One Wed. nite at church we did bible study on Faith. Faith is defined it as trusting, being carried by and convicted by convicted truth. That faith says “jump”; it says I can’t but God can. The natural next phase I believe should be a look at hope.The bible has a lot to say about hope as it did faith. Modern day English or Americanized hope is defined by Wikipedia as “a modern optimistic mindset based on a positive outcome related to event and circumstances in ones life.” That is a huge mouthful.
Psychology says hope germinates or comes to life when there is crisis and that crisis opens us up to creative possibilities – basically hopeful people are like the little engine that could – “I think I can…I think I can”.
We can learn a lot from these descriptions but the truth is that they really don’t describe biblical hope. Biblical hope is deeply grounded and rooted in faith – hope and faith are so closely related that they can’t seem to be separated. It’s not just faith, but faith in God; It’s not just hope, but hope in God.
In modern terms hope is filled with doubt. “I hope it rains”. “I hope I get a raise”. In either of these statements there is a lack of confidence that these things will happen – no assurance. We don’t really believe it is going to rain. We don’t really think that we are getting that raise. So in modern times we hope but our hope is filled with doubt.
Take a look at a great Psalm that talks to us about hope – Psalm 42:5 – Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
Before we go any further let me ask you this, Is there cause for hope in your life? Is there reason for you to hope? And is that hope worth waiting for?
This single verse we see the Psalmist speaking to his own soul – preaching to his own soul saying, “Why are you downcast?” Downcast literally means bent over; doubled over as in pain or discouraged. Why are you sad and restless? Does that describe you? Why is there so much noise, discouragement and sadness? Why is there so much noise in your spirit?
He doesn’t give in to this feeling of depression but challenges his feelings. Look what he says, ”Hope in God”. Stay close to God. Stay the course of faith. God always comes through now and always. He always comes through. Hope in God – Elohim – Supreme God and Creator…over rulers and judges and angels, every living thing, every inanimate object is under the control of God.
The psalmist preaches to himself and is in danger of slipping into disbelief. He doesn’t feel full of praise at that moment. Yet he still manages to point his soul to the hope and confidence that we have in God. In good times and in bad, I will praise Him.
Spurgen said, “Hope is like the sun, as we journey towards it, it casts the shadow of our burden behind it.” Hope is not found in us or them or things but always found in the Living God.
On the edge of the new year, people are planning all sorts of resolutions for weight loss, relationships, community and church involvement and the like As 2015 looms in front of us many have a plan for a Second Chance. The bible paints pictures for us of life lessons using things that we can all relate to then and now – pictures about fishermen, sheep and shepherds, fathers, even weather. In Jeremiah, God paints a vivid picture using a Potter and Clay.
The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand – Jer. 18:1-6
This Potter creates useful vessels – cups, plates, jars and pots. These vessel honor the Potter and profit Him. It is a long process of preparing the clay for use which takes softening the dirt and straining of impurities – all of which ensures the flexibility and mold-ability of the clay. This process takes some time. The Potter takes worthless dirt and makes it into something amazing, useable and very valuable.
This is a picture of God’s work in our lives because in our original state when God found us we were a wreck wreck – unusable dirt. But God softens us and applies Him loving touch and gently molds us into vessels of honor and glory for Himself. During the process of molding us on Him Potter’s wheel, He always has His hands on us. He is always in contact. He can feel any impurities. He can feel any bumps. He can feel any and all imperfection and will lovingly smooth them out.
Are you completely surrendered to God today? Are you still holding the reins of your life? Is God your co-pilot? Or are you like clay in the hands of the potter?
If you are a vessel that has refused to surrender your life in part or completely now is the time. Come to Jesus today and place yourself into the hand of God and let Him work in and through your life.God loves you. He wants to take your life and make it into a thing of beauty for His glory. Will you come to Him?
The New York Times reported some of the top searches on Google through this year and particularly during the season of Christmas were concerning depression, diets, hate – paired with either mom, dad, husband or wife and not to be outdone, searches for porn. Google is projecting that after Christmas searches for divorce will go up and on Feb 14th…loneliness.
People are always searching, searching for answers; answers about the future, about their life and peace and hope and purpose and those searching are not limited to those in the 21st century. When Moses encountered God on the mountain he said, “Who shall I say sent me?” He was looking for some answers and God told him “I AM that I AM” and immediately Moses question was answered when the Creator of the universe said this is who I am – Sovereign Lord of all creation.
But what about those that have not seen a burning bush? When we search for God, what will we find? Who will we find? What is He like? Isaiah 9:6 tells us this…
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Is. 9:6
The search is OVER! The answer has been give to all of life’s question! And that answer lay 2000 years ago in a feeding trough. He was and is the hope for humanity. The answer to questions concerning Hunger, Poverty, Loneliness, Depression, yes even Ferguson. This child would bring something to the world that is needed by all and rejected by most. Where do we go when we need answers? Where do we look when we are in need of strength for the day? Where do we find peace? Do we have a father that loves us? True is we look for all this and more and come up with short term answers or just plain old empty hands because this rock we live on can’t produce the answer we need. The answer comes from the One that Created the Earth…and Heaven….and you.
This child left His heavenly throne and put on human flesh and lived right here with us and showed us the answer to life. He is Christ the Lord – the giver of wise counsel – the giver of strength that makes us over-comers (Thanks Mandisa) He is a Father that is a strong protector and provider; that is understanding and true, that will never leave us. He brings us peace – an inner peace that comforts in times of trouble and loss and daily struggles.
How is your peace level these days? Are you at peace with God? Have you made peace with Him? Have you answered the invitation given to all of mankind by the Prince of Peace – Come to me all who are weary and have burdens and I will give you rest – Matt. 11:28
Are you struggling this Christmas – struggling with gifts; searching for the right thing, unable to find the perfect gift? Try receiving the gift that God gives to the world thousands of years ago and still today – Jesus. We are all so far away from God at some point in our life but God made a way for us to be close to Him. He does all the work. We just need to trust Him…with our life. Trust him today and truly BECOME peace on Earth!
Jesus didn’t come so that we could give gifts on the 25th of Dec. He didn’t come that we could sing “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is coming to Town”. He came to give us peace with God and He came to give us peace within ourselves. He stands at the ready offering His peace and wants to be a part of your life. Say YES to Him today. It’s the greatest gift you could ever receive.
Lord, It is my prayer that if someone reads this they will turn away from a life that doesn’t please you and put their hope and trust in you. Complete their life Lord as you fill them to overflowing with Your love! In Jesus name I pray – Amen.
All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved! – Eph. 2:3-5
God paints some pretty awesome pictures for us in life. Some are viewed only as childish finger paintings that are stuck to the refrigerator and never again even noticed only to be discarded as meaningless. I believe that they are masterpieces. They are like DaVinci that cause us to “Ohhhh” and “Ahhh” as we marvel at the wonder of each stroke of the brush and wonder just what was going through the mind of the Creator.
One such painting that I had the humble privilege to observe was a picture of God’s great mercy? Our children occasionally leave things in our home where they are NOT supposed to be. Very simple, right? On this particular night it was something very simple and easily handled – an orange plastic cup. I had just returned from a bible study and was in the living room eating a Subway sandwich with lots of black olives and jalapenos. One of the children left it in the living room floor and was asked to pick it up and you would have thought that they were asked to walk on hot coals and before I knew it the tension in the room was thick coupled with some sassing and a confession that my child didn’t leave the cup in the floor and furthermore their cup was already in the sink. I had heard enough. I said, “Go look in the sink and tell me if you cup is in the sink.” My child ignored me, so I said it again. Again I am ignored. I am thinking, Wow, This child doesn’t know me very well.” NOW I said, “Get up and go look in the sink and come back and tell me if your cup is in the sink….NOW!” That go someone moving but the sassing continued as I was told that my request was “pointless.”
The next words to come from my mouth were “You are grounded”. This meant that the plans that my child had for the weekend were OUT! Now you are probably thinking, “OK, where is this amazing painting of God’s?” After this dreaded moment that no parent like happened and the room was still and silent and returned to try to choke down the rest of my dinner, our God began. I noticed a little boy sitting in the floor fidgeting – looking at me and the cup; then back to me and then the cup. He then jumped up, grabbed the cup himself, took it to the kitchen sink, came back back to the living room and sat down with a big smile on his face. I was shocked! Barely able to so much as raise my head much less swallow the bite that I had in my mouth. I had witnessed mercy. It was as though he was crying out “Mercy!” In the movie Braveheart as William Wallace is being tortured, the people began to cry out MERCY on his behalf. My 8 year old son wanted peace in our home. He wanted his father to show mercy to his sibling even if it meant that it was going to cost him. Is this a stretch? I don’t think so. Jesus used many real life lessons to teach us about the Father, Godliness and Holiness. He used everyday things like fishing, sheep and money to paint some pretty vivid pictures about God’s love, grace and yes, His mercy.
The scriptures teach us that God is RICH in His MERCY; abounding, filled with, overflowing with plenty to spare with mercy and He relentlessly seeks to reconcile with us. He is patient and wants to bridge the gap. That bridge is Jesus! Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Love is one of God’s intrinsic attributes but when love is related to the sinner, it becomes grace and mercy”. Punishment and correction should never be confused in administering discipline to those that we love. Punishment is for criminals for crimes that they have committed. Correction is restoring to a state of uprightness. In God’s mercy we don’t receive what we deserve. His grace affords us what we don’t deserve. So I was inclined to show mercy; I wanted to show mercy my child and to correct the behavior while attempting to preserve peace. God is God!
What would you say is the most significant, the most important decision you have ever made in your life? Pretty tough question huh? For me and many others it was the day I said yes to Jesus and began to live my life for Him. I think about following Christ and the fact that He lived, died and rose…man that is huge. The resurrection is HUGE! It was a game changer. A game changer is a term we hear in sports where something happens to change the direction of the game. It shifts momentum to the other side and the opposing team just can’t adjust for the new game play. The resurrection changes EVERYTHING!
For one thing it gives us the confident hope of life after death. Not only are there eyewitness accounts of Jesus death and burial but also eleven of Jesus disciples SAW Him, SPOKE with Him, TOUCHED Him and even ATE with Him after His resurrection and even under the pain of death stuck to their story that “He is risen” but over 500 people over 40 days saw Him as well…Huge!
For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died – 1 Thess. 4:14
Many religions promise life after death only one founder came back from the dead. That is why Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die”.
The resurrection gives us a chance at a New Start; a New Life. Change isn’t easy. OK…it’s hard. We want to change yet there is something inside us that enslaves us and pulls us backwards to old habits – this happens to everyone. This is life…until the Resurrection. The scriptures say that we can be free from the old life. (Any man that is in Christ is a New creation, The old is gone the New has come – 2 Cor. 5:17) The bible doesn’t talk about what effect the Resurrection will have on you and me when we die nearly as often that it talks about the effect it has on us right now. Completely changed inside out in an instant…not a little by little change that takes us 50 years. It’s not a gradual change. We are changed all at once and rest of your life you are learning how you are changed and how to live as a changed person.
Lastly, it a relationship not religion. What is it that makes me Christian? Because Jesus lives inside of me. I have a peace and joy that cannot be taken away or robbed from me because Jesus lives in me. I am a citizen of heaven because Jesus lives in me. I have courage why? Because Jesus lives in me.
Christianity is not an Ethics course or Philosophy 101. It is a living relationship with someone who is alive. Christianity is not signing a statement of faith or joining a church; it is a living relationship with Christ and because He is alive He can save anyone. Paul said thin in Romans 10…
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved – Romans 10:9
Lord, I pray that these words may encourage someone and as they read they will find freedom in You as their Savior! Amen.
Go out and stand before me on the mountain” And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper – 1 Kings 19
A mighty wind, an Earthquake and a raging fire – in these ways and more the Lord God revealed Himself – He made Himself known – Elijah’s fire from heaven – a pillar of fire and smoke and the voice of God as the blast of the loudest trumpet. Then thousands of years later even after 400 years of silence…He came. I was inspired after hearing the song “Winter Snow” by Audrey Assad to consider how He came to us.
- He came in a way that no one could have ever expected a King to come. He could have come like a mighty storm bursting through the sky, lightening, rain and thunder
- He could have come like a hurricane tearing through the trees, breaking limbs and uprooting.
- He could have come like a forest fire with searing heat and smoke out of control consuming everything in His path.
- He could have could like a tidal wave flooding and defying the rules that say to waves “stop here”
- He could have come the way the Kings should come
But that is not how He came at all is it? He came like silent snow fall. No parades. No cheering crowds. But instead of coming with a lot of noise and the display of human excitement brought, He quietly brought Joy to the world. Joy is described in the Holy Scriptures like that of a war cry, a shout SHOWING gladness and rejoicing that overtakes our heart and that joy benefits us through encouragement of hope.
There is a joy that is caused by an occasion. A special moment – A wedding – A child’s first words – Good News like the birth of a child. This joy is caused not only by an occasion but also by a person. This person would be responsible for that joy; the One bringing the good news and it causes GREAT excitement! He is called Jesus! In the book of Luke 2 we read a very familiar passage that says…
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people”
Did you catch that? Not just joy but “Great” joy; the word great is “Mega” joy and this joy is to All” people. Jesus knows what we need…better than anyone. He wants you to not only receive Him and experience the joy, peace and hope that he brings but but to hand over the reigns of your life and let him be Lord. And as Lord of our life we can true sing…
Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)
Cuba, Vietnam, Granada, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea – these are places in my life time that our country has either been at war with or at least been the threat of war. I am sure there are others that I did not mention but I think that you get the idea.
There is a lack of peace in the world however, that extends beyond the military battlefield. That battlefield is in the home and the work place and even the church where there is unrest and strife and worries and these things rip the peace out of our lives and cause terrible unrest.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world – John 16:33
Peace means much more than the absence of war. Peace paints a picture of harmony and completeness. It is a promise of peace; to make whole and restore. To have Peace or “Shalom” is to have a fulfilled life in every way. It is a state of safety where your life is put at ease by the Lord Jesus Christ – the One that we celebrate at Christmas. The One bringing this peace has the power to carry His plan of peace out.
With “Shalom” peace there is no fear; no worry, but instead a sense of harmony and oneness. Everything is exactly the way it should be. Things are in their proper order. This is “Shalom” – this is the peace that Jesus brings – Our Prince of Peace.
Jesus didn’t come so that we could give gifts on the 25th of Dec. He didn’t come that we could sing “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is coming to Town”. He came to give us peace with God and He came to give us peace within ourselves. How about you? Have you ever said yes to Him? He stands at the ready offering His peace and wants to be a part of your life. Say YES to Him today. It’s the greatest gift you could ever receive.
Father, help us to discover the peace that came to the world, born in a feeding trough, lived a sinless life and offered Himself as a sacrifice for all the world. WHAT A GIFT! May we receive that gift as we repent and believe. Thank you.
In Jesus Name…Amen