Monday Encouragement No. 13

A few weeks ago, I shared a little bit about God’s goodness in causing us to hope in the midst of every circumstance as we walk by faith and not by sight. I’ve been digging a little deeper into this word “hope”. The first time hope is used in the Bible is when Naomi lamented to her daughters in law that her hope had been all but extinguished due to losing her sons and husband. Most of you probably know the next details – Orpah returned home, but Ruth “clung” to Naomi, determined to be a part of her life permanently. The Hebrew word for hope in this instance is tiqvah, which literally means “a cord”, and figuratively means “expectancy, hope, thing that I long for”. This word tiqvah comes from the root word qavah, which means to “bind together”.

I could probably spend the next, oh I don’t know, lifetime or so just dissecting all that this word hope means. But I’ll spare us the beginning of a novel for now. We can see in the story of Ruth and Naomi that they were bound together by loss and tragedy but also in uncertain expectancy about their new normal in Bethlehem. I then began to think of several other ways and things we hope and expect and long for…and what those things are tied to, as if by a cord. I love that our hope in Jesus Christ and His Word is an anchor for us (Hebrews 6:13-20). Our ultimate hope isn’t tied to or bound together with something fragile and unreliable, but instead our permanent adoption into the family of God forever guarantees that hope in Him will not disappoint. This hope is based on His character and faithfulness, not on ours or anyone else’s. When my hope is misplaced or misappropriated, I find myself anchored to things that were never meant to play that role.

Now, when I think about hope or when I am discouraged, I can picture myself holding a cord. The important part isn’t picturing myself though, it is finding the courage to be honest about what I see on the other end. Do I see myself inextricably tied to the great I Am or am I looking to someone or something else to be my hope? If it’s not God, I simply need to ask forgiveness for letting something other than Him take His place as my steadfastness and accept His grace and mercy as He teaches me to hope in Him unwaveringly, so much so that others may notice enough to seek Him for themselves.

“Be strong and let your hearts take courage, all you who wait for and confidently expect the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

Monday Encouragement No. 12

Scripture always says it best! Praying this for us this week:

“I thank my God in every remembrance of you, always offering every prayer of mine with joy [and with specific requests] for all of you, [thanking God] for your participation and partnership [both your comforting fellowship and gracious contributions] in [advancing] the good news [regarding salvation] from the first day [you heard it] until now. I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. It is right for me to feel this way about you, because [you have me in your heart as] I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the good news [regarding salvation], all of you share in [His matchless] grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus [whose great love fills me]. And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight, so that you may learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin]; filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God [so that His glory may be both revealed and recognized].” Philippians 1:3-11 (Amplified Version)

Monday Encouragement No. 11

In the most unexpected moments, God steps in and reminds me of His very great and precious promises. Not too long ago while washing the dishes, part of Romans 8:24-25 came to mind. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” I have read and re-read that verse many times, but in that particular moment, the words brought peace in an area I had been asking about for months. We live in a dark and broken world, and there are heavy stories of wounding and trauma that we hear about on a somewhat consistent basis. Not to mention, whatever issues we are dealing with personally within our own spheres of influence.

If you’re anything like me, heavy topics and tough conversations can weigh on the heart which can lead to despair. So, I had been asking the Lord to show me hope. My heart’s cry was, “I can see the brokenness and hopelessness around me, and even in my own heart at times. But I read Your Word and You never change – please show me unwavering hope once again so that this heaviness will be removed.” I had been so focused on needing to visibly and tangibly see hope in action. I know that we do get to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Ps. 27) and I rejoice greatly in that – but – as I was washing dishes, the Lord brought the above passage from Romans to mind, and instantly the heaviness I had been feeling for months lifted off of me. It was such a simple, unassuming moment between a loving Father and dependent daughter. The hope we have is not rooted in anything we can see with our natural eye, but in the everlasting covenant God made with us when He sent Jesus to reconcile us back to Him. Our hope is rooted in Him. In context, the Holy Spirit is using Paul to explain that we are awaiting our full inheritance this side of heaven and we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly” for the fullness of what He has promised to come true. Not only that, but in the waiting, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee to encourage, teach, comfort, counsel and empower us to shake off heaviness and walk in His strength.

The next verse goes on to say, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Be encouraged, dear friends – the Most High God, the Holy One of Israel, the great I Am – has made it impossible for you to be alone in the battles of life. Even now, He is praying on your behalf.

Monday Encouragement No. 10

Unchanging. Never failing. All consuming. Everlasting. Always with us. Unwavering. The Powerful One. Gentle. Humble. Wisdom manifested. Rest. Our Peace. Unshakeable joy. Relentless hope.

His banner over us is love. If nothing else, I pray we rest in this truth this week. In the quiet. In stillness. In chaos or confusion. When all is well and the sea is calm. When the lies seem louder than the truth. In victory or temporary discouragement. His banner over us is love.

“Monday” Encouragement No. 9

“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Psalm 34:7-10

From this excerpt of Psalm 34, be encouraged today! The angel of the Lord encamps around you and delivers you. You are able to tangibly experience the goodness of the Lord. You are blessed by being under His protection. You lack nothing needed for today. Over the past few months, I have asked the Lord what it really means to “fear Him”. I know the right intellectual and contextual answers, but have been asking Him how that looks in my daily life – how am I experiencing the fear of the Lord in my walk with Him? I don’t have any earth shattering answers yet and as with most things with God, I’m sure I’ll be mining this subject for eternity, but He has been showing me bits and pieces of how the fear of the Lord is manifesting in my life. In this revealing bits and pieces, I can’t help but have a sense in my heart of His delight in His daughter taking the time to ask Him deep questions and then wait for His teaching and leading.

Are there any verses you have been chewing on lately that beg the question, “How does this look in my everyday life?” If the answer isn’t already present, I encourage you to dig a bit deeper this week and ask Him to show you. He will. He is always searching for those who will worship in Spirit and in truth, and I’m convinced one way to worship Him is in the tough questions from a sincere heart, because in the asking, we are acknowledging that He is the only One who is all-knowing, all-powerful and personal.

Monday Encouragement No. 8

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

This rest that Jesus offers is meant to be an consistent internal thing for us. One of the ways we rest is by laying our burdens down at His feet and choosing to take His easy yoke, recognizing that we cannot do the work He has called us to do without surrendering our all to Him. As I’ve thought about this recently, I realized that I have been “yoked” (see picture above) with heaviness and an overwhelmed feeling more often than I’d like to admit. Unfortunately, that does not allow me to live in the fullness Jesus promised in John 10 and is not a great witness to others. I cannot be in a place of rest with Jesus, nor help others pick up His yoke and experience His rest for themselves when I’m feeling overburdened with a heavy yoke that Jesus has not asked me to partner with. I don’t see this truth as condemning, but freeing. As we pick up His yoke and rest in His sovereignty, Word and ways, suddenly our heavy overburdened places are replaced with joy, gladness and a renewed attitude toward God, ourselves and others. Are there any “yokes” in your lives that need to be let go of so that you can partner with Jesus and take up His yoke?

Monday Encouragement No. 7

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8

Sometimes in the midst of whatever is going on in my life, whether good or bad, as I reach out for God, I will hear quietly in my heart, “Do you trust Me?” Even when my heart is breaking or I’m fearful of the road ahead, His Spirit gives me the strength to say “yes”. Not always does an immediate feeling of peace come, and I’m forced to remind myself that perfect peace is not necessarily a feeling and the absence of a problem, but rather the presence of Emmanuel, God with us, in the very fabric of our being and in every situation. This radical trust in God is what we are called to. I’ll be praying that our trust in Him continues to grow deeper roots and ask that you do the same for me this week.

Monday Encouragement No. 6

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (AMP)

These verses are invitations from Jesus to come into relationship and communion with Him. Sometimes I think of my heart as a house with many rooms, each one having its own door. When this walk with the Lord started, I had no idea each season of life would bring with it new doors and new invitations from Him to explore the depths of His goodness while bringing freedom and growth in places I wasn’t even aware needed His touch. Giving Him permission to enter into our most vulnerable places isn’t always easy especially when some of us are really good at building walls to keep everyone out, God included! Time after time though, God is found faithful in “dining” with us in what we consider our weakest places…and He enjoys dining with us in this way!

One of these “rooms” that I’ve been walking through lately is being transparent with Jason about my own insecurities, and giving him permission to speak affirmation into those areas. Given my prior issues with trusting men, this feels like a monumental step toward healing. Unlike God, Jason doesn’t know the things I’m struggling with or the lies that creep around my mind unless I allow him to join me behind some of those walls that I’ve built up over the years. In similar fashion, Jesus asks to have permission to walk with us through life, assures us of our position in His family and reminds us of our purpose to love Him and love others radically. Not only that, but He gave His life to make this relationship possible. Although He already knows everything about us, He is delighted in being in consistent communication and fellowship with His daughters. And we are encouraged to keep asking, seeking, and knocking in response.

What doors on the rooms of your heart is God knocking on so that He can come in and dine with you? Is there anything holding you back from giving Him permission to do so? What comes to mind when considering what you have been asking, seeking and knocking on God’s doors about? I’m praying that these questions and the dialogue exchanged between you and God in these areas will be filled with joy and hopeful expectancy in what our loving Father has purposed for you in His will being done here on earth as it is in heaven.

Monday Encouragement No. 5

Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Luke 20:38

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Luke 24:5-7

Praying this Monday is filled anew with the wonder and joy that new life in Christ and new mercies everyday bring. May our hearts and minds be steadfast and hold tight to the truth that we do not have to keep going back to old ways of thinking or doing. Our old way of life and our sin nature was crucified with Christ over 2,000 years ago. We were buried with Him and raised to new life (Romans 6), so that we do not have to relate to God, ourselves or others according to the temporary things to which we were once enslaved. Our foundation for victorious living, even when we don’t “feel” like it is firmly fixed in eternity in Jesus Christ. My prayer for us this week is that if there are places where we are tempted to think and act in accordance with a way of life we are no longer bound to, we would know that our old selves apart from Christ cannot be resurrected – but instead we get to share in the everlasting inheritance of intimate fellowship with the Triune God because we were bought and brought into new life by the blood of Jesus!

Monday Encouragement No. 4

A few weeks ago, Jason and I played a movie trivia game with some of our friends. As you may or may not know, I am extremely competitive, so I was sure to pay close attention to the clues given so that we could win, because I generally don’t view losing as an option. The next morning, I felt convicted about how I don’t always apply this same intensity, purposefulness, and alertness to what God is speaking to me through His Word. It wasn’t a condemning feeling, just a “gut check” on how much God desires our time and attention…and how this relationship with Him is always a win win. The conviction was out of a place of His loving desire to interact with His daughter throughout the day – and a merciful reminder to pay attention and be alert!

I was reminded of the passage in Matthew 13 where Jesus encourages the disciples – “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (verses 16 and 17)

What has God been speaking to you through His Word lately? We have been given eyes to see and ears to hear. God has made our hearts good and ready soil and has given us grace to not have dull hearts toward Him. How blessed we truly are to be alive in a time where the Spirit of God dwells within His people!

Oh, and we did end up winning the movie trivia game – mostly because I married a filmmaker/videographer who knows a lot more about movies than I ever will. 😉