Archive for the ‘hope’ Category

Hope

January 31, 2016

“He does not crush the weak, or quench the smallest hope.”   Isaiah 42:3

These words were spoken about Jesus.  Everyone longs for Jesus, they just don’t know it.  Every single one of us longs to be loved, just as we are.  Every single one of us longs to be understood.  We all want to be healed and helped.  We just don’t really believe it can happen.  We’ve been let down too often.  We’ve been disappointed in parents, friends, lovers and spouses.  We have never found a human being who could be all we need.  But Jesus is and has and does all we need.

Many people cringe when they hear the name of Jesus, because the lie is that we have to clean up our act before we can seek Him.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Truth is, we have to come to Him before we can clean up our act, because we just can’t do it on our own–none of us can.  No one, not Mother Teresa, the Pope, or the saintliest person you ever knew, can clean up their own act.  Everyone falls short of what God created them for, and everyone needs the grace, mercy and healing of God.

The great news is we can come to Jesus with all our baggage, all our issues, everything we’re ashamed of, our guilt, our pain, all of it.  And He doesn’t crush us, but heals us.  He doesn’t condemn–He loves us.  When our faith is so small its like a tiny spark in the wind, barely staying alive, He shelters and nurtures it.  When our hope is so tiny, its barely visible, He feeds it and cares for it.  We can pray  “Lord if you’re real, I want to know you”.  And He will honor that prayer.  After all, He was the one who said that faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains.  Faith is the key, He is the mover.

Advertisements

Prayer when the world seems a mess

March 25, 2011

Lord, thank you for reminding me that You care about the good of our world and about everyone in it.  You care when evil people misrepresent You.  You care when evil people deface the beautiful things You have created.  You care about war, violence, greed and abuse of people and the sacred.  You care about the lost, lonely, sick, misguided and silly people.  You care about everyone I love.  You care about the things that make me sad because they are wrong.  They make You sadder than I’ll ever know.  If I cry over sin in me and others, You wept first, and with more feeling.

Thank you for caring about it all and about me.  And thank you that You are still in control and working out all things for good for all who love You.

God of the Dark Places

March 15, 2010

Sometimes I can hardly stand to read the news.  The wars, rumors of wars, crime, violence and hatred, make everything seem so black.  But it isn’t black to You, is it Lord?  Its as though we’re in a box and the lid is pulled over the top, making it dark for those of us living inside.  But outside the box its daylight and You can be seen.  You won’t let that lid stay on forever.  You’ve set the times for just how long You’ll allow things to stay the way they are.  And the timer is ticking down.

Spiritual Blahs

March 1, 2010

In this season of Lent, we take time for introspection.  Just as we take stock of our relationships and our financial condition, we should also take stock of our relationship with the Lord.  If we find, as many of us do, that we have been taking this relationship for granted, then it needs work in the same way a marriage needs work.  Our primary, close relationships fail for lack of intimacy.  We have quit talking to each other, and soon realize we no longer know what is going on with the other person.  Unlike our human relationships, God always knows what is going on with us.  God always loves us unconditionally, and we can hardly expect that of another human being.  However, there is a price to pay for lack of intimacy with God.  I call it the spiritual blahs. 

Have you ever felt that God was far away, and there was no one really listening when you prayed?  Have you felt uninspired, mildly depressed and just, well, dull?  God never changes, but people change.  We change.  Staying too busy for God leaves our souls in the same condition as a plant that has been left in the darkness too long.

What to do?  Well, the cure for human distance is to start talking , and also start listening.  We can, thankfully, go to God anytime  and apologize for putting too many things on our agenda ahead of our time with Him.  We need to take some time to thank Him for all the good things He has been doing in our lives and the lives of those around us.  Then we need to tell Him, openly, honestly, and thoroughly, what is going on in our world and in our head.  He already knows, of course, but He loves to hear us open our hearts to Him.  Then we need to listen.  Sometimes we will  hear some answers in our minds and hearts.  We just “know” its Him.  We just “know”, because its in line with what we have always known about Him, and it is also in line with our best, most Christlike self.  It doesn’t stroke or appeal to our small self– the selfish, cowardly, prideful self.

The other way to listen is to  read scripture till we begin to see a picture of what He is trying to say to us.  Reading the actual words of Jesus is particularly helpful to me, but so is reading psalms and epistles.  Often I will stop and ask, “Jesus, what are you saying to me, and how do you want me to apply this to my life?”  Then being quiet, the thoughts come again.  When I pray like this, I often find things happening in my circumstances, almost as if He created a special opportunity for me to do the thing He is drawing me to do.

When I take time to pray and listen like this, the blahs disappear, and there’s an excitement in day to day living that should be normal for us, and so often is not.

How can God allow evil?

February 14, 2010

We wonder sometimes why God allows evil, and the theologians promise us it is for a greater good.  But I always wondered how God feels when He allows that evil thing into the life of  His beloved child, even though it indeed results in greater and deeper good.  He reminds me of two episodes in my own life that reveal a parent’s heart.

When my son was seven, a specialist told us that without surgery, he would most likely lose much of his hearing.  Yet upon teling our son this news, he became terribly upset and asked me the piercing question “You can’t let them hurt me.  Don’t you love me?”  Years later another medical procedure, this time on an infant granddaughter, had me in tears in the hallway.  Each time the child’s pain and terror was for the greater good: preservation of hearing in the one case and possible preservation of life in the other.  The greater good for these children still broke my heart, as I identified with their suffering.  Might not God feel the same way?  He does.

History records that when His friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept.  (Its the shortest sentence in the bible–Jesus wept).  Jesus wasn’t weeping for his own loss.  He had already told his disciples they would see a miracle that day.  He knew He would shortly raise Lazarus from the dead.  No, He wept at the distress of Lazarus’ two sisters, Martha and Mary.  Their sorrow broke Jesus’ heart.  He knows, He cares, He identifies with us in suffering, He loves us, and ultimately He makes it up to us.

Nothing is Happening Part 2

October 28, 2009

Once I prayed with great anguish:  “Lord, I’ve prayed and prayed for You to use me, and nothing is happening.”  The answer I received in my spirit was awesome.  I sensed the Lord saying to me:  “Child, are you willing to let me use you, even if I don’t reveal to you what I am doing?  If I use you mightily, in the dark so to speak, and you become aware of it, might you not become puffed up?  If you begin to think too highly of yourself, you may take over the work yourself and cease to be my servant.”

Nothing is Happening

October 28, 2009

It may seem to us that nothing is happening in our lives, but that is not true, for God is never idle.  When it appears quiet, He is always working behind the scenes, preparing people and circumstances for His future plans.  If God has placed a dream in your heart, He will fulfill it.  If He delays, something is not yet ready.  It will be.  Just follow Him today and do those things He has put in your path today.  Perhaps you are doing a work right now of which you are not even aware.  We may be so surprised in eternity to find how mightily He has used us when we didn’t even know it.  It is, after all, all about Him.  We are simple servants.

The Prodigal Son

August 10, 2009

The story of the prodigal son is so famous in our culture, even people who don’t know the origin of the story know the word “prodigal” to mean someone who is rebellious and estranged from family.  The original story told by Jesus has many different lessons contained in it,and to fully understand, it has to be looked at through the prism of ancient Hebrew culture.

The son who asked for his inheritance committed a sin, which in that culture deserved the death sentence.  He not only denied his father any respect, he as much as said “I wish you were dead because I only care about the wealth I will get.”  His father, unbelievably, gave him his inheritance, and further disrespect followed.  The prodigal son sold his portion of the land.  In Hebrew culture, the land was a gift from God, never to be sold.  With the money he got from the sale, he left his father, his country, his culture and in all that as well as spending his money in “wild living” he trashed every one of his father’s values.

When the money ran out, he found himself friendless and starving.  He hired himself out to a pig farmer.  The pig was considered filthy in his native culture, yet he was so hungry he wanted to eat with the pigs and was denied even that.  The story says “he came to his senses”.  There’s hope in that little phrase.  God often brings people to a place where they see the light.  God gave this young man such a longing for home, he was willing to risk throwing himself on his father’s mercy.  He recognized being a slave in his father’s house was better than his present situation.

When he comes home, the story shows the father seeing him “from afar”, meaning the father has been watching the horizon.  When he recognizes his son, he runs to him.  This was unheard of in this culture.  This son had wronged the father, and the father’s running to the son was the height of indignity.  Then he threw himself on the son, hugging the young man who probably reeked of pigs.  The father bestows all the symbols of sonship on his son once again, the ring, the robe and the sandals.  There was no earning of this favor.  It was sheer mercy.  Then the father throws a party.

This is a picture of God.  God is a father who so loves his errant children, there should be no fear, ever, in returning home to him.

Another interesting part of the story is the reaction of the older son, who is jealous of all the attention being paid to his treasonous brother.  He had, after all, been the perfect son, staying behind, caring for the father’s interests, and doing a double share of the work.  However, it is clear he also wants something from his father.  He wants recognition and reward.  He wants to be considered better than his brother.  He is a model of the religious person who hopes to earn reward from God by “being good enough”.  He hopes to earn through works what the father gives through grace.  He has no understanding of his father’s heart, nor does he truly love his father.

The summary of the whole story is this father has two sons who neither love him nor appreciate him for who he is.  None of their actions show a care for the father or a putting of the Father’s interests first.  In that way, neither of the sons is truly the better son.  Both are in the relationship for what they can get out of it.  One is just more socially acceptable.

Again, we see the father who loves both his sons when neither has earned the father’s love.  How like God and his human children.  Who of us can say we truly put God first.  Who of us can say we truly love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength.  Thank God, through his grace and revelation of himself, some of us are beginning to come to our senses.  He has a long way to take us yet, before we understand His heart, appreciate Him and begin to become like Him.

Grateful for Faith

August 8, 2009

I feel overwhelmed today.  I just feel so much gratitude for my Christian faith.  I remember a time when I wasn’t sure that God existed.  I didn’t know the history of Jesus, and how he rose from the dead.  I didn’t know all the proofs that he is God.  I didn’t know His promises of eternal life.  I was afraid of death.  I was afraid of bad happenings after death.  I was also afraid that death might be the end.

Humans are the only beings on earth with self awareness.  We know we exist.  We are able to wonder why we exist.  We are aware of our mortality.  We are able to wonder what happens after our death.  Our awareness would be cruel if we didn’t have any answers, or if our lives were so short and death was final.  What would be the purpose of all we learned and all the loves in our lives?  What would be the point of a love that was so great you couldn’t believe it would one day die, if that were all there was…the death of love.  But then I began to learn and discover the promises of Jesus Christ.

No other religion has the promise of the Christian faith.  With some religions the best I can hope for is some kind of melding with the eternal–a loss of my self.  With other religions, I can only hope for some eternal reward from a God who is quite unknowable, not at all personal, and quite arbitrary.  With other religions, notably atheism and agnosticism, I can hope for, well, nothing at all.  That is my best hope with atheism–that there is nothing following this life.

Christian faith offers a personal God, a God who has had our experience of human life and understands what that is like to be human.  Christian faith offers the promise of God that life can be forever.  Christian faith offers the love of God, grace, forgiveness and the promise of a future home being prepared just for us.  It is backed up by the historical evidence of Jesus life, the miracles that proved his credibility as God, and His resurrection which proves His promise of eternal life to be true.  The resurrection of Jesus is one of the best attested facts in history.  If one were to throw out His history, we would have to throw out history books completely. 

I’m grateful for the Christian faith’s promises, I am grateful for a God who loves his creatures, and I am grateful He never made it necessary for our faith in Him to be a blind faith.

Suffering

April 2, 2009

I have just finished reading the book of Job in the bible.  He is a very familiar name in our culture, and even unbelievers have frequently heard of him and associate him with suffering.  Job was a person who had literally lost everything but his life.  He lost his children, possessions, health, and apparently the love and respect of his wife.  His many, many questions are questions we ourselves have asked.  His number one question, asked in different ways was “What did I do to deserve this?”  He kept answering his own question in various ways, insisting he did nothing to deserve it.  While that may have been true in the context of the story (Satan inflicted the suffering on Job, trying to prove to God that people only use God and do not love or trust Him), Job was trying to insist he was righteous, and of course that is not true.  None of us are righteous.  While we can’t understand God’s purposes in allowing our suffering , we can know that evil does not come from God, but only from the evil one.  God only allows people to suffer in order to accomplish a purpose beyond our understanding.  The book of Job shows us there are workings in the heavenlies that we cannot see or hear.  It shows us that God does care about our welfare.  The book of Job shows us that God somehow more than makes it up to us when we have suffered.  It shows us that God is so far above our ability to comprehend Him that our inability to understand our suffering is a foregone conclusion.   Don’t we trust him when He is doing what we perceive as good?  We never question why he allows good things to happen to us.  The only question remaining, is whether we will trust this magnificent, awesome, almighty God no matter what happens.  The challenge is whether we will love Him.  Thank God He came to us in human form in the person of Jesus Christ.  We can know He understands our human weakness, our faulty understanding, our questions and our pain.  He suffered more than any of us can imagine.  And, really, we don’t even understand completely why Jesus had to suffer as He did.  May God accept our praise and thanksgiving.  He understands how limited even that can be, and He loves us as we are.