Category Archives: Praise and Thanksgiving

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 13

So glad you’re joining us for 30 Days of Hopeful.  We’ve been talking about ways to build our hope–sometimes in short supply these days.  It’s clear from God’s Word that hope is vital to our spiritual life.  Crucial to our mental health.  Humans don’t function well without hope.  I’ve even heard it said that “something to look forward to” is a key factor in those who age well.  Let’s face it.  We all need hope.

It’s a mistake, though, to look at hope as a solo journey.  God made us humans to live together in community.  So if we want to be filled with hope, it helps to find some follow travelers with whom we can “do life.”  Sadly, the down side of what Americans refer to as “rugged individualism” is that we sometimes forfeit the teamwork that could help us keep our hope strong.

We learned earlier that through “endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).  Let’s take another look at the next verse, which reminds us that God is the one who gives us the “hope-giving” endurance and encouragement:  May God, who gives you this endurance and encouragement, allow you to live in harmony with each other by following the example of Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5 GW).    

Do you see the point here?  God not only gives us endurance, encouragement through His Word, but also the ability to live in harmony together.  And harmony helps keep our hope vibrant and alive.  We see another reason to live in harmony in the next verse:  “So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6).

Simply put, God likes it when we’re like-minded.  And when we live in harmony with one another, it not only fuels our hope, but it also brings Him glory.  And when we glorify God, we can’t help but overflow with hope.  Is there someone in your path today who needs your words of hope-giving encouragement?

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 11

We’ve touched on the danger of hope-killers, those predators which attack our hopes and dreams.  Anxiety is a big one.  But there’s another, more subtle enemy of hope—complaining.  Griping is so woven into our culture that it feels like a birthright.  We complain about the weather, the food, long lines, rude workers, bad drivers, you name it.  It’s second nature to whine when we don’t have enough of this, or too much of that, or when whomever or whatever is not working out for us.  Even if we don’t say it out loud, complaining can become a habitual part of our inner dialogue. You get the point.

The Bible calls this behavior grumbling, and warns against it repeatedly:  “Do everything without grumbling or arguing”(Philippians 2:14).  Some translations use the word “murmuring.”  The Greek word gongysmos, translated “grumbling,”  is defined as “a muttering, murmuring, low and suppressed discourse; the expression of secret and sullen discontent, murmuring, complaint.”  Ouch!

How does complaining hinder our dreams? Let’s take a look at the children of Israel.  They were chosen by God for a purpose. He picked a man named Moses to lead the people to a promised land “flowing with milk and honey” (Numbers 10:11-12).

But soon, they began to complain about hardships—the food, the fatigue, the water. Their grumbling angered God and frustrated Moses.  When the time finally came for them to take possession of the land,  Moses sent out 12 spies who returned with this negative report: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! But the people who live there are powerful.  We seemed like grasshoppers  in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them”  (Numbers 13:26-33).

Caleb and Joshua tore their clothes, pleading with the people. “We should go up and take possession of the land,” said Caleb. “Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (Numbers 14:1-9).  The Israelites became furious at Joshua and Caleb and threatened to stone them.

 So the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?  Not one of these people will ever enter that land. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:20-23).

God called their grumbling contempt.  Rebellion.  In short–it was unbelief.  And it would cost that generation of the children of Israel their dream.  It’s the unbelief at the core of grumbling which blocks the very hope God wants to give us when we trust in Him.

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

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 10

I’m glad you’ve joined us for 30 Days of Hopeful. Perhaps life is hard for you right now–you’re struggling to find hope.  When all seems hopeless, I find encouragement from others who have passed through the furnace and come forth with faith shining. Their stories inspire me to hold onto my hope. I want to share one such story with you.  My friend Ange loves to encourage others with her story of hope.

I met Ange during one of my first missions trips to Rwanda and Burundi. Most everyone I met was a genocide survivor with a hard story to tell. But it was Ange’s journey of agony-turned-into-hope that inspired me most.

Ange was in high school when genocide broke out in Rwanda in 1994. She and fiancé, Emanuel, fled on foot to the neighboring Congo. They married and had baby Edna. The brutal war spilled over into the Congo. Soldiers attacked their refugee camp and Emanuel and Ange, with eighteen-month-old Edna on her back, ran terrified into the forest. They became separated as they fled for their lives.  A few days later while Ange was gathering firewood, soldiers kidnapped little Edna.

Ange ran frantically through the forest searching for the soldiers. She soon discovered the baby had become sick and died. Ange’s heart and her hope were shattered. She hid in the forest for weeks with no clean water, food, fire, or shelter. As she describes it, “It was like we were dead, but still living.”

Ange made her way to Kenya with the help of a relief organization, still searching for her husband. She cried out, “Oh God, You know that my beloved first born was taken away. And you know how I could be happy if I could find my beloved husband! Please Lord I hope you have not forgotten me.” Ange continued to seek God’s purpose for her own life while she waited for her dream to be fulfilled. Sensing a call ministry, she began attending Bible college in Kenya.  God gave Ange hope, encouraging her with these words:

We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us (Romans 5:3-5)

Ange continues her story, “One day, I received the amazing news that my husband was alive! It was like a dream!!! We stayed up all night praising and thanking God!” So, after eight long years, Ange and Emanuel were reunited in Burundi. God soon blessed them with a baby boy they called Cherubim. When I first heard Ange’s story, she had just given birth to twins Joshua and Geoffrey.

Ange shares from her heart: “We have nothing to give our Lord for what He has done for us, so we give Him our thanks: Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me (Psalm 50:14-15).”

Ange loves to encourage others to hold onto hope when times look darkest. I hope you will be strengthened by her story and her prayer for you: “May God bless you and help you to be patient in every situation you may pass through. Glory be to the Lord JESUS. Amen!”

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 8

I once taught a workshop on spiritual leadership to a group of women in the tiny African country of Burundi. Our partner, ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministry),  was working hard to help build church and community leadership in Burundi and neighboring Rwanda after a long and brutal civil war. My message was on the Biblical topic of using one’s spiritual gifts to serve others. A portion of our time was devoted to the importance of following our God-given hopes and dreams.

When I began talking about our dreams, my translator abruptly stopped. There was no word in the Burundian language, she said, that could be translated as “dream.” After thinking for a moment, she came up with her own definition. To convey the idea of a dream, she combined two words: “Future hope.”

Later, I found myself reflecting on the concept of future hope. Of all people, we Christians should understand the longing to look toward our future with a sense of hope. But for us, this hope extends far past our mortal life and into eternity.

Nineteenth century preacher and theologian Charles Spurgeon had this to say about eternal hope:

“Our hope is special, because it is a hope laid up for us in heaven; a hope therefore which the world does not care one whit about.” The worldly man, Spurgeon added, “hopes that tomorrow may be as today, and yet more abundant, but cares nothing for the land where time has ceased to flow. He hopes for riches, or he hopes for fame; he hopes for long life and prosperity; he hopes for pleasure and domestic peace; the whole range of his hope is within the compass of his eye: but our hope has passed beyond the sphere of sight. Ours is a hope which demands nothing of time, or earth, but seeks its all in the world to come.”

As we ponder our blessings this Thanksgiving Day, let’s reflect not only on the blessings we enjoy in this world, but let us fix our eyes on the blessings of the world to come.  We can thank God that we have hope which is stored up for us in heaven, secured for us by Jesus Christ, and kept safe from the hope-killers of this age that would seek to rob our dreams.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven…” (Colossians 1:3-5).





30 Days of Hopeful: Day 5

Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking that hope comes through self-effort. That it’s up to me to keep hope alive. That I’m the one holding onto my hope. But God’s Word reminds me that hope actually holds onto me. Hebrews 6:19 puts it this way: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Last time I checked, it’s the anchor that does the holding. Not the boat.

That’s good news. Especially when we’re exhausted by overwork, disappointment, or grief. Life hurts. And we all become battle weary at times. Humans are not machines—we have our limits. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall” (Isaiah 40:31).

That said, let’s remember that hope is not passive. We don’t get to simply numb out, give up, walk away from God and expect Him to come running after us to revive our hope.

No…I need to trust God, even when I no longer trust myself. Rest in Him and wait upon Him.  Hope in Him, especially when I don’t have the strength to fight any more. “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired (Isaiah 40:31 AMP).

Just what does it look like to wait for the Lord? It could mean that I simply rest for a while. Or take baby steps out of my exhaustion to listen to praise music; or soak in the promises in God’s Word; or go for a walk and breathe in His beauty.  Perhaps I share His love with one who’s broken.

I might even turn aside from my dream for a little while, but only after placing it squarely into God’s hands for safekeeping. I call this my time to “pray and walk away.” Just for a season. What’s more, God promises He’ll give me new strength to mount up on wings like an eagle.

But until strength comes, I can rest secure knowing that if my dream is truly from God, He won’t let it go. And He won’t let me go. He won’t let my hope die—for He gave it to me as the anchor for my soul.