Category Archives: Hope

It’s Really Not About Getting What We Want

Blog_ThumbnailHere we are. It is Christmas time again. The craziness and busyness has been upon for several weeks now, and probably won’t subside until days after Christmas. Then, we all collapse and head back to work to get some relaxation. Sometimes, I wonder how it ever got to be this way. I am sure that it started out simply and sincerely. This is not to say that this time cannot still be filled with simplicity and sincerity. But the insanity and commercialization (to echo Charlie Brown) seems too often to leave the true message of Christmas in the dust.

We spend a ton of money, if we have it (and even if we don’t). We worry if our gifts to others will be liked and appreciated. We gather with friends and family. We worry about impressing people we don’t even like. If you happen to have the pleasure of working in a corporate setting with annual giving campaigns, you may get to hear the annual plea or arm-twisting, whichever you prefer, to give to causes that you may or may not agree with. We run from event to event, hardly stopping to breathe or reflect on the reason this season is celebrated.

In the end, however, this season is all about selflessness. It is about sacrificing on the behalf of others. It is the celebration of the greatest self-sacrifice that human history will ever know. And this sacrifice was made so that we might know God, and call on Him as Father, and be welcomed into His family and kingdom. This all happened so that we could place our faith and hope in God.

“…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:18-21

Though being in very nature God, Jesus took on the very nature of a servant and was born in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:6-8). He humbled Himself and became obedient, even to the point of death, by coming as a baby and living out His life, so that He could die – all for us.

Christmas is not about getting what we want. Christmas is about getting what we need. And we need Jesus. We need Jesus whether we are lost and far from Him or whether we have been walking with Him for years. He is our greatest need – each moment and every day. And God offers this hope freely through salvation in Jesus Christ, if we will just reach out and receive it.

My prayer is that, this Christmas, we will all know the hope and joy that are offered through Jesus. For those of us who already know Christ, I pray that we will be reminded again of the magnitude of the gift that brought us our freedom. For those of you who don’t yet know Christ, I pray that the knowledge of the love of Christ would find a home in your hearts this season.

For all of us, I pray that our lives would come to reflect the self-sacrificing life given so freely for us, reflecting the true meaning of Christmas. That rather than striving for position, accumulating more things we don’t need, and always trying to have things our own way, we would demonstrate the humility and selflessness of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift, and the only true hope and joy for this world.

Together for His glory…

What Did We Expect?

These days, it seems to be coming like a freight train. Changes are coming at us from the left and the right, whether they are technological, political, or societal. Right now, for those who follow Jesus Christ and hold fast to the truth of God’s Word, the societal changes and realities seem to be smacking us in the face on a daily basis. The problem is this. Why are we surprised?

Jesus told us exactly what to expect in this world. He told us that we would face tribulation (John 16:33). He told us that we would be out of place and the world would hate us because of our association with Jesus and the truth to which hold (John 15:18-25). The apostle Peter said that we were exiles and aliens in a foreign land (1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 2:11). We are not in our homeland.

The problem for much of “Christian” America is that we became way too comfortable. For decades and centuries, the American society has been willing to go along with a “Christian” culture because it did not unduly inconvenience them. In fact, they received benefits and comforts from the generosity and good will of a “Christian” America. However, it no longer serves them much purpose, as far as they can tell. It provides them with no obvious benefit. In fact, in their eyes, all that Christianity seems to do is point a finger and try to restrain them from pursuing their desires. So, why hold onto the façade any longer?

The “church,” and those who still fill many of the pews or chairs on Sunday, doesn’t look any different from those outside the church. So, why should they bother? God and church don’t seem to have anything compelling to offer. Instead of the church of Jesus Christ impacting the nation, we have just kind of blended in. We don’t really live much differently than the “pagans” in our neighborhoods and cities.

Yet, there is hope. And it is not in political change. It is not in social change. It is not in economic change. It is the same hope that has been there from the start. It is the hope of Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16

To be clear, I am not saying that we should sit back and let society just go its own way. This is our country too. But it is not our home or final destination. Changing society is not our major calling. Our primary calling is to follow Jesus. Our calling is to be prepared for action with our hope placed solely in Jesus Christ. We are called to be obedient children, not being conformed to the society around us, but living holy lives before God and those around us. We are called to shine the light of Jesus, to love each other, and to proclaim the Gospel with our lives and, if necessary, with our words. Because if our actions don’t set us apart as belonging to Jesus, nothing we say will either.

But if we seek God, pursuing Christ with passion, seeking to be filled with the fullness of God, He will demonstrate His power and ability to transform through us. He has said so in His Word. Many of us never expected to live in a time like this. We should have though. And we should expect nothing less until the day Jesus returns. Until that day, let us awake with a love and passion for our Savior and each other and see what God can do through us.

Together for His glory…

A Living Hope

Blog_ThumbnailHope that is not based on a solid foundation is just wishful thinking. I can hope that someone offers me a million dollars, tax free and with no strings attached. Fat chance of that happening. I can hope that I lose the additional 25 pounds my doctor says I need to lose. However, if I sit on my butt, don’t exercise, and consume large quantities of delicious and unhealthy foods, there is not much chance of that happening.

I can hope that I am going to get a big raise at work. I can do the best job I can, but there are other factors that play into whether I get a large salary increase. My manager has to agree that I have done a good job. He has to convince his manager that I have done a good job. The money has to be available, based on how well the company and/or department have done, and so on.

Biblical hope is not based on wishful thinking. It is not mustering up enough faith, or what the world thinks of as faith. It not trying to change my situation by thinking lots of positive thoughts, although there is nothing wrong with thinking positively.  I may even try it sometime.

From the Word of God:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

God is the source of hope. In His great mercy, God has supplied this hope, through the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death, as payment for our sin, provides the free offer of salvation to all who will receive. Through Christ, we are born again, given new life through the forgiveness of our sins and brought into His family as His sons and daughters. This is all accomplished by God, through Jesus Christ. He is our source of this hope.

God provides a solid foundation for hope. We are born into a living hope. It is a living hope because it is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. God, in Christ, demonstrated His power and victory over sin, hell, and the grave. We don’t have a hope that is based on wishful thinking, clinging to some fragile promise without substance. This hope is established on the very work of God in human history, raising Christ from the dead.

God’s hope is lasting and eternal. We are provided an inheritance that is imperishable. It cannot be destroyed or wiped out by any person or circumstance in this world or in heaven. It is solid and reliable. This inheritance is undefiled. It is unlike anything this world has to offer. It is not polluted by this fallen world. It rests in the perfection of our God. This inheritance is unfading. The gift of God is without end. It is there from the moment we are born again. It is there throughout our life and until we die. And when we die, it is still there, for all eternity.

God secures our hope Himself. This inheritance is kept in heaven by God Himself. This means that there is nothing on earth or in heaven that can separate us from Him or the hope that He provides to us. And we, as His children, are guarded by God’s power through faith for this salvation that will be revealed. God secures this Himself. It is grounded in His power and perfection. The very character of God Himself guarantees this for us. Now that is a foundation for true hope. A living hope.

Jesus Christ is our living hope. Through Him, we find a source of true hope, with a solid foundation, that is lasting and eternal, and is secured by God Himself. That is God’s version of hope. That is the kind of hope that we can rely on and through it, find true joy for living in Him.

Together for His glory…

Not Home Yet

In the beginning, the apostle Peter did not get it either. When Jesus was revealing who He was and the nature of His ministry and kingdom, Peter did not always understand. Peter would make great declarations, such as “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Then, he would proceed to feel the need to correct Jesus, when Jesus stated that He would suffer and be killed, which resulted in this response from Christ, “Get behind me Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Peter did not yet fully understand that Jesus’ kingdom was “not of this world,” and that there were certain things that would not find fulfillment until Christ’s final return in glory.

Now, years later, Peter finds himself in the position of reminding the readers of his letter that they are not home yet. This earth was not their final resting place and the fulfillment of all their earthly and eternal desires. From the text of 1 Peter, it is apparent that the letter recipients were undergoing persecution. There was probably discouragement among them, as they struggled to understand their circumstances and why things were sometimes so hard or just did not make sense.

So, Peter starts off his letter by addressing these brothers and sisters in Christ as “exiles.” (1 Peter 1:1). An exile, in this sense, refers to someone who is living in a foreign land. They are a stranger or pilgrim in a place that is not their home. They are living among a foreign people who may not understand them, may see them as very different, and who may even hate and despise them. That can be a very tough place to be.

Peter’s letter is written to help them understand this and to also offer them hope. It is given to help them keep life in perspective – that this life is temporary, as are the struggles that come with it. There is an eternal hope and a glorious inheritance that awaits those who follow Christ. And that they can know the grace and peace of Christ in the midst of these temporary struggles on this journey in a foreign land.

As followers of Christ today, we are all exiles as well. As we strive to live a life that honors God, we are faced with many obstacles, pitfalls, and struggles as well. We face many struggles that are common to all who live on this earth. At other times, we go through suffering and persecution because we follow Christ. However, there are also times when we find ourselves too at home in this temporary place. We become too enamored with temporary trinkets and pursuits that do not draw us closer to God and may even pull us further away.

These are the things, among others, that we will find presented to us in this journey through the book of 1 Peter. We will be offered hope, and also called to humility. We will be reminded to be at home in Christ, while we walk in a land that is not our home. We will be reminded that we have a living hope, here and now, and also waiting in eternity. That “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11)

Together for His glory…

Singing the Blues

Our son, Caleb, is an avid sports fan. Actually, it goes way beyond that. Recently, he watched the NFL draft. The whole thing. All three days. All seven rounds. I don’t even know who most of the players are. He knows almost all of them, including their position and school. He loves sports. You name it, he will watch it.

So, when the hometown hockey team gets into the playoffs, it is a big deal. The St. Louis Blues are in the second round of the playoffs, but it has not been going as well as the first round. The most recent game was particularly rough. By the end of the 1st period, they were losing 4-0.

My wife and I had been out shopping, while Caleb stayed home and watched the game with his brother. We returned home, only to be greeted with this sight. Caleb had a paper bag on his head, with “4-0 L.A. Kings” written on the front. Unsure how exactly to respond, I mentioned that it must not be going very well. He proceeded to pull the bag off of head, said, “4 to nothing!” and threw the bag on the floor as he walked out disgusted.

Life does not always come in the package that we like. When faced with various struggles and challenges, we don’t always measure up the way we would like. We are fallen. Life is often hard and we stumble and fall. It can make us want to “put the bag on our head” and withdraw from others, from life, and from God. Often though, it is because we are focused on a moment, a speck, and forget to see the overall picture. Like Caleb, we forget to look at the bigger picture. In his case, he is not remembering that the St. Louis Blues had a great season, finishing as one of the top teams in the league. They are in the playoffs for the first time in years. They are showing great promise for the future. But it is hard to see that when the present looks so bleak.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

God does not view our life and circumstances in the same manner that we usually do. He always has the full picture in view. He sees the final goal. God knows that despite the way things currently look and that no matter how many times we fail, if we are in Christ, we have the assurance that He will bring to full completion His glorious purpose and plan for our lives.

We have a choice in this life. We can live our lives apart from God or we can give our lives to Him and find in Christ our greatest joy and fulfillment, now and in eternity. We can choose to sing the blues or we can choose to trust the living God, Who knows our days and the plans He has for us. We can put a bag over our heads or we can run the race, pursuing the upward call of God in Christ. The choice is ours.

Together for His glory…