July 31 – Share Your Hope

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

July 31 – Share Your Hope

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

Hope is incredibly powerful.  It transforms lives.

In Greek mythology, Hope was the final thing in Pandora’s box.  After all of the plagues and calamities flew out of the box, she slammed the lid shut on the final item – hope.  In this way, mankind would be punished for her curiosity.  But, it was opened again and hope always showed up when humanity could no longer take the plagues and calamities.  It didn’t show up first, it showed up when they could take no more.

So humanity lived on.  No matter what came, hope showed up and people continued to live.

We have great reason to hope.  Our hope is a living hope.  Our hope is stored in heaven. Our hope is based on the foundation of the Creator.

People need to hear about our hope.

Plagues and calamities surround us every day.  There are people who feel as if they have no more hope left because of the number of attacks they face.

We can bring hope.  We can tell of the living hope that we know.

Share your hope.

July 30 - Living Hope

July 30 – Living Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

New birth into a living hope.

This is something no one else can offer … a living Savior.

Everything on earth dies … nothing remains alive.  Except Jesus Christ.  When He came back from death, He didn’t end up in heaven by dying again.  He was, is and shall always be alive.

It is He that offers us living hope. Because it comes through a living Savior, it can’t perish, spoil or fade.  Because it is stored for us in heaven, it can’t be damaged or stolen.

A living hope.  Take a moment to consider the depths of that and then say thank you.

July 29 – Faith: Hope With Certainty

July 29 – Faith: Hope With Certainty

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  (Hebrews 11:1)

What an amazing statement.  This is really a line in the sand, isn’t it!

We can hope and hope and hope and hope.  But then, we cross the line into faith … and certainty.

When I talk to friends who are facing a crisis, we talk about hope.  But, if I’m talking to a friend who isn’t confident in their Christian walk, I can offer them hope and the certainty of my own faith.  I move past the hope that God will care for them into faith and the solidity of that faith is what I share.

I don’t necessarily expect them to have the same confidence that I have – that’s not even sensible.  But, I can walk with them until they see that faith is hope with certainty and I can pray with and for them until they experience the result of hope and faith.

We all have friends who don’t know if God really exists.  They hope that He does and they hope that He is as merciful and loving as we say He is.

Faith comes when they experience that for themselves.  Until that point … your certainty is a lifeline.

July 28 – A Better Hope

July 28 – A Better Hope

…one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’  The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:16-19)

This is one of those difficult things for us to truly comprehend … the radical difference between living under the Law and living under grace.  We have no concept of what the people who lived around the time of Jesus had to face as they transformed their thinking.  As we look back on it with the gift of a couple thousand years of study and understanding, we can only be grateful.

However, one of the reasons that Paul’s teachings affect us in such a visceral manner is that we easily find ourselves bound up in the rules of religion rather than the grace of Christ.  It is easier for us to live our lives if we can bring structure to the things we do, but that makes legalism something we need to constantly beware of.  It is so easy to get caught up in the immense list of things we should and shouldn’t do that we begin to operate our lives based on that list and we transfer that list to everyone around us.

Jesus attempted to remind us that it wasn’t about a list of dos and don’ts, but rather about love … for God and for each other.  When we operate out of a sense of grace, mercy and love rather than obligation to a ruleset, we find that we live within the ‘better hope’ Paul speaks of.

This is how we draw near to God and this is how others will find their way to Him as well.

July 27 – Hope in the Foundation

July 27 – Hope in the Foundation

Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:16-20)

God’s promises.  Hope. An anchor for the soul.

From the moment of creation, God poured Himself into this world.

The beauty that we see around us came about because of Him.  Every leaf or blade of grass, every drop of water, sparkle of sunshine, strand of hair, hum of a bee, chirp of a bird. Every bray of a donkey, mew of a kitten, roar of a lion, giggle of a child.   The sweetness of an apple, the scent of the honeysuckle. The glory of a mountain, the shiver a cold rain brings.  All of these things exist because God poured Himself out into our world.

Then He gave us life and He never retreated from His creation.  He has remained part of it for eons always renewing and re-creating.

His promises to us are as long-lasting and as steadfast as His creation.

This is the anchor for the soul, the one in whom we place our hope.

When Jesus came to earth, He came to bring renewal and re-creation to a humanity that had lost its way.  God didn’t retreat or leave us to fail.  He ensured that His relationship with humanity would continue.

Our hope lies in the one who established the foundations of the earth and continues to offer salvation to His creation.

July 26 – Hope in God or His Creation?

July 26 – Hope in God or His Creation?

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:9-10)

Not only does this deserve full acceptance but it seems that it should be something we shout to the world!

We have put our hope in the living God.

As it is, I fear that my actions shout louder than my words.

I can tell you how I hope in God, I can write about how I hope in God … but do my actions every day show you?

Do I put more hope in the stock market and my bank account than I do in the fact that God will care for my every need?

Do I put more hope in doctors and medicine than I do in the knowledge that my prayers will bring God to the bedside of a hurting friend?

Do I put more hope in an education than I do in the fact that God has created this mind and my creativity and will show me how to use them?

Oh, I believe that God has created all of those people and things to help us along our way, but do my actions show the world that I hope more in God or in His creation?

July 25 – Hope of Salvation

July 25 – Hope of Salvation

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:8)

Carol calls me a cave-dweller because I have a tendency to prefer working at night.  When I am writing and reading, I like to have a few focused lights on around me while the rest of my local is dimly lit.  Part of that might have something to do with growing up in the 70s and constantly hearing my father remind us to turn off lights during the energy crisis.  In fact, I suspect that affects me more than I even realize.  Another part of it is that if my workspace is brightly lit, but the rest of the place is dim, I will ignore that which I can’t see.  I tend to be easily distracted and find a million reasons to cease what I’m doing and clean some perceived mess up.  So, if I can’t see it well, I’ll ignore it and continue to work.

The Bible is filled with encouragement to rise early in the morning to pray and study.  All of which I have done my best to ignore over the years. I mean … really?  Yes, it makes sense for those who need to begin their workday at some unearthly hour to rise even earlier so as to spend time with God, but if I get up that early, it just means there will need to be a nap before I can get started on the rest of my day.

I like spending time with God and with my thoughts late into the evening.  But that doesn’t mean I belong to the night.  The darkness doesn’t frighten me because of the light that stays with me even when the sunshine has passed to the other side of the world and all that remains in the sky are stars and the moon.

He is the light of my world and my hope is in the salvation that He offers me.  Jesus Christ is surrounded by glorious light – brighter than any sun.  When we live in the New Jerusalem, He will bring all the light that is needed to His world – the sun and moon will no longer be needed.  Hope in salvation by Jesus Christ.  That does bring light to my darkness.

July 24 - Hope is a Spring

July 24 – Hope is a Spring

…We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. (Colossians 1:4-6)

Hope just doesn’t stay silent, does it!

Faith and love spring from that hope and the gospel bears fruit and grows throughout the world because of hope.

Paul is thrilled to be writing these words to his friends in Colossae and I can’t imagine anything more exciting to read them were they to be written about a group I belonged to.

Hope isn’t a selfish thing to be held and treasured in our hearts.  Hope isn’t something that we hold onto only for ourselves.

Hope allows us to become more than what our small lives can manage.  It gushes forth as a spring with faith and love.

One of the loveliest thoughts from these verses for me is that I don’t have to store hope – it is held for me in heaven.  There is no place safer.  My heart isn’t even safe – it is as flexible as a reed and can be sent into utter turmoil with a single word.  Hope is stored in heaven and from that storehouse comes all that I need.

July 23 – A Promise – One Hope

July 23 – A Promise – One Hope

There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Sometimes it feels as if Christianity is fragmented.  There are so many different denominations, people want to worship and do things differently depending on how they live their lives.  There are wars fought over how Christianity should be handled in our lives.  We see disruption everywhere we look.

I think about this a lot and I pray about it, stress over it, and worry over it.  I read books about how Christianity in the western world is falling apart and I look for signs that it is being destroyed on so many different fronts.  When I see signs of hope, they aren’t necessarily in any of my communities but far away in countries – continents that I will never visit.

Then I read this verse.

This is a promise.  This isn’t a commandment – it’s a promise.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.  There is one hope, one body, one Spirit.  There is one God.

We can play all the games we like, worry about it stress over it, write books about it and it will not change a thing.  We can experience fragmentation and dissension, but we can’t escape the promise.

There is one God.  There is one hope.

July 22 – Hope that He Will Always Be There

July 22 – Hope that He Will Always Be There

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. (2 Corinthians 1:10-11a)

You know the story of the boy who cried wolf.  After setting up his rescuers so many times with a fake cry for help, when he really needed it, they ignored him.  This story is a great lesson about lying, however … it doesn’t give a child great confidence in the rescuers who should be there no matter what.

Another childhood warning comes from placing yourself in danger.  “Don’t do that again” comes with an implied warning that if you do, it’s on you to get yourself out of it.

I travel back and forth across the bridge over the river that goes past our property and think about the number of times that Dad warned us about going near trees that had fallen into the river.  It was dangerous because of the movement of the current and very difficult to get yourself out of the danger.  So many trees have fallen into the river that I am reminded about that danger quite often.  When I was young I spent a lot of time conjuring up the best way to get myself out of a bad situation in the river because if I was there, I knew Dad had told me over and over to avoid it and I’d screwed up.

Looking back, I know that Dad was trying to keep me safe, but I also know that no matter how many times he had warned me of the danger so I would avoid it, he would have moved as quickly as possible to rescue me, no matter the circumstance.  And if I managed to find myself in that situation a second time, he would move just as quickly.  And if I managed to find myself in that situation a third, fourth or even fifth time, his initial response would still be the same (though there would probably be some type of punishment once I was safe, I’m clear on that).

We can’t push God to a point that He will not rescue us.  He will never abandon us, He will never ignore our cries for help.  This is the steadfast, everlasting God in whom we place our hope.  Even moreso than my father, He will respond to me over and over and over again.