Thursday, January 29, 2015

Enduring Hope

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: 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 spoil, perish or fade. This inheritance is 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. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your 
faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:1-9, NIV)

Peter, the apostle who at one point denied knowing Jesus, ended up dying for his faith in Christ. History tells us that Peter was crucified upside down. In this passage, Peter encourages the dispersed Christians of his time to seek hope in Christ.

Because of Christ's death and resurrection, we too have hope--a living hope. Because Jesus lives, we are alive. His mercy and power are active in the here-and-now. We don't need to earn this hope; it was acquired for us by our Savior whose sacrifice gives us hope for every day.

What kind of hope is this that Peter is speaking of? gives  one definition for the verb, to hope: to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence. I hope that my children become successful and are happy.  I look forward to having grandchildren and spending time with them.  I look forward to traveling overseas, for example. This is a desire or longing that I have. I desire to have good relationships with my family, friends and coworkers. I desire to have a good job and perform well in my professional duties. These sorts of hope, however, are fleeting desires, and they aren't always satisfied. C.S. Lewis wrote: "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world" (Mere Christianity).

Our hope in Christ is a hope that will endure.  It will be fulfilled in "another world." "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain," wrote Paul (Philippians 1:21). The hope we have in Christ is a hope that makes us new and alive in faith. This hope won't perish, spoil or fade. It is a living hope. By Christ's grace, not by anything you or I have done, we are saved, born again, made new and receive forgiveness, a right relationship with God and a future with Him in eternity. Praise be to God!

Dear God, I seek fulfillment in temporary pleasures that often lead to disappointment. You, on the other hand, offer me a hope that will last. I thank you that, through Christ, I have hope that will endure. You have made me new, forgiven me and given me faith by the power of Your Spirit. Thank you for Your grace, mercy and love. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How can I hear God's Voice?

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 
Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, "Here I am!" and ran to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down.
And the Lord called again, "Samuel!" and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, " Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And, Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant hears." (1 Samuel 3: 1-10, NIV)

After writing a detailed paper for a graduate course I'm taking, I find my mind to be blank. It is as if all imagination has been erased from my brain making it difficult to concentrate on writing a devotion. Oswald Chambers wrote: "If your imagination is starved, do not look back to your own experience; it is God Whom you need. Go right out of yourself, away from the face of your idols, away from everything that has been starving your imagination." Chamber's words lead me to several questions: If I am to get out of myself, what should I get into to arouse my brain?, and; What are the idols that are starving my imagination?

If I want to hear God's voice, I need to connect with God. God doesn't hide. In Jeremiah 29:13, God says, " You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jesus says, "Seek and you will find" (Matthew 7:7).

So, how then do I seek God's presence? If He is talking to me, I want to hear what He is saying and not miss His voice as Samuel almost did. What sort of idols (Chambers) could be keeping me from hearing God?

If I am in Christ, I will devote time to Him by reading His Word, praying, and reflecting on God's message to me. When I am overly consumed with other concerns, they become like idols and keep me from hearing God. I focus on all that I have to get done each day, on my children's welfare, or I worry about the future. When I am taken up with other things, I become deaf to God.

If God is talking to me, then I want to seek and find Him so that I hear His voice. God speaks to us through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). Although it would be nice if God spoke to us by an audible
voice, some of us don't hear God's voice in the manner Samuel did. God sent His Son Jesus to us as a man so that you and I could identify with Christ who is the "Word" of God. Jesus came to tell us what God is speaking. If I want to hear God, I need to read His Word, contemplate what God is telling me through the Scripture, and ask God what He wants me to to learn from what I'm reading.
          For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the               division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrows, and discerning the thoughts and                          intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, ESV)
I want to hear God's voice today, so that I can discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Dear Lord, Some days, I feel that my brain needs a jump-start. I ask You to speak to me in Your Word so that I can hear Your message and discern Your will for me. In Jesus' Name. Amen

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Slipping into Discouragment

I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you--
The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121: 1-8)

     Winter is here, and I have the feeling it will continue for quite some time. In Colorado, the streets and sidewalks are covered in snow. I try to jog outside but do so carefully, worried that I will slip and end up with an injury.

      I ponder how often I slip into sin or discouragement. In reading Psalm 121, I realize that God knows how easily I become discouraged. He is with me and will give me His comfort, His strength and His encouragement if I rely on Him. I don't look to the mountains for help. I look to the Lord who will keep my foot from slipping. He doesn't grow tired and weary as do I. No--He does not slumber but is always watching over me.  God has told you and me:

Never will I leave you;

never will I forsake you.
So say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid." (Hebrews 13:5-6)

     When I feel like giving up or not addressing a problem, I must remember that I can lean on God. When I feel attacked by a situation over which I have no control, I must remember that God protects me from harm in these situations as well. The attack might come in the form of a physical ailment, or messages society tries to falsely feed me or a struggle within my own mind. God can protect me from both external and internal attacks. My God is like a strong eagle who covers me with His wings and protects me with His shield:

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:4)

God is my foundation and stronghold:
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my Savior. (2 Samuel 22:3)

God preserves me from evil. When I rely on Him, he keeps me from stumbling and getting into trouble:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when your are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

How fortunate we are that our God watches over our coming and going in the present and into eternity (v. 8). I am grateful for God's promises. I'm grateful, that although I might become discouraged or be tempted to slip into sin, God is with me. He cares about my concerns, and His presence gives me comfort and strength.

Dear Lord, I lift my eyes to You! You are the source of my help. When I trust in You, You keep me from slipping. You will help me not fall into discouragement. Thank you that You are with me in the present and will stay with me into eternity. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3: 8-17).

I was looking through my closet the other day trying to decide which clothes I no longer wear, which ones are out of date, and what I'd be willing to part with to make more room in my closet. What for?! More clothes, of course! The process became difficult as I mused that, although these items hadn't been worn in the longest time, "I like that blouse!" and, "That might be back in style again some day!" Yet, when I look at the styles that young women are wearing in magazines, I am skeptical and wonder--"Could I follow that fad? I don't think that style suits me. Maybe I'll just hang on to the old clothes and be boring!"

Do you remember the WWJD fad? What Would Jesus Do? We don't see this phrase displayed much anymore. Maybe it's out of touch to wonder what Jesus would do? And, how do we even know what Jesus would do? I don't know that He would care about my clothing style.

Paul reminds us: "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2: 4-7). Notice Paul's encouragement to "have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus"; Jesus did not worry about himself and his clothing. He took on the form of a man so that you and I could relate to Him. Christ put others before himself, and this is what it means to do what Jesus would do.

If we look at Colossians 3, Paul exhorts us to live in harmony with each other, ridding our lives of anger, bad language, gossip, etc., and instead to clothe ourselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" all while having gratitude in our hearts.

I did not make a New Year's resolution. But, as I read these passages, I realize how often I fall short of what Jesus would do. I want to clothe myself in a way that glorifies my Savior and emulates his example.

Dear God, You did not assert Your right on earth to live as a king. Instead, You came to us as a servant. I ask You to help me wear Your clothing of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Help me not to look at what I don't have but rather realize how blessed I am to be Your child. Fill me with gratitude and teach me to put the interests of others above my own. In Jesus' Name. Amen