Buzzer Beater Hope

It has been a tough weekend for many on the basketball court (and many in the stands).  My own bracket has been completely destroyed.  There have been some heartbreaking losses — some in the final seconds of the game.  Of course, these losses are nothing compared to the many other losses that we suffer.

Tonight the Bible opened to Lamentations:

My life is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; My enduring hope, I said, has perished before the LORD.  The thought of my wretched homelessness is wormwood and poison; Remembering it over and over, my soul is downcast.  But this I will call to mind; therefore I will hope:

The LORD’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness!

The LORD is my portion, I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him.  The LORD is good to those who trust in him, to the one that seeks him; It is good to hope in silence for the LORD’s deliverance.

Lamentations 3:17-26

The passages before this lamented on all of the suffering we experience.  We all suffer.  We all have loss.  Some small and fleeting, like a basketball game.  Some tragic and life altering.  This line struck me tonight: “Remembering it over and over, my soul is downcast.”

If we focus on our sufferings, there is no doubt that our souls will be downcast.  We need Hope.  In every situation, we need Hope.  In basketball sometimes a team’s last hope is a buzzer beater shot.  But there is only one Hope that can lift us, no matter what the situation, no matter what the suffering, no matter what the loss.  Hope in the Lord.  Hope in His deliverance.  Nothing on earth can match what the Lord provides.  Even when all seems lost, God always provides us with a buzzer beater —  we just need to trust in Him, seek Him.  We don’t have to make a half-court shot, we just need to turn to Him.  God’s love exceeds all of our expectations.  It is the true Cinderella story.  He takes what might seem downtrodden and  turns us into something beautiful.

He constantly takes us out of the darkness.  With every sunrise, we are renewed.  His compassion is not spent.  His mercy is never exhausted.  Therefore, I will Hope.

Lord,

I trust in you.  I put all of my sufferings, all of my pain and all of my loss in your hands.  Help me not to dwell on these things.  My hope is in you.  Help me to have enough strength to maintain Hope even in the darkest days.

 

Hope = Power!

For the last few months, I have been”randomly” opening the bible and reading wherever the pages fall.  And each time, God directs me to something I need to hear and the words have made sense to me (for the most part), in a different way than if I just tried to read a particular chapter.  Today’s verse is a little different.   I didn’t open the bible to it, the verse was thrown in my face.  I spent the week “cop a squatting” in someone else’s office.  I don’t know the person whose office I have been using, but on a post it note under her computer it said:  ” when there is no hope in the future, there is no power in the present.” And cited to Ezekial 37:1-14.  This quote immediately struck me as powerful.  Our hope in God is what gives us strength and power.  I know this is true.  When we lose that hope we lose our power.  We are weak.  I could not wait to open the bible and read this passage.   Instead, this is what the bible said:

The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the broad valley. It was filled with bones.  He made me walk among them in every direction. So many lay on the surface of the valley! How dry they were!  He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come back to life? “Lord GOD,” I answered, “you alone know that.”  Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!  Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Listen! I will make breath enter you so you may come to life.  I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put breath into you so you may come to life. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.  I prophesied as I had been commanded. A sound started up, as I was prophesying, rattling like thunder. The bones came together, bone joining to bone.  As I watched, sinews appeared on them, flesh grew over them, skin covered them on top, but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me: Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man! Say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O breath, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.  I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath entered them; they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.  He said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel! They are saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”  Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I am going to open your graves; I will make you come up out of your graves, my people, and bring you back to the land of Israel.  You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people!  I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the LORD.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

I will admit I was initially disappointed that the quote was not directly written in the bible.  (I did a quick google search and it appears to be from something else all together and is often quoted in business and secular settings.)

And I had to read through this a couple of times because I was looking for the easy quote instead of listening to what was behind the words.  And even though the exact quote is not there, the meaning is. When we have hope and faith in God nothing is impossible. God can create an army out of dry bones.  We may be as far gone as we think possible but when we put hope in God, hope in our future with Him, we have power.  We can do anything.  God brings us out to the brink, He may show us the dry bones, he may show us the depths of despair.  But He will also show us that hope is never lost when we set our eyes on Him and listen to His word.

Lord, I hear you.  I am listening.  I have hope in your love and mercy! I know that you have the power to do anything.  My strength is in you!  No matter what my day has in store for me, I am ready with you at my side.

 

 

 

I found my map!

I have been gone for a week on a trip across country.  Packing space was tight.  And I left my Bible at home.  The week dragged on and I realized that I was lost.  I had forgotten my map!

Tonight, after a long day catching up at work and an exhausting week of travel, it felt good to open the Bible once more and read these words:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.  For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.  Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.  Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 6: 1-11

Let me boast in my afflictions!  Work is hard and tiring.  There is never enough time for what I want to do.  The chore list at home keeps piling up.  There are so many regrets and things I wish I would have done.  I am constantly reminded of parenting mistakes I have made or things I wish I could change. Good friends have moved away, others are moving on in directions that will take them away from close counsel and guidance. Too many people are in pain or sick and ailing.  A niece and nephew just lost their caregiver to cancer.  Life sometimes just sucks.  Sometimes everything seems to be a struggle and every task seems meaningless.  The end seems too far out of reach.  And it is easy to put God to the side. My sins and regrets can feel overwhelming.

But I boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Indeed I thank God for the struggles. Thank you God!  Thank you God for reminding me that today’s struggles are temporary.  For reminding me that every affliction, pain and difficulty breeds endurance, and endurance leads to proven character, and character to hope.  And hope allows me to be filled with the knowledge of you and your love and your Holy Spirit.

You loved us even when we did not love you.  I love you Lord!  Thank you for providing me with the map I need.  I am blown away by these words:

“Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”  I have hope in the glory of God!

Hope in Heaven

Some messages stand the test of time:

When the time came for Mattathias to die, he said to his sons: “Arrogance and scorn have now grown strong; it is a time of disaster and violent wrath.  Therefore, my children, be zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors.

“Remember the deeds that our ancestors did in their times, and you shall win great honor and an everlasting name. Was not Abraham found faithful in trial, and it was credited to him as righteousness?  Joseph, when in distress, kept the commandment, and he became master of Egypt.  Phinehas our ancestor, for his burning zeal, received the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.  Joshua, for executing his commission, became a judge in Israel.  Caleb, for bearing witness before the assembly, received an inheritance in the land. David, for his loyalty, received as a heritage a throne of eternal kingship. Elijah, for his burning zeal for the law, was taken up to heaven.  Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, for their faith, were saved from the fire. Daniel, for his innocence, was delivered from the mouths of lions. And so, consider this from generation to generation, that none who hope in Heaven shall fail in strength.

Do not fear the words of sinners, for their glory ends in corruption and worms.  Today exalted, tomorrow not to be found, they have returned to dust, their schemes have perished. Children! be courageous and strong in keeping the law, for by it you shall be honored.

1 Maccabees 2:49-64

Thousands of years later, the same advice is pertinent to me and my son.  “Arrogance and scorn have now grown strong; it is a time of disaster and violent wrath.”   No one can argue that these are our times too.

There are so many pitfalls in life.  So many people and things pulling you in different directions, and often pulling away from God.  Promises of glory and happiness and immediate gratification.  “Today exalted” but “tomorrow not to be found.”

It is easy to give in.  So hard to be courageous and strong in keeping God’s law.  As I read about the faithfulness, zeal, innocence, obedience and loyalty of some of the “greats” from the Bible, my eyes keep going back to the same line:  “And so, consider this from generation to generation, that none who hope in Heaven shall fail in strength.”

So many of the Bible’s teachings are really so simple — it is we who make them complicated.

Dear  God,

My hope is in you and in your salvation.  I ask you to help me here on earth.  Please provide me with sufficient grace.  Please provide me with sufficient faith, zeal, innocence, obedience, and loyalty.  Grant me the courage that I may be steadfast despite all of the pulls and promises of today.  It is my tomorrow that I want to focus on.  My hope in heaven.