Archive for the ‘hope’ tag
The Lord’s Prayer reminds us of our dependence and need for something, or really the great Someone, to step in change our situations when we cannot. Resting just beneath the surface of the prayer is the recognition that we face immovable situations more often than we like. Our prayer, in essence if not in substance, is a cry to God that he please deliver us from situations — whether large or small, frequent or infrequent, physical or spiritual — that we have no power to change. At the same time, we are asking God to align our hearts and actions with His work in the world through His reign of grace and glory, character and compassion.
As we pray today, let the act of prayer, the words of this prayer, and the essence of this prayer lead you back to dependence upon the Father and an humble recognition of the areas of your life where only God’s power can move you out of your stuck places and deliver you from your intractable ones.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.
Bottom line: Life comes at us “fast” — yes, I know the adverb should be quickly — and we often feel as if we can’t keep up and yet can’t change the circumstances. For me, this old clip from the I Love Lucy show is a humorous reminder of this reality:
A much heavier but relevant way to emphasize this can be found in the Igniter Media video, This Weight I Carry, which you can preview online. Both remind us of the many overwhelming things in our lives that put us in bondage, stick us in a rut, and leave us powerless without God’s intervention.
As we think about these kinds of things, several thought questions seemed relevant:
What is your favorite “God story” — a story about God being at work in the lives of everyday people in Scripture.
- How did God “showing up” in their life change the situation?
- What is your favorite “God story” in your life?
- How did God “showing up” in your life change you even if the situation didn’t immediately change?
Think through the prayers you’ve prayed recently:
- Were you honest with God about your current situation in life, your struggles, your sins, and your frustration?
- Did you praise God for Who He is and what He has done in the past?
- Did you thank Him for the good things and the blessings in your life?
- Why do you think it is so important to be honest about our emotions in prayer with God?
Why do you think the Bible emphasizes that praise and thanksgiving are so important in prayer?
Who is a friend with whom you could share the deepest struggles of your heart?
- If you don’t have that kind of friend, who would be blessed by having you be this kind of friend to them?
What group would benefit from you being a part of their team — what volunteer group at church, in the community, at the hospital?
Haysel got to go home today. The last year or so has been pretty tough for her. Well over 102, her body really began to wear out this last year. I’m happy for her and relieved for her precious family — especially her daughter, Danelle, who made sure Haysel was loved and care for with grace.
Haysel is precious. With beautiful white hair and always conscious of how she presents herself, Haysel is very much a lady. Even more, Haysel is a person of deep faith. One of the favorite and most cherished parts of my visits with her came during the prayer time. Nearly everyone I visit in the hospital wants me to pray FOR them. When I visited Haysel, she wanted me to pray WITH her. Her prayers, even on days when she was a bit confused and her voice was weak, were rich with faith and clothed in a reverential familiarity with the Father. Several months ago when we visited and it came time for prayer, I had to pray alone. She was comfortable when I prayed, but was uneasy and confused when it was her time to pray. It was then that I knew it was time for her to go home.
Every spring, our church has what we call WATS Day — “We Are The Sermon.” We have a communion service and then go out and serve our community all Sunday afternoon doing things for folks who can’t help themselves or are in special need of work done around their house but can’t do it themselves. Before our little work team went to our work site, we went by Haysel’s place to have church with her and the family. For a family service, we went a good bit of time doing church — somewhere north of 40 minutes. This included singing, praying, preaching, and the Lord’s Supper. But for an ol’ preacher, Haysel’s words at the end of our service were precious: “I appreciate it, but you know, you could have preached longer.”
We will miss Haysel deeply, but are really happy for her to start her new journey to a more glorious existence. Living well over 102 years on this earth is quite an accomplishment, but to wake from the hard realities of a failing body and find yourself in the presence of the Lord is greater by far!
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1).
It’s Monday. Short night. It will be a long day. I pray it will not be as a long as last Monday — which in fact lasted all week.
This day, however, dawned bright, crisp, and beautiful with thoughts full of worship and hope and … mission.
So many things crowd into our hearts trying to live for the Kingdom. So many things crowd into our hearts threatening to shove out our focus on our mission as Jesus’ followers. Let’s not forget the main thing!
Last Updated 10.22.2008
Colossians #12: For 11/9 “Hope’s Horizon” (Colossians 3:1-4)
Notice first the Message translation:
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ — that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life — even though invisible to spectators — is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too — the real you, the glorious you. (Colossians 3:1-4 MSG)
What is the basis for our hope for the future? Here are some basics of these four verses:
• Vs. 1-2: We have been raised from death to life with Christ!
o This is tied to the reference on baptism where we are buried and raised with Christ through our faith in the power of God (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:1-14)
o Our continued focus, daily setting our hearts and minds on Christ and focusing on things above (cf. Luke 9:23 – daily), must be our commitment – if we are “serious about living this new resurrection life.”
• Vs. 3: His future is our future!
Because of this new birth, and the death of our old life, we are now joined to Jesus and His exalted position at God’s right hand. Above fate, above the rulers and authorities, our life is kept safe in the very presence of Jesus. His life is our life. His future is our future.
• Vs. 4: Glory awaits us!
Our future is secure because Christ is our life. Because His future is triumphant, and we are tied to Him, our future is triumphant! (cf. Psalm 37:4)
But the real issue for us is this: Where is our treasure? What is our life? Is it really Jesus?
Jesus himself reminded us that where our treasure is, that’s where our heart will be (Matthew 6:18-24). Jesus challenged us to ask ourselves the following questions:
What good will it be for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Much of this all boils down to believing Jesus when He says:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
The call from Jesus is to see this gift of new life, this Kingdom way of living (cf. Colossians 1:13-14), as worth everything we have:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)
That’s why Jesus called us to seek first His Kingdom and trust God for the rest (Matthew 6:33).
So our key to grabbing onto this message would be to focus on our treasure and where we really think life can be found. What is the treasure we seek? What is the treasure we hold? This is especially powerful since we face the big economic challenges.
Two illustrations right now speak to me about this:
[Our house flooded by sewage right before Thanksgiving. Eating Thanksgiving dinner in a hotel and having a great day. I don’t remember who won the football games, but I do remember our family joy and thanksgiving. We saved our pictures and we were all okay!]
[McDonalds son Tim hiding under the bed during the fire. Lost their new pick up truck that wasn’t insured, but were so thankful to not have lost a son.]
It was just stuff! But how hard it is to really learn this without having to lose so much!
And there is a deeper promise in Colossians 3:1-4.
There are big things, hard losses, where we do lose those we love to accident, tragedy, and death. We still have the pick up truck but not the child. We have the pictures, but not the people. We walk away from the cemetery broken and alone. And this is where a life joined to Jesus means everything.
I’d love to sing the great old hymn, “Heaven Holds All to Me” at this point and ask this key question: is it true? (Two issues.)
We try to make heaven here. We want to guarantee our security for the future. We want to provide our own little heaven here on earth. We’ve been bumped up against the harsh reality that nobody can guarantee these things here. Not a presidential candidate, not the federal government, not the International Monetary Fund. No one. And it’s only our greed or our willful ignorance that would make us think differently. Those who lived through the depression know. I remember dad talking about a prayer session where they hadn’t had meat in a long time and were trying to decide whether to keep the milk cow or slaughter her for meat – they needed meat and weren’t sure they could feed the cow.
I know at funerals there is this great pressure to put everyone into heaven regardless of their trust and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. So pretty soon, heaven becomes watered down and meaningless because it doesn’t really matter whether a person’s life was really joined to Jesus. But I can assure you, when Jesus was the consuming passion of that person, folks know. Heaven is not Santa Claus and Easter Bunny talk. It is reality. It is assurance. It is hope. And this hope only is given to those whose lives are joined to Jesus.
So the real question is whether our lives are joined to Jesus and whether our hope is in Him or in what is not secure.
All this sounds harsh. At first blush, this doesn’t sound like good news. But it really is IF we hear the call of Jesus to follow Him and be joined to Him. When our lives are joined to Jesus, when He is our life, then the incredible promises of Romans 8 are ours!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whol have been called according to his purpose. … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 35, 37-39)
Another old hymn to consider is “Jesus is All the World to Me.”
I’d love a testimony video of someone from Carrollton Avenue that lost everything and stayed because they wanted to help the church make an impact on the city. This could be a compilation of video we already have with commentary from our folks that know the person!
Focus on Jesus’ parable of the “Pearl of Great Price” and the “Treasure Hidden in the Field” and call us to Matthew 6:33.
Last Updated 9.14.08
Going Organic (1:3-10; 2:19; 4:5-6) – 9/21
- There is great power in the good news about Jesus to produce fruit – changed lives of faith, renewed hope, and love modeled on the Savior and empowered by the Spirit.
- This power of grace crosses cultural and racial boundaries and leads others to Christ and his joy [Harper Testimony @ China?]
- Look forward to Balloon Fest & Celebration Sunday (1 Peter 3:15-16) and hear a real call to be a front porch people of God – the way we talk to others is crucial [Wait Staff Testimony]
There is a great power in the Gospel as a seed – Jesus’ Parables (Mark 4 & Matthew 13) – and Satan can’t stop it. We can choose what kind of soil we are, the evil one can try to do everything he can to stop it and corrupt us, but there is great power … that nothing (as we saw last week with persecution) can stop! But there are things that keep us from being fruitful (Parable of the Soils, Fish, Tares) which are all the work of Satan and his forces! But Jesus has already triumphed (2:13-15).
Idea Image: Power of one seed to grow in harsh places and change everything [i.e., post glacial growth in Alaska that begins as rock, then simple plants, then complex plants, then forests.] Same should be true in us as we seek after Jesus, we change the world around us and God grows US together, as community, into a place of blessing.
There is something “hardwired” in the DNA of the good news of Jesus, and in us as His followers, that is all about growth — growth in numbers (“all over the world”), knowledge of God and His will, and growth in spiritual character (faith, hope, love) — cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22-23. While we have to make an effort to grow to be like Jesus (2 Peter 1:3-10), our growth in the qualities of the Lord are “Spirit-natural” (Remember the parables about the seed and the harvest!) and the result of seeking after Jesus. So let’s seek after Jesus (Bible Class emphasis and reading focus) must be our passion.
Emphasize that there is something “hardwired” in the DNA of the good news of Jesus, and in us as His followers, that is all about bearing fruit — about organic Spiritual growth. The Alaska image is good here, but for it to happen fully, each generation of plant life must produce fruit and also offer up itself to grow and provide for what follows. Fruit principle will lead into the Lord’s Supper time.
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(Look at the parables of Jesus for inspiration here, especially Luke 8:1-15; Mark 4:26-32; Matthew 13:24-30).
What keeps the “Spirit-natural” growth from happening in us? What keeps the Word from growing?
Which of the problems with growth keep you from growing spiritually?
Which of these is most challenging to spiritual growth for you?
What should we do with others who are not growing? … not even trying to grow?
Should we expect growth — spiritual, numerical, character — to be a natural process?
Is growth an easy process? In what ways does Jesus suggest that Kingdom growth is mysterious and easy, yet in other ways is very challenging?
What is our responsibility to grow and help the Kingdom grow?
I Owe My Soul to the Company Store [Joe vs. Volcano]
O God Whose Name I do Not Know I thank you for my life
Several days ago, I sat with a friend who was sick from a powerful chemo cocktail. This was the second round of this person’s battle with cancer. Though a person of strong faith, that faith was a battle every day because of the the physical illness, weakness, and emotional roller coaster caused by the combo of powerful drugs.
Several days after our visit and frank, but tender conversation, I found the image below. I was drawn to it for many reasons. One reasons was because we battled for years to find images of faith that pictured people of color — I have often used this as an example of “institutional racism” that us white folks often don’t notice. This image, however, is a powerful statement of faith, and it caught my eye immediately. A second reason I love the image, is the lighting — if you have ever been in a battle of life and death and experienced the grace of God’s light invading your darkness, you know what I mean. Finally, my meanderings around in the Psalms led me to this powerful verse (Psalm 49:15), which seemed to articulate for me, the prayer and faith hidden in the image:
But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.
Here is a small version of the image. It doesn’t really do it justice, so I’ve included links to the full sized images that are prepared for Heartlight.org and the free Scripture graphics there.
You might, at first, think of this as a verse of resignation — giving up and saying, “OK, God, I know I’m going to die, but I trust you will bring me to yourself.” And granted, it can mean this and should offer us comfort. God will not abandon us to the grave. He will bring us to himself. Faith in the face of such things is a powerful and comforting blessing.
But I also think of Hezekiah, who found out he was going to die and then prayed with Isaiah, and God redeemed his life and granted him fifteen more years of life (2 Kings 20:1-6). I am also reminded of my friend, Saundra, whose liver tumors vanished “without explanation” between the time other malignant material was removed from her and her trip to MD Anderson in Houston to one of the few surgeons who could do the surgery she needed at the time. She is still alive today nearly two decades later.
Yes, we are all going to eventually die. But my whole being believes that God does redeem our lives from the power of the grave. He does this sometimes by rescuing us from immediate death and brings us to himself, bringing healing and granting us more years on this earth. He also does this sometimes by rescuing us through death and bringing us to himself to await the glorious day of Jesus’ return. Paul says it well, and I will end today on this note:
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christi and to die is gain (Philippians 1:18b-21 tniv).
Today, we’re also joining Randy Elrod with Watercooler Wednesday — How to Recycle a Church?