when hope is gone

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three…

1 Corinthians 13:13a

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:8

Hope is a basic of human life. It’s looking forward to good, and more than that, it’s living with the idea that our lives matter, that there’s a good end.

Suicide prevention involves helping people get on track to find hope as in a reason to not end life, to live, that somehow there’s something good about carrying on.

In Scripture hope is included with faith and love. Those of us in the Christian tradition and familiar with Scripture will readily see the importance of faith and love, but hope might not often occur to us, if at all. But there it is, right beside faith and love. So it is important.

Central to hope is that God is working to bring good to all, to the world. Of course we can and do resist God’s working, even when oftentimes we are not conscious of doing so. But God continues that work, nonetheless.

Hope is short, medium, and long term; even with reference to the past in the thought of the redemption of all things, the present so that day to day we can find good, and the future, ultimately in the return of Christ when all is made right and new.

This is not some fantasy, nothing more than in our dreams. But for the real world, with all its difficulties, conundrums and even tragedies. Somehow in the midst of all of that, the hope we find in God is to help us not only survive, but live in the victory of Christ which paradoxically means for us now a resurrected life in the way of death, in the way of the cross, in the true following of Christ. Looking forward to the complete healing to come.

In and through Jesus.

trusting God moment by moment

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.

One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”

Psalm 62

It is one of the hardest yet most important things we can do, to seek to live in the moment in dependence on and rest in God. There are so many factors which make this challenging. We can be weighed down by past failure, present circumstances, and seemingly dim future prospects. Of course if we’re just looking at the troubles apart from faith, then we’re sure to be overcome with fear or whatever we do to deal with such situations ourselves. But when we turn to God with the determination to trust and obey in the moment by God’s grace just as the psalmist does, we’ll find God’s help. And hopefully we’ll become more and more steady, as we learn to find our rest in him. In and through Jesus.

entering a new year: pray

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

2 Chronicles 20:12b

The story of the invasion of a huge military force is instructive to us, today. Good King Jehoshaphat looked to God for help. We too might feel overwhelmed heading into a new year with what we face, and with unknowns on a number of fronts. When we’re a bit lost, and maybe befuddled over some things, we can consider that God’s call for us to pray.

In this case God answered through a prophecy, King Jehoshaphat encouraged the people to trust in God, and then was moved to direct praise and worship God. God answered, so that Israel did not have to lift a finger themselves, not the way God always answers. Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty and get into the battle. The main point here is that we need to pray.

There are a lot of things we can do, as we read Scripture, and particularly the New Testament. And one of the main things again and again is simply to pray. From prayer God answers and acts. Prayer puts us in the position to hear and receive God’s answer. Prayer from the heart, real prayer, but also prayer in all our weakness. Just honest prayer is the point.

Again, God will answer, we can be assured of that. And part of that answer will be to help us focus on him all the more. As we receive by and by whatever answer he gives. That others too might see and fear, as in the story. That all might come to know him in and through Jesus.


what we’re responsible for

…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

So often we can either get caught up in the past or the future. Downcast because of past mistakes and sins. Apprehensive because of possible future consequences or fear of the unknown.

That is part of the ploy of the enemy (spiritual, of course). But what we’re called to do is what Jesus tells us here (click reference for context). We’re not to worry about tomorrow, and we’re not to be frozen or even defined by past mistakes. What we’re responsible for is the present, right now.

We repent over past sins, and try to learn from past mistakes so that we can do better, gathering wisdom from Scripture. Of course we can’t undo the past, as much as we would like. But hopefully it can serve as a help for us, so that we can help others. Nor do we wring our hands in apprehension over the future. Jesus’s words address that directly in Matthew 6 (click link above). Our Father knows all we need, and will take care of our needs as we trust in him, and seek first his righteousness and kingdom in our lives, and in life in general.

It is so vitally important to have hope for today, right now. Not to be down because of the past, or be worrying about the future. It’s the present we’re responsible for. We don’t want to let the devil get us down and out because of what is out of our control.

It’s the present in which we live, where God meets us, and helps us to receive from him so that we in turn might give to others. In and through Jesus.

reward in the life to come

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14

It seems to be stressed most often that our faith in and obedience to Christ is rewarded in this life, or I could say, makes a difference for us now. There is no question that the Bible is full of promises which would agree with that. One such, here:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

Isaiah 58

Reward in the next life, I think is underrated in many Christian circles, and has been by me, too. In a desire to emphasize the difference following Christ makes in this life, we can fail to see an emphasis in scripture that makes no such promise. I also think of the promise at the end of Romans 8 that nothing at all in all creation, in this world, including famine and death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

This can help us in faith carry on, even when it seems like we are not being helped at all in doing so. It’s not like we do things to receive back; love gives regardless of the response, or outcome. It’s simply that we live in a hope which in scripture means an anticipation of God’s future glory and goodness within that. Much in this life, we might really say everything, is broken, and will be completely healed only at the resurrection in the life to come.

That doesn’t mean God doesn’t help us now. God helps us as we press on in faith and obedience, doing good works for others. It does mean that the final award awaits us in the life to come, all the blessings of this present life pointing toward, and we could say completed in that.

I find this helpful and liberating to continue on, regardless of what happens in this life. In the faith, hope and love that are in Christ Jesus.

someday this will all be over

Over, and done. Yes, someday this will all be over. “This too, shall pass.” And out of the mass and mess of it all will arise the grace of God in Jesus in the new world, fundamentally not different from this world in terms of creation, but good in every sense of that word in the new creation.

Everywhere I turn there are grave concerns. But I’m not, neither are any of us, or all of us together, God. It is God to whom we must commit everything, including our loved ones and ourselves. God alone can and will take care of it.

In the meantime there is a significant part of us which looks forward to the end of all things as they are now. All the strife, as well as the natural disasters in this world. Yes, in the midst of much good to be sure. All pointers to the great good to come in the grace and kingdom of God in King Jesus.

So now we want to do the best we can, completely because of God’s grace in Jesus; yes, we must live in that grace through faith in Jesus: in his life, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension to ultimate power and authority, with the promise of his return. We know that all of this, all of the trouble, and real concerns will someday end, and be a thing of the past, even forgotten. But we fight through now, out of love, the love of God in Jesus, in love for others: our loved ones, others in Jesus, all people, even our enemies. We want to embrace the way of the cross, the way of Jesus. And go on.

The end is not that far away. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s creed he composed shortly before his execution

I believe that God can and will generate good out of everything, even out of the worst evil. For that, he needs people who allow that everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.

I believe that God will give us in each state of emergency as much power of resistance as we need. But he will not give in advance, so that we do not rely on ourselves but on Him alone. Through such faith all anxiety concerning the future should be overcome.

I believe that even our mistakes and failings are not in vain, and that it is not more difficult for God to cope with these as with our assumed good deeds.

I believe that God is not a timeless fate, but that He waits for and responds to honest prayers and responsible action.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted by Philip Yancey, The Question That Never Goes Away

overrealized and underrealized eschatology

Gordon Fee in perhaps his magnum opus, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, criticizes his tradition, Pentecostalism for falling into the same error it is evident the Corinthian church fell into, the error of an overrealized eschatology. I think Fee makes the case well for that, clearly (enough) evident in the letters of 1 and 2 Corinthians.

Eschatology in the Christian sense, in the sense from the New Testament, is simply the future being in the present from God through Jesus by the Spirit. One way to put it: in this old creation, the new creation is present in Jesus, destined to continue on forever, when heaven and earth become one in Jesus.

The problem with the Corinthians, and dare I say with some on the Pentecostal side today, is the view that they somehow are beyond the humiliation our Lord lived in, somehow realizing more of the glorification of the future in the present. Certainly not true of all the Pentecostals. No, even though we are the resurrection people of God in the present, in and through Jesus, we live in the power of that resurrection so that we might live out nothing less than Jesus’ death in this world. We are to know Christ, the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

An overrealized eschatology might be expressed in an attitude of believing “we are Spirit-filled, our churches are Spirit-filled,” and other churches are by clear implication not. Or thinking one is beyond certain weaknesses of this life, for example sickness, or struggle in some other area in the weakness of our humanity.

Gordon Fee points out the truth that Christ’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Weakness here is not about sin issues, though I think it would include our struggle against (and perhaps, even our repentance in working through and out of) sins (which hold us down). We certainly don’t arrive to sinless perfection in this life. But the weakness Paul was referring to is one in line with living in an existence in which the world, the flesh and the devil hold sway. But doing so in the power of the Spirit in the way of Jesus. Christ’s body is not yet glorified as the head is, in other words we await the resurrection to come.

On the other hand, we evangelicals can err in an underrealized eschatology, I’m supposing. Expecting too little from the Lord in this life. Indeed eschatology practically speaking seems to mean for many of us, simply waiting for the Lord to come back and fulfill the promises God has made. It certainly includes that, but the fulfillment begins in the here and now by the power of the Spirit. Not that all evangelicals fall into this error. And in spite of ourselves, God is faithfully at work to empower us in our lives and testimony as those bearing witness to Jesus to the world.

And so we go on, living something of the future in the present, the eternal life in this transitory life, together in Jesus for the world.

living in the now

All too often I get caught up either in the past or the future. What is past is past. We can learn from it, and surely must, and hopefully we have repented of many things. And the future is beyond us. While there is nothing wrong with planning, in fact we want to invest well, especially in that which is spiritual, we don’t know what a day may bring. We don’t know the future. What God calls us to and Jesus taught us is to learn to live in the now.

Of course we do so with thanksgiving for the past and future salvation that is ours in Jesus. But we do so as those who live in the present, even the present salvation we are receiving in and through Jesus. With all of our weakness and sins we must confess. And yet we go on, finding God’s forgiveness and new life in Christ.

We share this ongoing life with others in Jesus. It is a life of developing and maturing together into the image of the one we follow. We grow up together in and through Jesus. That is not done well by ourselves. We need each other in this shared life. Even to work through our differences and the bumps and metaphorical bruises that come in any relationship. To love and listen and pray for each other. To offer words of encouragement as well as heartfelt counsel, when need be.

There is plenty to batter one’s self about when considering the past. And there is plenty to keep us awake at night when considering the future. But none of that will help us one iota. Instead we need to learn to live well in the present. Learning to keep our eyes on Jesus as we live together in him as a witness of God’s love for the world.

in the now

Life is lived “in the now.” The past is past, there’s nothing we can do about it. On the other hand we can learn from it. And in Jesus we live on what God has done in Jesus through his death and resurrection. One sacrifice, once for all, for all time. Neither can we live in the future. We’re not to worry about the troubles that may come our way tomorrow. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, since each day has enough trouble of its own. On the other hand in Jesus we live the future now. God’s grace and kingdom is present in Jesus here and now, so we begin to live that reality, even in the midst of the world, the flesh and the devil.

I think God wants us to work at being totally present to him first, and then to others around us. We’re to learn to live life fully “in the now.” We don’t know what the next day will bring, or for that matter, even the next moment. Of course part of living well in the now is to think ahead, as well as with reference to the past. But we can’t redo the past or live in the future. We can only live one day at a time. Some days in great difficulties, but our orientation as humans includes time, space and matter.* And that will always be the case, true in the age to come as we consider the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.

This is how God’s Spirit will help us live. Yes, not without struggles sometimes, maybe oftentimes. But we always are to endeavor to give ourselves in love to God, and then to each other with all that involves, day after day, moment after moment. Yes, in the now.

This is a slippery subject, maybe so especially to me at times, and why I’m trying to write on it this morning. What might you like to share on this from what you have learned in life?

*Not that I think time, space and matter will be precisely in continuity with the present time in the age to come, nor in discontinuity for that matter.