Finding Lost Hope

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more” (Psalm 71:14).

I have a confession to make.

I lost my hope.

I had hoped in a dream that I believed was God’s plan for me – it was exciting and I was filled with anticipation.  But when my life turned in a different direction, I set my backpack full of hope down and shuffled off on this unwanted new path.  It all seemed more like a heavy burden – just another unfulfilled longing.  It was easier to leave it behind than to continue carrying it around like so much dead weight.

The Bible mentions quite a few people who stood at the same crossroads.  Moses, Elijah, and Naomi come to mind.  Peter and several of the disciples, uncertain of where their lives are going after Jesus’ death, dejectedly went back to fishing (John 21).  And then there are two of Jesus’ followers  walking on the dusty road to Emmaus when they encounter a stranger.  They tell him about Jesus (isn’t that a kick), sadly saying: “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).  They saw their lives going in a completely different direction than they expected.

Part of the problem is our understanding of the word “hope.”  We say, “I hope it doesn’t rain out the picnic today.”  “I hope he asks me to the prom.”  “I hope you feel better soon.” – but these are spoken like “wishful thinking.”  That’s a “cross-your-fingers” kind of hope.  The Bible portrays hope as “an attitude of confidently looking forward to what is good and beneficial.”  It’s a hope that serves as “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).  It’s not a hope in circumstances, but rather a hope in the One who called us and sustains us and guarantees a good outcome.  It’s a hope that we can carry with us no matter what twists and turns life takes.  Better yet, it’s a hope that carries us no matter what.  That’s the kind of hope you and I need.

Remember Peter and those disciples on the road to Emmaus – the ones who had lost hope? Their stories didn’t end there.  At the end of that fishing trip was breakfast with the risen Jesus and restored hope for Peter.  At the end of the Emmaus road was the joyful realization that the stranger in their midst was the resurrected Lord Himself.  In the end their hope was renewed, in fact, it was even stronger than before.

One of my favorite verses in seasons like this is Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true at last there is life and joy.”  I believe this is an assurance that our God-given dreams don’t get cast aside when life takes an unexpected turn.  Because God expected that turn, even if I didn’t, and somehow my dreams will make the turn too. And when He brings them to reality, they may not look exactly like I envisioned, but they will be full of life and joy.  And hope.

Holy Father, I’m picking my hope back up and I’m going to walk this new path with the assurance that “He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).  My hope is in You.  There’s no better place for it to be.  Amen.

What Do You Want for Christmas?

165043-849x565-christmas-giftsWhat Do You Want for Christmas? Jewelry? Clothes? A good book? Something for your house?  Or you just might prefer the one-size-fits-all cash gift.  Sometimes our wishes are pretty big – my son wanted a LEGO® Star Wars Death Star (retail 499.99) – needless to say, he did not get it.  Some of us are satisfied with a bit less.  When I was a little girl, I just wanted paper and pencils – guess I’ve always been a writer at heart.

Or maybe your Christmas list is less tangible – something that can’t be wrapped up and put under the tree.  If you wrote it out it might say “peace” or “joy” or “hope” or “love.” Maybe your list includes “acceptance” or “freedom” or “rest.”  You and I know that we can’t buy those at the mall or order them online.  There’s only one place for these Christmas wishes.

To the one who asks for peace, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).  Peace in our hearts only comes through Jesus Christ.  For the joyless David wrote, “You will fill me with joy in Your presence” (Psalm 16:11).  Joy is found in the presence of God.  If you long for hope hear God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  In the Lord’s hands we have hope – for this life and for all eternity.  Do you wish for love? “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).  Not just a little, not even a “bushel and a peck” (anybody remember that?), but poured out on you lavishly, without measure and overflowing.  In fact this same verse fills your request for acceptance – God calls Himself your Father and He accepts you as His child.  If freedom tops your list you can find release – the Psalmist says “O Lord, truly I am your servant . . . You have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:16).  The blood of Jesus breaks the chains of this world.  Maybe you, like me just want a little rest this Christmas.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Just sink back into His arms and let Him carry your burdens and you.

Whatever you long for this Christmas, you can find it in Jesus.  There is nothing on your list that He cannot provide. He who is the greatest Gift of all is ready to give you the gift you most desire.

The Hope of the World

hope“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

For hundreds of years the Jewish people had waited and watched for the birth of this special child.  They held tightly to God’s promise, and their hope was founded on His faithfulness to keep His promises.  But they hoped for a Messiah who would free them from the rule of their enemies.  When Hope was born they failed to recognize Him because He lay in a manger, surrounded by hay and the lowing of cattle.  This Child, the fulfillment of God’s greatest promise, was the Hope, not just of the Jewish people, but of the whole world.

Mankind today looks in hope for an end to poverty, violence, disease and hatred.  But the true enemy of all humanity is evil – evil wrought by Satan, the enemy of God and His creation.  The Jewish people expected a military savior, and our world today looks for a political savior, but God sent to us exactly what we needed – a holy and perfect Savior who would save us from our sins, from death and from the wrath of God.

The Lord promised us Hope and Peace and Joy and Love – and He fulfilled every promise in His Son, Jesus Christ.  The hope of all mankind came, not as a military conqueror, nor as a great political leader, but as a tiny and helpless baby – Jesus, the Child of Hope and Promise.

As we enter the month of December and ready our homes for Christmas, let’s prepare our hearts as well.  I hope you will join me every day up to Christmas for a devotional thought that will help us focus heart and mind on the birth of Christ.

Hearing Voices

bud-flower-drops-close-upForget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See I am doing a new thing! (Isaiah 43:18,19)

I hear voices every day. I’ll bet you do too. No, we’re not crazy; those voices are from the past, from other’s opinions and judgments of us. And they tend to weigh heavily on us long after we’ve grown up. I was the klutzy, clueless, dumb kid growing up. I was teased terribly in school (try growing up with the name Dorcas Beegle and see if you don’t get razed day in and day out). I was reminded continually that I was not the pretty one or the smart one. I went through most of my life gathering up all those voices then every morning I hit play and rehearsed all the things that people said about me. My self-esteem was in the pit. I gave up before I ever tried because of the words stored up in my head. I’ve always wanted to write, but someone once said I had nothing of value to say. I longed to go to college, but other voices said I was too dumb. I dreamed of being in ministry but didn’t pursue it because the recordings said I was a failure. I lived out what I heard others say throughout my life.

Until God said differently.

God began a long process of healing and re-writing my sense of who I was. He reminded me that I was created in His image, which meant I had value and intelligence. He patiently recorded over those old tapes and pulled those long-lost dreams of writing and college and ministry back to the surface. He put words in my mind and told me to write. He put me on the path to seminary and He and I have maintained a 4.0 average for three years now. And He opened doors to a ministry of teaching and mentoring. Now I am living out what God says about me.

Beloved, no voice from your past truly determines your life. You are who God says you are. His opinion is the only one that matters. What is He saying to your heart today?

Advent 2015 – Day 19 – My Testimony – From Darkness to Joy

adventcandlesweek3“You turned my wailing to dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent” Psalm 30:11-12

Painters often use dark colors to emphasis lighter tones in a scene, allowing the contrast to draw our eye to the most important part of the painting.  A writer uses crisis and conflict to build tension in a story; when the resolution comes the reader experiences joy and relief.  At times our heavenly Father uses dark tones as He paints the portrait of our lives.  This is my story.  This is how God took me from wailing to dancing and from sackcloth to joy.

Like most of us, I’ve had “blue days” when my heart and mind were in a low place, but they usually came and went and I rode them out like waves at the beach.  But when a tsunami of anxiety and depression hit me and knocked me off my feet, there was no riding it out; this was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  The constant bombardment of hopelessness, anxiety, and despair never left me.  Almost daily, I battled thoughts of ending my life to stop the mental torment.  There was nothing I could do to help myself. There was no shaking it off and no bootstraps to pull myself up by—and even if there were, I didn’t have the strength to grab hold of them.

So how did I go from hopelessness to standing here with the sun shining on my face; to once again pursue my dreams and find joy in my life?  Only God.  “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2).  I was indeed in a deep and horrible pit, but the Lord rescued me.  He spoke tenderly to my heart from His Word. He listened as I poured out all my emotions to Him. Often I simply sat quietly in His presence, His love and compassion enveloping me.  Slowly but surely, light began to dawn in the darkness and joy took root in my heart like a tiny seed stretching itself toward the sun.

Why am I letting you see this side of my life?  Because someone is struggling today just as I struggled then.  Someone is in a deep, dark pit of despair, on the verge of giving up.  I want you to know beloved, there is hope and joy for you—because God is for you.  He rescued me and He is able and willing to rescue you, because He loves you.    My prayer today is that you will receive God’s healing love and experience His joy this Christmas.  Please cry out to God – right now – and receive His love.  I am living proof that God can turn your darkness in to joy.

Advent 2015 – Day 7 – Hope in His Glory

Advent candle 1We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:2

We started this Advent week of hope looking at Isaiah 9:2 and the light that Christ brought to the world.  It is fitting that we end this week in Romans 5:2 – rejoicing in “the hope of the glory of God.”  The Greek word that Paul uses for glory is doxa, from which we get the word “doxology,” and it is referring to the awesome, brilliant light that radiates from God’s presence.

In the highest heavens God dwells in majesty, far beyond our most vivid imaginations.  John tried to express the excellence of God in the book of Revelations, but his human words failed.  The best he could do was to equate what he saw with the most grand and glorious sights here on earth, and even that fell woefully short.

One day, much sooner than the world realizes, Jesus Christ is returning—not as a helpless baby, but as the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He will come to claim those of us who have trusted Him as their Savior, and He will bring us to His—and our—eternal home.  In that place will be all the wonders John could not describe.  And we will see the glory of God.  Oh, how we will rejoice!

That is your hope my friend—the awesome, brilliant glory of God, there before your very eyes.  The light that illuminates all of heaven will shine on your face; the radiance of His beauty will be reflected in your eyes.  Every heartache and struggle in this life will fade away as you behold what no human eye has ever seen.  The glory of God!

Is your hope firmly fixed on Jesus?

Advent 2015 – Day 6 – Hope That Never Fails

Advent candle 1This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance . . . we have put our hope in the living God who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:10

“Oh I hope it doesn’t rain out the picnic today!”  “I hope I did well on that Biology exam.”  “I hope she will go with me to the prom.”  “I hope . . .” It’s like saying “I’d like for it to be so, but I just don’t know.”  In our ever-changing world, there are very few things we can count on anymore.   In the past quarter-century we’ve seen our society change at a break-neck pace, and not always for the better.  Isn’t there anything or anyone we can put our hope in that won’t let us down?

God.  God is the only sure and solid foundation for hope.

He is El Khi—the Living God and the source of all life.  Would you rather put your hope in a living God or in “chance?”  Chance is shifting sand.  Only the Living God is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

He is the Soter—the Savior of all men.  The greatest need all humans have is for a Savior, someone to rescue us from our sin.  God sent His one and only Son, the Babe we honor in this Christmas season, to pay the penalty for our sin.  He gives us hope because He is our Savior.

These things are true – they are trustworthy.  We can put our hope in God because He is faithful.  He promises salvation for all who believe, and He always—always­­­—keeps His word.  If you need a hope that never fails, hope in the Living God who is your Savior.  He is a trustworthy God and a sure foundation of hope.

Advent 2015 – Day 5 – Hope in the Morning

Advent candle 1Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail.  They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

So how did you do yesterday?  Anything you regret?  Something you wish you hadn’t said or done?  Maybe there was something you should have done that you didn’t?  Or were you able to pull off a perfect day?  If you did, you are the rare exception to the human rule.  Every one of us makes mistakes.  We all stumble and fall every day.  We all sin – in our actions, our words, our thoughts, and attitudes.  If we sin every day, what do we do with all that baggage?  That’s a heavy, hopeless load to drag around from day to day.

Here is some good news: if you are a believer in Christ, God offers you the hope of a fresh new day – every day!  Our key verse says that God’s mercy is new—every day.  As you greet the sunrise in the morning you do so with a clean slate.  God doesn’t judge you today based on your actions yesterday.  He doesn’t hold the mistakes of the past over your head.  And He doesn’t want you to either.  Because Jesus Christ paid the price for all of your sins, you can face each day knowing that God’s love, mercy and goodness toward you is fully stocked and there is a never-ending supply.  Greet the morning with a renewed hope, you’ve been given a fresh new day!

Advent 2015 – Day 4 – A Purpose and A Hope

Advent candle 1Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose.  Jeremiah 15:11

 In my seminary studies, I took a Christian Apologetics course, not to “apologize” for being a Christian, but to know how to defend the Christian faith.  (The Greek word for defend is apologia.)  During that course, I had to interview several non-Christians.  Some of the questions I asked dealt with the origins of life, the meaning and purpose of life, and what happens at the end of life.  Their answers were all interwoven by their beliefs—or lack of beliefs.  Because they did not acknowledge a Creator they subscribed to a theory of human existence as a random “accident.”  Because life began in a randomness, they saw no purpose beyond themselves.  Because they did not see a greater purpose to human life, they saw nothing beyond this life.  To just exist without a purpose – to live just to die – is a hopeless existence.

The Christian faith tells us that we are created for a great and eternal purpose:  to know God and love Him forever.  That is a purpose and a hope. That is why you woke up this morning—to have another day to know and love your Creator just a little more than you did yesterday.  And that is why this Baby came from the highest heaven to earth, that you might be restored to this grand and wonderful purpose.  Jesus came to give you and me life with purpose—today and tomorrow and forever.  Find God’s purpose for you—find your Christmas hope.