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Posts Tagged ‘hope is an anchor’

The most difficult care conversations are those where people have lost hope.  Hope is an anchor.  Hope keeps us from being lost when the storms of life break over us and threaten to destroy us.  Persons who lose hope are vulnerable to multiple temptations that will only make bad situations worse.  The downward spiral that is hopelessness is difficult to break once the path is set.  This is when the life-giving words of Jesus are so important to hold on to.  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 NIV.

Yesterday we prayed with a man whose family has experienced two suicides within the course of a month.  This is the ultimate losing hope.  Two of my friends then shared nuggets of gold which I want to share with you today.  First Doug, a teacher for many years, mentioned an experiment that he has read about.  Laboratory mice were subjected to a stress test that measured the impact of hope.  The mice were placed in a tank filled with enough water that the mice were forced to swim.  For one group of mice the tank was then covered with a box that completely sealed off the light.  The average lifespan of the mice in the dark box was 3 minutes before they drowned.  The second group of mice were treated the same except for a small hole in the box which allowed a small amount of light to enter the box.  The average lifespan of these mice was 36 hours.  Such is the power of hope.

As Doug finished, Greg asked if we had a good definition of hope.  I think I said it was a belief that things would be better in the future.  Greg said hope is H.O.P.E – Holding On to Promises Eternal.  My definition could be true, but it could just as easily be the definition for wishful thinking.  In reality, that’s what a lot of people accept as hope.  But Greg’s definition is tied to something solid… something that has stood the test of time and proven true.

So, I want to share with you some of the Promises Eternal that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt to be true.

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”  God speaks this to several people in the bible.  He spoke it to me in Sept of 1983 in a small chapel at Camp Hartner in the piney woods of central Louisiana.  This is the first and foundational promise of my faith journey.  I pitched my anchor trusting it would hold fast in this promise.  It has for over 34 years.  I am certain it will hold into eternity.

“I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and future.”  Jeremiah 29:11.  The Lord kept this verse in my thoughts the entire week when I was told my job was eliminated in 2007.

‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ‘  Isaiah 41:10.  The Lord clearly gave me this verse as I was about to go to work one morning fully expecting to hear that my team was being downsized.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. ‘  Matthew 6:33.  In this simple admonition, Jesus gave the recipe for prioritizing life which ensures my needs are met.  While there have been a few times that my wants went unsatisfied, I’ve never missed anything of significant value.  One of the things I’ve learned about “wants” is they usually have a great big “I” in the middle of them and they don’t advance God’s purposes in my life or the life of those around me.  Yet with a few unfulfilled wants, there have been numerous times when God’s blessings have absolutely overflowed into my life and the lives of those I know and love.

‘Come to Me, all you 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.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve “limped home” to hear the Father whisper the words “Rest in Me.”  He has always carried the bulk of the load.  At times I’ve attempted to shoulder more than I was supposed to and forge on in my strength.  Yet in His gracious mercy, He has always been right there to step in as soon as I realize my error and lean into Him.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.’  Proverbs 3:5-6.  Again there have been times when I’ve gotten focused upon my plan, my work, my way that I’ve lost track of God’s call and purpose.  But He is faithful to His promise here and when I turn to Him fully committing my heart and ways to Him, He has always, ALWAYS been there to guide and direct me.

‘Delight yourself also in the Lord , And He shall give you the desires of your heart.’ Psalms 37:4.  I’ve learned that deepening my relationship with the Lord – delighting in Him, has been the greatest blessing of life.  At times I can clearly see how martyrs and the persecuted saints through the ages have been able to worship God even in the face of intense personal pain and suffering.  He gives eyes to see things unseen.  He causes our hearts to know of things eternal.  He changes our heart so that His desires become our desires.  He accomplishes those things that will bring about His glory and our joy.

I meant to keep this to a short post, but I have failed again.  Please forgive me.  While I am just getting warmed up, I know it is time to sign off for today.  Before I do, I would be remiss not to emphasize, these are your promises too.  God loves with an overwhelming love.  He has written His love story for you as well as for me.  Every promise of God is true and you can rely on them.  Wherever you are in life, you can pitch your anchor into God’s Promises Eternal and that anchor will hold.  Jesus gave His life for you and He gives His promises to you.  That my friend is HOPE.  That my friend is for you.

Blessings to you today.

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Hope is one of the most precious of virtues.  Hope is the warm, gentle breeze in late winter that let’s us know spring is coming.  Hope is the bridge across fiery trials that gets us safely home.  Hope is an anchor when all around is chaos and tumult so that we are not blown away and crushed in despair.  Hope lifts us when anything, perhaps everything, tries to weigh us down.  Like several of the most crucial virtues of life, Hope is a gift from God and it is an attribute that is built and solidified as we walk with God.

The scriptures are full of hope.  Job is one of the oldest, if not the oldest recorded book in the bible.  Job’s story is one of great abundance lost.  In his misery Job has the dubious pleasure of three friends coming to comfort him.  They sit with Job for a week before their patience gets the best of them and they begin to explain to Job why all these bad things happened to him.  So in addition to his loss Job is now dealing with people he has considered friends giving rebukes and advice rather than comfort and hope.  Job does demonstrate a degree of pride and even anger, but he also expresses that virtue which helps carry him through, “Though He (God) slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15)  No matter what happens Job is going to stake his future on God and His character.  And that is a very safe thing to do.

Pastor P has been preaching about the three Hebrew slaves in Babylon who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold idol and were thrown into a blazing furnace.  The king gave them one final chance to renounce their rebellion against his command and save themselves but this was their reply.  “O Nebuchadnezzar we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan 3:16-18)  Theirs was a faith in God and a settled hope that God would deliver them either from the fire or through it.  And He did.

Hebrews 11 is often called the hall of faith as the writer catalogs a virtual hall of fame of faith.  The chapter begins with these words, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1) Faith in God and the Hope that I am describing today are inextricably linked.  In many cases faith is the action we take and hope is the foundation from which that faith springs and the product that faith delivers.  But it is able to deliver because it is real, God really does show up.

In Romans 5:1-5 Paul places hope and faith into perspective.  “Therefore since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also 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.”

One of the greatest stories of hope in my life began in January of 2007.  After working in a paper mill for 17 years in various maintenance leadership roles I had taken a position as a corporate staff person.  I had been working in my new role for about 6 months when rumors began circulating that the group I was attached to was going to be either downsized or eliminated.  (Note: Rumors are torpedos purposed with scuttling faith and sinking hope!)  Just before Christmas I was shipped back to my old mill to give them help through a major outage.  While I did this willingly, this tended to reinforce the idea that my corporate staff job was disappearing.  If they could live without me for 2 months why was I necessary.  While I was away on assignment the rumors grew even stronger.

At the mill I was offered a position and part of the sales pitch the manager gave was “because it appears your job is going away”.  I was fairly satisfied with the new corporate role I was in and I definitely resist being bullied into things.  I put off the manager and completed the outage support without addressing his offer.  The day after the outage was over the announcement came that our company was merging with our biggest competitor.  Even at the time most of us considered this troubling news at best.  I then called the manager to discuss his job offer.  His reply was, “Things have changed and that offer is no longer on the table.”  My first thought after I hung up was “Oh boy, I might have screwed up”.  But I gave this up to God and put my trust in Him.  I don’t know about everyone else, but for me crisis, particularly ones that I know have the potential of negatively impacting the persons I love tend to force me to my knees in prayer.  And that is where I went.

In the few days I had before I reported back to my corporate job I had plenty of time to consider walking in to a pink slip and what would I do.  It’s funny because usually I am a big planner.  I try to anticipate difficulties and avoid them or at least prepare for them.  When I go camping or I travel I usually take too much stuff just for this reason.  Yet in this instance I remember specifically just going to the Lord in prayer.  I was walking into this knowing that I was trusting in God to somehow see me through.  It was a walk of faith… I am not saying it was an amazingly strong faith, just an acceptance that I could not control what was going to happen, but the God who I served was big enough to see us through no matter what happened.

On Monday morning I got up early and had a good quiet time with the Lord.  As I finished my devotion I fixed my bowl of cereal and then bowed my head to say the blessing.  As soon as I bowed my head God spoke to my heart, “Dan, I love you.”  I picked my head up and I said, “Thank you Lord.”  I bowed my head a second time and the Holy Spirit spoke a second time and said, “Dan, I am with you.” I picked my head up again and repeated, “Thank you Lord.”  It was very encouraging to know that on this day that I was expecting to go in and be told my job was eliminated that God was affirming me.  I bowed my head a third time and the Lord spoke, “Isaiah 41:10”.  At that time I did not know that scripture although today I hold it as one of my life verses.  I slid the bible I had been reading over to me and I looked up Isaiah 41:10… “So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

As I sit here a little over 5 years later I am almost overwhelmed with the goodness of God.  I did not know what was ahead, but God did.  And He knew that I would need to KNOW He was there as the tumult of the ensuing years came.  And He provided an anchor that morning that I could look back to as the coming weeks, months, and years unfolded and KNOW that God was walking it with me.

My job did not end that day, but changes began within a couple of weeks.  Surprisingly I got a promotion about 2 weeks later although not in the best of ways.  About 8 months after this I, and most of my coworkers were told our jobs had been eliminated.  However they needed us to stick around through the transition.  On many occasions during this time thoughts of the uncertainty I was walking through would try to discourage me, but I always went back to Isaiah 41:10.  It was SO COOL.  I had job offers to go to different locations within the company during this time, but praying through them I did not have a peace about taking them so I turned them down.  Finally about 5 months before my job was to officially end the new VP I was reporting to flew down to make me a job offer.  He said I could continue to do what I was doing, the only thing I had to do was relocate to another part of the state.  He also said this was absolutely the last chance for me to continue with the company, there would be no other offers coming.  And to sweeten the offer he said they would implement the home relocation for me.  Although I hadn’t mentioned it before, we were living in a small rental house and trying to sell our home back in Tennessee… had been for over a year.  So the offer seemed like a good one and logic said to take it.  But I asked for time to pray about the decision.

It seems kind of counter-intuitive, but one of the surest signs for me that I am doing the right thing is when logic is so clear to take one path, but an overwhelming peace descends when I consider an alternate path.  The decision was prayer soaked and the peace was in telling the VP “No” to the job offer.  In fact as I awoke the morning after he gave me the offer, in those first moments of wakefulness I thought about accepting the job and finally getting settled after about 2 years of family disruption.  The feeling I had was just blah!  I could not picture it and be happy.  So I turned my thoughts toward saying No to the job offer and losing my last hope for staying with the company I had been with for almost 20 years.  And that I would have to find a job somewhere.  And peace absolutely flooded my soul.  It was amazing and even a little bit funny.  I remember chuckling more than once about God’s way of breaking me from needing to be in control so much.  (Yes I admit this has been a challenge for me, but I am better than I used to be, and through God’s grace I am going to be better than I am today.)

Needless to say I turned down the offer.  At the time I knew at least a few persons were encouraged by my walk of faith.  I could see God’s hand in that.  But I still didn’t have a job or prospects.  The walk of faith had to continue.

About a month later the old VP that I had been working for, Larry, mentioned that he knew an opening existed in a corporate group for a Reliability Manager.  This actually fit my skill set better than the CMMS Manager role I was currently in.  I interviewed with 4 or 5 persons about the position.  The gentleman that was to be my manager seemed very positive so I left with a fairly high degree of confidence that I might still get to stay with the company.  About a month after this another management reorganization took place and that manager was no longer in mix.  I waited but I heard nothing about the job I hoped for.  Meanwhile the clock was ticking toward my end date.  I realized that logic was saying, “Dan, you better find a job”.  Yet I was not motivated to do so.  I cannot say whether this was laziness on my part or simply an assurance that God was directing my steps, but I did not have anything lined up for when my job ended.  Five days before my job was to end, I received a phone call from one of the other VP’s I had interviewed with for the corporate Reliability Manager position.  He asked if I was still interested in the position to which I replied that I had not found another job yet.  He said very good and then he hung up.  I have to chuckle because he didn’t tell me I had the job, but I had seen God move so much in my work life in the previous days, months, and years that I knew this was working out just as God had planned.  An HR person called the next day and we worked out the details.  And the job has been a great job… a great fit with my skill set and an exciting way to provide a real benefit to my company.

I do not know how I would have made it through that time though if God had not given me the specific word at the beginning of this chaotic time.  I went back to that time and again for encouragement.  There were many times during that process (and since as well) when God would provide just the right amount of encouragement to continue and the hope to lift me closer to Him.

While this is a rather long post, I believe that my story is meant to help others to know that God loves them and He is with them.  God’s love for me and the hope He has given me is real and tangible.  But it is not limited to me or to any group.  It is freely offered to anyone and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.  If you are not a believer I encourage you to call out to God and ask Him to make Himself known to you.  God is and He will reveal Himself if you ask and seek Him.  Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  And you will find as I have that God is the giver of Hope, a Hope that grows, a Hope that fills, a Hope that lifts.

If you are a believer then you already know that Jesus loves you and He wants the very best for you.  I encourage you to ask God to expand your faith and grow a deep hope within you.  This won’t be without trials, but I am learning that trials are the surest means of gowing and the greatest source of blessings there is.

Father this morning I ask that You lift my brother and my sister with Your Hope.  That You would bouy them above the challenges of the day and that You would affirm in them Your love, Your peace, and Your great goodness towards them.  Lord make yourself real in a tangible way like You did for me when I was facing the most severe and prolonged trial of my life thus far.  You are awesome and I ask that You meet them at the point of their need.  Thank You Lord that You hear our prayers and that You respond in Your perfect way.  To You be the glory, honor, power, and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

God bless you all today!

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