Kingdom Living

Cornerstone of Hope

Hope.

Hope seems to be unattainable at times. When the road of difficulty rises to meet me, where is hope? When things don’t go as I’d planned, where is hope? When the world writhes in pain around me, where is hope? When I’ve made a mess of things, where is hope?

Hope is here. Hope chases me down, turns me around, and lifts the blindfold showing me that Hope has been here all along. 

Once I’ve seen and experienced Hope, why is it so easy to wonder again how to find it? I was reminded today that it’s when I start trying to do things without Jesus, I am blinded to the work He has done for me. When I “trust the sweetest [most fragile] frame”, when I do something in order to add to Christ’s work of salvation (which is the ultimate thing to hope for), I am really hoping in me. I am hoping that what I do is good enough to complete what Jesus already did. There’s just one problem: that inevitably produces anxiety instead of hope because I begin to question if it really is enough. I need to remember that I don’t need to search for or manufacture hope; Hope has already found me – and that Hope is what I need.

There is a beautiful hymn that I recalled while thinking about this hope: “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” by Edward Mote.  

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly trust in Jesus’ name

 

Perhaps you can relate? What is something you have hoped for or have been hoping for? A better job, a family of your own, a better place to live, a better life? Maybe there are times when it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, that thing you’re hoping for always seems out of reach. Or maybe you thought you had it once and then the unexpected happened and everything crumbled. Or maybe you’re arguing right now, insisting that you did build your hope on Jesus but now here you are, feeling hopeless. What gives?

I suggest that you do as I had to do: take the time to truthfully examine whether or not you fully and completely gave all of that to Christ? Ask yourself (and be honest) whether you even once expected that by doing the “right” things, you’d have what you hoped for?  If you even once thought that, then there was some point that you didn’t “wholly trust in Jesus’ name”, just like me. 

Hold on! Don’t walk away just yet. You need to know that you are not without Hope! There is absolutely still Hope to be seen and experienced by you just as there is for me. The even better news is that all our doing (or not doing) doesn’t change the fact that Christ is still our Hope. He works every day, in a thousand ways on our behalf, though we may not notice.

When darkness seems to hide His face

I rest on His unchanging grace

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil

 

2 Corinthians 4:8-18 encourages us that even as we feel stressed and pressured, Christ who is called our Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6, Psalm 118:19-24) never lets us be crushed or destroyed. We may face a challenge that threatens our vision of the Hope we have, but truly when we anchor ourselves in Jesus, He does not disappoint. In fact, when we are feeling our weakest, that is the best for us because it is then that we step aside and are able to let Him strengthen us. When we are chasing hope constructed by our own hands, we are too busy to see the Hope that has already walked into our lives: Jesus is our Hope! What’s great about this Hope that is ours is that it is not hope for temporary things that will change, age, or become obsolete. This Hope is eternal and is for a purpose that will long outlast today’s bad choices and tomorrow’s trial. 

Hillsong worship writers put it this way:

Christ alone, Cornerstone

Weak made strong in the Savior’s love

Through the storm

He is Lord

Lord of all

 

Jesus, your Hope and mine, has done the work of coming to us when we were unable to find lasting hope of any kind. He is able to strengthen you for what has been, and what’s to come. When you recognize and accept Jesus as your eternal Hope, the Father will use Jesus to build a life for you that isn’t threatened by the storms swirling around you. Rather, the life the Father builds for you will stand strong all the way into eternity with Him. 

Do you feel like you “missed” Hope or that you can’t find it? Stop right there and give it to Jesus. “Rest on His unchanging grace” – it is for you. He is Lord of all. You need not search any longer or try any harder – He is all the Hope you need.

 

Kingdom Living

No Fear

I have struggled with fear or worry on some level for a long time. Unfortunately it has been an influencing force in me far too often. In fact, I have for much of my life thought that around this time of year, fear seems to take the mountain and rule unchecked (any fellow “fraidy-cats” like me?) The other day my daughter asked out of the blue if more kidnappings take place on Halloween. I had to think for a minute about why she could possibly be asking that question and then I realized: this is fear creeping into her mind. So we talked about it – two people prone to fear over faith.

I asked both of my kids to think about what amazing, seemingly impossible things had God done for them. We listed out several things from successes with school, to health and the provision of free things that we didn’t expect to get (a lesson on grace for another time).

We also thought about numerous examples in the Bible of amazing things that God did in impossible or terrifying circumstances: Sarah got pregnant at an impossible age, the Red Sea was parted so Israel could escape Egypt, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo survived the fiery furnace, Daniel came face-to-face with hungry lions and didn’t have a scratch, Noah’s family survived a world-wide flood, David faced a real giant and won…so many examples of the strength and protection of God!

 

I wonder if Jesus was thinking about these demonstrations of God’s might throughout Israel’s history when he was defying fear and napping in the middle of a hair-raising storm? Mark 4:37-40 recounts the story of Jesus sleeping in a boat about to be capsized. The disciples were terrified. Their imaginations were most likely running wild with tales of sea monsters that could swallow them whole! They thought they had every reason to be afraid. Yet, here was Jesus completely unafraid, in fact, he wasn’t even awake! Jesus surely knew all the same stories – how is it he could sleep so soundly? What the disciples apparently forgot was the fuel of their faith. Jesus knew who held them: the Almighty Creator, the Father, The Great ‘I Am’. Jesus knew the One who had defied physics (because He created physics) and parted the Red Sea. He knew the One who prevented three men from being burned alive. He knew the One who told the giant fish to spit Jonah out on shore. With a God this mighty who loved them, what horrifying thing could possibly happen to them that would render Him unable to take care of them?  Jesus knew that even in death He still could trust God and place his hope firmly in His Father’s love and sovereignty.

 

As I think back to this conversation with my kids about this “scary” time of year in light of what Jesus has taught me, it doesn’t seem so scary any more. What is there really to fear? There are certainly some ugly images that can fill our minds with frightful thoughts perhaps much like those the disciples had in that storm. But all of those frightful thoughts are just a noisy storm stirred up in the absence of love. Love does not create or perpetuate fear. In fact, perfect love drives fear away. That is why Jesus could rest and defy fear – He was secure in the knowledge of God’s perfect love for them. This is real faith. That same love is ours as well.

We don’t need to hide in fear or run away from a world that seems to emphasize fear at this time of year. We know the same Almighty God that gave Jesus the power to make the terrifying storm instantly still to silence! The love the Father has for us is the same love. The confidence He gave Jesus to sleep in the midst of disaster and the power to instantly still the storm is ours as well. We can confidently walk through crowds of “scary” faces and neighborhoods of haunted houses defying fear just like Jesus and instead carrying peace, the light of Christ, and the love of God to everyone we meet. We have no reason to fear because the Father, who’s hand we hold, loves us perfectly and completely. Out of His perfect love comes all that we need in order to stand firm, unafraid, as lights in the darkness.

Conversations

I’m Tired

You [my enemy] pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:13-14 (AMP)

I’m tired of healthy living.

I’m tired of doing chores.

I’m tired of struggle and pain and disappointment.

I’m struggling with the motivation to do things I know I should. Diet and exercise. Speaking with love and kindness. Being patient. I’m struggling with the simple motivation to just put things away. Really, I’ve wanted to just sit on the couch or porch until whenever…

God I just want some help. I need some answers. When…how…what…who… Where are you, Lord? Why can’t I seem to make progress? Why do I have to deal with this and that and all these things? Why can’t I hear you right now?

“Come and rest, little one. Come sit down and stay for a little while and just rest. Trust me.”

I do. But…

“Be still for a moment. Trust me.”

I struggle with it. I want to be better at trusting you, Papa God. I see all the things wrong or not done and I start getting worn down, worried, and overwhelmed. I think that is what makes me start to loose track of trust. Its not that I don’t trust you, its that I don’t remember to trust you.

“And that is why I want you to rest. So that you can take the time to remember. Close your eyes for just a moment and listen. What do you hear?” 

I hear birds. I hear quiet. I hear children. I hear the wind. I hear rain. … Wow. I can hear.

Thank you, Papa God for the gift of hearing. Thank you for the beautiful sounds you’ve created.

“Now open your eyes and just look around you. What do you see?”

I see sunlight. I see green trees and grass and animals. I see my home, my children, my stuff. I see your Word, open, prepared for me to read it. … Wow. I can see.

Thank you, Papa God for the gift of sight. Thank you for the beauty of creation that proves so potently that you are and that displays your might. Thank you for the opportunity to sit and soak this time of quiet in. Thank you for these reminders. Thank you for the ability to read your Word and learn from it. My thankfulness could go on for decades! There are not enough words nor is there time enough to convey all the things I could thank you for!

“Now you’re starting to get the idea, little one. You have a hard time remembering to trust me when you get tired. You get tired when you forget to be thankful. But when thankfulness flows, like a stream of cool water, you find yourself refreshed and able again to hear my voice and to trust. I know your heart. I know what it needs. I know that when your heart forgets my goodness, it feels sick and that is when you struggle with trusting me. That is when you become weary and worn out.”   

Thank you, Papa God for your Living Water that restores my soul. Thank you for drawing me in to your rest. Thank you for your Life-giving Word that is filled with truth and reminders of your goodness. Thank you for your mercies, new and fresh each day. Thank you, Papa God, for your overwhelming goodness toward me. Thank you for the hope that you give and the rest that is mine in being able to trust you. Thank you for the blessings you have already given me, those that I recognize, those that I don’t, and those that are yet to come.

Close your eyes and listen. Open them and see. Rest and remember.

What can you, Precious Reader, thank The Father for?

Conversations

Real Promises

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.
That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,
and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
2 Corinthians 1:20-22

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As a child, I learned that promises are serious. You can’t break a promise.

Especially not a pinky-promise!

But as I got older and more acquainted with “real life” I learned more and more just how un-true that is. As an adult, I’ve learned that not even promises in writing are always honored and even signed contracts can, and have been broken. I think sometimes maybe I am even worse about keeping my promises to God than I am with someone else.

“Oh Lord! I promise I’m going to be better at [fill in the blank]!” How many times have I fallen short of my promises to Him! Or even convinced myself that I didn’t think that all the way through, or made justifications about how God didn’t really want me to make that promise because of reason, reason, reason……

“Lord, I was planning on giving some of this money to the church, but surely you don’t want me to do it now that I have more debt than I did when I made that promise.”

“Lord, I know I said I’d start talking to more people about you but they really look like they want to be alone and I’m sure I’d say the wrong thing or just make them uncomfortable. Besides, someone else is far more qualified than I am to talk to them.”

None of this is new to the Father though. He has always known this is how I tend to think. My Good Father doesn’t just stop at knowing that I tend to think this way though. And He doesn’t write off my failed promise keeping as “Well, there she goes again, breaking yet another promise. I guess we’re going to go for the thousandth time with this lesson before I can bless her since she broke another promise.”

No. that would be far too much like me and not at all like the Father. God knew that there was no way I could be good on my own, I’ve proven to keep my promises less than fifty percent of the time! But that doesn’t keep Him from keeping all of His promises to me anyway.

God’s promises are never broken. The passage here in 2 Corinthians is saying just that: “all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Him.” God keeps His promises, and He keeps them perfectly, and He keeps them always. In fact, the biggest promise God made has been proven and played out in Jesus – in His birth, death, and resurrection. God’s biggest promise has been to love me with a love that is so big, so undying that nothing would ever be able to separate me from it, not even my own unfaithfulness or evil. (Ro. 8:38-39)

What an amazing thought! God has kept every single one of His promises and the proof of that fact is His very own Son, Jesus. And as if it weren’t enough for Him to prove how He keeps His promises to me, He takes it up a notch and gives me even more. He gives me a guarantee (the Holy Spirit) for all of the promises yet to be kept and then He even gives me the ability to do great things because of Jesus and the kingdom I am part of.

“So let me get this straight, God. You know I’m a screw up and I definitely haven’t proven that I can keep any promise worth keeping – but you make a promise to me anyway? And not just any old promise like ‘I promise to buy you ice cream if you’re good today.’ but like a real promise – a huge promise. You promise to love me so much that you died for me just so you and I could be in the same place together. Just so I could actually be in your presence. Just so I could have a meaningful, personal, loving relationship with you. Even though that is the last thing I deserve…And then, you did it. You kept your promise to me…

And what’s that you’re telling me? You have even more planned for me? You mean this huge promise to love me doesn’t stop with what was done already in Jesus? You’re telling me that I haven’t even seen the other promises you are going to keep….”

Mind. Blown. Seriously.

Who does that?!?

God does that.

The Good Father. My Good Daddy. Your Good Daddy.

He’s here to stay. He’s my Daddy, and yours too. And not because of some court order or feeling of obligation. Nope. The Father is your Father because of His promise to love you. And He doesn’t turn that promise into a “No” because of anything you did or didn’t do, or because of some loop hole clause in a contract. In fact, He already kept His promise. He paid a price no one could afford to pay in order to adopt you and show you exactly how much He loves you. That is how much you mean to Him and how much He honors and keeps His promises.

His “Yes” to His promises has always been worth trusting and it is no less a “Yes” today than yesterday. This is a real promise that will never be broken. Stronger than any promise ever made by a human.

Even stronger than a pinky-promise.

Would you trust Him today? It doesn’t cost you anything – it only cost Him everything. What do you have to loose? A life of discouragement perhaps? A life without love, joy, and peace?

He promises that will never be true when He’s your Father. And He proves it. He’s done it before. He’s doing it now. He’ll always do it. He keeps His promises. They are always “Yes”, proven and backed by Jesus.

And when we see Him keep His promises, how can we not praise Him, watching this amazing glory fulfilled in our undeserving lives?