ANNIVERSARY: HOPEFUL for LOVE

Today’s blog is dedicated to my husband on our anniversary. You’re still the one! ♥

We began our marriage as two imperfect people with hope for a love that would last.  We’re still imperfect, we’re still hopeful for love that will last, and we’re both learning that the presence of the Author of marriage Himself is essential to a lasting (and happy) marriage.

Thankfully God’s unconditional love and amazing grace has made the difference to bless our marriage and allow it to last these past 31 years.

Here’s what the Bible says about love….

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres….

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

(I Corinthians 13: 4 – 7, 13)

IN CHRIST ALONE: MY HOPE IS FOUND

In 2001 Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote a song, “In Christ Alone,” that explains the life of Christ. It’s a beautiful song that is full of hope.

In 2005 it was named the 9th best loved hymn of all time by BBC Songs of Praise survey and in their 2010 survey was named 2nd best hymn of all time. It ranked number one on the UK CCLI charts in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, number two in Australia, number seven in Canada, and number 15 in the United States.  It was nominated by British Hymn Society as one of the top 5 hymns of all time and as a top 10 hymn in 2012 by BBC One’s Song of Praise.

IN CHRIST ALONE

“In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace;
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.

This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied,
For every sin on Him was laid.
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the World by darkness slain,
Then bursting forth in glorious Day,
Up from the grave He rose again,
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.
For I am His, and He is mine,
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand,  I will stand, I will stand.

All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground, all other ground
Is sinking sand, is sinking sand,
So I’ll stand.”

(Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)

CHUCK COLSON: FREEDOM, MEANING, and HOPE

I remember 1973 when Watergate was a daily news topic. It proved to be an interesting time to be a college student in Dr. Robert McChesney’s political science class.

Fast forward 20 years to 1993 in Pittsburgh at a Billy Graham Crusade. Chuck Colson was invited to share his testimony  20 yrs after Watergate and more importantly 20 years after his surrendering his life to Jesus Christ.

Chuck Colson had been heavily involved with illegal Watergate thefts and had fallen from high political power and influence to a low of incarceration in prison.

Colson’s words brought hope then and still do now.  His message: “I thank God for Watergate, and I thank God for prison, because through that experience I came to know what it is to have a day-in and day-out relationship with the Living God, Jesus Christ. And I’ve discovered, over these last 20 years as I reflect back on it, the three most important things have come from it: Freedom, Meaning, and Hope.

Colson explained those three lessons. Freedom from guilt and sin was more important than freedom from prison. Meaning is not what you do but what Sovereign God chooses to do through you that matters in life. Real hope is not in government but in the power of God working in the hearts of people.

He related, ” I wouldn’t trade the worst day of the last 20 years for the best day of the 40 years preceding it, because I know Jesus Christ is true.”

According to this former marine, fallen top White House aide, ex-felon, best-selling author, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, and hopeful born-again Christian, you, too, can experience freedom from guilt and sin, meaning when you surrender yourself to God, and “hope in One Who was raised from the dead and Who lives today, the Hope of Glory, Jesus Christ.” (CC)

(Visit prisonfellowship.org for info about Prison Fellowship Ministries, which now serves in 117 countries. To learn more about Chuck Colson’s life and beliefs, read BORN AGAIN or any of his many books.)

ASTRONAUT JIM IRWIN: HOPE to KNOW OUR CREATOR

I watched 1971 TV to see Colonel James Irwin, fourth man on the moon and first to explore by Lunar Rover.  It was history-in-the-making to us earthlings and especially meaningful to Jim. His experiences totally changed his life and future direction.

“When I looked out and saw the earth about as big as a little marble, I thought, ‘How big am I?’

I am just a speck of dust — if that big — compared to the universe. Yet this little speck has the capacity to know God! To know the One Who holds the universe, to know His love and have His direction.

For the first time I saw, felt God’s love for the earth…. I realized then that God loved that little blue marble, that little blue planet.

He loved all the billions of people on it, and He loved me! I realized at that moment that my relationship with Jesus Christ was the most precious thing I had.” (Jim Irwin)

The following year Jim resigned from a career he loved to follow his higher calling and to fulfill his purpose. He founded High Flight Foundation and devoted the rest of his life to spread a message of  God’s love and to share his own relationship with Jesus Christ. By faith Jim understood, “God walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon.”

Jim had followed his dream since he was a kid and had prepared for years for his lunar experience. He may not have anticipated his personal encounter with the Creator as he viewed planet earth from such a vantage point, but it was planned before either that planet called Earth or a baby named James Irwin was formed.

Jim Irwin had enough hope in His Creator to trust God’s guidance to change his own life’s direction and to enjoy God’s great love that he knew he was meant to share. The same hope is available for us. We may never view the earth from the moon, but we can see God’s glory as we look up at the night sky when we open our eyes and hearts for hope to know our Creator.

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”   (Psalm 19:1)

For more of Jim’s hopeful story, please read MORE THAN EARTHLINGS: AN ASTRONAUT’S THOUGHTS FOR CHRIST-CENTERED LIVING and other books by Jim Irwin.

JOSH McDOWELL: The GREAT HOPE to a HOPELESS WORLD

I briefly met Josh McDowell in the early 1970’s after he had just spoken to a large gathering of college students. He won’t remember meeting me, one of the many students in the crowd, but I remember that time as an important point in my spiritual journey. Josh offered logical, reasonable, fact-based reasons for my faith.

Josh didn’t determine what I believed, but he did help me to better make sense of my beliefs. I believed what he said, because he said what I believed. I considered it a blessing to learn from Josh and have since read many books he has authored.

I remember one topic Josh spoke about then was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The message he shared hasn’t changed nearly a half-century later. He continues to share because of its truth and its meaning to the world and to each individual’s heart. It is an event he calls “the great hope… to a hopeless world.” 

“Christ’s resurrection is the great hope that Christianity offers to a hopeless world — forgiveness of sin and an afterlife with God, free of pain and suffering, and filled with boundless joy!” (Josh McDowell)

I invite you to go to josh.org to find more about the historic fact of the Resurrection. It could lead you to the hope you need but didn’t know where to find.

PRAYERS: HOPE to PRAY

There’s a beautiful prayer that holds much meaning for many hearts. The Serenity Prayer is believed to be written by Reinhold Niebuhr. I remember when I first discovered it, and even then as a child I knew it was meaningful.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
(Reinhold Niebuhr)

Through the years the Serenity Prayer has been prayed by countless people, including members of Alcoholics Anonymous and other such programs. There are multiple versions, and a more recent “people” version is used by CoDependents Anonymous.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
Courage to change the person I can,
And the wisdom to know that person is me.”
(Origin unknown)

I believe both prayers are full of hope. If you have hope enough to pray, then perhaps you have faith enough to move mountains. Consider the small size of a mustard seed….

Jesus said, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Now that gives me hope….

God, grant me the HOPE to pray, the FAITH to move mountains, and the LOVE to share that hope and faith. Amen.

POEM: THE INSTINCT of HOPE

The Instinct of Hope

Is there another world for this frail dust

To warm with life and be itself again?

Something about me daily speaks there must,

And why should instinct nourish hopes in vain?

‘Tis nature’s prophesy that such will be,

And everything seems struggling to explain

The close sealed volume of its mystery.

Time wandering onward keeps its usual pace

As seeming anxious of eternity,

To meet that calm and find a resting place.

E’en the small violet feels a future power

And waits each year renewing blooms to bring,

And surely man is no inferior flower

To die unworthy of a second spring?

(John Clare)

TALLEYS: HOPE in A MOUNTAIN MOVER

If you know gospel music then you’ve heard of the Talleys, a well-known and well-respected family in Christian music for decades. The Talley Trio is Roger, his wife Debra, and their daughter Lauren. Their lives and music are dedicated to communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Talleys have blessed listeners with award-winning music that resulted in a Dove Award, numerous Singing News Awards, and 11 number one songs. They have shared their music and message on television, in church services, and in concerts across our country and internationally.

“When people hear our songs, we want them to clearly understand the gospel in the lyrics and know that God really can make a difference in their lives,” says Lauren. “Whether we’re in front of thousands or in the local church on a Sunday, that message is the same.”

Below are lyrics to MOUNTAIN MOVER. The Talley Trio sing it like they believe it… like they have hope in a Mountain Mover!

“My God is a Mountain Mover. My God’s gonna make a way. Can’t count all the time He’s proven We can trust him; just have faith. Take a hopeless situation; Watch Him turn it all around. Nothing is impossible. I can’t hold back. I’ve gotta shout: My God, My God, My God Is a Mountain mover.

Got a problem in my pathway; I feel I’m frozen here. Doubts are circling high above me, But in the shadow of my fear The Fire of Faith is stirring, Growing inside of me, Reminding me of something I already believe.

He’s a God of Mighty Miracles. When the days are dark I will keep on trusting Him. I will not lose heart.

My God is a Mountain Mover. My God’s gonna make a way. Can’t count all the time He’s proven We can trust him; just have faith. Take a hopeless situation; Watch Him turn it all around. Nothing is impossible. I can’t hold back. I’ve gotta shout: My God, My God, My God Is a Mountain Mover.”

ZIG ZIGLAR: HOPE to FULFIL OUR PURPOSE

For all of us living on this planet it seems that pain is inevitable. Have you considered that it may help us fulfill our purpose in life? Zig Ziglar shared some wisdom that I’ve included below. If we adjust our responses to the pain we have endured, then we may learn to say thank you. That may allow us to find hope to fulfill our purpose in life.

“Outside of your relationship with God, the most important relationship you can have is with yourself. I don’t mean that we are to spend all our time focused on me, me, me to the exclusion of others. Instead I mean that we must be healthy internally — emotionally and spiritually — in order to create healthy relationships with others.

Motivational pep talks and techniques for achieving success are useless if a person is weighed down by guilt, shame, depression, rejection, bitterness, or crushed self-esteem. Countless marriages land on the rocks of divorce, because unhealthy people marry thinking that marriage or their spouse will make them whole. Wrong. If you’re not a healthy single person you won’t be a healthy married person.

Part of God’s purpose for every human life is wholeness and health. I love the words of Jesus in John 10:10: ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’ God knows we are the walking wounded in this world, and He wants the opportunity to remove everything that limits us and heal every wound from which we suffer.

Some wonder why God doesn’t just ‘fix’ us automatically, so we can get on with life. It’s because He wants our wounds to be our tutors to lead us to Him. Pain is a wonderful motivator and teacher!

When the great Russian intellectual Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was released from the horrible Siberian work camp to which he was sent by Joseph Stalin, he said, ‘Thank you, prison!’ It was the pain and suffering he endured that caused his eyes to be opened to the reality of the God of his childhood, to embrace his God anew in a personal way.

When we are able to say thank you to the pain we have endured, we know we are ready to fulfill our purpose in life. When we resist the pain life brings us, all of our energy goes into resistance, and we have none left for the pursuit of our purpose. It is the better part of wisdom to let pain do its work and shape us as it will. We will be wiser, deeper, and more productive in the long run.

There is a great promise in the New Testament that says God comes to us to comfort us, so we can turn around and comfort those who are hurting with the comfort we have received from Him (see 2 Corinthians 1: 3–4). Make yourself available to God and to those who suffer. A large part of our own healing comes when we reach out with compassion to others.”