Monthly Archives: February 2014

Hope: Obsessed with Exalting Christ

 

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Philippians 1:20, 21:

“… according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Like many of us Paul was in prison.  He was no longer free to travel and visit churches.  Confined to one place.  Our prisons are prisons of a different kind, but we all have circumstances that seem to limit and hinder what we would really love to do.

How does Paul handle his difficult, disappointing circumstances? He remembers his true, number one passion:  exalting, lifting up, and getting to know God’s son Jesus Christ.  You can do that anywhere… In prison, in poverty, in sickness, in loneliness.

What a difference it makes when our number one passion is exalting Christ rather than a number one passion of getting out of prison (i.e. improving our circumstances).

Oh to say with Paul:   “For me to live is Christ”.   That is our only hope for finding the inner strength to face the realities of life.   Christ as our first passion fills us with the joy of anticipation of being with Christ, “which is very much better” (Phil. 1:23).

Father, forgive me for making better circumstances my number one passion, instead of a passion to know and exalt  your son Jesus Christ.

 

Hope: Finding Something to Boast About!

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We who belong to God always have something to boast about no matter how bad things are in life.  In Romans 5 Paul give us three things we boast about  as Christians. That is we boast or rejoice or glory in these things:

I. vs 2 – “We boast in hope of the glory of God“.  Our hope is that we will one day experience and see the glory of God in all his fullness.  How awesome it will be living on the earth surrounded by the glory of God, standing in His presence.

2. vs. 3 – “We boast in our tribulations“.  Our hope is that God is using our tribulations to makes us more like his Son Jesus Christ.  We have persevered and  past the test of genuine faith. We still believe God loves us! We share his love with others.

3. vs. 11 – “We boast in God”  Our hope is in God himself. We boast in him! He has reconciled us to Himself.

We are at peace with God (1), we are invited into God’s grace (vs. 2),  overwhelmed with God’s love (5), declared justified, not guilty ( 9),  spared the wrath of God ( 9),  reconciled to God (10, 11).

No matter how difficult life is, we Christians have something to boast about…  the absolutely free gifts given to us by the God of love.

  “My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad” (Ps. 34:2)

  “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1Cor 1:31)

Living between the Cross and the Ressurection

Cross of ChristBlessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (I Peter 1:3)

This morning, still in bed and half asleep, I was meditating on I Peter 1.  Peter’s letter is very precious to me as God is using it to breathe a taste of hope and joy in my soul even in difficult times. (Christians experience both joy and grief living in this world-I Pt 1:7).

In my mind I see Jesus disciples standing around the cross watching their dear friend Jesus Christ die.  He was the promised Messiah.  The Messiah was going to give them A BETTER LIFE ON EARTH.  He was bringing in the promised kingdom.

Standing before the cross, their dreams shattered.  Instead of a reigning Messiah, Jesus was a dead Messiah.    Grief, confusion, and despair flooded their souls.

Three days  later, the great and merciful God raised Jesus from the dead((I Pet. 1:3). The disciples thought, “Maybe there is hope after all!  Maybe the BETTER LIFE ON EARTH will happen now”! (Acts 1:6)

It was not to be.  Yes, new hope,  joy, and direction returned but the suffering continued. The disciples are beaten, jailed, stoned, and live in constant danger.   So much for a BETTER LIFE ON EARTH!

Their story reminds us that the BETTER LIFE ON EARTH, a life free from pain and uncertainty, is not ours to have until Jesus returns the second time.  Then we will inherit a perfect and safe world(I Pet. 1:4). Only then.

The disciples lived for three days in confusion and hurt  between the cross and the resurrection.  We must live for many days between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ.  Difficult days, painful days.  They are also days of hope.  Days of joyfully anticipating the second unveiling of Jesus Christ.

When I give up my demand that God make my life go better now, willing to wait for Jesus to return,  then a taste  hope and joy returns to my soul.

Hope for Times of Testing

fire_background_012it seems that  if you believe that God is good, that God is love, that He cares for you… your faith will be tested.  Trials, disappointments, and indeed suffering at some level will come to your life to test you to see if you REALLY BELIEVE n the goodness of God.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. – James  1:2, 3

… the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; – 1Pe 1:7

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal (burning) among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; – 1Pe 4:12

Job’s wife failed the test.  She tells her husband, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). She no longer believed in the goodness of God.

You will be tested by fire.  You will experience a fiery ordeal.  Is there any hope? Is there any reward for enduring the fire? Yes!

1.  When God the Father unveils Jesus to the world you will receive “praise, glory, and honor”  (I Peter 1:7)

2. God the Father is in the process of  making you “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4).  You are becoming more like Jesus!

3. When God the Father unveils the glory of Jesus Christ to you, you will  “rejoice with exultation” (1Pe 4:13).  You will experience exceeding, overwhelming  joy forever!

 4.  God the Father will let you see and know him, like you have never seen him before.  After his fire, Job said to God:  “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5)

Do you believe there is a reward for enduring the testing of your faith?  Do you belief in the future God will reward you?  If you believe that, you find the God given strength and hope to keep going and not give up.

 

Hope… Believing in an Awesome Future

FH-logoTo those of you in a painful, difficult place in life God has some very good news.  If you believe that good news you will have moments of tasting joy and hope.  Here is the good news for you…. God is ready to unveil and make visible his Son Jesus Christ and His salvation.

Do you believe that? Do you think about it very often?  Six times in his letter Peter talks about this unveiling, uncovering, making visible the glory of His Son and His salvation.

1Pe 1:5 … who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1Pe 1:7 … so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

1Pe 1:12 … It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.

1Pe 1:13 … Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1Pe 4:13 … but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

1Pe 5:1 … Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed

It seems to me the Holy Spirit is saying that faith in the Father’s future promise of revealing and making visible Jesus Christ enables us to have a taste of joy and hope even in the midst of terrible suffering.

 

Only for a Little While!

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When I was a little boy I remember my father quoting a Bible verse from the book of James:

“Yet you do not know what your life will   be  like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that  appears for  a little while and then vanishes away.”  James 4:14

 

The verse reminds me of a newly rediscovered verse in I Peter that says something similar:

“In this[eternal life] you greatly rejoice , even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.”  1Pe 1:6

We could mention another one:

“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”   1Pe 5:10

I used to hear “a little while” in James as a reminder that life is short. Therefore make sure you accomplish the most important things in life. You don’t have forever to get them done. The pressure is on!

Now that I am older, I see the phrase “a little while” is also a great encouragement to us.  Suffering and disappointments are only for “a little while.”  They will not last forever.  Soon, very soon, your suffering will end and you will be with Jesus Christ the king forever!

Suffering in some way? It is only for “a little while.”

Living Hope or a Dead Hope?

living hope better1Pe 1:3:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Today’s Foxnews headline on the web says… “Urkrainian Protesters Battle Police after dozens die in bloodiest day of uprising.”

Unless you are in the Ukraine you probably can’t  imagine what it is like living in that much danger and uncertainty.  Is there any hope?  What does the gospel of Jesus Christ say to those who live in constant danger of violence, suffering, and death?

Peter’s  heart is erupting in praise about how awesome God is, how wonderful He is.  He is overcome with emotion over the goodness and mercy of God.  Even in the midst of terrible suffering, violence, and danger in the world Peter is declairing God is worthy of worship.

WHY?

Because out of God’s merciful heart, God sent his Son into our violent, dangerous, evil world.  Jesus Christ personally experienced suffering, violence and mistreatment.  He experienced the pain of a slow, violent death.

Then…

God the Father raised His son Jesus from the dead!  The Father breathed new life into his Son’s dead body.  Three days after he died! Three days after being put into the ground …  his heart started beating, his blood started flowing, his lungs started taking in air, the brain cells started firing and Jesus woke up and walked away from his tomb!

Now…

You have a living hope. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you too will be raised from the dead.   You too will live after you die.   Even if that death is a painful, fearful, and slow death.  You will live.  Live forever in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  A kingdom of resurrected believers with new, perfect bodies.  This is an eternal kingdom of peace, prosperity, and safety.

This is our Living Hope (certain hope).  All other hopes are dead hopes.  It is a dead hope to think that suffering, violence, and death will end before Christ returns.  It is a dead hope to think that we can arrange for our own prosperous and safe existence in this world.

What a wonderful God we have!

 

 

Greetings of Love from the Trinity

god_is_love1Pe 1:1-2:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  who are chosen  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

Peter writes to a group of suffering Christians.  Christians who are disappointed with life in this world. He writes his letter to them to give them hope.  Hope to keep going. Hope to not  quit. Hope that you can sometimes taste joy in the Lord in spite of the suffering.

He starts this letter by reminding them of who their God is.  God is one God eternally existing in three distinct persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.   This Trinity of persons loves you in your suffering.  This Trinity of persons are all intimately involved with your salvation.  Let’s imagine what these verses would sound like if the Trinity would speak directly to his people and you individually.

God the  FATHER… “I choose you!  I choose you to be my people! And I choose you to belong to my people.  I  knew you before you were born. Knowing all about you, knowing all about your sin, I choose you.”

God the HOLY SPIRIT… “I cleaned you up.  I showed you your sin, revealed Jesus to you as your only hope, and then I set you apart from the world as clean, forgiven, and  holy before the Father.”

God the Son...  “I suffered for you! I suffered so much that my blood poured out of my veins from the cross and  fell to the ground.  I took my blood, by the Holy Spirit, and sprinkled your soul with it.  Your soul became clean.  The dirt of your sin was washed away.  Now you are clean, sanctified, made holy, set apart to live in my kingdom forever.”

Suffering Christian…. Here is your hope…  The Triune God has poured himself out for you. You are loved. “May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure”.

 

Where is your “Hope Focus?”

focusoftheheart_lgI Peter 1:13:

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.

Human beings never want to give up hope. You have probably heard this well known saying passed along for years: “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air… but only one second without hope.”

In our humanness, we keep hoping for a better life tomorrow.  A better life in this world.  Hoping this year will be better than last year. Hoping my health will get better. Hoping to get the bills paid. Hoping to have more spending money.  Hoping for improved relationships.

In this verse, the Holy Spirit thru Peter asks us to change our “Hope Focus”.  Change our “Hope Focus” from this world to the next world.  This is the first imperative command in the first fourteen verses of I Peter.  Commanded to hope. To completely, fully hope.  Hope in what?

Hope in all the gifts, grace, blessings, strength, freedom and love that will be poured out upon us as God’s children when Jesus Christ is revealed to us.

When God pulls back the veil and we see, WE SEE JESUS CHIRST, returning to this earth.  Then all our hopes for the good life will come true.  Not until Then. Quit hoping that will happen before the return of Christ.  The return of Jesus is our only hope.

Peter writes to these suffering Christians and tells them to change their “Hope Focus”.  Focus your heart on the revelation of Jesus Christ and the abundant grace he will yet pour out upon you.

 

 

Trials an Opportunity?

Just thinking about  Philippians 3:8

“I consider all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ”

We hate suffering.  We do everything we can to avoid it. Play it safe, eat healthy, exercise, be careful, buy those insurance policies, etc.  Also, be really religious so God will look down on you with favor and bless your life.  We do all this because we want a nice, safe, comfortable life. WE DO NOT WANT TO SUFFER. It is like our secret mission in life to avoid suffering.

Paul, on the other hand, was willing to suffer, suffer the loss of everything. Suffering loss was an opportunity to know Christ more intimately. Opportunity to taste Jesus himself in his soul.

I think the Spirit is trying to move me to the place where my number one heart cry is “Jesus  I want to know you more intimately.”  This cry is so different than my usual cry of “Jesus, save me from these painful circumstances”

God’s bigger plan is not to make things go well for me, but to give me an intimate relationship with Jesus.  The question is, “Do I want that? Do I want Him so badly I am willing to suffer in order to have him?”.

A pleasant life without Jesus is just rubbish!