Signs of Hope

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“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  Hebrews 6:19

A recent devotional from Our Daily Bread tells the story of a recovering addict named Elizabeth who leaves encouraging notes on the car windshields of strangers.  She often closes these with the words, “Much love.  Hope sent.”

#inspiring

However, a query into the definition of hope reveals a fickle and fragile relationship between “Happy Days are Here Again” and mankind.

Hope (n.)  the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.  (Source: dictionary.com)

Sounds straightforward to me.  A quick synonym check reveals a delicate situation, however.  Confidence, expectation, and optimism make the list, but so do day dream, fool’s paradise, and castles in the air.

Clearly, the world sees hope as less of an “anchor for the soul” and more like wishful thinking.  To Madison Avenue, the future is a wind up toy with an ever-weakening spring;  expectation has an expiration date.

Thankfully, God doesn’t deal in pipe dreams.  The hope He offers has no shelf life, it’s a perpetual spring.

“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 perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you.”  1 Peter 1:3-4

I’d like to meet the note leaving hope-giver Elizabeth someday.  She used to look for signs of hope, but now she leaves them for others.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,  I would still plant my apple tree.”  Martin Luther

The Times They Are a-Changin’

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“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

“What is your name?”, I asked a patient in the Alzheimer’s unit where I visit once a month. “My name is *Ellen,” she replied, “but it will change.”

Apparently, there are those who know they have dementia and those who do not. Ellen is in the first category, but seems to take it in stride.

I decided to leave the conversation at that, but wondered what this kindly woman had once done for a living. Judging by her answer, she could have been a famous philosopher.

The scripture above says life is GUARANTEED to change–just like the seasons. It’s beyond our control; Summer turns to Fall and Winter is next. All one can do is prepare for the inevitable.

Is it just me, or does the free acceptance of fate sound a little depressing? Maybe that’s why, in this age of social media, there aren’t many “Ellen’s” posting about themselves with brutal honesty on FaceBook or sharing unvarnished self-truths on Twitter.

Who wants to be vulnerable?

Yet, in my new friend at the Alzheimer’s unit, there seemed to be no fear of embarrassing exposure. Ellen, even in her present condition, is keeping it REAL.

Going forward, I intend to do likewise.

Prayer:

God, you know the way I feel, You knew it from the start.
Show me what’s really REAL; guide and guard my heart. AMEN

*Not the same name she said–to protect her privacy.

Big Rocks and Goldilocks

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“Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.” Colossians 3:18

My company recently embarked on a “Big Rocks” campaign: four major things to focus on and improve. One of the these is customer service. Consequently, a grinning picture of our CEO with the caption, “Tell us how we’re doing.” is on prominent display through out our building. Customers who wish to chime in can call, email, or connect with the big boss via a QR code.

The invitation for public input straight to the top makes many of my co-workers and me nervous. What if a customer just has a “beef” with one of our departments and wants to cause trouble? Perhaps we’ve bent over backwards to satisfy but to no avail. Does the CEO even know this?

It’s like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: some think our porridge (customer service) is too hands on (hot) and some think it’s too impersonable (cold). Furthermore, the few who feel it’s “just right” may camp out at our building (sleep in our beds) putting upper management on speed dial.

What’s a dutiful employee to do?

One answer, as the scripture above suggests, is to look beyond the big rocks to someone even bigger–God Himself. Though I honor and obey all my bosses–right up to the top– my REAL boss is God. And He’s certain to outlast any corporate improvement program.

Massive boulders just aren’t big enough.

This post shall now be concluded by the poet Robert Frost:

So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

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Check, Not Checkmate

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“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9″

The apostle Paul penned these words to his friends in the ancient city of Corinth. He had been spreading the Christian message in another city, Ephesus, and was trying to decide whether to stay put or move on.

There had been many opportunities for Paul in Ephesus, but also much opposition. His preaching had been met with riotous mobs and death threats. Most people would take this as a sign to get out of town, but not Paul! He decided to base his decisions on God’s activity rather than what his enemies were doing and stayed in Ephesus for another year.  Many more converts were added to the church during this time.

One can only assume, but I bet Paul’s life felt something like a chess match. Over and over, his opponents backed him into a corner–putting him in check.  But God always provided a way out and kept Paul out of checkmate.

This has recently become real to me. In fact, I started this blog because I was placed in “check.”

For several months, I sent a dozen or so Christian colleagues at my company a Bible verse with an encouraging thought every morning.  These are friends who attend a weekly employee prayer group or asked specifically to be included in the email. Nevertheless, someone in our company complained to HR, telling them I was sending “scriptures” through company email. The next thing I know, my boss gets a visit from corporate.

No, I wasn’t told to cease and desist.  But the reality that someone took offense at my attempt to encourage a few Christian friends was deflating.  I was really down for about 24 hours, but then recalled the words of a dear friend, “There are always options: good ones and bad ones.”

I chose the best option I could and avoided checkmate.  When the time comes, I hope you will too.

Why we should stop asking, “What would Jesus do?”

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“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He (Jesus) said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”  Mark 14:34

About twenty years ago, WWJD? was a popular acronym: What Would Jesus Do?

It’s a great thought, but is this completely discernible in the 21st century?  I’m fairly sure the Son of God wouldn’t tweet about what He had for breakfast, but how can one be certain?

Perhaps a better question is, What DID Jesus Do?  Now, this is discoverable!  The scripture above, for instance, records the actual behavior of Jesus in full-blown crisis mode.

In Mark 14:32-42, we find Him in the garden with a few close friends, emotionally and physically drained by the knowledge of his impending death.  The Amplified Bible says he was, “deeply distressed and extremely anguished,” and he, “fell to the ground and prayed.”

So, here are two things Jesus did during the biggest crisis of His earthly life:

  • He sought comfort and guidance from God.
  • He asked a few close friends to come near–both physically and in prayer.

Sounds like a winning formula.

Circle the prayer wagons!

On Purpose for a Purpose

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“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the work of your hands.” Ps. 138:8

What is your life purpose?

Don’t fret if you can’t immediately and succinctly state your reason for existence.  Many of us are in the same boat.

The good news is, God knows what each of our purposes is and has been working on it since we arrived on the planet. Friend, He’s been preparing you your whole life for what comes next.

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Eph. 2:10

Embrace your purpose.