Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Hope that Doesn't Disappoint

Have you ever given Hope much thought?  I hadn’t until I watched a movie that changed my whole perspective.


Webster’s dictionary says hope is “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” 


Hope leads a woman and man to profess their love for one another and commit to a lifetime of love together, hope gives that same couple the strength to endure the nine long months of waiting before they hold their child in their arms and then it’s with hope in their hearts that they send that same child off to college and beyond. . .


Hope is a powerful thing.


But have you ever wondered what it would be like to live without hope? 


In the movie, Jakob the Liar, Jakob Heym (played by Robin Williams) is a Jewish man in a Polish Ghetto during the Second World War.  Daily suicides in the ghetto are a common occurrence.  There is barely any food, no contact with the outside world and no reason to HOPE that there is anyone coming to their rescue.


One day, Jakob is taken to the Gestapo Headquarters and hears a radio broadcast telling where the Allies are at and for the first time he has hope!  He returns to the ghetto and tells his friend what he has heard and before long the whole ghetto is buzzing with the news.  The ghetto begins to throb with life as people regain hope in their future.  Seeing the dramatic change that this simple piece of news has had on the entire community, Jakob begins to “make up” news to keep their hope alive.


As I watched this movie, I couldn’t help but be impacted by the power of Hope.   Hope changed all of their lives; it gave them a reason to live.   For us as followers of Jesus, our HOPE gives us a reason to LIVE as well!


Hebrews 6:17-19 says, “God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind.  So God has given both his promise and his oath.  These two things are UNCHANGEABLE because it is impossible for God to lie.  Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the HOPE that lies before us.  This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

We can put our hope in people that will fail, in dreams that may never come true and in things that will fade away.  OR we can place our HOPE in a God who never changes.


Do you see it?  This Hope we have is STRONG and SURE, it does not disappoint.  God guarantees it!


As a follower of Jesus, I live every day with the Hope of my eternal destination!  Even though my circumstances may be difficult and my path unclear, I still have the Hope of an eternity with my Savior.


And yet there are people all around me living and dying with NO HOPE.


So why do I keep this HOPE to myself? . . .   Why do I often LIVE like I have no hope? . . .


We have the HOPE of an ETERNAL FUTURE with our living Savior!  Remember that my friend, when life has got you in its crosshairs and there seems to be no respite for your weary soul.  There is HOPE – not a hope that disappoints but a HOPE that is SURE!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Posture of Prayer

I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately.  Maybe it’s because I need prayer like I’ve never needed  it before – well actually I’ve always need it.  But it just seems like prayer has taken the forefront of my mind and heart recently.  But it hasn’t always been this way for me. . .

To be honest, I have wrestled a lot with this thing called prayer . . .

*Why does God want us to pray when He knows what we need even better than we know ourselves?

*What good does my prayer even do?  Who am I to change God’s mind or challenge Him on His ideas?

*How do I know that I am praying in “God’s Will”?  Can anyone really know the will of God?

These and other questions have gone over and over and around and around in my mind as I’ve tried to work out this idea of prayer.  It seems like prayer comes so naturally to some people.  They find no trouble in praying “without ceasing”.  But me, well I’ve always struggled.

But as I’ve grappled with this, I have come to realize that it’s not really about my questions but more about my heart.  And God has shown me that I’ve allowed my questions to hinder my pursuit of prayer.

I've learned that prayer is a conversation with my Heavenly Father.  It's pouring out my heart to Him; declaring my frailness and His strength, my simplemindedness and His wisdom, my need and His provision.  It's a place of vulnerability.

Prayer is a place of humility . . .  it willingly admits that we NEED God, that we are DEPENDENT on Him, that we CANNOT do it without Him.  

Just as a loyal citizen kneels before their king to declare their submission to his decisions, laws and judgments, we proclaim the same thing when we pray.  Turning to God in prayer for guidance and help declares that, “He is God and we are not.”  It’s our way of surrendering to His Ways, His Work and His Will for our lives.

In Psalm 143:6-7  David declares his dependence to his TRUE KING . . .

Let me hear of Your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting You.  Show me where to walk, for I give myself to You.  Rescue me from my enemies, Lord; I run to You to hide me.  Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God.  May Your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.

In these verses it’s easy to see David’s posture in His prayer.  He is kneeling before his King offering his trust, asking for guidance and surrendering to His leading.

Do you struggle with prayer?  Have you allowed your questions to hinder your prayers?  Maybe you’re "kneeling" on the outside but not on the inside?  Whatever it may be, I encourage you to let go and turn to the One who is ready and waiting to hear from you. 

1 Peter 5:6-7 promises,  "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."

Monday, August 13, 2012

When Your Rooster Crows
I’m reading a book this summer by Mark Batterson, called Wild Goose Chase, with a group of women from my church. Wild Goose is the Celtic name for the Holy Spirit. Following Him isn't like your typical run-of-the-mill goose chase, however they have many similarities; it can be wild and crazy, unpredictable and may take you where you never dreamed you would go.

The premise of the book is that often we as believers find ourselves in various cages that hinder us from pursuing the Holy Spirit and his leadings.

One of those cages is the Cage of Guilt and Mark had an interesting take on a very familiar passage of Scripture in Luke 22:60-61 (NLT) But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me. And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.

Mark asked the question, “I wonder if every time Peter heard a rooster crow he was reminded of his greatest failure?”

I had never thought of that before and I felt that question resonate deep in my soul. As I contemplated the inner turmoil that Peter must have experienced in those days before He would meet up with Jesus and find forgiveness. I couldn’t help but identify with him.

Over the years I’ve had my own “rooster crows” that remind me of my failure and sin. It doesn’t take much to jog my memory of a time when I let God down or someone I loved. It can be a song, a smell, a conversation, a place and my glaring failure rises up to taunt and torment me all over again. I don’t like my “rooster crows” – in fact I avoid them like the plague. To be honest it's a lot easier than having to relive my guilt and pain.

As Mark Batterson raised his microscope to Peter’s failure he pointed out something that took me completely by surprise.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” (John 21:4) This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Peter has given up and gone back to his old way of living but Jesus, his Redeemer and Friend, hasn’t given up on Peter.

Notice when Jesus goes to Peter? Yep you got it, at dawn. When do roosters crow the most?

. . . When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them – fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. (John 21:7-9)

Jesus meets Peter when the roosters are in full-swing, by a charcoal fire reminiscent of another fire where Peter betrayed his Friend. This wasn’t a haphazard appointment – Jesus came at deliberate time for a specific purpose.

In the next few verses we see Jesus ask Peter three times if he loves Him. What is Jesus doing here? (Even Peter is wondering why Jesus has to ask so many times.) There is purpose in what Jesus is doing; Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus asks Peter the same question three times.

Jesus is reconditioning Peter, so that the next time he hears a crow of a rooster or finds himself standing by a fire; he will be reminded, not of his failure but of Jesus’ forgiveness.

Jesus is re-comissioning Peter. He wants Peter to remember the love He has for him and to know that the MISSION that Peter had once been given hasn't changed.

What Peter doesn't know is that Jesus plans to send him on the biggest Wild Goose chase of his life! But Peter is ready; he is stronger and braver than he's ever been before because he knows how hard he can fall and the world will never be the same.

As I contemplated this new insight into the wisdom and love of Jesus, I was challenged to re-comission the “rooster crows” in my life. Instead of giving them the power to dredge up my past failures, I want to choose to celebrate and praise the God who gives me victory and grace!

What about you? Do you have “rooster crows”in your life that you have allowed to flood you with guilt and remorse and convince you that you are a failure? Are you stuck; unable to go forward?

The next time you here your "rooster crow" and are tempted to wallow in your guilt and shame, lift your head and give praise to the One who REDEEMED you, RESTORED you and set you FREE. And like Peter throw off the weight of your guilt and bask in the love and forgiveness of your Savior.

When you do, you will be amazed at where the Wild Goose will take you!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Potluck Scripture

As a young girl, I looked forward to potluck dinners in the basement of our small church. I would stand at the top of the stairs and inhale the smell that was wafting its way up from the kitchen, causing my mouth water and then I'd race down as fast as I could.

The various and sundry dishes seemed to stretch on forever.

My favorite thing to do, before it all began, was to walk up one side of the tables and down the other, trying to see all that was there. If I stretched my neck and stood on my tip toes I could just get a glimpse of what was in the those wonderful smelling dishes.

The good old standbys always brought a smile to my face; fried chicken, orange jello and deviled eggs. But other dishes like vegetables or weird salads would make me wrinkle my nose and rejoice that at this dinner I didn’t have to have a “no thank you” helping. And then there were the desserts, as usual the ladies of our church had out done themselves with warm brownies fresh out of the oven, enormous cakes, and pies galore.

My joy of potluck dinners was born out of a love for food and fellowship. My favorite thing about potlucks was that my parents weren’t as attentive to my eating habits which enabled me to eat whatever I wanted. This meant that I could forego the vegetable dishes and fill up on desserts to my heart’s delight.

I also enjoyed the freedom to be able to pick and choose what I wanted to eat. At home there weren’t a lot of choices. I had to eat a little of everything, even if I didn’t like it. I learned early in life not to complain because that would only get me more!

My love for potluck dinners was raised to new heights, when I realized for the first time that if I put something on my plate and didn’t like it, I didn’t have to eat it! That was never the case at home. The mantra, “Clean Your Plate” had been adopted by my parents, and there was no hope of changing it. Believe me, I tried.

Recently when I sat down to spend some time in the Scriptures; I was struck with the fact that I have a tendency to love God’s Word, like I love potluck dinners!

I choose to feast on verses like Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)
 The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

But turn my nose up at verses like Matthew 5:44 (NLT)
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

My desire for things that are easy and tasteful hinders me from developing strength and depth as His disciple. And I can't help but wonder if this is what Paul was alluding to in 1 Corinthians 2:2
 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready. . .

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there are verses in the Bible that don’t have any value but the point I’m trying to make is that we hamper God’s work in our life when we pick and choose what we like and don’t take it ALL into account.

God’s Word is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. I readily confess that I don’t like to be cut open, to have my sin held up to the light of His Word. It's so much easier to steer clear of God’s cleansing work in my life and focus on His unending love and faithfulness. But God desires so much more for me and for you!

Let me ask you the same questions, I'm asking myself.   Do I approach God’s Word like I approach a potluck dinner? Do I find myself choosing the verses in God’s Word that are tasty and appetizing and avoiding those that seem distasteful or hard?

Lord, I confess in my heart of hearts I have approached your Word like I do a potluck dinner. I have feasted on Your grace and avoided Your commands. Thank you for extending Your mercy to me and open my eyes and my heart to ALL that you want to teach me. Amen.