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Hope Eternal

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."  Luke 2:14

“Glory to you oh, God, for through you I have hope and peace!  The world cannot give me peace but only unfulfilled desires and longings.  The world relies on the seen and external for their hope but faith is through the unseen and eternal! Today as the world spins out of control I place my peace and hope in you, God. Amen”

I promise myself each day that I won’t check in with the chaos of the world and yet time and again I find my fingers creeping over my keyboard to read the latest news.  As a Christian and a citizen of this world it’s been difficult to find the balance of my responsibility as a “not yet.”  By that I mean I’ve been saved but not yet home with God.  I long for the day to see Jesus’ face and be free of this chaos.  But Jesus clearly wants us doing God’s good works while here on earth.

"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." John 14:12

So that means we have a responsibility to be good citizens of our communities.  Spreading God’s Word through deeds and words.  It means we need to know what stresses and pains our world is experiencing so we can be God’s message of hope and therefore glorify Him.  

In the book of Jude he admonishes to take steps to help those who are new believers and not yet believers.  It’s important to note the danger he warns of by getting too close to the fiery chaos of the world.  

“…save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Jude 23

Mixed with fear.  I think sometimes we Christians like to dabble in the world of chaos thinking a little bit is ok.  But each time we turn on the news or start discussing politics we should first give thanks to God for where our eternal hope lies and then proceed with a bit of Jesus’ Teflon surrounding us.  He let the Pharisees ignorance and at times evil ways bounce off Him.  Because He knew who He belonged to.  And He consistently gave glory to God when speaking back into the chaos.

Friends, it’s not wrong to be actively informed or involved with the goings-on of the world.  Jesus and the apostles jumped in with both feet to tell the world about the Father.  They didn’t turn away from the troubles of the world, they came to spread hope and glorify God.  But we must always remember the Kingdom awaiting us. 

 

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The God of Hope

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

When you hear people argue about God being a man-made construct I always wonder what they think about the concept of hope.  Hope, in general, is experienced by other animals in simplistic forms.  My dog hopes that a piece of my dinner will fall off my plate in to his mouth.  And given his level of whining and drooling his hopefulness can get pretty intense.  But if my dog were to say, get cancer, would he understand the hopefulness of being cured?  When my previous dog, Molly was old and ill we called in a woman who does home euthanasia.  As the drugs were administered into Molly’s body we gave her a feast of her favorite treats.  She resisted succumbing in her desire for one more treat.  But was she able to hope to not die?  To hope that something better awaited her after death?

It seems throughout God’s animal kingdom creatures were gifted with just enough mental capacity to meet their basic needs.  It’s obviously so or else we’d see them building super computers and skyscrapers.  The animal kingdom doesn’t concern themselves with their fellow animals’ living conditions in far off lands, much less those in the house next door.  As humans, God instill in us something that no man can truly explain.  A sense of the past, the present, and a hope for the future.

It’s that hope, that “looking forward to God’s good work” in our situation that is so uniquely human.  And I praise God for it.  

Like love, hope is found in many forms.  We can hope it doesn’t rain out the baseball game.  We hope we get the job.  We hope our vacation turns out the way we dream.  We can hope for a better life.  Hope for a cure.  Hope for a child.  But the hope God really wants us to rely on is the hope based on trusting that what He has in store for you and I is for good.  

We can have hope that the trials we currently are going through will teach us something important and will leave us with something good.  We can have hope that God has a good plan for not only ourselves but for our families who believe in him. We can place our hope in a future beyond this place more glorious than we can imagine.

I’m so thankful God gifted us with this unique brand of hope.  Without it we have hopelessness and despair.  We would be left only with anger and disappointment and confusion.  

When I look around these days, I can see the destructiveness from lacking in God’s hope.  The aching and yearning for answers.  It leads people to depression, violence, and self- harm.  But that’s because deep in each of us is the knowledge that brokenness is not the state God wants for us.  Its foreign in our bodies and therefore makes us uncomfortable and unhappy with life.  We desire to be hopeful.  Some of us just haven’t accepted the prescribed method – God.


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A Cotton Seed World

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-21

My BSGs are embarking on a new study called, “He Speaks to Me,” by Priscilla Shirer.  What stood out to me in the first video we watched was her discussion about the Kingdom of God.  She shared with the audience about how in the Old Testament the Israelites prayed for the “coming” Kingdom of God.  It was something they hoped and yearned for throughout their years as a new and developing nation.  And right at the beginning of the New Testament we find John the Baptist proclaiming:

“Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” Matthew 3:2

With Jesus’ arrival, the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) became flesh and was brought to the Israelites.  And so many of them refused to grasp that their prayers were answered.  And when Jesus was resurrected, the Holy Spirit remained to cover us with the Kingdom.  

Today I praise God for His continual presence in our world, in my life and yours.  The big word is “omnipresent.”  But I like to think of it more as though I move through and live in God’s presence.  He’s not “with me.”  I am more like the tiny seed that is buried in a fluff of freshly picked cotton.  I am in God’s kingdom, surrounded by Him.  

When I grasped this idea just a year or so ago it changed my perspective dramatically.  I don’t need to ask God to come help me or be near me.  I just need to slow down my brain and remember I am always in His presence.  We are all in His presence, whether we believe in Him or not.

It reminds me of the movie, The Matrix.  There are those in the movie whose brains and bodies are hooked up to a virtual reality machine.  They move about in a phony world without realizing its fake character.  And then there are the people who have disconnected from the computer and live almost in an alternate space – the real, tangible world.  When we disconnect from the world of the flesh and recognize that this is God’s world, His created space, and that we are in His midst, we start seeing life and how to live it from a new perspective.

The Kingdom, Jesus reiterated in our first verse is not a specific “thing” to be seen.  It’s because it is everything in God’s creation.  It is the grace God gifted us through Jesus.  It is His Holy workings in our lives via the Holy Spirit.  The kingdom is God and God is the kingdom.  Gnaw on that a bit!

When I’m struggling with an issue or feel pulled apart by the fleshly world, I now seek that “sweet spot.”  That quiet moment where I can feel nestled in His presence, like that little cotton seed.  I wrap it around me like a warm, soft blanket and thank God I can call him “home.”