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The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (NLT)

All of us dream, at one point or another, of being well-known for some type of achievement. We play out our dreams as children. Dreams of being ‘cops or robbers’ or being star athletes or president of the United States. Dreams are the stuff life is made of. As we get older our dreams become more realistic. Sometimes they are buried in the midst of failure and the wounds we receive from others that tell us we’ll never amount to anything…and we believe them. But deep inside of us we never stop dreaming of a better tomorrow.

One day, John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness. He cousin, Jesus the Christ, came out to hear him preach. Even though they were cousins and just a few months apart we don’t really know much about their lives together as children. We do know that John had a special mission to fulfill. His ‘dream’ was to be a preacher, his mission was to make known to others the coming of Messiah.

When John saw Jesus coming he proclaimed, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He could have called him the great healer, for many were healed by his touch. He could have called him a great teacher. Even those who don’t acknowledge him as the son of God admit that he was a tremendous teacher. His methods are still followed today! John even could have proclaimed ‘Look, it’s the creator of the world!”

But he didn’t. John’s words spoke far more loudly of whom Jesus was, “the Lamb of God.” The very term brought a visual that only the Jews of that time could fully understand. When a lamb was born it was checked for flaws. If it was a perfect lamb it was kept until the day of sacrifice. It’s only real purpose in life was to die on the altar for the sins of God’s people.

Jesus was the Lamb of God. He wasn’t born to heal us. He wasn’t born to free us from emotional, physical or political oppression. He wasn’t born to make a great name for himself. He was born to die. His sole purpose for coming was to die for my sin. Life on this earth will be filled with calamity and pain and hardship. There will be days, even years filled with tears more than laughter. But in the midst of all we go through our one constant that we can rely on is that God loved us enough to send Jesus to die so we could live. That was the plan.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, once again I come to you in praise and worship for your desire to come to earth just to die for me. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with life that I forget the huge price you paid for me. I ask that today, you would help me to be in constant remembrance that your sole purpose for coming was to die for me. Let that be my encouragement as I face today’s challenges. In your name I pray, Amen.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

I love the story of ‘The Polar Express’. This simple Christmas story captures the wonder and excitement of the Christmas celebration and the process in which we all come to realize that the wonder of Santa Claus is simply a story that many of us grow out of as we become ‘older and more refined’.

But ‘The Polar Express’ is also a symbol of what happens when hope dies. As we grow older we lose hope in the myth of Santa Claus, but we never lose the dream of ‘what if’. We never lose the wonder of what lay behind those wrapped packages under the tree or the excitement when the gift we made or purchased is celebrated by the one we chose to bless with it.

Losing ‘hope’ in Santa Claus isn’t a terrible tragedy. We learn to outgrow Santa. Losing hope in other areas, on the other hand, can cripple us for life or, at best leave us bruised, battered and hobbling along the path we call life.

We put hope in relationships, careers, and our health. But relationships fail. Jobs come to an end. We come to a point in our lives when we realize…we’re old, and with age can come the realization that some of our dreams just simply will not come true.

Hope fails when our hope is placed in things that, because of time and circumstance, fail. Even the best of relationships will end with death. Jobs and careers change with society. Aging is a natural consequence of time.  

Hope that endures the tests of time can only come through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Relationship isn’t an object, it’s an organism. It’s not something you do; it’s something you work on every day. Hope that is built on a love relationship with God never ever fails because love never fails.

Too often we put our hope in God and when things don’t go the way we ‘hope’ we instinctively play the blame game. God’s an easy one to blame. You can’t see Him. He makes all these claims to be powerful and loving and merciful and just yet, we are surrounded by hate and injustice and death. But in those quiet, brutally honest times with our thoughts we have to admit that the pain we suffer isn’t the result of God, but the actions of evil people around us.

Hope built on God will not spare us the pain and the bruises of life. Hope built on God may not immediately take away the pain of divorce or the crippling action of disease or the consequences of addictive behavior or our poor choices.

Hope built on God will enable us to grow in relationship with Him and help us to endure all the trials of life. Hope in earthly things will fail. Hope in God never fails because all of God’s love is poured out on us through His Spirit and it fills our inner being with peace in the midst of the storm.

PRAYER: Holy God, I look around me and see so many things that have failed in my life. Some of those things are a result of my own stupid choices. Some are result of unrealistic expectations of myself, others or even you. I ask that your Holy Spirit would empower me to place all my hope in you so that I can have the inner peace I need to endure life because of your love. In Jesus name I pray this. Amen.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

Each of us has dreams growing up. We dream of being famous. We dream of having fancy clothes, big homes and vacation homes and being able to travel. Then life hits us and for the vast majority of us we look back and see that little, if anything, went as planned.

Gravity attacks our body with vengeance. Old age reminds us of our mortality. We fall victim to health issues, financial issues or relational issues. We suffer from own poor choices or the abuse of others. Our children struggle. A car accident, a fall, an illness can change things in an instant and all the dreaming and planning is for nothing.

The only thing we can be certain of in life is uncertainty. Even King Solomon, with all his wealth and power, bemoaned the fact that the things in life are empty. Still we plan all these things about tomorrow without really knowing where our next breath will come from. No matter how wise we are and no matter how much we plan for the future, reality is we just can’t see tomorrow.

That’s the bad news. Now for the good news. We have a Heavenly Father who not only sees tomorrow. He created it. Tomorrow may not hold what you’d hoped for or expected, but it is EXACTLY what He expected. There are no surprises with God.

Not only has He been to tomorrow and back, He wants you to succeed. While the consequences of poor choices may have sent you on a detour, He can always bring you back to the main road. Happiness and contentment in life isn’t from the things we hold in our hands, but from the things we hold in our heart.

James doesn’t tell us not to plan. Planning is vitally important. The old adage “If you fail to plan you plan to fail’ isn’t in the Bible but its very true. What James is telling us as Christ-followers is that we need always to include God in those plans and leave room for his working. Our lives are like vapors, like the early morning fog. Here now, gone later. All the material things we’ve done will soon pass. But the lives we change will continue on.

The key to success in live isn’t planning and education or relying on the advice of other people. Success comes by seeking God’s direction for you. Education and the wisdom of those who’ve gone before you is important, but only when combined with seeking God for direction.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. I look behind me and see so many mistakes I’ve made, and I suffer the  consequences of. I fear what lies ahead of me with health, finances and relationships. I thank you that while my life here is short, my life with you will last for eternity. Help me to learn to include you in all my dreams so that I can store my riches with you for eternity. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. Habakkuk 2:3 (NLT)

“What’s taking so long?” A friend of mine is an EMT and is often called away to drive the local ambulance to emergency situations. One time he and I were together when he had to call 9-1-1 to get the ambulance. We waited and waited for what seemed to him like an eternity. He commented to me that “people are always telling us it takes so long to wait for an ambulance. I couldn’t figure that out because I know how fast we respond to the calls. But this is the first time I’ve been on this side and it’s really a long hard wait!”

None of us likes to wait. We are an impatient people. We want new toys so rather than save for it, we check our credit line. We want that new house in the country so we go into more debt than we can handle to get our way. Some people will sacrifice family, relationships and their own integrity to get what they want.

Not only is it hard to wait for physical things, it’s hard to wait for God. We ask for things and expect Him to give us what we want and to give it to us immediately. The problem is, God doesn’t work that way. His time is not our time. He knows the best time and the best way to give us what we need.

There are two things about waiting that are dangerous. One is to sit still and wait, expecting that God’s promises will come to us without any effort on our part. That attitude is like saying that I’ll just wait for God to give me the ability to be a concert pianist. Chances are you won’t make it to the stage without plenty of practice on your part.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. If there is a habit you want to break, a relationship you want to mend or a dream you want to have happen, you have to do your part in the process. Prepare yourself for God’s complete work to happen in you through daily prayer, study of His word and building relationships with people that will help you towards your goal.

God will prosper your dreams in his time and his way. As you grow in relationship with Him, He will give you the inner strength and wisdom to prepare yourself for whatever lies ahead of you.

The second thing that is dangerous about ‘waiting’ is taking matters into your own hands. It’s easy to be so driven by an idea that you are ‘sure’ that God wants you to ‘do this’, ‘go here or there’, or ‘have that’. The painful reality is, sometimes God’s plans for us don’t include the ‘dreams we have’ for our lives. We may want some very good things  and have great motives, but if God isn’t in it, your dreams are doomed to failure. That’s the other reason that walking in close relationship with Him is so important.

Think of your dreams as a seed. You plant the seed in good soil. You water it and make sure it has all it needs to grow, but the actual growth of the plant is a result of God’s actions. Do everything in your power to walk close to Him and let Him honor your work by bringing growth into your life from the inside out.

Trust God. As a loving father He will do what He says He’ll do. Patiently wait for his timing. Work hard to draw close to Him but remember that He is the one that will bring the blessings needed for you to reach your dreams. He wants you to break that habit, resolve that conflict or cancel that debt. But He wants your heart even more!

PRAYER: Father God. I praise you that you know my heart. You know my dreams, talents and abilities. I want my desires to be for your good, but I admit that often I get swayed by selfish desires as well. Keep me pure in my desires for you so that my dreams are your dreams and my timeframe is in agreement with your will. Thank you for loving and supporting me. Amen.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Imagine for a moment your day starting like this.

You groggily reach over to hit the snooze ‘one more time’.  A few extra minutes will seem so good. As you do, you notice the room is filled with an eerie sort of a glow. You look over in the corner and notice a glowing shape sitting in the corner. No chair, it’s still sitting in the corner.

Even though you are only half awake and should be scared out of your wits, something you see in the face of this person not only keeps fear away, but peace and love flood your very soul. You’ve never seen an angel before, but you know this is no angel. This….is GOD!

Before you can speak, He does. “Good morning sunshine!” He says in a gentle, yet firm voice.

You stumble for words and the first words from your mouth you desperately wish you could pull back, but it’s too late. “How long have you been here?” What a stupid thing to ask God.

“I’ve always been here. Watching you all night long. Walking by your side during the day. Cherishing every moment we have together. But today I decided you needed a reminder that I’m real and I’m here.” He moves to the side of your bed and sits beside you, placing His hand gently on your shoulder. “I want you to know that I’ve got your day prepared for you. I’ve looked over every moment and know exactly what is going to happen. There will be some things that concern you, some that trouble you and there will be times that you even doubt my existence. But don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere and everything will work out EXACTLY as I have planned.

“Um, okay” You say as a sick feeling comes across your mind. “About yesterday….I didn’t mean to think those thoughts and I don’t know how I ended up on that website, and I never would have said those words if…”

He lifts your head so that you look Him square in the eyes. You have never seen love like this, or understanding, or compassion. “It’s okay. I know. We talked about this last night before you went to bed, remember? It’s a new day now. I love you. Now come on. You know how rush hour can be. We need to get going.”

A little farfetched? From a human standpoint maybe. But right in the middle of the book of Lamentations, a book that lives up to its name. A book full of sorrow and agony, there’s this little tidbit of truth, a gem sparking in the darkness. God loves you. Every night He watches you sleep. He walks with you throughout your day. He hears the words you speak, sees the sights you see, and is part of every thought that crosses your mind.

Regardless of where you take Him or what you let Him see or hear, or how often you completely forget about His presence, He is there watching, guarding and protecting. Every morning He longs for you to spend some time with Him. He loves you and His love starts out fresh, new and hot every day.

PRAYER: Father God, I praise you for the fact of your presence in my life. I worship you for the fact that you have gone on before me in everything that I do and that nothing in my day today, or any day, surprises you. Forgive me for some of the places I’ve taken you, the words I’ve let you hear or the thoughts you’ve been a part of. Thank you for your love. Help me to ‘see’ your presence throughout my day. Amen.

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