. Your Word is precious, Lord; it is a chest full of Your treasures and love. It is a demonstration of Your faithfulness, and if You showed up for Your kids before, we know You can do it again. Thank you, Father.
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This is Day 6 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
“And this is no empty hope, for God himself is the one who has prepared us for this wonderful destiny. And to confirm this promise, he has given us the Holy Spirit, like an engagement ring, as a guarantee. That’s why we’re always full of courage. Even while we’re at home in the body, we’re homesick to be with the Master.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:5-6
“Now may the Lord Jesus Christ and our Father God, who loved us and in his wonderful grace gave us eternal comfort and a beautiful hope that cannot fail …”
– 2 Thessalonians 2:16
“[The Spirit] is given to us like an engagement ring, as the first installment of what’s coming! He is our hope-promise of a future inheritance which seals us until we have all of redemption’s promises and experience complete freedom—all for the supreme glory and honor of God!”
If you grew up learning about the history of the Holy Spirit’s influence in the early church, it’s difficult to put yourself in the Apostle’s shoes and imagine that He was a relatively new arrival on the scene, or at least in that form of Him. Paul and his contemporaries had grown up knowing God the Father and then had their minds blown to learn that this dude named Jesus was ALSO the Lord of Heaven and Earth. And then on top of that, a new invisible Guy that Jesus referred to as the Counselor was also God, incarnate not as a human but as a presence within the believers. What?! It was almost too much to comprehend, and quite a feat to be able to teach others this theology. Can you imagine being in Peter’s or James’s or Timothy’s position and having to teach this new doctrine, this brand new understanding of who God is and how He operates? We can see Paul doing his best in the verses above, with God’s inspired assistance.
The Holy Spirit is Hope’s Down Payment
In 2 Corinthians 5:6, the greek word tharreó is often translated in English as confidence, but it also means “courageous, confident, and of good cheer,” which would be a great description of hope, wouldn’t you say? And the word in Ephesians 1:14 for guarantee (hope-promise) is arrabón, which means “an earnest, earnest-money, a large part of the payment, given in advance as a security that the whole will be paid afterwards.” In other words, the Holy Spirit is a believer’s indwelling deposit, a confident guarantee we hold within ourselves of the promise to come, and from Him comes HOPE as a (super)natural result.
“So many of us limit our praying because we are not reckless in our confidence in God. In the eyes of those who do not know God, it is madness to trust Him, but when we pray in the Holy Spirit we begin to realize the resources of God, that He is our perfect heavenly Father, and we are His children.”
– Oswald Chambers (emphasis added)
Each time we purchase a home, we are required to open escrow by putting a few or several thousand dollars into an account that will be paid out to the seller. That money is also called good faith or earnest money because it shows that we’re really serious about buying the house and if we try to back out under the wrong intentions, the seller would get to keep that money. For that reason, they can feel confident to stop entertaining other offers and proceed forward with steps like appraisals and inspections. That’s how Paul explains the Holy Spirit in Ephesians: He is our earnest money, proof that Jesus has indeed purchased us for heaven, taking us off the market for hell, and promising that He will indeed pay in full. And we know that this hope is real because we have the Spirit, the Counselor-Comforter-Guide, this peace-Giver, power-Filler person of the Godhead within the escrow account of our heart, closer than our breath.
When you or a friend received an engagement ring, did your confidence in that relationship increase? Of course it did! You knew the fiancé and fiancée were serious about their commitments—so serious that he put his money where his mouth was and “put a ring on it.”
If you’ve lost confidence or hope in Jesus lately, just take a glance at the 3-carat ring sitting on your finger and remember How much He loves you, and that His promise is true. The Holy Spirit within you, whispering in love and power and peace and joy and goodness and love, He is your tangible guarantee to make your hope confident. He is your evidence that Jesus intends to fulfill everything He has ever promised you.
Hope How-to: Take a few minutes to reflect on who the Holy Spirit is to you. What evidence in your life have you seen of Him? Maybe He has given you comfort in grief that you didn’t understand and didn’t expect. Maybe He has given you peace you couldn’t explain. Maybe He has shown up in a gentle whisper on the breeze and you realized His love. Maybe you’ve heard His voice in the laughter of a baby or the song of a bird. How do you know He is real? After your reflection, journal or draw about your thoughts. Ask God to teach you more about who He is as Holy Spirit. Invite Him to reveal something even deeper. And finally, thank Jesus for giving you such an extravagant engagement ring/escrow as a guarantee of the glory to come.
Prayer: Oh Spirit, You are so precious to us. I pray that You will reveal Your hope-filled guarantee to my Reader. Please show her the treasure You are, a deposit sealing the deal with her and Jesus, a reason to believe all of His promises with confidence and courage. Reveal Your guidance, power, wisdom, healing, truth, peace, and love to each of us more today than ever before. Thank You for your presence that is closer than a breath, every moment of every day. You are the Promise. You are Hope embodied.
Thank you so much for joining my Nest today. I hope these words have given you some hope today. If you like what you’re reading, please remember to subscribe to my newsletter so that you can catch all of the hope-filled posts like this in your inbox.
Day 5 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start over with Day 1, click here.
One day Jesus taught the apostles to keep praying and never stop or lose hope.
Sometimes our hope is failing and the only way to get through is to pray through.
The Greek word at the end of this verse is ekkakeó, which means to “to be negatively influenced with the outcome of experiencing inner weariness”, to faint, grow weary, or to lose heart. The single word encompasses both English words: lose hope. Essentially, Jesus thought it was important to teach His followers the importance of persistent prayer and enduring hope. One was inextricably linked to the other, and He ended his admonition-parable with this question:
“But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on earth who have faith?”
– Luke 18:8
The implication was that not everyone who could have put their trusting hope in Jesus would actually hold onto it until the End, when He would return.
The parable He told in between those two phrases holds a key for all of us who follow Jesus: don’t give up, even when you don’t get what you want; keep praying in faith and hopefulness. The way He explained this concept was to tell a story about an unfair judge and a persistent widow. Because the woman kept going back to the judge for justice over and over again, he finally granted it to her, just to get her to stop coming around. And His point was that God is infinitely more kind and fair, and yet He might NOT grant everything we hope for right away, so keep asking. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Not that you’re bothering Him or He’s being unfair, but sometimes the prayer that gets answered is the one prayed for the long haul.
This woman did two things that Jesus wanted His disciples to emulate:
1. She believed in justice and wasn’t ashamed to ask for it, despite what she knew of the judge.
2. She didn’t lose hope that one day her request would be granted, even though it took longer than she wished.
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words — And never stops at all.”
I once read a story about a young woman named Maya from the brothels of India’s Red Light District whose mother had been trafficked since the age of eleven. Maya’s own mother was forced to turn her daughter into the madam also when she came of age, and Maya had been abused and raped as a child in the hostel where her mother sent her to live, thinking it would be safer than the brothel. Maya was trafficked for sex until she could take no more and escaped from her captors and abusers. When she sought refuge in a Christian safe house, she was hopeless and numb. She didn’t picture a bright future; she was merely trying to get away from her traumatic past. But when compassion from the volunteers at the home began to warm her heart, hope awakened. She wondered if she’d always feel so terrible, and the volunteer replied, “You will always remember, but in time it won’t hurt as much. Keep giving your pain to Jesus and ask Him to help you forgive those who have hurt you.” Maya wasn’t convinced, but she didn’t lose the spark of hope that was struck. After many weeks and months in the safe home, Maya began to smile and her dead eyes came to life. She found hope in scriptures like Ezekiel 36:25-27 and Isaiah 54:4, and took healing and joy from the love and hope she had found in Jesus Christ.
Maybe like Maya or like the widow who had to keep pleading for justice, you’ve found yourself waiting a very long time and now you’re feeling weary. Maybe it feels like the hope that was once a flame is a dying and cold ember and you’re losing heart, numb and hopeless. Hang on, Dear Reader, you’re not alone. I’ve been there too, and it does feel miserable to have to keep asking without any sign that your dream will come to pass. I believe Jesus would say this to you: I know it’s hard, but don’t stop asking. Don’t give up, because the answer is on the way. Hang on just a little longer and stay faithful to what you know is the Father’s love.
Hope How-to: If you’re feeling weary and hopeless today, let me give you some courage to ask once more again in prayer to the Father for help. If you’ve felt weary before, and you saw God come through in the eleventh hour, or even in a way that you didn’t expect but that was wonderful anyway, ponder on that time in your life and how you felt. Have a heart to heart with Jesus or another close friend about those emotions and circumstances. Risk the vulnerability required to connect with someone about that weariness on the verge of losing heart, of losing hope. Don’t hold it in, Dear One. You’re not meant to face it alone.
Prayer: Sweet Jesus, I ask you on behalf of my reader to give her the strength to keep praying, keep asking, and keep hoping, even when it feels like she’s about to lose heart. We know that You taught Your friends to pray through every difficult and unfair situation, and keep asking without losing hope. Jesus, You know what it feels like to endure hardship while keeping your eyes on hope. Give my reader the guidance and ability to follow your example. Thank you for always hearing our persistent prayers and for answering them in Your perfect timing. Amen.
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Day 4 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. If you’d like to start at the beginning, click here.
And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!
– Romans 5:5
When God’s Kingdom comes on earth, hope arrives.
There is no country on earth, not even America, that would constitute as the Kingdom of God. And also, the Kingdom of God has come, according to Jesus in the Gospels. But where is it? Where do we see it among our neighborhoods and communities? Who can give me directions?
The Kingdom of God is the Presence of the Holy Spirit in our very flesh that changes us and makes us new. The Bible says that we are a new creation in Christ when we are born again, as we put our trust in Him to rescue us from our past and provide a path for our eternity. That newness in Him is the hopeful promise and evidence that even if we can’t see what is coming next, we KNOW it will be good and we have a secure place there.
The word hope in Romans 5:5 is the greek word elpis, which means hope, expectation, trust, or confidence. And the word disappoint is the greek word kataischuno, which means shame, disgrace, bring to shame, put to utter confusion, or frustrate. So, in other words, we can infer that God, through the writer Paul, is saying that because we can feel God’s love through the Spirit, the hope we have is not only an expectation of what is to come, but a lack of disgrace and disappointment, because it is also beginning to manifest through us now. So we know that what we’re hoping for, God’s Kingdom, is starting to form in us presently. It is here in us and on its way.
We don’t have to wait forever to start our forever! We can allow Jesus to start bringing about His Kingdom in us with new life in our veins. We have proof that what we hope for is on its way because we see our lives reborn in Him. We are not ashamed when heaven is delayed because we’re already tasting it in His loving presence.
[Regarding the exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus] “Except a man is reborn, he cannot see or comprehend the Kingdom. That new birth that he was talking about is an exchanged life; it is where one person forfeits, abandons, abdicates all rights to himself, and gives the right to Jesus to do whatever He pleases. And in that process the wind of God impregnates that person. New life develops and the life that they now live in the flesh becomes the life of the Son of God. That is what qualifies one for new citizenship in this new order.”
The best story I can use to explain this concept is when I’ve seen delight where no earthly delight belonged. I actually find it difficult at times to see God’s Kingdom in the abundance of America and other first world societies. Where material possessions abound, it is nearly impossible to know from whence they have arrived. And taking joy in homes, cars, and toys could possibly be taking joy from oneself and one’s own accomplishments.
But when material possessions are scarce but joy still abounds, it’s easy to see the source of that joy, even that hope, is heavenly.
When I traveled to Haiti after the earthquake of 2010, devastation grieved the nation, but when I looked into the eyes of the followers of Jesus there, I saw more hope, joy, and peace than I’d seen in a hundred of my church-going friends in America. I was astounded and confounded. How can this be? I thought. How could such grief and poverty leave a smile on their faces and such a twinkle in their eyes? How could they dance with joy before the Lord when He had allowed the earth to swallow their homes and family members? What did they have that I was still missing? They had the Spirit manifesting His Kingdom through their new lives in Him. Their hope was not in their slum-like homes or possessions, or even in one another. Their hope was in Jesus, whose love was more than enough.
When I enter a prison or jail to deliver a message to the inmates, it is they who end up schooling me in the Kingdom of God. Many of the women I meet have found or re-found Christ in jail, and though they don’t even have a pillow to lay their heads on at night, they delight in being children of God. They smile more, sing louder, and give more thanks for the privilege to come to a “church” service than the people I find at church. How can this be? I ask myself every time. How can they worship so gladly when they have no freedoms? How can they be so thirsty for God when they lack so much? What do they know that I still can’t understand? They know what it is to feel God’s loving Spirit as a guarantee of the abundance and freedom that is on the way. Their hope is in Jesus, and He is more than enough.
Have you ever felt ashamed of your hope because it hasn’t come to pass? Have you been disappointed in God before for not answering some of your hopeful prayers? Listen, Friend, that’s normal, and it happens when we’ve accidentally misplaced or misunderstood our hope. If you’ve cast off hope that this world can improve, hoping only for the next one, let Jesus’s prayer remind you of an important hope to hold close:
“Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”
That Kingdom is IN you, God’s Spirit making you new, and it can also be found among communities of faith where God’s kids are dedicated to praying for, surrendering to, and cooperating with God’s will and God’s ways. I have much more to say about that, but another post is required.
Hope How-to: To cultivate your hope, consider how you pray Jesus’s prayer, especially the second line: “Your Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.” What did Jesus mean when He taught His disciples to pray this? How do you think they interpreted it? How can you apply that prayer to the ways in which you live today with new life and tomorrow with fresh hope? Take a few minutes to journal about these matters, as well as anything else that God puts in your heart.
Prayer: Precious Spirit, I ask you to fill my Reader with a fresh revival of hope for Your will to be manifest here on earth, here in her heart, mind, and body. Thank you for making us a fresh, new creation at the point of our salvation, and I ask You to revive Your Kingdom in each of your followers. Show us how to cooperate with what You’re doing to bring that Kingdom here while we wait for its fullness on the other side of eternity with a hope that burns like a bonfire. Only You are worthy of this kind of dedication and trust, and for that reason we give it to you today. You give us many reasons to praise You, but we don’t need them. You are worthy, period. Amen.
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Today is Day 3 of 31 Days of Hope-filled Living. To start at the beginning click here, and scroll to the bottom of this post for a link, in case you missed yesterday.
His message was this: “At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for God’s kingdom to be experienced in its fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled gospel!”
– Mark 1:15
“Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! For there is peace and a good hope given to the sons of men.”
Humanity’s hope was born in Jesus Christ.
When John the Baptist prophesied about Jesus, he spoke of a fulfillment of time because for centuries the Jewish people had been waiting on a deliverance yet unseen. John wanted to be clear about the Message God had given through him: The stuff you’ve been waiting for, it’s here, in the form of a person. This is that. The Kingdom of God that you’ve been praying for which your great-great grandparents told you about—yeah, it’s here, and the King’s name is Jesus.
When the angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, they used a specific form of the word peace which implies the specificity of “The Messiah’s peace” which is also found in Luke 1:19 and 19:38, as well as in Acts 10:36, all of which infer eternal salvation and a hopeful peace with God, prepared for us in heaven. It was given through Jesus at His birth and was meant to carry us on into eternity with the Father. This word, eiréné (i-ray’-nay), means “one (unity), peace, quietness, rest.” This is the peace that gives us hope. And the hope that gives us peace.
“Our Christian hope is that we are going to live with Christ in a new earth, where there is not only no more death, but where life is what it was always meant to be.”
– Timothy Keller
People of every generation have known the life we live is less than what it was meant to be. We feel an inner sense that something is missing and we’re meant for more. It’s what the ancient prophets foretold, what John the Baptist said would be revealed in Jesus, and what the angels told the shepherds about: that elusive thing you’ve been missing, it’s here and on its way. He’s going to bring you peaceful hope and the promise of eternal salvation.
In the presence of others, I sometimes feel odd because I think about heaven often and wish for Jesus to come back every day that ends in Y. I don’t hear other people’s thoughts, but it doesn’t seem like other Christians think this way. I hope Jesus comes today. Whenever I vulnerably share this with others, they try to correct me. They say, “No, don’t you want to live more of your life, see your kids grow up or have some grandkids?” Nope. I would much rather be with Jesus in a perfect place. Or they say, “Not me, I want to get married and live my life first.” Which is not bad. I’m not judging, simply admitting I’m different.
It doesn’t mean I’m not discouraged by life’s disappointments, but one beneficial aspect my heavenward vision does offer is a sense of peace. No matter how I’m blessed, I’m also stressed. Because this life is tough and it’s not what I’m destined for. I live in a beautiful and free country, but I’m a citizen of heaven, and I’d like to start living there as soon as possible. When life gets painful or complicated or difficult, my hope for being with Jesus face to face forever carries me through to an unfathomable peace.
And maybe you’re like me and you think about your Heavenly Country often, but maybe something about eternity scares you and makes you avoid those kinds of thoughts. Wherever you find yourself on that spectrum, remember Dear Reader that God’s Kingdom is here, but only in part. When Jesus comes to reign again, each of your hopes will be fulfilled and you will long for nothing. All of your broken pieces will be mended and all of your stresses will be transformed into eternal blessings. There is but one condition on this hope, and that is nothing more or less than putting your trust in Jesus as the Way to God, receiving His forgiveness over your past and future failures as a human. And if you’ve already done that, then your hope is secure. Your peace is tucked securely into that hope.
Hope How-to: Spend at least five minutes daydreaming about what you think heaven might be like. What will it be like when you see Jesus’s face? What will you do with Him? What kinds of adventures await with the entire universe in your backyard? Who will you visit and what are you looking forward to? If anything is confusing or frightening, talk about that with God and ask Him your hard questions.
Prayer: Oh Jesus, we long to see you and be near you. I pray for my reader today and ask that you would grant a clear vision of what she is hoping for in eternity. Show her just how much she has to hold onto when it comes to hope. Guide her through any questions or concerns she has about heaven and reveal something new through Your Word today. May every hope she has be found in you. Amen
Please be sure to subscribe so that I can send you these hope-filled words every day this month. You’ll get my Daily Guide to Hope printable as a free gift, and that’s something your heart can hold close. And if these words have been helpful and hopeful for you, please consider sharing them with someone who could use hope too.
When it all comes down to it, God is the ultimate source and fulfillment of our hope.
The context of this verse is a very discouraged King David. In previous verses he mentions feeling like his life was short and meaningless, and also as if God was punishing him. This song may have been written after his moral failing when he had an affair with a woman named Bathsheba and then had her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. At the end of the day and after all was said and done with sin, discouragement, consequences, and meaninglessness … all David had left to hope in was God.
Have you ever felt that way? Like your life was an endless cycle of trying and failing, and like everyone around you was trapped in the same endless cycle too? If so, you’re not alone. And let your fellow humans’ company in this discouraging place bring you a smidge of hope, Dear Reader. We all at one point or other, or even at many points in life, find ourselves running low on sources of hopefulness, and find our eyes looking to heaven when this view on earth becomes bleak. When hoping in others leads to let-down, when hoping in circumstances leads to disappointment, when hoping in money or things or career or self leads to emptiness, we realize the truth which was beside us all along: God is our hope. His unfailing love, kindness, and eternal salvation are the only sources and destinations worthy of our hope.
God is our hope.
“Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”
– CS Lewis
A famous and rich rock star in a metal band called Korn had all of the money, attention, and material belongings he could want. His name is Brian “Head” Welch and, addicted to methamphetamines, heroin, and cocaine, he reached the end of himself when he realized that the one thing he wanted most was to be a better father to his young daughter. Brian’s realtor shared a verse with him, Matthew 11:28, and invited him to church a couple of weeks later. He quickly gave his life to Jesus and was able to break off his addictions. As many wealthy and famous people eventually find, he realized that possessing all the world offered still left him empty, and only God could give him hope.
If you’re feeling like you’ve come up empty after searching high and low for hope, maybe it’s time to turn your gaze upward. God can and will help you with your difficult situations, but even more hopeful is the truth that He is building an eternal home for you where you’ll never face discouragement or pain, where He will be with you as a friend, face to face. Isn’t that something to put a smile on your face and a flutter in your heart?
Hope How-to: Talk to God today with your voice or your journal about anything or anyone who has let you down recently, and about how you feel or were feeling. Then tell Him why you’re hopeful for your eternity with Him. What are you looking forward to about being a part of the Kingdom of Heaven? Praise Him for being the unfailing hope you look to when all else withers away.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray for my Reader today and ask whether her hope in you is strong or fading, You will remind her that she has much to hope for in eternity with You. Thank you for Your faithful love and provision, and for fighting our battles. We long for victory over the temptations and deceptive lusts for the things of this world. Show my reader today that even at the end of her rope, when all other hopes have fallen short, her hope is still found in You and in You alone. Help her to keep one eye on Your faithfulness in her life today, and the other on your faithfulness for her eternity. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
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