Tag Archives: eternity

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


When the lights go out

Derek Prince tells of a young Swedish woman named Barbara, who stayed with him and his wife Ruth for a period of three months to learn English. While staying with them, she told them a story.

Barbara was a pastor’s daughter and had lived a very sheltered life. But her friends at school had started telling her about some of the pleasures of life in the world, and she decided that she wanted to experience what she had been missing. She told her parents that she appreciated the way they had raised her, but that now she wanted to taste and see what the world had to offer.

Her parents wisely decided not to correct or criticize her. They simply told her that they would pray for her. And so they did.

That night, she had a powerful encounter with God in the form of a dream. In her dream, she saw two cities. One was a big, modern, beautiful city filled with flashing, glittering neon lights. Across the valley from the flashing city was another city of light, but this city did not flash and glitter. Its light was steady, calm and clear. As she considered the two cities a well-dressed, well-mannered and cultured man approached her and offered to show her the flashing, glittering city. She went with him, and he began to show her around. But the farther they went, the uglier he became. Soon she realized the man was the devil in disguise. As she considered this, horrified, she saw the lights in the flashing, glittering city begin to go out one by one, until it was in total darkness. She looked across the valley at the other city, and its light was as steady, pure and clear as ever.

At that moment she made her choice. She would pursue the city whose light never goes out.

It’s easy for us to think we are missing something if we don’t see the latest show, have the latest iPhone, go on every vacation trip imaginable, and so forth. And in themselves, many of the attractions of this world are innocent – though some are far from it. But if we let ourselves be enticed by what the world has to offer, we are walking a dangerous path. And once the lights begin to go out it’s too late to choose. We need to choose now.

Way back in 1979, Arlo Guthrie, son of the legendary Woody Guthrie, wrote a song with these compelling lyrics

Just one question still remains
To which we must respond
Two roads lead from where we are
Which side are you on?

Arlo Guthrie, Which Side, © 1979

Abraham, our father in the faith, was “looking for the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God“. That’s the city I am looking for as well, the one that is coming down out of heaven from God.

When the lights go out in the city of man, will you still have light to walk by? You can, if you have fixed your eyes on the City of God.


What I really want for Christmas

“All I have to look forward to is death.”

This bleak assessment came from the lips of a middle-aged woman, quoted by her daughter who was frustrated with her mother’s negative outlook on life.   The daughter’s concern was understandable.  No-one wants to see their loved ones depressed and preoccupied with death.

Yet from one perspective, her mother was speaking the truth – a truth that we all prefer to avoid.  No matter how we like to dress it up, avoid it, or talk around it, all of us will die – and none of us (or very few, anyway) like the idea.

Our dog Cookie, now in her fourteenth year, is getting close to the end of her life.  She is slowing down, but so far as I can tell she is not preoccupied with worries about when and how she will die.  She lives for the moment, and most of her moments are spent sleeping.  Her thought life seems to consist mostly of dreams of chasing squirrels, cats or motorcycles.  This is interspersed with twice-daily thoughts of kibble, begging at the table whenever there are guests, and brief excursions to sniff out the daily news as she explores the “markers” left by other canines on her leisurely strolls down the streets of our neighbourhood.

Young children also live for the moment, and their innocence is part of their appeal.  But as we grow to adulthood, the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve start to become conscious of the oppressive reality of death.  We long for a life free of worry and care, but try as we might to shut the awareness of death out of our minds, it always lurks in the background.

There’s a very simple reason why we find death oppressive.  We fear and hate death because we were intended to live forever with God and the people we love.  Death separates us from God and the people we love most, and reminds us of our weakness, our dependency and our nakedness before God.  This is why we don’t want to die or even think about the prospect.

The good news of Christmas is that our life doesn’t have to end in death.  Yes, we will die, but Jesus came into the world to pay the penalty of our sin so that those who trust Him could be forgiven, have peace with God, and be raised up to live with Him in His eternal kingdom.  It really is that simple.

The catch is that while this gift is completely free, it’s not cheap.  The only way to receive this amazing gift – by far the best Christmas present ever given – is to face your failures, turn away from your sins (beginning with your pride and independence), admit that it’s not all about you and your projects and plans, face the fact that you are not the center of the universe, stop trying to run your own show, and surrender control of your life to the Messiah who was born in a stable, who died for you, and who alone is worthy to rule.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had dreams of taking my guitar on the coffeehouse circuit.  One of my guitar-playing buddies got me a gig at a Chinese restaurant (no kidding !) where my assignment was to play and sing in the bar for three hours unamplified.  Unless you’ve tried, you have no idea how hard this is.  I found it no easy task to hold the attention of a drinking crowd with an unamplified acoustic guitar and no microphone.

My buddy, however, wanted to help me out, so he taught me a song that was a big hit at the bar.  The song was called “In Heaven there is no beer”.  The gist of it was that since beer was not allowed in heaven, we might as well enjoy it on earth.

At the time I simply found this song amusing, but  I now see that it was actually making quite a significant statement about life.  Whatever you think about beer-drinking, one of the key messages of this song is that for people who like to enjoy life, the prospect of going to heaven is actually not all that appealing.  That’s because in heaven as we usually think of it, you don’t actually get to do anything.  You just sit around on a cloud and play a harp all day.

Isn’t it a relief to know that this is not what God actually has in mind for us?  The reason we don’t get excited about floating on a cloud forever is because God never made us for that.  We want to live forever on the earth because that is actually what we were made for.  His amazingly good plan for us is to restore the earth through the man He has sent to be our Saviour – Jesus, the Messiah, who came once to sacrifice His life so that we could be forgiven and have peace with God, and who is coming again in glory to rule openly as King.

Everyone is looking for hope, but not all the things we hope for are reliable.  Sometimes – many times, in fact – we fix our hopes on things, events or people that end up disappointing us.   Jesus is not like that.  Jesus is faithful.   No-one who reads the New Testament with an open mind and heart can doubt that he was the best, most faithful man who ever lived.  He is the hope of all the earth, and His free gift of eternal life is available to all who are willing to humble themselves and surrender to Him.  That includes you, my friend.

What do I really want for Christmas?   The deepest desire of my heart is that my friends, family and workmates – all those in my life who are living independently of Jesus, or who are looking elsewhere for hope – might discover once and for all the best present of all, the only Christmas gift that really counts, the gift that makes everything else worthwhile.   His name is Jesus, He truly is the reason for the season, He came to earth for you, and He is coming again to rule and to reign.  Life and death are in His hands, and to those who trust Him, He gives hope that nothing can destroy.

Merry Christmas!


Reminders of mortality

The recent deaths of celebrities Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, within a few hours of each other, have triggered a wave of very public grief.  Anyone’s death reminds us of our own mortality, but the death of a god  – and for many people, that’s exactly what screen and music stars have become – rocks our world.

When a star dies young, people are often disturbed and angry, as if they had been cheated.  But we can only be cheated if we have a right to something.  Since life is entirely a gift in any case, it doesn’t belong to us in the first place.  What we can do is make the most of the life we have been given – and the only way I’ve found to make the most of my life is to live it for the pleasure of the One who gave it and who will ultimately take it back.  As Jesus put it, if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

So at the risk of sounding callous, I have to say that I have a hard time relating to the world’s exaggerated outpouring of grief for these two stars.  Of course their death matters, as anyone’s does, but I find it sad that people get so emotionally wrapped up in the ups and downs of the stars of the entertainment world.  They’re just people like anyone else — beautiful, talented, but often tragically ill-equipped to handle the pressures that come with fame — and in their time they, too, will fall off their pedestals and eventually meet their end.  And when that day comes, the things that brought them fame — their talent, their looks — will mean very little.  What will matter is whether they invested their lives in things that endure or things that crumble.

As many of you know, I recently had a more personal reminder of my own mortality.  While cycling home a week ago during a heavy rainstorm, I had a fairly serious accident and had to go to hospital.  Although I suffered a dislocated shoulder, a sprained wrist and some nasty bruises and scrapes (road rash), I’m very grateful for God’s protection as I could easily have been killed.  Within a few hours I was back home from hospital, having been given a painful opportunity to reflect on what happened and what might have happened.

I believe I was protected by God’s angels but on reflection I have also concluded that the accident could have been avoided had I recognized and heeded a warning from Holy Spirit.  I’m quite sure that I was targetted by the spiritual forces of darkness who were seeking to exploit a vulnerable area to put me out of commission.  I’ve been involved in some activities that have started to be a threat to the dark side, and the Enemy doesn’t like that.  If you think this is weird or melodramatic, you don’t understand the reality of spiritual warfare and the two kingdoms.  All of us are involved in a war whether we know it or not.  The warfare is every bit as real as what’s happening in Afghanistan, it’s just on a different level, not (usually) visible to the naked eye.

So am I going to stay out of trouble from now on?  I hope not!  Yes, I do plan to be a bit more careful about riding my bike in bad weather conditions.  But my basic approach to life won’t change.  The only people who are really secure in the global spiritual battle are the ones who have God’s Kingdom as their home and Jesus as their leader.  I’m going to die anyway, and I don’t know when.  I don’t want to be stupid and take unecessary chances – but I do want to make my life count for the only thing that is ultimately worth living for – Jesus and His coming Kingdom of peace and righteousness.