My Hope is Secure

033013_2144_Bittersweet1.jpgHow do you define hopeless?  Hopeless is having no expectation of good or change for the better. I admit, there has been some “seemingly” hopeless situations since accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.  However, that was before I really grasped the magnitude of His finished works on the Cross and His resurrection after three (3) days.

Watching the last episode of the video, “The Easter Experience” made me realize that as a Christian I should never conclude that I am in a hopeless situation or condition.

Hopelessness made the disciples abandon Jesus in fear and to hide after His death. The external circumstances (Jesus’ arrest) gave the appearance that there was no hope of being free from Roman rule.  They did not expect any good or change for the better; therefore they did not trust Him based on His promise to rise from the dead, although He warned them of His impending death and assured them of His resurrection.  Their focus was on the natural; therefore they just didn’t get it until after a personal encounter with the risen Savior and the spiritual transformation that changed the course of their life on the day of Pentecost. Then hope sprang forth like the branches and leaves on a “seemingly” dead tree11090882_798945466850515_4922663398283889637_o in spring.

So it is with us. Our personal experience or encounter with the risen Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit changes our bleak outlook and we have hope.  Like the disciples, we often feel hopeless because we focus more on the external circumstances, but if Christ is our personal Savior and Lord, we have hope in spite of the externals.  We find hope in His Word regardless of what is naturally visible, or the external circumstances that are unpleasant for a season.  God always causes us to triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14).

What situation have you been in that you did not expect any good to come out of it, or things to get better for you? Are things so bad that you have concluded that there is no hope? If so, I want to encourage you!  Keep believing and trusting God to keep His promises. There is always hope as long as you are breathing.

Jesus Christ is the source of our hope. He will fill us with joy and peace in the midst of difficulty if we trust in Him.

Romans 15:4 declares, “…the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”

We know that the promise of the Savior has been fulfilled (Luke 2:1-7). We know that the promise of the Comforter (Holy Spirit) has been fulfilled (John 15:26; Acts 2:1-4). What has God promised you that has already been fulfilled?  What promises are you patiently waiting for fulfillment?  Keep expecting! Don’t give up hope; God is faithful.

I pray that Easter Sunday (Resurrection Day) will remind you that our hope is eternally secure in Christ. His resurrection gives us the assurance that what God promise is revealed either in this life or thereafter.

Always hopeful,

Holiday Season Pain

Since my past experience with holiday season pain, I am sensitive to the emotional and spiritual needs of people during the HopeforHolidaysholiday season.

I believe “holiday season pain” can be the worst. I also believe this time of the year strikes a chord of caring and great concern because I understand the heartbreak caused by the death of a loved one during the holiday season.  For me, it was the death of my mother the day after Christmas. Although the holiday pain is not so piercing now, I still remember it as if it was last night, although it has been 11 years since I experienced the “first” worst day of life, December 26, 2003, 12:01 a.m.
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Thanks!

Trusting His Heart

By Michael Brick and John L. Mone   of Associated Press

By Michael Brick and John L. Mone of Associated Press

There is so much devastation and destruction going on in the world today—bombings, explosions, tornadoes, murder, violent acts against each other—all kinds of criminal activity. If you’re honest, like me, you have probably said, “I don’t understand why God allows these terrible things to happen.” 

I’m not writing this in an attempt to defend God; no one can come to His defense, nor does He need anyone to defend Him. Trying to defend God would be absolutely ridiculous!

I am mainly writing to help myself and encourage you to learn to trust God completely when it comes to dealing with life’s challenging difficulties that we cannot understand.

Like Apostle Paul, here’s what I have concluded:

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” (Romans 11:33 NLT).  

Tornado damaged home in Moore, Oklahoma (WQAD Photo)

Tornado damaged home in Moore, Oklahoma (WQAD Photo)

Truth is, God hasn’t told us everything. He reveals only what He wants us to know on an “as needed basis” and we have to trust Him for the unknown. 

Our finite minds and limitations keep us from fully grasping some things that happen in our personal lives and in the world.  If God told us everything, we’d have no reason to trust His sovereignty and His faithfulness to carry us through our darkest days of grief and sorrow.

I admit, I have a tendency to be totally independent and do things my way rather than God’s way.  To be honest, most of the time, I don’t like God’s way of doing things. That is because I can’t see the “big picture”—the end from the beginning, as He does. From life’s experiences, I’m learning to rely totally on Him as my Source,  my Strength and the Lifter of my head. Above all, His grace is sufficient for me.

The greater the calamities in life the better I can understand to some degree Job’s ordeal.  The end of Job’s story gives me consolation and hope that just as God restored Job’s losses, He is able and willing to do the same for us who believe.

I have learned this:  As painful as the challenging events in life may be, I must trust God’s heart.  Babbie Mason’s song, “Trust His Heart” says it best:

God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

 So when you don’t understand

When you don’t see his plan

When you can’t trace his hand, trust his heart.”

With God’s comfort and peace this song got me through the toughest experience in my life—the sudden tragic death of my 9-year old grandson.

May I encourage you to join me in trusting God’s Heart?

Bittersweet

This weekend is different from any I’ve experienced in my adulthood. I really don’t have the words to express all that I’m feeling. I have been on an emotional roller coaster of sadness and gladness since earlier in the week when I began reading St. Mark’s recording of Jesus’ final hours before being crucified. Here’s what Mark wrote:

32 Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”

35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

37 Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. 40 And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.

41 Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

As never before, I am convinced that He knows the depth of emotional pain and mental anguish. Because of what He experienced in that place where the reality of His separation from His Father took front and center, I am compelled to see, do and be better by His amazing grace. I can only imagine because all that I have suffered still is no comparison to having the weight of the world’s sin, past, present and future bear down upon you. I can only image at that moment, sorrow overpowered Him as gross darkness blanketed His soul caused by the reality of His sacrifice—separation from the Father, from all that He was, and had ever been from before the foundations of the world—pure holiness.

And when the reality of this hit me, I was overwhelmed by the liberating truth—He did it for me. Yes! I made it personal. Somehow making it so personal changed my whole perspective about the meaning of it all and the benefit of it all. I was both sad and glad. I am sadden by how the whole script played out—the plot to kill, the plan to betray, the human frailty to deny, reject and abandon out of fear. And as He said, “Nevertheless….”

God’s plan doesn’t always make sense to us; however, His purposes shall always prevail and for that, I am glad. When I think about the purpose for it all….that I might be a part of God’s family, I am thankful! And the best part of the script, I read is the reason for tomorrow’s celebration! He is risen!

What about you?

Nevertheless, not my will…

32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.

41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

As I read the above passage, tears began to flow softly as I imagined how Jesus must have felt in that moment as He faced death knowing He had done nothing to deserve such a humiliating death. The separation from His Father was a pain that crushed his soul with grief, which made the ordeal seemingly impossible to face. I also thought how I would feel if my close friends I looked to for support at such a critical time in my life could not provide the support I wanted from them. It was a moment of being alone, yet not alone.

“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” No one asked, “Why, Jesus? Why are you overwhelmed with grief? Why are you so sad?”

Did they not care what was going on with him? Surely they’d never seen him at this low point since being with him for three years. He’d always helped others, going to and fro caring for everyone that came to him for help—opening blind eyes, healing all manner of sicknesses and diseases, raising the dead, forgiving sins, working miracles and giving hope to the hopeless. Now he’s overwhelmed with grief. His simple request to Peter, James and John, “Stay here and keep watch with me.” How difficult could it be for those you consider your closest friends? From my own experiences I know it can be difficult when others don’t understand God’s plan for your life, or the depth of your grief. Sometimes what we expect of our friends is impossible even though what we ask seems to be a simple request. I’ve learned that surrendering totally to God’s will means releasing my family and friends from my expectations.

But when I read verse 35, I was immediately strengthened. Why? It reminded me of the power of prayer…crying out to the Father in my times of distress, when I’m overwhelmed by grief. Within Jesus’ prayer his relationship with the Father leaps off the page…”Abba, Father…everything is possible for you.” Although he makes his request known, he wants the will of his Father above his. This says to me that whatever I must face as a part of God’s plan for my life, regardless of how painful it is, God’s purpose for allowing me to go through it will supersede my understanding of that purpose. Therefore, I must trust Him to do the impossible and complete the work began.

After I’ve prayed, prayed and prayed again expressing my honest feelings to my Father, He sends the help I need to strengthen me to endure (Luke 22:43). When I’m strengthen and empowered to suffer the will of my Father, I can’t be upset with my family and friends. In essence, I can’t depend on them to give me what only the Father can, or to do what’s impossible for man but possible with God.

How often have you “cried out” asking God to take away your pain…to take away what’s unpleasant and uncomfortable? Yet, your prayer ends with, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”

Spiritual Leverage

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.  —2 Kings 20:2

Reading this passage of scripture encourages me to be committed in my relationship with God. It inspires me to be consistent and persistent in my prayer life. Not only does it remind me of the power of prayer, but the credibility that my obedience to the Lord has when I petition him in prayer.

When God sent word telling Hezekiah to prepare to die, he chose to cry out to God for life.  For so long we have been taught that if God says, “It’s your time to die,” you get everything in order, and wait until you gasp for your last breath.  Not so with Hezekiah! Instead he chose to reject his confrontation with death.  He positioned himself for prayer. He made a decision to turn his back to what he was facing—death.  By turning his face toward the wall he would not be distracted by what he was facing but would look toward the place that represented stability, safety, and protection.   From that position he fervently petitioned God. 

No doubt you have received painstaking news, faced challenges with sickness and disease, felt gut-wrenching pain, and out of desperation and anguish you wept bitterly before God pleading for His mercy.  Scripture does not imply that Hezekiah asked for mercy.  Usually, when we pray for healing we appeal to God’s mercy.  However, Hezekiah sought God on the basis of covenant relationship. He asked God to remember how he had lived before Him—faithful—as a man wholeheartedly devoted to pleasing God.  Wow!!  How many of us can ask God to examine our lifestyle, and based on His findings extend the length of days—heal us.   Hezekiah seized the moment to hold his life up before God.  He had spiritual leverage and used it to petition God.  Amazingly, God responded favorably. Hezekiah’s prayer changed things!  Beloved, I believe this truth for us even now—prayer changes things.  God hears the prayer of His people.

 The bible says, “And it happened, before Isaiah reached the middle court that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you.” God heard Hezekiah’s prayer, and saw his tears, and promised to heal him.  Actually, God healed him and added fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life.

Reading this passage of scripture has inspired me to remain committed in my relationship with the LORD.  Living in obedience to His word, walking in truth with a loyal heart devoted to the things of God gives me spiritual leverage to petition God for healing and help in times of adversity, and hopeless situations.

Got spiritual leverage to petition God?

©Queen E. Phillips.  All rights reserved. Permission granted for nonprofit use only by the copyright owner.

Again we mourn

Here we are again, a Nation mourning the loss of our fellow Americans.  We have been hit with another tragedy that pierces our heart, redirects our focus and reminds us of what matters most.

My thoughts and prayers are toward Aurora, Colorado, the family and friends of the victims, the survivors, and yes, the family of the suspect apprehended by law enforcement.   I can only imagine in part the grief gripping those who are trying to comprehend this atrocity.

As in the past when tragedy struck,  many are asking why. My question is not so much as to why this happened.  After all the mass shootings we’ve had, my question is when will we as a nation and a people come together before a tragedy shock into reality…stop us in our tracks for a day, bringing political agendas to a halt…when will we as a nation fall on our knees crying out to God to save our lives before innocent lives are snuffed out, or when will we hold prayer vigils in our neighborhoods and churches before a massacre.   It’s obvious sadistic crimes and unimaginable violence have transferred from the big screen, and video games into minds of our children, youth and young adults. It’s reality with real guns and ammunition that kill innocent people—young and old.  It is not the figment of one’s imagination penned in a script to be acted out on a stage. It’s being played out in real life by real people in desperation.

Life is sacred and fragile, and death is a reality.  But that reality can be even more painful when it leaves us wondering what could have been done to prevent such a tragic outcome; or are we doing everything we can to save lives, or are we doing more to destroy lives and promote hopelessness among our own people.

Tragedy is not tailor-made for certain class of people.  Pain is not prejudice.  We are all human—we all bleed red blood; we all hurt regardless of the color of our skin,  religious beliefs, gender, or sexual orientation.  Death does not discriminate. And evil is ever-present lurking to lure any unsuspecting soul into the abyss. Moreover, God is always present to help us get through any tragedy when we open our hearts to receive His comforting strength, believe His Word and obey it. I choose to believe that we are still blessed and that He mourns with us, again.

Jessica Ghawi, aka Jessica Redfield is just one victim that has been identified and her story is one we should take notice of. Her life was spared last month in a mall shooting in Toronto, but today her family mourns her loss.  We mourn with you.  On June 5, 2012, she posted her thoughts on the Eaton Center shooting in Toronto on her blog.  Her story is one that should redirect our focus, and change our perspective on what matters most.  Here’s an excerpt from her blog:

I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.

I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.

I feel like I am overreacting about what I experienced. But I can’t help but be thankful for whatever caused me to make the choices that I made that day. My mind keeps replaying what I saw over in my head. I hope the victims make a full recovery. I wish I could shake this odd feeling from my chest. The feeling that’s reminding me how blessed I am. The same feeling that made me leave the Eaton Center. The feeling that may have potentially saved my life.