Hope That Perches In The Soul

“Hope” is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul.”

My taste in poetry isn’t particularly sophisticated, but from the moment I read it, the poem about hope written by Emily Dickinson captured my heart. Many people use that word in a wishful way. The Bible presents a different definition for those of us who trust in Jesus Christ. Hope is a confident assurance, a conviction that everything God has promised in His word will be.

Not may be, WILL be.

That confidence, that hope we have, is often tested. Many times in small ways, and sometimes in big ways. Why? There are reasons God gives us: to produce a more Christ-like character, to produce a more enduring faith, to grow a greater trust, a greater hope.

In the decades I’ve followed Jesus, nothing has tested my hope like the death of my daughter, Lindsey.

Only twenty-five, she was killed in a terrible motorcycle accident. The death of a child is every parent’s nightmare. It’s a grief that shocks you to the core of your soul, and threatens to extinguish every bit of light that lives there. It has the power to do that. Believe me, I know that it does, except that there, perching in the soul of everyone who knows Jesus Christ, is the reality of His promise-hope.

We can stop our ears up and blot out the song hope sings, and nurse our sorrow until we despair of any hope. Or we can weep, listening to hope’s song, and allow the God of all hope to comfort us with the truth. That is our choice, our daily choice.

Hope is faith that looks to the future in confidence, knowing that God is true, and more than able to bring all that He’s promised to fruition.

There is eternal life in Jesus Christ. We’ll live in resurrected bodies and walk the streets of the New Jerusalem with all those who’ve believed for eternity, with no more sin, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death.

 

Our hope is certain!

Every single promise in the good Book will be fulfilled -just as it’s promised!

We don’t have to wonder if it’ll turn out well in the end. It’s a sure thing! Sure, because God is faithful even when we’re not. Sure, because every promise of God is true. Sure, because He’s abundantly able to do all that He’s promised. Sure, because He never fails.

So What?

All of the above is true, but if you don’t apply it to yourself, or your situation, it does you no good. Salvation is a free gift for the believer, but growing in faith and hope is a choice we make on a daily basis. The quality of our faith and hope depends on the quality of what we “feed” on daily. That quality will be tested when we face the difficulties and the trials of life. We can feed on truth from the Bible, on our own reasonings, or the world’s.

We need to preach hope to ourselves.

This might sound harsh, but we can choose to wallow in the painfulness of our situation, or we can choose to take hold of the promises we have in Jesus Christ. Ask Him for the ability to trust, and the strength you need to grasp on to hope.

We see this preaching to self in the Psalms:

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. O my God, my soul is in despair within me; therefore I remember You…”

(Psalm 42:5-6a)

Hope is remembering God.

When we remember God, what He’s done for us through Jesus, and promised us in Jesus, we allow hope to grow. We become confident, even in our weakness, that He will never leave us or forsake us, that He will turn everything together for our good, that one day there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more mourning, but only joy, and peace, and love and hope.

Hope does not disappoint, because we who love Jesus are the people of hope.

We serve the God of all hope and whatever situation we find ourselves in we can have confident assurance that God is working through our circumstances. When we focus on Jesus, magnifying Him instead of our situation, we find hope -and the hard stuff becomes the very thing He uses to make the right stuff grow in our souls.

Allow hope to do its work in you and you won’t be disappointed!

Original artwork by Lindsey Kathryn Morris. Photograph by quotecards.co

 

What will God do to get our attention?

 

God found the way to become a priority to Jonah. With the world on lockdown, I believe He’s trying to get our attention. God used His prophet to save the people of Nineveh, because He uses His people to reach others with the good news of His free gift of salvation.

Maybe you’re a believer in Jesus, but you’ve been too busy to spend time with Him.

You have that time now.

Maybe you’ve followed Jesus for a long time, but you’ve never prayed for others who need Him in a regular way.

You have time now.


Maybe you’re a Christian whose been reluctant, like Jonah to share the good news of the Gospel with others.

 

Surely now would be the time to start!

 

About two thousand years ago, the Savior of the world hung on a wooden cross. His physical death was gruesome. But something worse that couldn’t be seen was happening

The sinless Lamb of God died on that cross at exactly the time when the Passover lamb was sacrificed.

Even though Jesus told them He would rise from the dead, His followers were devastated and terrified!

 

Those of us who have put our trust in Jesus Christ for our sins don’t have to be devastated or terrified of anything, because we know what happened three days later! I want to encourage you to take this time and pray for those people in your life who don’t know the Lord. Take every opportunity God brings your way to minister with the gifts He’s given you, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been bought with a great price and are not our own; so let’s make Jesus a priority!

A Whale of a Tale

Have you ever had an incredible answer to a prayer you prayed? I’ve got a “Whale of a Tale” that happened last summer in answer to a prayer I prayed for my husband.

Surely one of the hardest things we can experience in life is the death of someone we love. A few years ago, our oldest daughter was killed in a motorcycle accident. God has walked with us as we’ve travelled through the valley of death’s shadow. There have been many miraculous moments of grace and demonstrations of love.

I want to share one of my favorites with you.

It was the first anniversary of Lindsey’s death and my dear husband was struggling. Work was tough, and sorrow is tough, and I felt like he needed encouragement. We have the great privilege to live on an island in the Puget Sound. There’s abundant wildlife all around us, and last summer a humpback whale was spotted around our island.

Eagerly, I went into our home office where Dennis was working and asked him if we could jump on one of our jet skis and look for the humpback. He reluctantly agreed and we pulled life jackets on and drove around. We saw nothing. Not one living thing! No birds, no fish, nothing at all for a good twenty minutes. Dennis stopped the jet ski in the middle of the channel between our island and another.

“Do you want to head back?” Dennis turned around and asked me. “There’s literally nothing going on out here.”

He looked so sad.

Without thinking, I prayed out loud, “Lord, would You please show us the whale?” And with what might be considered great impudence, I added, “And could we please get a picture of the whale with Rainier in the background?” Often hidden in the clouds, Mount Rainier was visible in all of its glory that day.

We decided to ride around another island. Over the next half hour or so, unbelievably, we still saw nothing. Not even a bird crossed our path. Dennis idled the jet ski at the island’s edge. We could see our house off in the distance. “Let’s just head back.”

I agreed, but before we could get going the humpback whale breached to our right, not more than twenty feet from us!

Let me tell you, it was an impressive, heart-stopping sight! We both cried out in amazement. Before Dennis could get his phone out, the whale soared out of the water behind us and crashed back into the water with a huge splash. He moved away from us while we slowly followed him from a safe, and legal, distance. The Lord answered my prayer, and as the whale headed out towards more open water, I was sure He would answer my entire request.

Why?

Because He’s my Father, and He delights in giving His children good gifts!

Dennis and I have learned the importance of praying specific prayers for each other, our children, our friends, and our community and to pray with expectant belief. Our Father gave us the gift of seeing the humpback because He’s delights in answering our prayers. Often we don’t have, because we don’t ask, or we ask with selfish motives. I can’t express how loved we felt, and how amazed we are at God’s continuing graciousness to two imperfect people He saved through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Prayer is Responding to God’s Truth in Faith

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There are many statements in the Bible that inspire, comfort or challenge me, but there are two which startle me, one in the Old Testament and one in the New.

The first one is Isaiah 59:16. It says God was astonished. That’s incredible! It’s not that He was surprised, He’s omniscient, all-knowing. He was astonished, because there was no one, no one at all, who would intercede in prayer for the nation of Israel.

In the Gospels, Jesus wondered at the unbelief of the people of Nazareth. He was limited in what He could do there, no miracles except healing a few people, because they did not believe in Him.

When we’re in Heaven, how many of us will be astonished and wonder that we did not take and use one of the greatest gifts we have been given? Prayer is that gift. Prayer is taking the truth God has told us and responding to it in faith.

John records Jesus’ talk to His disciples, and to us, on the night before He died. Some of the sweetest promises and teachings in Scripture are found there. Have you ever read His last teaching before Calvary? Jesus invites His disciples to pray seven times. Seven times!

If you peruse those chapters, you will see how eager Jesus is that we take this treasure, how He yearns to bless us through it, to give us joy, to give us “according to the riches of His glory.”

When Scripture says something once, it’s important. If it’s repeated two or three times, pay attention. But seven times? Surely that’s something we need to take to heart! Prayer is important. It’s how we communicate with our heavenly Father. It’s how we thank Him, how we confess our sin and unburden ourselves, how we praise God and worship Him, and how we ask Him for the things we need and want.

If you read the Bible, you cannot help but see that we live in a world embroiled in a spiritual war. While prayer is a spiritual weapon, it’s also the one thing that girds together and empowers all of the other spiritual weapons.

Prayer is essential for us to live victorious lives.

 

I’ve heard this analogy made about those who have put their hope in Jesus Christ:

It’s like a man who’s inherited land. He goes out to claim his inheritance, and moves onto the land, builds a home there and enjoys it greatly. But there is a neighbor nearby who is an enemy. He knows that there is incredible wealth in that land, just under the surface and he doesn’t want the man he hates to have anything more than he already enjoys. So the evil neighbor does whatever it takes to keep the man from exploring or digging about and finding the treasure just under the surface of his inheritance.

I’ve been with Jesus in the “school of prayer” for decades. There’ve been times when I lived in defeat and depression. I didn’t realize that while I received my salvation by faith, that I was to live out my salvation the same way. I’d fallen into thinking legalistic thinking, and my prayers were weak cries for forgiveness for all the ways I failed to measure up. Although I knew a lot about the Bible, I had stumbled away from grace and was living in my own power. I was effectively sidelined.

Praying is fighting and we need to know two things:

what weapons are ours and who the enemy is.

 

Jesus said that when we pray, we are to ask in His name and we’ll receive. We ask on the basis of His merit, because of the perfect life He lived. That perfect life has been applied to our account. We have the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, not because of our success in living, but because of His. That means we’re always acceptable to the Father. We can enter into His presence at any time because of Jesus.

We have authority in this world, and in prayer, because we are united by faith with Jesus Christ. That authority is your inheritance, your portion. You don’t have to do anything to earn or deserve it, you received it when you trusted Christ for your salvation. Listen, “you’ve died with Christ and have been buried and raised with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and ever name that can be named.”

Every believer is positionally seated at the right hand of God on that throne with Jesus, no matter how poor, how rich, how attractive or old you are. Each of us is meant to be more than conquerors in this life-yet how few take up this gift, this blessing, this weapon!

Picture a Roman soldier dressed in the full armor of God. Imagine some huge, muscled man with all of that armor being buzzed by a fly. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see him swat at it and begin to cry? What would you think if he collapsed in tears because a fly was harassing him?

That’s where too many of us are in our lives, freaking out over things that God is ready to take care of for us, if we’ll just turn to Him in prayer and give it to Him.

Others of us aren’t freaking out, but we’re asleep. We do life, we have fun and we don’t think much about God, except on Sundays. Why do we allow ourselves to be lulled into spiritual slumber? There is a spiritual war going on and the follower of Jesus is to be like a soldier, alert and at the command of the leader.

Why do we allow ourselves to live defeated lives, when Jesus offers us an abundant life here and now? Not a life of riches, but of richness; not a life of high position, but of honor before the only One who really matters. Why do we allow ourselves to drift through life, asleep at the wheel, when we can be living a life of great excitement and joy with our Savior?

Praying is fighting. We give up too easily. We fall into the “once and done” mentality. We don’t just pray about something one time, intercede for that loved one once, or twice, or for a year even. We continue on in prayer, believing, with faith.

When someone is fighting an infection, the doctor doesn’t give one dose of antibiotic and leave the patient to heal on his own. He continues on with the treatment. The reason why we don’t see more answers to prayer, is that when we meet with obstacles or we don’t see answers right away, we become discouraged and quit praying.

Expect to meet obstacles. The Bible says that our struggle, our wrestling, is with the rulers and powers, the world forces of this darkness, of the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Do you think you will go unchallenged when you pick up the great weapon God gave us? You will feel too tired to pray. You will have things crowd in on your thoughts as you pray, you will be tempted to doubt. You may even experience direct attacks from the enemy.

It’s not just you. Many believers over the centuries have faced the same obstacles to prayer. Continuing on with prayer despite those obstacles is called “praying through.” Praise God in your prayers, thank Him for what He has done, sing even, and you will find the obstacles will not keep you from praying and taking what God has for you.

Philip Brooks said this about the Christian and prayer:

Don’t pray for an easy life! Pray to be stronger men! Don’t pray for tasks equal to your power; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.

Take up prayer. Pray in Jesus’ name. The devil will yield only to whom he must-and he must yield to Jesus. Pray along with what’s in God’s will; what’s in His word is the place to start. Take what Jesus offers with thanks and humbleness-all that we have in Him was bought at great cost. Take up prayer with the authority you have as a child of the living God.

Jesus said that we would be able to do the things He did, and greater!

Do we believe Him-or will He wonder at our lack of faith?

What Do You Do When You Fall?

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It is such an embarrassing thing to fall, isn’t it? . .

 

The last time I fell, it was painful! I was working out at the gym with my oldest daughter, Lindsey. We were warming up by walking on treadmills. It was funny, because we’re a bit competitive at the gym, and we each kept bumping up our speed to be faster than the other. A bank of TV screens was on the wall in front of us, and as we walked, I noticed a woman on a news station with a hairstyle I really liked. So I turned to Lindsey, who is a gifted stylist, and pointed to the woman. We started talking about her cutting my hair the same way. I got so excited about the new hair style that I stopped walking to emphasize the length I wanted my hair cut. Stopping, while on a treadmill going four miles an hour, is not a good idea! The bruises and scrapes on my right leg prove it.

 

That was a public failure, and a humiliating one! Believe me, the same thing happens to me in other aspects of my life. It can happen to us spiritually. It’s one thing when our fall is in private, but another when it’s public. I wish I could tell you it never happens, but it does. What do we do about it?

 

The worst thing we can do is try to cover it up. We look foolish and demean the Savior we follow when we don’t own up to our mistakes. 1 John 1:9 tells that we need to confess our sin and that God is faithful to cleanse us. If our failure was private, then we are done. But for those public sins, we need to make a public admission of our guilt. It is hard to admit doing wrong. However, saying we acted in a manner that does not line up with who we are in Christ  frees us from the chains of guilt. It opens the door for us to make amends to those we’ve injured. When we respond to failure with humility, others often respond with grace and mercy.

 

There are examples in Scripture of those who fell into sin and tried to hide it, like Ananias and Sapphira. Their attempt to cover up public sin ended up costing them their lives. That tells me God considers my response to my sin a serious thing.

 

Scripture is clear that every one of us battles sin and there will be times we fall in that battle. When we do, it is best to remind ourselves that because of Jesus Christ, there is a way back -and take it!