Nuggets of Hope 25 – Jesus in your boat

The boat pictured here is a replica of an ancient fishing vessel whose remains were discovered by a couple of amateur archaeologists in the Galilee region in 1986.  It’s thought to be much like the type of boat that Jesus and his disciples would have used.  It’s a sizable craft, capable of being either sailed or rowed.

Among Jesus’ disciples were several seasoned fisherman, familiar with the Galilee waters. Still, on more than one occasion the gospel narratives relate that they ran into trouble with high winds and waves. One evening, after a busy day spent helping Jesus meet the needs of a crowd of over 5000 people, they set off to cross the lake in a boat much like this one, while Jesus went off for some solitary prayer in the hills surrounding the lake.

This wasn’t just a pleasure jaunt for the guys in the boat. The boss had told them to meet him on the other side of the lake, and they were doing their best to follow his instructions. But they were having a rough go. The wind was against them and they weren’t making much headway.

Quite possibly they were having conversations something like this.

Can this trip really be God’s will? Maybe we didn’t hear him right. Jesus can’t want us to be having all this trouble, can he? I thought he cared about us. Maybe we shouldn’t even be doing this. I think this whole adventure was a bad idea. I’m not sure how much longer I can go on.

As if all this wasn’t enough, the next thing they knew, they had another problem – a really big one. The high winds and waves were a problem, but at least they were a familiar problem. They knew what to do about winds and waves. But then things got really scary.  They thought they saw a ghost.

We’ve all had moments like those. We’re already beyond exhausted – at the end of our rope – but at least we have a plan and we know what we are dealing with. Then things just go to a whole other level and we have no idea what to do next.

What a relief to hear Jesus’ voice. “It is I. Do not be afraid.” The gospel of John records that when they heard his voice, they realized who it was, and let him into the boat; and immediately (as it seemed to them) they reached the other side.

The journey through life can feel like a tough assignment sometimes. As if our pre-COVID life weren’t challenging enough, the pandemic confronts us with questions to which nobody really knows the answers. Are we going to make it to the other side? What will “the other side” even look like? Where are we headed? Will life ever be normal again?

Here’s a different question. Do you have Jesus in your boat?

If you do, all the other questions might still be there, but suddenly everything looks different. Jesus is master of the situation. He knows the way through. Breathe deeply. You are going to be OK. You don’t have to be afraid.

The Apostle John, looking back on this event many years later, summarizes their feelings this way: Then they were glad to take him into the boat. 

What about you? Is Jesus in your boat?

 

 

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Nuggets of Hope 24 – The King’s Beauty

This morning I began my day with a walk to see the horses in the field at the end of our crescent. Although the weather forecast tells me a blast of winter is coming, this morning I can still taste, see and feel the glory of spring. It speaks to me of the Creator’s great wisdom.

The Biblical storyline tells us what young children often intuitively understand – we were made by a good Creator. Our lives come from His hand. The beauty and complexity of creation testifies to His goodness and power. He made humans for intimate fellowship with Himself.

That storyline goes on to tell us that a rebellious angel tempted our first parents to choose independence, and ever since there has been a curse on creation. But even when the curse was first pronounced, Eve was promised that her offspring would one day crush the serpent’s head. That offspring is Yeshua, who was, who is and who is to come. He came once to announce the coming Kingdom in words and deeds of great power, and to offer his life as a sacrifice for sins. He is coming again to restore all things.

Some ask why a good God would permit terrible things like the coronavirus to occur. There are many ways of answering that question, but anyone who has been paying attention to the message of the Kingdom shouldn’t be surprised. We know from Scripture that many things will be shaken before Jesus returns to bring in the Kingdom that cannot be shaken. We are currently experiencing one of those times of shaking.

Near the beginning of COVID-19 lockdowns, Marion and I watched a movie about World War II. It reminded me of my parents. They were 22 and 18 respectively when the Netherlands was invaded by the Wehrmacht in May 1940. They lived in an occupied nation for most of the next five years. Did they know how long it would last? No, but they held on to the hope that there would be life beyond the war, and in that hope they gave themselves to living for the day when the war would be over.

We are called to live with our eyes on an even greater Day – not just the day when the covid-19 crisis will subside, though that will be a day of great rejoicing, but the day when our eyes see the King in his beauty. Our response to Him in this age will determine whether that Day brings us the joy of sharing his reward or the horror of irreversible judgement. We are made to share in His glorious Kingdom that is coming, and to inherit a new heaven and a new earth. Don’t let the troubles of today cause you to lose sight of that hope. Let that hope anchor your soul. The King is coming.

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Nuggets of Hope 23 – Keeping the Peace

The job of a hockey official is not always easy – especially during the Stanley Cup playoffs which we are currently missing. One of the more challenging aspects is keeping the peace between opposing players who get a bit hot under the collar in the heat of the game.

The COVID-19 pandemic, like a hockey game, could be likened to a battle between two opposing forces. But as with a hockey game, there are often various secondary skirmishes that take place on the sidelines. People have different points of view on the origins of the virus; the actions of government, public health and law enforcement officials; the wearing of masks; the rules for social distancing; the extent to which one should disinfect all surfaces – and they express them with great passion and conviction. This often leads to useless arguments.

Christians are not immune from such conflicts. We can get drawn into them like anyone else. Writing to the church in Colossae, Paul had this to say on how to avoid needless and unproductive quarrels.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. (Colossians 3:15)

The literal meaning of the Greek word for “rule” refers to the function of a referee or umpire in an athletic contest. Part of the assignment of officials at sporting events is to keep the players from fighting with each other. Hockey officials usually do this by trying to talk the players down. However the players don’t always listen. Sometimes they just seem to be intent on a fight.

Handled constructively, the expression of different points of view can serve a positive purpose. Unfortunately, some are so committed to making their point that their statements are like declarations of war, seemingly calculated to provoke an explosion. Even those who frame their comments in an entirely reasonable tone find that they sometimes land in a minefield of emotion and the result can be a raging conflict.

I have learned that although I have freedom of speech, it’s wiser to remain silent when a productive dialogue seems impossible to achieve. Even valid insights are of little value if they are hurled at others like weapons of warfare – or even if they are uttered peaceably, but unlikely to be well-received because of the mental state of the hearer.

A wise man wrote that one who is able to rule his own spirit is better than one who can capture a city. I have found that when I take time to listen to Holy Spirit He always leads me into the peace of Jesus.

The other day I went for a bike ride after a long day. I was feeling worn down from work but also from hearing too much information and too many opinions. The Internet can do that to you, especially during a contentious time like this. I told Jesus that I needed Him to speak to me. I think He already knew that, but I needed to say it because I needed to position my heart to listen. It was a beautiful afternoon and as I cycled alongside farm fields, I saw a small bright yellow goldfinch flying just above the drainage ditch. The beauty immediately caused a prayer of thanks to rise from my heart.

I heard the Spirit ask me a question.

Who made all this?

You did, Lord.

The turmoil that I had been carrying in my heart subsided as I recognized the amazing wisdom and power of God that is displayed in His creation. I saw again that God, who made all things, will bring in His Kingdom in His time. He uses storms like the present COVID-19 crisis to bring the nations to submission. Some recognize this and some fight it. I am asking the Lord to discipline and instruct my heart so that I am quick to recognize His wisdom.

We have to choose to abide in the peace of Jesus. It doesn’t come automatically. We can choose to recognize His authority over our lives, and allow His peace to rule our thoughts. When we do this, the result is a fruitful life and open doors to share the life, peace and joy of Jesus with others. This is the wisdom on which I choose to build my life. Nothing else will last. His ways alone will endure.

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

 

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Nuggets of Hope 22 – How to Stay Safe

Stay safe.

It’s become one of the dominant messages in the COVID-19 era.

But how, exactly, do we stay safe? How do we protect ourselves?

Before we can really answer that question, we need to ask another question. From what enemy are we trying to protect ourselves?

If you’re trying to protect yourself from getting COVID-19, there are recommended precautions. But what if you have a sneaking suspicion that COVID-19 isn’t your biggest enemy?

Yes, COVID-19 is an enemy. But it can be a useful enemy. Like any crisis, any situation that we can’t control, the pandemic raises important questions for us. Where is my real hope? What am I living for? What do I really want? What is my life really about?

Many people are experiencing heightened anxiety during these times. But their anxiety is not only because of COVID-19.  That’s just the current threat. The reality is that we are all vulnerable to many possible harms. Death is a prospect that none of us can escape in this age.

Disciples of Jesus have a Master who has conquered death on our behalf, and set us free from the power of darkness. If we really believe that, we should be the happiest of people. But we also have an enemy who hates us and desires to rule our thoughts. He does this by planting thoughts which we can choose to accept or reject. But to recognize them and reject them, you need a good spiritual immune system. The contagion that I really want to avoid is that sneaky tendency to focus on myself, and the immune system I need is the good, old-fashioned blood of Jesus that washes me clean from sin, His Word that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, and His powerful Spirit who guides me in the ways of love and self-control.

Recently I studied the First Letter of John with a small group of friends. John is identified as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Of course Jesus loved all his disciples but he apparently had an especially close relationship with John. By the time he wrote this letter, John was an old man who had seen most of the companions of his youth put to death for their faith in Jesus.

For John, the issues were clear. He ended his message to his flock with these sobering but hope-filled and powerful words.

We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.

1 John 5:18-21

The safest place to be is close to Jesus. That’s where I want to stay. That’s where I’m placing my hope.

 

 

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Nuggets of Hope 21 – The Hope of Glory

The hope of glory.

The runners in this photo were both running for the prize. They were running to win. They were running with focus and determination.

One of them is my young friend Rebecca Greer. She is an exemplary young lady. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic she has continued to train and stay in shape.

Why does she do this? It would be easier not to.

The answer is that she has vision and a purpose that enable her to see beyond the limitations of this present time. She is living for fulfillment. She is running for the joy of it. She is running for the hope of glory.

God has designed humans to want fulfillment. We are made for joy. We are made for glory. We are made for the glory of God.

I would never want to minimize anyone’s positive achievements in this life. We all need hope and purpose to sustain us. Young people need the motivation of believing that there is a point to their efforts to live a productive life.  But the energy of youth does not last forever, and so we need to ask ourselves whether we are spending the substance of our lives for a prize that is temporary and fading, or for a prize that is eternal and will never lose its luster.

Many of us feel that our plans, hopes and dreams have been placed on hold by this pandemic. Just yesterday I lost perspective for a few hours and needed a sister in Christ to remind me of my focus. The specific challenges are different for each person, but all of us are in a battle to hold on to hope. In the midst of that battle, it’s good to lift our eyes and look to the heavens, to the One who is seated on the Throne.

Why is this pandemic happening? There are many possible answers to that question. But in the end, no circumstance is outside of God’s control. Wicked people contrived to put Jesus to death, but God had a higher purpose. It’s up to us which narrative, which script, which agenda characterizes our life. It’s up to us whether these few months of pandemic are wasted time or fruitful time.

Like Rebecca, we can choose to continue training during this time. Physical training has some value in leading to a better life, so I continue to work out and ride my bike. I do this because I want to remain fit, productive and positive in my focus. I still have some years left in this life, and I want them to be good ones. But for what purpose? What is my ultimate goal? What is yours? If we make the daily choice to let Jesus work on the inside of us, to teach us His thoughts and His ways, the benefits will be eternal.

Writing from a prison cell, the Apostle Paul wrote these words of encouragement to his dear friends in the church at Philippi,

I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Although he was in prison, Paul wasn’t obsessed with his own troubles. His confidence was in God, and so he was able to encourage others with the hope of their eternal inheritance and God’s faithfulness.

I believe that promise. It’s one of the Scriptures that I speak over my life almost every day, and it has changed the way I think. Today and every day, I am choosing to fix my eyes on the hope of glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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Nuggets of Hope 20 – Deliver us from Evil

Deliver us from evil.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are in shock because of the recent tragic sequence of events in Nova Scotia in which twenty-two victims lost their lives to a crazed gunman.

There are many dimensions to this tragedy. At the most basic level, there is the gut-wrenching loss and grief suffered by the loved ones of those who lost their lives. It’s hard to imagine the pain they must be feeling. They are greatly in need of our prayers.

One of the victims was an RCMP constable, Heidi Stevenson, a wife and mother of two children who had planned to rendezvous with a fellow officer. She was deceived by the gunman’s replica RCMP vehicle and uniform. We like to be able to assume that our neighbours and colleagues mean us no harm. This is basic to the fabric of life in small town Canada. When we are deceived, it can tend to erode that trust in the reliability and truthfulness of others.

It’s natural to prefer safety and trust to danger and betrayal. Yet Jesus taught his followers not to be surprised by evil. He taught us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. In other words, take full account of the existence of evil and the devious strategies of the evil one, and yet do not let yourself become cynical or hardened or fearful. Despite the presence of evil, disciples of Jesus in a fallen world are called to remain stable, fruitful and full of hope. To do this, we need both the innocence of a young child and the wisdom of a battle-hardened veteran.

Jesus of Nazareth, Israel’s Messiah and the hope of the earth, perfectly embodied both. He was fully given to his Father’s will and free of guile, yet he was wise regarding evil. The evil one had no hold on Jesus but he was fully aware of the schemes of the enemy. In that full knowledge, he freely gave his life as a sacrifice – for what? So that we could live out our days in this life with no more tragic eruptions of evil – no more plagues or shootings?

No, Jesus didn’t promise us that. Instead He promised us opportunities to bear witness amidst increasing trouble, with peace in the midst of trials – followed by a horrific final crisis and then a world restored, full of the knowledge of the Lord, to be inherited by those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.

We can’t escape pain in this life. But we can make the pain worthwhile, by entrusting ourselves to the One who alone is good and who gave His life for us. There is a place for wisdom and prudence in the life of a disciple, but these things by themselves will not lead to life. In the end the only way to be safe from the schemes of the Evil One is to give ourselves wholeheartedly to Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb and the conquering Lion.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10-11

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Nuggets of Hope 19 – At All Times

Do you praise the Lord at all times?

That’s what David vowed to do after God rescued him from the crafty Abimilech.

I will bless [praise] the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord ;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Psalm 34:1-2

Twenty-eight years ago today my daughter Bethany was born. It was a day of great rejoicing. Marion and I had not planned on a fourth child but God saw fit to intervene. We had also not expected to have a daughter. I remember the Holy Spirit speaking to me and telling me that He was giving me what I had desired but had not asked for. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and praised the Lord.

Five years ago today my daughter-in-law Carmen lost almost all of her small bowel. I will never forget the phone call from my son Joe telling me that she was about to have surgery and might not survive. I left my desk, went for a long walk and prayed as I have seldom prayed before. I knew that Carmen’s life was ultimately in the hands of the Lord.  That was a hard day, but God has shown himself faithful. I don’t say this only because she survived – although I am very thankful that she not only survived but is now thriving. Even if she had been taken from us, God would have shown himself faithful. He is always faithful to His good, eternal purposes. That is who He is.

We don’t praise the Lord only or primarily to get things from Him, although praise does release God’s blessings into our lives in a powerful way. We praise Him because He is worthy of our attention, worthy of being the primary focus of our lives. There is no-one else more worthy of our loving, appreciative, thankful attention. But we also praise and worship God because we need to.  It’s good for us. Praising and worshipping God has a wonderful way of putting things into perspective for us. As we lay down our concerns and forget ourselves in praising and worshipping Him, everything else takes its place.

Not many months after surrendering my life to the Lord and going through my first series of severe tests after coming to faith, I remember being at a Christian family camp where Harold Harding was ministering in teaching and personal prophecy. I do remember some of what he said – in fact his personal prophetic word to me had a profound impact on me – but what had the greatest impact was his habit of pacing up and down the platform, praying over and over again “Thank you Lord” as he waited for prophetic words to come. I saw in him qualities of perseverance, constancy and steadiness that had developed over a lifetime of both blessings and trials. He looked for the hand of God in both, and so his life remained stable and fruitful until the day he passed into the presence of Jesus.

There’s something very stabilizing about praise. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is shaking the nations, and we can all feel its impact in multiple ways, one of the best things we can do is to turn our attention to God and praise Him. When we turn our attention away from ourselves and our concerns, and away from the opinions, judgments, mistakes, achievements and social media pronouncements of others, and fix our attention on the Maker of the Universe, we soon begin to realize how very small people are and how very big God is.

Paul wrote to the young church in Corinth during a time when they needed a dose of encouragement due to a crisis in their life together. He reminded them of their foundations.

Now it is God who makes both us and you
stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,
set his seal of ownership on us,
and put his Spirit in our hearts
as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22

When we turn our attention to Him and surrender to His good work in our lives, God puts a firm foundation under our feet, and He anoints us and seals us with His Spirit – the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and empowered Him for his ministry. None of this is from us. It’s all from God. He redeems us from the pit and gives us stability and hope, He gives us the power to live a new life, and He gives us the promise that His good work in us will be completed and that we will get to share in His eternal inheritance if we remain faithful.

It’s good for us, sometimes, to be reminded of the losses that others have suffered. It was good for me today to be reminded of the pain that Carmen has been through and the grief, sorrow and travail that so many of us experienced as we were waiting anxiously for news about her first and second surgeries during that horrible period of testing five years ago. It’s also good to remember our joys, as Marion and I take delight in remembering Bethany’s birth twenty-eight years ago today. But it’s even better, having revisited both past joys and past sorrows, and having taken stock of present challenges like the current pandemic, to turn our faces and our hearts to the God of the universe who alone is worthy to be worshipped and praised.

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Nuggets of Hope 18 – Go Buy Oil

Go Buy Oil.

There are some who would say that this is a great time to buy oil stocks, when prices are at historic lows due to the COVID-19 crisis. That may be good financial advice, but it’s not the focus of this blog. Rather, in the midst of the current crisis, I want to encourage you to buy oil for the lamp of your spirit, while you still have time.

It’s clear from Scripture that before the return of the Lord, pressures will increase in society. The current crisis is not the end of the age, but it is a reminder that God has promised to shake all things prior to the return of the Lord. How we position our hearts is of the utmost importance.

In Matthew 24-25, Jesus is teaching on the end of the age, and he tells a parable to encourage us to keep our lamp of faith burning. The context of the parable is a typical first century Jewish wedding.

In a traditional Jewish wedding, after a year of betrothal during which the bride and groom were to remain separate and sexually pure, the groom would go to the bride’s parent’s home at an undisclosed time, to fetch her, and bring her to his father’s house where a place had been prepared for her. The friends of the bridegroom would await his return. When he returned with his bride, there was a loud shout of rejoicing, and the wedding festivities could begin.

The ten young women in Jesus’ parable were among those awaiting the bridegroom’s return. They were all invited to the wedding festivities but in the end, only five of the ten made it to the feast. It got late, they got sleepy, and five of them ran out of oil for their lamps. While they went to get more oil, the bridegroom came, the wedding feast began, and they missed it. Misty Edwards tells the story in this powerful song.

Jesus describes five of the young women as wise, and five as foolish. The foolish ones didn’t bring extra oil, but the wise ones did. The wise ones wouldn’t share their oil with the foolish ones, because they didn’t want to miss the wedding feast. Jesus doesn’t criticize them for this. In fact, he praises them.

So what has all this got to do with us, you may ask? Plenty. In the midst of this pandemic, it’s easy to get frustrated as we wait for it to be over. But the boredom of waiting is actually a spiritual opportunity which we shouldn’t miss. Jesus has instructed us to stay watchful and spiritually alert as we wait for His return. The key question for us is whether we will stay awake, with our lamps lit, ready for that day. Your lamp of faith and prayer can’t run on someone else’s oil. You have to have your own relationship with God. You can’t borrow someone else’s. The Holy Spirit is available to all believers, but some cultivate His presence in their lives while others run mostly on their own resources. It’s up to us whether we invest in our relationship with God. No-one else can give you their prayer life.

The pandemic will end eventually. Other crises will follow – some bigger, some smaller. Every challenging season that tests our faith is an opportunity to check our oil supply. God is willing to give us all the oil we need, but we have to seek it from Him – and it’s best not to wait for the last minute. If we want to be able to stay steady in challenging times, it’s up to us to develop the stamina we need. If you haven’t been cultivating your life in God, this is a great time for a reset. Right now we still have time to go buy oil for our lamps. Don’t waste the opportunity. One day, it will be too late.

 

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Nuggets of Hope 17 – The Man of Heaven

Dual citizenship.

As a believer in Jesus, you have dual citizenship. Whether you are a citizen of Canada, the USA or some other nation, your true citizenship is in heaven.

This thought that we are citizens of a different kingdom isn’t just a bit of escapist make-believe, or a nice fairy tale for young children, like the legend of the Easter Bunny. Paul, who had encountered the risen Jesus in a powerful way, was convinced that this Jesus was really alive, and was going to come again to rule over the coming Kingdom of God.

But our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Savior
from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
who, by the power that enables him

to bring everything under his control,
will transform our lowly bodies
so that they will be like his glorious body.
Philippians 3:20-21

It’s important for us to be clear about the nature of our hope. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder to us all of our vulnerability to sickness and death. The people of this age are subject to physical death, and that includes believers. For those who hope in Jesus, though, physical death isn’t the end of the story. Even going to heaven isn’t the end of the story. God has something much better, more amazing and more glorious in mind.

When Jesus appeared to his followers after the resurrection, it is clear that his body had been transformed. He was still recognizable as the same person, and could touch the disciples, break bread with them and even eat a piece of fish, but he could also go through locked doors and ascend into heaven.

To explain this, Paul uses the analogy of a seed.

What is sown is perishable;
what is raised is imperishable.
It is sown in dishonor;
it is raised in glory.
It is sown in weakness;
it is raised in power.
It is sown a natural body;
it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body,
there is also a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44

He continues,

Just as we have borne the image
of the man of dust,
we shall also bear the image
of the man of heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:49

What a promise. We will be like Jesus! We will have resurrection bodies like his.

When everything around us seems to be shaking, when everything seems uncertain and nothing is like what we’ve been used to, when we don’t know how it’s all going to turn out, our hearts yearn for some solid assurance. Our leaders are doing their best, but they’re evidently scrambling to keep up with ever-changing events and the latest projections as to what might lie ahead. It’s plain that no-one really knows exactly what to expect. We need something that is more substantial than the current best guess as to when the pandemic will end, or how long the lockdown will last, or what conditions will be like after it’s lifted.

The first generation of believers in Jesus also lived in uncertain times. In common with all the people of their day, they were familiar with disease, famines, wars, injustices and other troubles of this broken age. Besides all that, their convictions about Jesus and his kingdom put them in danger from both Jewish and Roman authorities. Although they respected the authority of both, they were ultimately subject to a higher authority. This is why when Paul was on trial before the Roman governor Festus and the puppet King Agrippa (Acts 26), instead of pleading for his life, he urged them to consider the claims of Jesus. His hope was not in what either of them could do for him, but in the heavenly Jerusalem which was coming down out of heaven from God. He wasn’t worried about getting something from them. Instead, he hoped to give them something better than anything that they could offer him.

We who have put our hope in Jesus are called to serve God’s purpose in our day and generation. As my granddaughter Maddie loves to sing, we need to “let our little light shine” where we are. But our hope is a better hope than just things going back to the way they were. In reality, things probably won’t go back to the way they were before this pandemic, but we have something better to look forward to. Though we know that there are still troubles to come, we also know the Lord will be with us in the midst of those troubles. And beyond the troubles, we know that we will see Jesus coming in glory to make everything new, and that we will be changed – we will bear the image of the man from heaven.

I’m a citizen of the Kingdom that is coming. I belong to the man from heaven. That’s my hope and my assurance. How about you?

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Nuggets of Hope 16 – Hidden with Christ

Waiting.

For those of us whose main assignment is to stay home, the waiting is one of the hardest things about the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many Christians, this pandemic exposes our drive to be rescuers. Surely there’s something we can do! Surely we can fix this! If only we hold enough online prayer meetings, gather enough online worshippers, fast enough, we can turn this thing around.

For the more activist-minded, this can take other forms. If only we can sew enough face masks and disinfect every surface within reach, we can fix this thing.

Of course I believe that God can be in all these activities. I have been blessed many times by online worship, and I have prayed for the online prayer meetings held by others because I believe that God can use them to reach desperate people. And I have great appreciation for anyone who is investing time and energy finding ways to serve – including making face masks. But I have a confession to make. Two confessions, in fact. I haven’t made a single face mask. I also haven’t followed most of the online prayer meetings to which I’ve been invited, as excellent as they no doubt were. If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up. And as I myself have sought the Lord, the direction He has given me is to quiet my soul, to wait on Him, and then do what He shows me to do – which may not be what He has shown someone else to do.

What if that’s the first and most important thing God is asking of all of us, all the time? What if that’s always what He has been asking of us, not only during COVID-19?

Jesus had quite a lot to say about this. He said that He could do only what He saw His Father doing. And in case anyone should think that method of operating only applied to Him, He also had this to say.

My sheep listen to my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:27

What was Jesus doing between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday? We know that His Spirit wasn’t dead, because of what He told the repentant thief. In the midst of his own agony, Jesus promised this broken man,

Truly, I say to you,
today you will be with Me in Paradise.
Luke 23:43

He was waiting. He was waiting in a good place, in a heavenly place, but He was waiting until the time set by His Father, when the three days would be fulfilled. The grave was still sealed. His body was still in the grave, awaiting its resurrection. And even after His resurrection, and the outpouring of the Spirit, He is again waiting for another time that has been set by His Father, when He will return for His Bride.

The same thing applies to every believer in this age. We are waiting. We aren’t just waiting to go to heaven. As wonderful as heaven is, it’s not our final destination. We are waiting for all things to be made new.

For you have died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

When Christ who is your life appears,
then you also will appear with him 
in glory.
Colossians 3:3-4

In the same vein the Apostle John assures us,

Beloved, we are God’s children now,
and what we will be
has not yet appeared;
but we know that 
when he appears
we shall be like him,
because 
we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2

Our flesh – our old nature – doesn’t like to have to wait for things. We like everything to happen right away. But in the rhythm of Easter weekend, there is a pause between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday that mirrors, in a small way, the long extended pause in which we currently find ourselves, between the Day of Pentecost and the Day of the Lord. We have hope, we know Jesus is alive, we know He is with us, but we are still waiting.

All of us are waiting eagerly for the COVID-19 pandemic to be over. That will be a day of great rejoicing, but those who belong to Jesus are awaiting something far better. We are waiting for the redemption of our own bodies, and we are waiting for the restoration of all things. We are waiting with hearts full of hope, because we have a promise. We are promised that when we see Him, we shall be like Him.

O Happy Day!

 

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Reflections on living a life without regrets – a life that will make God smile