For the One Who is Losing Hope

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It’s been such a hard year and a half for the world. So much tragedy and pain and loss and anger. So much despair and hopelessness. I see you, friend – struggling to hold your head up. This message is for you – the one who is losing hope. I know how that feels. I have been there. When you think that these hard days will never end, the pain will never stop, the sin will never leave you, the loneliness will never go away. When you wonder if there’s any point in going on.

Please hear me: there is a reason to keep going – you are only in the middle of your story. When I read a book, and the plot twists put the heroine in a desperate situation, I know there are more pages and chapters for the story to turn around. But when we are in the middle of our life story, we think this is all there is, and this is how it will always be. But there are more pages and chapters to come. And with them comes hope. Because the Author of your story is the God who loves you, and He is writing a glorious turnaround for you. He sees your story from beginning to end. He sees you in the middle, where the struggle is now – and He sees you on the other side, whole, stronger, at peace.

Psalm 33:11 says “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” He has a plan and a purpose for your life – and for this present season that seems unbearably hard – and He has the power to fulfill His plan. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). He never leaves anything unfinished. And that includes you and me.

If life is hard right now, remember that this is one page in the story of your life – but it’s not the whole story. The struggle, the pain, the ache you’re feeling now is not the final word. Let God keep writing your story. Trust Him to turn the plot around. Beloved, as long as there is breath in your body, your story is not done – there is hope. Please keep reading – the best is yet to come.

God’s Not Done With You

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“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known” 1 John 3:2.

The children of the great composer, Bach, found that the easiest method of awakening their father was to play a few lines of music and leave off the last note. The musician would arise immediately and go to the piano to strike the final chord. His spirit could not leave the song incomplete. We all have projects we’ve started but shoved aside and left unfinished. We run out of time or funds or motivation. We lose interest and give up.

I look at my life sometimes, at all my starts and stops of Christian growth, and wonder if God has considered giving up on me. Has He just decided that I am just more trouble than I’m worth? Has He become frustrated with me (as I do with myself) and moved on to someone more capable, more intelligent, or more “spiritual” than me? Is He just going to leave me here in this unfinished state?

The Bible assures me that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). I remember a song I taught to the children at church:

He’s still working on me

To make me what I need to be

It took him just a week to make the moon and stars

The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be

‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

Beloved, if you are frustrated because you just can’t seem to “get it right,” don’t give up on yourself. God hasn’t. He’s still working on you.

CPR for Your Dreams

“How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” Joshua 18:3

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. When I was very little, I would draw crayon scribbles on paper and call them my “stories.” I wrote with real words as I grew up, and placed well in writing and poetry competitions in high school. Writing gave me an avenue to express my feelings and order my thoughts and emotions. As an adult, I wrote in journals and developed the habit of journaling my prayers. Yet I kept those writings tucked away in boxes, never letting my words go any further as life and responsibilities pushed those dreams down deeper and deeper inside.

Ten years ago, God began to lay on my heart the desire to attend seminary, to write and to teach, another of my long held passions. He reached out and started plucking the strings of my heart to stir up old songs and old dreams; but once again I let life and the needs of my family and job take over. The more I pressed those dreams down the more discouraged I became. After an extremely difficult season, believing those dreams were dead, I took all those boxes of journals and notebooks and pitched them into the fireplace and shut those dreams out for good.

But God didn’t. He knew the plans He had for my life, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Two years ago, I heard the soft, faint sounds of the song again. This time I picked up the melody and began once again to put the words in my heart on paper. God made a used laptop computer available to me and a dear friend became my “editor,” giving me counsel and guidance in my writing. A sweet friend (a high-school student, no less!) helped me create this blog-site and I took a deep breath and finally put the words God placed in my heart out there for the world to see. Last fall, I began my first classes in seminary, and the Lord has opened doors for me to teach multiple weekly Bible studies in and around my community.

We often let our dreams and passions fade in the demands of work and family and the pull of responsibility. Sometimes we find ourselves chasing the world’s desires for us instead of God’s. When we push those God-given dreams aside, we can fall into depression and hopelessness, as I did while feeding the fire with my writings. But God has always had a plan for you, and He hasn’t let that plan die. Philippians 1:6 tells us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God sets His purpose for your life and He works in and around you to fulfill that purpose, as David testified in Psalm 138:8- “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” God works out His plans for His children. He knows everything about you, because He created you. He knows the desires and dreams in your heart, because He put them there. He has a plan to bring those dreams to reality. Listen to Philippians 2:13: “God works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”

What dream has God planted in your heart? What dreams have you buried under the responsibilities of your life? What dreams have you walked away from? My friend, if God has given you a dream or a passion, He has not given up on it – or on you. Ask Him to restore that desire and show you how He wants to fulfill His plan and purpose for your life. Listen carefully- do you hear the sounds of an old familiar song?

Holy Father, life has gotten in the way of the dreams You placed within my heart. Please stir those dreams back to life and fulfill the wonderful plans You have for me. Amen.

Little by Little

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

I am leaving this morning with a group of ladies to a Christian Women’s Conference, with a powerful and godly speaker and a wonderful worship music.  Two days of Christian fellowship, singing, hearing the Word, and no kid or hubby.  I am looking forward to this like a thirsty man in a desert looks forward to a refreshing spring.  I have been blessed to attend many of these conferences over the years, but I confess I have not always gotten what I had hoped out of them.

For many years I approached every conference with the same thought, “This one will change me for good!”  I would go with my journal ready to write down some life-altering truth that would finally “fix” everything in me that was broken.  I knew I would come home so filled with the Spirit that my family, friends, co-workers, even my cat would notice the new me.  And I did hear powerful truths and receive wonderful messages from the Lord.  The praise and worship music would wash over me and cleanse so much of the bitterness and anxiety from my heart.

But I eventually had to come home and before too long, the “old me” would show her snarling face again.  What happened to my life-changing experience?  Can I go back and pick up that new spirit again?  It was the same with the many books I read – surely this book will have the answer to all my struggles and I will be changed when I close the cover.

I bet you can relate on some level.  Sunday after Sunday we go to church with the hope that the Pastor will say something today that will put all our broken pieces back in place.  There are those rare and blessed times that a word spoken or read does produce a life-changing effect, but for most of us, that is not the case.  And I think I am beginning to understand why.

Look back at our key verse and you will see that the transformation we seek is an ongoing work, it is a process, one that won’t be fully completed until we are face to face with the One who began the work.  Look at verse 9 where Paul prays “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Do you see the progression and growth in his words?  Again Paul says, “…that you may become blameless and pure,” (Phil. 2:15, emphasis added), and in Colossians 1:10 – “growing in the knowledge of God.”   Paul also said that “we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).  Being-an action word that denotes an ongoing process.

In our society that glorifies the instant, we struggle with those things that come at a slower pace.   God does not rush us through to spiritual maturity.  A tree that grows rapidly often has a weak root system that cannot anchor it during a storm.

In the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, God lead them into a land of promise and blessing, a land that was inhabited by strong, wicked people who were not keen on giving up their homes.  Exodus 23: 28-30 is the Lord’s promise to drive them out – but not in one fell swoop.  Listen to verse 30-“Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”  You see God knew that they would be overwhelmed by the task of settling the land, so He promised to open it up to them “little by little” as they became a stronger nation and could successfully take possession of it.

God has a wonderful possession for you, His child.  He has a legacy of spiritual maturity that He is building in your life and witness, but He will not rush you.  He has a plan, and a timeline for accomplishing that plan.  He desires to build you into a believer with “deeper roots” -roots that will enable you to stand against the storms of life.  He wants to make your life a beautiful offering to His glory.

Do not get discouraged because you are not “there yet,” or because you struggle in your walk.  God sees your heart. He knows you desire to live a victorious Christian life; and the truth is, in His eyes “you are more than a conqueror through Him who loves you” (Rom. 8:37, adapted).

 Holy Father, help me, day by day, to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Rom. 12:2) and to allow you to work in me to bring me to maturity; a strong tree with deep roots in You.  Amen