Tag Archives: hope

Lifestyle and Hope

And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.
Titus 2:12-13, NLT*

Paul has been coaching Titus in how best to teach and shepherd the Christians in his care – for their personal growth, but also so that people around them will see God’s goodness. Their – and our – lives as Christians are to be positive reflections of God’s character and grace.

Because salvation is meant for everyone (verse 11), Christian conduct should show that Jesus is the way to salvation, freedom, and abundant life. In this context, it’s clear that Paul doesn’t call this world evil in the sense of judging and condemning the people still living without God. Paul wants his hearers to be beacons to attract those who still need rescue.

He wants us to live as lights for good, not with negative attitudes toward the not-yet-saved, but neither with lifestyles that suggest “godless living and sinful pleasures” are okay. Paul’s letters are filled with practical instruction on the sorts of attitudes and behaviours to embrace and to avoid, and he sums it up in today’s verses.

He’s calling us to holy living, and not with any kind of sour faces or legalism. No, looking forward in anticipation of Jesus’ return.

God our Saviour and our righteousness, forgive us for blending in with the world’s ungodly behaviour patterns. Show us where we need to change, and give us the courage to do so. You’ve promised to give us wisdom and to be our righteousness. Help us to receive and rely on Your provision. Draw us into a lifestyle of devotion to You and of hope in Your Son’s return. Thank You for being our light.

Today’s song is “Let it Be Known,” by Lincoln Brewster.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Tested Trust

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13, NLT*

This level of trust isn’t a casual belief, nor is it taking something for granted. It’s an active, deliberate choice to trust God, regardless of the circumstances – or the consequences.

Trust like this seems risky at first, like sitting in a chair that looks rickety. You might lower yourself gingerly onto the seat, listening for creaks, leg muscles tensed to spring up if the chair collapses.

Gradually, you relax and let the chair take your full weight. It holds you well.

The next time you may still be cautious, but not as much so. Each time you experience the chair’s solidity increases your ability to trust it. The chair has been strong – trustworthy – all along.

With God, we have many proofs of His faithfulness, from His Word and from experience – others’ and our own.

It’s still up to us to choose to place our trust in Him in each situation. That choice locks out the enemy’s mind games and focuses us on our true Help. It’s a choice that sometimes we’ll need to make minute by minute.

The more we rely on God, and the more fully we do so, instead of keeping our options open, the more we will prove His faithfulness. This is when we discover the hope and confidence He gives.

God our Rock and our Salvation, our Help and our Sustainer, be our Source of hope. Give us the faith to actively trust You so we’ll be open to your infilling of joy, peace, and confident hope – for our own sakes and for the sake of those who need to see that You’re real.

Our song today is “In Christ Alone,” sung here by Geoff Moore and Adrienne Liesching.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Remember Our Hope

I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel – the Messiah – has already come.
Acts 28:20, NLT*

This is the Apostle Paul, talking to the local Jewish leaders in Rome after he arrives as a prisoner.

What strikes me is the latter part of the verse: “I believe that the hope of Israel – the Messiah – has already come.”

For years the Jews had been waiting for the Promised One. They expected Him to rescue their nation from Gentile domination and restore it as a powerful kingdom.

The kingdom Jesus said had come, and the liberation, didn’t match their understanding. And of course some of the prophecies are waiting even yet to be fulfilled at His return.

Think about what it means, though, to believe the Messiah has already come. Yes, we’re waiting for Him to come back – which means living in a way that will meet with His approval no matter when He does – but how does it change our outlook?

The Kingdom of God has come, even though it hasn’t yet been outwardly manifested. The Holy Spirit rules in our hearts and can work in and through us. We are under the authority of the King, not of a decaying world system.

We have been and are being liberated from the hold of darkness. Our spirits have been brought out into the Light.

We have hope. Peace. A Source of joy.

God has ransomed, redeemed and restored us, and has adopted us as His own children – every Jew and Gentile who believes.

He has come. We are free. What difference will this reminder make in our days?

Our God and King, teach us afresh the wonder of Messiah’s coming, and help us to live fully in Your hope, as ambassadors of Your Kingdom who are anticipating its fullness.

Here’s Keith Green with “There is a Redeemer.” Let it work its way into our hearts and remind us of our Hope.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Trusting God’s Timing

All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.
Matthew 1:17, NLT*

“All those listed above” are the ancestors of Jesus. Matthew opens his account of the birth of the Messiah with a genealogy. A strange devotional verse? Perhaps, but it’s the one that touched my spirit for this week.

Did you notice the pattern? Fourteen generations each time. If the priests and scribes had been aware of it and had been counting, they’d have known the timing of God’s next big step.

But God prefers to work in surprising ways, ways we look back on and see clearly even though we didn’t anticipate them.

The same with the “where” of Jesus’ birth: One prophecy said Bethlehem, but another said He’d be called out of Egypt. Clues to keep the faithful anticipating, yet not to reveal the full picture.

If we had sight, we wouldn’t need faith. Which is why I don’t take this verse as a challenge to comb Scripture and piece together a timeline for Jesus’ return. He clearly said that was a secret.

Instead, what this verse says to me is that God has a plan. He knows the various details and intricate inter-weavings that will bring it all together in His perfect time. We know His character, His power and authority.

We can trust Him to look after all that, and we can be about the daily elements of our Father’s business, loving our families, caring for our neighbours and co-workers, conducting ourselves as Christ-followers in a very confused world.

God who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith, help us to trust You. Please keep us from discouragement when we don’t see Your plans unfolding, and keep us equally from trying to “hurry” or “help” You. Keep us from fear when we look at the world around us. Reassure us of Your perfect wisdom, power, and timing. Help us to live each day in confidence in You.

This week’s song is one I’ve loved and found comfort in from way back in my university days: Sheila Walsh’s “In Your Way.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Remembering God’s Promises. Again.

The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Psalm 138:8, NLT*

Don’t we forget this, sometimes?

Bad news piles up. Globally. Locally. Personally. Even if we’re physically untouched, the sheer weight of what goes on around us can be soul-crushing.

And let’s face it, even when life is really good, there are elements that we don’t like. That could be better.

If we’re not careful, fear, discouragement, discontent and others can pull our focus away from our Lord’s sufficiency. We know the truth of God’s promises, but we forget. (Click to tweet this.)

I find that embarrassing. Every time.

These days, we have “stuff” going on at church. I don’t understand it, I don’t like it, and I do not want to go around this tree again. Been there, done that a long time ago.

Yet where is God speaking to me? In church. First, He told me to be quiet. Hmm. Then He challenged me to accept His timing when I think it’s too slow.

He reminded me that adversity is part of life. It’s often the part that makes for the best growth. And it’ll happen whether I want it to or not.

My attitude needs to reflect hope and trust. Not an unrealistic hope that He will make everything pretty, but assurance that God is good, He is in control, and He will work all things out for good for those who trust Him.

For me, it’s meant repenting of an attitude of discontent. Reminding myself that it’s not about what I want. Recommitting myself to live in a way that honours and trusts in God.

God our Maker and Sustainer, somehow You will work all the messes of life into something beautiful. Forgive our grumbling and our discontent—and our fear—when we don’t like what we see. You don’t like it either, but You can work with it. Help us trust You. Help us work with You to be part of Your solution instead of being part of the negativity.

I love this song from Robin Mark: “All is Well.” Take a few minutes to let it bless you.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Bubbles in Bratislava

Europe on a river cruise. Hands up, everyone who’s dreamed of a getaway like this. My husband and I decided to splurge for our 30th anniversary, and the Grand European Tour from Viking River Cruises exceeded all expectations.

Fifteen days on the ship from Amsterdam to Budapest, with daily excursions, plus a three-day extension in Prague at the end. I loved being on the deck watching the scenery slide by. My favourite stop was the charming town of Miltenberg in Germany, and Budapest at night is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

Conversations with our tour guides and with the crew on Viking longship Alsvin gave me a reality check about conditions in some of Europe’s former communist countries. Why had I assumed democracy was some kind of magic remedy that would make things better?

Democracy and freedom are fine things, but like everything else, they have learning curves and weaknesses. New political leaders need time to learn how to govern well (sadly, the corrupt ones seem to catch on faster). With no restriction on travel or occupation, those looking for a better life may forsake the fields for the factories, or their homelands for emigration.

It surprised me to hear that some people long for the “good old days” of communist rule, when “nobody had much, but everyone had something.” Others are thriving, and building a bright future.

These scattered tidbits of information were a minor part of our tour, but in the midst of sightseeing, sampling fine food and learning history, they carved a sense of hopelessness in me. What could I say to someone in this position? “Jesus loves you?” He does, but the words alone don’t sound like much. And they’re hard to trot out in a two-minute conversation with a stranger.

Normal people wouldn’t be affected this way, but although I tried not to dwell on it, my heart-heaviness grew.

Our bus tour through the city of Bratislava discouraged me. On the one hand, we saw a bridge that’s an engineering marvel, as well as opulent villas where international ambassadors live and hold court.

asymmetrical suspension bridge in Bratislava

The Novy Most (New Bridge) is an asymmetrical suspension bridge (also known as the Slovak National Uprising Bridge). Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

We saw a historic castle, still in use for diplomatic meetings. Slovakia’s capital city is poised for growth.

On the other hand, we saw smoke from clusters of factories. We heard about the thin walls in the grey ranks of apartment complexes. The contrast between rich-and-showy and trying-to-survive hurt me.

The bus let us out to explore the grounds of Bratislava Castle. My husband and I wandered, taking photos and absorbing the atmosphere, but I couldn’t shake the sadness inside.

Talking with God wasn’t helping. Until I turned and saw His gift.

A mother blowing bubbles for her child

See the bubbles, in front of the tree to the left of the left-hand lamp post? Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

On a park bench, a mother. Blowing bubbles for her child. Something in the simple act spoke hope to me.

God is still God, and He’s still present and at work.

Looking back now at our photos, I see a beautiful, modern city with green space, cradling a picturesque, cobblestoned historic centre. The older part has quaint buildings, brass statues, and of special delight to my husband and me, fine chocolate and artisanal honey.

Brass statue of a worker peeking out of a manhole

The Watcher. Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

How much would I have missed if I only remembered this city through my sad impressions?

Funny, I wrote this post to share how God encouraged my spirit through the mother and child—and the bubbles, which He knows I love—but I see a second lesson for myself: stop trusting my own perceptions, especially the melancholy ones, and pray for clear eyes to see what God sees. (Not that He doesn’t see the hurts. He has perfect perspective.)

Funnier? That’s a big part of the message I brought home from Write Canada: pray to see and hear what God sees and hears. More about that in a future post.

Oh—lest you’re wondering, Eowyn the travel sheep (or “porta-sheep”) came too. Acton the adventure sheep would have needed his own seat on the plane.

Stuffed sheep in the window of our ship's cabin

Eowyn watching the sights. Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

Curious about the scrapes in the paint on such a new ship? We passed through a lot of locks, sometimes with bare inches’ clearance on each side. We had a skilled crew, but wave action will jostle a boat while the water’s rising.

Light in the Tunnel

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:4-5 NIV*

I’ve always thought of Psalm 23 as a progression. There are the green pastures, the quiet waters, the paths of righteousness, the dark valley, then the feasting.

But I wonder… many translations broaden the KJV’s “valley of the shadow of death” to be a dark valley of any kind, where we may be in danger or may just be slogging and struggling.

Isn’t that where the enemies are? Not when we come out the other side, but in that valley? Where the Shepherd keeps His staff handy to protect us?

When the going is hard and we’re desperate for a light at the end of the valley-tunnel, remember that our Shepherd—the Light of the world—is with us.

Sooner or later we’ll glimpse the end. We’ll even reach it. But even now, when we despair of going on, here in the presence of our enemies—illness, grief, negativity, fear, family, work, whatever valley we’re in—maybe our Shepherd is setting a table for us. Maybe He’s whispering, “Sit for a minute and eat. Rest and catch your breath. I AM here.”

Jesus, our gentle but strong Shepherd, remind us of Your presence in the light and in the dark. Help us rely on Your love and care. You know our needs. Help us trust You to meet them. Even in the valleys, with enemies all around.

May Casting Crowns‘ song, “I Know You’re There,” be our prayer today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Unbelief, or Rest?

So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.
Hebrews 3:19, NLT*

“They” were the Israelites, led by Moses. The people who heard God’s voice on the mountain and begged in terror not to hear it again. The people who experienced the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna in the desert. The people who swore to follow and obey God.

Hebrews 3:16-18 says they rebelled, made God angry, sinned. Disobeyed Him. Not just with the golden calf, but by refusing to enter the Promised Land because they trusted their fears more than they trusted God.

A lot of their disobedience came from unbelief. Aren’t we the same?

Sometimes we don’t believe because we don’t want to—we don’t want to obey, or to let go of our own ways or understandings.

But sometimes we don’t believe because we’re afraid. That’s when we need to pray, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (See Mark 9:22-24)

God knows our weakness, and He wants us to get it right. He wants us to enter His rest, that’s why He invited us. We only need to ask.

Thank You, God, that You don’t disqualify us for our weakness, but You invite us to ask for help. Thank You for such grace and love to help us, again and again, when we’re in need. Help us remember to ask You—help us believe and obey.

We had this song back in November, but it fits again here: Brian Doerksen’s “Enter the Rest of God.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Hope-Giver

This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope.
1 Timothy 1:1, NLT* (emphasis mine)

Yes, sometimes I read backwards. It was verse 2 that nudged me last week, and now it’s verse 1.

Christ Jesus, who gives us hope. Let that steep a bit in your mind.

Hope:

  • of new life – and of Heaven
  • that we’ll make it – sometimes life is hard
  • that we’ll conduct ourselves in ways that are pleasing to God
  • of healing and growth
  • of doing what He gives us to do: “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NLT*)
  • of glory – Christ’s glory (His character) shining through us

That’s a lot of hope, and some days we need it all.

God of grace and mercy, You are our strong tower and our hope. Increase our faith and help us seize hold of the hope You offer. Let us live in confidence in You, expecting to see Your work in our lives. Not as we might want to see it, but as You want to unfold it. For the sake of Your glory.

Peter Furler’s song, “Greater is He (Hope of Glory),” helps these thoughts stick with me.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

Remembering God: Hope and Worship

So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.
Psalm 78:7, NLT*

The Israelites passed down their experiences with God from generation to generation, and somehow the Holy Spirit worked an alchemy in believing souls to change “heard” knowledge into “heart” knowledge.

Knowing the stories was never enough; the other nations knew them, and trembled. God wanted relationship with His people, where they could love and trust Him as well as revering and worshiping Him.

When they “set their hope anew” on Him, they thrived. When they forgot what God had done—and He did some highly memorable miracles—or when they stopped believing or rationalized it away, the psalmist describes them as “stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.” (Psalm 78:8, NLT* emphasis mine)

The same goes for us today, and for our children and their children. We have the miracles—and commands—of God preserved in the Bible. We have the testimonies of other Christians in person or in print. We have our personal encounters with the Lord of Heaven.

We need to remember them, and set our hearts and our hopes anew on God no matter what circumstances surround us. We need to pass them on to the next generation, but that generation is responsible to take them personally.

Faith isn’t a history lesson, or literature, myth or fairy tale. Theoretical nods to God don’t do much except set us up to fall.

Father God, You have drawn us to Yourself with a love stronger than we can know. Refresh our faith, rekindle our first love for You, and work in our children’s and grandchildren’s spirits to awaken them to Your love too. Let us not refuse to give our hearts to You. Let none of us be lost.

Let the Newsboys’ new song, “Live With Abandon,” be our prayer.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.