Archives For Hope

Life is full of uncertainty.

 

We have this expectation that we will have a comprehensive plan for our lives and be able to pursue it without hindrance, and yet rarely is that the case.

 

Curve balls are thrown our way. We don’t meet our goals and ambitions. Life takes unexpected twists and turns.

 

And yet God is still on His throne.

 

In the midst of uncertainty, He never changes. In the fog of confusion, He remains true.  In chaos, He remains in control.  When life is unpredictable, He remains faithful to His Word.

 

In the Bible, King David knew a bit about the uncertainty of life. He had been crowned king, and yet spent many years on the run in the wilderness as the previous ruler, King Saul, sought to kill him.  The position was rightfully his, yet he could not exercise the authority he had been granted. And even in the midst of not knowing how things would turn out, he knew where his trust laid. As he said in Psalm 18:

 

In my distress I called upon the LORD;

to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears. (v. 6, ESV)

 

David did not know how God would provide, but he knew that He would. Even as his very life was at stake, David knew that God heard his cries and was preparing his way.

 

As you face uncertainty in your life, may your trust be that of David’s. May you turn to God for help and strength and may you trust in Him to provide. May you know that while the future may look murky to you, it doesn’t to God. And may you join with David in saying:

 

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,

my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2, ESV)

No Comparison

April 12, 2017 — Leave a comment

Often times when I am teaching one of my greatest challenge is to have my students anticipate how what they are learning in class will be useful to them in their professional life. Terms and theories can seem so arbitrary and more than once I have had a student question why things can’t be more like the real world, only for me to try to convince them that what they are learning is what is needed for the real world. It’s hard for them to imagine life outside of the classroom walls. And this makes sense, the class is familiar to them; their career is not.

As much as I invest time in helping them prepare for their career, my students can tell you that I also invest considerable time in trying to prepare them for another future – that of their eternal destiny. As I often tell them, I want them to be successful in whatever profession God leads them to, but I want their success to be determined by God’s standards, not the world’s. I want them to make decisions, choose paths, and commit to actions based on what will be considered “profitable” from Heaven’s vantage point, and not merely from their contemporaries’ perspective. My hope is that they are constantly looking to eternity and it is that future reality that has the most impact on what they do each day.

The challenge is that just like it is hard for them to picture life in the “real world,” it is hard for them to really anticipate the joys of Heaven. I know this because they want to delay their experience of Heaven until they can achieve certain milestones on Earth. They want to have kids, or achieve a certain professional stature. They want to grow old or make sure that they have had a chance to fall in love. Whatever their particular ideal is they want to make sure that they get to experience that first, and then they’ll be “ready” for Heaven.

It is a temptation that is not limited to college students. There has probably been a time that each of us has secretly (or not-so-secretly) wished that we will get to experience something in this life before God calls us Home. This tendency, however, fails to consider that there is nothing in this world that can compare to the reality of being in God’s presence. There is no happiness here that is not superseded by the joy there. There is no success on this Earth that is not surpassed by the delight of being with Christ.  There is no achievement or accolade of this world that is not eclipsed by the privilege of praising God in His presence.

We are tempted to think that we are “missing out” if we don’t get to a certain stage of this life, but in reality, we are currently missing out on the satisfaction of being with our Maker.

And perhaps if we gained a deeper appreciation for the majesty and delight of an eternity with God, we would find our contentment there and not in the things of this world.

 

Daily Deliverance

April 11, 2017 — Leave a comment

It’s a wonderful thing to delight in our salvation. When we talk about the fact that God has saved us, most often we are thinking about how He has atoned for our sins and taken on the penalty that was rightly ours to bear (2 Cor. 5:21). Repenting from living for ourselves and placing our trust in His Son’s death and subsequent resurrection means that rather than spending eternity apart from God, as we deserve, our eternal home is with Him. We think of our salvation as what we will experience when our life on this Earth ends. Our salvation is a future reality that we have not yet experienced.

It’s true that we won’t partake of the fullness of salvation until we stand united with our Savior, however, as the Psalmist reminds us (Ps. 68:19), God’s provision for our lives is not reserved only for eternity. He is daily providing the strength His children need to live a life that is pleasing to Him. He doesn’t just care about what happens when our lives end; He is intimately concerned with what is going on in our lives now (Mt. 6:28-30). While we may not fully appreciate the magnitude of what we have been saved from until we stand before Him face-to-face, we should recognize that His concern for His children is not only for that day, but for today as well.

Looking forward to eternity and rejoicing in our ultimate salvation is appropriate. Being thankful that God provides for us on a daily basis is as well.

God Knew

April 5, 2017 — Leave a comment

We aren’t sure how we got there; we don’t know how we will get out or how long we must keep wandering through it.In the deepest valleys even those closest to us may be unable to help.

Their encouragement and exhortation may be well-intentioned but it may seem to fall on deaf ears. They want to help. And they may even attempt to do so. But ultimately the pain and the suffering resounds in our heads. The echo of the hurt can drown out the voice of perspective.

And yet even in these moments, even when the path back to the mountain seems obscured, two tiny words should comfort our hearts – God knew.

God knew. The valley we walk through was not unforeseen. He knew it was there and He knew you would walk through it.

God knew. The ache in your heart was not unanticipated. He prepared for its eventual healing before the first sting of pain pierced your soul.

God knew. He knew what you would need and who could provide it and even though the good intentions of your friends may seem ineffective, He knew how He would work through them to accomplish His purposes.

He knew when the Israelites were captives in Egypt and He knew the injustices they would face. And He not only knows what is happening in your life, before you did, He knew.

And whatever path He will use to provide restoration and rescue, He knew that too.

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. – Exodus 2:24-25 (ESV)

Repeated Kindness

April 4, 2017 — Leave a comment

A work promotion that we deserved that went to someone else.

A speeding ticket that we were awarded as another car zoomed by.

Sickness.

Hardship.

Challenges.

Unfair.

It seems it is easy to list the things that are wrong with our lives. Perceived injustices or realized slights are often the first things that we discuss after our perfunctory “hellos” and “how are you doing?”.

Yet this list is incomplete. Because from my own experience, and from what I witness in Scripture, although things may seem to go from bad to worse during difficult seasons of our lives, there is often another side to the story. At the same time that we are quick to list what is wrong, we are often neglected to look at what is right. Our focus is on how bad things are, so we are prone to miss that which is good.

Lot could attest to this. Living in a city bound for destruction, God provided him a way out. Then, as Lot lingered, the angels of the Lord dragged him to safety. Finally, when given the instructions of where he should flee, instead of going there immediately, Lot brazenly asked for a modification. The Lord relented and granted his request (Gen. 19).

Repeated kindness. Thoughtful compassion. In the midst of chaos and ruin, God’s mercy flowed.

Yet my guess is that when Lot told the story he focused on his sinful neighbors and the home he lost. The fact that his wife turned into a pillar of salt probably eclipsed the recounting of God’s favor over him and his family. Even when we share the account with our children the theme tends to be destruction rather than benevolence.

But it is there. Over and and over again. In varied and individualized ways, we see God’s love and grace.

When we share our story, or go through our difficult season, may we be quick to see God’s recurrent kindness. May we be eager to share it with those with whom our lives intersect. And may be quick to praise the One who brings good, even amidst the bad.

The First Step

March 31, 2017 — Leave a comment

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

There are times in our lives where we feel like we are carrying the weight of the world. The pressure to do all that we are supposed to do can feel overwhelming. And yet, Scripture tells us that for the Christian that should not be the case. Because the Christian should be casting their cares on the Lord (I Peter 5:7) and trusting in His provision for all that is set before them.

But how does one do this? What seems like a beneficial concept can become difficult in practice. We know we are supposed to rely on God and yet we still feel the pressure for our responsibilities, our relationships, and our commitments.

In my experience, the way that we put this concept into practice is by heeding the first part of Matthew 11:28. Christ says to “come” to Him. So often when we feel the pressure of all that we are supposed to do, we haven’t even taken the time to pray. As a Christian, we often use prayer as our last resort, when it should be our first resource. Christ is able to do more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20), and when we come to Him with our burdens first, and prayerfully lay that at His feet, we can then exchange our feelings of pressure, for His promise of peace (Phil. 4:7).

Whatever God has set before you today, or this coming week, may you first come to Him with your cares and concerns. May you lay before Him your desires and your worries, and may His children have confidence that He is already working through those things to accomplish His good purposes (Rom. 8:28).

Sweet Sorrow

February 26, 2015 — Leave a comment

It was William Shakespeare in his play “Romeo and Juliet” that popularized the idea that parting could be “such sweet sorrow.” The phrase, uttered between two lovers as they prepare to bid adieu to each other for the night, reminded us that while good-byes are necessary, they hold within them the hope of when we will see our loved ones again. The anticipation of being reunited can mingle with the despair of separation, and something that is at its essence sad, can be marked by promise.

The last few weeks have brought this phrase to mind repeatedly because, as God ordained it, three people that we know have passed away. Two of them were young men in their thirties who left behind young sons. Another was a mom, seemingly in good health up to the moment of her death. These were good-byes that you did not anticipate. These were deaths in which no “plausible” explanation can be given. Medical opinions aside, it has been hard to grasp the reasons that these individuals are no longer with us. From a human perspective, it just doesn’t make sense.

However,  despite the lack of clarity, one thing that has been made evident – all grief is not the same. There is a different kind of grief when a Christian passes away. The pain is no less real; the gaping hole is just as wide. Yet, despite this, there is an assurance, a confidence that this good-bye is one that can, on the perimeter, be characterized as “sweet.” The farewell is not permanent; the separation is not forever. In anticipation of when we will see our brothers or sisters again, we grieve, but not without hope (I Thess. 4:13). We know that our Redeemer lives (Job 19:25), and we can boldly look froward to that time where we will be united with Him and reunited with those in faith who have gone before. Every day that passes is a day that brings us closer to that Day. There is sadness, and it is deep, but the grace and love of our Father can fill it with peace.

It is hard to say goodbye to those that we love. It is difficult to imagine a “new normal” – a life where they aren’t in it. But the Christian knows that life on this Earth is merely a vapor; hope is not to be found in it but in the One who conquered death to bring us true life with Him. And when He calls us Home, the pain of sorrow will dissipate as we experience the sweetness of being reunited with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we rejoice together in the presence of our Lord.

 

Hope-is-not-to-be-found

Fear & Love

January 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

One of the beautiful things about Scripture is that you can read the same passage year after year and still learn something new from it. The depths and richness of the Word of God means that there are always new treasures to uncover; there is always new lessons to be learned.

Recently, the reality of this was brought home to me as I read through Matthew 10. In verses 26-33 we have recorded two familiar passages. In the beginning of this section, we read of Christ’s admonition to His disciples regarding the proper perspective on fear. He teaches them that while the world may fear those who have the power to kill them, they would do well to instead fear the all-powerful and all-knowledgeable God – the One who has their present and their future in the palm of His hands. In the adjoining verses, however, we stumble across another familiar section of Scripture when Christ talks about the Father’s care for His kids. He reminds the disciples that God cares about the sparrows that fall; He certainly is concerned with them.

Reading this passage it may seem like an odd juxtaposition. Just after Jesus talks about how people should fear God, He talks about how much God loves them. Right after He warns them regarding their eternal destination, He encourages them about their Earthly care.

While it is tempting to see this as a dichotomy, I don’t think it is. Instead Christ is concisely revealing two marvelous aspects of Who God is. God is awe-inspiring and majestic; and God is loving and kind. God is the proper object of our worship and allegiance, and He is the only conduit of true love.  Our eternity is in His hands, and through the nails that pierced His skins, He provided a way that we can spend eternity with Him.

In our humanity we tend to emphasize one aspect of God over another. We exalt His justice or we revel in His love. Jesus taught us that both these things are true of God, and because of it, we should fear Him, and rest in Him all at the same time.

 

Fear and love

Do As I Say

August 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

We’ve all probably heard the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do.” Those words have drawn contention from many a teenager’s heart. After all, if someone is telling you to do something it seems that the very least they could do is be adherents to their own advice. It’s understandable to question the wisdom that they are espousing when they aren’t even willing to follow it.

Although it is easy to make sense of the ire that the phrase engenders, it is also easy to comprehend what causes someone to say it. When we are giving advice to another, we tend to offer dispassionate, sensible insight. When we are looking at our own circumstance, we tend to make things harder. We may know what the proper course of action is, but we take in a variety of emotional and personal factors that aren’t part of our consideration when issuing instructions to another. Often times, these additional considerations cause us to do ourselves a disservice. We don’t do what we know we should because we are more inclined to do what we want.

I’ve found that this tendency can be routinely observed in my own life when I am exhorting someone else to trust in God. When speaking into another’s life it is easy to focus on God’s sovereignty and goodness (Rom. 8:28)  and to point out the need to trust God in all circumstances (Prov. 3:5-6), relying on the fact that He will orchestrate the situation for His glory and our good. However, too often I fail to instruct myself to do the same. Instead, I fall into the temptation of thinking that my worry will somehow alleviate the stress of the unknown. I act as if I have the ability to dictate the outcome and that I can craft a plan that will ensure the best result. The fallacy of this is easy to observe when I’m looking at another; I’m less inclined to point it out in myself.

However, just because it is not easy to point out my own lack of trust and the sin of my own worry, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it. Instead, when I find myself focused on the situation instead of my Savior, I need to tell myself what I would tell a friend “Get your eyes back on God.”  I need to recognize that this is good advice – for both of us, and I would be wise to follow it. I should do as I would say and trust that just like God will work for good in their lives, that He will accomplish the same in mine.

Anticipated Future

July 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

Like many people, I have a penchant for planning. I work hard to consider what needs to be done, who I need to catch up with, and allocate the time needed to do those things. If I had to choose between a spur-of-the-moment activity, and a planned event, I would most likely choose the latter. Spontaneity and I are on friendly terms, but we are not close. I would much rather have an appointment on my calendar than try to “squeeze something in.”

While there are many benefits to this proclivity, one of the downsides is that I tend to think that if I work hard enough, I will be able to plan for everything. The foolishness of this, however, is obvious as soon as the sentence is stated. As you and I both know, you can’t plan for everything. Life is full of surprises – some of them good and some of them not. Regardless of what category they fall into, we have all experienced some things that simply could not have been anticipated. At least not by us.

There is Someone, however, who does know what will happen in our lives. Our great God and King is not caught off guard by what crosses our path. While we may not be able to predict what will happen next, He is well aware of it. And just like He is knows what will come, He knows what we will need in order to glorify Him through it. If we don’t have it now, He will provide it. Or He may choose to change the circumstance so that what we currently have can be used to put His majesty on display. Either way, He does not let us encounter the future without a plan and provision for using it for His glory.  We may not know what we need for our unknown future, but He does, and He can prepare us for what we will encounter next.

Worrying about the future, then, is senseless, not only because as Scripture tells us, our worry doesn’t produce any fruitful results (Mt. 6:27), but because worry presumes that our confidence is in what we can do, and not in what God is doing for us. Instead of trying to scheme on how we might conquer what we think may happen, we would be better served by trusting in the God Who knows what will occur. Our future may be unanticipated by us, but He has already planned and prepared for it.