31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 20} – Long Term Hope

This morning, as I read in Luke, I came upon this story:

On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.  When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”  Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

 

The story goes on, as typical for these kinds of stories, with the synagogue rulers indignant and ticked off that Jesus would heal on the Sabbath.  And then, of course, Jesus rebukes them basically saying, “you care more for your animals than you do for the needs of a person.”

Two main things caught my attention with this passage.  First of all, it was a Sabbath and Jesus always seemed to be doing things that the Pharisees didn’t like on the Sabbath.  But more, so this phrase caught my eye… and my heart:

 

EIGHTEEN YEARS.

This woman, had probably lost all hope of being healed.  Seriously, eighteen years… that’s a long time.  And going back to the other thing that caught my attention… this was a Sabbath… even if this woman knew who Jesus was and had any hope that maybe healing could be provided, she probably would have never thought that healing would come today of all days… it was a Sabbath.  I imagine, any hope that was there, was very small.  Yet, I do believe there was hope.

If there was no hope, then why was this woman who had suffered from an evil spirit for so long even AT the synagogue that day?  In my opinion, she had long-term hope.  Maybe, JUST MAYBE, SOMEDAY I will be healed. 

As I think about this story, I think about people I know and love and care about who have been suffering for a long time.  Whether the struggle is physical, spiritual, or emotional, as each day passes without relief, hope slowly fades.  “It’s already been so long,”  their minds protest.  “How could healing EVER come now?” 

Yet, God doesn’t call us to understand.. he calls us to trust him.  Our healing may not come today.  Our healing may not come tomorrow or next year, or even in this life time.  But even if it doesn’t, we continue to ask God to give us what we need to remain faithful and trust.  We ask God to help us to come into his presence, like this woman did, time and time again, knowing that in your time and in your way, you will call us forward and say, “My son… My daughter… you are set free from your infirmity.” 

God, please give us hope for today… and tomorrow…. and the next day… and the next day… and the next day… until THAT day:

 

“Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching head.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Rev. 7:16-17)

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 9} – “Against All Hope”

Thinking about some of the high school kids that are in playoffs for sports in these coming weeks makes me think about my high school experience.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved my high school and there were many things that our school was really good at (music, basketball, etc.)… but football just wasn’t one of those things.  We rarely won a game, and actually, when my sister was in school there, they didn’t win a single football game in the 4 years she was in high school.

 

We were definitely the “underdog” and by definition (and reputation) normally had no chance of winning.  We were expected to loose. Yet, there must have been some hope somewhere, right?  Our team may not have had the best skills in the city, but if nothing else, they had HOPE. If they had absolutely no hope, they would never even suited up. Each week, as they stepped onto the field, they believed in hope that somehow, someway, they just MIGHT be able to pull out a win.

 

That’s kind of the situation we see with dear old “Father Abraham.”    God tells him that he will be the father of many nations… yet he looks around and sees that … well … he sees that he’s OLD … 100 years old actually.  And his wife, Sarah, yeah… she was 90.  I’m guessing that their HOPE to have children was LONG gone.  Yet, we read this awesome passage in Romans 4:18- 22

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening of his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

 

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.

 

I don’t think this idea of being “against all hope” is not too distant from our own realities. 

 

You, like Abraham and Sarah, wish desperately that you could have a family. Yet, as the days and the years tick by, hope for a spouse or children begins to fade. 

Or perhaps the bad economy has taken a toll on you.  As you search the classifieds day after day and submit resume number 643, you begin to wonder if you’ll ever find another job. 

You’re battling an illness.  And no matter how hard you fight, it seems to fight back even stronger.

That pile of homework will never end.

It seems as if no one sees the pain you’re going through.

The college tuition is just too much.

The secret sins cover you with shame.

Guilt and fear threaten to eat you alive

 

YOU’RE AGAINST ALL HOPE.

 

May we, like Abraham, have faith to face the fact that while our situations seem hopeless… our God is faithful to fulfill his promises.  I mean seriously… a 90-year old woman and a 100-year old man were able to have a child! 

 

As was written of Abraham, let it be said of us as well: 

“AGAINST ALL HOPE THEY, IN HOPE, BELIEVED!”

Lord, thank you for giving us the example of Abraham as comfort when we face situations that seem to hold no hope.  We pray that we would not “waver through unbelief” but rather be “strengthened in faith” and give glory to you. May our hearts be “fully persuaded” that You have the power to do what you have promised in our lives.  When we find ourselves “against all hope” may we in HOPE… believe.  In Jesus’ Powerful Name, AMEN!

31 Days of Hope

HOPE {Day 5} Draw Hope Anew

Despair.  [dih-spair]

–noun

1. loss of hope; hopelessness.

2. someone or something that causes hopelessness

–verb

3. to lose, give up, or be without hope

4. to give up hope of.

 

—Antonyms
1. hope.

 

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When I looked up the definition of despair, I expected to see “hope” listed as an antonym, but I did not expect EVERY definition I read in 3 different dictionaries to refer directly to lack or loss of hope. 

 

Check out THIS definition of despair:

 

Psalm 77:1-9

I cried out to God for help; 
    I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
       at night I stretched out untiring hands
       and my soul refused to be comforted.

I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
       I mused, and my spirit grew faint.

You kept my eyes from closing;
       I was too troubled to speak.

I thought about the former days,
       the years of long ago;

I remembered my songs in the night.
       My heart mused and my spirit inquired:

"Will the Lord reject forever?
       Will he never show his favor again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
       Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?
       Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"

Yep.  I’m pretty sure that’s despair right there. It may not fit a dictionary definition, but I think we can all agree that it fits our HEART-definition. 

 

What makes me love this Psalm so much is the sudden shift of events that occurs as the Psalm continues:

 

Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
       the years of the right hand of the Most High."

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
       yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will meditate on all your works
       and consider all your mighty deeds.

Suddenly, Hope enters the scene.  And Hope doesn’t just subtly slide in the back door… She (He?) makes a grand entrance as phrase after phrase for the next 11 verses recall the great deeds of God.

 

I LOVE my study Bible’s note on these verses:

Faith’s decision to look beyond the present troubles—and God’s bewildering inactivity—to draw HOPE anew from God’s saving acts of old.

When we get caught in looking in just the here and now, despair can quickly overwhelm us.  But, with the Psalmist, when we take a moment to step back and reflect on… to appeal to God’s faithfulness in the past, we are able to take a step forward into the unknown future with renewed hope. 

 

One of the last verse of the Psalm says this:

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters though your footprints where not seen. (vs 19)

God’s leading us… we may not see his footsteps, but we can trust that he is there. 

 

So, take a minute to stop… look back… where have you seen God’s faithfulness in your life so far?  Now take comfort (hope) in the fact that our God never changes and just as he has been faithful in the past, he will continue to be faithful…. forever. 

 

May you “draw HOPE anew” this day as you “remember the deeds of the Lord”. 

First Trinity, Music

Joyfullyblessed… “Blessed is the One”

I was on the way home from church today and the song “Blessed is the One” by Daniel Doss Band was playing in my car.  It really fit well with Pastor’s sermon series right now about the “Round-About Ways of God”.  Many of the words connected with the point in the sermon last week about how God uses the desert times in our life to teach us patience… to trust him one day at a time. It also connects with one of today’s points that those desert times make us strong in Christ.

These two sections especially jumped out at me:

 

“Suffering through the desert places
You never said it would be easy
You just promised you’d be with me
For blessed is the one
Blessed is the one who trusts You”

 

“I will trust in you in the pain, when I can’t see past today
When it’s hard to lift my hands to praise you, I will trust you.”

 

Check out the song here (for some reason it’s only part of it):