The Hope Within


Christmas Crib Father Christmas Nativity Scene

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

As Christmas quickly approaches I can not help but ponder what this time of year means to people. What comes to mind when you think about the Christmas season? For some it means food, family, and gifts. For others it means sadness and pain. Yet, for others it means presents, trees, and stress. What word would you use to describe Christmas?

As I thought about this question, one word kept coming back to me. Hope. Personally Christmas is not so much about the decorations, food, or the presents. Do not misunderstand me, I love all of these things. However, Christmas is so much more! It is a time to stop and remember the gift that was given to each of us all those years ago. There were not immaculate decorations, tables of food, and tons of presents under a tree. No, there was a young woman and her husband, a stable, and a star. More importantly there was Jesus. There was Hope.

When I stop and think back on that first Christmas, my mind often turns to Mary. I can not help but wonder what she must have been feeling. What thoughts were going through her mind as she traveled with her husband on that long journey?

Any woman who has carried a child understands how Mary must have felt physically. We can all relate to the discomfort she must have been in and the anxiety she must have experienced along the way. As a mother I understand the uncertainty she must have felt concerning childbirth. I know the excitement she felt as she thought about holding her baby boy for the first time. But what about the deeper feelings Mary must have experienced? What must have she been feeling deep inside her heart knowing she would soon deliver the Son of God?

I believe above all else, Mary felt Hope. Not only did she feel that Hope inside her heart, but inside her body as the Hope of the world grew.  From the very first flutter she felt, Mary knew that Hope was growing. I believe as those flutters turned into kicks and nudges, Mary understood even more that she carried the Hope of the world inside of her.

Friend, do you have this Hope? The same Hope that Mary carried all those years ago is still a gift for you today. Amid all the busyness and stress Hope can be found. No amount of money can buy it. No store sells it. It can not even be put in a pretty box and placed under the Christmas tree. Hope only comes through salvation and salvation only comes through Jesus Christ.

Do you want to lay down the sorrow that has been weighing you down? Would you like to lay aside that shame and heartache you have been carrying? Today you can. Give it all to Jesus. Let go of all that has you bound down and accept the free gift of Hope that is being offered to you today. I promise that no other gift you receive will ever measure up to the one that was given on that first Christmas oh so many years ago. Find Hope today, friend.

There is Only One Way


“The Lord is merciful and gracious,Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.” Psalm 103:8-9

Friends, I feel the need to share something that has been on my heart. There is a trend going on among God’s people which disturbs me, and I feel the need to speak out about it.

First, let me say that I very much enjoy sharing words of encouragement with you. I feel this is what I am called to do. I try to share Scriptures that will cheer you on along your Christian journey. I share words of wisdom and stories from our lives that will encourage you and your family. I do my best to take Scripture and use it as a guide for your everyday life.

Next, I want to share my belief on what God wants for His children. I believe that God wants His children to be happy. He wants good things for us. I believe that God rejoices with us when we rejoice, and He hurts with us when we hurt. I believe that God wants to see His children enjoy life.

Here is the problem I am having. There are people out there right now who want to tell you things that simply are not true. While I do enjoy bringing you words of encouragement, I never want to lead you to believe that your life is always going to be easy and worry free. I do not want to fool you into thinking that if you have positive thoughts, your life will always go as planned. Friends, sadly this is not true.

Please do not think I am here to spread gloom and doom. That is not my intention. I do, however, feel that God has placed this on my heart today. I feel that just as I share encouraging words with you I must also share the serious words with you.

In the verse that I shared today, we read that God is merciful and gracious. He is slow to anger and full of mercy. God sent His Son to live on this earth for a season and then to die on the cross so that we might be saved. Yes, He loves us. He is merciful. Yes, He wants good for us.

There is something I want us to understand. Even thought we serve a God who is mighty and gracious and merciful, we are told in John 16:33, that we will face trials and tribulations on this earth. Friends, please do not believe the lie that if you will just think positively, then your life is going to be easy and trouble free. This is not true. We are told right here that we will face trouble. We do, however, find hope if we will continue on to the end of this verse. After we are warned that life is going to be difficult, we are then encouraged by these words, ” But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Within this statement we find the truth. It is not in our own positive thinking that we find hope, but in the assurance that we have a Savior who gave His life for us. In doing so He has conquered the world. This is where we find true, lasting hope.

There is one more misconception that I would like to discuss. This one, in my opinion, is not so obvious. The trouble I have in this matter is not so much that it has been twisted and misused, as it is that it simply has been left out altogether. I am talking about the judgement and the wrath of God.

Now, you may be saying, “But, I thought you were just talking about a loving God.” You would be correct. We do serve a loving God, but if you will continue reading today’s verse you will see that this day of mercy and grace will, at some point, come to an end.

We read in Psalm 103:9He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.” Friends, there is coming a day when God will say enough is enough. Please do not miss this very important part of the puzzle. Somehow we have gotten so caught up in the power of positive thinking and the blessings of God that we have forgotten about punishment for sin. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is only one way to Heaven and it is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

You can be as positive as you want to be. You can think all the good thoughts that one mind can manage. You can be as good a person as you want to be. What I want you to understand today is that none of these things are going to keep you out of Hell.

I believe in having a positive attitude. I believe in being a good person. I believe that as Christians our lives should reflect Jesus and the love that He has for us. I encourage my kids every day to be positive. I encourage them to work hard and to be good people. What I make sure they understand though is that none of these things are going to save them from the punishment that sin brings, and none of them are going to get them into Heaven.

I understand that I may appear to be on my soapbox today, but I truly believe in my heart that these words need to be shared. I feel that I have been given the responsibility to share the truth with you. If that comes through encouragement, then that is what I want to share. If, like this morning, it comes as cold, hard facts, then I want to be faithful in sharing that as well.

I do have some encouragement for you this morning. God loves you. He does want good for your life. He sent His One and Only Son to die on the cross for your sins. He is, at this very moment, preparing a place for you when this life is over. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He did so as a gift to all of us. It is up to us to accept that gift and give our lives to Him. This gift is our only hope.

Friends, I want to see happiness and health in our lives. I do want us to be good people. I believe in being positive. But, I do not want us to believe the lie that these things are enough to keep us out of Hell. There is only one way to Heaven. I pray that you have chosen that way today.

Are you Surviving or Thriving?


 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” 2 Peter 3:18

Have you ever received the response, “It is just one of those days,” from a friend after asking them if something is bothering them? Do you ever just have one of those days? I have to be honest and say that I have many of those days. As a wife, mom of three, volunteer teacher, and blogger, there are times in which, by the end of the day, I am spent. I feel as if I have given every ounce of myself to the world and I am empty. I come in from a long day and say, “Thank God, I survived.”

Have you ever responded, “I survived,” when asked how you did in a particular situation?  I can remember times in the past in which our children would have to do a task that seemed very difficult to them. They would come to us when it was complete and we would jokingly ask them, “Did you survive?”

So many times in life we find ourselves in this same place. We simply survive each day.

How many days do you go through just surviving? The end of the day comes and you say to yourself, “Whew, I made it!”

These are the times when I find it most comforting to pour my heart out to God. I know that I can go to Him in prayer and He will give me the rest that I am seeking. As I allow Him to speak to my heart I am reminded that God wants more for my life.

This song that I shared this morning is very special to me. The first time I heard it was at a revival service that was held at our church. I remember how I felt when I heard the words, ” We were made to more than just survive. We were made to thrive” Wow, what a sweet message that was from God! I realized in that moment that I was not thriving as I should. I realized that I was simply surviving every day.

I am in no way saying that we will never get tired and weary. I believe that God understands our human limitations. Jesus himself ,while he was on this earth, had to take time to rest. I do believe, however, that God wants to give us that rest we need. He offers it to us daily. It is up to us to allow Him to meet that need. As we go to God, seeking what we need, we will find that He also gives us the strength not just to survive this world, but to thrive in it.

You see friends, God did not put us on this earth to simply survive every day. He put us here so that we can thrive. God wants to see us succeed. He wants to help us learn, grow, and daily become more like Him. God made us to be ministers for Him. He created us as lights through which His love can shine. We can not do this if we are only surviving.

As a parent, I want nothing more for my children than to see them thrive in life. I do not want to see them struggle and just survive through every day. We are God’s children. I believe that He wants the same thing for each of us.

My prayer today is that we will thrive as Christians. I pray that we will allow God to minister to our hearts and give us the strength that we need. As we allow God to work in our lives, we will find that we have what we need in order to do His will every day.

The question I would like to leave you with today is this: “Are you going to simply survive, or are you going to thrive?”

I Got This


maze

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Oh, the joy of raising children! (any story that begins this way must be good, right?)

I must admit, there is never a dull moment in our house, especially since the kids are growing up and beginning to spread their wings just a bit. All three of them are at an age now where they are beginning to assume more responsibility. This means learning to do new things around the house. The boys, being older than sister, are the first ones to learn how to do things for themselves and to help me out when I need it. One favorite for the boys right now is learning to do things in the kitchen. (Yes, I let my boys help in the kitchen. I believe that it is good for them to know their way around. Plus, I am sure their future wives will thank me one day.) Both of our boys really seem to enjoy learning to cook, and they are pretty good at it.

Learning new tasks does not always go as planned. We have had a few mishaps along the way.

The latest adventure for the boys has been learning to “make the coffee pot” as we call it in our house. ( I think that is a southern term.) Each night before we go to bed, we get the coffee pot ready and set the auto-start for the next morning.

Last night, as I was cleaning up the kitchen and putting things away, I remembered that I still had to set the coffee pot. When I turned around, the younger of our two boys, Little D, was already there working on it. When he realized what I had come over to do, he looked up at me and with that big boy, take charge tone, he said, “I got this.”  This is something new for Little D, so I was reluctant to leave him with the task. He was so sure of himself , however, that I decided to let him do it all by himself. I went on about my business and never thought anything else about it.

This morning when I walked into the kitchen, still half asleep, I saw my husband bent down looking at the coffee pot. As I approached the scene I could see Daddy B wiping down the coffee pot and the counter top. When I asked him what had happened, he told me that coffee was all over the coffee pot and the counter. While I examined the situation, the image of little D “making the coffee pot” came back to my mind. The image of  him standing there so confident and saying, “I got this,” played in my memory. After further examination, I discovered that he had failed to replace one of the pieces. Instead of running into the pot, the coffee overflowed the filter, filled the reservoir and ran  down the sides of the machine. Needless to say we had quite a mess on our hands. Thankfully I was able to clean the coffee pot, remove most of the coffee grounds, and make another pot of coffee so that Daddy B could be on his way to work.

After everything settled back down and I had a moment to reflect on the situation, I could not help but chuckle at what had happened. After all, these are the things of  which memories are made.

As I thought more about what had happened, I could not help but hear Little D’s voice over and over in my head saying, “I got this.” He was so sure that he knew what he was doing. He wanted to prove to me that he could handle this task all by himself.

Friends, how many times do we treat God this way?

How many times do we face a task, a trial, or a new situation and say, “I got this,” to God?

You see, it is human nature to want to handle things ourselves. From the time we are just little children we want to do it ourselves. We want to do it our way. It is as if we have something to prove. As if we feel the need to be self-sufficient.

In our lives, God gives us tasks to do. He allows us to face trials, and new situations in order to teach us. He wants to help us grow through these things. Why is it then that we refuse to listen to His guidance? Why do we insist on doing things our way? What is it that makes us so confident that we say, “I got this,” to God? It is our carnal nature. It is the part of us that still believes that we can make it on our own.

So many people are stumbling through life. They are making one mistake after the other. They are failing and can not figure out why. It is because they are trying to do it themselves. They are confident that they “Got this.”

 God does not set tasks in front of us planning on failure. He is not sitting back waiting on us to fall on our faces. No, God wants us to succeed. He wants to see us grow and learn, but He knows that we can not do it without Him. He has told us over and over in His word that we need to depend on Him. God, however, is a gentleman. He will not force us to follow His will. He will not force us to depend upon Him. He will allow us to fall. He will allow us to fail. Yet, the entire time He will be calling to us. He will be whispering to our hearts, ” Let me have it. Lay your burden on me,” and He will be there waiting with open arms when we are ready to surrender our lives to Him.

I want us to realize something today. We can not make it on our own. We can not figure it out. Outside of God’s mercy and grace we are hopeless. The only hope we have in this world is Jesus Christ. If we are going to have any hope of succeeding in this world, we are going to have to learn to depend on the One who created us, the very One who spoke our world into existence. When we turn our lives over to God, when we allow Him to show us the way, life will begin to make sense. This does not mean that we will not face trials and troubles. It simply means that we will have God to lead us, to guide us, and to help carry us through even our toughest times.

God loves you, friend. He wants to see you succeed and grow. The question I want to leave with you today is this: Will you turn your life over to God, or will you say “I got this,” to Him?

The Joy of the Lord is my Strength


joyofthelord

“Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 

Has life knocked you down?

Have you lost your joy?

Friend, all throughout our lives we are going to face trials. These trials will try to steal our joy. They will take the wind out of our sails.

When we find ourselves in these situations, we often wonder how we will ever get back up, how we will ever survive.

I want to encourage your heart this morning. You are not defeated. You are not alone.

Today’s verse tells us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

You see, life is more than we can handle. The day to day struggles that we face are too much for us. The sudden blows that come from the devil will surely knock us to the ground.

The good news is that we do not have to stay there. We have a source of strength, and His name is Jesus.

When life hands you a situation that you can not bear alone, Jesus is there. The joy that can be found in knowing Him and serving Him is enough to pick us back up and dust us off.

Having Jesus in our hearts does not guarantee us a life free from struggles. However, knowing Jesus and having a relationship with Him brings a peace and a joy that can get us through these difficult times.

Do you know Jesus?

Do you have the joy of the Lord in your heart?

I want you to know, today, that Jesus loves you. He is standing, with arms stretched wide, waiting for you to run to Him.

Will you choose Jesus today? Will you let the joy of the Lord be your strength?