Thursday, April 26, 2018

Prepare to Share for HOPE

I've been thinking back...way a time period that followed closely on the heels of my defining salvation experience with Jesus. What a moment! Mine was not a subtle salvation...the Holy Spirit came crashing into my heart with astounding clarity, peace, direction, JOY, and HOPE.

For me, that transformation looked a lot like a newfound JOY and HOPE.

I NEEDED both desperately.

I didn't understand everything that had happened to me, I just knew two things with unquestionable certainty:
1) I had been made new; and, I was definitely not the same person.

2) Who would not want what I had been given? I had to tell my story...and I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.

Combine those two things with the Christian culture of the day. A recent stirring of the Lord brought along a renewed sense, and a growing excitement, that, indeed, we weren't long for this world. Jesus would return, and take believers with Him. I wanted to do my part to make sure those I loved, who didn't have the same relationship with Jesus, were prepared.

It's natural, when we are excited about something, we want to share it!

We sang songs like..."I Wish We'd All Been Ready..." and, hauntingly stopped the final line of the song with these words: "The Son has come...and you've been left..."

It always gave me the chills.

It wasn't too many years later that Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins teamed up to give us the "Left Behind" book series. The books skyrocketed to the top of the best seller lists. Everyone was curious.

I wasn't satisfied with curiosity.

I wanted to be prepared.

I had to keep sharing my story.

The Apostle Peter cemented that desire:
"Always be prepared," he declared, "to share the story of the hope that is within you doing it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)."

The Apostle Paul continued (and still does) to beat the drum sounding the return of Jesus.

I read again his words that we often quote when someone dies: "Don't be ignorant of those who have fallen asleep in Christ (fancy words that mean we aren't to remain uninformed about Christians who have already died), for we do not grieve as those who have NO HOPE (1 Thess 4:13)."

Paul's assurance is based on this one HOPE:
Jesus is coming again.

Those who have already died will join Him first.
Then, those who are alive, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (4:17).

Jesus said He would return for His followers.
He will.
He doesn't lie.
He always keeps His promises.
Every promise in Christ is a resounding, "Yes!"

There's a lot I don't understand about that day of Jesus' coming.
Unlike Peter, I did not have the privilege of walking with Jesus in the flesh.
Unlike Paul, I did not have the honor of being taught by Jesus in the Arabian desert.

However, the Lord prepared them to prepare others based on the HOPE of His promises.
He wants to do the same for me...
He has done the same for me...through those who have been prepared, who were willing to prepare me.
I can tick off a mental list of a huge host.

All this said to get to the final line of truth for application:

HOPE is built on God's promises, by laying a foundation brick by brick (each and every promise a new brick)...
...the mortar that cements the bricks together, to bring us solidified, steadfast HOPE, is PREPARATION.

We need both for a firm foundation:

So, we have this hope: Jesus will return. 
We don't know. No man knows the hour (although many have tried to guess...).

In the meantime...
We prepare.
We make ourselves ready.
Yet, we don't stop there.
We share our story.

We help prepare others and bring them into our LIVING HOPE.

Believe me, HOPE is at a premium.

Our world needs it.

Our kids need it.

No generation needs it more than our Gen Z'ers.


Thursday, April 19, 2018


Having just returned from Costa Rica, and nine days of ministry, I am back in my where-I-like-to-be-spot...on the couch in the corner in my pj's...with a cup of coffee. I'll need a few sitting-moments over the course of the next few days to continue to process what I just experienced. It happens EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

The Lord graciously used this retreat - We saw, right-before-our-eyes:

  • Relationships restored
  • Identities renewed
  • Tired-bodies-and-minds rested
  • Frustrations relieved
  • Dried-up-spiritual-hearts refreshed (it always reminds me of how much better my plants look after I've watered them...sometimes, my poor plants are in such despair)
  • Hair-cuts and foot-washings-plus-toe-nail-polishing acts of love rekindling spirits
  • Friendships re-connected
  • Daily panic attacks released
  • Hope received
  • Massages and creative crafts reversing tension
  • A birthday party, complete with presents for each attendee, re-energizing
  • Counseling (it's amazing what an hour can do) rendering hope
  • ...and, THANK the Spirit of the Lord, messages reminding these women: THEIR STORIES MATTER, and they do not have to be LOST IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR MISSION.

To all this I say, "Me, too!"

The Lord even did a work of reminding me...and, I received a sweet lesson on HOPE from Him, right there in Costa Rica.

This week's thought is about having hope when right in front of you is nothing but hard...
When what you are facing is not easy...
When fear of what's ahead is crippling...
When it's hard to breathe deep, let alone breathe at all...
When your palms are sweaty, your heart is pounding, and your mind is in that crazy-cycle...
When looking down is easier than looking up...

When you're so focused on the journey ahead, you forget to marvel at the beauty-of-the-now in the midst of the journey...

This was a simple reminder.
I know these things.
In less scary moments, I can tick the points off in a list.
So, what the Lord reminded me is that I need to nail those points down in my heart and mind before I find myself on the precipice of a new, and difficult, moment.
Maybe you need them, too...

It's true, we need the tools in our tool box before we begin the work!

Back story.
I went zip-lining through the Costa Rican rain forest.
My "people" talked me into it.
My husband said, "This is a great opportunity. You can't go all the way to Costa Rica and not experience this!"
My head was saying, "You know you want to, you know you do...get your brave on..."
My heart was saying, "NO WAY!"
Head or heart, that was the fluctuating on-going debate for about 24 hours.

Paying for this adventure was easy.
I had to do this the day before.
I just handed them my credit card.

Following the pay came the hard part...
...Taking the next steps:
Getting in the departing van at the hotel.
Dressing in the harness that would support me - "Would you check it again, sir, just to make sure it's tight?" "Maybe a third time?" "Ok, four's all you do...understood!"
Stepping onto the tram that would take us to the top -
Listening to my friends say, "Look at that creek down below..." and, being reminded just how high up I'd be, and how far down that creek I'd soon be flying over was... (Gulp!)

Before I knew it I was standing on the platform.
My apparatus was connected to a wire. Well, two wires. But, they weren't very big wires. My ring finger was bigger than the wires. I checked.
No, I didn't go first.
But, I didn't go last, either.
I put myself in the middle...
By the time I stepped up to the was do or die. I'm sure I was sure that die would win.
It didn't.

I took a few deep breaths and trusted my harness, the people who put it on me, and the wires that held me. I jumped.

Here's what helps us hope, just for future reference.  Title these points:

(Because in the hard, hope always helps!)
Someone has already gone before.
They experienced it and lived to tell the story - Maybe I will, too. When I watched them do it, I figured, I can do it, too.

Someone, who was waiting at the other side, was cheering me on
...and waiting for me with outstretched hands and a huge smile on her face (that was Karla, the Costa Rican woman, who could tell I was the big chicken in the group). Knowing she was there, and seeing her smile, warmed and relaxed my soul. I just "fixed my eyes on Karla."

A good word.
You know what was going through my head as I zipped down that line to the other side, "Great is Thy Faithfulness..."  I sang it all the way... Yep, I preached it in song to my heart.

An encouraging community. A community who poured out love on me in multiple ways to just say, "You and Jesus - you've got this!"  Not to mention, they made me laugh. Remember that creek down below. At one point, on the tram, one of the gals in our group, who will remain unmentioned, Christina (if you're reading this), said, "A creep? What's a creep? I want to see a creep," as she leaned over the railing to look. The creep was sitting next to her (me), but the creek was down below. That popped into my head, as well, as I sped down the wire. Laughter is REALLY GOOD medicine. Besides that, my people gave me accountability - no way would they have let me get out of this - and were there to "spur me on," even if it meant they had to give me the first push. (Hebrews 10:25)

Doing the same thing again and again (practicing the steps). I didn't just do one zip line, I did ten! Everyone kept asking me, "Which one is your favorite? The longest? The shortest? The fastest?" I always answered, "Ask me again when I'm done." By the time I got to #10, I yelled, "My favorite is this one..." Karla laughed, and said, "Because it is the last?" Well...maybe...but by #10, I was in the rhythm. My deep breaths were shorter breaths; my jump-offs were quicker; I actually looked around a whole lot more and was in absolute AWE of the beauty; I finally felt free to fly through the trees without any sense of panic...

Most importantly:

Moving forward in hope always requires trust.

Do you see the spiritual connections? Of course you do! Jesus has gone before us...He knows what's ahead and He is cheering us on; He is waiting on the other side with outstretched hands and a smile on His face; He's given us  His good word; and, a community we should never neglect - His church; and, He helps us laugh in the middle of the mess... Not only that, He's patient with us as we practice in the middle of the hard-journey the lessons He has given us to help us be overcomers.

Jesus knows it's a process, but by #10, we may just be enjoying ourselves in the HARD!

Right there, on a zip line (ok, it took ten zip lines) I was reminded of how to find hope in the hard.
Now, I pray you can find it, as well...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

This One Thing We DO With Hope

Discovering hope in the midst of life's trials has only one response.

No, it's not weeping, although sometimes finding hope in the middle of hardship makes me weepy, just not with sadness.

It's not sighing, as in an "Ok-I-can-tolerate-this-now" kind of a sigh.

It's not even gritting my teeth and pushing through.

Nor is it necessarily doing the spiritual thing - praying...although praying is never a bad idea.

Our one response:


It's woven throughout the Scriptures, but stated succinctly in Romans 5:2, 12:12:

There are two words used for "rejoicing" throughout the New Testament.

One word (the one used in Romans 5:2, which precedes talk about the purposes behind our trials) is a Greek word, where we get our English word cacophony.  It looks a lot like ostentatious bragging. It's an outward exhibition of our internal hope.

The other word (used in Romans 12:12) is an internal settledness that matches our internal hope. It looks a lot like a calmness of spirit that is connected to a joy unexplainable.  When the song-writer penned the words to It Is Well With My Soul, this is exactly what was precipitating his lyrics.

Rejoicing is a stand-out quality.

It's an inner and outer expression of those who cling to hope...

It stands out because it is so contagious...

....and contrary...

...contrary to what anyone watching from the outside would expect.

To rejoice in hope is a true testimony of our faith, without ever having to mention the source of our hope (although, who can keep quiet about HIM?????)...

So, the Apostle Paul encourages us all...

Continue in hope, not with a quiet endurance, but a genuine, exuberant portrayal of our belief in God's YES....

(Romans 15:13)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

No Surprise - the Enemy Always Attacks at Our Greatest Point of Hope

It came as an eye-opener to me this week.

It shouldn't have surprised me.

Yet, it did.

I've always known the enemy will attack us personally, and that he seeks out any whom he can devour.

He roars at us, like a male lion, standing at a bush trying to scare out some poor animal, so his female counter-part can take it down for his dinner.

His greatest strength is his intimidation.

His roar is loud.

It's all we can hear when we're trying to camouflage ourselves from certain demise.

It's uncanny how we can translate the roar in our heads.

It sounds a lot like self-condemnation.

It sounds a lot like shame-language.

What we hear is fairly common in any dialect...

"I am just not enough..."

"I will never get it right..."

"I'm not worth anyone..."

"It's no wonder I find it hard to make friends..."

"Why am I here, anyway, I have no purpose..."

"Everyone and everything seems to be against me..."

"How could anyone ever love me..."

"If only I were _______________________ (you fill in the blank) I might have a chance."

The fiery darts the enemy shoots our way ALWAYS lodge in the brain.

It's his greatest battlefield....and our greatest weakness.

Here's what surprised me:

A plethora of God's promises are all wrapped around our Christ-identity.

The Lord knew about the enemy's schemes before he ever unleashed them on us.

So, in order to keep us from losing hope, God spoke His HOPE-FULL PROMISES into existence.

Just for me in times like this when I'm at a low.

Just for you when you need them, as well.

I ran across many such promises in Romans, chapter 8. Just one chapter. All filled with some amazing promises from God; and, a significant amount of them deal with my Christ-given-identity.

If I grab ahold, to receive them...and believe changes EVERYTHING about the devil's attacks.

It is simply no wonder that so many Christians struggle with identity issues.

BUT GOD...He has given us His Word:

I have no condemnation in Christ Jesus (8:1).

I am set free from all sin and subsequent death (8:2).

To set my mind on the Spirit grants me PEACE and ABUNDANT LIFE (8:6).

I am a child of God (8:14, 15, 16).

In me, the Spirit of God eliminates my fear (8:15).

As a child of God, at any time, I can cry out for help with just these words, "Abba, Father!" (8:15).

There is a far greater glory awaiting me than any present suffering (8:18)

I am an heir to God's glory (8:17)

I don't know how to pray effectively, but the Spirit of God intercedes for me (8:26).

All things work together for my good that I might be conformed to Christ's image (8:28-29).

I am called (8:30).

I am justified (8:30).

I am covered in God's love that nothing can separate (8:31, 35, 38, 39).

I am more than a conqueror (8:37).

Don't see these promises in you?

God promises He is at work; and all His promises are YES (don't ever forget that)!!!!!

Remember, He also tells us...

Hope that is seen is not hope. 

So, wait with patience....and, fill your cup with HoPe!