Tag Archives: Hope

Shield, Fortress, Hiding Place

John 20:
8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

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These verses reminded me of this screen shot I took last Easter from the live broadcast of Gracepoint Church in Sturgis, Michigan.  That empty tomb for those closest to Jesus resulted in fear, not hope.  Hindsight has proved God’s plan for the salvation of many, became a reality despite those frightened people caught in desperate circumstances.  Jesus’s body had disappeared from that fortress of stone.  How could that possibly be anything but bad?  “(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)” 

That parenthetic verse 9 has become a modern-day lesson for me.  As odd as it is to type this sentence; doubt and fear have always been a part of faith, even for those closest to Jesus.  Even the “other” disciple, the one Jesus loved, hesitated. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.”…and

“Thomas felt a surge of shock and unbelief…Then he felt regret for having left. Then he felt isolated. He was the only one who hadn’t seen Jesus.  He had seen so many things that would have been unbelievable if he hadn’t seen them. Most haunting right now was Lazarus.  And then it happened. Thomas was staring at the floor, sinking again under the fear that maybe Jesus had rejected him because of his stubborn unbelief. If so, he knew he deserved it. Then someone gasped. He looked up and his heart leaped into his throat! Jesus was standing across the room looking at him. “Peace be with you”a

Faith is what gives us the courage to come out of our hiding place, confront our fears and doubts and to believe Jesus’s words are meant to shield us today, too –  “peace be with you.”  These two verses have become my reminder that recognizing the reality of an empty burial tomb is more than evidence of my faith…it’s evidence of God’s faith in me!  “Finally” I “saw and believed” and He turned that stone cave into a fortress of hope that “the LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”b

When it’s Hard to Believe
b Psalm 18:2

Psalm 119:81-88 כ Kaph – Bend, Open, Allow, Tame

Psalm 119
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait?  When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pits to trap me, contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.  [NIV]

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A different plan for reading backwards, writing & praying today:

I have put my hope in your word, my soul faints with longing for your salvation.  When will you comfort me?  My eyes fail looking for your promise.  I do not forget your decrees though I am like a wineskin in the smoke.  When will you punish my persecutors?  How long must your servant wait?  Contrary to your law, the arrogant dig pits to trap me.  I am being persecuted without cause.  Help me.  Your commands are trustworthy.  I have not forsaken your precepts but they almost wiped me from the earth. The statutes of your mouth in your unfailing love, preserve my life that I may obey them. [Amen]

The most intriguing phrase in this part of Psalm 119 was “I am like a wineskin in the smoke.” The wineskin was vital to carrying the wine from place to place in ancient times but eventually it deteriorated as it was exposed to the smoke from fires of life inside a tent. There are many meanings of that phrase, and Kaph, but John Piper gets credit for an idea I thought worth passing on that relates the phrase to Kaph.  Kaph is the open hand of God that can “tame” and “open” the life of one who will “bend” to His will. The wine is the Gospel.  The fragile “wineskin” of life is what God has given us to carry His Gospel from place to place. That opportunity won’t last forever.

Psalm 119:49-56 ז Zayin – Weapon

Today the section title of Psalm 119 is ז Zayin – Weapon.
49 Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.
52 When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law
54 Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.
56 This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts. ESV

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It’s two days before Christmas and “ז Zayin – Weapon” definitely is NOT where my heart wants to be.  I want Bethlehem, a Holy baby and love, not weapons.  Mankind has provided plenty of weapons for both defense and offense and plenty of desire to use them.  Despite my reaction to it’s title, this section brims with testimony of God actively arming His people with a different kind of “weapons” to protect and defend their minds as well as their eyes and hearts long before the birth of Christ.  My challenge is to a) read and write the verse backwards as I have been doing and b) to look for evidence in them of God’s determined revelation of Himself that we celebrate this Advent, 2020.  

For my own clarification about laws and weapons:
law is the system of rules enforced by the authority with the intention of regulating human behavior for the common good.
statute is a legal document that declares a specific law, expressed in writing.
A precept is a rule dictating a way you should act or behave.

49 You have made me hope as you remind me of your Word.
God has reminded me through the birth of Christ of His own hope for His own creation through His own determination to place Himself in the midst of our world as a way to protect and defend our lives.

50 Your promise comforts my affliction and gives me life. 
Jesus is God’s promise of comfort revealed in human form as a newborn that Luke 2 reminds us “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” to redeem the sins of my afflictions with His love.

52 O Lord, I take comfort when I think of your rules from of old.
I don’t always feel comforted by rules but I do recognize they are a hedge of restraint around me until I come “to my senses.”   Jesus was the “Door” opened to new freedom to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

53 The wicked who forsake your law cause hot indignation to seize me.
The first Law of God to regulate human behavior is to love Him.  Hot indignation rarely affects the wicked but it’s certainly the fire that can destroy the ability to love. 

54  In this house where I sojourn your statues are my songs.
Our sojourn is the brief span of life we’re given by God for the express purpose learning the words and the music of God’s love song for us, Jesus the Christ.

55 I keep your law O Lord, and remember your name in the night.
I remember that little town of Bethlehem.  I remember the circumstances of life where your answer to regulating human behavior for the common good was revealed in Law of Love, Jesus, born in the likeness of man.

56 I have kept your precepts and this blessing has fallen on me.
I have pledged to let your Law of Love dictate my actions and behavior.  The blessing that has fallen on me this Advent, 2020 is that “God With Us,” is the Law of Love you’ve given to protect and defend my life here and now and forever.

The Third Chapter – Titus

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. [ESV]

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3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [ESV]

Live Your Inheritance!

NASB Eph 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 

NLT Eph 1:18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

Verse 18 from both the New American Standard Bible and the New Living Translations have become the foundation of this post.  The words are slightly different but the questions are the same.  They reminded me that the “glorious inheritance” is a real part of our daily lives, and so much more than a reward at the end of it.  

  • What is God’s purpose in opening the eyes of our heart?
  • What is the hope to which he has called us?
  • What is the glorious inheritance? 

Visual, written and spoken information bombards our senses but not everything makes it past the defenses life teaches us to build to protect our heart.  The gift of hope is God’s purpose that has made His Word endure for centuries. Hope that penetrates the defenses of the heart to see beyond itself into God’s own heart with the confidence to ask: whose inheritance? Ours or His?

Ours!  That dear friend is only a part of the much bigger answer.  God’s inheritance has been given to enable us to live beyond our imperfections in this world while waiting for the perfection promised in the next. God has already invested everything of Himself in us to provide us with “the riches of the glory of His inheritance IN the saints…

His!  “The confident hope he has given to those he called” has revealed the complete answer from God’s own heart through Jesus so we might live everyday as “his holy people who are HIS rich and glorious inheritance.”

Live your inheritance!

Resurrection Day!


It’s resurrection day!  I’m remembering this very special week in Jesus’s life thru the filter of coronavirus today.  Holy Week this year began very differently than most of us would have expected.   Coronavirus moved us from participation to isolation and gave us a conscious awareness of the reality of our need to be safe.

Our senses have been bombarded all week with grim truths that describe the endless march of a viral enemy beyond our control.  But there is another truth that has become the glimmer of “good” hope during this week.  It’s hope that reaches beyond the stress of physical distancing, fears for our safety, illness, ventilators, and death…into the future.  

The hope of the future of humanity has been revealed through the conscious, sacrificial and persistent service of ordinary people despite personal risk to themselves.  That hope is a reality because of this truth; God has intentionally intervened in the hearts of those ordinary people to equip them to surpass even the best of human motives.  

 Those              ordinary
 people have shown us a Holy
love that saves, in real time,
to make God’s divine
purpose known
to all of
us

In the year of our Lord 2020
Jesus Christ lives to be a part of our future and our hope.
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”
[Matthew 28:6 NIV]

Loveable

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  [NRSV]

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That kind of complete love is one of the biggest challenges our faith calls us to recognize.  We struggle because we know our own well-kept secrets.  The wonder of the love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ is that He knows all our secrets too and He still finds us lovable.  Accepting and acting in accordance with Jesus and His complete love is where hope triumphs over the secrets that have kept us from being “love”able. 

Romans 5:5 ..and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 

The Firsts: I Thessalonians 1 – Following the Footnotes

Grace to you and peace.
V3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and [perseverance]steadfastness of hope [of]in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 
V5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we [became]proved to be among you for your sake. 
V9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a [entrance]reception we had [to]with you, and how you turned to God from [the]idols to serve [the]a living and true God, 
V10 and to wait for His Son from [the heavens]heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

Footnotes are used to by translators to give more definition to a translated word or phrase.  There are eight footnotes listed in this short chapter of 10 verses. That was an emphasis that interested me so I read them substituting the dictionary definitions of the translators [footnotes].  They did just what the translators had hoped.

MY THOUGHTS: 
V3 Look at how our persistence to find hope is changed by that small change of the preposition from in to [of].  It’s Jesus’ own hope for us and his presence with God that makes our persistence and hope real and of value.
V5 ends with the footnote explanation of the reality that even the great Apostle Paul was a work in process.  Everywhere he went was still another beginning to be the person God had created him to be among the people God has placed him with.  Isn’t that the reality of what God expects of us: to “become” together? 
V9 We might believe circumstance is just a random force that life throws at us but in reality circumstance is the new access God provides to reveal to us the reality of the difference between the true God and the idols that constantly distract us.
V10 God knows about access!  He speaks with a power only he possesses from his own center of sovereignty to resurrect us from an ordinary life to new access..

There’s a theme here you may have picked up on; the movement of life and circumstance.  It could go either way.  It can be the very opportunity of new growth or it can be the dismal sense that change is just all about loss.  I’m late in posting this Wednesday because we’ve just moved.  You talk about a change in circumstance.  Everything about moving is like putting your faith in what you can’t possibly know but you’re filled with hope.  That’s followed by arriving at the new plaoce and discovering chaos has followed you and all your efforts at control and organization are overcome by the reality of all that “new.”  New chaos is just as exhausting as old chaos but now you’re in a place where you are reminded that God really has resurrected you from what you thought was a normal life to the access of new…again.

Hello 2019!

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 NIV

I read the Scripture from Romans early Sunday morning before church. It caught my eye because my last post had been about letting our history become His Story in the New Year.  I thought of history as being wiped away to clear the slate for a new year.  Then I went to church and heard “The promise of salvation doesn’t always look like what we expect or want.”  It wasn’t a sermon about wiping away the unexpected and unwanted interruptions that happen in every life.  It was a message of recognizing the promised presence of Jesus with you in the midst of the worst news or circumstances.

Later that day I read this from Henri Nouwen’s Creative Ministry: “We are…invited to look at our history as the sequence of events that brought us to where we are now and that help us to understand what it means to be here at this moment in this world.” 

History has impact on our present, our future and our imperfection.  The ultimate unwanted and unexpected interruption of the perfection God created happened way back in Genesis 3.  Even in the consequences that followed  that sin I see God’s hope for history in His unexpected provision for those first two people.  “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”  There are many other examples of people in the Bible who endured the consequences of their own imperfection but found strength to hope in God’s Word.

We’ve just completed the celebration of God’s ultimate solution for our imperfection, the birth of Jesus Christ.  He’s our evidence of “everything that was written in the past.”  The details of the promise of our salvation won’t always work out as we expect or want. We’re still dealing with the consequences of imperfection but we can trust and depend on God’s perfect solution “so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”  Faith in Jesus is evidence of God’s hope for our life and that makes it a part of His Story.

Remembered Shape

Remember the Image

I’ve been making these beaded memory wire bracelets for the Operation Christmas Child boxes our church will pack in November.  They’re so pretty I decided to wear one to church last week.  In an inspired moment I gave the bracelet I was wearing to a woman I know almost nothing about except she is a sister in Christ.  I wanted her to know, and believe, I understood that about her.  It made perfect sense to me to remove it from my arm right there in the church pew and place it on hers with a hug and the phrase “we’re a circle of sisters.”  At that moment a simple piece of coiled memory wire with a lot of different beads became an object lesson for me.  Memory wire is interesting because no matter how many times you test it by uncoiling it to put it on or take it off it remembers the shape it was created in.  That’s both the basis and the beginning of my object lesson.  

Memory wire is like the image of God created in us.  It’s a shape we may forget but God remembers.  We are the beads.   The beads are only accents that make the bracelet a visible and beautiful reminder of that remembered shape.   I hope that woman will wear her bracelet and let it prompt her memory: God remembers his image in her and so do I…AND….she’s a beautiful “bead” in the circle of sisters.

I’ll probably never see any of the girls who’ll receive one of these bracelets next winter but my heart is filled with that same hope for them.  I know God remembers his image in each of them.  My hope is that bracelet wrapped around their arm may help them remember too.