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Posts Tagged ‘hope’

download (1)This week, hundred of missionaries and faith leaders from all over the world descended on Fort Worth, TX to pray over each other, learn from each other, and support each other. I have met amazing men who minister to persecuted Christians in a predominately Muslim environment – unfortunately, I can’t say who they are over cyber space  or show their pictures because they and their families live under the threat of execution.

I can tell you what I gleaned from their talks:

1. People are being converted to Christianity at alarming rates – the persecutions have drawn others to the faith. God does bring good out of evil. (Romans 12:21 –Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. )  Rejoice in this.

2. The best thing we can do is PRAY – pray for holy leaders to spring forth to guide the newly converted. Jesus is coming to thousands in  dreams, but they don’t understand who the “man in glowing white” is. (Romans 10:20 –And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”

3. Befriend Muslims here in our countries because they are curious about our faiths and freedoms, but fear us because of the prejudice we have due to the terrorist sects. They are humans looking for peace and salvation and because secularism is foreign to their mindset, are easier to convert. Many do not realize Jesus is proclaimed as the Son of God in the Koran because they have never been allowed to study it!  (Colossians 1:25  I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—)

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I found God moving in places in the world where hatred, persecution and strife are part of a daily existence. But out of that cesspool springs of hope are gurgling up, and the stream of Living Water cannot be dammed.  Their testimonies brought tears to my eyes and a new fervor in my heart.

Please join me in doing these three simple things.

 

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 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)

If you have taken time out to read this devotional today of all days, congratulations. Millions of people are only thinking of one thing today—getting their tax returns done before midnight.  They are too busy rendering unto Cesar at the moment to find time to turn to God, except perhaps in a desperate plea of panic when they see how much they owe. Tax time can definitely be a stressful time. So many rules, loopholes and hoops to jump through. Endless forms to fill in, if-that-then-this scenarios, trying to determine if you, as a square peg, can squeeze into the round hole of restrictions.

Praise God  that His way is not so convoluted. Perhaps that is why many people find salvation hard to believe. There are no hoops to jump through, no volumes of rules to follow to the letter or else, no restrictions, no loopholes. What’s the catch? It’s not that simple. No way. There has to be a plan.

Of course there is. What is God’s plan? To restore us to His presence. That’s it. His biggest desire for us is to return to Eden. But our sinful nature blocks the way. Evil lurks to trip us up and tempt us into turning our heads, and then our backs. All we need to do is to say we are sorry and we desire Christ to come into our lives and take it over. His plan brings peace into chaos, hope into despair, a future of faith where none once existed.

Today, who will you choose to serve? Jesus said we can’t have two masters. Yes, we must render unto ImageCesar, so to speak. But, the best way to do that is to realize that even the government is under God’s plan. In Romans, Paul encouraged the people to be respectful of their government because it, too, came from God. If God is truly sovereign then all is under His control, despite the human free will factor. Once we render all to Him, it makes having to render unto the government more purposeful, and all the more necessary. By paying our taxes, we are abiding by the law of the land, and in essence, obeying God’s desire for us.

Render all to God first—all your fears, misdoings, hurts, joys, blessings and money. Then trust in His plans for you. He died on a cross to ensure that plan. Whatever April 16th brings, you can have faith that it is under control. Render unto Cesar, yes. But first, surrender to God.

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garden of grace

 

 

Along the river bank at my family place in the Texas Hill Country is an old cypress. Long before my birth, it’s trunk was bent in half by a raging flood. Yet, it’s not only lived but thrived. Its shady limbs continue to stretch out into the waters.Some reach high towards the sky. Each year it bears fragrant cypress balls, and is a celestial highway for squirrels. In times of flood and storms, it is a refuge for the birds.

Christians are not immune to tragedy in this broken world. But, as Rick Warren says, even then, we can still bear fruit because we are grafted into Christ’s loving strength and merciful grace.

“…do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Romans 11:18-19

Others see there is hope in our eyes not washed away by our grief-stricken tears, Even in our deepest sorrow, there is a peace. And that, my friends, speaks volumes without one whispered word.

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I have begun to power walk, well for me it takes all my power to do this, for a half hour early every morning after I have my Bible and coffee time. I live in a large apartment complex, and a few other people are stirring at that daybreak hour. ID-10018835 However, I have begun to notice something that disturbs me down to my core. Averted eyes.

Today, I passed seven people, and only one looked at me and returned my smile – a child. Everyone else turned away, or changed directions when they saw me approaching with my water bottle, walking shoes, and sweat-beaded brow. Now surely an overweight, sixty-year old 5’2′ woman is not threatening. So, instead of thinking it was all about me, I began to observe that they reacted the same way to others who were heading for their cars, walking their pets or taking out their trash. No one acknowledged the presence of anyone else. Heads down, eyes averted, they went about their business.

What happened to the friendly “howdy” and wave? When did people become so wary, so sullen, and so solitary? When did we begin to disconnect from each other? Is cyberspace to blame? Population growth? Unstable economy? I think those may be symptoms, but the disease is greater than that.

People are lost. They have no hope. They need a Savior.

Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. Job 8:13

How can we help people to hope again?  By showing them our hope that is unmovable.  .

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

I will continue to walk, and continue to nod and smile. Maybe the small silver cross I wear will catch their attention. Perhaps they will see something in me they are lacking. And maybe, just maybe, after our eyes begin to connect, they will let me get close enough to wish them a good day and to tell them I hope God, who is the source of my hope, blesses them. I just might be the one person who smiles to them, or acknowledges them positively with caring eyes.

I also hope I start to jiggle less and less as I walk more and more .But, at least now God has given me a purpose outside of myself for my morning strolls. I walk to bring hope to averted eyes.

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Have you ever felt buried? I have. The hole seemed so deep, yet themroeI tried toclimb my way out,the more I kept sinking.Exhausted, physically, emotionally and spititually, I lay as if paralyzed. Stress, job pressures, finances, loss, sorrow, poor self-image – they all were shovels of dirt thrown on top of me, suffocating any positive outlook, trapping my hands to my sides.

But, deep in the beats of my heart still lay the truth of Philippians 4:11-13.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be contentx whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry ywhether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

The minister in the movie God’s Not Dead relays this message to a young Muslim turned Christian woman who has been disinherited. Other people in the movie have to face heartaches, devastating illnesses, or rejection by those they love. Yet each of them, through dying to their past find life in Christ. If you haven’t seen this movie, do.

ID-100128625I have heard it said, when you hit rock bottom you begin to realize that Jesus is the Rock. Jesus rose from the grave so He can raise us from ours- not only at the end of the age when He returns for His own, but daily. So many people today are walking dead. They have lost hope. They see no future. They plod through their lives without purpose beyond making money so they can eat and have a roof over their heads.  Maybe they make money on the side to support a habit they think will bring them joy, but it sinks them deeper into the grave of despondency and helplessness

Whatever pits you have dug, whatever graves the world has chucked you in, there is hope. Call on Jesus to reach down and pull you out. He will shake off the dirt and make you clean, filled with hope, peace and strength in all things.

Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I open your graves, and raise you from your graves. O my people, I put my Spirit within you, and you shall live. Ezekiel 37:13-14a.

 

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Never had he seen it so dark.

The young sentry squinted his eyes into slits. It didn’t help.He couldn’t see his hand in front of his face, much less any enemy lurking. It was as if a dark blanket had covered the whole earth. No moon, no stars. Just thick swirls of black fog.

His ears picked up the muted call of his fellow guard at the tower to the north. “Three o’clock and all is well.”

The sentry repeated the call to the next tower, per protocol.  But it was more of a wish than a declaration. How could he be sure? A whole army could be hiding.  Instead of being here, he longed to be home, in his bed spooned next to his wife and feel her hand stroke his shoulder. He paced the twenty feet that was his guard post as he peered into the thickness that would not reveal what it cloaked.

He yearned for the evenings when the stars twinkled their welcome. At times they seemed so close to him high in his tower, he could almost reach out and grab one. Or the nights the full moon illuminated the hills with soft tree-shadows that reached across the meadows like the beckoning fingers of his grandmother. But tonight, there was no light at all. No way to keep his bearings.

Three more hours until dawn. Would it ever come?Oh, how he wished for this night to be over. He wanted to breathe in the smell of honey and hot porridge waiting for him when he traipsed in at dawn. Feel the steam envelope his nostrils and the warmth slide down into his belly.He crossed his arms and rubbed them to keep out the chill–not so much from the temperature as from the ominous feeling he  could not shake. Evil lay out there like a tiger waiting to pounce. He needed reassurance that he’d survive the next few hours unscathed.

All he could do is wait, and hope. Trust in the God of his fathers to protect him, protect his family inside the walls, protect the whole village. He lifted a simple, plain-spoken prayer to Heaven beyond the stars he could not physically see.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
 I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          more than watchmen wait for the morning.     Psalm 130:5-6

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I hope my story encourages you today. If you are in a dark, uncertain place right now, take hope. Your Lord will watch over you, protect you and guide you through it. All you have to do is ask, then wait in hope. He can see what you cannot.

Let His love envelope you like a cloak. There is nothing that He will not hold you through, so cling to that belief and feel His peace.

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ID-10057677In the bustle of what can be the holidays, the temptation to overspend and regret it later, and the crowded confusion of lights, music and noise that fills the stores, it is easy to lose the true reason for the season. But tucked into a message to the Roman Christians two thousand years ago is the key to keeping Christmas what it should be – a time to draw nearer to God as we recall Him drawing nearer to us in the form of a babe lying in a manger.

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

We hear those words this time of year – hope, joy, peace. We hear them in Christmas carols, read them on greeting cards. The first Advent candle is for hope, the third for joy, and the fourth reminds us of the angels singing, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind.”

If we ever hope to truly have a merry Christmas, then we must let the merriness grow in our hearts and not let the outside world taint it. Because we have hope through our Savior for eternal life later and for guidance now, we can have a joy that is not dependent on good cheer, highly caloric foods and the latest gadget in the electronics department or jewelry design from the diamond stores.  And once we experience that ebbing joy that comes form the Holy Spirit, we can find peace in the midst of  all the cacophony that can be the holidays.

So when the season starts to crowd in, take two steps back. Find a quiet place, even if it is in your parked car, and ask the God of hope to refill you with His joy. Let the power of the Holy Spirit flow through you and bring you that peace that no one understands, but everyone wants to experience.  Then, maybe, just maybe, you can bring joy to others– especially the frazzled shoppers and store clerks, hope to those who are not having a merry Christmas due to grief or hurt, and peace to all you meet.

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