Archive for July, 2011

A Dim Mirror: Faith, Hope and Love

July 31, 2011

In the post Distorted Mirrors: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed, we looked into how God distorts the image of man for his good.  We saw how Christ serves as the agent that Christ is the mirror that allows God to see us as righteous or just when in reality we are unrighteous or unjust. In our text today, 1 Corinthians 1:1-13, Paul shares with us the time where we will no longer be a reflection of God’s character but perfected.  Hear the Word of the LORD:

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

There are some things that are just made to go together: Snap, Crackle and Pop; Eeny Meeny Miny Moe, Apple pie and ice cream, Pancakes and syrup, Mash Potatoes and Gravy, Ketchup and fries, and the list goes on. We know that the physical world takes its cues from the spiritual world: Faith, Hope and Love. This is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 13.  Specifically, Paul was clarifying misconceptions about the value of one gift versus another. He runs through a list and highlights the most important gifts the Christian can possess: Faith, Hope and Love.  My intention is to not re-emphasize that point but to connect it to our theme for this past month – HOPE.

Solomon said, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:11-13  Again, we see the notion of three.  There he was talking about the benefits of being in supportive accountable relationships. The distorted mirror that is formed by Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us is that which allows us to be seen as righteous by God. 1 Corinthians 13 points to the day when our image will not be a reflection of Christ but when we will be made like Him.  It is the day that we will be made perfect. It is the day that we stand before the Father by Faith in Christ because the Love of the Father offered us Hope when we were dead in our sins.  Our reflection today of who Christ is but a dim reflection in the mirror, but when we are made like Him, it will be a bright day.

Let us look forward to that day in Hope.  God has given us HOPE.


Distorted Mirrors: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed

July 30, 2011

“Amazing! Bewildering! Fun For Everyone! Enjoy yourself as you find your way through this fun-filled, life-size maze of mirrors and glass.” Have you ever seen the mirror halls at the carnival, amusement park or on television?  If not, it’s one of those mirrors that when you look into it the image is different than you really look.  It distorts the reality. There are some that make you look shorter than you are. I don’t like that one.  There are others that make you look slim, wide, elongated or multiple images of yourself. I like the one that makes me look tall. I imagine that we all would like the mirror that addressed what ever issue we would like to change most about our appearance whether internally or externally.

In a spiritual sense, God offers us all an opportunity to truly experience a mirror distortion. From scripture, we know that we are sinful deserving death.  1 Peter 3:18 tells us “18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  The just died for the unjust to make us just or right, so we see that Christ is the mirror that allows God to see us as righteous or just when in reality we are unrighteous or unjust.  We see that same dynamic being highlighted by Paul in Romans 4. There, Paul is demonstrating that it is faith in Christ that gives us the mirror effect.  When one demonstrates trust or faith in Christ Jesus as Savior, there is a permanent alteration to our spiritual image in the eyes of God. Again, we see this in Romans 4:17-21  This is the reference to the promise God made and reiterated to Abram in Genesis 12:3, 15:5-6, and 17:5.

In Romans 4, we see the permanent alteration applied to Abraham. If you have not read the story in Genesis, you must in order for this to truly make sense to you. Here is the cliff notes version.  God told Abram that He would make him into a great nation and that all nations of the world would be blessed through him. Abram initially believed and it was credited to him as righteousness, but we see in Genesis 17, there was doubt because of circumstances that seemed insurmountable. Despite that and all the mess ups because of a lack of faith. God did not fail to keep His promise because God made the covenant, which is stronger than a promise, with Abraham. When God makes a covenant He makes an oath by Himself. As Numbers 23:19tells us, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” God keeps His Word. Consequently, Abraham, after attempting to fulfill the promise himself by conceiving a child with Hagar, laughed expressing his doubt when God told him that his wife Sarah, who was too old to have kids, would have the child of promise.

Like Abraham, we all scoff in unbelief at the promises that God has made to us. We need to realize that God sees us differently than we see ourselves.  We need to realize that God has the power and had committed that power to create a different reality than what we and the world sees. God is doing this to glorify Himself through us. We just need to believe and enjoy the story God has declared about us. Though we are as sinful as the sun is bright, God has called us his holy and righteous ones. Hallelujah!!!

On trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!

July 28, 2011

I am sure that you have heard many times that a person did a complete 360 in terms of his/her belief or behavior. Actually, what people really mean to say is a complete 180.  A 360 refers to a complete revolution.  A 180 refers to half a revolution resulting in one being in the opposite position than at his in inception.  In the post Hope vs hope, we saw the dilemma that all men face; there 180 or 360.  It is whether we will trust in the Hope of God (180) or whether we will trust in the hope of man (360).  In our text today, Acts 23:1-7, we find, arguably the largest figure in the new testament next to our triune God, Paul in the midst of the aftermath of making a choice in that very dilemma. Paul, as our title portrays, is on trial for his Hope in God.

1 Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” 2The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth.3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” 4 But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.’”  6 But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” 7 As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.

I am not sure if you will take the time to read much of Acts to get into the story, but it is fascinating and riveting. To catch you up on what’s going on, Paul had just shared his testimony of how he came to Hope (trust) in God through Jesus Christ in chapter 22 of Acts. He also shared that God had given him specific direction on how he was to serve God. He was to serve the Gentiles, any other people group other than Jews. That made the Jews overwrought with disdain for Paul as they prided themselves on being God’s “chosen” people. The opportunity to be “chosen” is available to all people.  This was addressed in the post Is Hope only for Israel? Back to the issue at hand.

Because Paul, who before he made his 180, used to be zealous and vigilant in persecuting followers of Christ whether men or women, this makes high drama for the glory of God.  In Paul, God shows the abundance of His grace and the sufficiency of His call to qualify us for service. However, it also shows that service for Christ comes at a cost. Paul was on trial for hope and resurrection from the dead through Jesus Christ alone. When Paul professed belief in Christ as the Son of God and Savior/Messiah, he effectively divorced himself from his traditional Hebrew contemporaries. Their power, position and pride are rooted in what they do as far as following the law – hope in man. What Paul demonstrated was that his Hope was not in his power, position or pride but in the holy provider of redemption.

You, like Paul, will experience hardship as you profess and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God in whom salvation from sin is only found. We all are constantly on trial for our beliefs.  Have you made a 360 or a 180? Will we be aware of that as was Paul?  Will we use the wisdom of the Spirit to guide us through that situation?

Hope vs hope

July 27, 2011

Almost all of us have heard the old saying opposites attract. When you are talking about magnets, this is true.  This is also seen in science with a Van de Graff generator or in Coulomb’s Law. It was also purported to be true in relationships as there were many a study conducted in efforts to prove that notion. While science and relationship presents evidence that this is true, this could be further from the truth when it comes to God and man.  For those who have surrendered to God, let me remind you, in the Word of Christ, that “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16) We were not attracted to God.  God called us to Himself for His purposes. Romans 8 tells us that “7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” You see, we do not desire God.  In the spiritual realm, opposites do not attract on their own.  Like in science, there must be a charge to cause opposites to attract.  Christ is that charge to cause opposites to attract in the spiritual realm.

Our text today evidences this fact.  In Christendom, Acts 16 is a well-known passage which focuses on the climax of the conflict contained in the passage. Whenever the hope man is contrary to the hope of God, there will be a conflict. God’s hope will prevail in every scenario despite whether the circumstances appear to substantiate this or not.  We cannot go wrong when we place our trust/faith in God.  Again, this passage is filled with this life dilemma.  Okay what was the problem? Here are a few verses that capture it.

“16 It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” 18 She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.  19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, 20 and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews,21 and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

There is so much packed into these verses; I would not dare to present that I know it all and understand it all.  Please read the chapter to get the context and a clearer picture of the matter. What I will tell you is this is where Hope versus hope arises.  You have the Hope of God, that is Christ Jesus as the conduit for the redemption of sins, versus the hope of man trusting in himself, a woman with a demons possessed-spirit that provided her with fortune telling abilities. This is the true issue of life. That scenario surfaces again in this passage when Paul and Silas were thrown into jail. We must look at Paul in both situations to see where he placed his hope. Paul placed his hope in our triune God.  He displayed this when I exercised power over a demon by casting it out of the girl.  He exercised it when he, through praise and prayer, invited God to demonstrate His power by opening the doors of the jail.  The demons knew who Paul was but they did not trust in Christ; hence their expulsion.  The jailer knew who Christ was and trusted in Him asking to be saved.

This is the true hope – to know who is Christ and to trust in Christ. Hope vs hope.  The smaller hope, trusting in man, will always lose out to trusting in God.  I don’t want to over simplify this matter.  Read the text and let the LORD speak to you.

Gentiles Will Hope

July 26, 2011

The post today will be relatively short but powerful in conveying how hope has come to the Gentiles.  If you were not born of physical lineage of Jews whose ancestry goes back to Abraham, you are a Gentile.  Despite that, you still have access to the same hope that was originally made available to the Jews as discussed in Is Hope only for Israel?.  Our text, Matthew 12, will provide another definitive answer for those who are seeking hope.

17This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:


I am not sure if you got that. The core of the matter is that in Jesus’ name the Gentiles (us) will hope. It means that we have access to hope and that we will actually experience hope. Right now, every one of us has an expected end that he/she would like to realize. We are hoping for something. God is saying that in Christ we have hope of salvation i.e. victory over sin and its eternal consequences. I don’t know about you, but I could use a little hope right now. Actually, I could use a lot but Christ more than suffices.  When we begin to realize that He is all we have but all we need, we will be much more at peace and at full strength.

Will you hope?

Succorable Hope

July 25, 2011

As I have repeatedly stated, we desire hope when we have not been able to resolve the circumstance ourselves. In some cases, we may have misplaced our trust in ourselves, people or things where we or they became our idols. When we, who proclaim to know Him and walk with Him, misplace our trust, God will move to draw us back to Himself. In almost all cases, this movement is something that is painful. It gets our attention causing us to depend on Him because nothing else we have trusted in works. In Jeremiah 14, we see an element of mistrust being rectified as God used circumstances to draw men back to Himself.

Matthew Henry tells us that “this chapter was penned upon occasion of a great drought, for want of rain. This judgment began in the latter end of Josiah’s reign, but, as it should seem, continued in the beginning of Jehoiakim’s: for less judgments are sent to give warning of greater coming, if not prevented by repentance.” In Jeremiah 14:1, God says, “That which came as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah in regard to the drought:”  After telling the people now you want to come to me after abandoning me, God goes on to tell Jeremiah “11 So the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. 12 When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.”  In essence, God is saying don’t pray for these people because I don’t want to hear it.  He goes on to say that He is not going to listen to them when they fast and pray. Furthermore, He will not accept their sacrifices, but that I am going to destroy them. When God puts it out like that, we know, just as they did, that we are in need of a Savior.

Despite that proclamation, the people wanted to listen to false prophets who were refuting the Word of the Lord given to Jeremiah.  The false prophets were saying that the people would not be killed by the sword and there would not be a famine because of a lack of rain.  God told Jeremiah to tell the people don’t believe the hype, but if they did, He would act in a manner to prove to them what He said was true.  That Jehovah truly is the one true God who is Almighty.  He had Jeremiah tell the people that the circumstances of their lives would drive them back to Him. They would conclude what God said in the last few verses of this chapter.  Here is what God said they would say after the disappoint of misplaced trust in false gods/idols.

2 Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain?
Or can the heavens grant showers?
Is it not You, O LORD our God?
Therefore we hope in You,
For You are the one who has done all these things.

Where are we in misplacing our faith or trust? Who or what are we listening to and trusting in instead of Jehovah, the one true God? God is calling us to trust in Him and to realize that our salvation is only in Him through Christ Jesus. Whether it is the need of rain or any other dependent provision, God is saying I am He who provides.  Trust/depend in Me alone.  He is our help or assistance.  He is our succorable hope.

A Sure Promise of Hope

July 24, 2011

During this month, we have explored several dimensions of hope. Since July 6, we have peered into Psalm 130 to glean nuggets the penitent sinner’s hope is in God’s mercy alone. Who better to learn from than one who has gone through what we will undoubtedly face. Great men of God like David and Paul have written about their battles with sin. We all sin. We all think, say or do things that we never thought we would do. Today, we are at the end of Psalm 130. Verse 8 is the last verse in the psalm. Let’s hear what the psalmist had to say to us about hope in the face of our sin.

8 And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

While the psalmist wrote in future tense in verse 8, it was very definitive.  He, being Jehovah, will redeem Israel who are all that trusts in Christ as Savior and Lord. In order to redeem a person, one (Christ) has top pay a price to free that person from captivity. Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of what this psalmist wrote.  Christ redeemed Israel. Let me provide proof for those who may need it.

Luke 1:68 – “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,”
Galatians 3:13 – “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”
Titus 2:11-14 – “11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the
blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people,
zealous for good works.
Revelation 5:9 – “9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“ You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,”

In verse 8, all are invited to seek and share divine forgiveness. We all need the hope of escaping the punishment from our sins. While there are serious consequences for sin, none compare to eternal separation from the goodness of God.  God the Father has afforded us forgiveness to draw us unyieldingly to Himself. As Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state it, “Pardon produces filial fear and love. Judgment without the hope of pardon creates fear and dislike.” We all will are subject to judgement (Hebrews 9:27).  For the psalmist and those like him, their judgment is not one of eternal damnation but of how he reflected the love of God. Have you been redeemed from all your inquities (sins)?  If not, join me in trusting Christ for only He is able to forgive sins (Mark 2:7 and Luke 5:21).

Is Hope only for Israel?

July 23, 2011

As we have explored Psalm 130, we have seen several things about hope. Today, the psalmist seems to narrow access to hope to Israel.  Our verse for today is verse 7 which says, “7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption.” NIV.  In the NASB, verse 7 is “7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.”  Regardless of how it’s stated, the psalmist is talking to Israel. If you have never seen me, I don’t quit look like (physically) any Israelite. Consequently, it appears, to the casual reader, that God only offers love, hope, mercy and redemption to Israelites.

If that were the case, we would be without hope. Praise be to Jehovah that is not the case.  Let’s see how hope, mercy, and redemption is available to all. Peter, when speaking to traditional Israelites, addressed the issue of who has access to God’s love, hope, mercy and redemption.  Hear what Peter said inActs 2:38-39

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Again, Peter is addressing a crowd of Israelites who were questioning his authority to preach Christ as the salvation of men. Once more, we turn to Acts 4.

10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Clearly, Peter asserts that salvation is solely through Christ and for “men” meaning mankind not just Israelites. There are so many other verses where the issue that the love, hope mercy and redemption of God is open to all, but for the sake of brevity, I will provide this last scriptural reference. A truly definitive position is stated by Paul in Romans 9.  Paul states that salvation is not only for the Israelites (Jews) but for the Gentiles (every other people group) as well.

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written:

“ Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

As it is consistently stated in the Old and New Testament, Paul asserts here that it is faith in Jehovah that qualifies one as a child of God not solely his ancestral lineage.  God has always had a place for all people to commune with Him. If you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of men, you have access to hope. You want hope.  Get Jesus.

More Waiting for Hope

July 22, 2011

In Psalm 130 yesterday, we talked about the purpose of waiting in verse 5.  Today, that same notion is reiterated, reemphasized and recalled.

Here is what verse 6 says:

6 My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.

This is an extension of verse 5 where the psalmist expresses that we should only hope in the Word that is what God has said rather than what we contrive. From verse 5, we learn that we should hope, and hope in God via His Word. In verse 6, we see the extent, measure or degree to which we should hope in God’s Word – More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.

Well, how does the watchmen watch for the morning? Hear what revered commentator Matthew Henry says, “The degree of that dependence—more than those that watch for the morning, who are, (1.) Well-assured that the morning will come; and so am I that God will return in mercy to me, according to his promise; for God’s covenant is more firm than the ordinances of day and night, for they shall come to an end, but that is everlasting.’’ (2.) Very desirous that it would come. Sentinels that keep guard upon the walls, those that watch with sick people, and travellers that are abroad upon their journey, long before day wish to see the dawning of the day; but more earnestly does this good man long for the tokens of God’s favour and the visits of his grace, and more readily will he be aware of his first appearances than they are of day. Dr. Hammond reads it thus, My soul hastens to the Lord, from the guards in the morning, the guards in the morning, and gives this sense of it, ‘To thee I daily betake myself, early in the morning, addressing my prayers, and my very soul, before thee, at the time that the priests offer their morning sacrifice.”’

In essence, most of us are relatively assured that day comes after night. It was God who established the day and night when He created the sun and the moon, so the redemption of sins offered by Him will surely come. Nicole C. Mullen says it in her song I know My Redeemer Lives. Here are the words to the first stanza of the song:

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean you can only come this far?
And who showed the moon where to hide till evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

It was Almighty God who set the conditions for the sun to rise giving light in the day.  It was Almighty God who set the moon in its exact location to give (reflect) light in the night. God, who did all of those things, is able to stand behind His Word and deliver redemption, the forgiveness of sins which is what we all need. When the psalmist repeats the watchmen phrase, he is emphasizing the manner in which we should look to the Lord in faithfulness. God is faithful. We need to respond as if we, who proclaim we do, believe it.

Are we really hoping in the LORD? Do we (I) truly know (trust) that our Redeemer Lives?

Hoping and Waiting

July 21, 2011

No matter where we go in our daily lives, we are challenged by circumstances that force us to wait. Let me give you a few. As you drive to work, you are a little late. Invariably, you get behind the slow driver or the transfer truck that takes forever. Immediately, you begin to become impatient. You might even scream out a few things, not profane of course.  Here’s another.  You are at a restaurant, you come into the hosting area. The host speaks to you gathering the number in your party. You settle in the waiting area to be called to your table.  Other parties come in and follow the same process. Your eye raises when a group is called that clearly came in after you. You stand up when it happens again. Finally when hope is slipping away, you go say something because you haven’t been seated all while other groups, some which had more members than yours, have been seated before yours. I am sure that you reflected over those or other waiting circumstances.

Hoping and waiting are bed fellows, but one is more dependent upon the other.  Without hope, you cannot wait. When behind the slow car or truck, all hope of arriving on time is seeming loss leading to despair and conflicts with waiting. God understands our psyche, so He addresses it in His Word. In Psalm 130, the passage we have been exploring regarding hope, God reveals through the psalmist the keys to successful waiting.  Hear what the psalmist says in verse 5:

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.

The psalmist is clear about who he is waiting on, the LORD.  The psalmist makes it clear who he is depending on – the LORD (Jehovah). His soul waits. His soul is in a desperate condition. His soul is in danger because he fails to meet the expectations of God.  He realizes that he needs God’s mercy and grace in the face of his sins.  Remember, he has already stated that no one could stand if God kept a record of personal sins.  Here he is reflecting on the primary reason he needs hope, but where is his hope founded?

His hope is founded or based in the Word of God or God Himself.  The psalmist demonstrates that he believes the Word of God to be true and right.  He believes that God is who He says He is and that God will do what He says He will do. Numbers 23;19 tells us “19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act?” We, like the psalmist, must make a determination of whether we will believe God.  When we do, we can hope in Him.  When we do not have hope, it’s because we don’t believe God.  That is so convicting right now as there is a game changer of a situation that I have been challenged with for the past month.  I want you to know that I walk every bit of what I write. I am not writing to you. I am writing about me to you.  May God help us all to truly trust Him.  He is worthy.  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!