Tag Archive: Hope

A Little Girl and a God who Lasts!

Masks were off at outdoor church today! The breeze stirred as we sat in the sunshine, singing “We need a fresh wind, the fragrance of Heaven. Pour your Spirit out.”

person holding white dandelions
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

Do you feel, as I do, that the heaviness of the past year is lifting just a bit? And yet, countries like India are still overwhelmed with Covid cases, with hospitals that can’t hold all the sick, with deaths there aren’t enough people to handle. India’s most famous guru, Ramdev, has decided to take the vaccine after berating doctors and saying ayurvedic medicine was sufficient. https://news.yahoo.com/ramdev-india-most-famous-yoga-140805662.html

I lost a friend to Covid two and a half weeks ago. The husband of one of my college best friends. Grief and sorrow continue. Do you need, as I do, to be reminded of hope?

Don and I have been reading through the book of Isaiah. There’s so much prophecy, and we don’t understand it all or know when some of the prophesied events will happen. But oh, chapter 40 is so rich it had me in tears the other day.

Isaiah begins the chapter with the familiar line Handel used in his Messiah: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” (KJV) Isaiah writes that we need to prepare the way of the coming Lord, the Creator of everything we can see or imagine. THE MESSAGE says “Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger…” He is a God of magnitude we cannot comprehend!

The prophet continues:

So who even comes close to being like God? To whom or what can you compare him? Some no-god idol? Ridiculous! … Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening? … God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas–yes, like a tent canvas to live under…

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob (or Carol, or Sue, or Rod, or …) or whine, Israel, saying ‘God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me’? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts … He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath, and he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40:18-31 (The Message)
selective focus photography of woman in pink shirt
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

This is so precious to me. I’ve had a knee and shoulder replaced and have pain in the other parts. I don’t walk fast. I don’t run. But one day, in God’s amazing kingdom of justice and peace, I will run without tiring. I will pick up things without pain in my shoulders.

Dear friends of ours, Directors at Rancho Santa Marta, Mexico, birthed three children. They have a very full plate running a Christian school with about 250 students from up to 60 miles away. They oversee five residences for live-in children who may be orphans, removed from their homes due to abuse, or have learning difficulties. But Rod and Tina adopted another little girl from India a number of years ago.

Recently the couple was asked by the Mexican welfare system if they could take in a little deaf mute girl. They felt having her in one of the residences would add another layer of complexity to the family structures they’ve developed there, so Rod and Tina offered to foster this child. Within a week, they were in love with her and have decided to adopt her as well.

person woman music pink
Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

The God who created the heavens and all that is in them reached down to pluck this little girl up and put her in a home where she will be loved, taught, and hopefully helped medically. The family is checking into getting cochlear implants so she can learn to hear and speak and have a more normal life. But they have a short window of time. She is 5 and a half, and they evidently only perform these implants on children until the age of six. Won’t you join us in prayer for the MediCal and financial support they need to have this surgery done before their little one turns six?

Isaiah 40:27 (MSG) talks about this amazing God:

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.”

It’s only when we hope in God that we can impact a world that seems hopeless–sometimes, one child at a time.

“Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.

“It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God CARES. He LASTS. He doesn’t change. He hasn’t lost track of his children, including me. That gives me hope.

Loss … and Hope

Don and I were enjoying the beauty of Hawaii, its turquoise waters, clear and sunny skies, when we heard that nine people were murdered in cold blood in our hometown of San Jose, California. Nine Valley Transportation Authority employees, leaving behind spouses, children, siblings. Men between the ages of 29 and 63. The shooter then killed himself.

According to his ex-wife, the shooter often complained about his work, feeling others got easier assignments than he did. She told the Bay Area News group “When he was in a good mood he was a great guy. When he was mad, he was mad.”

These families will grieve the loss of their loved ones deeply. Little children will grow up without their fathers. Wives are left to raise children as single parents. And we need to reach out and care for them in ways we can, even while we pray for their comfort.

So much tragedy, so much loss and pain. How can we respond to such senseless violence?

person pushing a control button
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

I just read about an eighth-grade math teacher who heard gunshots in the hallway. She told her students to run to the high school and not to look back! But the teacher went into the hallway to see how she could help. A young girl holding a gun had already shot two students (who were hurt but would recover). The teacher went to see if she could help the wounded, then looked up to see the girl pointing the gun at her.

Quietly, the teacher spoke to the girl. She approached and put her hand over the girl’s hand, which held the gun. The girl released the gun. The teacher called the police but didn’t stop there. Instead, she took the girl into her arms, holding and comforting her until help arrived. The woman’s actions took courage; they also showed compassion for a young girl just forming the rest of her life.

My relationship with God through Jesus Christ has given me hope in the midst of grief and suffering. Yes, I’ve felt depressed and alone. But God never left me. He is faithful and true. Jesus said of himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

The apostle John wrote about God’s amazing love when he said,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17, NIV

My oldest brother gave the eulogy at my father’s memorial service. He said, “For 57 years, Dad, you’ve taught me how to live. This last month, you’ve taught me how to die.” Our father died with grace and courage, trusting that the God who led him for 85 years would not abandon him in death.

What a legacy if we can teach our children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren how to live for Jesus; and how to die with confidence in his eternal salvation.

Do you know this Jesus? Want to know more about him? Let’s talk.

But God …

P1090285

Like most of us, I want to live with purpose. And yet at times I find my purpose wavering … I need a rest; I’m not equipped to deal with that issue; that person’s pain is too much for me to handle. I’m overwhelmed! Do you ever feel like that?

I pulled out a post from six years ago because I was reminded of it in our pastor’s sermon this morning.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–

Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV

That’s the beauty of God’s empowering. Many challenges are too much for me to handle. I am inadequate. I don’t know what to do. But my God will enable me if I take one step at a time, believing He will meet me at the next one.

I experienced many God-moments when my first husband was waiting for an organ transplant in Florida. Three thousand miles from home, we needed housing, local support, and insurance approval. In one email to friends I expressed the challenges we faced, then listed some of the ways we had seen God’s love and grace. I wrote:

“We are in big trouble on our own (health, costs, housing, ongoing tests) … it isn’t a bed of roses …

BUT GOD … allowed Jerry’s test results Friday to be positive, removing a potential obstacle to transplantation …

BUT GOD … ensured final dollar authorization for the dual transplant …

crop colleagues shaking hands in office
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

BUT GOD … led our California pastor to connect us with Pastor X here in Gainesville, with whom we’ve already started to have wonderful fellowship and support …

BUT GOD … led Pastor X to follow up with us and to allow us to share with his church body, which is actively responding to our needs.

BUT GOD … has shown us His faithfulness over and over through people we’ve met, the kindness of strangers in antique shops who’ve offered us housing or suggested resources, and by giving us incredible opportunities to connect with people and share our lives and His faithfulness with them.”

Dr. Helen Rosaveare was a single missionary working in the Congo from 1953 to 1973. During the political instability of the 1960s she was brutally gang-raped by rebels. As she tells it, during that terror one word kept recurring in her mind. “Privilege.” She had the privilege of suffering for Christ. That is truly beyond one’s own capability, strength or adequacy.

But GOD empowered her to survive that and continue to minister for Him.

Grace. It’s all God’s grace. It’s not good when someone is raped, murdered, terminally ill, depressed, or insecure. But it is grace, the grace of God that shows up when we most need it, that empowers us to take one step at a time, experiencing His presence which then empowers us to take the next step. Sometimes I think I’ve done something of value … but then I’m reminded that it is all about the grace of God. He uses our availability even more than our ability.

Here’s the rest of that wonderful passage which speaks so clearly of the “But Gods” in our lives, and of the grace he gives us day by day. We were born with a sin nature, following our own desires and impulses. And then Paul writes this message of amazing hope.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV

So what are the “But Gods” in your life? I’d love to hear.

Where Else would we Go?

I’ve been in a marvelous, online writers’ conference the past three days, so wasn’t sure what I would write about today. Then, in my inbox, I received this wonderful Bible art from YouVersion, created by Faithlife:

This just resonated with me because God used this scripture in a time of my desolation and despair. After my first husband died, the memorial service was over (and was all I wanted it to be, to glorify God, honor Jerry, and help people understand how to have a relationship with God), I crashed.

Suddenly I was in a dark pit, a place a despair, of deep loneliness, of hopelessness. What if all I believed about Jesus was a lie and I’d never see Jerry again?

Some of the disciples walked away from Jesus when they felt the road was too hard. He asked the rest, “Will you also leave me?”

Peter, in his usual extrovertish, bullish personality, jumped in. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69 NIV)

After wallowing in my personal pit for about three weeks, God brought the scripture above to my mind. At that moment my mind left the pit, the lie the enemy would have me believe that God’s Word was untrue. I continued to grieve, deeply, but without that despair of “where is God in all this?”

I think we all face these questions from time to time. Our pastor said this morning that it’s possible to want what Jesus can do for you more than you want Jesus, a good life more than God in our life.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said one of his disciples would betray him that very night. Rather than naming Judas, I think Jesus wanted each of them to look into their own hearts. No one wanted to be Jesus’ betrayor; but each recognized the temptation in his own heart for power, wealth, comfort. Each looked into his own heart and, one by one, said, “Surely you don’t mean me?” But it was Judas, the one who held the disciples’ purse-strings, who betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins–and later hanged himself.

God has already given me everything–Himself, salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ, eternal life. He owes me nothing.

So will I serve him because I expect to get something out of it for myself– recognition, wealth, influence, whatever–or will I serve him wholeheartedly because he has already given me everything, and I adore him?

Jesus took me from death to life. Think about how huge that is!

In a day where many are weary, heartsick, lonely, feeling abandoned, we need the hope that only Jesus can bring.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:7-10, NIV

May we be blessed this week, knowing God has freely given us himself; and may we worship and adore him with our words, actions and service.

Why do Good People Suffer?

How would you respond if everything you had was stripped from you…

  • Your Finances
  • Possessions
  • Car
  • Home and
  • Children

…within the space of a day?

Some of this is happening now, to those losing businesses or jobs due to the Coronavirus.

And after all this…you got a terrible, wasting sickness of painful sores from head to toe that hurt and itch so much you take broken pottery to scrape your skin, top to bottom?

On top of that, your spouse or family members tell you to curse God and die to leave this agony behind?

Many of you will recognize I’m talking about the Old Testament character of Job, the oldest written book in the Bible.

Is God capricious? Is He playing with Job?

Does Job have a right to question God about how He’s handling Job’s crisis?

Is sickness or loss (finances, property, family) always a judgment of God against sin in a person’s life?

God told Satan Job was a righteous man. Blameless.

Satan argued that Job was righteous because God had blessed him. If God removed His blessing, Job would curse God.

So God gave Satan permission to torment Job, first with loss of oxen, camels, sheep, servants, and his ten children. And Job remained righteous (“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21).

So Satan came back and said, “Yes, God, but if you take his health he’ll surely curse you.”

Again, God gave permission for Satan to touch Job’s body, but not to kill him.

Job had four friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu, who came to comfort him. For seven days they sat quietly with him, seeing his agony. This was good, supportive.

At the end of his rope!

Then they began to tell Job, one at a time, that he must have sinned or he would not be suffering like this. “It must be your fault!” These are not the friends I want with me when I’m in trouble.

While the friends judged his heart and talked to him about God, they never talk to God about Job. They never asked for him to be healed, to have his fortunes reversed, to stop scratching the sores on his body.

This question is often asked. Why do good people suffer and evil prevail?

Is all misfortune the judgment of God against an individual, all blessing a result of the good someone has done?

God was pretty clear on this. He continued to declare Job righteous.

The four “friends” tried to identify sin and guilt in Job. He responded to each challenge: he treated his servants well, sacrificed to God after every celebration his party animal children gave in case they cursed God during their revelries, gave to the poor, helped the widows, did not lust after other women or rely on his wealth as his security. If he had done any of these things, Job declared, he would have denied God and should be cursed. But he maintained his innocence.

Finally God interrupted the conversation, speaking in a whirlwind, thundering His own perspective on the situation. But He never directly answered the question of “Why”.

He is God. He created the beauty around us, the animals and huge beasts and people and all we see. He challenged Job’s thinking.

  • Did you make the stars?
  • Do you make the sun rise and set each day?
  • Did you make the earth, mountains, sea, lightning, thunder, rain, animals and plants?
  • Were you there when I did this?
  • Does the thing created question why the Creator made him that way?
  • Do you have the right to demand He explain His decisions?

Instead of answering the “Why me?”, God overwhelms Job with his majesty and sovereignty.

In Job 42:5-6 Job responded.

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”

He no longer defended himself. Rather, Job recognized He could not approach God as an equal. He heard these truths about God’s majesty but now he heard it from God Himself and so, Job changed his mind about the truth of who God is.

Job’s need for truth went deeper than getting an explanation for “Why”. He needed to know that, in all, God was and is God. He is the only One wise and powerful enough to be in charge, to handle everything.

Job’s fortunes were restored in the end, and he and his wife had ten more children. And while those ten didn’t replace the ten who were lost, they did give new life to Job.

After my mother died, I grieved deeply. But her death appeared less peaceful than I would have wanted for her. My sweet, gracious mother who loved Jesus with all her heart, seemed to struggle to let go. I didn’t understand. I wanted an explanation that made sense to my rational mind and hurting soul.

But I began to realize I also felt abandoned by God. I imagine Job felt the same. My deepest pain came from feeling separation from my Father, Savior, Lord.

“I can’t live like this,” I confessed, a statement of agony, not of intent.

And slowly, He reminded me of who He is, that He indeed held my beautiful mother in His hands and she was/is His. Through prayer, scripture reading, sermons, I was reminded of His deep love and care for me, and I began to heal.

So what’s the application for you, for me?

When we suffer, we don’t need to know why so much as we need to put our trust in the One who sent His Son to die for us, to rise from that stone cold grave, conquering death and promising us eternal life in His presence. He has promised to walk with us, never to leave nor forsake us, through any challenge He allows into our path.

Faith doesn’t need to know all the whys. It does need to know God is in charge and is wise enough to handle life properly.

There is a throne in heaven. And it is occupied!

And He is worthy of our praise.