Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Monday, April 20, 2009

The God of Hope

Sorry, its been a while since I have posted anything of substance on my blog. I guess that's because it takes time to sit and gather my thoughts and allow God to speak to me. He likes me to sit quietly and listen to Him...I don't do enough of that. SO, he hit me over the head at church on Sunday with a fabulous message from our pastor. I want to share the cliff notes with you as I also update you on the crazy going ons around here.

Appropriately enough, the message was about hope (as some of you brighter ones may have already figured out! Good for you, you are paying attention, you were probably straight A students...can't relate!) How perfectly timed considering what our family, our church, our police department (we will always think of CRPD as ours!), and our country are going through right now.

Our pastor gave us six keys to overcome hopelessness (and I even wrote them down so I wouldn't mess them up because I knew I wanted to share this with all of you):
1) The God we serve is the God of HOPE! We are not self sufficient (shocking revelation isn't it??) Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

2) God is for ME! He is for my marriage, my children, my job (or lack thereof), my leisure activities, everything! He is on MY team! Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
And Romans 8:35-39 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. I had a light bulb moment when he discussed the difference between pruning (done to grow us and make us more fruitful) and discipline (done to draw us away from our sin into the light of salvation and forgiveness). I already knew those things, the light bulb came on when he explained that these 2 things LOOK and FEEL EXACTLY THE SAME. AND, they both serve the same purpose in the end, to make us more like Jesus. So, when those trials come, I don't need to ask why, I just need to submit myself to the shears, whether they are for pruning or disciplining, I need to look hard into my life and see if I am nurturing a pet sin, or if I am walking with Him, and grow from the experience. HOW can I do that???? I often ask that of God. I tell Him, "Wow, I don't know what you are trying to get through to me, but I want to get it quickly so I can move past this and not endure this trial again!" I am sure He gets a great giggle out of that one! "If she only knew...", I am sure He's thinking! Which leads me to the next point.

3) Keep your eyes on Jesus! Just that easy, right?? No? Yeah, NO!! Hebrews 12:2
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
This is where healing can begin! Proverbs 3:5-8 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

4) Beware of the enemy! I Peter 5:8
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
He is real, and if you are a follower of Christ who is trying to walk in the light, he will target you! Be ready! II Corinthians 2:10-11 And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, 11 so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes. We need to be familiar with his schemes so we are not outsmarted!

5) Avoid isolation. Galatians 6:2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. It is not a suggestion, its a command that we share our burdens and be transparent about our struggles. WOW, how many people do that well????

6) Don't take shortcuts. Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Its pretty rare that the path God wants us to take is the shortcut, or the easy way out! I love one thing Matt said, "God is never for us breaking the rules." Its usually not convenient to remember that though!

I love this illustration to highlight the point of keeping our eyes on Jesus and off of our circumstances. He told of a man shipwrecked as the only survivor on an uninhabited island. Stranded, he foraged around and made some shelter and gathered food and soon learned to hunt and fish to feed himself and to make tools and other necessities out of the elements available to him. One night as he was heading back to his "home" he was devastated to find it in flames. All of his hard work and possessions were lost in that moment. He was utterly devastated and without hope. At that point, he fell asleep on the beach. He awoke the next morning to footsteps and voices. In disbelief he stared at a ship just off shore. The crew told him they were there to rescue him because they had seen his smoke/signal for help! Your life might be ON FIRE right now and that may be the smoke signal that brings rescue! Just when things seem hopeless, Jesus wants to be our HOPE! He is our HOPE for rescue from death and evil and sin in this world. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

We have faced a hopeless situation in regard to our housing. We have not found anything available that is comparable to where we are for the same price. We haven't tried to see if anyone will come down (as they did with our current house) yet, but it looks hopeless. We still haven't heard about the house across the street either. We are choosing to keep our eyes on Jesus and ask you to continue to storm the gates on our behalf that we will witness a miracle, either in our own attitudes (in accepting moving to a less desirable neighborhood, smaller home, etc), or in the home owner's who hold our fate in their hands. We know God is in control and has great plans for us!

Officer Tim Davis (Cedar Rapids Police Department) is slowly improving. Here is today's update from his wife:

"Tim is doing very well, he can get in and out of his wheel chair by himself, walk with very little assistance and talk very softly. He has 3-4 hours of therapy a day, six days a week and each day he improves. They have not yet stated how long we will be here but Tim is impressing everyone he meets. Visitors are still limited to family and close friends and the best times to visit are after 6 on week days and afternoon on weekends. During meal times is difficult because Tim needs to concentrate on eating and we have been spending time with the boys for dinner. Visitors on the weekend keep Tim busy but he is easily tired so visits should stay short. Thank you to everyone that has organized, volunteered or attended a benefit for Tim, he is slowly becoming aware of what is going on and can't believe the support."

Against the odds, he is recovering and doing much better than expected already! Praise the Lord! Thank you for your faithful prayers!

My friend Erin's twins are doing very well! Little Sophia went home quite a while ago (forgive me Erin for not knowing the exact date!) and Isaac is making great progress in the past week! He finally scooched his buns over the 5 pound hurdle! It was a magic number for him! Please continue to pray for him, and for Erin and Matt and their older girls Grace and Elizabeth as they deal with the NICU stresses and also have found themselves in the middle of a mission field (isn't that just like God???) there.

Agape's plane remains grounded in Eleuthera, Bahamas. They are searching for another engine and a replacement loaner engine is just finishing up an overhaul so Agape can use it until the true replacement is found. They are hoping to go down this week to replace the engine and bring back the blown one. This will cost over $150,000. Agape just pledged to be debt free and used their reserves to accomplish it. This situation also looks hopeless. Please pray that discouragement will not gain a foothold at Agape. With God on our side, we can not fail! They are continuing to make all of the scheduled flights and were even able to continue with plans to fly in American food (ribs, hot dogs and burgers with all the fixins, plus an incredible treat--ice cream!) to Haiti for an appreciation picnic for missionaries in Port Au Prince. Paul, Charlie, Stephanie, Rod, Janet, Teresa, Robin, Stan, Jenny, Marilyn, Louisville (Sam), Heather and Chad went to Haiti last Wednesday to treat the missionaries, minister to them, and further relations between them and Agape Flights. I sent him with a camera, so watch for a post by Paul about his trip! He gets back in less than one hour!! YIPEE!

And after reading MckMama's blog tonight, I have to add some of her prayer requests to mine as well. I have followed her since July when her baby in her tummy (as we say at this house) was sick with too fast of a heart rate and was not expected to live. A miracle happened and he recovered without any of the bad heart rhythm until several weeks ago when it reared its ugly head again. Stellan (her 5 month old baby boy) will undergo an ablation tomorrow inside his heart to try to eliminate the electrical pathway of the bad rhythm. This is very risky for someone so small and the odds are stacked against them, but they are not hopeless! This family is a strong Christ following family and have used this trial to draw closer to Jesus. Here are her requests before Stellan's procedure tomorrow: "Would you pray that Dr. A will have wisdom as to if he should move forward with the ablation after the esophageal study? If he does move forward, would you pray that he will have clarity of mind as far as how aggressive to be with the ablation in order to fix Stellan's problem without putting him at undue risk for complications. Would you pray that the tiny catheters the doctors use will not nick Stellan's coronary artery? Would you pray for peace for me and my husband? Would you pray that heart block will not occur during the surgery? Would you pray that the extra pathways Stellan has will be located and successfully destroyed? Will you pray that, if they need to go through his septum, that it will heal as it should? Would you pray that in the days after the surgery (In infants, coronary damage sometimes doesn't appear for up to three days, so we'll be here for the rest of the week at least it looks.) we will cling to Jesus and not to fear?

I was hoping that it wouldn't come to this. I am not going to lie at all, I am scared and have a pit in my stomach that will not go away. But peace like a river washes over me time and time again as I turn my eyes back on Jesus.

'For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.' 2 Timothy 1:7 "

Finally, on a little lighter note, but also hopeless, is Gabe and Riley's baseball team. They are winless this season. I told you about Matt working with the boys and they have had some major success with batting (I think they just needed a little confidence!) Riley has had a couple triples, Holden hit a home run, and Gabe has hit solidly driving in runs and getting doubles every at bat! The kids on the team are finally starting to catch it too. Its like they decided that it was more fun to try to hit the ball than watch all the pitches go by PRAYING for a walk. The others are starting to get hits as well! Saturday they came back from a 1-10 deficit to make it a heart breaker at 9-11! I am proud of them and their willingness to stick with it and keep trying, even in the face of hopelessness! I know they are learning about a characteristic of God that I am also getting a crash course in, and that is perseverance!

I don't know what you are going through right now. Are you facing a hopeless situation too? I would LOVE the opportunity to pray for you. I would count it a privilege. (I might even learn how to spell that word! I swear I have got to come up with a different word because I can NEVER spell it right the first time! Thank you God for spell check!) Would you please leave a prayer request in my comments? I love each of you reading this with the love of Christ!


Lynn Anderson said...

Thanks for the lesson. Great stuff to chew on and learn.
We love you and we are lifting you up to Him. Please keep praying for our supporters. See you soon.

Anonymous said...

Praise God that Paul and the Agape crew returned safely from Haiti, I know how much you and the kids missed him. Thank you for the "word" on many things and "Hope" is at the top of the list for me, as I always strive to keep there. The prayers have begun for your precious baby friend and what he and his family face. Once again, the Great Physician is in charge. I also am praying for your housing situation and that the right changes, (if any) must be made. Congrats to the boys for their diligence and perserverance, hooray for them. We too have kept up with the progress of Tim Davis and praise God for his ongoing, strong recovery process.
Love and hugs to all,
G. & P. P.

Richard and Becky said...

Thanks for the reminder Travis! It is exactly what I needed right now! God is hope and my eyes are fixed on Him!

We will continue to pray for you and your family in regards to housing too. Thanks for updates on other prayer requests!

Rikki said...

What a great post, Travis! I read #2 from the sermon-- "God is for me" and I cheered because I say that ALL the time to remind myself. Then I read farther and saw the word "pruning". Cue the Twilight Zone music. I am so tired of seeing that word in these past 48 hours. Yes, hopeless is where my flesh wants to sit but every once in awhile the Holy Spirit revs me up and I recall the armor and weapons given me. Thanks for being another reminder. Love you!

Cindy and company said...

Don't know if I can type this with tears in my eyes...Thank you Travis, for such encouragement! Thank you for the reminder of the God we serve. And please please pray for me. Pray that I would succomb to the lesson God wants to teach me--I know what I have to do, but am unwilling to do it. Please pray for my children who witness their mother's suffering everyday and have to live through it too. Please pray for my marriage. Who knows why this man stands by me? And above all, pray that I would once again fall in love with Jesus and trust him with all my heart. Love you.

sara said...

Oh, sweet friend - I am praying for you as I type. I know how hard it is when darkness falls and it seems as if there isn't any hope. Obviously when we HOPE it is an uphill climb.

I love that we serve a God that CARES about planes on islands and small babies & housing and baseball teams - HE DOES!!!! Thank you for sharing what God is whispering in your ear in this time.

I am truly praying that you find a new home soon..We have shared many of the same struggles. God has really placed on our hearts in all the "foundering" that we have done - that this is not our home - HE is preparing our home..

And let's GO TEAM for the boys :) Really!!!

Big Hugs,

Anonymous said...

We continue to uplift you and your family as well as the Agape Flight family to the throne of grace. Yes, Grace. How we don't trust enough and don't let God do a marvelous work in our lives every day. We need that reminder that He is full of Grace, Love and Mercy in ALL situations in our lives. Thanks for sharing your sermon from Sunday too. Barb Wilson