A New Start

 

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If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land;

Isaiah 1: 19

When the Israelites first came out of the wilderness, before they entered the Promised Land, they encamped at Gilgal.  It was a stopping off place for the Israelites. They were no longer in the wilderness where they had been for the last forty years, but they weren’t in possession of the promised land either.

The forty years leading up to this time in Gilgal had probably been marked by frustration ( when God when?) and unanswered questions (why God why?) and may have left them wondering if they would ever get out of the wilderness. Ever feel that way? You thought you were headed somewhere but it has taken so long to get there that you have given up hope?

These Israelites  were born in and grew up in the wilderness. They didn’t learn about faith from their fathers, they didn’t learn about fighting or even hunting. Basically, their skills for survival were limited. Their skills for taking possession of enemy owned land, even less.

But God brought them to Gilgal where He rolled away the reproach of Israel, all the shame and dishonor that came from being slaves rolled off leaving them better prepared to start afresh in a new life, one they could barely imagine.

It is easy to think when we go through a wilderness time, that our live will never be good again. That we will never get out of this, never have another chance and nothing about our life will amount to anything. That this time spent in the wilderness is such a waste. But that is not the message of Gilgal.

As God cleaned up the people and began preparing them to start a new life, I picture him looking over their resumes for transferable skills that would be useful in the promise land.

First, He would see that they know how to grumble and complain.

Second, He would see that they know how to set up and take down tents.

Third, He would see that they know how to gather manna.

Not terribly useful skills for their new adventure, but then He saw it:   they know how to wander; they had walked in the wilderness for forty years.

And so, He came up with a battle plan to take their first city – Jericho.

All these Israelites had to do was walk around the city with their mouth shut until God said to let loose the battle cry! These men knew how to walk and God saw a way to use that to lead them to victory.

God would do the rest.

They did what they could do, God did what only He could do and they took possession of their first city in the new land! They were willing and obedient and God used them to take possession of Jericho.

If you are in the wilderness, don’t lose hope. God isn’t angry with you nor has He abandoned you or forgotten you. He can take what seems like waste and use it to lead you to the victory you may have given up hope of every seeing.

It’s a new year and this could be your year to take hold of what God has planned for you! Hang in there!

 

 

pic credit: relentless.taketheinterview.com

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Does He Even Have a Name?

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As he (Jesus) stepped out onto land, a madman from town met him; he was a victim of demons. He hadn’t worn clothes for a long time, nor lived at home; he lived in the cemetery.

Luke 8:27

He was somebody before the demons victimized him. We aren’t told his name or what his life was like. But I would like to humanize him if possible. I suspect he was a man of significance; a significance he didn’t even recognize. Oh, it might not have been financial, though it could have been. Maybe it was influence; maybe he was a man that people respected, looked up to, enjoyed knowing. Maybe he had a wife and kids and a nice livelihood that enabled him to provide for them. We aren’t told these things.

Whatever his life was, it wasn’t anymore. Whatever his influence may have been, it was no more. The Bible tells us that he had so many demons tormenting him that they were referred to as Legion (Legion being 6000 Roman soldiers). So either Satan had a lot of unemployed demons just hanging out or this man’s significance had alerted Satan that something needed to be done to stop him.

So the torment began. The Bibles says that in the early stages of this torment, the townspeople could restrain him. This implies to me that he must have tried repeatedly to remain in the town he called home among the people he knew but he was dangerous to them and they sent him out – repeatedly. At some point, he was no longer able to be restrained because of his strength but it reads like he settled into the tombs and no longer attempted to go home.

And there he was when Jesus showed up. This man who had lost everything had finally succumbed to the voices that played in his head – the ones that said – it’s pointless, you will never be ok again, you will never be among your friends again, your old life is gone, you will never be loved again, never have any influence again and as for significance – forget that.

But I think there was an ember of hope in him. He was naked, he was miserable, he was cutting, but he didn’t commit suicide. Something in him wanted to live, wanted to believe that there was hope for him and when Jesus came into his path, that ember of hope fanned into a flame. And Jesus delivered him from his tormentors!  Epic win! Certainly not the biggest epic win Jesus would bring about but a noteworthy and life restoring one.

Regardless of the torment,

regardless of the length of time the torment has plagued you,

regardless of what you may have lost because of the torment,

Jesus is greater! 

The battle isn’t over until Jesus says it’s over!

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Unshakeable!

hope

My hope is in you, God
I am steadfast, I will not be moved
I’m anchored,
never shaken
All my hope is in you

William Matthews

 

Hope. We sing the song “Hope’s Anthem” by William Matthews often at church.  We are fast approaching the Christmas season where the word hope is tossed around quite a bit. And yet, we also find that depression is more common during this season than others. So even though we talk about hope, some people don’t have it.  I will admit that this year as we head into Christmas that I am not overly hopeful. I looked up the word in a Bible dictionary and found that it means a confident expectation – to trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future. Hmmm…  So now I know what it is.

I continued digging and found this on LifeHack.org “Doctors know that hope affects our ability to heal. Hopeful patients have higher levels of dopamine, endorphins and other neurochemicals which promote wellbeing and the energy for living”. This could explain why I am still in so much pain and have little enthusiasm for life. So now I know why it’s so important.

This same article said that one way to build hope was to develop hopeful relationships. Not being a Christian blog, she was referring to people. Build relationships with hopeful people. Perhaps that’s the problem. Most of the people I encounter daily are not overly hopeful. I’m going to have to go out of my way to find these hopeful people. So now I know one way to build hope.

One thing they all agreed upon was that hope was not wishful, pie in the sky thinking. I read this on Bible.org “… a biblical hope is not an escape from reality or from problems. It doesn’t leave us idle, drifting or just rocking on the front porch. If our hope is biblical and based on God’s promises, it will put us in gear”.  So now I know that hopes needs to be built on something more reliable than my wishes. It needs to be based on God’s promises. Hope based on His promises will move me out of a complacent funk to a purposeful state of mind. When my hope is in Him, I am steadfast, as the song says.  No matter what comes my way, I will not be shaken or moved.  So now I have an action plan – hang out with hopeful people and keep God’s promises before me.  I hopeful, I think I can do this.

My hope can only be built on You and Your character. All else is shifting sand like the song says. I have stood on the beach and felt my feet sink into the sand as the tide rose and fell and I know I don’t want to be washed away by everything or just anything that flows my way. I want my hope to be built on the more solid ground of Your word. I will keep my eyes on You and trust You to place hopeful people in my path and cause me to be a hopeful person to them. I ask in Your wonderful name. Amen.

 

picture credit: amazingamazingyou.com

Misplaced Hope

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Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.

Isaiah 49:23

Over the years, I have put my hope in a number of things that let me down. I used to spend time hoping I could make the grades my parents needed to see me and not my lacking and still accept me. That hope didn’t pan out.

I spent 23 years hoping the man I called my husband would love me and our daughters enough to come home to us. Every night I would make big, family dinners, set it out on the table in hope that he would be there and join us for dinner and spend the evening with us. Almost every night, when I cleaned up the table and the dishes, I would feel a great deal of shame. Shame that I had hoped once again; shame that I couldn’t change the situation. When would I stop hoping for the impossible? He would promise to come home the next night and the next but seldom was he able to keep those promises.  Between the making of the promise and the breaking of the promise was a hard day at work and a bar called the Rainbow.

I have heard it said that hope makes the heart grow fonder, but I don’t get that. Perhaps, if the hope had been placed properly that would be true. But misplace hope makes the heart grow bitter – at least, that’s what it did for me.

I wish I had turned to God more during those times. I wish my hope had been more securely placed on God’s word and not on a man who couldn’t keep a promise.

Greater than the shame of continuing to have my hopes dashed by an man who would not keep his promises to his family was the shame of knowing that if I had placed my hope only on God’s word, on His character, on His love, maybe, just maybe, healing would have come sooner for all of us.

I can’t go back and change that or anything for that matter, I can only today and every day from now on, place my hope in the One True God, the One who never breaks a promise and never brings me shame. To my family, I say I am sorry, please forgive me.

Lord, forgive me for all the times I have placed my hope in other people. Hope that should have been placed only in You. Would You bring Your healing to my family and my ex and restore to them for the years the locust have eaten?  Would You minister to their deepest point of need and kindle a spark of hope in them where bitterness may reside? Thank You for being a solid, secure place for me to dwell. Love on my family, would You please and where there needs to be forgiveness, would You start that process?  In the name of my Savior, Amen.

It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way

A seven year old boy at work the other day got his heart broken when kids wouldn’t play the game he wanted to play. He curled up in a ball against the wall and cried and yelled, “It’s not supposed to be this way. It’s not supposed to be this way. This shouldn’t be happening.” Meanwhile, a 10 year old girl was crying silently at a table, head down, tears covering her hands and Kleenex dotting the ground all around her. Her heart had been broken. Her mom’s boyfriend raped her and now she was in foster care, separated from her brother and mother. She stayed in this position for 2 and 1/2 hours. While she didn’t say a word, wouldn’t even respond to me at all, I would bet the cry of her heart was “this shouldn’t be happening. It’s not supposed to be this way”.

I thought of all the times I have curled up in a ball and cried and trying to wrap my mind around some awful truth with those same sentiments going through my mind.  It’s not supposed to be this way.  Maybe you’ve been there. There’s enough hurt going around that probably we have all experienced those moments of unbelief at a turn of events we didn’t see coming.

Friends are not supposed to betray us, ten year old girls aren’t supposed to be raped, spouses aren’t supposed to be unfaithful, guns aren’t supposed to be taken to schools, bodies aren’t supposed to be riddled with pain, families aren’t supposed to fall apart, and on and on, the list could go for a very long time. We all know of things that shouldn’t be happening that are. And it hurts. Sometimes that hurt causes us to scream out and yell and other times it causes silent tears. Pain so deep that words can’t heal, not now anyway. If there is a blessing that comes from being in pain, it is that I feel the hurts of others so much more deeply. Have you found that to be true?

This quote from A.A. Milne is one I have up on the bulletin board for kids to see at work and it seems appropriate to share it here:

Promise me you’ll always remember:

You’re braver than you believe,

and stronger than you seem,

and smarter than you think.

Christopher Robin to Pooh

For those of you who are going through a difficult time (and you know who you are), please be gentle with yourself.

God of all Comfort, please hold my friends and loved ones tightly. Embrace them as only You can do. Be their strength when they are weary, their hope when theirs is gone, the light that shines in their darkness, their ever present help in time of need. Please bring restoration to their lives; be their encourager and the lifter of their heads. I ask in name of Your beloved Son, Jesus. Amen.

 

Exceedingly Afflicted -But Not For Long!

I am exceedingly afflicted;

Revive me, O Lord, according to Thy word.

Psalm 119:107

When this pain came on some four years ago and I realized that doctors couldn’t help me and tomorrow it wouldn’t just magically go away, I sank into a pit of despair.  I felt my life spiraling downward and inward until I couldn’t see anything but me and this pain.  I couldn’t see any way out and I couldn’t even talk about the pain. I simply couldn’t frame it in words.

I lost interest in a number of things that would benefit me, going to church, reading the Bible, praying. I would go to church, on occasion, out of force of habit and even, at times, respond to the altar call and go forward for prayer but when asked what I need prayer for all I could say was pain and break down crying. I don’t know which hurt worse – my body or my heart.

A woman I met blogging, suggested that I read through Psalms. Having no better idea, I did that.  At first, it was difficult, the words didn’t touch me at all, but after a while, I began to notice that the feelings I couldn’t put in words were beautifully written.  The pain, the sense of betrayal, the loss, the bewilderment all there.  Someone understood what I couldn’t share.  Someone had captured the feelings I couldn’t express and had laid them out for all to read. I also read of the hope and the peace and the joy that touched the writers’ lives at times and I could feel it touch mine.

And I was revived.

Not overnight, not even in a matter of days.

But I began spiraling upward and outward and began to see the expanse of light just beyond the darkness and I felt hope.

Hope. It’s such a sweet, sweet thing to feel hope when once there was none.

Sometimes, I think miracles are different than we expect them to be. I would have settled for physical healing but God knows there was a deeper work that needs to be done in my life.  There is pain that needs to be dug up, rooted out, looked at and let loose. Only God knows the revival that needs to take place in my life and reading through Psalms showed me that.  I am grateful.

I am truly grateful. Your word has revived me and I know it will continue to revive me. Thank You for the writers of the Psalms who so humbly wrote of their pain and their hope. I am humbled by Your revival in my life, that You would look upon me and see my hurt and touch my hurt in a way that can only be of You. Let Your word richly dwell in me, I pray, and bring about in my life all Your good purposes. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.