Great Expectations

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Great Expectations

By Pat Knight

As I gazed out the window at the bleak winter landscape, I detected a definite lack of color, a bland outlook with no life stirring. With barren expectancy, we prepare our hearts for desolation, reflected in our attitudes and conversation. Are we so mentally programmed with gloominess that even our anticipation of future events is dulled?

Comparing heart focus with environmental conditions is risky, thwarting inward hope and personal growth. It is easy to be affected by the lack of sunshine and warmth in winter. Let us not permit exterior influences to eclipse the radiance with which Jesus penetrates darkness by reflecting His light through our lives. Joy is quickly extinguished by despondency.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). After Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, conquered his disbelief at Christ’s post-resurrection appearance, Jesus taught the eleven disciples, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have  not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). In today’s vernacular we would explain Jesus’ teaching as “blind faith.” In spite of our circumstances, our beliefs don’t change; they are locked securely inside our hearts. Faith in God is the consequence of trust; trust the outgrowth of belief.

If we constantly focus on the negative, our hearts will languish with despair. We’ve all been exposed to a curmudgeon who  projects a pessimistic approach so hopeless that black clouds spontaneously open, dispensing chilly water on a new idea. Cynics have an intimidating influence on positive thoughts, much like the austere environment in winter.

With whom do we communicate to enliven a joyful spirit? God is the Author and Creator of all things good. “Jesus answered, ‘No one is good except God alone’” (Mark 10:18). The good God constantly imparts to us is a reflection of His own divine character of purity and holiness.

After gazing outside at the monotonous winter panorama once again, rather than a change of scenery, I discovered the need for an attitude adjustment. God has the ability to change our perspective with His gifts of joy and peace. Man is unable to conjure up sovereign gifts independently with the power of positive thinking, as some assert. We must depend upon our Lord to supply us with His limitless gifts, always available to those who seek Him. “Take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:24,The Msg).

We are commanded to fellowship with God, the glorious, victorious Creator of life and peace, joy and light, grace and love. In the new year, let us establish enlightened priorities, recognizing the capacity to alter our lives forever by placing them in God’s care. “Submit yourself, then, to God. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7a-8).

Winter, with its unique season of dormancy and hibernation for many living things, is also a period of refreshment, preparing for regrowth; for a magnificent burst of beauty and fragrance that identifies the imminent season of spring. Let us not bear winter grudgingly, but joyfully use the time to develop attitudes pleasing to God. There is beauty during winter unseen at other times of year. Shadows on snow peek around trees, marching like toy soldiers as the sun manipulates the imaginary forms. Sunsets of magnificent proportions and beauty light up late afternoon skies with unequivocal displays of prismatic colors. The deep green of softwood branches and the silhouettes of stark hardwoods in the foreground of high, pristine snowbanks create fantastic visual delights. A full moon illuminates light blue blankets of snow when the dark draperies of night are pulled down upon the world.

What do you envision in the winter season of your life? The bleakness of financial, health, or employment woes, or the unprecedented power, protection, and provisions offered by God Himself? The new year holds unimaginable possibilities and victories. Seek an attitude that reflects Jesus’ submission, humility, and obedience toward His Father. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus could release His deepest hope to His heavenly Father, assured that even at such a late hour God could perform the impossible by cancelling His Son‘s crucifixion. Yet, Jesus believed that His Father’s perfect plan would be accomplished. Christ was convinced that His hope wasn’t misplaced by cross-your-fingers wishful thinking, but as confident expectations resting on God’s promises, free of worry and nail-biting. Jesus trusted in God’s sovereign ability to answer his prayer custom designed for His Son alone. He does the same for us.

Hope is like an restraining anchor at the bottom of the sea. The Christian anchor rises up into the heavenly realms, guaranteeing our personal security. We are sheltered by our sovereign refuge.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

It is essential for us to value God above all else in our lives. He freely extends joyful delight, anchoring hope and unconditional love. Ask God to transform your priorities. He will lavish you abundantly with the righteousness of Jesus. To live right before God (righteousness) is His ultimate goal for each believer. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

Hope is expressed when we turn toward God with confident expectation during times of trial.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). With inner tranquility, believers relinquish their worries to God and dwell on them no more. Then the victory of God is theirs to enjoy. The full dimension of God’s love and provisions are beyond our comprehension, motivating us to trust Him explicitly.

During one final peek outside, I focused on the glory of God’s creation. Just as the outside world perpetually changes, believers also experience consistent growth and renewal deep within their hearts. We learn patience and perseverance, but most marvelous of all is the imperceptible growth in hope, trust, and faith our Lord accomplishes by His power at work within us, transforming our lives. Expect the unexpected from an exceptional, extraordinary God!

A Happy and Blessed 2018 to You!

2017 has been a year mainly filled with illness situations that have caused me to change the content of my blog to mostly reblogs from other sites that I trust. However, I believe that if we stay open to Jesus’ leadings, He guides us—through the Holy Spirit—to show us when and how He wants us to change direction.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Pat Knight for contributing her wonderful devotionals to this blog. I am thankful that our God-centered relationship has lasted so long in spite of us never having met in person.

I am also very thankful that Jesus always walks with me every step of the way. May you all enjoy a new year spent finding ways to seek a closer relationship with Jesus too!

Now may the God of HOPE
fill you with all JOY and peace in believing,
that you may abound in HOPE
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Disappointment Becomes Joy

This is another great devotional by Billy Graham. Please take the time to browse his site. There is a lot of great information there!

They shall see his face . . . 
—Revelation 22:4 (TLB)

One of the great bonuses of being a Christian is the great hope that extends beyond the grave into the glory of God’s tomorrow. A little girl was running toward a cemetery as the darkness of evening began to fall. She passed a friend who asked her if she was not afraid to go through the graveyard at night. “Oh, no,” she said, “I’m not afraid. My home is just on the other side!” We Christians are not afraid of the night of death because our heavenly home is “just on the other side.” The resurrection of Christ changed the midnight of bereavement into a sunrise of reunion; it changed the midnight of disappointment into a sunrise of joy; it changed the midnight of fear to a sunrise of peace. Today faith and confidence in the resurrected Christ can change your fear to hope and your disappointment to joy.

Hear this 1-minute story of a man facing a bleak future when he found joy in Christ. 

Prayer for the day

Whatever I fear the most, Lord Jesus, I put into Your loving hands, knowing You will give me peace and courage.

When Hope Seems to Run Out

Sharing from SetApart.net.

When Hope Seems to Run Out

By Sarah Walton

God is still a God of miracles. Though it may look different than when Jesus walked the earth, we still hear of God’s divine intervention all around us – tumors that miraculously disappear, a hardened criminal surrenders their life to Christ and has a powerful ministry to the unsaved, an unborn child who’s been declared “unfit for life” is born perfectly healthy, and hard to reach cultures are coming to Christ through divine intervention.

Yes, God still reveals His power and supremacy through these miraculous acts. However, it’s likely that many of us haven’t experienced a life-altering miracle in our own lives (other than the miraculous regeneration of our hearts). Although there are times that we can clearly see evidence of God at work in our lives, there are also seasons when it seems as though prayers are being answered in everyone’s lives but ours.

Read the rest here.

Holding on to Sustaining #Hope

This is an excellent post about HOPE from the True Woman blog at Revive Our Hearts, and not just because Ava Pennington and I both chose HOPE for our 2017 theme. I’ve been going through a time of multiple physical trials, so I truly appreciate what she wrote. I think it is an encouragement for all of us, no matter what we’re going through.

Holding on to Sustaining Hope

By Ava Pennington

The new year is nearly half over. And the first five months of 2017 were not at all what I expected.

But God knew. And He gave me a clue back in December.

For the past several years, I’ve enjoyed the practice of selecting “one word” for the new year. A word to apply to every area of my life. A word to help me focus on how I believed God wants me to grow and respond to my circumstances.

Joy became my word for 2016. Also a surprise word, but once again, I could see God at work. While joy might not seem to be related to release, I quickly learned ways it complemented and built on the lessons of the previous year. I learned to take joy in present moments even as I released the illusion of control.

I became aware of my one word for 2017 in early December. Like the others, it was not included on my original list of considerations. Still, hope kept coming to mind. And it confused me.

I could see reasons for the words release and joy. But would I really need to focus on hope as a daily activity? Hmmm, since I teach and write, perhaps this was an indication that the Lord would use me to encourage hope in others. To be a vehicle of hope for those struggling against despair.

Read the rest here.

HOPE for Every Day

hope-ptz-amp

2016 was the year of JOY for me, in which I shared daily posts about JOY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I also have a few friends who asked me to share these posts via email. I truly enjoyed delving further into the Bible to find so many JOY posts. I love that whenever I write about something, God also teaches me through it.

I’ve been praying about what 2017’s theme will be and realized that JOY and HOPE go hand in hand. We live in such turbulent times. We finally get over one difficult situation and feel like we can be calm and peaceful again, when WHAM! Something else hits us. Our days start to feel like those mammoth tsunami waves that come crashing over us again and again.

The image above is an acronym for HOPE that came from my friend Pat Knight. Isn’t it the truth! I’ll be writing about HOPE here from time to time as well, and today I’m starting off  by sharing this quote:

“The Christmas message is that there is
HOPE for a ruined humanity–
HOPE of pardon,
HOPE of peace with God,
HOPE of glory–
because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor,
and was born in a stable so that
thirty years later He might hang on a cross.”

–J.I. Packer

Sunday #Praise and #Worship: Lord, I Need You

SundayPraiseAndWorship-50--AMP

Life is admittedly tough. Just when you think things are going smoothly, something suddenly happens that threatens to shake our faith. But those of us who have placed our trust in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ have the power of His Word to hang onto. In the pages of the Bible are many words of power, comfort, peace, faith and truth.

No matter what’s happening in our lives, let’s not forget that our ultimate hope and JOY is in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ and no one or nothing else. The song “Lord, I Need You” sung by Matt Maher has been running through my mind lately, especially when I’m struggling with life in my little corner of the world.

As you listen to this song, ponder the words of comfort and peace Jesus speaks to His disciples:

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

—John 14:27

 Please excuse any ads that may appear before the video begins
If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.