You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘hope’ tag.

smart

“It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on a Sunday.” General Stonewall Jackson, Confederate Leader

Stonewall Jackson was accidently wounded by his own men at the battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. He suffered for a few days before he died. He was told by his doctor on Sunday, May 10, that he would probably not last the day. Later that day General Pendleton stopped by to tell him that all his troops were praying for him. That was when Jackson, in a sense, said that his prayer was already answered, for he had “always desired to die on a Sunday.”

Josefina Maceda, my mother-in-law, my Madre, died this last Sunday at the children’s home in Oaxaca, Mexico. I don’t know if it was a desire of hers to die on the Lord’s Day, but I wouldn’t be surprised. She loved the Lord’s Day. She loved going to the House of God to worship her Savior. It’s comforting to know that she is enjoying God eternally in His celestial House.

Saturday morning, as is my want, I read a chapter from Proverbs. It was chapter 28. I read a couple of verses that were at first comforting, and then disturbing, and then encouraging once again.

Verse 20 says, “A faithful person will be richly blessed…”

Verse 25 says, “those who trust in the Lord will prosper.”

I have always liked those verses and highlighted them in my Bible many years ago.  But this time, I doubted.  I know of few people who faithfully trusted in the Lord like Madre. Yet she didn’t seem to be richly blessed and prospering. She had been bed ridden for at least a week. In pain. Skin and bones. Every breath a groan.

I thought if that is what it means to be richly blessed and prospering, then I’ll pass, thank you very much!

I took my doubts to God. God reminded me of Romans 12:1-2, especially the part where Paul writes, ” Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 

God was telling me that faithful people who trust in the Lord have renewed minds. They don’t think like the world does. They have different definitions for things like blessings and what it means to prosper.  The world thinks money, power and health are what prospering is all about. God says we prosper and are blessed when we love others deeply and are loved deeply by others and have a hope that will never fade away. Madre had all those.

That put a new light on things, and I saw that even in the midst of her suffering, she was truly blessed and prospering. She was surrounded by family that she deeply loved and who deeply loved her. She had deeply loved and blessed people from all over the world – United States, Canada, Germany and Japan, to name just a few. These people have been showing their deep love for her ever since she received the cancer diagnosis by supporting her with financial help and prayers. One neighbor came the last month of her life, almost everyday for at least an hour to pray with her, for her, and to sing to her, even though Madre couldn’t respond most of the time during her last days.

Looking at the situation from that Godly, renewed mind-point of view, I came to the realization that she was indeed richly blessed and prospering beyond all measure. I will take that blessing everyday and twice on Sunday!

Right before General Stonewall Jackson breathed his last, his doctor recorded that “Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face.”

I had never been with someone when they died before. I’m glad to say I got to be with Madre. And I was glad to see that just before she went home to the Father, she too smiled a smile of ineffable sweetness. It was as if she saw the Lord, like Stephen did in Acts 7, welcoming her into his eternal Kingdom with outstretched arms.

These last few days I have been thinking a lot about what Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter eight, verses 18 and 23.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us…We who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

If only we all had that attitude and perspective. What a way to live! What a way to die!

What is it about planting a tree that makes the world a little more beautiful, and the person who plants it a little more hopeful about the future?

Maybe it’s the idea that, given the right conditions, the tree will grow. The tree will grow bigger than the person who plants it. Usually much bigger. Planting a tree reminds us that there are things bigger than ourselves. And the tree will live a long time, probably longer than the person who put it in the ground. Planting trees reminds us that we have good things to look forward to.

And the tree will occupy a space that otherwise might have been bare, or ugly or choked with weeds, and will bring a type of beauty to that space that will be hard to match as the years go by. Planting trees also makes our inner space more beautiful.

And the person who plants the tree, the planter, will look at the tree, gaze at the tree, and will have a sense of the past, present and future, all at once. The planter will remember when his or her hands dug out some dirt from the earth to make a little hole, placed a sapling in the hole, and tucked the little tree into its place, tamping the dirt gently around its tender roots. The planter will also see how beautiful the tree is at the present. “My how it has grown” and imagine what it will look like as it continues to mature – five, ten or fifteen years down the line. And the planter will smile.

Perhaps some of these thoughts were running through Martin Luther’s head when he wrote about planting his apple tree in an uncertain time. Maybe he was thinking of his God who gives strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Maybe he was thinking that he might not be around for too many more tomorrows, but his apple tree would.

Last Sunday, a group of Venezuelans, who live in Oaxaca, Mexico, came to the home for needy children to plant some trees. One hundred and three to be exact. They invited the children to help them and the kids responded with great enthusiasm. It was a blessed, happy thing to see adults and kids, Mexicans, Americans and Venezuelans, males and females, all working together to not only make this children’s home a more beautiful place, but the world a better place.

And to make their hearts a better space.

Venezuelans, living in Oaxaca, Mexico, come to FFHM’s children’s home with 103 trees and we all work together to get them in the ground.

He that plants trees, loves others besides himself. Thomas Fuller

God loves us and wants us to be happy. This verse from Romans emphasizes that truth. Notice it does not say, “May the God of misery fill you with all despair and anguish as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hopelessness by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

No, it is all about being filled with all joy and peace and overflowing with hope. If there are three words in our vocabulary that are the essence of happiness, they must be joy, peace and hope. And Paul’s prayer is that his readers would not just possess a little bit of joy here, and a taste of peace there with a smidge of hope thrown in. No. He wants his readers to be filled with all joy and peace and overflow with hope.

How is that accomplished? Paul says it comes from trusting in God. Trusting in God like a little baby trusts in its parents. Trusting in God so deeply that, like a baby, you don’t even realize how much you are trusting him. Sometimes when I am praying, I will all of a sudden say “Goo, Goo – Ga Ga”, just to remind myself of how much I truly depend on him for every little thing I have, like bread, breath and water. It also reminds me of my insignificant knowledge in comparison to the infinite knowledge of our omniscient Father. There are so many things that I don’t understand about life and God, that I would like to understand, but I can’t. Then I get this image of Einstein trying to explain the theory of relativity to a toddler. There is no way the toddler can understand. Like me. There’s no way I can understand a lot of the things that I would like God to explain to me. So I say, “Goo, goo – ga ga”, and go on happily trusting God.

So let’s trust in Lord; taste and see that God is good, all the time, and celebrate the fact that our Father in heaven loves us and wants us to be happy.

As you may have heard, there is a somewhat important and rather contentious election coming up in a few days. A record number of people have already voted. A record number of people are anxious about the outcome. It seems everybody in the United States is pinning their hopes on one of the candidates for President to win and save America.

Worldwide, the corona virus pandemic is growing, infecting and killing more people than ever before. After a summer reprieve, infections are surging, breaking daily records. Germany, France, Spain and Italy, to name just a few countries, are announcing shutdowns to try and get the virus under control. The United States stills leads the world with 8.8 million reported corona virus cases and more than 227,000 people dead from the disease. Everyone is hoping that they or their friends or family members don’t get infected and that an effective vaccine will be available soon.

Financially speaking, the stock market lost about 900 points recently and the unemployment rate is 7.9 percent. Millions have lost their jobs and are struggling mightily to make ends meet, hoping to get back on their feet as soon as possible.

Hope. Everyone is hoping for something, or rather, a lot of somethings. From meeting daily necessities to finding a job, to ending climate change and desiring world peace. Usually though, what people hope for is a bit more mundane.

For example, I am on the school board of my daughters school here in Oaxaca, Mexico. Sometimes, especially in the age of corona virus, the zoom board meetings can drag on as long as four hours. Before our last meeting I was hoping it wouldn’t go on so long. I was hoping we could get it over with within a couple of hours. As I was considering this desire, some verses from Galatians, which I have been studying lately, came to mind.

Galatians chapter five has a surprising number of references to the Spirit. Most Christians are aware of the fruit of the Spirit, found in verses 22 and 23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). But Paul also refers to the Spirit in verses 5, 16,17,18 and 25. He uses phrases like “through the Spirit”, “walk by the Spirit”, “led by the Spirit”, “live by the Spirit” and “keep in step with the Spirit”. In chapter six he mentions “pleasing the Spirit.”

Pondering this emphasis on the Spirit, I had to ask myself, “If you are walking by the Spirit, and led by the Spirit and living by the Spirit, what is the best you could be hoping for?”

This question caused me to take a step back and realize that most of the things I hope for are all about ME, and not so much about the SPIRIT.

Initially, considering the board meeting. I was hoping it would be shorter than normal because I don’t like board meetings at all, let alone long ones. And especially not long, zoom board meetings! I don’t enjoy them. There are a lot of activities I would rather be taking part in that make me happier than board meetings.

But looking at my attitude towards these meetings, with an eye towards pleasing the Spirit, I was struck by the thought that what I should truly be hoping for was a new attitude!

I have come to see that my hopes should be shaped and informed by the fruit of the Spirit and life in the Spirit. I should hope that our meetings will be full of love for one another and the families that we represent. That my goal, our goal, should be one of trying to bring joy to children and peace to parents who are struggling with zoom learning, home schooling and long distance education. My desire should be to have patience with those other board members with whom I disagree; to show self control in times of disagreement.

The more I thought about the Spirit, the fruit and my hopes, the more I became aware that I need to hope not so much about happenings and the outcome of events, but I to hope that I am walking by the Spirit and led by the Spirit in my inner being. I should hope that my attitude is pleasing to the Spirit regarding everything in life, including the election results, corona virus and my economic situation.

I don’t just want to do the right thing, but I want to think right thoughts, Spirit led thoughts, in every aspect of my life, from the mundane to the sublime. Paul writes in Galatians 5:5, “For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.”

Righteousness is not just doing right, but thinking right. We all struggle with those two aspects of life everyday. We all want to think right thoughts which will lead to right behavior, which leads to happiness. And we all know that God loves us and wants us to be happy, which is why he gave us his Word and his Spirit.

By the grace of God, I will be full of the Word and Spirit and full of the joy of the Lord. I hope.

Please disregard any advertisement below.

I read about the possibility of global destruction the other day. What I was reading said the earth will be laid waste. It mentioned the world withering and languishing. It’s like there is a curse that is consuming the earth and it’s inhabitants are burning up.

Was I reading the Washington Post’s recent articles about record braking temperatures in Europe and the New England states? No. Perhaps it was a story in Scientific American about global warming. No. It must have been CNN’s special on the melting glaciers of Greenland. Wrong again. I was reading the book of Isaiah, chapter 24.

Isaiah writes, “The LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it.” (vs1)

“The earth will be completely laid waste and plundered.” (vs 3)

“The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers.” (vs 4)

“A curse consumes the earth. The earths inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” (vs 6)

Wow. Sounds pretty severe! What would cause God to do such a thing? Verse 5 gives us the answer, “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.”

Many people claim that climate change and ultimate global destruction is caused by man. It might be. But maybe it’s not because of greenhouse gases, auto emissions and coal burning factories. God may be using climate change to punish mankind because they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. By God’s standard, global warming is the least of our problems. Humans greatest problem is disobedience, violating God’s statutes and braking the everlasting covenant.

It’s clear from Isaiah 24 and many other scripture references that these things make God angry and he plans to “lay waste the earth and devastate it.”

Is there any hope for mankind and the planet? Maybe. Maybe not.

That question makes me think of three stories from the Old Testament that may give us some insight into what future planet earth and its inhabitants can expect.

God, Noah and the Worlds Population

Genesis 6 says that “the LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time…So the LORD said ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created.” (vs 5,7)

God told righteous Noah to build an ark which he did, and he and his family and the animals on board were spared the global destruction by flood waters. No hope for the rest of mankind at that time. Why? They were wicked. They were disobedient, ignored the statutes and broke the everlasting covenant.

God, Moses and the Israelites

In chapter 32 of Exodus, God is angry with the Israelites for making a golden calf and worshiping it. God tells Moses in verses 9 and 10, “I have seen these people and they are a stiff necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” Moses had a little talk with God and talked him out of destroying all of the Israelites. In the end, there was still a large group dedicated to the LORD, and they took their swords and killed about three thousand people who were disobedient, ignored God’s statutes and broke the everlasting covenant. Verse 14 tells us, “the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” Maybe there is hope for us.

God, Jonah and the Ninevites

In the book of Jonah we read that the word of the LORD came to Jonah saying, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (1:1,2) After a brief detour, Jonah gets to Nineveh and begins preaching, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (3:4) No, ifs, ands or buts. Nineveh will be overthrown!

But, guess what? The King of Ninevah heard Jonah’s proclamation and ordered the people to “call urgently on God. Give up your evil ways and your violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (3:8,9)

Verse 10 of chapter 4 gives us the good news that “when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.”

Hope for Us?

So maybe there is hope for the world and humankind. All humanity has to do is to repent, which means drastically change the way they think about God and themselves, and change their behavior. If we all earnestly obey God’s laws, follow his statutes, and keep the everlasting covenant, God may relent, “and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

It’s just that easy. Hmmm. I see more withering, languishing and global destruction in our future.

Please disregard any advertisement below.

 

The 2017 Advent season has begun!

Advent is a time of anticipation. A time of looking forward to something unbelievably good. Looking forward to Jesus’ birth. God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. God condescending to be with us. Emmanuel.

Honestly, all that doesn’t mean so much to people anymore. Advent in our day and age usually means anticipating buying gifts, going to parties and family get togethers. Things that a lot of people Don’t look forward to. For too many people, the Christ birth event is a minor part of the holiday season, if it exists at all.

Jesus in the manger has lost it’s luster for a lot of Christians for another reason. It happens every year. It’s not new. We Want New. New electronics, kitchen gadgets, clothes and toys. Christmas isn’t new. It’s the same old thing, year after year. I’m 54 years old. I was raised in a Christian family. I have 54 years of Luke 2 and Matthew 1-2 under my belt. What could possibly be new in 2017 Advent? What is there to anticipate?

With this in mind, I began to think about how Jews might have been thinking around the time of Jesus’ birth. The Chosen People of God. They hadn’t had a prophet speak the Word of the LORD to them since Malachi, 400 years earlier. They had been under the thumb of foreign rulers for about 600 years. So, People Of God, how’s that working out for you?

Some of them probably decided that it wasn’t working and gave up on God, but many were holding on to the promises proclaimed by the prophets that someday a Messiah would come and bring peace and freedom. Proclamations like:

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

 Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Some of us look forward to celebrating the birth of the Messiah every year. The Jews had been anticipating that day for over half a millenia!

When I think of looking forward to something good, I  think about our family vacation that we took in July. We drove from Oaxaca, Mexico to Brush, Colorado. In May we began planning for the trip, and the anticipation began. Anticipation of crossing the border into the U.S.A. Anticipation of seeing my parents and sister and oldest daughter. People I haven’t seen for over two years. Anticipation of Mom’s great cooking, as well as Taco Bell and Mountain Dew –  food and drink that are not available here in Oaxaca. Normally we would fly to Colorado, but this time we were going to drive, so we were looking forward to close family time (four days in the car) that would include museum visits, tourist attractions and motel swimming pools (Sally and Kelly, my youngest daughter’s favorite). Anticipation of camping in the mountains and seeing a Rocky’s baseball game.

The fulfillment of all of those things was great. A wonderful time was had by all. Heart’s longings were met and we were filled with joy. And that was after waiting a mere three months.

After waiting hundreds of years, the Messiah came to the Chosen People of God, and brought true spiritual freedom to all who would accept him and his message.  Some were disappointed that he didn’t overthrow Roman rule and bring national freedom.  But many more people through the ages have received something greater to celebrate, freedom from sin and adoption as Children of God.  The hungry eat the living Bread and the thirsty drink the living Water.

One of the Advent readings for the first Sunday in Advent is Isaiah 64:1-9.   Verse four says, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

This Advent season I hope we can all find time to “wait for him”. Wait for Him to reveal himself in new and wonderous ways that can fill our journey on earth with happiness.

In waiting for Him, in meditating on Him, we find hope and joy. Strength and peace. Below is a web address for a video meditation on Advent that may encourage you on your journey.

https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/series/liturgical-meditations/

hope1

 

I was studying Hebrews chapter eleven, often times called the Hall Of Faith.  Here are a few things I learned about faith –

  1.  Without faith it is impossible to please God              11:6
  2. Faith means believing that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him  11:6
  3. Sometimes faith means you don’t know where you are going      11:8
  4. Sometimes faith means you are a stranger     11:9
  5. Sometimes faith means that you do not receive the things promised      11:13,39
  6. Faith means that you will be tested      11:17
  7. Sometimes faith means choosing to be mistreated     11:25
  8. Sometimes faith means making people angry      11:27
  9. Sometimes faith means being tortured       11:35
  10. Sometimes faith means facing jeers, beatings, chains and imprisonment.     11:36
  11. Sometimes faith means death by stoning, being sawed in two and killed by the sword    11:37
  12. Sometimes faith means being destitute and persecuted     11:37

So, do you want to be a person of faith?  I like to talk about how much God loves us and wants us to be happy.  Where’s the happiness in all that?  The ultimate happiness for people of faith is Heaven.  That’s easy to see by taking another look at Hebrews 11.

Verse 16 tells us that people of faith are longing for a better country – a heavenly one, and that God has prepared a city for them.  Later we see that Moses was “looking ahead to his reward.”  Verse 36 says that some who were tortured, refused to be released, so that “they might gain an even better resurrection.”  The last verse of chapter 11 lets us know that God has planned something better for us.

The main thing to remember about Faith comes to us from verse one, “Faith is the substance of things HOPED for …”  Not so much what we hope for in this world, but in the world to come.

After studying Hebrews 11, I came across some quotes from Timothy Keller about hope and heaven:

“We are future oriented beings, and so we must understand ourselves as being in a story that leads somewhere.”

“The disposition properly described as hope, trust, or wonder … three names for the same state of heart and mind – asserts the goodness of life in the face of its limits.  It cannot be defeated by adversity.”  (Keller quoting Lasch)

“Hope does not require a belief in progress, only a belief in justice, a conviction that the wicked will suffer, that wrongs will be made right, that the underlying order of tings is not flouted with impunity.”  (Keller quoting Genovese)

“Hope that stands up to and enables us to face the worst depends on faith in something that transcends this world and life and is not available to those living within a worldview that denies the supernatural.”

“Christian hope has more power for sufferers than a mere optimism in historical progress.”

“We are trapped in a world of death, a world for which we were not designed.”

“The immortal Son of God was sent into the world, sharing in our humanity, becoming subject to weakness and death.  But then through death he broke its power, in order to free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

“We may physically die, but death now becomes only an entryway to eternal life with him.”

“All death can now do to Christians is to make their live infinitely better.”

(All quotes from Timothy Keller’s book Making Sense of God)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.