A little child

When we look at how Jesus loved the little children that parents brought to Him for a blessing, how do we get our own priority rightly aligned with Him – our only hope is in Jesus.

This episode with the children teaches us to hope – He graciously received these children and He has not forgotten us.  As we commit ourselves to being followers of Jesus, let us be disposed to become as little children. 

With the amiable simplicity of children, let’s put ourselves into the hands of Jesus and refer ourselves to His pastoral and parental care.  May we be born again by His Spirit and formed anew by His grace.  Only then can we participate in the inheritance and become children of God through the resurrection.

When we become helpless we become hopeful.  Jesus sees those coming as children as those who belong to the kingdom of God.  They come to Jesus with the help of others.  There is hope and expectation when we talk about being part of the family of God.  We do not know all that we need, but we know we need the help of others.  We may bring nothing ourselves but empty hands – actually, empty hands can be filled.

If our attitude in this world is to – expect the worst, hope for the best – we need this message today.  The more we trust and believe by faith, the more we will begin to live in the freedom that God is in control.

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.  But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”  And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. – Mark 10:13-16

This Little Child – Scott Wesley Brown

A door of hope

… taken from MacLaren’s Exposition of Hosea 2:15

The Prophet Hosea is remarkable for the frequent use which he makes of events in the former history of his people. Their past seems to him a mirror in which they may read their future. He believes that ‘which is to be hath already been,’ the great principles of the divine government living on through all the ages, and issuing in similar acts when the circumstances are similar. So he foretells that there will yet be once more a captivity and a bondage, that the old story of the wilderness will be repeated once more. In that wilderness God will speak to the heart of Israel. Its barrenness shall be changed into the fruitfulness of vineyards, where the purpling clusters hang ripe for the thirsty travellers. And not only will the sorrows that He sends thus become sources of refreshment, but the gloomy gorge through which they journey-the valley of Achor-will be a door of hope.

One word is enough to explain the allusion. You remember that after the capture of Jericho by Joshua, the people were baffled in their first attempt to press up through the narrow defile that led from the plain of Jordan to the highlands of Canaan. Their defeat was caused by the covetousness of Achan, who for the sake of some miserable spoil which he found in a tent, broke God’s laws, and drew down shame on Israel’s ranks When the swift, terrible punishment on him had purged the camp, victory again followed their assault, and Achan lying stiff and stark below his cairn, they pressed on up the glen to their task of conquest. The rugged valley, where that defeat and that sharp act of justice took place, was named in memory thereof, the valley of Achor, that is, trouble; and our Prophet’s promise is that as then, so for all future ages, the complicity of God’s people with an evil world will work weakness and defeat, but that, if they will be taught by their trouble and will purge themselves of the accursed thing, then the disasters will make a way for hope to come to them again. The figure which conveys this is very expressive. The narrow gorge stretches before us, with its dark overhanging cliffs that almost shut out the sky; the path is rough and set with sharp pebbles; it is narrow, winding, steep; often it seems to be barred by some huge rock that juts across it, and there is barely room for the broken ledge yielding slippery footing between the beetling crag above and the steep slope beneath that dips so quickly to the black torrent below. All is gloomy, damp, hard; and if we look upwards the glen becomes more savage as it rises, and armed foes hold the very throat of the pass. But, however long, however barren, however rugged, however black, however trackless, we may see if we will, a bright form descending the rocky way with radiant eyes and calm lips, God’s messenger, Hope; and the rough rocks are like the doorway through which she comes near to us in our weary struggle. For us all, dear friends, it is true. In all our difficulties and sorrows, be they great or small; in our business perplexities; in the losses that rob our homes of their light; in the petty annoyances that diffuse their irritation through so much of our days; it is within our power to turn them all into occasions for a firmer grasp of God, and so to make them openings by which a happier hope may flow into our souls.

But the promise, like all God’s promises, has its well-defined conditions. Achan has to be killed and put safe out of the way first, or no shining Hope will stand out against the black walls of the defile. The tastes which knit us to the perishable world, the yearnings for Babylonish garments and wedges of gold, must be coerced and subdued. Swift, sharp, unrelenting justice must be done on the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, if our trials are ever to become doors of hope. There is no natural tendency in the mere fact of sorrow and pain to make God’s love more discernible, or to make our hope any firmer. All depends on how we use the trial, or as I say-first stone Achan, and then hope!

So, the trouble which detaches us from earth gives us new hope. Sometimes the effect of our sorrows and annoyances and difficulties is to rivet us more firmly to earth. The eye has a curious power, which they call persistence of vision, of retaining the impression made upon it, and therefore of seeming to see the object for a definite time after it has really been withdrawn. If you whirl a bit of blazing stick round, you will see a circle of fire though there is only a point moving rapidly in the circle. The eye has its memory like the soul. And the soul has its power of persistence like the eye, and that power is sometimes kindled into activity by the fact of loss. We often see our departed joys, and gaze upon them all the more eagerly for their departure. The loss of dear ones should stamp their image on our hearts, and set it as in a golden glory. But it sometimes does more than that; it sometimes makes us put the present with its duties impatiently away from us. Vain regret, absorbed brooding over what is gone, a sorrow kept gaping long after it should have been healed, like a grave-mound off which desperate love has pulled turf and flowers, in the vain attempt to clasp the cold hand below-in a word, the trouble that does not withdraw us from the present will never be a door of hope, but rather a grim gate for despair to come in at.

The trouble which knits us to God gives us new hope. That bright form which comes down the narrow valley is His messenger and herald-sent before His face. All the light of hope is the reflection on our hearts of the light of God. Her silver beams, which shed quietness over the darkness of earth, come only from that great Sun. If our hope is to grow out of our sorrow, it must be because our sorrow drives us to God. It is only when we by faith stand in His grace, and live in the conscious fellowship of peace with Him, that we rejoice in hope. If we would see Hope drawing near to us, we must fix our eyes not on Jericho that lies behind among its palm-trees, though it has memories of conquests, and attractions of fertility and repose, nor on the corpse that lies below that pile of stones, nor on the narrow way and the strong enemy in front there; but higher up, on the blue sky that spreads peaceful above the highest summits of the pass, and from the heavens we shall see the angel coming to us. Sorrow forsakes its own nature, and leads in its own opposite, when sorrow helps us to see God. It clears away the thick trees, and lets the sunlight into the forest shades, and then in time corn will grow. Hope is but the brightness that goes before God’s face, and if we would see it we must look at Him.

The trouble which we bear rightly with God’s help, gives new hope. If we have made our sorrow an occasion for learning, by living experience, somewhat more of His exquisitely varied and ever ready power to aid and bless, then it will teach us firmer confidence in these inexhaustible resources which we have thus once more proved, ‘Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope.’ That is the order. You cannot put patience and experience into a parenthesis, and omitting them, bring hope out of tribulation. But if, in my sorrow, I have been able to keep quiet because I have had hold of God’s hand, and if in that unstruggling submission I have found that from His hand I have been upheld, and had strength above mine own infused into me, then my memory will give the threads with which Hope weaves her bright web. I build upon two things-God’s unchangeableness, and His help already received; and upon these strong foundations I may wisely and safely rear a palace of Hope, which shall never prove a castle in the air. The past, when it is God’s past, is the surest pledge for the future. Because He has been with us in six troubles, therefore we may be sure that in seven He will not forsake us. I said that the light of hope was the brightness from the face of God. I may say again, that the light of hope which fills our sky is like that which, on happy summer nights, lives till morning in the calm west, and with its colourless, tranquil beauty, tells of a yesterday of unclouded splendour, and prophesies a to-morrow yet more abundant. The glow from a sun that is set, the experience of past deliverances, is the truest light of hope to light our way through the night of life.

One of the psalms gives us, in different form, a metaphor and a promise substantially the same as that of this text. ‘Blessed are the men who, passing through the valley of weeping, make it a well.’ They gather their tears, as it were, into the cisterns by the wayside, and draw refreshment and strength from their very sorrows, and then, when thus we in our wise husbandry have irrigated the soil with the gathered results of our sorrows, the heavens bend over us, and weep their gracious tears, and ‘the rain also covereth it with blessings.’ No chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.’

Then, dear friends, let us set ourselves with our loins girt to the road. Never mind how hard it may be to climb. The slope of the valley of trouble is ever upwards. Never mind how dark is the shadow of death which stretches athwart it. If there were no sun there would be no shadow; presently the sun will be right overhead, and there will be no shadow then. Never mind how black it may look ahead, or how frowning the rocks. From between their narrowest gorge you may see, if you will, the guide whom God has sent you, and that Angel of Hope will light up all the darkness, and will only fade away when she is lost in the sevenfold brightness of that upper land, whereof our ‘God Himself is Sun and Moon’-the true Canaan, to whose everlasting mountains the steep way of life has climbed at last through valleys of trouble, and of weeping, and of the shadow of death.


Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.  From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.  On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Baal.”  For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more.  I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety.  And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.  I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.  On that day I will answer, says the Lord, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel;  and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people”; and he shall say, “You are my God.” Hosea 2:14-23

Justin Rizzo – Ever Present Help

Follow me

In our weekly small group this was greeted with a warm response – we will follow Jesus.  But what does it mean when Jesus defines what following Him looks like – deny yourself and take up your cross?  The room was very silent.

If our message to the Church is about following Jesus, many will follow.  If it includes taking up our cross we will lose some.  Even I get embarrassed sometimes, just like those who were with the blind man who called our Jesus’ name as loud as he could. It was this kind of hope from the blind man who saved him, not the embarrassed and ashamed people around him.

For in[a] hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes[b] for what is seen? – Romans 8:24

Someone came up with some hope values and one of them was generosity – “we love to give up things we love for the things God loves”.

Ultimately, to the Christian, this following of Jesus becomes the hope of heaven, since our leader has gone there (Heb. 6:19-20): but first comes the cross (Mark, p. 207). – Alan Cole

The hope of future glory encourages disciples amidst present suffering while following Jesus.
Following Jesus means that our joy and hope of a harvest of glory comes with our minds made up to sacrifice and to die to this world.  It is in the dying that we find life.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?  Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”– Mark 8:34-38

You Are Mine – David Haas


Your reward

Those without hope of eternal life try to avoid the reality of death. They are, in fact, enslaved by the fear of death. Great amounts of money and effort are spent to conceal the ugly face of death. 

Death prompts each of us to get to the “bottom line” of what life is all about and what comes after death. Daniel chapter 12 speaks of death and of the believer’s hope beyond the grave.

No doubt, those in the Old Testament who received promises of God and those who spoke the word of God must have struggled with the idea of a suffering and ultimately dying Messiah.   How can the promised blessing of biblical prophecy bring hope to the believer who will die before they are fulfilled? There is only one way—resurrection. The promises of God which are not fulfilled in this life are fulfilled in the next. Resurrection is the means by which people pass from time to eternity.

Daniel 12 takes the believer to the high-water mark of Christian hope—the assurance of the resurrection of the dead. 

Of Daniel’s own prophetic word, he would be agitated by none of these troubles – disturbed by none of these changes, for he would peacefully slumber in the hope of being awaken in the resurrection. 

The hope of such a resurrection soothed the mind of Daniel in view of all the troubles which he then experienced, and of all the darkness which rested on the future, for what we most want in the troubles and in the darkness of the present life is the assurance that, after having “rested” in the grave – in the calm sleep of the righteous – we shall “awake” in the morning of the resurrection, and shall “stand in our lot” – or in our appropriate place, as the acknowledged children of God, “at the end of days” – when time shall be no more, and when the consummation of all things shall have arrived.

But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.  Daniel 12:13

Christ Is Enough – Hillsong Worship

Eating the children’s crumbs

“Is there hope for me here?” “Filled FIRST?” “Then my turn, it seems, is coming!—but then, ‘The CHILDREN first?’ Ah! when, on that rule, shall my turn ever come!” But ere she has time for these ponderings of His word, another word comes to supplement it. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

The infamous story of a woman who heard the words from Jesus as an invitation to hope.

Jesus looking for something deep inside this mother asking for her daughter to be healed suggested that the domestic nature of the home required the dogs to wait until the meal is over before they receive their portion.  But her need for Jesus to heal her daughter gave her a keen wit where she filled in a blank that He left on purpose – reminding Him that dogs are permitted to eat the crumbs even while the meal is in progress.  She knew there was more.

Just in case this story is new to some, it may seem that Jesus was being prejudicial against Gentiles.  No, this woman saw Jesus drawing her into His parable and her hope was in the word, first. The blessings of the kingdom of God did not exclusively belong to the people of Israel.

Jesus saw a woman before Him and saw that she looked to Him as her only hope.  He saw that she would not be deterred. She pushed through knowing that only Jesus could give her what she needed. Jesus loved her for this and gave her all that she asked for and desired.

For me, Jesus first sentence would have been a rejection and the death of any of my hopes – but for her it was life from the dead.  If Jesus had kept silent, only then would she leave unblessed, but He spoke and that turn of respect meant that she had the open door to hope for more.

Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”  Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” – Mark 7:26-29


Support and Strengthen

It is no secret that Daniel prayed for the restoration of the kingdom of Israel and for the coming of the kingdom of God.  He knew it was not going to be in his lifetime.  The vision of Jesus and the words spoken to him by the angel were revealed to Daniel with the hope of encouraging him as he faced death.

Daniel was a very old man.  While there was no hope for him to see Israel restored, he placed his hope completely in God’s timetable.  Because he could place his hope in God, he could take his stand beside Darius and support and strengthen him.

We will find ourselves caught in the middle of political and military forces that are greater than ourselves.  We may be considered weak by those in this world, but I think that we are designed to serve and only gives an appearance of weakness.  Let’s face it – the world is not our home – we are pilgrims passing through a foreign land.  Our hope comes from looking to a city whose foundation is righteousness and whose wall are built of God.

It is an indestructible kingdom, that continues on, ever-growing, with the hope of a glorious future in eternity.

So let’s be in the place God has called us to be, let’s serve those He has called us to serve, and let’s come alongside those in leadership to support and strengthen them.

As for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to support and strengthen him.  Daniel 11:1

For A Moment – Elevation Worship

Touch the fringe

J. Dudley Weaver, Jr.   writes a great piece in his post – The Face of Hope. He captures well the essence of hope and how it gives us hope in our pursuit of Christ.

Ever wonder why we cannot fake desperate – it may be because we have never been in a situation where we have tried everything possible and nothing works.  Maybe that is why we see more miracles in our southern hemisphere these days – they have no hope but Jesus – there are no other options.

When Jesus fed the 5,000, we are not told the teachings that Jesus shared but the healing was emphasized and it was a massive event filled with hope.  The crowds around Jesus are a testament to the message of hope He was proclaiming. 

May we be not just a comfortable community, but a community that
strives to bring the comfort and hope of Jesus Christ to a hurting world.

And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. – Mark 6:56

Take nothing for the journey, except…

When the twelve were sent out to be the next generation of missionaries, they knew they were weak and had no expectation of any advantages other than to obey Christ and depend on Him.  So their task was not to amuse people regarding curious matters but rather for those who were listening, they were called to repent of their sins and turn to God.  They took nothing for the journey except hope that they could turn many from darkness to God and to heal souls by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When you think about it, the gospel is the most offensive news one can bring – albeit, we know it to be sweet, true and hope-filled.  Our message – your only hope is in one message and one Man, no other. No need to wonder why the world scoffs and screams at Christianity.

Can you imagine the call to preach – to herald publicly, to towns and villages – the Kingdom of God, a place where you can come into the very sphere where God rules.  A Kingdom of blessing, promise, hope, deliverance and salvation. 

 Maybe because people have so much cultural and material power, we need to find more ways to intentionally dis-empower ourselves if there is going to be any hope of true partnership in mission.  Uncover our assumptions, take on the role of servants and learners and willing to rethink the whole way of doing mission.  We too need to be willing to repent, to make mistakes, and to risk.  By doing so we might experience a true partnership in mission by which the kingdom of God can grow.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

Jesus intends for the message of the arrival of kingdom hope to spread across the entire globe.

It might mean we must have little so that our little can be a witness to the power of His name.  He will give us power to heal, have empathy for the sick, power to cast out demons, love the sinner, endure pain and rejoice that they might give hope to others.

That is when we can proclaim the Gospel, share the Good News.  We listen to the story of others and then offer hope and truth that they can hear.

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. – Mark 6:8-9

Heard about Jesus

The woman who was seriously ill, heard reports about Jesus – they were enough for hope to rise within her.

Hope is a fundamental ingredient for faith – without hope, faith does not work.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

Mark introduces this woman to us as someone who was lonely, isolated, impoverished, anemic and possibly dying – hopeless and desperate.  Most would have written her off.

Bless Mark for not taking too much time to interject hope – this woman heard stories of Jesus.  Maybe she heard of the  evil spirit leaving a man.  Maybe she heard of Simon’s mother-in-law taking Jesus hand, or the leper whom Jesus extended his hand to.  Maybe even the paralytic laid down through the roof of a home and Jesus forgiving his sins and told to pick up his mat and go home.  Most likely she did hear the story of the man with a legion of spirits and who lived in a cemetery, set free by Jesus. Somehow she is convinced that if she touches Jesus’ clothes, she will be healed.

Encouraged, she dared to hope for the same for herself.  Her new-found faith made her bold, determined. Since she was legally unclean and also shamed by her illness, she had to slip through the crowd to touch His robe without drawing attention to herself. She only had to touch the fringe of His garment.

She started a different thought pattern that day – this Jesus can cure me, this Jesus
can release me, and set me free. This Jesus can rescue and deliver me. This Jesus can put my life back together, can repair me, and make me whole”

She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak.  Mark 5:27

Hope for Humanity – Darlene Zschech – You are Love

An everlasting kingdom

Around the grand mosque of Damascus there clusters a vast accumulation of history. On the spot where it stands to-day, after a lapse of nearly 1,400 years, there was originally erected, in the first century of our era, a heathen temple. In the middle of the fourth century this temple was destroyed by the Roman general Theodosius the Great, and on its ruins, in the beginning of the fifth century, Arcadius, the elder son of Theodosius, built a Christian house of worship. This latter house, though for 300 years the Cathedral of Damascus, became in the eighth century a Moslem possession, and far some thousand years it has been used as a Mohammedan mosque. No visit to Damascus is quite complete without a sight of this historic structure. The most interesting feature, however, of this curious building is not its age, nor its history, nor its present prominence, but rather a single sentence engraved upon the vestibule. The inscription is in Greek characters and reads thus: “Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endure throughout all generations.” There, on this Mohammedan mosque, and after ten centuries of Moslem occupation, cut deep in the enduring stone, the Christian record remains–a record of faith, of hope and of confidence on the part of the Damascus Christians in the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. Almost 2,000 years have rolled away since Jesus Christ opened in Bethlehem the marvelous scene of Divinity in humanity, and still the Church of His grace abides. Other kingdoms have perished, mowed down by the resistless scythe of time–Babylon, Media, Macedonia, Persia, Syria, Egypt, Greece, Rome–each swept away almost as though it had never flourished, while the Church founded on the rock by the humble Nazarene lives and grown And the Church of the future will be more glorious than the Church of the past. “Let us believe and know that Christianity is advancing all the time; that, though men’s hearts may fail them through fear, the Church goes on in God-guided and irresistible movements.” To this happy conclusion of Mr. Gladstone’s must come every intelligent student of history.

Daniel chapter seven paints a picture of the end times – he tries to describe four terrible beasts and they are quite the sight. This vision that God has shared with Daniel continues the message of hope in hopeless times because even though the beasts are terrible the end of the vision is the Lord on the throne.  The message of hope for life and the message about who God is and what He does are all here. What I love about this chapter in particular is that the meaning of the beasts are already explained in the chapter – we have no need to make an interpretation of them, rather just read the meaning and listen carefully to the interpretation given. God is painting a picture. Not every detail has significance but is part of the picture to give us the main message that God is teaching.

The kingship and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them. – Daniel 7:27

Lord (I Don’t Know)-Newsboys