“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.
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.
Today I’m experimenting with the idea that AND is like a blinking light to pay attention to when I read Scripture. I might be tempted to skip right over that one little word until I remember AND links the words or phrases either side of it to emphasize they go together. So here goes…
Colossians 1-13: Segments direct from the NIV.
4 …we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus AND of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith AND love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven AND about which you have already heard…6 …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. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 AND who also told us of your love in the Spirit. 9 … We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom AND understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord AND please him in every way… 11 …so that you may have great endurance AND patience. 12 AND giving joyful thanks to the Father…13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness AND brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…
Your faith in Christ AND love for all God’s people happened because of a hope stored up for you in heaven. That hope allowed you to hear the true message of the Gospel AND see it bearing fruit AND growing. You learned about God’s grace AND your love in the Spirit came to life in visible ways.
The Spirit gives you wisdom AND understanding so you really can live a life worthy of the Lord AND please him with your joyful thanks. You’ve been rescued from darkness AND brought into the kingdom of the son he loves in whom we have redemption AND the forgiveness of sins.
NCV Romans 15:4 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.
We read the Scripture because we believe they were “written to teach us.” Learning from them is a very good reason but I don’t think that alone would keep us coming back day after day or account for the impact the Bible has had for such a long time on so many lives. There’s something far more personal happening “so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
We read because we believe our faith is a gift from God that we want to learn about. We read because we believe our relationship to Jesus has brought us grace and forgiveness. We come back and read some more because we discover within those pages there’s something that gives those ancient words new life for today. We read because the secret of endurance and encouragement lies within us, the Holy Spirit – hope, that has promised to reveal the mystery of our personal connection to God and help us navigate in this foreign land we call life.
Excerpts from Hebrews 6 [NIV& TLB]
1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity,
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him
12 Then, knowing what lies ahead for you, you won’t become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience.
19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
2 Thessalonians Living Bible
1-3 & 7-8 And now, what about the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to meet him? Please don’t be upset and excited, dear brothers, by the rumor that this day of the Lord has already begun. If you hear of people having visions and special messages from God about this, or letters that are supposed to have come from me, don’t believe them. 3 Don’t be carried away and deceived regardless of what they say…7 As for the work this man of rebellion and hell will do when he comes, it is already going on, but he himself will not come until the one who is holding him back steps out of the way. 8 Then this wicked one will appear, whom the Lord Jesus will burn up with the breath of his mouth and destroy by his presence when he returns
Two topics seem to be a big part of the community of faith today; Jesus’ return and the miserable state of the world. Both are very real. The fact is, even in our community of faith, we are caught in between the hope of Jesus’ return, that we don’t know much about, and all the well-documented evil in our world we hear so much about. It’s hard to know how to reconcile all that. The “man of rebellion and hell” speaks loudly with many borrowed voices that come at us daily. They question the truth we know about the Lord, but can’t yet see. Those voices hope to leave us with impotent despair and to make what is unseen seem impossible to the world…and even to us. Those voices swear that our only hope is to be prepared for the worst with worry, despair and even guns and violence if need be. Don’t listen!
Jesus is the reconciler of life with a different voice and a true hope for living our life of faith right in the midst of a world that needs a makeover. You win and Jesus wins! John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By
“this-worldliness” I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”