Nuggets: Hang Your Hope Up

flicker5-copy-4I’m hanging my hope on …

We’ve all said this at one time or another, or admonished someone else, “Don’t hang your hopes on that!”

Where is it safe to hang your hopes? Are you sometimes afraid to even identify what you hope for, for fear that it will never come to fruition? That if you hang it up, it will dangle precariously and then crash at your feet in a thousand pieces? Another common phrase is “hopes dashed to pieces.” We all know the feeling and the gut-wrenching sound of shattering hope.

So again, where is it safe to hang your hope?

Psalm 62:5 says, “For God alone, Oh my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” That’s the ESV, but KJV words it this way, ” … for my expectation is from Him.”

That word “expectation” in the Hebrew is tiqvah and actually means: cord, expectation, hope.

I can picture a cord with all my hopes swinging from it.

I wrote recently about expectation in marriage and how quickly it can dissolve intimacy. I also read this: It Takes a Lot to Build a Marriage and Only One Thing to Kill It.  I can personally attest to hanging high hopes on my husband–hopes that he often doesn’t even know about since he can’t read my mind. And then, having them hopelessly crushed when he is unable to fulfill my lofty, mysterious expectations.

Do you know why he cannot fulfill them? Because in the end of Psalm 62 it says, ” … power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.”

God alone has the power to meet my expectations. He only knows the desires of my heart (even before I voice them–even before I identify them). He alone is the safe place to hang my hope. 

Where is yours today? Is your hope safe?

Advertisements

Spirit-Imposed Aloneness

I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been unable to cull lessons from my own life. In the past, a single day might lend me a hundred ideas to share, and a dozen little things that God taught me and I felt compelled to ask if he was sharing them with you too. But lately, maybe it’s pregnancy brain, I feel stuffed with cotton–writer’s block at its absolute worst–almost unidentifiable. Just plain, “I got nothing.”

But this morning I recognized myself in an anecdote Lysa TerKeurst shared on Focus on the Family.  She had been invited to share the crux of her new book, Uninvited. (Pun intended.) And I decided that if I saw myself in her story, I might find some deeper meaning, some richer lesson by writing about it and, hopefully, you might find yourself there too.

Lysa was attending a banquet for leaders. Dozens of tables were spread for numerous guests of high calling–to lead, teach and mentor others. She looked forward to hobnobbing with them, sharing stories, gleaning ideas and mingling with others of the same ilk. The facility had gone all out, there were name cards for every seat.

For a while, she milled about uncomfortably looking for her name. It had to be there! Finally, she found it on a table in the very back of the room but to her disappointment, she didn’t recognize a single other name at her table. No matter, she’d meet new people. But no one showed up. There she sat by herself at a lovely, decorated table set for 10, in a room full of influential people–alone.

Please finish reading this article at My Daily Armor …

 

Do I Have What It Takes to Face Persecution?

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to suffer persecution?

Yesterday, I heard a Christian talk show host field a question from his listening audience. The caller asked, “I’m afraid that if I ever had to suffer persecution like some Christians in other countries, I won’t be able to stand strong. That terrifies me! What if I fall apart? What if I can’t take it?”

You can read the rest of my article here at The Bottom Line …

Who Prayed For Paul?

The headlines ran red. If there were a secret first century parchment bearing news, prayers and encouragement, circulating the dispersed believers, surely it read, “ Steven, our beloved brother in the faith, perished at the hands of Saul and the religious leaders. He breathed his last yet full of the Spirit and testifying to the goodness of Jesus.”

Maybe, John picked up that parchment or maybe he wrote it, heart aching. What a loss for the early church! No doubt Christians across the known world knelt in their homes and small gatherings, praying fervently for Steven’s family, the progress of the Gospel, their own safety and Christ’s soon return. But who prayed for Saul?

The early church knew who was responsible for much of their terror, and God asked them to do the unbelievable. After Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, He approached one of His own, a man named Ananias, and told him to go to Saul and lay his hands on him: “ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ ” (Acts 9:13, 14)

I wonder about that as our own headlines run red. Every single day we learn of more Christians, more People of the Cross, losing their lives for the name of Jesus. And, I kneel. I kneel by my bed and pray with tears streaming down my face. My emotions boil, a hot alloy of anger, fear, compassion and longing for justice. I lift up the Coptic Christians, those in Syria, Pastor Saeed Abedini, the orphans, the widows and those fighting for freedom.

But who prays for ISIS? Who prays for the Muslim Brotherhood? Who prays for Boko Haram and Vladimir Putin? Who prays for Al Queda?

Last Sunday, I served on prayer team at my church. Five of us huddled in the church office praying for the service and everything the Spirit laid on our hearts. We prayed for the church worldwide, but in that hour, none of us prayed for the persecutors. I have to confess, that even on my own time, I am reticent to pray for them. It’s not that I haven’t thought of it; it’s just that I don’t want to.

But in the biblical account, God didn’t let prayer warriors off the hook. In Acts 9:15-17, He replied to Ananias, “ ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ ”

If Ananias had refused God, if he had found praying for the murderer of his Christian brothers just too hard, what would have become of Saul? Who would have become Paul? Who would have written the majority of the New Testament? Who would have written Romans, the consummate doctrine of salvation by grace through faith?

God may have asked Ananias to do the unbelievable, but God proved that He will do the impossible. The bulk of our sacred New Testament was penned by the very man who once slaughtered People of the Cross.

Might God dramatically change the trajectory of history if Christians today pray for the persecutors? Can you imagine, for a split second, the magnificent manifestation of God’s glory if those perpetuating evil turned their hearts toward Jesus?

Do you think we should be praying for terrorists? What should we pray?

The Fruit of Fretting

Most of you know, my husband is currently deployed. This article was written several months ago, but I find it again relevant–even to me, the author.

We recently talked  on LASTing Peace, about fear being idolatry. This article explains another way that fear, also known as fretting, can sabotage our Christian lives.

###

He started it.

Yes, he snapped at me first, but you’d think I could’ve held my tongue and finished with a “win”. Especially after all my praying lately.

Just two days ago, I even sent my husband a text message telling him that I prayed to be a Proverbs 31 wife to him: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

With all my heart I want to learn to control my tongue; to face temptation and make the right choice—not to sin. In that moment, just before I retaliated, I saw the choice, clear as an angel and a devil perched persuasively on my shoulders. I saw it, and in the split second that it takes to activate one’s vocal chords thoughtlessly, I snapped right back. And just as James says, I set a fire.

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:6

After his harsh words, my husband apologized immediately. He came toward me to give me a hug. With self-righteous flare, I turned my back on him. “No, I don’t want it. You’re not sincere, you’re just trying to make me stop being angry.”

He dropped the fight. That’s one thing I simultaneously admire and hate about my man. He  can simply drop his arms, turn around and let the whole argument go. All the while, the heat of anger and bitterness simmers in my chest. He settled into the couch with his computer, but a fire had already broken loose in me.

Tearful, I huffed into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. “God, why? Why is he so heartless and uncaring? Why doesn’t he care about making up? Why doesn’t he notice that I’m really hurt?”

I don’t know who I was more angry with—myself or my husband. Yes, Patrick’s words were hurtful and the capstone to my mounting frustration as I played second fiddle to his computer games all weekend. But still, when the opportunity to express forgiveness, to respond with abundant joy that rests on Jesus and not on my husband’s behavior—when the opportunity to engage the Scripture I’ve been memorizing presented itself, I glanced away from the proverbial “angel” and bored full ahead into my husband with a devilish piety.

God says His Word never returns void. So true. Even as I sat there, sulking over my hurt and groveling in my shame, my newest memory verse came to mind. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

That morning, in my quiet time, I had examined a couple of those words in the Hebrew. Fret means “to be incensed, to get hot”—in American vernacular think of “smoldering anger” or “fuming”. The most poignant definition of the word evil is “to shatter”.

As the evening waned, I sat in the darkening corner of my bedroom and listened to my Heavenly Father. Gently, without accusation, He prodded my heart with the truth: I could choose to fret and be angry. But if I did, I was playing an active role in shattering my relationship with my husband, to say nothing of my own peace.

Often we are told that fretting or worrying is pointless. We are reminded that being angry or bitter hurts us more than the person at whom it is directed. But God’s Word takes it even further. To simmer, steam or be hot and angry tends only to shatter—relationships, peace of mind and communion with our Heavenly Father.

I wish I could say I came out of my room right away with a glowing countenance and words of restoration. No, I sat there a while longer and wrestled with God. In fact, it took me until the following morning to face my husband and humbly ask his forgiveness. When I did, I saw the fruit of God’s Word bloom. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

The wonderful thing about knowing Jesus is that even when things are shattered, He is our healer. He can restore all things, even relationships and a peaceful heart.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3

Shame’s Sneaky Relatives

Shame: “The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:”

That’s what dictionary.com says shame is. And, being the lover of words that I am, I knew that. So, I really didn’t think I had a shame problem. But that was before I knew that Shame has a half-sister and two evil step-daughters.

I first met False Humility, Shame’s sneaky half-sister when I was a young teenager. I’ve always been average—not excellent or super smart. I’m not super athletic, super talented or super funny. I’m just plain-jane average. Cast beneath the spotlight of my brilliant younger sister, I quickly discounted anything positive about myself. She was everything I was and more; everything I did she could do better.

When we were kids, I quit playing softball and became the bat-girl for her team. I quit learning piano and quit the swim team because she did those things better, too. I played the martyr at home, always the one to give in, defer or tap-out.

It kind of looked like humility when I stepped aside and applauded her successes while mumbling something like, “I’m okay, just not awesome.”

Next, I was introduced to Shame’s step-daughter, Pride. She raised her ugly head in the middle of my battle with anorexia. For fourteen years I excelled at starving. No one wanted to compete with me, but I competed with everyone. In my malnourished mind, I “won” every time I was thinner than another girl, every time I turned down food that another person simply couldn’t resist, every time I went for a long run in the rain while others pulled the sheets over their heads and enjoyed the warmth of a cozy bed. I was an excellent anorexic. All the while, shameful thoughts about my body and personal value swam circles in my mind.

Fear arrived shortly after my recovery from anorexia as I began to share my testimony for the glory of God and the encouragement of others. Fear is Shame’s other step-daughter. When I wrote my book, got a publisher and saw it appear on Amazon, Fear started to mock me. No one is going to buy or read this book. You are going to let down your agent, publisher and family. Everyone has had such high expectations of you and believed you could do this—they are going to be so disappointed. 

I felt sluggish and demoralized for several days, muddling through the successive concussions of fear following the publication of my book. But fear forced to me look to the God who loves me, because “perfect love casts out fear.”

One morning, I opened my Bible to Psalm 25. This single chapter has a lot to say about shame in the life of a Christ-follower. As I read, hope and renewed energy flooded through me. Shame has no place in my life and no power over me.

“I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed…no one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame…O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.”

When God Throws an Air Ball

Some times God throws the perfect layup—a perfect opportunity. We see what we assume is His will from a mile away. We’re grateful and we’re ready to go. Then suddenly, it falls short.

And we wonder, What is God doing? What went wrong?

A friend of mine’s husband has been without a job for almost three months now. The long anticipated return call finally came. The job he had most wanted came through. Could he start next week?

The following Monday, he arrived early, checked in with his new boss and prepared to go to work. Looking sheepish, the boss pulled him aside. Something came up, he said. Something in the paperwork, something that my friend’s husband thought had long been resolved, they were sorry, but he couldn’t work there.

The news crushed them. Everything had seemed so perfect! What had gone wrong?

It isn’t always a job. Perhaps you met the “perfect” person, but then the whole relationship fell apart. Maybe you’re expecting a baby and you’re so excited, but there’s a miscarriage. Maybe you’ve planned the perfect wedding and then find yourself standing in front of the justice of the peace.

Whatever it is, sometimes God throws the perfect layup, and then it falls short. 

God doesn’t always offer personal explanations, but Scripture is always the light to our path. In this case, a story from David’s life gives insight into the confusion.

David was a young shepherd, probably about 12-years-old when Samuel, the prophet, came to his father, Jesse. Samuel announced that one of Jesse’s sons would be the new king of Israel. Obediently, seven of Jesse’s sons marched in front of the prophet, but each time God said, “He is not the one.”

Perplexed, Samuel asked if Jesse had any more sons. Jesse admitted there was one more, a scrawny shepherd named David.

When David arrived, God told Samuel, “This is him! This is the one I want you to anoint as the King of Israel!” Quickly, Samuel did as he was told.

Logically, we might imagine that Samuel pulled a crown out of his bag, put it on David’s head and marched him to the castle. David should have begun ruling right away! But that didn’t happen. In 1 Samuel 16:13, Samuel turned around and went home. In the very next chapter, we find David back in the fields with the sheep.

I wonder if David asked God, “Why? Why do I, the King of Israel, have to go back to the sheep pen? And how long do I have to wait, God?”

Many years down the line, David did rule over Israel; he was the best king Israel ever had. God called David, “A man after my own heart.”

The Bible never tells us exactly why God made David wait for so long. We do know that in those waiting years, David was filled with the Holy Spirit. He wrote many of the Psalms during that time, singing and sharing his praise for God. He made many good, godly friends in that time too.

We will not always agree with or even understand God’s reason for toppling perfect plans, altering the natural course of things or seeming to change His mind. At times, it may seem like He has misled us. David must have felt that way after being anointed king and then sent back to the fields. Later he was called to the palace merely to serve King Saul by playing the harp.

Even after David took the throne, there was never any explanation as to why God anointed him and then sent him back to being a shepherd. If David had been king right away, perhaps Israel would have avoided many wars and a lot of blood shed. David never would have been hunted by Saul. But the end of the story is that David became a man after God’s own heart and God abundantly blessed him.

Even when things don’t make sense, the end of the story is always that God is working things for our good. He is always faithful and all that He does in our lives is out of His lovingkindness. As we learn to wait through the confusion, we will become men and women after His own heart.