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Faith, Hope, and Love

November 8th, 2017

Hope is a picture in your heart of a desired future.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.” Hebrews 10:23 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Faith, Hope, and Love.”

The Biblical concept of hope has been sorely diluted. Biblically, hope is a powerful force, even described as, “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hope is a picture of a desired future. God places hope in your heart – of what should be and therefore could be. Incorrectly, it is easy to think of hope as not dissimilar to wishful thinking, something you wish would happen, but really doubt it will. We assume hope is something unlikely, anything but certain. To the contrary, the Bible places hope in the esteemed company of the dynamic, spiritual forces of faith and love. (Reference Hebrews 11 and I Corinthians 13). “Now we see things imperfectly . . but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. There are three things that will endure – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NLT.

For now, yours and my personal knowledge is limited, imperfect, and incomplete. Why would you rely upon such unreliable things? Yet that limited, imperfect and incomplete knowledge seems to most often be the foundation for our feelings, fears, and expectations. Those offer only an uncertain foundation. In contrast, the Bible describes hope this way, “We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:18-19 NIV. Strength and stability is found in Biblical hope.

Such hope is not fragile, but our assurance and conviction can be. Learning to, “walk by faith and not sight,“ is challenging. “We were saved in this hope, [the redemption of our body], but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” Romans 8:24-25 NKJV. Are you learning, “to eagerly wait with perseverance.” There is a dynamic tension between those two character attributes that results in each being stronger than it could be alone. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He Who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23 NIV.

God’s Word is filled with examples. Let’s just look at Abraham, an elderly man with a barren wife who was told by God that he would be, “the father of nations.” The Bible shares Abraham’s story in both Old and New Testaments. His story is a story of indiscourageable hope. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” Read Romans 4:18-21 NIV. With God, present truth trumps previous facts. Abraham faced the facts but believed the truth of God’s promise. Read Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV.

The sum of the matter is the Apostle Paul’s clear instruction, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 NIV. I am not sure the latter two attitudes and actions are possible without a joyful hope. How do you and I develop a joyful hope? Hope rests on truth. Truth that is eternal is found in God’s Word and character. “That we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4 NKJV. The Bible is clear, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but My Word will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to know and trust the integrity of God’s Word, in spite of all else.

Christian Communications 2017

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Now What?

April 11th, 2015

“Did not our hearts burn within . . while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 NKJV.

It is possible to know the apparent facts without recognizing the applicable truth.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “Now what?”

Horrific things can happen in life. At times, you may have more questions than answers; questions that are disconcerting and most begin with, “Why?” The more you struggle to make sense of the inexplicable, the less they do. At such times, it seems like every plan you previously made is now in disarray. What you once were sure about feels uncertain. Life doesn’t always go smoothly and tomorrows are rarely what you expect. Bewildered and shaken, you might ask yourself, “Now what?” Maintaining emotional and spiritual equilibrium is essential when life seems uncertain.

Days earlier, churches gathered somberly but gratefully to honor the sacrifice of a sacred life, and then days later gathered in celebration of our Savior’s miraculous resurrection. Before dawn, Gayle and I joined thousands of worshippers for an Easter service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation’s Capital. The songs, prayers, and sermon were even more inspiring than the radiant sunrise over the Capitol. But Easter Sunday has passed. “Now what?” Dare we return to life as usual?

With your heart, feel Paul’s spiritual  passion as he penned the words, “That I may know Him in the power of His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10. Since college, that has become my “life verse,” and sincere prayer. I hunger to know God to the extent of my ability and His grace. Be assured, Paul is passionate about a personal, experiential knowledge, well beyond mere intellectual information. Intellectually, Paul knew about Jesus and thought Him troublesome. But on the road to Damascus, Paul discovered the Lord Jesus Christ in a more transforming and personal way than he ever knew was possible. Read Acts 9:1-9/18.

I appreciate the added clarity of the Amplified Bible, “[My determined purpose is that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and clearly], and in that same way, come to know the power outflowing from His Resurrection, [which His Resurrection exerts over believers].” Philippians 3:10 AMP. You can only know Jesus intimately and fully when profoundly experiencing, “the power outflowing from His Resurrection.” Also Read 1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV. His Resurrection truth will impact your life now and eternally.

The very afternoon of Jesus’ resurrection, two discouraged disciples left Jerusalem, returning home to Emmaus. They heard the reports of the empty tomb, but could not reconcile the facts they knew with the truth of His Resurrection. Read Luke 24:13-35. The events of the past days were devastating. The One they had loved and followed had been cruelly crucified and privately buried in a guarded tomb. They must have wondered, “Now what?”, as they wandered back to their old lives and livelihood.

It is possible to know the apparent facts without recognizing the applicable truth. The truth and power of His Resurrection had not yet dawned in their hearts. Life without resurrection life is woefully inadequate. “While they conversed and reasoned, Jesus drew near . . but their eyes were restrained, so they did not know Him.” Vs.15-17. The facts they knew blinded them to the truth around them. When Jesus was revealed to them, they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Vs 30-32. Truth abounds in the infallible, eternal Word of God. Read John 8:32-33.

Truth is transformational. “That very hour they returned to Jerusalem saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed.’” When truth grips your heart, you want to share it with others. Vs. 33-35. Where truth is celebrated, there Jesus appears. “Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them and said, ‘Peace to you.’” Vs. 36-49.

Today, my prayer for you is that you know and love the truth that releases life abundant and eternal.

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Living Letters

January 24th, 2014

You are a letter from Christ . . written with the Spirit of the living God.” 2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV.

Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s Son and your Savior.

My thoughts and comments today are about “living letters.”

Paul’s appreciative amazement is evident as he wrote, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: God [in Christ] appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believe on in the world, was taken up in glory” 1 Timothy 3:16 NIV. Those words are the clear, expansive description of the Incarnation – God becoming man that every man might be redeemed. God was manifest in the flesh. “Christ, being in very nature of God . . and being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man . .” Read Philippians 2:5-11 NIV. Read Hebrews 1:1-3a NKJV.

John marveled at the wonder of incarnation as he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word . . and the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,  full of grace and truth . . No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son . . He has declared Him.” John 1:1/14/18 NKJV. Who would claim to understand the mystery and majesty of the Incarnation, that truth being well beyond our limited comprehension?

But there is much everyday that you do not understand, yet accept as truth. My Dad’s joy was being a pastor as well as a private pilot, before the popularity and affordability of commercial flights. As a young boy, I often accompanied my Dad in his small Cessna without the ability to understand or satisfactorily explain the Law of Aerodynamics. I trusted my Dad’s knowledge and experience. Nor need I intellectually explain the Incarnation of Jesus to the satisfaction of those who choose not to believe. I, for one, choose to believe the Incarnation of Jesus is true, as told in the Word of God.

Truth is more than mere facts or accurate information. Facts can change when circumstances change. Truth remains true, unaffected by past, present, or future circumstances. Truth is a Person, and that person is Jesus Christ, God’s Son and your Savior. Of Himself, Jesus said, “I am . .  the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 NLT. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of truth.” James 1:18 NKJV.

This is my application of today’s thoughts and comments, and my challenge to you: as God came into our world by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, God works today in His world to bring lost people from unbelief to faith, as His Word is incarnated in the very lives that have been forever changed by the “grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 NIV. The dictionary also defines “incarnation” as, “a person regarded as embodying or exhibiting some quality or idea.” That is meant to describe you, when God’s truth is dwelling in you and faithfully expressed in your speech and conduct.

God’s plan has not changed; God still makes Himself known by incarnating truth, as He did when “the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us.” Paul was clear; “You yourselves are our letter . . known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NIV. People are looking and listening to know God’s truth radiating from your life.

My prayer for you today is that you be a living letter from God, received and cherished by all.

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Problems Present Possibilities

June 5th, 2013

“Outside were fightings; inside were fears. Nevertheless, God . .” 2 Corinthians 7:5 KJV.

Face facts, even if daunting, until you find truth that is empowering.

My thoughts and comments today are that “problems present possibilities.”

Success begins with a proper perspective. Some look at problems deciding they’re unsolvable. Others look beyond the problem, seeing possibilities worth their time and effort. Some people just focus on problems; successful people study possibilities and strategize ways to succeed.

Does that sound at all like any problem you are facing right now? Any problem will be accompanied by voices suggesting you are not able. Sometimes, it is others’ voices you hear; often, it is your own. Paul described one occasion when, “We were troubled on every side. Outside were fightings, inside were fears. Nevertheless, God . . comforted us.” 2 Corinthians 7:5-6. The truest meaning of that word involves the concept of restoring faith or fortitude. Just don’t forget to consider and expect, “Nevertheless, God . .” Never leave God out of the equation.

Newly crowned as King, David faced a problem. An old enemy inhabited a fortress critical to his occupying Jerusalem, the nation’s capital. Read 2 Samuel 5:1-10 NIV. The Jebusites occupied Zion, confident their fortified walls were impenetrable. The walls were high, the enemy powerful, and the voices intimidating. This stronghold stood in the way of his success. They taunted David and his soldiers, “You’ll never get in here. Even the blind and lame could keep you out.” How wrong they were.

Including God in your situation introduces unforeseen opportunities. David looked at his problem, then studied possibilities. Rather than attacking the walls that were strong and heavily guarded, David strategized that his soldiers could enter the city through a water tunnel, outsmarting the city’s defenders. David faced the facts that seemed daunting, until he found a truth that was empowering. Facts can change; truth is ever true. Where walls discouraged others, David discovered tunnels. “Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion!” Every possibility has a problem you must face, solve, and overcome. Every problem hides a possibility, if you will seek it. That’s problem solving at its best.

In his 1968 presidential campaign, Robert Kennedy adapted a quote, “There are those who look at things the way they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’” (George Bernard Shaw, 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature). Consider possibilities rather than problems.What problems do you face? What stronghold blocks your achievement – a losing battle with old habits, loss of confidence, previous failures, frustration, fearfulness, lack of faith? In every problem, there are possibilities.

Use your head but also listen to God in your heart. God is equal to any opposing stronghold, knows the way through every obstacle, and possesses everything you ever need. “We use God’s mighty weapons . . to knock down the devil’s strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NLT.

My prayer for you this day is that you look for God’s possibilities in every difficulty.

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Opinions and Truth

February 7th, 2012

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105 NIV

Treat opinions lightly; trust facts selectively, but hold truth tenaciously.”

My thoughts today are about “opinions and truth.”

You must learn to process and differentiate between opinions, facts, and truth. They are rarely all the same. Everyone holds opinions; most have some facts. You must know truth. I’ve noticed that some opinions simply cloud the facts and confuse the listener. Truth does neither. Even facts can be misused in ways that are misleading. Truth will never lead you astray, if it’s God’s truth. All others have only a varying combination of those, a mixture not always easily separated even by the individual.

Humility should teach you to treat opinions lightly, trust facts selectively, but hold truth tenaciously. I think people are often as bewildered as Pontius Pilate was as he was questioning Jesus. The Jewish leaders used facts selectively, mixed those generously with their opinions, but had no idea whatsoever of the truth about Jesus. Jesus was inconvenient to them and a threat to all they stood for. Jesus said to Pilate, “I have come into the world that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate responded, “What is truth?” Read John 18:35-38 NKJV. That question hangs in the air still today, waiting for your answer. Those who know the answer are a joyous example, “I rejoice greatly . . you walk in the truth that is in you. I have no greater joy that to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 1:3-4 NKJV.

The problem is that people are always trying to figure out who is telling the truth, because they don’t know where truth is found. It is not found in people’s opinions; truth – reliable and unchanging- is found in God and His Word. “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105 NIV. If you are walking without the truth of God’s Word, you are stumbling in the dark. In every situation, do you stop and ask, “What does God’s Word say about this?” When you know God, have confidence in His character, prize His will and purpose, and count His Word supreme, truth rings true when you hear it in your spirit. Ephesians 4:14-15 NLT.

When opinions conflict – opinions of your own or others’ – or when facts contradict each other, be true to the truth. Go back to what is eternal and unchanging. A recent ABC News poll found that while churches are growing, many among congregations have an “eclectic theology,” believing in both the resurrection but allowing the possibility of reincarnation, believing God guides through prayer but also through horoscopes. Hosea, an Old Testament prophet wrote, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge . . you have ignored the Law of your God.” Hosea 4:6 NIV.

That is alarming to me, and can only be attributed to an ignorance of God’s Word and/or an arrogance of equating personal or popular opinion with the Bible. It is reported that “while devout Muslims commit themselves to memorize the Koran, the average Christian does not read the Bible once a week.” Is there a wonder then why people have not trained themselves to recognize truth?

Remember this: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV. The Bible is more than opinion or fact; it’s God’s truth!

My prayer for you today is that you will never assume truth to be only an opinion.

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