Tag Archives: hope

A Man Of Empathy

One of the things I remember being taught at an early age is that Jesus was tempted in all areas of His life just like we are. It’s always been a comfort to know that because He can relate to us as we go through our daily lives and are tempted to say or do things that wouldn’t bring God glory. The temptations He faced in the wilderness weren’t the only temptations He faced, though they are the only ones recorded. Just like us, I’m sure He was under a constant barrage of temptations trying to trip Him up so that His ministry could be discredited. When He didn’t fall prey to those temptations, He showed that we don’t have to give into our flesh and that He could empathize with us in those moments of weakness.

It wasn’t just temptations He faced as a person. He understood what it was like to be betrayed by a close friend. He felt the sorrow of a close friend passing away. He felt the sting of being rejected by people who should have respected Him. In His greatest time of need, His closest friends didn’t stand up for Him and one publicly denied even knowing Him. It was more than temptations He faced in order to be able to empathize with us. He felt pain and sorrow like we do. He understands what it feels like to be hurt by those you love and to feel great sorrow. In fact, He even knows what it feels like to feel abandoned by God. He went through all those emotions so that He could empathize with us in our pain.

Isaiah 53:3-4 says, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!” (NLT) It wasn’t just His pain He felt. On the cross, He took on our pain, our sorrow and our grief. Take the deepest hurt and pain you’ve felt in your life and multiply that by billions. He carried that pain. He did that for us. For you. He understands the pain you feel because He felt it before you at the cross. He took stripes for your emotional healing as well, and endured the harshest punishment known to man out of love for you. Don’t believe the lie that you are the only one who feels the way you do. He carried your pain and sorrow first and endured so that you can too.

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The Cost Of A Dream

What are you willing to pay to accomplish your dreams? The dreams are free, but seeing them come to fruition isn’t. So many of us freely talk about the dreams God puts in our hearts, but so few are willing to endure what it takes to make them happen. When God gives us a dream, He rarely includes the cost. Once the time comes to start paying for it, many of us walk away from it or question if God really gave it to us.

When Joseph was a teenager, God put a dream in his heart that his brothers would one day bow to him. He didn’t have that great of a relationship with them, so he was excited about it. He told them about it, probably in a flaunting way, and they hated him for it. They threw him in a pit, then sold him as a slave where he was carried off to Egypt. From there, he was falsely accused of rape, thrown in prison and forgotten for over ten years.

Through all of that, he kept believing in the dream. We don’t read where he questioned God for his troubles. I believe it was because he thought of it as the price of his dream, and he was willing to pay it. God knew that as a teenager, he wasn’t ready to be second in command of Egypt. He tested him and developed the character traits that he would need to make the dream a reality. Joseph paid the price for his dream.

Psalm 105:19 says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character” (NLT). If God gave you a dream and everything is going wrong, chances are that He’s testing your character. He’s finding out if you’re willing to pay the price and if you’re ready. Don’t give up because the dream seems so far away and the cost is high. Keep working hard. Keep paying the price. Don’t quit. God is getting you ready for the fulfillment of that dream. The dreams God gives us are always worth the cost.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Surviving The Dark Valley

In one of the darkest times of my life, I felt like everything was crumbling around me. I couldn’t sleep or eat for days. I laid in bed at night and would repeat Nehemiah 8:10. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Over and over I would say it. Then I started singing it through the tears. It became my mantra. Because of that, even though my world was crumbling around me, I found a place deep within that gave me hope that I would make it through it. Some days I couldn’t see past a minute in front of me, but i knew if God would help me survive that minute, then I could survive the next. God would remind me of Scriptures to hold on to or He would have someone give me one out of the blue. Life was hard, but God provided a way through it and gave me strength to endure.

Psalm 84:5-6 says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord…Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring” (TPT ). This promise is to those who find their strength in the Lord first of all. Every one of us goes through the dark valley of tears. What I love is that God says, “Pick up your shovel during that time and start digging. Beneath all that pain is a pool where you can find strength and refreshment.” We’ve got to dig deeper than the way things appear on the surface. We’ve got to dig deep into God’s Word. We’ve got to dig deep into His promises, and put our roots there. If they’re on the surface, we’ll be blown over like a tree in a hurricane. Our roots cannot remain at surface level in the dark valley of tears.

You can either be defeated in that valley or you can find the brook of God’s blessing. God is pouring out blessings all the time, but we don’t see them because we get too focused on the things going on around us. Lamentations 3:21-25 says, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him” (GNT). You can have hope in the dark valley of tears when you focus on God’s unfailing love to get you through it and His mercy to remind you that this is a season and there are mountain tops still ahead. Trust and hope in the Lord and draw your strength from Him.

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Wonderful Not Worthless

I was doing a self affirmation exercise with a group of people several months ago. In the exercise, the people are to think of a quality that they don’t posses but want to have, and then use present tense verbs to say they have it. One lady stood up and said, “I am enough.” In that moment, my heart broke. She believed she wasn’t enough and her actions in life were in line with that belief. When the group shouted back, “You are enough!”, her face lit up. For the first time in a while, she began to believe she was enough.

Many people live with feelings of inadequacy. They feel that they don’t measure up to the standards others have set for them. They put on a show for others to see, but inside, they’re dying. They do things to compensate for these insecurities hoping that it will give them worth in someone else’s eyes. They never feel like they will measure up, but they never stop trying to be the person others want them to be. All they want to be is enough so that they will be accepted.

If that describes how you feel, let me direct you to Psalm 139:14. It says, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well” (NASB). YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made. You were designed and created by God with a specific purpose in mind. His works are wonderful, not worthless. Since He made you, that means you are wonderful too, even when you don’t feel like it.

We know from I Samuel 16:7 that God doesn’t measure you by your outward appearance, but by your heart. He looks beyond your actions, through your walls and into your heart. He sees you for who you really are, and He still thinks you are wonderfully made. If you are struggling with your self worth, let me encourage you to say what that lady in my group said. I want to you to say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am enough.” The more you say it, the more you will believe it. God has already said it to you and He believes it. Now it’s your turn to believe it and act on it. What God says about you is more real than what any person says.

Photo courtesy of Joram Jay Travilla Equipado

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Planning And Preparing

Several years ago the Lord spoke a simple word to me while I was praying. He said, “Prepare.” I replied, “Prepare for what?” Again, all I heard was, “Prepare.” I said, “Lord, if I’m going to prepare, I need to know what to prepare for.” For the third time, He said, “Prepare.” I had breakfast coming up with a pastor friend. I couldn’t wait to discuss what I heard. After our pleasantries, he said, “You know what I heard God say to me the other night? Prepare.” I told him I had heard the same thing. We began to discuss what it meant, but agreed we needed to each spend more time in prayer, in reading the Bible and in holding each other accountable to it.

Preparing is a necessary process in almost everything in life that’s worth anything. The greater the task, the greater the preparation. Think about taking a test. The more significant the test, the greater amount of time you spent preparing for it. Most of the time you had an idea of what could be on the test, but you weren’t sure what the questions were going to be. You needed to prepare for them to ask you anything. Life with God is a lot like that. We need to be prepared to be used in whatever situation He chooses to use us in. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. The on,y way to constantly be ready is to prepare ahead of time what you will say.

Proverbs 24:27 says, “Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house” (NLT). Too often we try to get the cart before the horse. We want the payoff without going through the process, but God’s plan is that you and I prepare for the greater things He has for us by being faithful in the small things. If you’re looking ahead to where God has promised to take you, take time each day to do the little things that will prepare you for that place. This proverb us to plan and prepare how we will be sustained once we get there rather than to focus on how we will stay there. God’s process always involves sowing first and then reaping later. If He’s being slow in keeping His promises, ask Him to tell you what He wants you to do today to prepare for your future.

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Bouncing Back

One of the things I love to do is to go to the beach. To me there’s something fun about going in up to my waist where the waves are crashing and leaning into them. I start off feeling like I could fight them all day, but after a while, they just keep coming and I get wore out. I’ve had it happen before where I’ve lost my footing. When I would try to get up, a wave would knock me back. Then I get into this cycle of not being able to get back up, and I have to switch into survival mode. The good news is that I’m close to shore and if I can time it right, I can get back up and breathe because it’s not very deep.

We all like to think we are resilient with the ability to bounce back. Life sometimes looks at that determination and says, “Challenge accepted!” None of us are exempt from tragedy, death, sickness, loss of a job, emotional pain, disappointment or devastation. We sometimes get hit over and over with things and have to switch into survival mode. There are times when it feels easier to stay down than to try to get back up, but we can’t stay down. Life is about getting back up. Christianity is about doing it with God’s strength rather than your own. He is our firm foothold in our time of desperation. He is the One who helps us get our head above water.

Proverbs 24:16 says, “For the lovers of God may suffer adversity and stumble seven times, but they will continue to rise over and over again” (TPT). God creates purpose in our suffering and has a way of working it out for our good. When we get back up from being knocked down, we show that our faith is stronger than what gets thrown at us. People also find hope and healing from their situations when they see that someone else survived disaster. By being resilient and getting back up, we show our faith isn’t based on circumstances. The same God who makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside the still waters, is the same God who walks with you through the valley of the shadow of death. Don’t stay knocked down by what you’re going through. God is your firm footing and will help you bounce back.

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Spiritual Cravings

Almost every woman who has a child can tell you what she craved while she was pregnant. It’s interesting to me to hear some of the things that their bodies were asking for. When my wife was pregnant, I remember the doctor telling us that she may experience cravings for some crazy things including dirt. She said that the body will crave and create intense hunger for the things it needs. There are plenty of husbands who will tell you what time of the night they had to run to the store, and what crazy food they had to get to satisfy their wife’s hunger craving.

I believe our spirit is very similar. It hungers to find God. Inside each of us is the desire to know and understand why we are here and what our purpose is. It creates a holy curiosity that is truly a hunger to know God. The problem many of us experience is that after we find Him, we often dismiss those hunger pains to know Him more. We give into the cravings of the flesh rather than the spirit within us. God’s desire for each of us is to continue to hunger to know Him more. Our spirit’s cravings are not to be ignored. Just like a pregnant woman’s body craves what it’s lacking, so does our spirit.

Here are some Bible verses on hungering for the things of God.

1. You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

Matthew 5:6 MSG

2. Those who hunger for him will always be filled, but the smug and self-satisfied he will send away empty.

Luke 1:53 TPT

3. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “When I will send hunger over the land, Not hunger for bread or a thirst for water, But rather [a hunger] for hearing the words of the LORD.”

AMOS 8:11 AMP

4. Lovers of God hunger after truth, but those without understanding feast on foolishness and don’t even realize it.

Proverbs 15:14 TPT

5. God—you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you! I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts.

Psalm 63:1 MSG

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