“Future” is coming!

God knew about this 17 years ago, when He began to stir things in my heart. He knew I was headed toward a major change in my life. He knew that the one book I intended to write would grow into four books, quite different than what I had planned. He knew why I was convinced to change my path of publishing the Hope books.

Three of the Hope Knows books were released in 2018 in rapid succession, within months of each other. But the fourth book—all about Christians’ hope for the future—well, that volume, I kept telling people, was still “in the future.”

I was disappointed that I couldn’t meet my deadline for the fourth book and by the subsequent news from the publisher that the book wouldn’t be released until 2020. Almost two years later than the first one! But God knew what “March madness 2020” was going to be, and He knew all about the frenzy of fear and fretting that would wash over our country.

He knew that I would need to go back and read the words I had written years earlier, would need to remind myself of hope we can hold onto as we peer into the future. As I wrote the words of Facing the Future, I never imagined what 2020 would bring to our lives.  

And that’s just it—we don’t have a clue what is coming tomorrow, next week, or next year. If we’ve learned anything in the last month, it is this: In spite of all our planning and our attempts to “secure” our future, we can’t.

Except—

Except, there is this: God says there are things we can know for certain about tomorrow. There are ways our future can be secure. God tells us about those sure things. In His kindness, He gives us unbreakable promises about what is ahead. Our hope knows and lives on those promises. These are things we can be sure of, no matter what happens in our world. How can we lay an unshakable foundation for our lives when the future is so uncertain? Only by building on what God says is the reality of tomorrow.

 Facing the Future will be released on April 28, 2020. It celebrates God’s future for all who belong to Jesus Christ, those who are God’s children.

For each of the next twelve days, I’ll pull a word of hope from one of the twelve chapters in the book. No long blogs, just a condensed droplet of good news to refresh your day… and your hope

Stand firm in this…

Last night I sat at a dinner table with a new friend. As we learned to know each other, she talked about first coming to this area as a young woman and being in awe of the beauty of our hills and valleys. When she married and became a resident of our county, as she raised her family she tried to instill in them an appreciation of the gift of living here.

Those of us who have lived here all of our lives sometimes forget we have such a gift. Every now and then as I drive 39, I wonder how many thousands of times I’ve driven that same stretch—could it even be tens of thousands? And so often, I do take it all for granted and don’t even see the beauty God created for us here as I race through busy days and occupy my mind with the challenges of the week.

Are we prone to do the same with the amazing, freeing truth that Paul wrote about in Colossians? He wrote, “But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it” (Colossians 1:23).

What truth? Go back two verses: You were once God’s enemies (strong language!), but he has “reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ… and brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”

His enemies. A bad spot to be in. But because Christ went to the cross, we now live in God’s own presence and He has wiped out the record against us.

I am reminded this morning of what a wonderful gift it is to live here in God’s presence, with no blame brought against me. I don’t want to take this for granted. If you belong to Christ, stop for a moment and drink in the beauty of this place where you now live.

This is the Good News that Paul said was changing lives all over the world (Colossians 1:6, 23).

Stand firm in this. Don’t forget or take it for granted. It changes our lives!

Born to be Brave

What’s holding you back?

What’s holding you back from the life Jesus died to give you?

Let’s ask another question first: Have you had a glimpse of the life Jesus died to give you?

So many times we are caught in the whirlwind of our days that we lose sight of Jesus’ plans for us: He came to save us from empty lives and give us lives full of heaven’s resources, purposes, power, and joys.

I don’t want to miss all that because I get so distracted by the temporal tempests that can blow away my days like the wind dispels smoke.

I have been thinking about the few small loaves and fishes that a nameless, ordinary boy gave to Jesus. When that boy offered his lunch to share, he could not have imagined the outcome. He only knew that he was willing to let Jesus have his lunch and Jesus could do whatever He would with it.

Most of us probably feel like that child, with so little to offer that we think it will make no difference or have no impact. Our little bit is indeed insignificant. But what Jesus can do with our little bit– that is what will make all the difference!

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone speak of God giving them a clear, fully detailed vision of the life He has planned for them. He does show us the next step on the path. He knows where He intends to take us, even though we can’t see it. He knows how He is putting together His masterpiece.

He knows what He intends to do with those loaves and fishes. We can’t see the whole picture. We just need to be willing to take the next step into that life.

What’s holding us back?

* What’s keeping us from following Jesus’ commandment to pray for and do kind things for that person who has hurt us so deeply?

* What keeps us from helping foreigners in our midst as God has told us to do?

* In this season of lilies, what keeps us from trusting God to provide everything we need?

* What keeps us from putting aside things in our lives that take our focus off God?

* What keeps us from declaring our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven while we live in a kingdom hostile to God’s children?

* What keeps us from believing that God can use our little loaves and fishes?

What keeps us from taking the next step toward the big, unlimited life He has for us?

As we take each step, He’ll unfold that life. And like the lunch for thousands of people, what He does will be beyond anything we imagine now.

What holds us back?

In Bob Goff’s book Everybody Always, he wrote, “Jesus never asked anyone to play it safe. We were born to be brave.”

Scripture says our new birth and life came from the Spirit of God—and yes, we were born into this new life to be brave.

At this birth, you inherited the Spirit of the One who gave you this life. And that Spirit is not one of fear or insignificance or helplessness. The Spirit in you is one of power, love, and self-discipline.

Following that Spirit brings life and peace.

What’s keeping you from taking that next brave step?

***

Scriptures: 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 8:6; John 10:10; Ephesians 2:10

 

Photo Credit: Emily Leonard

Still daring

After a hard week, at the beginning of another when I am trying to gain strength and determination to take on the next days that look equally challenging, I read this:

I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him!”
The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26

I am reminded of who and whose I am. My identity changed when God rescued me and moved me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.

And now the Lord is my inheritance. I think of the first words of the verse that asks, What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world… What have I gained? Certainly not much of this world.

But I have gained all of who God is.

And I have gained His words and thoughts, written to me. As I start reading, I am reminded:

He carries me through every moment of each day. Psalm 68:19
He showers His children with kindness and mercy. Ephesians 2:7
Even in the hard times, He is shaping us to be those great oaks He has planted for His glory. Isaiah 61:3
He called me, and He is faithful to do everything He says. 1 Corinthians 1:9
He will keep me strong to the end. 1 Corinthians 1:8
He has dressed me to be—and live!—as His child. Isaiah 61:10
I can expect new mercies today! Lamentations 3:23

I page through His written words to me, and the promises and assurances leap off the page. These few are only a small sample. A deluge of compassion and love has saturated my morning.

This is the God who is my inheritance as His daughter. This is what I have gained.

After a hard week, at the beginning of another that looks equally difficult, I sit down to search for God and wait quietly and depend on Him. And I read this: “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. They are new every morning. The LORD is my inheritance.”

And so I still dare to hope.

Once… But now…

May is bursting with celebrations of life. My calendar has marked three birthdays, two anniversaries, several graduations, Mother’s Day, even celebrations of lives well-lived. Father’s Day will soon be here. As will Memorial Day. Nature is bursting with life, too. In only a few days over the weekend, irises unfolded, the peonies began to show pink and red cracks in their buds, rhododendron bushes drooped heavy with blossom, and many flower beds suddenly sprouted joyful colors of all types of annuals.

I’ve been thinking, though, that I am guilty of taking many of these things for granted. Why wait for someone’s birthday to ponder how much we love and appreciate them? Why have only one day a year when we celebrate mothers and fathers and those who have paid a heavy price for our country’s freedom? Why do I so often run past the glories of nature and the balm they offer my soul when it is weary?

Likewise, in this new life I now live, the Spirit has gently nudged me to celebrate every day. Because Jesus’ salvation changes everything.

For many years, I thought salvation was only about being spared from eternal punishment after I die. Once I settled that question, though, I went plodding along through life—and not much changed. Phrases like those in 1 Peter 2—that tell us since we’ve tasted God’s kindness to cry out for the full experience of salvation—well, phrases like that puzzled me and I’d just skip over them.

But salvation, the full experience, changes everything. God’s plan for rescue goes so much further than just a different verdict on judgment day! His plan is meant to affect every aspect and every moment, from right now on to judgment day and far beyond.

That’s what Peter was talking about when he wrote about crying out for the full experience. And I want it!

It all started with the wonderful rescue:

For he [the Father] has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness
and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son,
who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Colossians 1:13, 14

That is cause for celebration! We understand the forgiveness of sins and the ransom Jesus paid for us. We are so grateful for that.

But this week, let’s celebrate the first part of those verses. We have been moved from one kingdom to another. We have been given a new life and a new identity. And we want to grow into and experience our new reality—to the fullest!

The Scriptures are full of statements of truth about our new identity and this new place we live. These are the results of our salvation*:

Once you were God’s enemies, but now you are His children.

Once you were separated from God because of your evil thoughts and actions, but now you are holy and blameless and stand before Him without a single fault.

Once you were dead, but now God has given you a new life—with heavenly dimensions!

Once you deserved God’s anger, but now His mercy has forgiven you.

Once you were a lost sheep who wandered away, but now you are safe in the care of the Shepherd, the Guardian of your soul.

Once you had no identity, but now you are God’s people.

Once you were slaves to sin, but now you are free from that slavery and are slaves to righteous living.

Once you were full of darkness, bit now you have light from the Lord that produces what is good and true.

And one that sums up everything: Once you lived without God and without hope, but now you live in the presence of the God of all hope.

What a change has been wrought in our lives because Jesus rescued us! No wonder Peter wrote, “Now we live with great expectation…”

Celebrate that life. Every day. Don’t take it for granted. Live in your new reality, the new truths of your life.

And let’s cry out to the Father for the nourishment that will grow us into the full experience of what His salvation means.

* * *

What is your “Once I was… but now…” declaration? Would you share it with us in the Comments section? Don’t agonize over trying to come with up a perfectly crafted sentence. Just let us know what one thing immediately comes to mind as you think about what it has meant to your life because Jesus rescued you.

I’ll start us off. Here’s the first one I thought of:  Once I was afraid of God, but now He is the fountain of all life for me.

Oh… and another close second: Once I was terrified of the future, but now I am secure in my Shepherd’s arms.

Let’s celebrate our salvation!

 

 

* From: Colossians 1:21, 22; Ephesians 2:1-6; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 2:10; Romans 6:17, 18; Ephesians 2:12,13; Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 2:12; Acts 26:18