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

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.

Almost Any Wind Will Do

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

When I was in grad school, a buddy of mine had a little ten foot sailboat we liked to take out on the weekends.  My friend didn’t know much about sailing. I knew even less.  But we had a blast cruising around a little lake near the university.  That is, until this one day.

It was picture perfect with a 10-12 mph wind, which meant we were moving right along–cutting a big arc across the middle of the lake.  Suddenly, and I mean out of nowhere, the wind died down to almost nothing.  We were dead in the water and drifting AWAY from shore.  It’s a good thing the boat came with two oars, because we ended up rowing a half mile to land!

Well, we brought her in (sort of), up to this boat slip where we were met by a blue-eyed, blonde-haired teenager grinning for ear to ear.  It’s turned out this kid was a Norwegian exchange student who knew a thing or two about sailing. He’d watched our little “dilemma” unfold from shore.  We tried to explain how the freakish break in the wind left us stranded, but he was having nothing of it.  “For a sailor, almost any wind will do,” he said, still grinning.  “May I show you?”

He then proceeded to shove off, set the sail, and slowly navigate out to the middle of the lake and back under the power of an almost imperceptible breeze.  It’s funny, I don’t remember sailing much with my friend after that.

There’s a life application here somewhere…

Forces beyond our control, like the wind, can either help us or hurt us.  It all depends on how we set the sail–make the best of God’s grace.

Bon Voyage!

Fill’er UP!

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“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Ps. 55:22

One of my favorite translations of the Bible is Young’s Literal Translation; it puts the scripture in place English just as it was written in the original Hebrew or Greek.

Here is Ps. 55:22 from the YLT: “Cast on Jehovah that which He hath given thee, and He doth sustain thee.  He doth not suffer forever the moving of the righteous.”  

Give back to God the cares He has given you.  Wow, what a thought!

In the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 14, Jesus told his disciples to feed 5000 people, but all they could find was a little boy’s lunch.  They had five pieces of bread and two fish!  Yet Jesus didn’t say, “Oh well, never mind.”  He said, “Bring them here to me.”

The theologian, A.B. Simpson, describes such moments of overwhelming difficulty and need as, “vessels for the Holy Spirit to fill.”

We simply bring these nearly empty cups (or lunch boxes) to Christ and allow Him to fill them.

Fill’er Up!

Don’t Go It Alone

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“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.  Though one may be overpowered, two and defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecc. 4:4,12

Do you have a Battle Buddy–someone you trust to help you through thick and thin?

If not, find one, or a few.  We are not designed to go it alone.

In the meantime, BE a Battle Buddy to someone else.  Who knows, you may need their help tomorrow.

“Nobody’s perfect, but a team can be.”  Chris Croft

 

The Best Way Out

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“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”  Isaiah 43:2

At age 48, I decided to become a long distance runner.  First, came the quarter marathon (6.55 miles). Next, was the half marathon (13.1 miles). Finally, I completed a full marathon (26.2 miles) just after my 50th birthday.  Here’s something I learned along the way:

The hardest part of running a marathon isn’t the end, it’s the part just before the end.  Runners call it “Hitting the Wall,” and it usually happens somewhere between miles 19 and 23.  The Wall is a sudden and powerful urge to quit the race.  To give up and take a DNF (Did not Finish).  Surprisingly, this sometimes happens with the finish line in sight.

Thankfully, The Wall is weakened, I mean like Superman and Kryptonite, by one thing:  WILL POWER.  You push through the wall by using your mind to tell your body not to quit.

There have been plenty of times, as a runner and otherwise, where I’ve wanted to leap-frog over the rivers and go around the fires.  But God says He will be with us on the way through.

“Alrighty, then,” as a friend of mine likes to say.  Let’s get this over with…

“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost