Tag: Hope

Sorrow Comes. Jesus Overcomes.

HopeThe last few weeks have been difficult for so many of my friends. From the loss of loved ones to scary medical news, it’s been rough. The thing that pulled me into reality is the fact that each piece of news came out of nowhere. I’ve always known this is the case with tragedy, most times. Tragedy doesn’t typically call and say that it’s coming to visit. Instead, it kicks in the door and ravages everything in it’s path.

Sorrow comes.

It’s inevitable. No one is immune. Tragedy will come violently crashing into your’s or a loved one’s life. In that moment there is little that can be said to comfort or make sense of it. In those moments, sometimes the best possible answer is to simply be with the one that is hurting.

Jesus said “For wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there I Am in the midst of them.” Let me first point out that the “I Am” Jesus used is the same one that God used with Moses and the same one He routinely used to identify Him and The Father as one. He was telling us that HE, the presence and power of God, would be in the midst of them. Secondly, let me clarify that Him saying this doesn’t mean that He isn’t present when we’re by ourself, He is. He meant that He honors the gathering. I’ve said this a number of times before and I’ll continue to say it; we can experience Jesus in all His glory and completeness when we’re alone, but there is something different that happens when we gather. As the saints gather together, there’s a fullness in Christ, through that community, that cannot be experienced any other way. Because Jesus loves His church, because He honors the gathering, He shows up in a different way bringing with Him a fullness that is nearly undefinable. The gathering is important, but not just for Sunday morning service. The part that we rarely talk about is that this promise isn’t reserved solely for celebration. Jesus’ promise isn’t relegated to happy moments of singing while we gather in a building for an hour every week.

I would offer that as much as Jesus’ promise is for celebrating together, it’s more for when we gather to mourn together. When we gather in two or three to grieve and mourn, Jesus is in the midst of that; present with all the power and presence of God. In those times He brings a fullness that is translated through His people into His peace and comfort. In that we are encouraged and reminded to hope in Him; to cling to His completeness and enoughness.

Corporate grieving is just as important as corporate celebration. We see it throughout the bible. There are so many times in the Old Testament that it says Israel gathered and mourned as a nation. After Jesus was crucified many of the disciples were together, mourning, when Mary told them the tomb was empty. Gathering together to mourn will look different for different people, but it’s still an element of Gospel-centered community that can’t be dismissed. We gather to encourage and remember Jesus’ promises. Promises like, He has overcome the world, He will wipe our tears, He is with us, and He will return. In Him there is all hope.

Jesus Overcomes.

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A New Year isn’t a New Life.

New-Years-Resolutions-SysAdmin Every year we wait in gathered anticipation for the chiming of the bell that will signal the new year and with it the hopes of new beginnings. We take stock of the previous year and assign levels of disappointment or satisfaction to help formulate our plan for the next 365 days. Our entire culture, from the big screen to social media, suggest that if we can just make it to 11:59 pm on December 31st, we’ll be alright. But that isn’t the truth. The hanging of a new calendar doesn’t guarantee a fresh new start. I don’t want to be a complete killjoy, so I’ll admit that there’s something about the scent of anticipation that is intoxicating. And, to be fair, the starting of a new year and a calendar free from the ink of the previous “to dos” does allow for a good launching point for starting… or restarting.  Goal setting should be as much a part of the tearing off of the December page as it is the rest of the year. So, while a new year doesn’t guarantee a new start, it does provide the possibility of one.

While a new year doesn’t guarantee a new start, it does provide the possibility of one.

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But, for so many people, they approach the new year with excited anticipation only to have their hopes for newness dashed once the “magic” of the holiday fades into the normalcy of everyday life. They look around and see that nothing has really changed; they’re still in debt, maybe deeper from over-reaching Christmas, relationships are still broken, maybe depression still drowns them or their loved one is still gone. For many the escape from pain or disappointment was temporary; measured in mere days. The hope of the new year that we’re peddled is mostly an illusion. It doesn’t take into account the realities of most people’s lives.

This isn’t the case for everyone. There are some that are in a great place in their life; tragedy or hardship hasn’t yet crashed down their door. The new year is a time of great reflection, in which they decide what bad habits they are going to abandon and which good ones they’ll adopt. And they have the will power, discipline and accountability to do it. To those I would say, don’t forget that there are those, in your life, whose new year started with dragging the chains of 2014 into 2015. There are people in your life whose 2014 ended with hurt or whose 2015 started with it. Don’t forget them. Be a light to them. Walk with them through it. Remember them by being with them and loving on them. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” Comfort them, don’t try to fix it, just comfort them. For those that can’t see a new year past the despair caked lens of 2014, I’ll say this, there is hope. While everything else is uncertain and turbulent, God is not. James 1:17 gives us a promise to hold onto. It says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” While every other area of your life may be uncertain and ever-changing, God is not. We are able to trust the promises of God, through Jesus. Life may not make sense right now; it may not fit with how you thought things would be or how you want it to be, but there’s still hope. God, through His people, can provide the comfort you need to bear your circumstance. Reach out to someone and hold on.

We are able to trust the promises of God, through Jesus.

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Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that if you hope in God all your problems will vanish; they won’t. But God has given His people to grieve with you, to comfort you, to be with you and to sustain you, so that you don’t lose hope. I wish I had answers for our “Why!?”s, but I don’t. All I can offer is my time and my prayer. If I know you, and we’re in close proximity, you can have both, just let me know. If neither apply, my prayer is still available, just let me know (I promise I’ll pray for you).

The Thrill of Hope

A-Thrill-of-Hope-titleThe other day I was listening to a popular local Christian radio station when a man came on and shared his testimony for how God used the radio station to give him hope. During his testimony the man quoted Jeremiah 29:11 and talked about how God showed him that He had a plan for his life. Whenever I hear someone use that scripture to support the claim that God has a plan for their particular life, I cringe a little inside. It’s not because I don’t understand the person’s sentiment; I do. It’s because the person saying it is using the verse out of context and when it’s shared on a grand forum, like a radio station, I think it relays an incorrect understanding of the Gospel to thousands of people and only perpetuates western Christianity’s mishandling of Jesus.

I’ve written about this before and addressed the difference between God’s plan versus His desire for our life. You can read it HERE, so I won’t go into it again, but I think this is the perfect time of year to talk about what God told Jeremiah to say to the Israelites.

SHALOM-sign-18mm-1024-x-768To clarify and set the foundation, when read in context, we can see that Jeremiah 29:11 is actually being said to the whole Israelite nation as the are being sent into exile. In verse 11 God is telling His people His thoughts toward them are one of, in the Hebrew, shalom, or peace. In some translations, shalom is translated into prosper, but the intent is the same. God’s thoughts toward the Israelites are thoughts of peace and goodness. His desire for them is that of goodwill. It has little, if anything, to do with material prosperity and more to do with peaceful growth as a people and nation. Then God tells them that those thought are not simply intangible well-wishing on His part, but are the catalyst His plan to give them a future and hope. These plans are two-fold and point to both a short-term and long-term plan.

In the short-term, God is telling His people to take hope in His promise to rescue them out of exile after 70 years. Imagine that promise. Imagine the thrill as you hoped for that day. That’s good news enough and might have been a good place to leave it, but God didn’t leave it there. Because God is a God of redemption and reconciliation and had continually told Israel that He intended to save the world through them, the long-term plan is why we will gather in churches and homes, tonight and tomorrow to celebrate and remember. God’s short-term plan was seen 70 years after Jeremiah spoke Jeremiah 29:11, but His long-term plan was seen 2000 years ago, in a Bethlehem manger, in the birth of Jesus.

Jesus is our future and our hope; He’s our now. He is the plan that God enacted long before He spoke to Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses, or Abraham. I don’t want to discount the fact that the Holy Spirit may lead someone to that scripture verse in times of despair. Times when there’s no money in the bank and no food in the cabinet, when your child lays sick or worse in the hospital, when all seems lost. He does; He’s led me there. But when He does, I’m certain that the only reason is to point us toward Jesus. The situation may not go away, it may get worse, but our hope is still Jesus. Tragedy is not God’s desire for us, peace is and that’s only found in Jesus.

Our hope, who is Jesus, ought to continue to thrill us (Click to Tweet This). So as we head to our Christmas Eve services tonight and gather for presents and good food tomorrow (our tradition is CRAB!), let us do so in a way that glories Him and acknowledges the Good plan of God.

Merry Christmas

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