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,

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When you don’t understand the “why”

cryingwomanseyesFor Christians, what matters most is learning to trust God regardless of whatever we face in this life even when we don’t like or understand it. Like me, you have probably thought I don’t understand what God is doing. Or perhaps, you have asked, “Why God allowed this to happen?” Whether you thought or actually voiced your issue with God, it’s really not significant.

Truth is, it is impossible for our finite minds to comprehend God’s sovereignty.

Holy Scriptures makes it clear: Romans 11:33-34: “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?” Also in Isaiah 55:8-9, God spoke through the prophet, saying, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways… For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

In essence, our limitations keep us from grasping things that happen in our personal life and in the world. Therefore, God does not tell us everything nor does He owe us an explanation. Because He is sovereign, all-knowing and all-powerful, He only reveals what He wants us to know as it relates to His purpose and for His glory. Think of it like this: If He told us or reveals everything to us concerning His plan, we would have no reason to believe, have faith in, rely on and trust Him. He wants us to trust Him! He reveals Himself to us on an as needed basis and by our faith. For example, if we need peace and have faith, He reveals Himself as Jehovah Shalom; if we need healing and have faith, He reveals Himself as Jehovah Rapha.

I have learned this: As painful as challenges and events may be in my life and family life, I must trust God and believe His word. I stand firmly on Romans 8:28.

In the words of Babbie Mason’s song, “Trust His Heart”:

He alone is faithful and true

He alone knows what is best for you

When you don’t understand

When you don’t see His plan

When you can’t trace His hand

Trust His Heart

I have concluded that I may never know or understand the why, but what I am learning to do through life’s challenges is trust Him completely; knowing that if I belong to Him and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, He will never leave me nor forsake me. I am confident that He will care for and comfort anyone who turns to Him in faith to be their loving Father. It is easy to blame God for the negative and painful things that happen in this life. But it does not change anything—God is still God; He is still good, faithful and true, and if we look closely at the situation, chances are we will find a reason to be thankful.

Recently, I watched Myles Munroe, Jr. make a public statement just three days after his parents’ death in the plane crash; he said with conviction, “Although God may never explain himself, He will reveal himself.”

For Christians, what matters most is learning to trust God regardless of whatever we face in this life even when we don’t like or understand it. However, the tough question is, will we be in a position see Him when He reveals Himself and then gladly receive what He offers to meet us at the point of our need?

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It’s Personal

 Peter turned around and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them — the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who among us will betray you?”  Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”  Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.”   —John 21:20-22

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God’s plan is personally designed for each of us.  Although we all travel life’s journey according to the roadmap God has personally planned for each of us, our experiences will be different; for some the road may seem easy and for others it may be rough and less traveled.   Yet, there is a natural tendency to want to know God’s plan for others in your inner circle and the road to destiny they must travel. Many even go as far as to speculate, evaluate, and assess someone else’s qualifications and anointing to carry out their Kingdom assignment. For example, you can probably relate to Peter’s concern in the above scripture. Imagine the scene.  It’s time for Peter’s restoration due to his denial of  being in relationship with Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75).  During the process of restoration Jesus quizzes Peter about his love for Him and gives him specific instructions, “Feed my sheep.”

After being asked the third time, Peter obviously grieved and disturbed by Jesus’ persistence and responds emphatically by noting Jesus’ omniscience.  (The third time signified his restoration, which eradicated his three-time denial of Jesus).   Jesus continued by revealing to Peter his death, and how he would die as a martyr for the glory of God.  Really!  You can imagine that was not the most exciting news to receive after being affirmed and restored for ministry!    However, it should remind us that Kingdom assignment is not always THAT glamorous—there is a cost!  More important, it reminds us of God’s grace when we fail in our faithfulness to Him.  He is a God of restoration.

After receiving “in part” his revealed destiny,  and God’s will for him, naturally, Peter wanted to know if he was going to be the only one to encounter such unpleasantness, to say the least.  Since the beloved disciple was nearby, Peter asked, “What about him?”  In other words, what is your plan for John? What’s going to happen to him? How is he going to die?   It was no secret that John was referred to the “beloved” disciple.  We had a name for it back in the day: “Teacher’s pet.”

Beloved, this is the perfect example of childish and immature behavior when it comes to Kingdom assignment and God’s agenda.  Jesus’ perfects everything that concerns us individually while orchestrating life events to bring His plan and purposes to pass.  He wants us to focus on our own personal relationship and obedience to Him. Basically, (paraphrased) Jesus was saying to Peter,  this is not about John. This is about my will for you. My will for John is none of your business. YOU follow me. I’ve given you your assignment and revealed my plan for you.  So don’t worry about him. What I have and want for John is between him and Me.  You just stay focus on what I’ve assigned to you, and follow my plan for you, Peter. (Italic is my paraphrase). Wow! Talk about a slap on the wrist (rebuke).

In today’s Christian culture  some church leaders would have been highly offended if the senior elder (pastor, bishop) had rebuked them like that.  Many would have gotten so upset that they would have moved their membership.  Ha! You know it’s the truth!

Although it’s the natural human instinct to be inquisitive about God’s plan and purpose for others, it’s not what God wants.  We are too easily distracted from our personal relationship with God, or what He has destined for our life when we focus on His will and plan for others within our circle.

Knowing the details of God’s plan or will for others stimulates the fleshy appetite for covetousness, jealousy, envy and even strife.  We should never compare personal ministry gifts or assignments to others. Looking at others and questioning God’s will and plan for their lives distracts us from what God has destined for us individually. You’ve heard the cliché, “It enough work for everybody.”  The truth is we should all be about God’s business— working together to advance His Kingdom, all for the glory of God.  There is a song, “What God has for me is for me.”  This is true, but do we really believe it?

Perhaps Peter’s curiosity about John was out of genuine love and concern since Jesus assigned him leadership responsibility for the church.  Yet, leadership responsibility does not justify questioning  God’s will and plan for someone else in comparison to yours.   Think about Jesus’ reply to Peter, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”  YOU follow me.” 

This lessons teaches that it’s about your personal relationship with the Lord.   Your primary focus should be doing His will…carrying out your assignment, and fulfilling your purpose and destiny regardless of what it is, or how painful it may be.  And the good news is that He will never leave you nor forsake you.  However, you must trust Him; follow His lead, and obey His commands.

Consequently, Peter carried out his assignment.  He preached with power and authority; he wrote with inspired conviction about suffering for the glory of God. It’s obvious in his epistles ( 1 & 2 Peter) that he accepted God’s plan and will for his life.  Also, John carried out his assignment (Gospel of John, the epistles: 1, 2 & 3 John, and Book of Revelation), being the “beloved” disciple qualified him to convey the message of love.  As a matter of fact, the other disciples, even Judas Iscariot carried out their mission.  And now, we can all benefit and learn from them through the inspired Word of God.

Although it is a natural tendency to be concerned about God’s plan for someone else’s, I encourage you to stay focused on what God has planned for you.   It is my prayer that God’s plan for YOUR life is revealed, and that YOU complete YOUR personal assignment in the Kingdom to the glory of God alone.

Shalom.

(c)2010. Originally posted, “Not your business”

Revised post (c) 2013. All rights reserved.

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?

The Path of Peace

My faith says if I pray hard enough and believe long enough things will change.

Is it too much to hope for? Am I considered naïve to even think things could possibly be different from what they are now? Is it not my privilege to think…to believe…to pray…to hope…to expect?

Here’s what I think; here is what I believe, and pray and hope and even imagine…

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace…

 

That’s it! The path of peace!

 

The path of peace will lead us to that blissful place of eternal rest. There’ll be no more sorrow, tears, heartache and pain.

 The path of peace will lead us to that majestic ambiance of glory unimaginable.  No natural eye can behold its brilliance and exquisite décor.

 No finite mind can comprehend its power.  No frail body made of dust can stand under its weight of glory.

 Oh! The Path of Peace.

It is a path that anyone can take to find their way to the Father.  He has been waiting since before the foundation of the world to welcome you into the family.

 

Do you want to know how to get on this path of peace?  Because I sense, you’re tired and weary from the burdens you bear. Your life is spinning out of control. Your mind is tormented by nightmares. The daily challenges you face are daunting; they leave you drained of strength to survive.  You’re restless although you take sleeping pills. Your system has become immune to Prozac. You feel hopeless; you’re exhausted because your days are spent worrying about anything…everything. You don’t have the power to sustain yourself.  You are tired of suffering from sickness and diseases. The substance abuse and sexual promiscuity are no longer gratifying.  You feel used and cheap. Your “pint-sized” self-esteem has evaporated into thin air. There is no satisfaction in anything you do. You are emotionally and mentally stressed by the pressures and cares of a life you’ve concluded is unfair and hopeless.  

 

The voice in your head is screaming louder and louder, “Kill yourself! It’s your only way out!”

 

NO! WAIT! Do not listen! It’s lie!  Suicide is NOT the way out! STOP!  Your solution is here!

 

TODAY, RIGHT NOW You CAN start the journey on the path of peace by accepting Jesus Christ into your heart as Savior and Lord.

 

Jesus was punished for our sins so that we may have peace (Isaiah 53:5).

Christ gives peace and rest to all who come to him in faith (Matthew 11:28-30).

Peace comes through justification by faith in Jesus (Romans 5:1).

Jesus gives peace (John 14:27).

 

I’m praying for you….Now

 Heavenly Father,

 Thank You for sending this word for that special individual who has no hope. It is because of Your unfailing love that You’re reaching out to them now. I pray that Your calming Presence embrace them now. Let Your peace overshadow and Your love uphold them.  Open their eyes to see beyond present chaos and calamities of life, and let them envision the beauty and tranquil place of glorious hope.  Father, it’s Your desire that we all have peace that exceeds our understanding.  And thank You, that You made provision by sending Your Son Jesus Christ as the Light to breakthrough like the majestic sunrise. Let the warmth of the Light shine and dispel the darkness that lurks in the soul of that beloved whose weary, battered and bruised. Mend their broken heart. Restore. Renew their mind. Change their life and make them new in Christ.

To start your journey on the path of peace, pray this prayer:

Heavenly Father,

 I believe in my heart that Jesus Christ is Your Son; that He died on the cross and You raised Him from the dead. I confess that I am a sinner in need of salvation. Lord Jesus, come into my heart. I repent; I turn away from a life of sin and turn to You. Forgive me of my sins and make me whole. I receive You as my Savior and Lord.  Thank You, Father, for rescuing me from a destructive lifestyle and eternal damnation. Thank you for eternal life. I receive Your peace with thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

If you prayed this prayer in sincerity, you are saved! You are now on the path of peace. Make sure you pray daily, and read the Bible. Get connected with a local church where the Bible is taught, and you can fellowship with other believers. This practice will help you grow and become knowledgeable about the teachings of Christ, and the Word of God.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

 

Visit Prayer Principles & Podcasts for more teaching resources, prayer coaching tips and sample prayers.