KYLA MUELLER: STRENGTH & HOPE

If you watched the final night of National Republican Convention’s televised program last week, then you know there was a focus on “everyday Americans whose stories are filled with hope and patriotism.”

We met two Americans who are suffering huge loss and unending heart-break. Marsha and Carl Mueller of Arizona are parents of Kayla Mueller, a 26 year old humanitarian aid worker, who was murdered by terrorists of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in 2015.

Kayla was taken captive in 2013 while aiding Syrian refugees in Syria and Turkey. She endured brutal torture for more than 500 days until her murder. Kayla’s story moves us to tears, yet it also gives me hope.

In addition to this work in Turkey with an international aid agency, her previous causes include work in India with Tibetan refugees; in the Middle East; in Israel helping African refugees; in her own country and abroad providing free food, education, and medical care for those in need; and other causes to alleviate pain and suffering.

While working to help children at an orphanage in India, Kyla expressed, “I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how You are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek You.”

To say that Kayla’s life mattered is an understatement! She lived to make a difference, and she left this world a better place. She was described as “a devout Christian,” who lived her faith. She shared her God-given gifts wherever she went. I believe Kayla’s life gives hope to anyone who seeks to live a life with purpose.

Other captives who were released or who escaped were impacted by Kyla’s “strength and compassion.” Her concern for others was proven even to the point of giving up an escape attempt for other women’s opportunities for freedom.

After months of ongoing torture and brutality, ISIS members tried claiming she had abandoned her Christian faith in front of men prisoners, but in fact she defended it…. According to another captive, a Danish photographer, the men in the room “…were impressed by the strength that she showed in front of us. That was very clear.” Her faith was real and strong even in darkest trials unto death.

Kyla’s mother shared a letter that Kayla had written about 8 months after her captivity that had been smuggled out by another hostage. Mrs. Mueller said, “As we read it, we could see that God was holding her in His arms.”

This statement reminds me that no matter our trial — even surrounded by the enemy — God is the Source of comfort and strength for one’s soul. According to Deuteronomy 33: 27, “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms….”

Kayla explained that she “felt tenderly cradled in freefall.” As a believer in such “freefall,” Kyla found there is a foundation on which to land. That foundation is “The Solid Rock,” “Rock of Ages” — Jesus Christ Himself. During the hardest experience of her young life, she must have relied on hope in Christ for strength to endure. Then she was carried in loving arms to her eternal home to rest in peace. At last.

Kyla acknowledged, “I have been shown in darkness, light and have learned that even in prison one can be free. I am grateful….” She experienced freedom in her spirit that reflected her inner condition not her outer circumstances. Her response was gratitude. What an example for me — for all of us!

Kyla added, “None of us could have known it would be this long, but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able, and I have a lot of fight left inside of me….” That resolve required strength beyond herself. Those who do not give up surely have hope.

I do not see Kyla Mueller as merely an “everyday American” but as a hero of faith. She was clearly a rare human with extraordinary courage and strength, whose story does not end with her murder. I believe hers is an eternal story that will continue forever. That is reason for hope.

I pray for Marsha and Carl Mueller to have strength until that blessed day when they will reunite with their daughter, Kyla, whose Christian faith became sight, the result of the glorious hope that was in her.

“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
(Deuteronomy 31: 8)

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
(Psalm 23: 4)

“For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise His who are prisoners.”
(Psalm 69: 33)

“From my distress I called upon the Lord; The Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The Lord is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?”
(Psalm 118: 5 – 6)

“Do not fear for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
(Isaiah 41: 10)

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.”
(Isaiah 61: 1 – 3)

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
(Matthew 25: 34-40)

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful.”  (John 14: 26 – 27)

“These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His
purpose.”
(Romans 8: 28)

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
(Romans 12: 10 – 16)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
(2 Corinthians 3: 17)

“We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.”
(2 Corinthians 4: 8 – 9)

“For all things are for your sakes so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4: 15 – 18)

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
(Hebrews 11: 1)

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them and those who are ill-treated since you yourselves also are in the body.”
(Hebrews 13: 1 – 3)


“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay… On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand….”
(from THE SOLID ROCK by Edward Mote)

“Rock of Ages, Cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee…
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling…
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death… Rock of Ages, Cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.”
(from ROCK OF AGES by Augustus Toplady)

PANDEMIC: HOPE OR FEAR

We all are aware that a deadly virus is spreading fear across our planet. What can we do? How shall we cope? Where can we find hope?

Many people offer ways to cope with fear, and some try to offer hope even in the midst of a pandemic. (I do not have all the answers, but I know Who does.)

That which we face right now is beyond our control, but we can choose how we react to our new world condition. So then… how do we react to the overwhelming uncertainty that is our current reality?

First each one of us needs to know without a doubt that we are God’s child. We can choose to exercise His gift of faith, and if we have prayed sincerely to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we can know.

When we know Him, then we can experience hope in whatever we face in life. We turn from going our own way to going His way. We learn His way by reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer.

We need to refuse to dwell on fear and negativity. We can choose to focus on God’s Word instead. When we feel fear creeping into our minds, we can feed on Scriptures that share His hope and His promises.

We can pray for His peace and comfort in our current circumstance — whatever it is. We can choose to intentionally experience His presence knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us according to His Word. In fact, God’s Holy Spirit is here to comfort us.  Knowing this brings hope to any circumstance.

We can acknowledge that God is in control of our lives, and nothing takes Him by surprise. We can remember that He cares for us. He loves us so much that He provided our salvation — a sacrifice not given lightly to then leave us abandoned to the ways of a world spinning out of control or to an evil randomly having its own way. We can trust God to finish what He started in the world and in our individual lives. Again, knowing this brings hope to our lives.

May we acknowledge and accept God’s providential will when we recognize it. May we pray for discernment, so we will be aware of His purposes. When we understand His will we can experience His hope.

May we study His Book — the Holy Bible — so we can trust the ending of His story. If we do this then we can look forward without fear. May we believe that His way is best and that our future includes a glorious eternity in His presence with a home Jesus Christ has prepared just for us. When we trust Him for the world to come, we can trust Him in this one. That is real hope.

Also we can care for those around us. We can share the hope that we have in Christ with others, who may be struggling with fear. If we personally know His love, then we will have enough hope to share.

We will contemplate God’s love and care whenever we feel fear overpower our faith. We will practice prayer, choose faith, meditate on the Scriptures, and intentionally respond in hope not in fear.

I do not pretend to know the details of our future lives, but I believe the Bible that says all things will be for our good and His glory. Beyond this I will leave the details to Him. Although that is sometimes easier said than done, I believe He is worthy of our faith and trust.

He alone is God. In Him alone our hope is found. Since He is still on His throne, I can sleep at night knowing that He has got this pandemic.

 

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  (1 John 5:13)

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”  (Psalm 27:1)

“But He [Jesus] answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”  (Matthew 4:4)

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever.”  (John 14:16)

“For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.”  (Psalm 121:1-8)

JOHN TRANTHAM: HOPE IN SOLID FOUNDATION

During the last century sounds so long ago, but today’s blog post comes from a time more than three decades ago. However it is said it still seems a long time ago, but the message is timeless.

My family knew an old retired pastor, B. John Trantham, who loved God and sharing the gospel of hope in Christ. He did those things well with the helper God had given him when he was a young man, the sweet and (in my memories) always smiling Mrs. Trantham.

Even at an advanced age this Christian brother still had powerful thoughts and messages to share. I remember one in particular that he called Fourfold Foundation of Faith. It neatly presents John 3:16, a summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If any one verse could be the foundation of Christian faith, then surely it could be this one.

John 3:16 offers four important aspects: God’s Love, God’s Gift, God’s Gracious Condition, and God’s Great Salvation. This Bible verse says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“For God so loved the world” presents the first foundation part of GOD’S LOVE. “That He gave His only begotten Son” shows the second foundation part of GOD’S GIFT. “That whoever believes in Him” is the third foundation part of GOD’S GRACIOUS CONDITION. “Shall not perish but have eternal life” offers the fourth foundation part of GOD’S GREAT SALVATION.

Together these four aspects of faith are one firm foundation upon which the Christian faith can be built. Together they explain enough of the gospel for one who believes to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

One doesn’t have to know it as Fourfold Foundation of Faith. Know that trusting John 3:16 as the foundation of faith makes an eternal difference. Ponder that verse, and trust God’s Love, Gift, Gracious Condition, and Great Salvation. Do it today!

LIFE IS HARD: HOPE FOR ETERNAL LIFE

I don’t have to tell you that life is sometimes hard. Probably no one will argue with that statement except those who say it is always hard. The good news is this life isn’t the end. The bad news is this life isn’t the end.

Let me explain what I mean…. If you have no hope for a better life after this one, then the idea of never-ending death is worse than terribly sad news.

However, if you have hope for eternal life in heaven after this one, then faith in Jesus of the Bible brings better than incredibly good news!

The Bible tells us “…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Accepting, trusting, believing in Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, as means of eternal life results in living forever in heaven, a place of no more death nor crying nor sorrow. Why would anyone not want to go there? To know Jesus is to know eternal life. This idea brings hope.

Rejecting God’s gift given at Christ’s expense results in one getting his own way. In other words, if one doesn’t want to be with Him, he can have it his way. No Jesus means no eternal life, therefore no Jesus means to know eternal death. This offers utter hopelessness.

Worth pondering…. the consequences of this one choice of what to do with Jesus will last forever! I pray you will have faith to believe the Truth and be filled with hope for eternal life.

TIM TEBOW FOUNDATION: FAITH, HOPE, LOVE, AND TEAMWORK

If you know much about national sports, then you may agree that Tim Tebow is a sports icon. He was a two-time national college football champion, Heisman Trophy winner, first-round NFL draft pick, ESPN contributor, and is now a professional baseball outfielder with the New York Mets.

You may not know Tim is an author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller SHAKEN that was named 2017 Book of the Year by Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

Despite Tim’s many activities and achievements he began his most important work in 2010 when he created the Tim Tebow Foundation.

The foundation’s mission is to bring Faith, Hope, and Love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need. This mission is accomplished through several individual ministries.

Two of the ministries are Orphan Care and Adoption Aid. Through such ministries thousands of deserving children around the world are served by the foundation.

Others share Tim’s passion to bring more faith, hope, and love to the world. Tim shows his heart in his response to donors who contribute to these worthwhile ministries.

What you’re doing with us matters. It matters because people matter, and together we can celebrate and love people who need it most. We can share Faith, Hope and Love, and that is one of the biggest things we can do in life… help someone else. So thank you for partnering with us to help us fight for those who can’t fight for themselves!”

It gives me hope to know there are others who believe in Tim’s cause enough to join him. The Tebow “team” is making the world a brighter place for everyone not just those in their darkest hour of need.

Somehow it seems appropriate to end with some “grand slam home run” excitement. Go, Tim! Go Team Tebow! Bring it on — faith, hope, and love — and score big for the planet!

 

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:4

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Visit the website @ Timtebowfoundation.org to learn more about how a Christian young man is making the world a better place and touching lives as he shares faith, hope, and love.

BIRTHDAY BLESSING: HOPE FOR BELLA’S FUTURE

Ciao, Bella!!!

Happy birthday with love to my precious granddaughter! How perfect that Bella in Italian means “beautiful.” I totally agree that you are — even if we’re not Italian!

Remember that it’s more important to be beautiful on the inside than on the outside. It’s better to be kind and good and loving than just to look pretty. Follow God everyday to become truly beautiful in your heart!

Remember that it’s more important to be wise than just smart. It’s better to be wise enough to make right choices and think good thoughts than to be smart enough to be a clever fool. Learn God’s ways to grow in His wisdom to live right!

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. He will be with you ALWAYS! Remember one of our favorite verses: “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me!” (Phillipians 4:13)

I remember your birth brought hope for your future, prayers, and excitement! The first time I met you as a beautiful bundle of baby I unleashed a load of love and released tears of joy. It was a moment I will always cherish and never forget.

You, granddaughter, are a gift from heaven, and I am blessed beyond measure to be your grandparent! To your parents: THANK YOU for your part in the Beautiful Bella miracle!

To God, the Creator of Life: Thank You for this amazing gift of a granddaughter! May her life be filled with Faith, Hope, and Love. May she walk Your Way, believe Your Truth, and live Life according to Your plan. Thank You for her time now on earth, and thank You even more for her eternal life to come in heaven that will never end, because her name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord.” Psalm 127:3

PRECIOUS MOMENTS CHAPEL: MESSAGE of LOVE, HOPE, & INSPIRATION

The Precious Moments Chapel near Carthage, Missouri, is a unique place. It offers visitors an opportunity to experience a moving message from the heart of an artist.  It is a message of love, hope, and inspiration. The results of Sam Butcher’s dream that originated almost 40 years ago has blessed many lives since the Precious Moments Chapel opened almost 30 years ago.

I hope you will visit online at preciousmomentschapel.org to see photos, to learn about the artist, and to understand the history of this special place.  Even better, visit in person to experience firsthand the chapel, the museum, and the beautiful grounds. Enjoy the figurines, murals, fountains, statues, and more. Go, and allow your heart to feel loved, hopeful, and inspired.

Sharing more than his dream and artwork, Sam Butcher shared his faith and this prayer: “It is my prayer that through my work in the Chapel, I might share my faith with others and that the Spirit of God might touch the visitors’ hearts and bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

I am thankful for Sam’s beautiful testament that is a place where precious moments truly abound.

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)

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.