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 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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(from a message I spoke recently at a women’s event)
Picture a garden of flowers and vegetables next to a yard of grass. Brilliant flowers, succulents, and lovely, green, lush lawn bring a smile to your face when you step outside of your back door.
But, then, when you look closer, you notice a weed. Maybe it’s a broadleaf dandelion, horsetail, colewort, fireweed, spurge, bindweed, or stinging nettle. Even the names of weeds are horrible, aren’t they?
Some have sharp bristles and many cause hay fever.
What happens if you leave that weed in your garden or lawn? It will grow and multiply.
How do you get rid of it? You’ve got to pull it up.
What if you just remove the top of it? It will come back, only worse.
You’ve got to cut around the root, and you can tell whether you’ve got the whole root, or only half of it, can’t you? And if you don’t want those weeds to come back twice as big and three times as many, you’d better make sure you use the right tools to get to the bottom of it, and you’d better make sure you refill that hole with good soil and new grass seed or a flower or a succulent—something that you WANT to be growing there, and not just bare soil.
I’ve got a word for you today, and at the end of it you’ll feel a weight lifted off of you, but in the beginning we need to confront something that will be uncomfortable, so stick with me.
When I asked God for a fresh word, He replied that something needed to be unearthed. Now, I’m not sure what that is in you, Dear Reader—that’s going to be between you and Holy Spirit, and it will be different for each person. What I do know is that just like the results after that weed and root have been removed and replaced with good soil and healthy plants, God has our future benefit in mind when unearthing those things we’ve hidden below the surface of our lives. He is a gentle gardener, and His loving kindness makes any correction, rebuke, or confrontation like a tender kiss. What does proverbs say?
A spoken reprimand is better than approval that’s never expressed.
The wounds from a lover are worth it; kisses from an enemy do you in.
-Proverbs 27:5-6 (Msg)
Jesus is the lover of your soul, so if He needs to give some loving reminders to you today, I want to invite you to open yourself to Him. Let Him into your garden and allow Him to tend to your soul like only He can and wants to.
I want to talk about what you’re hiding that needs to be unearthed.
Think of who we are on Social Media. You only see the pretty parts, right? The happy times, the smiles and travels and gorgeous sunsets. We don’t post our struggles and sins and vulnerable, tender parts. We don’t show the world the soft fleshy parts of our back because we know that’s just where they’d shove their knife if we did. I’m not necessarily encouraging you to air your dirty laundry on Facebook or even suggesting that you need to be more vulnerable there. The internet is a cruel place, full of bullies. It’s not the place for intimacy. Understandably so.
But why do we treat God with the same kind of attitude? Why do we think we can only show Him the pretty and acceptable parts? If we truly trust Him, we need to learn to bare everything before Him, instead of hiding the parts of our hearts that might be shameful or awkward or scary to us, and we assume to Him.
What happens when we try to hide weeds? They just grow bigger and worse. The same is true of what happens when we try hiding our hearts before God. Listen to this verse:
When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
Psalms 32:3-5 NLT
So, the action step I believe the Lord wants to speak to us is that of making confession a regular part of our prayer life. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not great at this. I’m a valedictorian at hiding my sin from myself, others, and even trying to sweep it under the rug so Jesus won’t notice. I’ve learned to do this from my childhood. My home wasn’t always a happy or peaceful one, and the summer before 4th grade I wanted to move out of my mom’s and into my Dad’s house, but I didn’t know how to communicate my feelings or desires effectively, and I buried my pain and strife so deeply, and I ended up manifesting so much stress that I got a pretty serious case of shingles. (Shingles is a painful, oozing rash, usually brought about by stress activating a dormant virus that affects the nerves and skin.) So, I just want you to know that everything I’m preaching to your soul today, I’m preaching even more to my own soul.
So, let’s talk about what kinds of topics fall under the practice of Confession:
Something hidden from God: resentment against Him or others. Something difficult even for you to admit to yourself. Something you try to ignore or pretend doesn’t exist, but it often festers, growing in the dark like an ugly monster—getting bigger and bigger, forcing you to work harder and harder to try to ignore it.
Sin, unforgiveness, or regret. (Before we go on, let me qualify conviction vs. condemnation. Some people assume more guilt than is true. They have a seared conscience and imagine themselves more harshly judged than they truly are. If a teacher said to the whole class, “Who has put a tack on my chair?” these people would question their own guilt, though it was clearly Bobby, whom they witnessed do so. Their condemnation is not founded, but conjured, based on false guilt. Remember: Condemnation leads to hiding and shame, while Conviction leads to change. I’m probably not talking to you about confessing sin more regularly if you can relate to the kids who watched Bobby put the tack on the teacher’s chair and then feel guilty. You aren’t hiding a sin; you’re hiding behind false shame, but you can confess and be freed of that as well.) Now listen: we all sin daily, and so daily confession of our sin ought to come as easy as giving God our daily gratitude or asking Him our daily requests. How much easier is it if you can recognize a weed from a small sprout, and you spend time every day in your garden pulling out those sprouts? Isn’t that better than ignoring your garden until the weeds are monstrosities that you have to dig huge holes around in order to get to the roots, spreading deeper and wider into the soil, stealing the nutrients and space from the flowers that you WANT to grow? How would your life be different if you learned to recognize, address, and confess your sin daily?
The third thing we can confess, is anything we haven’t yet addressed with Jesus. You can share everything on your mind and heart with Him, even when it feels awkward or scary. Vulnerability with intimacy is the point. Talk to Jesus about absolutely everything. Hold nothing back. Maybe it’s something you want that you’ve never asked Him for because you don’t think you deserve it or don’t know if He’d say yes. Whatever it is, share every part of your heart with Him. That is what He WANTS, and it’s what will benefit you most. Check out my previous post about Heroes and Monsters for a passage about vulnerability and intimacy with Jesus that recently rocked my world.
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
-Psalm 66:16-20 NLT
God bends His ear to listen to our prayers if and when we are faithful to bring our honest confessions and vulnerability to Him. And though we may expect Him to withdraw His love because of what we confess, the mere act of confession in and of itself, regardless of the horror in the words, turns His attention and affection TOWARD us. Isn’t that just the most beautiful thing you’ve heard all day?
“But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done.”
– 1 John 1:9 (VOICE)
Listen, I see a pattern in Scripture: God has a part and we have a part.
My part:vulnerable confession
God’s part in response:
Purify and cleanse me
Listen to my prayers
Forgive and remove all of my guilt
Do you see how God does 98% of the work, but He does ask you to participate, cooperate, and work with Him? That doesn’t mean you’re saved by your own work, but it does mean that you DO have a part when it comes to living out your salvation for life and walking with Jesus closely, intimately, honestly, and truthfully. That’s called a relationship. That’s what our faith is all about.
Prayer: Lord, do your gentle, loving work of unearthing in me. Uncover every part of my heart that I’ve hidden from you, myself, and this world. I give you a welcome invitation to point out the weeds I’ve let grow, be that resentment toward you, sins or mistakes, or even vulnerable intimacy I’ve kept from you out of fear or shame or just not knowing how you would respond. I trust You, help remove my mistrust. I believe You, help my unbelief. Cleanse me, forgive me, change me, renew me, make me into the beautiful new creation you destined me to be, the person who looks more like You, the person who brings you Glory.
Whenever you see a plant or a garden, or your lush, green lawn, let it be a daily reminder to draw near to Jesus in confession, believing in Faith that He WILL respond in loving forgiveness, and that your sin, guilt, shame, awkwardness, barriers to Him will be completely erased and washed away. Weeding is required not just once, but often and regularly. Let God help you make a practice of it, and watch your relationship with Him grow closer and more intimate than it has ever been.
If you’ve been blessed today by visiting my Nest and reading my words, would you do your future self a favor and slip your email into the Subscribe box so that she doesn’t miss any of my posts? I think she’d thank you for it.
“Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.I am only a foreigner in the land. Don’t hide your commands from me!I am always overwhelmedwith a desire for your regulations.”
Psalm 119: 18-20 (NLT)
Many people find the Bible boring at first. Or occasionally. However, no one I know who has ever really given it a healthy, hearty attempt has ever stayed with that opinion over time. Some portions of Scripture are dryer than others, and that’s okay. Remember how I said before that spiritual fitness takes time? Yeah, that’s where we’re at here. There’s no easy, lazy, flabby way around or out of this one. Take time or MAKE time to read God’s miraculously preserved, living, breathing Word each and every day. And I can 100% guarantee that you will not think it’s boring for long!
Work with me, here. You’re looking good. Don’t stop now. Ten more reps to go. You’re getting stronger.
It doesn’t really matter where you start. I’m guessing you have at least a bit of the Bible under your belt if you’re reading this, so now I’m going to take that small muscle and really make you toned.
If you typically read 5 minutes or one verse a day, you need to increase that to 15 minutes or about 4 chapters. If you don’t usually read daily, it’s time to get disciplined and start. If you already do a devotional, it’s time to add a couple of chapters to that too. Want a super-intense challenge? I did this once, so I know it’s possible: If you carve out 60 minutes out of your day for your Maker, you can read 10 chapters a day with Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System. You’ll grow to really know the Bible and be able to contextualize what you’re reading among the whole of Scripture.
Whatever you’re consuming of the Bible already, (mentally) write that here: _______________________
Now, for the next week, how can you take your daily consumption up one level? ___________________________________________________________
Begin today. Why? Because this food, this Bread of life, this is your nourishment that will give you the fuel to become strong. This spiritual nourishment is even more crucial than the food you put in your stomach.
Let’s look at what Ezra, the author of Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) has to say about the critical role God’s Truth plays to your soul. What adjective is given to the person who walks in God’s Law? ____________ [v. 1-3] (blessed)
What adverb is used in verse 4 to describe how God intended His precepts to be kept? ___________ (diligently)
What do we avoid if our eyes are fixed on God’s Word/commandments? [v. 6] _____________ (shame)
Alright, I need to pause here. Don’t you just hate it when a fitness instructor says, “hold it there,” and then proceeds to explain the technique or form of an exercise while you have to keep going? Yeah, I hate that too.
Psalm 119 is all about this man’s love for God’s Law. I’m going out on a limb here to say the majority of people, not only now, but especially now, don’t love rules. They aren’t in love with reading, memorizing, or doing God’s or anyone else’s regulations. So, was this guy Ezra crazy? Drunk? A few too many days in the desert? I don’t think so.
In complete (though counterintuitive) sanity, I believe he was in love with God’s words, both spoken and written, by the prophets and historians. He needed it, depended on it for direction and instruction, and was enamored but the fact His Maker would speak and write to him. He desired to know and obey what God ordered. Why? Because he had experienced God’s love first-hand, as the One True Supernatural Being used Ezra to rebuild His Temple, and had kept His previously-stated promise to bring the remnant of the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem in order to reestablish worship in that holy place. You can read all of this in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Because Ezra experienced God’s wondrous, loving promise fulfilled, He loved God’s words, even the Law.
I’ve personally experienced two different seasons of similar love for God’s Word. The first was right after a major, stressful transition in which my husband and I moved away from my childhood home of Colorado with our two small children. Everything we knew changed. It was traumatic in a way only a move can be, and though we were all in good health and excited for new opportunities to minister, everyone and everything seemed foreign.
Every comfort zone shattered, every familiar path washed away, I remember clinging to the side of my couch on my knees, pleading with God for comfort. I looked high and low for something, anything recognizable, and found it on the pages of my Bible. And I found that I really truly honestly loved it. Loved the Word became Flesh and desired more than anything the ability to obey it. Perfectly sane and completely desperate, I adored God’s Law. New and Old Testaments alike, the Bible was my tie to Him, my rope to reality, my anchor to the rock in the storm.
“They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.”
-1 Peter 1:12 (NLT)
The other time I recall loving God’s Law and commands was right after a painful emotional trial and sifting in which I found myself completely confused, lost, and in a dark emotional pit. My marriage was strained and my husband felt distant, I viewed myself as a failure in every aspect of my aspirations, and I mourned the loss of relationships with loved ones like I never knew I could. In the end, my desperation drew me to the one place of faithful comfort that I’d always known, and that was my Bible. I found God there, and found His love to be the salve my heart needed.
You can’t and shouldn’t try to manufacture a crisis in your life, but if you are in the midst of one right now, then you need God’s Word more than ever. If you’re not in a crisis right now, then it’s likely that one is coming sooner or later, and there’s no better time than the present to cultivate the love of the Bible like never before. Then, when a crisis arises in the future, your spirit will not be in a state of emptiness and famine.
You are not able to wield the power of revelation. You cannot make the verse leap into your heart and mean something new, though you’ve seen it dozens of times before. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But 100% of the verses you don’t read will not leap off the page in revelation. So, when it comes to God’s Word, open it. Read it. Wait for God to reveal its truth to you. Repeat.
“The Bible was precious to me in those days. … And now, methought, I began to look into the bible with new eyes, and read as I never did before; and especially the epistles of the Apostle Paul were sweet and pleasant to me; and indeed I was then never out of the bible, either by reading or meditation; still crying out to God, that I might know the truth, and way to heaven and glory.”
-John Bunyan (biography)
How about you? What does the Bible mean to you and how do you consume it for your sustenance and strength?
If this post was helpful to you, please consider subscribing so you never miss a post! I’ll be posting more about Spiritual Fitness, in advance of my next book of the same title. Stay tuned, Beloved Reader.
Hey, Friend. Thanks for voting on my social media stories. This post won by a slim margin over “Lies the Church Tells about Women” so, we’ll do this one this week and aim to publish that one soon.
A few disclaimers: First, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Let this be the first of many posts like this. These are just the ones I’ve thought of this week. Ha! Second, I’m not doing this for attention. I’m doing this for my sanity and hopefully yours too. ‘Cuz mental health is good, and stuff. Third, I trust you not to weaponize this against me or anyone else. If something shocks you and you need more information, please send me a message or an email. I implore you not use this as fuel for gossip. That’s not what God’s kids do. Or decent people, for that matter. I trust you, Dear Reader.
I’m scared to say these things for a variety of reasons. Some of them are confessions, and confession is always scary. Some of them are fears of people’s reactions if they knew. And some of them stem from a fear I have to be known. Because if you know me, you can hurt me. And if you don’t somehow you can’t. Or at least that’s how my logic goes.
I’m shaking with fear as I say these things, so let us begin, in no particular order, rhyme, or reason …
Christians who are familiar with me probably (no, probably isn’t right, I know they do) criticize me behind my back because of my ideas about politics. And it hurts my feelings.
I want to be an “influencer” on social media, but I’m horrible at it, and because the algorithms and trends are always changing and I hate asking people to constantly lookatme lookatme lookatme, I don’t think I have it in me to acquire this skill which seems so necessary in this era.
The first time I heard the audible voice of God was as a middle-schooler after binging and purging so I could make my wrist as small as Shannon’s, and He said clear as a bell, “This is NOT what I have for you.”
Jesus would be a feminist if He walked on the earth today. No, not the man-bashing bra-burning type, but the gender equality type.
I was molested as a teenager and I forgave my abuser, because he apologized and because I wanted to be free of it.
Somewhere in my past, I hold a handful of months of self-harm, and a handful of scars to go with them. As it turns out, blood talks when words fail.
I know what it feels like to be tempted to drive into a telephone pole and to step too close to the edge of the cliff, and that is one scary monster to run from.
I struggle with low libido, and I don’t know why. I’ve tried many things, and it has nothing to do with my wonderful husband. (Please do not send suggestions, I’m far too shy about this to have a discussion.)
I do not drink alcohol for a few personal reasons, but I do like the taste of beer and wine.
For someone who has always worked from home, I’m not very good at keeping a home, but I wish I was.
I often worry that I’m running out of time to teach my kids the library of treasures I hope they’ll know.
I’m quite opinionated and inwardly judgmental, but I can’t bear it when others are doing the same to me. Yes, I am a raging hypocrite.
I want to be fit and have a beautifully decorated home, but not nearly as much as you do. Or seem to.
I have family members headed for hell and I don’t call them nearly as often as I could.
I want to change the world, but sometimes I just want people to say that they like me or my work.
I’m 42 years old and we’ve been in ministry for over 20 years, and I still don’t know how to keep my feelings from getting hurt when someone leaves our church.
For every disappointment on earth, I’m expecting Jesus to make it up to me in heaven, and I really do think about heaven every day.
Now, you might be wondering why I’m outing myself and saying the scary things. And that’s fair.
Number one, I think the best way to overcome the burden of fear is to face it head-on, and I also have a hunch that, like much of what I write about, I’m not exactly alone. And that maybe if I write the scary truth that you relate to, you won’t feel alone in your own fear. Because being alone in our scary truth leads to feeling more fear and often depression or at least discouragement. No bueno.
Number two, we’re in a season of change. The globe has pandemic adaptation fatigue (and, yes, I am trademarking that diagnosis; if you use it, please quote me, *wink*), and it’s almost New Years, and 2020 has taught us all at least something about ourselves that has produced a change in character and/or perspective. I’m going out on a limb, but I’ll guess that not a single one of us is the same as we were this time last year. One change I’m committed to making is that I want to be a fearless truth-teller. And I can’t be that if I’m holding back these many secrets. It’s not fair to either of us, Reader.
So, there you have it. I’ll invite gentle comments below and I’ll delete rude, insensitive, or inappropriate ones. I’ll also shamelessly beg for these kinds of responses: “me too” , “you’re not alone” , and “this one resonates” …