November 26: Because Real Hope Matters

Read Philippians 3:1-14

It had been a rough couple of weeks. Six straight days of an illness for my daughter that led to the emergency room, numerous medical tests and doctors’ appointments. I was exhausted in every sense of the word. Still, there I sat with a car jack, a wrench and a spare tire on a side road. I had run over some unknown object that slashed my tire and left me relying on my dad’s “This Is How You Change a Tire” lessons from years before. Once I got the spare on, I made my way to the tire store where they hooked me up with a new one. Then I drove home.

Strangely unaffected by the stress of the whole thing, I talked to God about it as I drove home. I couldn’t ignore the peace I felt. I could not discredit the hope I somehow experienced that day, even in the midst of what could have amounted to a full-blown breakdown. All I could think about was the truth that knowing Jesus through brokenness was better than “having it all together” while missing a real relationship with the God who loves me more than I can imagine.

It’s the real hope that we’ve been talking about for the past few weeks. Knowing and trusting Jesus Christ and His promise for true and eternal life is not just better than having it all together — it is the only way to live the way we were created to live.

Having a vital, growing, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to have real hope.

Paul knew this. Before he genuinely knew and trusted Jesus Christ with his life, it looked like Paul had everything going for him. He seemed to have the best life possible for himself. But when Jesus called Paul into a personal relationship with Himself and he began to really know Him, Paul realized that knowing Jesus was worth far more than anything else. Paul’s hope was misguided until Jesus stopped him in his tracks and showed him the truth about real hope.

Is your hope misguided like Paul’s was? Or are you convinced that knowing Jesus is more valuable than anything you can imagine? To know His ways, encounter a personal relationship with God and live by the power of His resurrection is worth more than a good reputation, a fully-stocked bank account and a name that impresses people. Is that something you’re willing to admit today?

Why not ask God to show you how this is true? Make a list of all the things you love having and ask Him to show you how knowing Him is better than each one. Then trust Him to show you as you grow closer in your relationship with Him today and experience real hope.

brw

November 25: Bryanna’s Story

Real hope is an actual relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s the life-change that comes from knowing Him. It is the way to get through hard times. It is the focus for a new day, the purpose for walking through a difficult year.

This week we are wrapping up our Real Hope series with real stories of right now from real people who have experienced the life-changing hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.

Today’s story is from Bryanna Starman.

Read Philippians 4:6-7 and 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

For me, hope is the confident assurance that God is faithful. It is trusting that each and every promise that He gives in the Bible is true. When I feel defeated and alone, I know that my God will show up.

I grew up in a Christian home and was taught about hope that is only found in God from the beginning. I did not realize the extent of hope in God and that it applies directly to me until I was in high school. As I went through my high school years, I slowly started to understand that no matter what my circumstances may be, I have someone so much greater to look to. When the pressure to achieve good grades, keep my teachers happy, and fit into the social scene seemed absolutely overwhelming I realized that things in this life are fleeting, but my relationship with Christ will never disappear and will never disappoint.

In high school, anxiety slowly started to creep in and take control of my life. I was held hostage by the crippling thoughts that I never got a break from. I felt the need to please my teachers and friends, and continue to be a ‘normal’ high school student. As the anxious thoughts continued to dominate my life, I soon found myself focusing on my weight. In order to establish some sort of control in my life, I controlled what I ate and how much I exercised. This quickly turned into an eating disorder that impacted my physical and mental health. Not only was I constantly controlled by these thoughts, my body was wasting away and I was at risk of serious medical complications. I felt completely trapped and in chains by my thoughts and anxiety. I did not think that escape would be possible. But, by the grace of God, I found real hope by digging into His Word. He promises to take on our worries and anxious thoughts because He cares for us. It was after I surrendered completely to Him that I was able to experience hope that is certain and only found in Christ.

My life has completely changed because I now understand that the things of this world that I had previously put my hope in will not last. There will always be disappointments and let-downs. The hope that is found in God has allowed me to live in freedom knowing that I am loved by the Creator. Hope has transformed me from the inside out.

November 24: Sarah’s Story

Real hope is an actual relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s the life-change that comes from knowing Him. It is the way to get through hard times. It is the focus for a new day, the purpose for walking through a difficult year.

This week we are wrapping up our Real Hope series with real stories of right now from real people who have experienced the life-changing hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.

Today’s story is from Sarah Roseler.

Read Psalm 50:1-15

I recently experienced a situation that not only changed my life but also taught me what real hope looks like.

It happened last month in October 12th. I got home from my Crossfit class around 8pm. About fifteen minutes later,  I started experiencing  some symptoms of vision loss on my left side, dizziness, and disorientation. I was able to yell to my mom for help.  Recognizing my symptoms as signs of a stroke, she immediately called 9-1-1. I  became more and more disoriented and eventually lost consciousness at home.  Still, I remember my parents praying and crying out to God to spare my life.

I gained consciousness in the ER where I could hear doctors and nurses working quickly. They were trying to find the cause of my stroke. I remember seeing the blurry faces of my parents crying. My boyfriend and our pastor stood  there in the corner. Then the nurse asked me to smile and squeeze her hand. That’s when I realized how serious this was. I couldn’t do either… I was paralyzed on the left side of my body.

Thankfully, because the medical staff worked so quickly and my mom recognized my stroke symptoms at home, I was able to receive  a medication (TpA) that greatly improved my chances for recovery. But Wooster hospital was not equipped to provide the care I still desperately neededso it was decided that I would be life-flighted to Akron City Hospital. I’ll never forget that helicopter ride.

I didn’t understand how a perfectly healthy 28-year-old with no medical issues could have a stroke. I prayed during the entire flight for God not to let me be paralyzed. I felt hopeless. But I also felt an overwhelming peace sweep over me. In that moment, I knew many people had gotten word of the situation and  were praying for me.

When we landed in Akron  I opened my eyes. For the first time since this started I could see again! I asked my flight nurse if I had a stroke, he looked at my astonished. I could talk! I looked down at my hand strapped to the cart and I could move everything on my left side.

The doctor later found out the cause of the stroke — a right vertebral artery dissection. It was a very serious injury to an artery in my neck caused by a movement during my work-out. Being a pediatric nurse, I know medically that injury should’ve left me paralyzed.

But God worked a miracle that night. He taught me to trust Him in the worst situations.

Recovery has not been an easy road. Fear and  anxiety often have a place in my heart but I’m learning to let Jesus handle it.  How do I do that? I place my hope in the solid foundation of the Lord. I trust His goodness over my own feelings. I trust that His plans are always good. I know that  placing my hope in the Lord will never disappoint.

The only real hope is in Jesus Christ, the one who healed me and gave me peace even when it didn’t make sense.

Psalm 50:15 says, “call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you will honor me.” This verse has been a source of comfort and encouragement through the last few weeks. God is always in control. Trusting Him is the only way to have real hope.

November 23: Five Years of Hope (Keith’s Story)

Real hope is an actual relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s the life-change that comes from knowing Him. It is the way to get through hard times. It is the focus for a new day, the purpose for walking through a difficult year.

This week we are wrapping up our Real Hope series with real stories of right now from real people who have experienced the life-changing hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.

Today’s story is from Keith Vandegrift.

Read Ephesians 3:14-21

Five plus years ago hope to me and my wife, Linda, was a world full of certainty, of building tomorrow. The future was raising our wonderful children and living life to the extreme fullest. Not only was our cup overflowing in every direction of life, but we also had the sense of power to maneuver any situation toward our favor.

Then it happened. Hope turned into helplessness when word “cancer” came flying into our existence with death trying to drain our cup. No one could have prepared us for what we would have to face in this extreme journey in our lives with Linda’s diagnosis. 

Linda is no longer living in pain but has gone to her heavenly home. The recent years have taught us that life is full of lessons learned. It has helped me to study the negative items of my life and learn from them. Letting the Lord work through them to raise them into His blessing by seeing how He works in our lives has been a treasured experience, allowing me and my children to grow deeper in relationship with Him and often to share Him with others.

Jesus’ Light breaks into the darkness. How wonderful knowing that He is working out His Glory through us! Based on the knowledge of what we read (and have read) from His Word, we can literally anticipate living out our lives in His hope!

Especially looking back over the last three years I can really see where I was delaying the hope by not letting God come in and take the wheel of my life. You know, these situations absolutely work better God’s way.

God wants to give us His hope. Wishing might not be the best way to approach life. One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20. It says, “Now to Him who is able to do more than we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”  Notice there is no time table.  God has our best solution waiting in heaven, queued up for us. A few of us are able to see glimmers of it on the earth, some sooner than others, simply because we learn to anticipate His presence in our circumstances.

November 22: Tara’s Story

Real hope is an actual relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s the life-change that comes from knowing Him. It is the way to get through hard times. It is the focus for a new day, the purpose for walking through a difficult year.

This week we are wrapping up our Real Hope series with real stories of right now from real people who have experienced the life-changing hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.

Today’s story is from Tara Brenneman.

Read James 1:2-8; Mark 9:23

“Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Ps. 42:5, NIV).

Some years ago,  a doctor gave me a medical diagnosis. He said it could be hard for me to get pregnant. Wow! Not something most women want to hear. Getting married and being a mom was something I’d wanted. At the time, though, I was single, so being a mom was not a top priority. Not yet. I knew that getting pregnant could be hard. But I also knew that God was bigger than infertility. He could do this.

Fast forward about five years  when I met my husband. We married in September, 2010.  The following summer we started trying to start a family. On Christmas Day, 2011, we received an amazing a gift — a positive pregnancy test! It didn’t take long to form an attachment to this growing bambino. So you can imagine our heartbreak at nine-and-a-half weeks, when we lost our first child through miscarriage. To say I was confused would be an understatement. I mean, I knew He’d let this happen medically, but I couldn’t understand why God didn’t stop it.

We had started going to an ABF group at church a short time before this. When we shared with our group about our loss, various people told us they had also either miscarried, lost a child, or struggled with infertility. Wow! It was hard to say this was a coincidence. God knew what we needed, and He showed us His love and faithfulness by providing support during a difficult time. What a help that was!

After time, with no pregnancy, we decided to seek help from a fertility doctor where we learned of more medical challenges than we had initially realized. And so throughout the next eighteen months, we endured blood work, testing, surgery, procedures, shots, rounds of medications. We also endured one negative pregnancy test after another, along with discouragement and sadness.

At the time, I worked as a preschool teacher assistant. One day, one of my students told me I was going to have a baby soon. Another day, another student hugged me and said, “I know there’s a baby in there!” Clearly, this had my attention! About three weeks later,  it was time to take another pregnancy test. It was the week before Mother’s Day. I tried to prepare myself mentally for whatever the result may be. Scared to look, I finally did, and . . . wait a minute . . . this one said . . . pregnant!!!! I had waited so long to see that word!! When our baby boy was born in January, 2015, the evidence of what we had hoped for became reality! (See Psalm 139.)

God did it! He showed us that He is able, just as He is able for you and your circumstance. Real hope only comes from Him!

November 21: Mike’s Story

Real hope is an actual relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s the life-change that comes from knowing Him. It is the way to get through hard times. It is the focus for a new day, the purpose for walking through a difficult year.

This week we are wrapping up our Real Hope series with real stories of right now from real people who have experienced the life-changing hope that can only come through Jesus Christ.

Today’s story is from Mike Molter.

Read Psalm 46:1-11

In February of this year I found out I have a disease called MDS. It affects the bone marrow and blood where not enough good cells are produced. The only real treatment is a stem cell transplant and there has to be a donor that matches your immune system. So far, no match has been found for me. I’ve always been healthy and I expected to have many more years. Now, I don’t know.

I’ve shared many times about Jesus and the hope and love that are found through a relationship with Him, and I know I have the hope of spending eternity in heaven because of what Jesus has done for us. The hard part is the here and now, day by day. Some days, especially early on, I get very down. We’ve been very blessed and I have so much to be thankful for, so I try to focus on that and other blessings. I also try to focus on only one day at a time, as the Bible tells us to do, and that helps. What has given me the greatest lift is spending time in Jesus’ presence and asking Him to lift us up. And He does. I’ll spend time reading the Bible, praying and sometimes just being quiet (still). Proverbs 3:5 has given me great hope: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

I also find hope by writing down verses about how huge God’s love for us is and how nothing can ever change that (Romans 8:35-39). I love how He tells me that I am in His hands and nothing can ever remove me. (See John 10:28-29.) What an incredible hope to be guaranteed eternity with Jesus in a place that is beyond our wildest dreams (See Ephesians 1:13-14.)

Someone also shared with me these great words of hope from Romans 15:13: “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.”

The key for hope is trust. Trusting God that He will do what He says He will do and trusting in His promises.

Life is difficult right now and I am uncertain what will happen to me in this life but Jesus is always available. He is always with us. He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us and I believe Him.

November 20: The Challenge to Hope

Read Hebrews 11:1-40

It’s a challenge to hope.  To focus our sight on the only One who can handle it. It’s a charge to live with real hope.

I look through the list, read of Abraham’s courage to believe the promise God gave him, to hope beyond hope and relocate to foreign lands and unknown territory. I see Noah’s bravery to face the ridicule and speak against the status quo.

They did it because of real hope.

Each one did more than merely survive. All of them lived according to the certainty of the hope they held.

It led them to life beyond what anyone could have predicted. It took them through the fear that holds back and straight to God’s plan for abundance and real life.

Each of them had much to lose. Often their very lives were at stake. Still, they kept going because of where they fixed their focus. They stayed the course God on which God had set them because of real hope.

The people mentioned in Hebrews 11 set their sights on God’s promise, unafraid of what they might face because they knew the certainty of what lay ahead. Almighty, always faithful God had more abundance and real life in store for them than any horror they might walk through this side of eternity.

And this is real hope.

That’s how Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (v27).

Real hope. It’s the certainty of what God has promised. It goes hand-in-hand with faith. And real hope only comes by a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

Over the next few days, we will find stories of people whose relationships with Jesus Christ have given them focus for real life even through tough and trying times. As you read them, consider taking on the challenge to find real hope in the only place you can. Take Jesus at His Word, hold onto His promise and live.

brw

 

November 19: Hope for the Ethiopian Eunuch

Read Acts 8:26-40

I was ten years old and unsure about God’s feelings for me. I’d accepted His gift of forgiveness as a five-year-old, but I’d sinned a lot since then. I’d done shameful, hurtful things, and I felt guilty. Then somehow I found this verse in a tiny book at the back of the Old Testament.

“He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17b).

God has used the truth of that verse to speak life and real hope to me ever since He showed it to me. Believe me, nothing I have done deserves that kind of love, especially not from the One true God.

I wonder if that’s how the Ethiopian eunuch felt as he sat in his chariot reading words from Scripture he wanted so desperately to understand. He had little hope when it came to spiritual matters. Although he’d traveled more than 200 miles for the express purpose of worship, he was neither a Jew nor a convert to Judaism. In fact, being a eunuch, he would never be allowed to enter the temple of God. (See Deut. 23:1.) He had literally nothing going for him when it came to spiritual matters. Just a eunuch from a land the Jews considered the end of the earth.

Still, God took great measures to ensure this man heard the good news about Jesus Christ. He sent Philip, gave him the words to say and pulled this Ethiopian eunuch right into a personal relationship with Himself. The God of the universe delighted in a eunuch from Ethiopia so much that he worked out every last detail so he would know.

He wanted this man to know real hope.

As the treasurer for his country’s queen, this man from Ethiopia likely had access to everything royal. He did not lack riches. But his soul lacked hope until he heard and believed the truth about Jesus Christ.

Do you know this kind of hope? Maybe you’re like the Ethiopian eunuch and have nothing spiritual to offer Him but your desire to know. God delights in you! Maybe you feel like you don’t feel like you fit in with other church-goers. God sings about you!

Yes, God delights in you just like He delighted in the Ethiopian eunuch. He so desperately wants you to know real hope that He will go to great measures to tell you. In fact, He went to the greatest of measures when He sent His Son Jesus Christ to the cross for the sole purpose of bringing you into a relationship with Himself!

That’s how much He delights in you! That’s how badly He wants you to know real hope!

How will you respond?

brw

 

November 18: Hope of an Advocate

Read Acts 6:8-7:60

Although most anyone would be able to deliver food, the early church was very selective when it came to the character of those who helped in that ministry.  Stephen was one of the men chosen.  But his job description of serving meals to widows was vastly different from the miracle working/evangelist/teacher roles that he also played.  He seemed to understand that his meals on wheels ministry was subordinate to the call to make disciples…and so he invested in both!

What is your ministry?  Would you define it as a “support role” less obviously and less directly attached to disciple-making?  Rocking babies?  Counting money?  Caring for facilities?  Setting up the stage?  Serving food?  Those are vitally important!  You can be making a great contribution to the Great Commission even though the connection isn’t as direct.  Meanwhile, don’t excuse your direct involvement.  Pray for your “five.”  Engage in evangelistic relationships and opportunities.  Share biblical truth with those in your world.

As Stephen served faithfully on two fronts, some didn’t like what they heard.  They saw him as a threat to Old Testament Judaism.  He wasn’t the first to experience opposition. Peter and James had made enemies in chapter 4.  But Stephen was the first recorded individual since the ascension of Jesus to be executed for his faith in Christ.

If you read the story, however, you know that he died seemingly fearless and hopeful. While others gnashed their teeth, his gaze penetrated heaven, the dwelling place of God. Even though others had brought accusations against him…in spite of the fact that they were about to condemn him to death…there, at the right hand of God, Stephen saw His Savior. He saw the One who had died and been raised. He saw Him, Who intercedes on behalf of His saints (Rom. 8:33, 34). He saw the One, Who was his hope. As a result, he gathered strength to navigate faithfully and even graciously through those final moments of his life as the target of the anger of others.

Take courage in knowing that every Christ-follower has the assurance of a loving Savior at the right hand of the Father. There He intercedes on behalf of His disciples…even in the darkest of times. We find hope in that reality.

sbk

November 17: Man Blind From Birth

Read John 9:1-34

Have you ever lost sight of the “why”? Have you ever got caught into the tediousness of logistics that you forget why it is you are doing what you’re doing? At times, we can become like little children and respond to everything with “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” There is no doubting that we have a desire to know the “why” before we choose to get involved. We want to know the end game, the resulting product.

Many people fall away from a project or movement when we lose sight of the “why”. We get so overwhelmed with the “how” that we choose to disengage ourselves from a potentially life changing experience.

If you read through the New Testament, you can see that a certain group of people struggled with this same idea. During Jesus’ ministry, the religious leaders of the day struggled balancing their legalistic approach to faith to the new grace approach Jesus was teaching about. It seems that no matter how clear Jesus preached to them, they always seemed to fail to understand this new way of thinking. A great example of this is found in John 9.

When you read about Jesus healing this man, it seems to be just another miracle that Jesus performs. However when the Pharisees point out that Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath, a real problem arises. According to Jewish law, anyone that performs any physical work on the Sabbath receives a sure death sentence.

The Pharisees see this problem and go to the man for a solution, questioning who it was that healed him. When they don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer, the chapter climaxes with the man’s response of, “Whether he (Jesus) is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” You see, the Pharisees were bogged down with the “how” and the rules they lost sight of the “why”.

How often do you find yourself getting sidetracked from the goal? How often do you allow your personal feelings to get in the way of your participation is a life changing movement? Just as hope was offered to this man, the same hope is offered to us. Don’t allow the little things to influence you to step away from life change. God is changing lives. People are moving from darkness to light. God is up to something great. Will you be a part of it?

jdl