“The Lord will watch over your coming and your going both now and forevermore.” ~Psalm 121:8

IMG_3006At our recent memorial service for fellow Hope4Hollywood member Dr. Temille Porter, we learned about two contrasting views of time. Our world often has us embracing a “meter-mindset” with non-stop reminders, deadlines, and appointments, all with a sense that our time is always “ticking down.” Moreover, we are surrounded by an industry that reinforces the notion that we are always “running out of time”.

The Psalmist reminds us that God’s notion of time is different. He writes of God who watches over our “comings and our goings both now and forevermore.” With this heavenly perspective, we can rest in the hope that our time is not ticking down but rather is ticking up into eternity.

Does your life have an eternal mindset and focus? In what ways?

How will you trust God for your time this week?

“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and He rules with a mighty arm. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies HIm.” ~Isaiah 40:10

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Exchanging gifts with friends, co-workers and family members is a cherished Christmas tradition. One of the most fun is the “White Elephant” gift game, where participants bring wrapped items to exchange with one another. What makes this tradition exciting is that we often receive unexpected gifts that we wouldn’t usually purchase for ourselves.

Isaiah 40:10 tells us that the Sovereign Lord comes into our lives ‘ready to exchange’ three unique gifts. He “comes with power,” giving us His “mighty arm” in exchange for our weakness. He also brings ‘His reward,’ which is exchanged for our losses and displayed in our lives as the Fruit of the Spirit. Ultimately, “His recompense accompanies Him,” bringing everlasting grace in exchange for our sin. We have the privilege this Christmas of participating in this ‘gift exchange’ with Christ as we celebrate His birth.

In what area of your life are you in need of Christ’s presence?

Which gift of Christ will you unwrap this season?

My Identity in God

“But now, thus says the Lord, your creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!'”           Isaiah 43:1

When we meet someone for the first time we often begin the conversation by exchanging titles– “I am single / married” , “I am a brother / sister”, “I am an employee at…” Similarly, during our study we have shared our “titles” saying, “My name is _______ and I work in the entertainment industry as a_____” Despite all of these titles we have for ourselves we continue to ask the question: “Who am I?” McDonald states on Day 1 of our study, “In the end there is nothing we can do to generate a message about ourselves that will satisfy the longing in our hearts” (121). Beyond the pseudo solutions, what’s the answer to our identity question? McDonald continues, “Until we can honestly affirm, ‘I am who God says I am, and that’s all that matters,’ our lives will be restless indeed” (121). The only way I have discovered how not to base my identity on “what I do” or “how I’m doing” is to to secure my identity in God’s character. For example, “Because God is personal, I know I am chosen” and “Because God is faithful, I know I am heard.” Furthermore, when I allow God’s character to define my identity, my attitude is changed and as a result “I can have confidence” and “I can have peace.” These are two truths God is teaching me this week. How about you?

Which of God’s character traits will you base your identity on this week?

How will you allow your new identity to change your attitude as well?

The Works of God

“So will my word be which goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding for the matter for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

How timely it is that we had the privilege of celebrating Easter the same week we are studying the works of God. On Easter we celebrate the greatest work of God in the sacrifice of His son in order to provide for us an “abundant pardon.”

In Day Three of our lesson we are reminded that as believers  we sometimes experience God “dropping a boulder” on our lives. McDonald defines a boulder as, “Some crushing personal experience that obliterates pride and independence from God” (87). Your leaders have both experienced “boulders” which brought about a new experience of God’s forgiveness in a “profound and life-altering way.”

“In 2004, as a high school senior,  after years of dreaming of moving to LA to pursue my dreams as an actor, God dropped a boulder on my life. That same year, I failed to graduate, my parents announced that they were divorcing after 13 years of marriage and I was forced to move in with a friend. My world was completely rocked as I was faced with the reality that I had no plan for my future. I realize now that God brought about this “boulder” in order to destroy the superficial things I was clinging to in order to begin building a strong and lasting foundation in my life. It was on the heels of this crisis that God revealed again His plan for my future which entailed answering his call to ministry. ” -Kevin

“In 2008, having moved to Los Angeles with my family to answer a call to minister in Hollywood, God dropped a “boulder” on my life. My husband of 15 years filed for divorce, I discovered our home was on the verge of foreclosure, and having just had my third child, I was jobless. My whole life, which had been based on making all the right choices, was shattered. I realize now that God brought about this boulder to reshape my view of Him and His true purpose for my life. It was in this crisis of faith that I learned that we have the choice to use our difficult circumstances for His glory.” -Kathy

What “boulder” has God dropped in your life?

How have your allowed God to use this experience to bring about a “profound and life-altering” change?

The Awesomeness of God

“The Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.” Deuteronomy 10:17

I hope your week off has been a time of rest and rejuvenation where you have allowed God to help you press the pause button on the busyness of life.

In this week’s study my understanding of God’s awesomeness was deepened by the explanation on Day Two about the two “arms of God.” As McDonald states, “One arm is mighty and powerful, demanding holiness and righteousness. One arm tenderly cares for the weak and wounded” (40).

Because I was raised in a religious faith that emphasized being afraid of God, I have struggled with a pattern of punishing myself when I fall short of His holiness. In those times, I find it difficult to allow Him to demonstrate His tender care for me.

In this study I am learning that being “gripped by God’s awesomeness” means allowing both of His arms to be at work in my life. While I can embrace God’s holy arm which has His righteous plan for my future, I need to allow God’s arm of tender care to bind the wounds of my past.

In which arm of God are you currently resting?

How will you this week allow God’s awesomeness to fully embrace you?

The Greatness of God

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. In the city of our God, His holy mountain.”  ~ Psalm 48:1
This week we’ve had the opportunity to review the attributes of God and get a taste of what the next eight weeks will be like. On Day Two what struck me most were the three ways we are gripped by God.  As McDonald writes, “Being gripped involves your mind, your emotions and your will.” I have to be honest in saying that I never knew God’s grip was so personal. I had assumed that being “gripped” was a one-time event which took place in our past, perhaps linked to our conversion and salvation. However, as we are learning in our study, His grip is far more profound, in that it has a daily affect on our lives since His grip “grows our knowledge,” causes us to “feel something” and calls us to “do something.” Isn’t our God great!? He is greatly to be praised. 

Where in your life are there obstacles that stand in the way of God’s grip being this personal?

What will you “do differently” this week to allow His grip to include your mind, emotion and will?