What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Been Thinkin'

Haven't blogged in several days - since 40 Days of Hope came to a completion.

Here's what I've been thinking about...
  • Our church responded exceptionally well to 40 Days of Hope, especially the others-focused hope projects! They gave money to purchase 100 Bibles for children of persecuted Christians around the world; filled 42 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse; and gave a boatload of coats, sweaters, socks and gloves for First Stop for the Homeless - which were delivered today by church member Carl Roberts!
  • The church's anniversary celebration Sunday was a good time for the church to celebrate a thanksgiving together. The testimonies about the good things God had done during 40 Days of Hope, the filling of the worship center and the fellowship hall, the guests, and the laughter were all encouraging.
  • I missed Deb's vocals and her expertise at the keyboards Sunday, especially on Indescribable! I blew it a time or two on vocals and rythym guitar but thankfully Jeff on the bass and Teresa on the drums/vocals covered for me!
  • BAMA football has been fun this season since they're undefeated and number one in the nation. The Iron Bowl vs. Auburn should be interesting this Saturday and I am going to be watching the game with some friends from the church since Deb is in Spain. This is the first season in 31 years of marriage that Deb has actually sat down and watched complete games with me!
  • Our son Brandon and his wife Keshia live in Muncie, so I have been watching Ball State from Muncie play football every chance I get. They too (like BAMA) are undefeated and are even on TV beating Western Michigan in the background while I type.
  • Four different men have approached me for financial help in the last four days. Times are tough but keeping pace with one financially needy man per day will take resources only God can provide and I know that He will.
  • THE TWINS SHOULD ARRIVE ANY DAY NOW! Our whole family is on super-alert. I wake up every night wondering if perhaps they've been born in Spain. Can't wait to see Brooke and Matthew again after 14 months apart - and meet Carolina and Daniel!!!
  • I'm ready for a vacation. Haven't taken one this year, except for a few days July 4th weekend. Spain is calling and I'm going to answer!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Ultimate Hope


DAY THIRTY NINE: Saturday, November 22, 2008

"We are filled with hope, as we wait for the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." Titus 2:13 (CEV)

When we read or listen to the latest news at home and around the world our hope can be severly tried. Terrorism, economic woes, nuclear threats from rogue nations, natural disasters, crime, etc., all test our hope for the future.

Yet the Bible promises that an end to conflict, need, and natural disasters is coming.

The ultimate hope for this world however is not in the efforts of man but in the return of Jesus Christ. When He comes, "Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)

The assurance of Christ's return inspires us to live pure lives even in seasons of temptation and trouble. "This hope makes us keep ourselves holy, just as Christ is holy." (1 John 3:3)

As we look forward to Christ's return we are not motivated by guilt and fear, but rather by a sense of expectant anticipation that makes us want to be living a life pleasing to Christ when he returns.

It is this ultimate hoe that energizes us when the headlines have demoralized us. This is the focus that enables us to serve God and one another consistently even when our faith is tested and tried.

Action step for today: Read today's headlines in print or on the Internet, then thank God they aren't the final word!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Character Produces Hope

DAY THIRTY EIGHT: Friday, November 21, 2008

Read Romans 5

And patience produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:4 (NCV)

As we near the end of this 40-day journey of hope, have you noticed that your hope has been put to the test?

The Greek word translated "character" in Romans 5 has to do with the process of "proving."

As a kid I grew up near Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. At the time it was the largest army ordnance center in the world. They would "test" the military's big guns by firing them out over the Chesapeake Bay. Our house would often shake and the windows would rattle during the process. But this was how they "proved" whether or not the weapons were effective.

Likewise, "testing" proves our character.

Because this past month or so has been an intense time of emphasizing hope you have probably gone through some tests to see whether or not you would have an attitude of hope, or if you would give in to despair.

The intent of our journey has been for you to grow in hope. But don't worry if you have failed some tests. We all do. God is gracious enough to allow us to learn from our mistakes.

Action Step for Today: Ask God to forgive you for allowing any despair to overtake you instead of hope. Name the specific times to Him that you've failed, but thank Him that He won't disown you for them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Scoot Over and Make Room for Hope

DAY THIRTY SEVEN: Thursday, November 20, 2008

Read James 2:1-12

"If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, "You can't stand over there, or else sit on the floor" - well, doesen't this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? James 2:3-4 (NLT)

An American minister called to speak in Winnipeg, Canada awoke on Sunday morning to a couple of feet of snow. His host called him and told him that the snowstorm arrived at such a time that, even in Canada, they would have to cancel church. He was directed to a deli inside a buse depot a block and a half from his hotel room for meals.

The place was packed when he arrived but some people moved over and made room for him. Many of them were there only to get in out of the cold. He ordered a bowl of soup and a few minutes later someone opened the door and a shout came from behind the counter, "Hey, shut the door! You're letting all the warm air out." In came a rather unkempt woman. A couple of people made room for her and she sat down.

"What do you want?" the waiter scowled.

"I'll just take a glass of water," she replied.

He sat the water in front of her and said, "Now what do you want?"

She replied, "The water is all."

He said, "Lady, either you're going to have to order something or else get out."

She asked, "Can't I just stay in out of the cold?"

He said, "No, you have to order something or leave."

Slowly she scooted out of her seat and started to leave. But when she did the people on her right and left also got up to leave. Then the people on each side of them got up to leave. Slowly, most everyone else started to leave, and the man in the greasy apron said, "All right, come on back. You can stay."

She sat back down - and the waiter even gave her a bowl of soup.

The out-of-town minister asked, "Who is that lady?" The man next to him replied, "I don't know. But if she's not welcome, I'm not welcome."

Action step for today: Share hope with someone who has been turned away by others.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Are You Waiting For?

DAY THIRTY SIX: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Read Proverbs 13

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life." Proverbs 13:12 (NLT)

It was at Valley Forge, over 200 years ago, that the people of the United States proved that they had the courage to be a nation. Yet even though Valley Forge is known as a turning point in America's War for Independence, it was a time of battling the enemies of hunger, cold and despair.

It was at these plains in Pennsylvania after two disastrous defeats at the hands of the British, that General George Washington led his discouraged troops in retreat for the winter. As the winds blew across the camps, the temperatures dropped far below zero in one of the worst winters in history. Washington himself wrote: "There are men in camp unfit for duty, because they are barefoot and naked."

The soldiers lived in small huts built of logs and clay. Many sat up all night by the fire because there were not enough blankets. There was near famine - men went for weeks without meat. But Washington insisted on strict discipline for strength as he prayed to God to hold the army together and provide future victory.

When spring finally arrived they took count. One third of the army had died and another third had quit and gone home. The remaining third simply marched out and won the Revolutionary War - and the United States of America was born.

Action step for today: Refuse to give up on the hope that God is going to give you victory where you once suffered defeat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How High Can You Hope?

DAY THIRTY FIVE: Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Read Ephesians 3:14-21

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

Chuck Swindoll writes: "Several years ago I met a gentleman who served on one of Walt Disney's original advisory boards. What amazing stories he told! Those early days were tough; but that remarkable, creative visionary refused to give up. I especially appreciated the man's sharing with me how Disney responded to disagreements. He said that Walt would occasionally present some unbelievable, extensive dream he was entertaining. Almost without exception, the members of his board would gulp, blink, and stare back at him in disbelief, resisting even the thought of such a thing.

But unless every member resisted the idea, Disney usually didn't pursue it. Yes, you heard that correctly. The challenge wasn't big enough to merit his time and creative energy unles they were unanimously in disagreement!" (Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p. 107)

The longer Paul's pen touched the manuscript paper on which he wrote to the Ephesians Christ followers, the more enthused he became! After he had explained God's wonderful plan to create a church that included everybody, in the first part of Ephesians 3, he then prayed that we would all get a grip on God's unlimited resources! If God can create a church made up of diverse individuals He "is able through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think!"

Action step for today: Do something that God wants you to do, that you previously believed you couldn't do.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hope is an Attitude

DAY THIRTY FOUR: Monday, November 17,2008

Read Psalms 42:1-11

"Why am I so sad? Why am I so upset? I should put my hope in God and keep praising Him, my Savior and my God." Psalms 42:5 (NCV)

A hospital teacher assigned to help children stay caught up with their assignments was surprised to discover that her newest pupil was a horribly burned young boy in great pain. As she hesitatingly stumbled through the lesson on nouns and pronouns the boy was in so much discomfort that he barely responded. She felt ashamed for putting him through such a senseless exercise.

The next morning a nurse in the burn unit asked her, "What did you do to that boy?" Before the teacher could finish her outburst of apologies, the nurse interupted her: "You don't understand. We've been very worried about him. But ever since you were here yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back; he's responding to treatment. It's as if he's decided to live."

The boy later explained that he had completely given up hope until he met with the teacher. It all changed with a simple realization. With joyful tears, the boy said, "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and pronouns with a boy who was dying would they?"

"God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure He will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again." Philippians 1:6 (NCV)

Action step for today: Ask God to help you reprogram your attitude about your problems from despair to hope!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Testing 101

DAY THIRTY THREE: Sunday, November 16, 2008

Read Job 1:6-22

"But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He'd curse you right to your face, that's what." Satan - quoted in Job 1:11 (The Message)

The devil is consistently looking for people he can tempt to blame God for their troubles. Thankfully Christ followers are promised that we will not be tested beyond our limitations. (1 Corinthians 10:13) But we will be tested. Our only hope is to embrace the realization that God is enough.

When Job's world fell apart he suffered greatly. But God did not leave him. Hope is a repetitive theme in the book of Job. Even though the main character wrestled with his grueling circumstances, as do we all sometimes, he remained firm in his commitment to place his trust in God.

Job said, "I know the my Savior lives, and at the end He will stand on the earth." Job 19:25 (CEV)

It is not today's trouble but tomorrow's triumph that matters most! And the follower of Christ is assured that at the end Jesus Christ will reign and His followers will reign with Him! (2 Timothy 2:12)

Action step for today: Pass the test God is allowing you to undergo right now in your life by telling Him that you realize that He is with you; that He is enough; that even if you suffer now, you are thankful that you will one day reign with Him since you have placed your hope in Him.

Befriend someone being tested, not by preaching to them, but by providing something they need.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I'm Covered!

DAY THIRTY TWO: Saturday, November 15, 2008

Read Psalm 91

"He rescues you from the snares of fowlers hoping to destroy you; he covers you with His feathers, and you find shelter underneath His wings. Psalm 91:3 (Jerusalem Bible)

How often have we heard the sad story of someone suffering from a catastrophic illness, requiring expensive medical attention, but they're not covered by health insurance? Or someone experiences the trauma of a fire or flood which destroys not only their home, but deprives them of all of their earthly belongings - but they weren't covered by fire or flood insurance?

The insurance industry is one of the largest in the world. People want the peace of mind of knowing that they're covered in the event of a catastrophe. From auto insurance to life insurance a large chunk of our personal income is spent trying to purchase security from ruin.

The best coverage cannot be purchased from Allstate, Travelers, or any other members of the mob of insurers. It's a free gift from God! The Psalmist used the picture of a mother hen protecting her chicks. "He covers you with His feathers, and you find shelter underneath His wings."

How reassuring to be able to say in the midst of life's uncertainties, "I'm covered!" And this coverage is free to the insured! There are no premiums! No pre-existing conditions can keep you from enrolling! It is found in Christ, by making a personal faith commitment to Him!

Action step for today: If you are a Christ follower breathe a sigh of relief that you're covered! If not, enroll today!

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's Love Got to Do With It?

DAY THIRTY ONE: Friday, November 14, 2008

Read 1 Corinthians 13

"For now there are faith, hope and love. But of these three, the greatest is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Faith, hope and love are intricately woven triplets in the life of the Christ follower - with love being the greatest - but why? Why does the Bible categorize love above faith? Without faith we would not even know God. Why is love greater than hope? Without hope we would give up.

For one thing, love is the greatest because it will last forever. Those going to heaven will no longer need faith and hope once they arrive there because the objects of our faith and hope will have been fulfilled as we experience the immediate presence of God. But in eternity we will go on loving God and one another.

Perhaps love is the greatest because it is an attribute of God Himself. He does not need faith and hope as humans do. And maybe love is greatest because it has an outward focus while hope and faith are inwardly targeted. Faith and hope are for me. Love should be more than just for myself. I was created to love God and others.

No matter whatever reason love is the greatest, it is important for us to apply this principle here and now. Christ's followers are to be people of love. Loving God. Loving others. These are the greatest of God's purposes for our lives. (Matthew 22:37-38)

Action step for today: Show God that you love Him in a tangible way. Show another Christ follower (not a family member) you love him or her. Show and unchurched individual that you love him or her.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Are You Listening To?

DAY THIRTY: Thursday, November 13, 2008

Read Colossians 1:1-12

"...what you hope for is kept safe for you in heaven. You first heard about this hope when you believed the true message, which is the good news." Colossians 1:5 (CEV)

Some time ago a man was staying in a cottage in the Swiss Alps. Early one morning he heard what sounded like an earthquake. Hurriedly he got out of bed and ran to the front desk and asked if there was something wrong, if the mountains were breaking up.

The man at the front desk explained, "Sir, we are on the west side of the mountain. As the sun comes up in the east, the snow and ice expand as they begin to warm. The expansion causes a large crashing noise. It's not the end of the world, it's just the beginning of a new day."

Today, news organizations may trumpet the alarm bell of disaster in the financial sectors. Tomorrow, they may report riots in the streets. The day after that, we may all be warned that another terrorist attack of major proportions is in the planning.

But the sky is never falling for the Christ follower.

Even the worst scenario is not enough to shake us from the hope found in Christ! Our hope is kept safe in heaven. Whether large or small, commom or cataclysmic, no noise of doom is loud enough to drown out the promise of God!

Action step for today: Listen to one of your favorite Christian artists and sing along with them the uplifting and positive message found in Christ!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unshakable Confidence

DAY TWENTY NINE: Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Read Hebrews 11

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Why do some people persevere in spite of disappointment while others are, at worst, discouraged to the point of quitting, or at best, frozen in a state of non-activity, not knowing what to do?

Hope makes the difference. And faith is what fuels our hope.

We believe in God even though we have not seen Him. Yet this kind of faith is not "blind" faith. The evidence of His existence and His work is all around us - in creation, in conscience, and specifically in the written Word of God, the Bible, and the Living Word of God, Jesus, who rose from the dead. (See Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 15)

Because we know God is real and Jesus is alive, all the promises of God's Word are reliable. When disappointments come our way, as they inevitably will, we don't give up or even falter in our attempts to do what God wants us to do.

We are certain that God is with us. We know for sure that He cares and answers our prayers, heals our hurts and provides for our needs. This unshakable faith and immovable hope enables us to keep going when we're tired, dazed, hurt, searching, lonely and even struggling.

Action step for today: Tell God what discourages you, makes you feel like quitting or has left you inactive. Then begin again a worthwhile activity that you had given up on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Have You Lamented Lately?

DAY TWENTY EIGHT: Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Read Jeremiah 17:1-18

"...blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence...You alone are my hope in the day of disaster." Jeremiah 17:7 & 17 (NLT)

Many people misread the book of Jeremiah. They think it is a judgmental book filled with the stern warnings of a harsh prophet. Actually, it is a book of hope from the loving heart of God channeled through the life of a tenderhearted pastor.

Like Jesus, Jeremiah wept for the way people suffered. This spiritual shepherd with a tough job even wrote another book entitled, "Lamentations," because of the magnitude of his tears. To "lament" is to express sorrow or mourning. As "The Weeping Prophet," no one was more troubled over the plight of his fellow man than Jeremiah, and no one showed it more.

Where do we find the strength to enter into the sufferings of others as Jeremiah did? It comes only by making the Lord our "hope and confidence." He alone is our "hope in the day of disaster."

When we roll up our sleeves and open our hearts to the suffering in the world around us we will experience a portion of their pain. We will share in their tears. That is how it should be.

But we cannot continue to serve others without a consistent inflow of hope in God. We will grow tired. We will struggle. We will lose confidence. But we will be blessed when we make the Lord our hope!

Action step for today: Share someone's suffering.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Acting Like People of Hope

DAY TWENTY SEVEN: Monday, November 10, 2008

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

"My friends, we want you to understand how it will be for those followers who have already died. Then you won't grive over them and be like people who don't have any hope." 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (CEV)

Somone was spreading rumors around the First Century church of Thessalonica in Greece. Not complaints about how much time the pastor spent playing golf, but false teaching about the return of Christ and life after death.

Paul the apostle wrote to clear up the misunderstandings that had been propogated. Jesus is coming again! He will bring back with Him the souls of all His followers who died previous to His return. When Christ returns, anyone alive who is committed to Him by faith will meet Him in the air - body and soul - and the bodies of previously deceased Christ followers will be reunited with their souls! What a victory celebration that will bring about! What a reunion!

When First Thessalonians was written the pagan world did not believe in the hope of life after death. Its no wonder their philosophers wrote: "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die." But God's message to the Christ followers at Thessalonica on the other hand was one of moral purity, upright ethics, and love toward God and others.

That is what hope does. It makes us better citizens of this world who are also citizens of the world to come! We should not live like people who have no hope - aimless, desperate and without a moral compass.

Action step for today: Take a moral inventory of your life - what you're doing right or wrong - and make any needed changes.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

DAY TWENTY SIX: Sunday, November 9, 2008

Read Hebrews 13:1-9

"Remember those who are in prison as if you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering as if you were suffering with them." Hebrews 13:3 (NCV)

ONE HOPE is the thems of this year's observance of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, which is being observed today by Christ followers all around the world.

In addition to prayer, this year's emphasis is to raise money to purchase Bibles for children in areas of the world where Christ followers are persecuted.

"In many countries, Christian children have no accesss to Bibles or Christian materials. They are fearful of something terrible happening to their parents. They are introduced to the dangers of the world at such a young age, they are no longer innocent children. They feel the pang of worry, isolation, vulnerability, and panic.

"Can you see why we must pray for these vulnerable young believers?

"It only costs $5 to publish and send one Bible to build a child in his or her young faith. And most importantly, you will bring them the ONE HOPE on which they can stand strong!" (From a letter by Open Doors.)

Action step for today: Give $5 per Bible for as many Bibles as you want to purchase for children who need them around the world.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

From Hurt to Hope

DAY TWENTY FIVE: Saturday, November 8, 2008

Read Colossians 1:24-29

"God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory." Colossians 1:27 (NCV)

People all around us are hurting and they're searching for hope. They want to know if there are answers to their questions about life, solutions to their problems, and relief for their pain.

The Bible says that the hope people need is already in you if you are a Christ follower! That hope is Christ Himself!

We needn't share the Good News about Jesus with a sense of meanness. Yes, people need to know that they are sinners but most people already know that about themselves. We need to offer hope! Hope that they can be set free from the hurts, habits and hangups that rule their lives. Hope that they can have peace with God and therefore peace of mind both now and forever. Hope that even though life has ups and downs there is a friend named Jesus who will walk with them through every dark night.

This hope is for everyone! It is not the job of Christ followers to pick and choose who needs to hear the Good News about Jesus. While on earth Jesus offered hope to the most unlikely people: lepers, prostitutes, people possessed by demons, and many more. He is our example.

Action step for today: Share the Good News today with someone not on your usual suspect list. Find someone who is hurting and needs the hope that only Jesus can provide.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Heading in the Right Direction

DAY TWENTY FOUR: Friday, November 7, 2008

Read Matthew 12:1-21

"And his name (Jesus) will be the hope of all the world." Matthew 12:21 (NLT)

In the classic fairy tale Alice in Wonderland there is a conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat. Alice asked, "Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the cat.

"I don't care much where," said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the cat.

Christ's enemies were constantly trying to interfere with His ministry of healing people's hurts with His words and miracles. But Jesus, God in the flesh, had no trouble turning the tables on them with His superior logic.

The religious hypocrites confronting Jesus were very much like Alice; they didn't give much attention to where they were headed. Therefore it didn't matter which way they went.

But for anyone interested in winding up at the right place in this life - as well as the life to come - following Jesus is the only right way. "His name is the hope of all the world." There is not another way for people in Asia, or people in South America, etc. Jesus is the only way to God and everlasting life for everyone everywhere.

Action step for today: Tell someone about Jesus who has never heard or give so a missionary can tell someone who has never heard about Jesus.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Encouragement of Discipline

DAY TWENTY THREE: Thursday, November 6, 2008

Read Hebrews 12:1-13

"But you have forgotten that the Scriptures say to God's children, 'When the Lord punishes you, don't make light of it, and when he corrects you, don't be discouraged.'" Hebrews 12:5 (CEV)

Question: What's the best way to keep from losing hope when God is correcting you?

Answer: Remember that He loves you!

When we're going through the pruning process (See John 15) it is easy to think that God doesn't love us. So the writer of the book of Hebrews gave three proofs that spiritual discipline comes from the heart of a loving Heavenly Father:

1. The Scriptures.

Hebrews 12:5-6 is a quote from Proverbs 3:11-12. Instead of giving in to Satan's whispers to be discouraged or to our own fear that God doesn't love us when we sin (and are consequently disciplined by God), we should read, remember, and rely on the promise of God's Word.

2. Personal Experience.

Hebrews 12:7-11a remind us of our human parents and the experience of being disciplined by them. If they had not cared enough to correct us we would have become so undisciplined that our lives would spin out of control. Our attitude toward testing should be thankfulness that our Heavenly Father cares enough to enter our lives when we're drifting away from a healthy spiritual lifestyle.

3. Good Results.

Hebrews 12:11b-13 points out that God is interested in our long-term happiness more than our short-term pleasure. If we will work with Him, we will be happier and more peaceful after His correction.

Action step for today: Cooperate with God with a good attitude about those needed changes that He's making in your life through the process of spiritual discipline.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Do It Now!

DAY TWENTY TWO: Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Read 1 Chronicles 29

"...our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope or expectation of remaining." 1 Chronicles 29:15 (Amp)

In Scripture, "yesterday" is mentioned 9 times.

"Tomorrow" is mentioned 101 times.

But "now" is mentioned 1,321 times!

Before King David died he bequeathed a large part of his royal and personal fortunes to build a temple for God. His magnanimous spirit of worship spread through the worshipping community and many other gifts were donated to build God's house.

This act of worship is notable for many reasons, the least of which is not, that David participated in acts of worship as long as he was consciously able. He knew that "there is no hope or expectation of remaining" alive on this earth, so he did what he could while he still could.

Whatever we plan on doing for God we should not put off until tomorrow because we have no promise of tomorrow here on earth. We can do something today. We can do something "now" for God.

Action step for today: Do something for God today that you have been putting off. Tell that someone you've been meaning to tell the Good News about Jesus to. Give that gift to God's work that you've been planning on giving. Help that person you've been led by the Holy Spirit to help. Don't put it off another day.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

There's Still Hope!

DAY TWENTY ONE: Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Read Ruth 1:1-22

"Even if I thought there was still hope for me..." Ruth 1:12 (NIV)

Naomi was a bitter woman. The death of her husband and two sons left her dazed and alone...except for two foreign daughters-in-law. She thought perhaps if she headed back to her homeland in Judah she could die in peace. Her daughters-in-law headed out with her, but she tried to get them to go back. One did. But Ruth stayed with her and they both wound up in Bethlehem. (Does that small town sound familiar?)

If you read the rest of Ruth's story, one of Naomi's daughters-in-law, you see that she falls in love again, marries once more and gives birth to a son. Her child becomes one of Christ's human ancestors! (Matthew 1:5)

God always has a plan! Even when we think there is no hope - God is at work! His ways are so remarkable that we can't comprehend them. In going back to Judah Naomi was expressing some hope in God, however feeble it may have been. In showing love to her daughter-in-law Ruth, she was instrumental in laying the groundwork for Ruth to become part of Christ's family.

Through Ruth and her inclusion in the family tree of Jesus, God was showing that His intention has always been for people everywhere to know Him, Gentiles as well as Jews.

Action step for today: Make a list. On one side put all the major life hurdles you've faced. On the other side put all the ways God has brought good out of those difficulties AND all the things you imagine God may yet do to make something bad turn out good.

Monday, November 03, 2008

To Vote or Not to Vote

DAY TWENTY: Monday, November 3, 2008

Read Psalm 33.

"Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone." Psalm 33:22 (NLT)

Will my vote in tomorrow's election make a difference?

A Tennessee woman thinks so, because she was elected constable by voting for herself. According to an Auguts 8 AP story, 32-year-old Angela Tuttle said her father encouraged her to run as a write-in candidate because no one else was vying for one of the positions in Hancock County, which is in northeastern Tennessee.

Tuttle said her husband initially didn't even realize she was running. "I finally told him about a month before the election," she explained. Her husband didn't think she would win, but now he "just grins at her."

Hancock County election officials said 131 voters of the 674 registered in the 3rd District voted. Tuttle's vote was the only one cast in the constable race. She will be sworn in December 1.

The certified nursing assistant and mother of a 10-year-old son will help serve warrants and patrol neighborhoods in her district. She said her father, a longtime constable who won his own re-election in another district, will "show her the ropes."

Since the Psalmist says our hope is in God alone, why should we vote? We vote because God created government and elected officials are His servants. (Romans 13:1-7)

Action step for today: Prepare today to vote tomorrow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Partner in Prayer When Facing Despair

DAY NINETEEN: Sunday, November 2, 2008

Read Romans 8

"But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Romans 8:25 (NIV)

There is an oft-repeated scene in movies of a desperate man climbing out on a ledge preparing to end it all. Police are leaning out a nearby window to talk him out of it while rescue workers on the ground spread nets in case he leaps. Camera crews film the crowd gathered to watch the tragedy play out. Then someone in the crowd yells, "Jump!"

How could anyone be so cruel?

Perhaps the person on the ground is experiencing desperation similar to the poor soul on the ledge. Our culture is saturated with the idea that nothing really matters anyway - so why not go ahead and jump?

Lif is hard on all of us sometimes. Yet even though we may be tempted to despair - to lose hope - there is an alternative - waiting patiently for God to fulfill His promises.

Romans 8 wrestles particularly with the despondency associated with the weaknesses of our fallen nature - the human tendency to break God's laws even though we love Him. We're still susceptible to envy, greed, bias, insincere worship, lust, gossip, pride, and a garrison of other sins.

The key to overcoming despair is to partner with the Holy Spirit in our prayers. He helps us wait on God. Our despair then gives way to hope, as it becomes clear to us that today's clouds cannot prevent tomorrow's sunlight.

Action step for today: Thank God for the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Relationships Restore Hope

DAY EIGHTTEEN: Saturday, November 1, 2008

Read 1 Corinthians 16

"I hope to spend some time with you." 1 Corinthians 16:7b (NIV)

David Bruce, host of the web site, a church leader and author with a love of church and film says, "The top 100 films of all time have just one thing in common. They are all about relationship. The same is true of pop music, country and western, novels, and television shows. People respond to relationships. It's what we seek most.

"The church can furnish positive and caring relationships and help people come to a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In fact that is what the church is all about. Instead of throwing rocks at the culture, as the church often does, it needs to build a bridge to a hurting world in need of a healing relationship with God." ("Radical Reformission" by Mark Driscoll, page 43.)

One of the keys to the missional success of the Apostle Paul was his huge emphasis on relationships. It shines clearly here in the closing words of his first letter to the Church at Corinth. He hoped to spend time with them, buse as he was. In this chapter you can also see that he had friends everywhere in the Roman Empire because he placed such great emphasis on relationships.

Paul caught this from God. God knows that when we aren't isolated our hope grows from being around others, spending time with them.

Action step for today: Spend some time with someone with the intent of growing your relationship.