Real Hope? Yes!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1.3

What is a lively hope? So often we read Scripture without giving any thought to what we have just read. Peter reminds us that when we were born again, we were born unto a lively hope. One translation uses the word living for lively. This hope that we have is a living reality. Peter speaks of something I doubt we think about often. Look at these words: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … ” What does it mean to bless God? How about this … we bless God when we give our total allegiance to Him and we do so from a heart that is overwhelmed by His goodness, grace, and mercy.

This new life that we are enjoying is a product of God’s abundant mercy. Let’s remember that mercy is not getting what we deserve. The very act of being begotten into the family of God should stir up within us a sense of total freedom from the Law and a freedom to act in grace to those we encounter every day. Why would we not want to share this living hope? There are so many people that we encounter on a daily basis who are living lives totally void of any hope whatsoever.

The “resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” sealed for us this living hope and all we had to do was to accept it. The next time you ponder the resurrection of Christ from the dead, just remember that without His resurrection, you and I have nothing but an empty hope rather than a living hope. I shudder to think of my life without this living hope. Just my thoughts …

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Man of Sorrows? Despised? Why?

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; for he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53.3

Every time I read Isaiah 53, my heart is so moved by the description of Christ that is given. This verse may be the capstone of them all. The opening words prick my heart: “He is despised and rejected of men … ” This word “despised” is such a graphic word to be used here. When someone says, “I despise you,” we know that is a strong statement of dislike. But then, the unsaved world in general doesn’t have any good feelings about Jesus. They reject the Son of God for many reasons, but chiefly because they don’t want to have to face their sin.

But Isaiah goes on: “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief … ” The hymn Man of Sorrows is such a powerful song. This great hymn by Philip Bliss takes us to the cross. Take a look at its words:

  1. “Man of Sorrows!” what a name
    For the Son of God, who came
    Ruined sinners to reclaim.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  2. Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
    In my place condemned He stood;
    Sealed my pardon with His blood.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  3. Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
    Spotless Lamb of God was He;
    “Full atonement!” can it be?
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  4. Lifted up was He to die;
    “It is finished!” was His cry;
    Now in Heav’n exalted high.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!
  5. When He comes, our glorious King,
    All His ransomed home to bring,
    Then anew His song we’ll sing:
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Mankind hid their faces from him. And then that word despised is repeated. And then the verse closes: “and we esteemed him not.” In other words, no one cared. And why? To accept Christ as the Son of God means we must see ourselves as God sees us and before salvation, that is not a pretty picture. So let’s consider ourselves blessed because we are able to look back at the cross, and these poignant words of Isaiah and say, “No more. He is NOT despised by me and I DO care about the world feels about Him.” Just my thoughts …

 

Whose God Is This?

Know therefore that the LORD thy God , he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7.9

These words were addressed to Moses as he was preparing the people to enter the Promised Land. They had spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness and it had been difficult for Moses for a lot of reasons. While Moses does not get to go into the Promised Land, he will take them to the bring and give them over to Joshua.

Give attention to how God starts this conversation: “Know therefore that the LORD thy God , he is God … ” we might ask why God is reminding Moses of this truth? Think back to the time when God told Moses to take a message back to the children of Israel. Moses asked God, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? 14And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3.13-14)

In the passage quoted above, God is once again giving His servant some words of assurance. God says to him “the Lord thy God, he is God.” Moses was being assured that his God was THE God. Not only is He THE God, He is “the faithful God … ” Guess what? This God who was assuring Moses that He was THE God is also OUR God. Take heart … Moses did.

This is the God who “ keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him … ”This covenant making God has never broken His covenant with anyone. And He won’t start now. God wants something in return from His children. He wants us to (1) love Him and (2) keep His commandments. Is that too much for God to ask of Israel or us? I think not. Just my thoughts …

Temptation Leads to Blessing!

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1.12

When I read this opening phrase, I am encouraged to know there is a close link between blessing and temptation. Every person reading this has experienced temptation. James tells us to (1) expect temptation and (2) endure temptation. We find these words in James 1.2-3: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” So what do we learn from these verses? We learn that there will be temptations and there will be many of them. We must not be SURPRISED when temptation comes. We must be able to recognize it and ask God for grace to endure it so we can be an overcomer and not a victim. That is when the blessing comes.

Here is further encouragement to endure temptation: “for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life … ” Notice that it is not “if” he is tried, but “when’ he is tried. When temptations come, keep the end in view … “he shall receive the crown of life … ” God’s reward for those who endure temptation is the crown of life. Think of it, God is going to give us this crown because we were overcomers and not victims. Far too many times believers get weary of the battle with temptation and throw up their hands and say, “What’s the use? I can’t seem to win this battle over this temptation.” “What’s the use?” you ask? The crown of life is the answer to “What’s the use?”.

Here is another wonderful word of encouragement: “which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” This crown of life is God’s PROMISE to us, and God always keep His promises. So today, when temptation comes, remember that you are blessed when you endure, and remember the promise of the crown of life. Just my thoughts …

Don’t Miss This!

Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. 6Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. 7Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4.5-7

It is helpful to remember who is writing these words. When Solomon was made king, the Lord asked him what he wanted. Solomon did not ask for riches, but for understanding. (1 Kings 3.5-9) Solomon was known as a man of great wisdom. So when he writes words like he penned above, it behooves us to pay attention.

Two things are mention here in these verses: (1) wisdom and (2) understanding. We are instructed to “get wisdom, get understanding.” I believe this process requires intentionality. No one accidentally gains wisdom or understanding. Remember that knowledge and wisdom are not the same. One can have a wealth of knowledge stored up inside but still lack the ability to apply that knowledge in any helpful way both for himself and for others. I believe wisdom is gained by giving attention to the lessons of life. Each new experience is an opportunity to learn something, and once we have learned something new, we are able to use that experience to share with others and help them have an easier time than you had with whatever occurred.

Would it be correct to say that having wisdom enables to make wiser choices in the future and also to be a benefit to others? But what about understanding? Understanding is the ability to listen and empathize with the one who is speaking and then being able to say, “I understand”, meaning that you have some understanding of what they are experiencing. Most reading this know that I had cancer last year. I currently volunteer at a local hospital. I work mainly on the cancer floor and in the oncology center. When I say to a patient, “I had cancer last year. I went through _______”, they immediately will listen to what I have to say, because they know that I understand. Let me close with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1.3-4: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. ” In a nutshell, take what you have experienced and what you have learned by listening and use them to help others. Just my thoughts …

It Pays to Love Jesus!

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14.21

Jesus was assembled with His disciples in the Upper Room. At the close of this chapter they all make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane. The significance of this is that these are some of the last words that Jesus speaks to His disciples. If you have been present when a loved one dies, you will always remember the “last words” they spoke. They hold special meaning for us.

So let’s examine the phrases of this verse, beginning with: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me … ” What are the commandments of Jesus? Where do we find them? Are they the same as The Ten Commandments? In Colossians 2.13-14 we read these words: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that were against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” So, what it means in this verse is NOT the Ten Commandments. Jesus took care of them, nailing them to His cross.

We will find the commandments of Jesus in His words and those words written about Him and us in the New Testament. We read these words in John 13.34-35: “A new commandments I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that he also love one another. 35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. ” The one thing Jesus wanted the world to know about His followers is that we love one another. If we cannot display a changed life to the world, they see no reason to want what we have in Christ.

Jesus closes the verse with these words: “he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” Simply put, the more we really love Jesus and His Father, the more we will see His hand at work in our lives. It prays to love Jesus. Just my thoughts …

Our God Is NEVER Weary!

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.” Isaiah 40.28

Isaiah issues a challenge here to all who would read these verses. These words that he speaks focus on things that we should already know, but need to tuck away in our memory for our daily walk with the Lord. Let’s look: “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” This God we serve is not one who will grow weary with our requests for help with our needs. NOTHING wearies God. Let that sink in for a moment. Even though you and I may come to God and ask for forgiveness for the same sin more than once, God is not wearies by our asking. That truth is a great encouragement to me.

I believe it is difficult for us to imagine a God who is not subject to the frailties that we experience on a regular basis. Isaiah asserts that He “fainteth not … ” You will never come to God and find Him asleep or too preoccupied to hear and respond to your cry for help. And why? Because He is NEVER weary!

This last phrase is interesting: “There is no searching of his understanding.” So, what does that mean? We do not think as God thinks, obviously. Isaiah 55.9 tells us: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We will never be able to understand all that God knows … because there is no searching of His understanding. So where does that leave us? It leaves us in a place of needing to trust God without reservation. David said in Psalm 18.30: “As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.” Trust is a necessary part of following the Lord. We don’t have to know everything about where He is leading us. We just need to know the NEXT step. Just my thoughts …

 

Fruit – REAL Fruit!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5.22-23

When you think about fruit, you realize it must come from some source – a tree, a vine, etc. We are told in this verse that the fruit about which we speak is from the Holy Spirit. He is its source. You will notice that the verse speaks of “fruit” singular, rather than “fruits” plural. So, when we receive Christ as personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into our life and wants to display the fruit that demonstrates that He is living within us and we are allowing Him to control our lives.

You will notice that there are nine (9) elements to this fruit. When you open most fruit, there is one or more seeds inside that make it what it is. It is one piece of fruit but there are elements that let you know from whence it came. In the preceding verses of this chapter (vs. 13-21) Paul is pointing the fruit of the flesh – when we are unsaved the only thing we CAN do is sin. By contrast, these verses above show us that which our lives should reflect.

The first element of this fruit that is mentioned is love. Allow me to suggest that without this first element, none of the elements are possible. Love allows us to rejoice. As a matter of fact, when I am committed to loving others with this unconditional love, it involves my heart, my mind, my will, and my emotions. It describes a deliberate effort that we can only make with the help of God. We must never seek anything but the best for others, even when they seek something far worse for us.

Love is joy rejoicing. Peace is love in repose. Longsuffering is love being patient. Goodness is love at work. Faith is love believing. Meekness is love on its knees. Temperance is love restraining. Think on these elements of the Spirit’s fruit in our lives. Just my thoughts …

THE Light Is Necessary!

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1.9 – 12

We read these words in John 3.19-20: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” So when John says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world … ”, immediately we realize that there are two categories of people in this world: (1) those who walk in darkness and want to stay there, and (2) those who have chosen to walk in the light because Christ is the Light of the world.

What a paradoxical statement: “10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” As we draw near to the Christmas season, we will begin to hear Christmas carols. One of them says, “No room, only a stable of hay … ” This world system has never had room for God’s Son. But one day that will change. Romans 14.11 tells us: “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

I love this next phrase: “12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” All the work of salvation has already been done. The only thing required of us is that we BELIEVE that what God has done through his son Jesus Christ is enough to save us for all eternity. Just my thoughts …

What Is It That Fills YOUR Heart?

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3.16

Paul is giving sound advice to us in this verse: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom … ” The ONE thing that ought to be primary for every believer is that the Word of God is a necessary part of our lives. We would never think of going through a day without meals – in fact, most of us want to eat at least three meals a day. We feed this physical body in order to keep it functioning. Doesn’t our spiritual life need spiritual nourishment too? Of course it does. I am not trying to guilt someone into reading the Bible everyday. But I am seeking to get us to realize just how important it is to our ongoing spiritual walk with God.

Do you ever wake up in the morning and a song is repeating over and over in your head? I do, almost every day. We are able to learn a great deal of doctrine and practical living through “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs … ” One of the great joys for me is singing in our worship services at the church I attend. There is a blend of the old hymns and some new praise and worship songs, but I can learn from all of them.

So how do we fulfill this next phrase? “ … singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The key phrase here is that we are singing to the Lord. Sure, other people around us may hear us singing, but my praise and my worship is directed to God … anything else is just a side effect. How do we reflect grace in our hearts? One translation says this: “with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” I believe every one of us can be thankful to God that He has redeemed us! Just my thoughts …