Saturday, November 26, 2011

A late reflection on Vacation

Hebrews 11 Amplified Bible (AMP) 1NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

My Thanksgiving vacation with family is coming to an end. There are soon going to be good byes to be said and leaves to be taken from loved ones who will be missed again instead of embracing them.

In the middle of this vacation thoughts of hope and faith have been ruminating in my mind and heart. Hope, faith and love are the triples that Paul again and again links together. The three are linked in the life that surrounds me...talking about one will in time lead to the other.

Lord Jesus--You remind me that hope can be found in the middle of good byes. The reason I hope is the simple fact that the tomb they put you in is empty. The Kingdom has been put into motion. Your life at the right hand of the Father right now in intercession is evidence of the beginning of "Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."

Sometimes that is a bigger hill to climb than others. When family and loved ones are safe it is easier, but all of them this year are looking at challenges in their own way. Some are facing physical challenges, some are facing emotional challenges, some are facing spiritual challenges, and some are facing relational challenges. 

Let's face it, Lord Jesus so am I. Challenges that make the hill of faith and hope appear much bigger than it is, much more intimating that it really is. You are able no matter what.

FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not learned one step at a time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hope Among the Leftovers

Lord Jesus--Useless things...drift wood and sea shells washed up on the sand.  Being at the shore always puts me in a reflective mood.  Maybe it is the sound of the waves or maybe it is the way that the wind and the sea come together with a kind of  grace  that reminds me of You.  All these are are useless things.  Washed up on the sea shore in this case on the side of a OBX in North Carolina vacation land for those too tired or too cheap to make it to Florida.
I am not sure why they reminded me of you as I walked along with Jason, Sarah, Maddie and Jenny on the side of the Atlantic.  It was a tree that must have had roots somewhere in the Carolinas at one time or another.  Now it found itself on the side of the ocean within sound of the waves.

The thought grabbed me that there was a rugged beauty in these things that in one sense were useless and just a bit of float-some on the side of the eastern edge of America. You watched this tree grow with its roots deep in the soil of some wind swept beach front.  You watched and its life was known to you from sapling to wind storm that brought it to this place.  It's journey to this place was known to you, Lord Jesus. 

 Lord Jesus--As these thoughts were ruminating in my brain, they were pushed aside by the sights and sounds of the people who were walking up and down the beach...each of them much like these shells and drift wood driven along by forces which are out of their control.  I met a dog named Winston whose owner's name I never caught.   But Winston loved to play catch the ball on the side of the ocean as he danced in the ocean waves.

So where do these thought leave me?
Psalm 147:11 (NIV)

11 the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in hi
s unfailing love.

Those who put you in a place of awe and who trust in your unfailing love are your delight.  There are no useless things of beauty in your economy.  You know then all and see the beauty which one day will be a way that will honor the past and will redeem it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Hope Lives On

Lord Jesus--As Paul was writing these lines the early church was going through a transition of sorts. There were those who had died. By this time the church in Jerusalem had seen many die in one way of another. They may have gone underground for the most part. It isn't clear, but there had been successive waves of persecution that had swept through the church. But Nero hadn't even come to power as Paul was writing this.

Each wave of persecution had pushed the church to "go to grow". The church growth movement of the 1 century was in response to local persecution.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14  (NASB)

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
Lord Jesus-- The losses must have accumulated as they went along. Grieving must have been a way of life at times. They keep their eyes fixed on a hope not in better living situations, but in the One who spoke the conditions into existence in the first place. The hope of these early Christians had feet to it with hiking boots on.

My hope does not depend on the weather, or the time of year or the season of change in the world that surrounds me. It is a hope that is sure and lasting. The Kingdom has it's start in this world in your death and resurrection.

Let the hope that secures me today, Lord Jesus, be a hope that has feet and work boots on...ready for the hard work that your Kingdom come implies.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hope:From the Valley of the Shadow

Lord Jesus--Death came knocking in my family's world this week. The emotions were raw and the hope so clearly seen scrubbed clean of all the ways that hope can be encrusted by lesser things.

There was a sense of sadness and loss that was real, but there was also a sense of victory.  There was a celebration  of a life lived in the middle of a world of brokenness to the glory of the Father.

I hold a faith that is familiar with death, crosses and an empty grave.  So where is the hope in the middle of this hurt?  It is found in your words from the cross to a man who was hanging there with you...a man you met just in time. 

Luke 23:43 (CEV)
Jesus replied, "I promise that today you will be with me in paradise."

It was a promise, nothing less. From a cross made out of wood with sweat and blood mixed into it.  You reached out with one of your last gasps of breath to offer hope to a thief that was next to you.  Thank you Lord Jesus for hope that is found in the most unlikely places. 

Thank you, Lord Jesus for making a cross a place where hope can be offered and found. Thank you for turning funerals into a place of hope...thank you for being a part of a family that your story has been lived out in over make that four generations and counting. 

Lord Jesus--Help me to live a life that counts for your Kingdom in the middle of this brokenness and blessing that surrounds me here in this place you have called me to.  Help me to keep my part of the circle of faith unbroken.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hope in the Middle of the Not Yet

Lord Jesus--One of my friends is watching the current crisis in the financial markets and the mounting debt in Europe. He and I have been talking about the implications of the growing debt and the way in which everyone including the United States are in debt to China.  Our conversation often runs to the hope that you will return soon, Lord Jesus. I am sure that the present situation can not long endure. I find myself caught in the middle of the already and the not yet.

There is something just wrong with the money that comes from the efforts of under paid labor in China financing our national debt. The efforts of people who have so little is used to pay for our inability to manage our national budget? I know that there is little an average graying North Country person can do...but the questions run around in my mind. What would you say to us Lord Jesus? How do I live out your kingdom come with integrity and have hope living in my present tense?

In the middle of these thoughts there is irony laced through out. I am writing this on a computer that was made in china by slave labor? How can I know? The Ipad was invented by Apple and built in China. As I drive by bridges and public works project that were supposed to be shovel ready I wonder if a sign should be erected..."Built with american labor and Chinese yauns."  So are these thoughts of an aging baby boomer or are they the signs of the times? Where is the hope in the middle of the not yet?  

1 John 3
1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

In the middle of the not yet, you remind me, that this world is not my home. Your love has changed me. That change is in so many ways incomplete and fractured...inconsistent at best. But the changes are given and accepted changes everything it touches.  It changes my mind, my heart and my emotions.

2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

As much as I wish I was a finished product, that is not the way that I am supposed to be. I am never going to be finished with this stuff in the middle of this "not yet." This side of seeing you face to face Lord, I am always going to be in between.

In the mean time, can you show me how to live out a Kingdom life with integrity?

John knew you and and seen you a thousand times. As he wrote these lines, late in life, I wonder what picture was in his mind. Was it the Jesus that he had follow down the dusty road leaving his father's boat behind him? Or, was he thinking of the returning King in glory and power that he saw from Patmos?  The thought of you brought him to the place where hope was alive in his heart. We shall be like him...and we will not longer be not yet.

3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

In the mean time, I have to do the work of preparation and bring as much of your Kingdom come as you give me the strength to bring into being. 

Lord Jesus--Give me your strength and grace to work in the in-between.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hope Surrounds Us

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Lord Jesus--Your word does not try to sugar coat the reality that surrounds us. Paul's journey was much different than mine. The circumstances of his life were tied up in travel, church planting and conflict. Yet, the comparison between the present circumstances and the future glory still holds.

19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

Lord Jesus--Paul's point here is that sin has impacted all of the created order. Creation waits for the next step. Sometimes, on a quiet day in the forest with the wind through the pines...I can almost sense the anticipation.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

Lord Jesus--The futility of creation...what some have celebrated as the cycle of life is really twisted? It was never meant to be survival of the fittest. All life was meant to be a reflection of your grace and glory. Life was to be a celebration of the your creativity.

21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Lord Jesus--Paul was pointing to the fact that somehow our destinies are intertwined. There will come a time when all of the created order will be free to be in a way that humanity has never seen. I wonder what that will be like. I have a feeling that the food chain is going to shift, the cycle of life as I know it will morph into something so much more than it is right now.  A cycle of ...grace maybe?

You will be reflected all of the relationships of nature in it complexity and diversity in a way that I just can't get this side of your coming back.

Lord Jesus in this day, help me to live as you would have me some small way let me be a reflection of your grace.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Prayer for Hope

Ephesians 1:17-19 (NASB)
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

Lord Jesus--Hope really depends on my ability to see the world around me as you see it . It is fall outside as I write this and the early morning darkness surrounds me. From this vantage point, I can not tell if it is early morning or the middle of the night. It is just a bit after 6 am and it could be mid-night.  It is before the time change, dark outside. If it weren't for the sun that will rise in just a few minutes I would be left wondering.

Hope is like that so much of the time. It is only by the power of God working in my heart that hope is visible.  It is by the work of the Holy Spirit expressed in this heart wide open to your grace that I can get a glimmering of the hope that you want to show me. Revelation comes in all kinds of packaging. 

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Lord Jesus--Sometimes, I feel like a puppy that just isn't ready to see yet. Eyes not yet fully formed waiting for for the first time to see the light of day. The piece that catches me by surprise is that these eyes are sealed shut at times that are unexpected. I am thinking that I get it and then just as quickly it escapes from me. I find myself struggling to see what was there just a few minutes ago in clarity.

Or maybe the feeling is more like a baby that is just struggling to open their eyes for the first time in the bright light of planet Earth.  It is strange, wonderful, and cold all at the same time.  Even babies with time gain understanding of the movements and meanings of the images that surround them.

The prayer of Paul for this infant church in the middle of the pagan Roman culture that surrounded them was simple. Give them open eyes so they know clearly the hope that is tied to the fact that they have been called into a relationship with you.  The rich textures and colors of the glory that awaits.

19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might...

Lord Jesus--The same power that raised you from the grave is at work in this heart of mine in your revealing power to show me again hope.   You don't have to wait for the sun to rise for hope to finds its place in me.

So the point of Paul's prayer for this church in Ephesus is that the same power that raised you from the dead will show them the limitless horizons that await your people...your called out ones.

Lord Jesus--Help me to live out this kind of vision of hope in the day waits before me.  In the middle of it all you are speaking words of grace, glory and hope to me even when I am too new to it all to really understand it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hope in the Everyday

 Lord Jesus--Hope in my everyday world is something that seems in short supply of right now. The things that I thought were secure seem shaken not just stirred.

It may have started out with the fall of the twin towers, or maybe they were an iconic moment that summed up what was already a part of our world. It has continued with an ecomonic dislocation which has found me wondering about the future. Wall Street which seemed rock solid was seen for what it is at it's worst: greedy and selling what doesn't really exist.

When I do a simple word search for hope in your word 135 references come up...

Lord Jesus, of all the places that I could start to do a study of hope...this passage is the one that I have memorized. It feels like home to me.

Romans 5
  Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Lord Jesus--There is reason to be hopeful, because I have a peace with the Father that rests on what you have already done. This is just the start of great things. I stand in a place of grace...wherever my feet are resting, grace brought me there.  There is reason for celebration whatever the weather or the location, wherever the arc of your grace leads.  There is also the enduring hope that the course of my life will bring me to the time and the place where your glory will be revealed...right here on planet Earth as it is in heaven.

3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

So as I sit here thinking about funny hats and wondering about the future, you remind me that Jesus followers always land on their feet.  Might I just say, that it doesn't always feel that way?

Celebrate in the middle of hard times? Why on earth would I want to do that? Because your grace wants to find expression in my life?  In the silly hat, times? the I am picking myself up off my back side again...kind of times?

Hope, more than anything, is a process that is experienced over time and in the multi-leveled situations of life in the everyday.  Perseverance...patience can only be learned over time in the middle of the mix of real life.  Patience leads to proven character that knows how to endure through the times when I feel like I have a silly hat on in the corner.

In the middle of it, hope grows.  Hope grows even during a time when it is not rational for there to be hope.  Why? It is so simple that it hardly needs to be said if you have experienced it.  The Holy Spirit is so present that there can be no doubt God is at work.

Lord Jesus--In this day that has already started, let me be a refection of your hope...hope in the everyday, hope in the middle of the mix, hope that is real, relational, and relevant to a world that is hurting.