Hope in darkness

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“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”Isaiah 35:10

Once again, we were confronted with the reality of evil after the horrific event that claimed the lives of many in Las Vegas earlier this week. With broken hearts, we were driven to our knees in prayer, mourning with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and seeking refuge in the arms of the One “who comforts us in all our afflictions” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

While we may not have the answers we seek to explain these tragedies, our pain reminds us of the hope that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”

This hope is not passive, but rather, it’s an active hope that compels to 1) look up to God, through prayer and intercession, calling on the Lord for His presence, His power and His grace. He says in Isaiah 45:22: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

Our hope also moves us 2) to reach out to others, sharing the love of Christ and pleading with the lost, to “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Finally, our hope compels us 3) to look in, and purify ourselves, that we may be ready to possess the promise to come (2 Corinthians 7: 11 John 3:3).

When darkness falls, God does not want us to be overwhelmed, feeling hopeless or helpless. Through His Son Jesus Christ, He has revealed His plan for us, so that we may have understanding, and have peace in His promises.

 

In Him,

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Costly commitment

Commitment

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29

A few years ago, I switched my cellphone service from contract to a Pay As You Go plan. I liked the idea of not being tied down to a provider, so at the end of the 2 year service agreement, I did not renew my Satellite TV subscription (thanks to them I’ve learned to read fine prints). Increasingly, consumers want freedom and they opt for products and services that require little to no commitment.

In the Scriptures we read about a young widow, named Ruth, with a different mindset. Despite her grief over the loss of her husband, Ruth decides to leave her home of Moab, and follow her mother in law Naomi to the land of Judah.  Ruth resists Naomi’s attempts to dissuade her from leaving her people, and she makes the popular commitment: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”Ruth 1:16

Many believers are like Orpah, Naomi’s other daughter in law; they start out with the decision to follow Jesus Christ, but when circumstances arise along the way, they choose to turn back.  Jesus makes it clear that the call to discipleship comes with the cost of sacrificial commitment (Matthew 10:37-38). Orpah may have gotten remarried in Moab, and lived a good life but her story ends and no further mention is made of her after her departure from Naomi. In contrast, Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi positioned her in the genealogy of King David, the same out of which would descend Christ the Savior.

Saying yes to the Lord means we will encounter challenges, experience hurts, disappointments, rejection and discouragement. We may have to leave the comfort of our homes, friends and families, but God promises an eternal inheritance to those who will follow Him to the end, whatever the cost.

Once the call of God comes to you, start going and never stop.” –Oswarld Chambers.

 

 

In Him,

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Be OK when things aren’t OK

BE OK

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”- Job 2:10

Most people have a tendency to avoid pain. That explains why we quickly flip through the channel when images of children diagnosed with cancer, or poverty stricken children in developing countries appear on our TV screens. That’s why we don’t get excited about going to hospitals or funerals, because of the uncomfortable emotions they stir up in us. That’s the reason we procrastinate over completing tasks that our brain categorizes as “work”. We avoid, ignore or numb our emotional suffering.

Through the story of Job, we read about his intense emotional and physical ordeal, as a result of circumstances that God allowed. God’s wife in her frustration, tells Job to “curse God and die!”. In other words, get yourself out of this situation. That’s us. We want God to shield us from any suffering or discomfort. We pray for God to get us out of our troubles instead of asking Him for the grace to suffer through them. I often remember an exercise we did in graduate school, to teach us to “sit with painful emotions”, instead of running from them.In his book “The Road Less Traveled”, Scott Peck wrote: “Life is difficult…Once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

In the midst of deep distress, Job held fast to his faith and trust in God’s sovereignty and benevolence.  Jesus’ promise of peace was followed by the guarantee that there would be suffering. (John 16:33). This tells us that God will not always keep us from trouble, but we can have peace, knowing God is with us, and He’s working all things for our good.

 

In Him,

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Tell them

Tell them

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

In legal jargon, the word witness refers to a person with first-hand evidence, expertise or knowledge pertinent to a trial.  We have the biblical accounts because God chose and used men to witness of His plan and purpose in creation. In the Old Testament, these men were “prophets, [who] though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21).  In the New Testament, the work of spreading the Good News was carried out by those who were “eyewitnesses of His majesty”(2 Peter1:16), and those whose lives had been transformed by the power of God.

After her encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman received the revelation that Jesus was the Messiah. She went back and told others in the town, and they became believers (John 4:4:42). The Bible tells us about the two blind men and the leper who after receiving healing from Jesus went out and spread the news about him throughout the region (Matthew 9: 27-31; Mark 1:40-45). Their testimony was not in words only but their changed condition was evidence of the power of God.

In the Church today, many believers are apprehensive and shy away from witnessing because of the traditional idea that witnessing is accosting strangers in the street with tracts, or knocking on people’s doors on a Saturday morning (wink; Jehovah witnesses). Witnessing ought to be produced as a direct result of who we are; witnesses. When we love and serve our families at home, when we smile at the grumpy attendant at the drive thru, when we say a kind word to the unfriendly cashier at the register, when we agree to fill in, again, at the last minute at work, we are telling of the power of God that changed our lives.

If you have passed from death to life, if God lives in you, if you have an eternal hope, tell them.

In Him,

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Poured out

poured out

“But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” Philippians 2:17.

The world’s system of reward and recognition is built to promote self-realization.  In his 1943 original theory of human motivation, Abraham Maslow identified the highest level of human need as “self-actualization”, which he described as a person’s desire for self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth, etc. While we should endeavor to achieve the full potential of our lives, we come to a fork in the road when it comes to the motivation of our pursuits.  Oswald Chambers contrasts the life of self-expenditure that Jesus calls for, to the life driven by self-realization. He writes:

“If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts. God’s purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that He may squeeze the sweetness out of us.”

The function of a vessel is not just to retain what it contains, but to pour our its content for the benefit of others. We must guard ourselves from hoarding and using the gifts and talents that God has deposited in us for personal satisfaction. When Paul answered God’s call to preach the gospel, He was all in. He did not put a cap on how much of himself he was willing to expend for the mission. In expression of his dedication for the sake of the body of Christ, he wrote:  “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” 2Corinthians 12:15.

Your life is not your own. When you say yes to God, it’s no longer about your personal agenda but His. Present yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and let God pour you out, for the refreshing of a great many.

In Him,

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P.U.S.H

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“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”Luke 18:8

I enjoy the convenience of automatic doors because it requires no effort on my part, except to walk close enough for the doors to open. You tend to appreciate this nifty feature when you’re out shopping, and you’re walking out of the store loaded with shopping bags.  Not all doors are automatic doors; some doors have a “Push” Or “Pull” sign, which require the exertion a physical pressure in the direction of the door, in order to gain access into the building.

If our prayers operated like automatic doors, it would look something like: you pray, believe, and almost immediately your request is granted.  Sweet, right?  Then we would all feel pretty good about our faith walk. But more often than not, growth requires for us to exercise our faith, and press through the doubts, fears, and challenges we face.

What happens when you push and you pull, still nothing happens?  Jesus told his disciples about a widow who made a plea to a certain king, but for some time, he refused to grant her request. The widow kept coming to the king, till he finally gave her the petition she asked of him. Then there’s “Blind Bartimaeus” (Mark 10:46-52), who when he heard Jesus was passing by, cried out for healing. When others attempted to silence Bartimaeus, he cried out even the more, and got the Master’s attention.  In Mark 2: 3-5, four men got noticed of Jesus because their faith. The crowd had blocked their access to the room where Jesus was, so they opened up the roof of the home, and led down before Jesus a paralytic in need of healing.

At a very opportune time in my life, I read these words by Margaret Feinberg: “You are not allowed to quit no matter how hard you try.” Tired? Feel like giving up? P.U.S.H: Pray Until Something Happens!

 

In Him,

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Passing through

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” -2 Corinthians 5:9

In 1987, the British artist Sting released the song “Englishman in New York”. The song refers to being a legal alien living in New York. When I heard this song years ago, I connected with the lyrics because I’ve had the experience of being a legal alien in England, then later in the United States. I describe my experience as an expatriate living in foreign nations, similar to the departure of the Israelites out of the land of Egypt; They were to eat their meal in haste, with shoes on their feet, and their staff in hand, ready to leave Egypt (Exodus 12:11). I’m never home; regardless of where I live, I always have that unsettling feeling that it’s just temporary.

Our Christians walk is a pilgrimage. God called Abraham to exchange the security of his home in Ur, for life as an alien, dwelling in tents (Hebrews 11:9).  Sometimes we find ourselves so consumed by, and overly attached to earthly things, that God has to –painfully strip away the things that steal our affections from Him. The Bible admonishes us to “live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear”.- 1 Peter 1:17.

As pilgrims, we do not lay-up treasures here on earth, neither do we seek to be fulfilled by the temporary pleasures this life;  but instead like Abraham, we are to be “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11: 10).

 

In Him,

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