KNOW HIM KNOW HOPE: a 2020-2021 Survival Guide

“I trust the next chapter because I know the Author.” 

This simple declaration struck a chord deep within me. 2020 was awful and 2021 seems to be shaping up to be 2020-part duex. Worse yet, the face-to-face, soul-to-soul connections in our lives that give us reasons to celebrate and provide support and comfort when tragedy hits, continue to be curtailed if not eliminated altogether.

The reality of our current situation doesn’t mean we have to surrender to hopelessness. That is why that phrase resonates so deeply.  It reflects a truth and a promise reiterated over and over in God’s word. Knowing Him means knowing hope.  No matter what has, is or will happen, we can “trust the next chapter” if we know and trust the character and heart of the one writing our story.

Our Church is reading through the Bible together. Most of the individual stories are old familiar friends. However, there is something very powerful about reading them as a whole.  Instead of separate stories that reflect individual events, these events become chapters in ONE ongoing story. Reading them this way has given me a MUCH deeper understanding and appreciation for the character of God

Take the story of David and Bathsheba. David saw her bathing, lusted after her, brought her to his palace and impregnated her. He tried to cover his sin by bringing her husband Uriah home from war to sleep with her.  Uriah didn’t comply. With the coverup thwarted, David had Uriah killed. Not David’s finest moment! Then the child conceived in this act of adultery died.

If we stopped there, we may be tempted to believe that God is easily angered, vengeful and wants to punish us for our sin and stupidity. But that isn’t the end of the story. After Uriah’s death and the death of his son, David is hit full force with his sinfulness. To his credit, he doesn’t try to excuse or justify his failure. Instead, he goes to God and pens one of the most heartfelt and sorrowful acknowledgements of sin and plea for forgiveness found in scripture. 

“For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when you speak Your sentence and faultless in Your judgement. Create in me a clean heart O God and renew an upright and steadfast spirit within me.  Cast me not from your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me” (PS 51:2-3, 10-11).

David marries Bathsheba. She gives birth to a second son, Solomon.  Solomon was not David’s only or first born son. Yet it is the child of this mess of a relationship that God chooses to place on the throne of all Israel! Why? Because that is the Grace and steadfast loving kindness of our God! 

David’s marriage to Bathsheba came about as the result of adultery and murder. Yet this was the relationship through which God would produce not only the next and wisest King of Israel, but the great, great, great…grandfather of Jesus Christ! It is through a relationship that started out in unimaginable sin that God eventually brought our Savior into the world!

God loves, cherishes and wants the best for His children.  He doesn’t overlook our sin. He allows the consequences of our sin to be the teacher that prevents us from destroying our lives, by steering us away from sinning over and over. When we repent, he faithfully forgives and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He creates a clean heart in us and imparts His Spirit to us. He makes us a new creation in Christ.  God takes the horror and damage that sin wrought in our lives and creates beauty from the ashes. 

This is a picture of a God who loves us compassionately, steadfastly, loyally and unconditionally. He is a God who doesn’t give up on us no matter how hard we screw up! Our God causes our worst moments to be the catalyst for our greatest triumphs. This is His AMAZING Grace! This is the character of our God!

If God is willing to bring such glory out of such sin, why wouldn’t He protect, provide for and prosper us physically, emotionally and spiritually in the midst of circumstances not of our own making? In this time when we are left wondering what the next chapter will be, we CAN trust the loving kindness and Grace of the Author. Knowing Him truly means Knowing HOPE!

Suggested reading: 2 Samuel 11, 12; 1 Kings 2:1-15; Psalm 51

FINDING HOPE IN ADVERSITY

Photo By Engin Akyurt

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. How can we sing the lords song in a foreign land? Psalm 137:1, 4. 

COVID has created a lot of disruption and aversity in our lives. We are in a season of dissatisfaction and distraction and there is no real end in sight. If you are like me you are tired. Tired of COVID. Tired of face masks. Tired of restrictions. Tired of conflict. Tired of politics. Tired of social distancing. Just plain tired of it all. On top of being tired, I am grieving the loss of all the things COVID protocol has taken from us. COVID isn’t going away and we can’t get away from it. In a very real way, we are captive to it.

I doubt any of us were prepared for just how unrelenting this season would actually be. Most of us have sought distractions to take our minds off it. Healthy distraction can be a good thing. It provides some relief from adversity, especially adversity over which we have no control. Too much distraction or unhealthy distraction however, can negatively effect motivation and mood. Distraction may provide temporary relief, but it is like candy. It only satisfies while we’re consuming it and too much of it … not good!

In 605 B.C. Babylon conquered the Nation of Judah. This began a 70 year long season of adversity for the people of God. Jerusalem and the temple were sacked and destroyed. The Israelites were killed or carted off to captivity in Babylon. They lost their homes, possessions, loved ones and their freedom. It was devastating. (This gave me a bit of perspective on the season we are going though. It may be long but at least its not 70 years!)

Psalm 137 was written during the Babylonian captivity. It is the poignant outcry of people trying to deal with adversity in captivity.  God’s people cried out “how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” In essence what they were asking is, how do we find satisfaction in long term adversity? How do we find joy and meaning in prolonged captivity? How do we find fulfillment when we have little to no control over our situation or our lives? They were asking the same questions we are asking today.

I found my answer to this question in the lives of Daniel and his friends; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In the beginning of their captivity, they had virtually no control over their lives. Every aspect, from their education, to jobs, to how and who they would worship, was dictated by their captors.  Even things as basic as what they ate, were decided for them. Yet, to a man, they determined that they would not defile themselves even if it cost them their lives.   

Instead of just going along to get along or being ground down by the realities of their captivity, they choose to cast their lot with God. They chose to trust in, lean on and be obedient to God in all things, regardless of their situation. They sought His guidance and listened to His voice.  They followed His plan and relied on His protection. In their 70 years of captivity God protected, prospered and raised them to positions of power and influence.  By seeking God and allowing Him to reign in their lives, they were able to thrive in the adversity of foreign captivity. Their faithfulness even laid the foundation for the eventual return to Jerusalem. 

In this season, we have the SAME OPPORTUNITY. When we follow their example, prolonged adversity gives us a unique opportunity. We get to trust in , lean on and be obedient to God in ways that would not be possible under any other circumstances.  It gives us the opportunity to see God work powerfully on our behalf. When we choose to throw our lot in with God, prolonged adversity becomes an opportunity to grow! To grow closer to God. To grow stronger and more resilient. To gain experience and wisdom.  To grow more Christlike.

As we continue through this long season of adversity, let’s follow the example of Daniel and his fellow captives. Let’s trust in God’s ability to bring us through whatever comes. No matter how long it lasts, GOD WILL bring us to the other side. Lean on Him for strength and rest and He will enable us to soar like Eagles. Be obedient to Him and to His word and He will bring blessing in the midst of our captivity. 

Take comfort in the promise of Rom. 5:3-5. “ Exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardship, knowing that hardship produces patient endurance and endurance, proven character and spiritual maturity: and proven character produces hope and confident assurance. Such hope NEVER DISSAPOINTS.” Let this season of adversity be one in which we allow God to do His transformative work in us. Draw close to Him and take comfort in His steadfast love and care. Then we will know how to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. Who knows, we too may be laying a foundation of hope and blessing beyond imagining!

Recommended reading Psalm 137, Dan. Chapt. 1, 3:8-28, 6:18-28

THE PROMISE OF A NEW YEAR

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad

2 Corinthians 1:20 “For as many as the promises of God are, in Christ they are all answered with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ our “Amen” ascends to God for His glory.”

The end of 2020 is something we have ALL been looking forward to with great anticipation. With all its chaos, stress and difficulty, 2020 couldn’t end soon enough. Yet with each new challenge, it seemed like 2020 would NEVER end.  Well, 2021 is FINALLY here! The promise of a new year is always exciting.  The possibilities a new year holds, makes the change in the calendar cause for celebration and hope. Coming out of the year we have had; the possibility of hope seems that much more exciting and vital.

Yet despite the change in the calendar, little else has actually changed.  We are still dealing with COVID and all its myriad of physical, social and financial issues. Though last year’s tragedies have highlighted racial issues, we have yet to send the demon of racism back to the pit of hell from whence it came. We are still dealing with added stress in work, finances, marriage, family life and relationships in general and yet…

 We cannot afford to abandon the promise of a new year! 

Each new year holds promise because time itself is a gift from God.  He gives us each year, and every year he gives us, is a year filled with the potential of what He can and WILL do in our lives. The hope of that potential is something we need to embrace ESPECIALLY after the year we have had.

One of the ways we can embrace this potential is to remind ourselves of the promises God has made to us. So, what are some of God’s promises to us?

  • God promises His presence. He promises that whatever we face, He will be with us. He will never under any circumstances desert us or leave us defenseless. As we walk through this coming year, we can be assured that He will be beside us guiding and protecting, comforting and consoling us. No matter what, He WILL bring us though.

Psalm 23:4

Heb. 13:5-6

Psalm 55: 22:

Isaiah 41:10-13

Isaiah 43: 1,2

Psalm 46:1-3

Psalm 18:2

Psalm 55:22

Psalm 9:9

  • God promises to bring GOOD out of every situation we face, even the worst. Whatever crap life throws at us, God will use it to grow a garden of beauty and repose in our lives. He desires to give us a life of abundance, regardless of the situations around us.

Rom 8:28

Jer. 29:11

John 10:10

2 Thes. 2:16-17

Deut 30:9, 19-20

1 Kings 8:56

Psalm 23:2-3, 5

  • God promises to care for us. He will provide for us always. He promises to ease our burden and bring us a peace that transcends circumstance.

1 Peter 5:6,7

Matt 6:25,26

Phil 4:6

Matt 11:28-30

John 14:27

Isaiah 57:19

Psalm 85:8

Phil 4:7

Psalm 128:

  • God KEEPS His promises

Num 23:19

2 Peter 3:9

2 Cor. 1:20

This coming year is overflowing with potential because God gave it to us and He is with us!  If God is for us, who or what can stand against us? NOTHING!! So, embrace the promise of the new year. It’s real! We have His word on it!

CHANGING PERSPECTIVE: a 2020 Survival Guide

For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future Jer 29:11 NIV

In March it seemed that 2020 had come prepared to do battle. Now in December it seems that it wasn’t a battle that 2020 had in mind. In addition to a Global pandemic and the financial and social adversity that it caused, we’ve had wild fires in Australia, the Western United States and Canada, locust swarms in Africa, earthquakes in Turkey and Puerto Rico, a super typhoon in the South Pacific, massive flooding in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Sudan, and a massive explosion in Beirut. Not to mention the individual challenges each of us has faced this year. In the US, the murder of George Floyd lit the fuse of social outrage and racial conflict. Throw in a less than typical presidential election and it seems clear that 2020 is in FULL ON SIEGE MODE!  

I will take even the most intense battle over a siege ANY DAY! The unrelenting stress of an enemy continually at the gate is like being caught in a grinding stone. Each turn of the sone wears us down a little more, until all that remains is the helpless, hopeless dust of our former selves. A siege cuts us off from each other and our resources. A prolonged siege can actually steal our capacity to embrace hope, because we lose the ability to see any way out.   

During Israel’s war with Aram, Elisha repeatedly thwarted Aram’s success in battle by prophesying about Aram’s battle plans. This so enraged the king of Aram that he wanted Elisha dead. So, he sent a powerful army by night to lay siege to the city of Dothan where Elisha lived. When Elisha and his servant awoke, they were met with the sight of a large army encircling the city. Elisha ’s servant was in a state of panic bordering on despair. Elisha however, was as cool as a cucumber. 

Both men were facing the same threat, but they had very different responses. Why? 

The difference came from their individual perspectives. The servant was focused on the problem. From his perspective they faced a lethal danger with no defense and no way out. He saw no way to successfully stand against this aggressor. As a result, he was overwhelmed and lost hope.

Elisha’s focus however, wasn’t on the enemy. His hope and trust were centered in God.  Elisha told his servant “Do not be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:17).  Elisha could see what his servant could not. He saw the army of the Almighty, with chariots of fire, absolutely filling the mountains between them and the army of Aram. Elisha’s servant was unable to embrace hope because his focus and trust were in the wrong place. 

What we focus on and who we trust in makes ALL the difference.   There is no denying that 2020 is beyond challenging. The problems are real. The difficulties keep piling up with no clear end in sight. If we keep our focus on the problems, we could easily fall into hopelessness and despair. What we need most in the midst of this siege, is a change of perspective. How we end this year will affect how our new year begins. AS this year is coming to a close let’s end it looking to the one who holds the future. His plans for us are good! He is giving us a future of hope!

DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT: A 2020 survival guide


I started my 2020 survival guide with the post “Faith, Hope and Love.” It was followed in short order by “Finding Faith”, “Building Faith” and “Walking by Faith”. It was time to start writing about hope. Yet every time I sat down to write, the words were like a classroom of unruly 2-year olds on a massive sugar high. IF I could find the words, I couldn’t get them to sit still long enough to form a coherent sentence.

The truth is, I was having trouble writing about hope, because I was having trouble finding hope. I had already hit the proverbial wall with the COVID situation. Social distancing and being separated from family and friends had worn thin. Then came the murder of George Floyd. That was more than I could handle. In the wake of all 2020 had dished out I found myself struggling with a onslaught of negative emotions.

I don’t experience discouragement often. This time however, I just couldn’t shake off the negative emotions that were overwhelming me. I found myself getting ground down by 2020 and all its fallout. I was relating a little too much with Job’s outcry; “Where now is my hope?Will it go down with me into Sheol? Shall we go down together in the dust?” (Job 17:15.)

We are facing a LOT of challenges. Apart from the health concerns, there is the financial impact of all this on families, businesses and the country. There is tremendous uncertainty about what life will be like on the other side of COVID. The stresses on marriages and families can be overwhelming. There are arguments about everything from public health and safety versus economic recovery, to the ‘correct’ response to racial injustice. These arguments are being expressed at VOLUME. Conflict is everywhere. People are angry. Some are expressing their anger violently. It’s all disheartening! It steals hope.

What do we do when hope feels this elusive? 

No matter how long all this lasts or how tough it gets, our answer is in the LORD and His promises! 

“So now we must cling tightly to the Hope that LIVES WITHIN US, knowing that God ALWAYS keeps His promises!” (Heb. 10:23) emphasis added 

PROMISE #1 – He is our hope.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him,” (Lam. 3:25).  He has good plans for us, plans for hope and a future of hope and prosperity (Jer 29;11) 

When I started asking Why are you downcast O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?”, the answer was Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God”(Ps. 42:5).

We can face the challenges and uncertainties with confidence by trusting God “with all our heart.” When we lean on His understanding rather than our own, we have the assurance of His wisdom. “He will direct and make [our] path[s] straight and plain.” (Prov. 3:5-6) 

PROMISE #2 – He is our refuge.

“God is our Refuge and Strength, mighty and impenetrable. A very present and well proved help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)

When we begin to feel hopeless in the face of all the stresses and uncertainties of 2020, we need to seek the refuge that can be found in God alone. His compassions are new every morning and his faithfulness is unending! (Lam 3:22-23P)

PROMISE #3 – He is our comfort.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the GOD OF ALL COMFORT, who comforts us in ALL OUR TROUBLES so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4) emphasis added

We can find comfort and consolation for the losses and disappointments 2020 has brought in its wake because Jesus is a High priest who KNOWS and UNDERSTANDS our human frailty and needs, from the inside out. Because He has shared in our weaknesses and infirmities, He knows what we are going through. (Heb. 4:15) When we seek comfort in Him, we can learn to be content in all circumstances because in Him, we will know the secret of facing any circumstance, even 2020. (Phil 4:11)

 

 

WATER FOR A THIRSTY SOUL: a 2020 Survival Guide

Photo by Daniel Watson from PexelsPhoto by Daniel Watson


I love rain. I love the sound, the smell. I love standing in a gentle rain on a warm summer day.

Listening to the patter of rain on my porch I began to contemplate the nature of water. Water is really amazing stuff.  You can drink it, wash in it, use it to put out fires. It makes plants grow and carves canyons through solid rock. It’s as tiny as a drop of rain and as big as the ocean. It’s a gentle shower or a mighty torrent overwhelming everything in its path.

Water is crucial to our survival, more critical than food. A human being can go about three weeks without food. We will only last three DAYS without water. Water sustains life. We spend the first part of our lives floating in it as God knits us together in our mother’s womb.

Water can take life as well. I lived near the beautiful Clear Creek River, a crystal-clear river flowing down from the peaks of the Colorado Rockies. It’s as dangerous as it is beautiful. It runs fast and the current is strong. In addition, the river hides boulders and pockets of strong undertow. Every year someone would disappear on the river only to reappear days later when the river’s under tow released their bodies. As much as I was in awe of the beauty of that river, I had a healthy respect for its power.

The nature of water is similar to the nature of God. He is water for the thirsty soul. He washes us through the Word until we are as white as snow. He quenches the flaming arrows of the enemy. He causes our faith to grow. He carves through the stony heart of sin to restore the years the locus ate. He is the still small voice and the creator of the universe who flooded the earth and shakes its foundations.

He sustains our lives. Going more than three days without Him can be deadly. He desires a relationship with us that is as intimate and vital as our relationship to the water in the womb. When we come to know God, we are in awe of His beauty and have a healthy respect for His power.

This is a season where understanding the nature of God can truly be water for a thirsty soul. As things change on a seemingly daily basis it can feel like being swept away in the current of a strong river. The stresses of working from home and managing children, family and finances in this COVID dominated atmosphere can feel like being sucked into an undertow. The pressure on marriages can increase the frequency and intensity of marital conflict until it feels like you have slammed into a hidden boulder.

Thankfully we have a God who able to care for our needs no matter the season. If we place our trust and hope in the Lord, we “shall be like a tree planted by waters which spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green”. We need not be “be anxious in [this] year of drought, nor will  [we] cease from yielding fruit” (Jer. 17:8 NKJV). When we believe in Him “rivers of living water will burst out from within [us], flowing from [our] innermost being just like scripture says!” (John 7:38 TPT)

FINDING FAITH; a 2020 survival guide


alex-woods- faith that never fails

Photo by Alex Woods


So how do we find a faith worth taking the leap for?

For me, that faith was found through the actions of another. When someone demonstrated UNDESERVED love to me, it gave me something REAL to put my faith in. I found a faith that will NEVER fail because I found the One whose very nature DEFINES what it is to BE faithful!

For most of us it is easy to love people who love us. However, when we are hurt or betrayed, love becomes a challenge. Loving an enemy seems almost impossible. Everyone experiences times when love is a hard-fought act of will! The thing is, loving others the way God loves us, has the potential to change their lives. My Dad exemplified this kind of love.

My biological father was a violent and abusive alcoholic. My parents were divorced when I was 7. My mother has mental illness issues and suspect taste in men. Following the divorce, a parade of very abusive men came in and out of our lives. By the time I was 12, I had become accustomed to managing the dangers these men posed. When my mom remarried, everything changed.

In my experience, no matter how nice men were in the beginning, abuse was always just a miss-step away, hidden behind the smile. As a result, I was horrible to my mother’s new husband in a way only an abused, distrustful 12-year-old can be. I flatly refused to talk to him. I was deliberately disobedient and spiteful. I encouraged my sisters to be disobedient. Even though I sat next to him at dinner, I wouldn’t look at him or pass food.

After six weeks of silent warfare, I finally condescended to speak. In my most sarcastic voice I asked: ” So what are we supposed to call you? Uncle Chuck?” I grabbed the seat of my chair and braced for the blow I was certain was coming. He met my defiant gaze, and lovingly said: “I don’t know, but I would like it if you called me Dad.”

In that moment I experienced the full weight of God’s grace. I broke! Later that evening I asked my Dad how he could treat me with such love when all I had given him was contempt. In response, he introduced me to the faith that has sustained me through thick and thin; faith in Christ Jesus.

I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and I have given my life to God. The relationship that has been forged in this act of faith has enabled me to have hope in whatever situation I find myself in because I know I am not alone. I KNOW that the One who walks beside me is FAITHFUL in ALL things. God is ALWAYS with me guiding, protecting and cherishing me. God is my comfort, my wisdom, my teacher and so much more! He enables me to manage whatever life throws at me and brings good and joy out of it all!


God is faithful, reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on; by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor. 1:9 AMP (emphasis added)


God is calling us into a relationship , into companionship with Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. This RELATIONSHIP of faith is open to EVERYONE. Simply pray:

Lord God, I am a sinner. Please forgive me of my sin. Help me turn away from sin and follow you. I surrender my heart to you. I believe you are Lord of all creation. I believe you died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and you rose from the dead to conquer death. Come into my heart and be Lord of my life. Amen (Romans 10:9-10)