Home 2019 October 10 40 Days of Hope Week 3

40 Days of Hope Week 3

(Devotions are written by Pastor Brenda unless otherwise indicated.)

Day 14  Sunday, October 13

 “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature.”  Genesis 1: 26 ( The Message)

Our society can make you feel like a number. Order numbers, account numbers, ticket numbers, credit card numbers. If you call about almost anywhere, the first request is for a series of numbers. On the other end of that spectrum, when you really need to make a connection with someone, it seems like you are just a number and are not important. My mom struggled this summer to get a plumber to call her back and a painter to move her up his list so that she could have some work done on her house.

At some point in all of our lives, we have wondered whether we are important. One of my joys when our boys were little, was when they would build something with their legos, or design a city with their toy cars and boxes and they would come grab my hand and say, “Look, Mommy. Look what I did!”

Then, we become adults and we earn degrees and craft our own creations, and that longing to be noticed remains. We long to feel valued. We long to give value and make a difference.

We are starting week three on our series of hope with a focus on building our lives on God’s promises. A key reason for hopelessness in our society is lack of purpose. God responds to this at the very beginning of scripture with his first promise to us, ““Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature.” God made us to reflect the image of God- God made us to reflect His image. This is our purpose.

To be created in God’s image means that we can demonstrate some of the characteristics of God- kindness, generosity, mercy, forgiveness. Whether or not we demonstrate these qualities depends greatly on our seeking God, learning more about God’s purposes for creation, and choosing to live as His child. The more we seek God, the more we reflect God and the more satisfaction and fulfillment we discover.

  • What are some things in today’s world that make you feel anything but important?
  • What is the most fulfilling to you at this moment in your life?
  • Begin reflection on the attributes of God that you are demonstrating to those around you. 

“Lord, there are days when I wonder if I have accomplished anything that makes a difference. There are days when I feel like a number. Help me to remember that I am uniquely created, one of a kind, and precious and dear to You. Draw me closer to You that I will demonstrate more consistently and brilliantly Your kindness, generosity, goodness, and forgiveness. Help me to choose the most important role of all- an image bearer for You, God. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to live fully.”

Day 15  Monday, October 14   

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”  2 Cor. 3: 1-3 (NIV) 

Who has written you a letter of recommendation? Who has agreed to be listed as a reference for you on an application? My guess is that you think highly of that individual and are confident that this person respects you. Connections matter in life. Those connections likely landed you a job or helped you be accepted into a degree program. Forming healthy relationships is a key factor in being image bearers for God. God has a design and purpose in mind for humanity.

Steve Corbett in the book When Helping Hurts, shares an excellent presentation on the four relationships through which we fulfill our purpose: 

Relationship with God: This is our primary relationship and all other relationships are meant to flow out of this one.

Relationship with Self: People are uniquely created in the image of God and thus have inherent worth and dignity. We have the high calling of reflecting God’s being.

Relationship with Others: We are made to know one another, to love one another, and to encourage one another to use the gifts God has given to each of us to fulfill our callings.

Relationship with the Rest of Creation: The ‘cultural mandate’ of Genesis 1: 28-30 teaches that God created us to be stewards, people who understand, protect, subdue, and manage the world that God has created in order to preserve it and to produce bounty.  (p.55)

Imagine yourself as a walking, talking letter of recommendation. In Paul’s day, letters of recommendation were often sent before an apostle or teacher arrived in a new town. Without our modern means of communication, it was doubly important that a person’s credentials and character could be validated. Paul is telling the Corinthian church that they themselves are Christ’s letters. When they reflect Christ’s image in how they live and treat others, it is the best recommendation one can give to help others be drawn to God. As Christ-followers, this is our purpose.

“ Lord, thank You for loving me. Thank You for creating me in Your image. Forgive me for all the times I have loved others poorly. Forgive me for the times I have failed to love myself. You created me as a unique individual. You call me to use my unique personality and passions and gifts in ways that honor all relationships. Lead me to be a walking, talking letter of recommendation for You. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to live fully.”

Day  16 Tuesday, October 15 (Devotion by Laurin Allred)

 “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”  2 Cor. 3: 1-3 (NIV) 

There is something special about a letter. A real, on paper, handwritten (or at least hand-signed) letter.  Emails and tweets and texts are wonderful for everyday communication, but there is a permanence to paper.  My family members are letter-writers.  On my first day of college, my father presented me with a journal of letters and advice he had compiled for years. He did the same for my sister.  I have a special letter in a china-cabinet from my mother on my wedding day. My sister and I each have a small refrigerator/junk drawer stash of letters we wrote to each other when we needed encouraging. In the letters from my parents, there is pride and hope: they are proud that their daughter in some ways bears their image, a reflection of their decades of parenting. These letters in my family show each other that we are people of worth, that we are loved.  

The Bible tells us that God created us in God’s image- loves us, is proud of us, and has ascribed worth to us.  In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul likens the members of the church at Corinth to “letters of recommendation” for Christ- literally that our lives should read as treasured letters, being a witness for Christ in our actions.  Like handwritten letters, crafted with love, bearing an important message; we are sent out into the world bearing God’s image to proclaim to everyone we meet their worth in Christ Jesus. 

  • What important letters have you received in your life?
  • What letter could you write this week to encourage someone and remind them that they are loved?

Day 17  Wednesday, October 16

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

God has given us the purpose of bringing the light of His goodness and love to those around us. In my own life, and in the process of encouraging others to use their gifts to bring hope to others, I have learned that we are excellent excuse-makers. We need more preparation, we are too busy, or we are trying to get our lives together.

I recall the quote from Jackie Robinson, “The measure of a life is not what that life accomplishes, but rather the impact that life has on others.”

We find our purpose when we look outward. Every significant interaction we have with another human being can shine God’s light and bring God’s hope to someone. One way guaranteed to help a person know that they are important is by simply being present. I do not mean scrolling through your Facebook feed, watching a TV show, and looking up now and again as if you are listening to them. A quote that has stayed with me recently is “Give the gift of an unhurried moment.” Give the gift of complete attention and uninterrupted focus.

In the movie “Avatar’, the Na’vi greeted one another with the phrase “I see you.” It meant that you have opened your mind and heart to another and are fully present. This paves the way for understanding and appreciation. This allows for the kind of listening that will guide the listener to recognize the true needs of the individual in that moment. Then this provides the direction for how to best help or best love the person.

“Lord, I get too focused on myself and this keeps my light rather dim. Teach me that hope, like love, grows when we focus on You and on others. Show me the person who needs an unhurried moment from me this week. Grant me the wisdom to recognize any way you are calling me to encourage or show compassion for that person. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to live fully.”

Day 18  Thursday, October 17

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ …” Romans 8:17 (NIV)

In 1992, Cara Wood was 17 and working at Drin’s Colonial Restaurant in her hometown of ChagrinFalls, about 15 miles east of Cleveland. She was a good employee – bright, friendly and helpful. One customer, Bill Cruxton, liked her so much that he always sat in her section. A widower with no children, he went daily to the restaurant for his meals and some company, so they became friends. In addition to being his regular waitress, she helped him around the house and ran errands for him. Wood became so important to Cruxton that he rewrote his will, making her the main beneficiary. Cruxton, 82, died of heart failure in November 1992 and left her half a million dollars.( https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1992/12/29/for-her-kindness-waitress-may-inherit-fortune/9cc1bafe-1f54-424c-8f0b-09142b4b46a8/)

Like most people, I have experienced moments of envy for those who experience such good fortune. I feel that twinge of jealousy for those who win the lottery or discover a rare gem in their attics and make a fortune. Of course, I realize that coming into a large amount of money is not a guarantee of financial security. Stories abound of those winning copious amounts of money and then blowing their windfall.

In Romans 8, we read that God has an inheritance for you. What a promise! In our series on hope, we remember that Christian hope is built on God’s promises. God’s promises are sure and a firm anchor for us. Romans 8 is a chapter full of incredible promises. I encourage you to take the time to read the entire chapter and count the number of promises you find in this one chapter. 

This promise is about focusing on the abundant resources God has for us right now and in the future. 

There is this unique wonderful fact about the inheritance God has for you and me. You cannot exhaust God’s resources. You cannot blow your fortune in a year. God has unending hope, strength, patience, courage, joy, forgiveness, kindness for us.

How often do you focus solely on your own resources? Your energy is depleted. Your bank account is low. Your creativity is nil. Your attitude is that of defeat. “I’ve done all I can do. I might as well give up now….Well, I guess I could pray.”

Why do we allow ourselves to reach a point of despair before we turn to God and the resources He is holding out to us?

Lord, I get caught up in this world. I glance too long at those who seem to have more, and fail to recognize the abundant gifts You are ever ready to give me. Help me to start living out of the inheritance You have for me. Grant me wisdom first and foremost, the wisdom to put You first and to put my hope in Your promises. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to live fully.”

Day 19  Friday, October 18

“3 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NRSV)

God doesn’t just want us to experience a little hope. God desires that we abound in hope, that we have an abundance of- an unending supply- of resources. God wants to fill us with ALL joy and peace. The truth is that we are the most hopeful when we are living closest to God, and pulling out of God’s treasure store of guidance and courage and wisdom and strength.

On the opposite end of this, Rick Warren shared in a message on hope, that when we forget God our hope diminishes. In particular, that when a culture forgets God…

  • Life is trivialized
  • Conscience is desensitized
  • Everything is polarized
  • Sin is glamorized
  • Break up of a family is normalized

I remember gasping as the truth of Warren’s word sunk in. Life is trivialized. When we forget our inherent worth, when we forget that all of human life is sacred, then we have mass murders, senseless violence, disrespect at every turn. Conscience is desensitized. When our priorities are out of order and we spend too much time in front of our screens, then the news story that should cause nightmares and keep us up all night does not even brush our souls. Everything is polarized. This is the most divided society I have experienced in my lifetime. How can our relationships with God, self, others, and creation be in order? Sin is glamorized. Break up of a family is normalized.

When we forget God, hope is a faint glimmer, fading away every second. God’s plan for His creation is one of joy, peace, right relationships, goodness, kindness, mercy. We are the most hopeful when we are living closest to God. God wants us to abound in hope. When we seek God, we can move forward in courage.

“Lord, have I allowed my conscience to be desensitized? Am I placing my hopes in the culture around me and giving in to its divisive tone? Are my words and actions consistently respectful and life-affirming? Lord, forgive me for putting my hope in anything but You and Your love. Draw me closer to You. Help me to cling tightly to Your promises. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to live fully.”

Day 20  Saturday, October 19  

Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature.”  Genesis 1: 26 (The Message) 

Liz Ditty shares, “A powerful shift happens when I pray for someone. I start to see that person in relation to God instead of in relation to me. Instead of seeing of how he annoys me or how she makes me jealous, I see how God loves them.” (Guideposts/ September 2018, p.9)

When our purpose is to bear God’s image, this means making God known to others through our actions. It means loving others the way God loves us. It entails forgiving others as God has forgiven us. It involves cherishing others the way God cherishes us.

God loves you with an everlasting love. You belong to Him. He breathed life into you and stamped His image on you. It was God who first dreamed you and formed you into being.

We are God’s workmanship. Ponder how much you value your workmanship….the chest of drawers you built that has been in your home for decades, the quilt that covers your bed at night, the pictures you painted that hang around the homes of friends and family, your famous pound cake that everyone asks you to bring, the new song you are ready to sing. We value our own workmanship. When it comes to our children or family members, their successes feel like our successes and their failures feel like our failures. We want them to shine. We hope they will share our values and make a positive impact on the world.

Multiply this exponentially and this touches the surface of the depth of God’s love for us and what God wants to accomplish through us. Our lives have immeasurable meaning. We are meant to reflect God’s image in the world.

Lord, thank You for creating me and loving me. Forgive me when I look elsewhere for meaning. Forgive me when I desire the world’s approval and put more time into pleasing others than living out Your goodness in my daily life. I know I can count on all of Your promises to me- that You will never leave or forsake me, that You forgive me when I seek Your forgiveness, that You have a plan and purpose for me. You created me as one-of-a-kind. Help me grow into that person You are calling me to be. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to live fully.”

Day 7  Sunday, October 6

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” I Peter 1: 3-4a (NIV) 

“21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” Luke 24: 21 (NIV)  Read Luke 24:13-25 for entire story.

Living hope. It is one of my favorite phrases. Christian faith is about living hope, because Jesus is with us now. Our hope is alive because Jesus is alive. Our hope is alive because God walks with us every day through life. I do not know who first phrased it, but I have heard it put well, “Since no one can take your Christ, no one can take your hope.” 

This morning, Brian and I focused specifically on two of God’s promises- that God is always with us and that there is power in prayer. In this series on hope, we remember that our hope is found in God’s promises. After the crucifixion, the disciples were disoriented, giving in to defeat and despair. The scripture from Luke 24 is the story of their walk to Emmaus. It is a powerful story about how Christ is present to us, and how we miss Christ. The resurrected Jesus came and walked with them, yet they did not recognize him. It is easy for me to imagine that their grief and shock contributed to their failure to recognize Jesus. When we are going through hard times, our overwhelming feelings can keep us from reaching out to the help that is being offered. Our despair blinds us sometimes to those who are present with us.

God promises to never abandon us. Christian hope is not based on feelings or circumstances. When it comes to feelings, our lives tend to be roller coasters. It is not healthy to ever become a hostage to our feelings. We need a firmer anchor. On occasions when we feel alone, God is still with us. On occasions when we feel no hope, hope still exists. God is still working out His promises for all of creation.

“Lord, I do not always feel hopeful. Sometimes it seems like all is lost. Sometimes I feel so alone. I believe that You are present with me, so forgive me when I miss Your presence. Assure me once again that I am never alone. Grant me a sense of Your presence with me. Keep me talking to You in spite of my circumstances. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 8  Monday, October 7      

“When a believing person prays, great things happen.”  James 5: 16 (NCV)

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”  Psalm 145: 18 (NIV)

Prayer is relationship. It is being with God. It is meeting. It is being with others. It is a personal relationship where you and God move from a ‘hello’ of politeness to an ‘embrace’ of love. It is communion.” Maxie Dunnam, Living Prayer.

What happens when you pray? These are some of the things I have personally experienced through prayer:

  • Relationships improve
  • Hearts soften
  • Doors open
  • A connection is made to the right resource to meet a need
  • Comfort
  • Courage
  • Direction is given
  • More awareness of opportunities- holy opportunities to make a difference
  • Become less self-centered 
  • Able to see a bigger picture

Prayer is a heart-to-heart talk between yourself and God and needs no brilliant ideas or flood of words. The Bible has much to say to us about prayer, but more than anything it tells us to pray. It tells us to pray often and to not give up but keep praying. It tells us to pray when we need forgiveness, to pray for the sick, to pray for leaders, to pray for those in need, to pray prayers of thanksgiving and to pray in the midst of sticky situations. 

Prayer is a gift from God. In prayer, we are more able to feel God’s presence with us. In prayer, we are more able to access the power God wants to give us for life’s day to day responsibilities. Developing a strong prayer life is one of the most important steps we can take to mature in our relationship with God. It strengthens our connection to God and thus our connection to hope.

A small boy was once asked if he ever prayed. He answered, “Sometimes I pray, but sometimes I just say my prayers.” God wants us to experience the power of prayer.  God wants us to bring our biggest dreams and messiest mistakes to Him. God wants an invitation into whatever is going on in our lives so that He can touch and redeem it as needed.

Compare your childhood prayers to your adult prayer life. What steps have you taken to deepen and grow your prayer life? What steps could you take now to draw closer to God in prayer?

“Lord, sometimes I pray, and sometimes I just say my prayers. Help me to trust You with everything in my life. Lord, I have been trying too long to rely on my own wisdom and power. Forgive me because that is not Your plan. Your plan is to be in relationship with me, to guide and walk with me through life. Your plan is for Your power to be at work in all of creation bringing it finally into eternity with You. Fill me with the hope in You that keeps me praying and gives me the spiritual courage to move forward.”

“You are never without hope because you are never without prayer.” (Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope, p. 53)

Day 9 Tuesday, October 8

Our Director of Youth and Discipleship, Brian Edwards, shared with the youth everyday opportunities to pray. The information below is a portion of his lesson encouraging the youth to change the world around them through prayer.

You have more POWER than you’ve ever imagined. Social media is an everyday opportunity you have to increase your prayer life.

Social Media: You are the most connected generation EVER! You have access to personal information and the needs people have. Don’t waste that 411. Pray for your friends in a very specific way!

  • Those posting about life events- babies born, birthdays, etc.
  • Those posting about drama in their life- fights, bad grades, etc.
  • Those posting about unhealthy life choices- alcohol, drugs, violence, etc.

Bonus points if you tell your friends you’re praying for them!

SAMPLE PRAYER

“Dear God. Please be with my friend_______. Her grandmother passed away and she is very sad. Please comfort her through this hard time. Give me the right words to be a good friend when I talk to her. Amen.”

Day 10  Wednesday, October 9

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes[q] with sighs too deep for words.   Romans 8: 26 (NRSV)

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”  Luke 18:1 (NIV)

There is a painting in a British Museum called ‘Hope’. The painting is of a beautiful woman seated at a harp. Only the harp has strings dangling helplessly from the top and lying uselessly on the lap of her dress. The harp has only one string still in place.

The curator of the museum overheard two visitors discussing the painting. One lady said, “Hope? Why do they call it hope?”

The other explained, “The harp of hope has always been a broken instrument. Hope is always almost lost or it would not be hope.”

Hope, by its very nature, appears when there doesn’t seem like there is any hope. Romans 8:26 contains one of the powerful promises from God to us. When we are weak and overwhelmed and do not even know how to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us. When hope is elusive and we are too overcome to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes. Christian hope is not putting our trust in the present circumstance, but rather putting our trust in God and God’s promises.

When I was in my minor car accident last January, I was surprised at how much it befuddled me. I was rear-ended, and the force of the hit pushed me into the car in front of me. No one was injured, though my car was totaled. I found that I could not focus. I needed to be exchanging insurance cards, deciding if my car was drivable, etc. When I consider how minor that incident was, it is easy to recognize that when we humans experience a truly traumatic incident, we are overwhelmed.  It can be receiving unexpected bad news, losing a job, being diagnosed with an illness, the loss of a loved one. At a time when we most need the power of prayer, we might find ourselves unable to pray at all.

God knows this. This is why we find this promise in the book of Romans. The Spirit will pray for us in those moments. The Spirit will carry us through this time. If anyone understands everything we experience in life, it is our Creator. Jump back into your prayer life as soon as you are able, but allow the Spirit to pray for you as long as you need it.

Lord, there are times when I cannot find the words to pray. I am clinging to my last teaspoonful of energy and I need it to drive home from the hospital and to make one more phone call. I am overwhelmed, exhausted, unsure of what needs to happen next, and unable to focus at all. I simply cling to Your promise that Your Spirit will intercede for me and that You will give me the spiritual courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

“You are never without hope because you are never without prayer.” (Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope, p. 53)

Day 11 Thursday October 10

“Our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses.”  Hebrews 4:15 (NVC)

Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Jesus was too.

Are you troubled in spirit? Jesus was too. 

Have you ever been tempted? Jesus was too.

Are you so overwhelmed and anxious you need someone to be with you? Jesus did too. 

Have you ever grieved? Jesus did too. 

Have you ever prayed with loud cries and tears? Jesus did too

Have you ever had to escape- just withdraw from everyone and everything to find strength? Jesus did too.

One of the best reasons to pray is that God understands. One of our greatest reasons to hope is that God understands. “Our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses.”  Hebrews 4:15 (NVC) Jesus walked the earth. He interacted with people from all segments of society. He felt the pain of the lepers isolated from their family and community. He was aware of the self-centeredness even in his closest disciples as they argued over who would be the greatest. The grief of a parent with a dying child was felt deep in His being. 

If you are struggling with a rebellious child, you turn to a parent who has experienced the same battle. If you are diagnosed with cancer, you seek out others who have faced a similar diagnosis. The loneliest feeling in the world is that you are facing something that nobody understands. We have a Savior who understands more about us than we understand about ourselves. 

In your weakest moment, when your world is falling apart, remember that God can see you through no matter the circumstance, show you a new path, and is planning a future.

 In your weakest moment, when you have disappointed yourself and those you love, remember that Jesus died on the cross because we are weak and cannot save ourselves.

“Lord, I still haven’t got it. I still fail to pray about many of my struggles because I don’t realize how much you understand and can help. I push and push and worry and worry and fret because I am all alone.  But I am not alone. You are waiting for me to come so that You can offer direction or forgiveness or correction or comfort or hope. I need You Lord in these areas in my life……. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

“You are never without hope because you are never without prayer.” (Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope, p. 53)

Day 12  Friday October 11

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  I Peter 5:5

Six years before the Titanic sank, an interview was printed in the New York Times. Captain E. J. Smith said, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a modern ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” 

In Sunday’s message, I shared a joke that has been around a long time. I rediscovered it in Max Lucado’s book Unshakable Hope. It is the story of the arrogant man who took God’s preeminence to task. He looked up into the heavens and declared, “I can do what you can do! I can create a person out of dust. I understand the systems of life and science.”

God accepted the offer. “All right. Let’s see what you can do.”

The man reached down and took a handful of dirt.

 But before the man could go further, God interrupted him, “I thought you said you could do what I did.”

I can.” The man bragged.

Then,” God instructed, “get your own dirt.”

One of the obstacles to prayer is our pride- our sense that we do not need God. Lucado writes, “What have we done that God didn’t do first? What do we have that God didn’t first give us? Have any of us built anything that God can’t destroy?” (p. 66)

The taproot of prayer is our need for God. The beginning of faith is our realization of how much we need God in our lives. Pride gets in the way of a healthy relationship with God and healthy relationships with each other. God gives grace to the humble. It is another of God’s promises.

We come to God with our inadequacies. We come with the parts of our heart which would rather hold grudges or criticize than forgive. We come with the fearful insecure part of ourselves which would sit back and say nothing rather than work to solve a problem. We come with our selfish tendencies clinging on.

God wants to peel the layers off so that He can help us grow and find the fullness of life. Part of the purpose of prayer is to see ourselves as we really are, to see God as He has revealed Himself to us, and to realize that God is the One who can see that our potential is reached. 

Lord, forgive me for my pride. Forgive me for the pride that has hindered my seeking Your will and direction. Forgive me for the pride that has kept me silent when I should have apologized. Grant me the courage to really look deep inside, to be vulnerable, and to invite You in to change me. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

“You are never without hope because you are never without prayer.” (Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope, p. 53)

Day 13  Saturday  October 12

“When a believing person prays, great things happen.”  James 5: 16 (NCV)

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”  Psalm 145: 18 (NIV)

List the top ten things you pray for. Consider ways to develop and expand your prayer life.

Pray specifically. God cares about us on a very personal level. God knows the number of hairs on our head. We are to seek God’s wisdom and will for each and every situation.

Pray expansively. Pray for those that have never been introduced to Jesus. Pray for leaders. Pray for enemies. Pray for those lost in addiction. Pray for those with mental health disorders. Pray for caregivers. Pray for the oppressed. Pray for God to raise up leadership in specific areas.

Pray for what is for our good. Pray for what is truly in one’s best interest and will help us mature and be better people.

Pray for what is for God’s glory. Pray for what benefits God’s creation and furthers God’s work.

“You are never without hope because you are never without prayer.” (Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope, p. 53)

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

You are invited to join the Muir’s Chapel family in a 40 day journey of hope. Most of us have had moments, days, even seasons, when we felt like giving up. We have experienced times when we have doubted the light at the end of the tunnel and have been unable to envision any future at all.

In these next 40 days, read again just a sampling of the many scriptures in the Bible about hope. Reflect on the difference between the hope of people in general and Christian hope. Remember that God is always with you. Rejoice that God is forgiving and reaches out to us again and again. When your world gets shaky, find assurance that God is faithful and is a sure anchor.

I invite you to begin today by simply reading God’s Word below and hold on to these promises:

“They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13  (NRSV)

“But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

“I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13: 5 (NRSV)

“Lord, I am trusting in Your promises.  Fill me with all joy and peace in believing. Help me to find new strength.  Though I may not be able to see the future You have for me at this moment, or how this situation is going to work out, fill me with a hope that grants me the spiritual courage to move forward.”

{ For each day- if there is someone in your life that needs hope, pray particularly for that individual to have hope in God that will be an anchor for their life.}

Day 2 Tuesday, October 1

“But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8: 24b-25 (NIV)

There is a difference between the hope of people generally and Christian hope. Hope, in general, is easier when we can reasonably expect a certain outcome. If your ball team has won five consecutive games, you are going to be rather hopeful about the outcome of the next match. If we are afflicted with a cold, it is reasonable to hope that we will improve in a matter of days.

We use the word ‘hope’ in casual conversations. We hope our vacation week at the beach will be filled with sunshine. We hope to get home from the meeting in time for our favorite show. I imagine that our younger son felt a little frustrated with us a few years back when we joked with him about becoming grandparents. I remember our comment that “…it would be a lot easier to hold on to that hope if you were at least dating someone.”

The hope talked about in the Bible is the “ I can barely breathe….will we ever get through this…hanging by a thread….” hope. It is hoping against hope. It is recognizing that God is more powerful than any circumstance we are experiencing. In the Bible, it is Abraham and Sarah having a child well beyond their child bearing years. It is the woman who had been suffering for twelve years, still reaching out to touch Jesus’ garment hoping for healing. It is Peter being forgiven after his staunch threefold denial of Jesus.

Christian hope is hope in God’s power and presence with us. It is hope in God’s love for us. It is hope in God’s choice to forgive and save us. It is hope in all of God’s promises to us that are sure and steady- an anchor for every time.

“Lord, there are so many people who need to know that You are more powerful than their circumstance. There are people weighed down by their mistakes and need to know that we do not have to carry our mistakes with us throughout our lives. There are those who are sick because their hopes have been dashed and their dreams have died. Draw them close to You. Help them to dream a new dream You have for them. Assure them of forgiveness.  Fill them with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 3  Wednesday, October 3

“18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.”  Romans 4: 18 (NRSV)

“I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Genesis 12:2 (NRSV)

What are some of the more important promises you have made? In Sunday’s message, we talked about how our lives are built on promises. Big and little promises shape us. We learn to trust when promises are kept. We feel loved and important when promises are made and honored on our behalf.  If you have been on the end of a broken promise, you know the pain. A child feels heartbroken when a parent misses an event they promised to attend. As adults, we realize that unforeseen circumstances can prevent us from keeping such a promise, but the child does not understand.

In Genesis 12, God makes an unbelievable promise to Abraham. In fact, the Bible contains more than 7000 promises.  In our 40 days of hope, we will reflect on just a few of these promises. This promise to Abraham was given to him when he was already old and his wife was beyond child bearing years, yet God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be more numerous than the stars. God was faithful to this promise, and is faithful to all of His promises to you and me. In fact, the most amazing of all our gifts is the gift of God’s faithfulness to us.

In the Bible, God’s promises are often called covenants. I want you to reflect today on the characteristics of these covenants:

  • God initiates them. (God desires a relationship with us.)
  • The intent of the covenants is always to save.
  • They are agreements of grace.

We tend to think of covenants as contracts, and most of us have had a few less than ideal experiences with contracts. Worldly contracts seldom have our best interest at heart. They are designed to see that the company secures the most profit. There are hidden fees and it can be daunting to read all the fine print. It is not uncommon to find ourselves stuck with the free phone that really isn’t free or the cable contract you can’t

cancel. In a segment on ‘contract horror stories’, one small business shared that “Our 5-year copier contract expired… and just as we were about to run a new bid, we were notified that, because we hadn’t provided advance notice of non-renewal for an expiring contract, our contract was automatically renewed and we were stuck for another year.” ( https://www.sourcingalliance.org/locked-in-and-locked-out-contract-horror-stories)

God has our best interest at heart.  God’s covenants are about God’s love for us. God’s covenants are covenants of mercy with the intent to save. Our hope is in a forgiving loving God who keeps His promises to us. God’s promises are a sure anchor no matter the storm.

“Lord, what heartache I have experienced because of broken promises. Sometimes I wonder if anyone truly loves me. And Lord, I realize that I have hurt others with broken promises. Lord, forgive me for hurting others and help me to forgive those who have hurt me. Lead me to put my hope in Your promise of forgiveness. Help me to completely trust that You always have my best interest at heart. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 4  Thursday, October 5

“I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13: 5 (NRSV)

Loneliness is a surefire reason people feel hopeless. Human beings have an innate need to connect. God made us to be in relationship with Him. God made us to be in relationship to each other. Psychologists often report that loneliness is even a factor in many critical diseases. My mother, in her nineties, has talked often about the number of friends she has lost. There are fewer cards to send each Christmas and fewer phone calls. But you do not have to be a senior citizen to feel lonely. Employers relocate employees often and children move to new school systems and adults leave friend circles. Even people with large families and an active social life can feel lonely.

I feel the most lonely when I do not believe that I have the support system to help me with a problem or situation. I feel alone when I do not believe others can empathize or understand. I remember vividly waiting in an airport by myself to make my connection to California. Our older son needed his family, and I was the only one able to travel immediately. When my worries started to feel like the proverbial elephant taking my last breath away, my phone rang. I did not recognize the number, but I quickly recognized the voice.  “I know you have a lot going on, and God nudged me to call and pray with you.”

Wow! God does know how to send a messenger. I don’t know how many people saw me cry in the airport, but I know that prayer wrapped around me like God’s very arms.

We are never alone. Pray. Ask God to show you the person to share your hard situation with. God is with you. God created us to be in communities so that we will never face anything on our own.

Listen, wholeheartedly and without judgment, to others experiencing difficult circumstances. Pray for them, and check in often. God calls you to stay in connection with others.

Lord, thank You for always being with me. Thank You for others You have put in my path just when I needed them. Thank You for the hope given me when loneliness threatened to overwhelm me. Lord, put me in somebody’s path when they most need a prayer, a word of encouragement, a listening ear, or just the assurance that they are not alone. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 5 Friday, October 6

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21: 4 (NIV)

“33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11: 33-36 (NIV)

Grieving a loss is another reason people feel hopeless. In fact, I believe that grieving is the hardest work we do on earth. Yet we grieve because we love, and love is the greatest gift. I have come to understand that grieving is a necessary part of the journey towards healing and moving forward. It is vital that we give ourselves space and time when we grieve, and that we are good to ourselves. It is also important that we share our grief and not try to go it alone. Be honest, cry, hide sometimes, but not too long.

God offers numerous verses of comfort throughout the Bible. I think God especially included the story of Lazarus’ death so that we know that Jesus wept. Jesus lost a good friend, and he felt the overwhelming sorrow of Lazarus’ sisters. Jesus understands the depth of our sadness. Jesus walks through the valley of the shadow of death with us. God’s power is greater than death itself. This is our hope. In I Thessalonians 4: 13-14, we read, “ But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about those who have died,[b] so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.(NRSV)

“Lord, grieving is too hard. I can’t do this. Show me how to hold on to you and get through this valley that seems to stretch for miles and miles. Give me the courage to reach out to others for support. Help me to have hope for reunion with loved ones, for joy, for the future You have prepared. Lord, send me to another who is grieving that I will be a source of hope. Fill me and fill all who grieve with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”

Day 6 Saturday, October 7

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43: 25 (NIV)

“9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 (NIV)

“13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3: 13 (NIV)

One reason we despair and especially need hope is that we mess up. Last Sunday, we shared about broken promises. When someone consistently breaks promises, the relationship deteriorates. Trust, faith, and hope are interrelated. It is difficult to trust someone who lets you down even once, but it becomes almost impossible to have faith in someone who continually breaks promises and fails to value you or the relationship.

Yet, we stumble again and again. In fact, we often stumble over the same old thing again and again. We get angry and say words we regret. We make selfish decisions. We allow our pride to matter more than the relationship. We lie. We are greedy and fail to be grateful to God for our many gifts. We share sparingly.

God promises, however, to forgive us. In fact, the Bible is the story of God giving humanity another and another chance. It is the story of an unbelievably gracious God who sees our weakness and our absolute inability to fix the world and yet offers us grace again. God does not quit on us. We can trust God’s promise to forgive us when we come to him. We have hope because God’s nature is a forgiving nature. It is connection to God’s grace that gives us hope.

An important part of God’s plan is that we learn to forgive others because God has forgiven us. This is one way we are ‘hope-bearers’. Have you ever avoided someone for fear that they have not forgiven you and still harbor anger? It is an uncomfortable feeling. Forgiveness brings with it peace and renewed relationships. What a gift for us to offer one another.

“Lord, I have messed up again. Are You tired of forgiving me? Assure me of Your unending grace. Help me to humbly listen to Your voice of loving correction. As I find comfort and hope in Your forgiveness, lead me to forgive others. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to forgive and move forward towards restored relationships and second chances.”

Author: MCUMCweb

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