Prayer

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel[a] as their helper,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God. – Psalm 146:5

Since we have hope regarding the future – Christ’s return – we want to be found doing the work He has called us to do.  Since He has called us, we need to choose prayer and faithful proclamation of the gospel as our focus.

Not the prayer that includes gossip,whining or complaining or introduces negativity or criticism but one filled hope, supporting each other.

The Book of Acts starts with such a support.  Through chapter four there are repeated times where the author describes how much Christians shared together – one body, one Spirit, one hope and one profession of faith.

What would God have us do? Offer bold prayers that reflect a strong faith and secure hope. Let’s not just talk about prayer, and have seminars on prayer, and read books about prayer, and listening to sermons on prayer. Let us pray. The souls of men and women hang in the balance.

Our hope is that the message is heard and lives are changed.

After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them,  it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things?  The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’  For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed,  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.  And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:23-31

This will be my salvation

(Showing Hypocrites to be the prime objects of God’s wrath—and the grounds of it—with the special lessons that we are to learn from it. Expressed in a sermon preached before the Parliament of England; upon their last thanksgiving day, being the 8th of October 1650, for that recent great victory which the Lord Almighty gave our army over Scotland’s army in a battle at Dunbar on September 3, 1650. By Thomas Brooks, a weak and unworthy teacher of the Gospel.)

The wheel of providence runs swiftly, and one glorious providence does but make way for another; which should heighten our hopes, and strengthen our faith, and raise up our souls to lay out all that we have received from God, for the helping forward the design of God. Worthy Senators, never had any men on earth such glorious advantages and opportunities to act high for God and his saints, as you have. Ah, how many are there now triumphing in heaven, who, when they were on earth, would have thought it a heaven to have enjoyed the least of those advantages and opportunities which you enjoy, so that they might have put out themselves for God and his people to the uttermost! Ah, sirs, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” Eccles. 9:10. Your time is short, your task is great, your Master is urgent, and your reward is sure. The devil makes all the haste he can to outwork the children of light—in a speedy dispatch of deeds of darkness, because he knows his time is short. He will not let slip any opportunity whereby he may do mischief. Oh may you not let slip any opportunity wherein you may honor a good God, and be serviceable to your generation.

Job reminds us all that we have the right to cleave to our testimony especially when our conscience backs up who we are.  Job depended completely on God for justification and for salvation – the two most important things we hope for and comes to us through Jesus Christ.  Temporal salvation was not high on his expectations, but eternal salvation was his confidence.  He knew he was not a hypocrite and knew that he should not be rejected as one.  God was his Friend even though at the moment He appeared to be his Enemy.  This is where the words come to us that we must believe that all things work together for our good, even when all seems to be against us.  It is our time to cleave to God even though at the very moment comfort cannot be found in Him.  We need to trust Him.

This is where Job excels above his friends – he does trust God unreservedly, in spite of the circumstances.  God Himself is the sinner’s hope.

This is the hope that those who reject God, in all of their narrowness and parochialism, have lost long ago.

I only shared the verse of hope below but maybe I should share verse fifteen as well —

“Behold, he will slay me; I have no hope; yet I will defend my ways to his face.”

Job is determined to defend himself and that expression of hope is so powerful in verse sixteen.

This will be my salvation, that a godless man shall not come before him. – Job 13:16

Rock of my Salvation (Teknobeat Mix) – Nitro Praise

I give you what I have

The encounter of Peter and John with the lame man at the gate of the temple was a testimony to the confidence, courage and conviction that had filled them both.  They knew it was their turn to start giving and with words that extended to the lame man hope, faith and confidence, they gave willingly and without hesitation.

People can be more open to a message of hope when their lives are shaken.  We need to be sensitive and recognize that we are in front of them because God wants them to hear the gospel and wants the Holy Spirit to do a work in that person’s life.

So it was with this lame man – a presentation of salvation – a broken state where God’s grace desires to touch and heal.  Our sins block us from God, but just as Peter reached out to the lame man, giving him more than he hoped or asked for, so Jesus has taken the initiative to come to each of us. God seeks us out.

It was many years ago in St. Louis, that a lawyer visited a Christian to transact some business. Just before the two parted, his client said to him, “I’ve often wanted to ask you a question, but I’ve been afraid to do so.” “What do you want to know?” asked the lawyer. The man replied, “I’ve wondered why you’re not a believer.” The man hung his head. “I know enough about the Bible to realize that it says no drunkard can enter the kingdom of God; and you know my weakness!” “You’re avoiding my question,” continued his friend the believer. “Well, truthfully, I can’t recall anyone every explaining how to become a Christian.” Picking up a bible, the client read some passages describing everyone’s guilt, but that Christ came to save the lost by dying on the cross for their sins. “By receiving Him as your substitute and redeemer,” he said, “you can be forgiven. If you are willing to repent and receive Jesus we should pray together now.” The lawyer agreed, and where it was his turn he exclaimed, “Jesus, I am a slave to drink. One of your servants has shown me how to be saved. O God, forgive my sins and help me overcome the power of this terrible habit in my life.” Right there he was converted. That lawyer was C.I. Scofield, who later edited the reference bible that still bears his name.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple.  Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, “Look at us.”  And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.  And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:1-10

Dwelling in hope

David, though a person of the Old Testament, was one who had a quiet, firm and full hope of the resurrection of the dead and of eternal life and glory.

Hope and confidence in God delivers a joy to the soul, a gladness that is found in speech and a quietness that comes from a body absorbed in peace.  To be destitute of the help of God can only result in sorrow and torment.  Trusting in God delivers us, and fills our hearts with joy – one that is promised, one that we can be full of, and one that cannot be taken away from us. It means that we fall under the protection of God – it is because of this that we are still anxious and tremble – for we still have sorrows, but in the midst of them we can rejoice for there are no troubles so great that can break the peace that God gives to us.  The promise of the resurrection goes one step further – the hope that is promised to the soul is also made to the body – so God protects them both.

That is what makes a Christian’s definition of hope – it is not a wish – it is a solid, concrete promise that is based on God’s Word.  

So Peter, noticed something in David’s writings too.  As David was expressing his own hope in God, it would seem that he expressed things that only the Holy Spirit could have expressed.  David saw things far into the future regarding the promised Messiah knowing somehow that he would still have the opportunity of experiencing something more in the future.

For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;  therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope.  For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption.  Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence.’ – Acts 2:25-28

Great is Your Faithfulness – Martin Smith

Deeds of power

I think about the disciples reaction to the death and resurrection of Jesus often.  Even after seeing Jesus a few times and maybe even some of the 500 that came out of their graves, probably added to the confusion and lack of understanding.  I loved that they did the one thing Jesus asked them to do – stay in Jerusalem.  Add to that they knew they had to do more than just wait – they had to stay and pray together.  This group of women – single and married – this group of men from occupations so diverse – fishermen, tax collectors, Zealots – all devoted themselves to prayer.  I am sure they had no idea of the endowment they were to receive or the “powers” that would be manifested.  They came together only to celebrate their hope in God amidst their fears, anxieties and even uncertainties.

When the rushing wind blows through the upper room, suddenly God takes this close-knit group of followers and they go outside to draw in people from other cultures and different languages.  The pulling together, the drawing in that God promised Abraham so that all nations of the earth would be blessed, had begun.  Jesus’ living, dying and rising had started something that God had planned since the very beginning.  No wonder that the early believers could share all their possessions in common together.  Coming together is the great hope of Revelation – one city, one people, one God.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.  Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,  Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”  All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  Acts 2:4-12

Ashrei

Hebrew and English scripts

If we will only heed

We live in two words – blessing and curse.  They are real and they have real effects.  With them or behind them is the character of God – first came the blessing and only then followed by the curse.  God is slow to anger, swift to show mercy, delighted to bless.  It is better for us to be drawn into Him and His blessing by a child-like hope in His favour.  That blessing is promised as we listen, trust and follow in obedience the word of God.

 When this first appeared to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy, their hope totally depended on and was completely placed in the faithfulness of God and His promise.

So when we look at the law of God’s Word that produces blessings when we follow in obedience – which commandment is the first of them all?  That question asked by a lawyer to Jesus is still what lies at the very heart of what we believe.  Hard to believe for some of us that Bishop David Jenkins could quote such an orthodox statement, but it is quite the contemporary statement of our time —

There is God; He is as He is in Jesus; there is hope

 The feasts established in the Old Testament took moments out of the lives of the people and turned the concept of time being busy towards repentance and to one of hope.

God is trying to get His voice into our hearts to say to us that He will meet our needs – He is our source.  How many times do we see hope almost disappearing – feeling our source was running out – and God would rain from heaven, if you will, blessing us, restoring us.

If you will only heed his every commandment that I am commanding you today—loving the Lord your God, and serving him with all your heart and with all your soul— then he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil;  and he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you will eat your fill. – Deuteronomy 11:13-15

Filling our mouth with laughter

God fills our lips with laughter, so that we can face every obstacle and challenge with hope and excitement or is it that we have hope in God and therefore we can face our obstacles and challenges with laughter?

‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    moreover my flesh will live in hope.
 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One experience corruption.
 You have made known to me the ways of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ – Acts 2:25-28

“See, God will not reject a blameless person, nor take the hand of evildoers.  He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy. – Job 8:20-21

God loves me

The redemptive acts of God were Israel’s great hope as they were a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. They were the inauguration of the national covenant.

That covenant is also the same hope we have too.  It is not because we are special, or more wonderful or more deserving than anyone else – God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us so that we may receive the gift of eternal life with Him.  It was a promise He made to us in Genesis, even before the covenant made with Abraham. 

How deep and wide is that love that He has. It is a love I can place my hope in.

It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples.  It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations – Deuteronomy 7:7-9

Chris Tomlin – Jesus Loves Me

Fear and hope in God

Following God is not something we do just once, or at certain times, it is a lifestyle that continually embeds all of our activities.  It has faith and love as principles with the idea that our lives and all that we do will bring glory to God.  Our strength to live such a life comes from Jesus.  The underlying move of the Holy Spirit is to make sure that we never lose that fear of God, to have reverence for His name, and to regard His word for where there is no reverence for God will we really find faith, hope, and love?  For if the Holy Spirit enables us to walk a walk that follows God, then we know that walk will be one that comes out of the sense of His incredible love and desire to bless us and keep us.

God is pleased when we come to Him with reverence for and fear in His divine majesty.  He would like that to be in our lives always knowing that this is the move of the Holy Spirit in our lives that enables us to stay steadfast in our walk with Him.  It is here that He can bless us as promised. God can transform us easily enough, but He is looking for that desire that comes from our will to follow Him even in the midst of our own nature. He is looking at us as His creation, designed to be rational and intelligent beings knowing that we are influenced by moral motives, reason and argument, persuasion and conviction and especially as seen in the life of Job that I have been reading lately, hopes and fears.

So out of the Old Testament we found ourselves in a New Testament world that proclaims good news.  God has called us to walk with Him in a New Covenant through Jesus.  It is now in Him that we have hope for eternal life and intimacy with God.

If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever! 

Deuteronomy 5:29

Fear of the Lord by Tommy Walker

The poor have hope

Eliphaz reminds Job, that no affliction comes by chance, nor is to be placed to second causes. The difference between prosperity and adversity is not so exactly observed, as that between day and night, summer and winter; but it is according to the will and counsel of God. We must not attribute our afflictions to fortune, for they are from God; nor our sins to fate, for they are from ourselves. Man is born in sin, and therefore born to trouble. There is nothing in this world we are born to, and can truly call our own, but sin and trouble. Actual transgressions are sparks that fly out of the furnace of original corruption. Such is the frailty of our bodies, and the vanity of all our enjoyments, that our troubles arise thence as the sparks fly upward; so many are they, and so fast does one follow another. Eliphaz reproves Job for not seeking God, instead of quarrelling with him. Is any afflicted? let him pray. It is heart’s ease, a salve for every sore. Eliphaz speaks of rain, which we are apt to look upon as a little thing; but if we consider how it is produced, and what is produced by it, we shall see it to be a great work of power and goodness. Too often the great Author of all our comforts, and the manner in which they are conveyed to us, are not noticed, because they are received as things of course. In the ways of Providence, the experiences of some are encouragements to others, to hope the best in the worst of times; for it is the glory of God to send help to the helpless, and hope to the hopeless. And daring sinners are confounded, and forced to acknowledge the justice of God’s proceedings. – Matthew Henry

But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth, from the hand of the mighty. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.  “How happy is the one whom God reproves; therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.  For he wounds, but he binds up; he strikes, but his hands heal. – Job 5:15-18

Steve Schallert – All Good People of the Earth