Follow me

Do you ever wonder how Levi (Matthew) could leave his secure and well paying government job to follow Jesus?  Was it the tenor of Jesus’ call, was it His warm and inviting non-verbal communication or did Jesus’ “sell” the idea that is just not recorded in any of the gospels? What we do know is that the call was simple and poignant, clear and blunt and unapologetically pressing – either Levi watched Jesus walk away or he had to get up and go. The call to adventure had to be measured against risk and the hope against fear – but somehow he knew that the significance of his entire existence hinged on , follow me.

Jesus is looking for sinners, there are no righteous ones among us, and he is looking for them to repent.  His purpose was to seek and save those who had lost their way and this give all of us great hope as we all carry a burden of guilt from our sin.

I think Levi did have a chance to hear Jesus preach with authority and a new message of hope for people.  Maybe he was one at the back of the crowd and wondered if it was too late for him to begin again and leave his life of shame.  Maybe he saw Jesus with people the orthodox leaders rejected and had a glimmer of hope that he could be a friend of Jesus.  What we do know is that on the day Jesus passed by his booth and said, “Follow me”, Levi saw and took his chance to do just that.

As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. – Mark 2:14

You Are Mine – David Haas

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A living God

The argument of the king, in the case of recalling his dream and its interpretation, seems to have been something like this: “They who can explain a dream correctly can as well tell what it is as what its interpretation is, for the one is as much the result of Divine influence as the other; and if men can hope for Divine help in the one case, why not in the other? As you cannot, therefore, recall the dream, it is plain that you cannot interpret it; and your only object in demanding to know it is, that you may ward off as long as possible the execution of the threatened sentence, and, if practicable, escape it altogether.”

Daniel had what no other leader of the day had – a hope in a living God in whom He hoped in, that could deliver to him what the king wanted to know. 

In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed such dreams that his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. So the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had such a dream that my spirit is troubled by the desire to understand it.” The Chaldeans said to the king (in Aramaic), “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will reveal the interpretation.”  The king answered the Chaldeans, “This is a public decree: if you do not tell me both the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you do tell me the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time, “Let the king first tell his servants the dream, then we can give its interpretation.” The king answered, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see I have firmly decreed: if you do not tell me the dream, there is but one verdict for you. You have agreed to speak lying and misleading words to me until things take a turn. Therefore, tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.” The Chaldeans answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can reveal what the king demands! In fact no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean.  The thing that the king is asking is too difficult, and no one can reveal it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.” Because of this the king flew into a violent rage and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. The decree was issued, and the wise men were about to be executed; and they looked for Daniel and his companions, to execute them.  Then Daniel responded with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the king’s chief executioner, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon;  he asked Arioch, the royal official, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel.  So Daniel went in and requested that the king give him time and he would tell the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his home and informed his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,  and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions with the rest of the wise men of Babylon might not perish.  Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.  Daniel said: “Blessed be the name of God from age to age, for wisdom and power are his.  He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him.  To you, O God of my ancestors, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and power, and have now revealed to me what we asked of you, for you have revealed to us what the king ordered.”

Inquire

There are a few stories relating to David’s ability to seek God and to hear from Him during critical junctures in his life.  He never was in doubt of success, yet he made sure to inquire of God and from others before moving forward. Assurance of hope in God’s promise give that kind of confidence in leadership. For David, it was rather simple, if he was to be given the crown, it would follow him, if it did not, then there was nothing for him to do.

The specifics of the conversation with David and God were shared with us at the death of Saul and they are remarkable – “shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” – God responds positively – “To which shall I go up?” – Hebron is God’s response. Another example of the fulfillment of God’s promise in going with him. If God was David’s sanctuary, look at the city of Hebron, a priest’s city, one of the cities of refuge and the burial ground of the patriarchs were buried nearby – the place where the promises of God gave them hope.

David was also not in a hurry to get going.  Loved his calm and reverent inquiry of the Lord.  He let his Shepherd lead him.

After this David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” The Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” He said, “To Hebron.” – 2 Samuel 2:1

Delivers, pities, saves, redeems

Quite a list of action items attributed to God in just three verses in Psalm 72. If God does all of this, then our faith leads us to hope in a future where God no longer has to engage in this action.  But while we are here, working in the present, just as God is active, He is calling us to be active too. What does it mean to be a Christian if we are not the hands and feet of Jesus in our broken world?

The hope of the oppressed and those who are experiencing violence, of any kind, will never be found away from the power and authority of God.

The psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical damage of the oppression and violence remain long after it has ended. The Bible offers all of us hope for healing and forgiveness. Therein we know that our only hope in death is Jesus’ help! 

These are His lost sheep, those He left the 99 to find: the poor, the needy, the broken, the hungry, the lonely, the abandoned…they are HIS. His children…He created them and loves them. He died so that they could have hope.

“The psalms of lament are a model of godly response to suffering. The Lord does not expect us to remain stoic when we face suffering. We can pour out our souls to the Lord. However in the middle of our cry, we must remember God’s loving care for us in the past so we can willingly trust Him with the future. With this type of response, we can renew our hope in the living Lord.”

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. – Psalm 72:12-14

Johann Sebastian Bach – If Thou But Suffer God To Guide Thee

From my youth

Not only is our hope in Jesus, but He Himself is our hope. He is the Author of it, and the Beginning and the End of it.  Our hearts yearn for a strand of hope and our ears want to hear the whispers of God in our hearts. This we know – our hope is not in heaven, joy, peace, rest, fulfillment of wishes, or contentment – it is in Jesus.

Here is David, saying a prayer in Psalm 71 – a much older man now – and in verse 5 he declares the words that inspire youth to be the men and women of God He has called them to be. David’s body may resemble that of an old man, but his faith is as strong as when he was a young man and proves to be his comfort. He hopes only in God – at the outset of life such a hope – imagine the testimonies he could share of God sustaining his hope.

“The world dare say no more for its device, than Dum spire, spore, ‘While I breathe, I hope’; but the children of God can go further and say, Dum exspiro, spero, ‘Even when I die, I hope’ –  Archbishop Leighton

At the very event that the world finds its demise, the follower of Christ have the gates thrown open for an eternity with Jesus.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. – Psalm 71:5

Days of My Youth – Dan Kartchner

Steadfastness and Encouragement

Met with my leadership coach today and we both reminded ourselves that we are attracted to God, as sinners, because He gives us a living hope.

That hope is not found in our day-to-day experiences when we read our news, or a piece of modern literature etc. The world is a dark and dismal place.

Because of what scripture has declared in the past, we can anticipate hope, with confidence, in the future. For what the scriptures have declared in the past has already come true.

The Old Testament relates the story of God’s history – power, faithfulness and love – providing a foundation for understanding the New Testament.  We can learn from the faith, and faithfulness of those who have gone before us – inspired, comforted and judged – all of this producing hope from promises fulfilled.

I found myself short on hope and it is only in dusting off the old stories of faith – reading them again – that I regained my instruction and my encouragement.
Loving God,
The written scriptures bring us your stories, and we have gladly heard them, some of us again and again and again. We thank you that your story brings new fresh hope and steadfast sure encouragement to those who hear. We pray that your story would be heard in our community with crisp fresh life, new power, green shoots of hope, sprouting potential and a tender invitation to respond.
Romans 15 keeps it pretty clean – scriptures have been written down, read aloud, studied silently, preached, taught and discussed. They are instructional, steadfast, patient, encouraging and comforting.  Live in harmony, follow instructions, take on the mindset of Christ and live with hope in the Spirit.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

 

We are the Lord’s

This is the consecration to Christ of my life. To think, to study, to understand His will and to read His Word. To make Him the object of my love, joy and hope.  To use my mouth to speak for Him, hands to work for Him and my feet to carry His message. To be one with Him. 

So when I resign my life to Him, and its pleasure, to magnify Him, I can do so by living or by dying.  Even in death, I know I will be raised up to live with Him forever.  In the faith and hope of this, whether I live or die, it is for His glory and I know I am the Lord’s.

 The follower of Christ lives to the Lord – the most important reality in my life.  Jesus is the hub of my day-to-day existence – everything revolves around Him and my conversation with Him is in being thankful, confessing and asking with some meditative time to listen.  Jesus did model a life of prayer and our impact in the world would be extraordinary if our life were always pointing in a certain direction – Jesus. Wherever I am, whatever company I keep, or the day of the week – my heart is going to God in a spirit of dependence and hope.  I live because I belong to the Lord.

This is all I have to give to those who have fallen to addictions of some kind or have decided they no longer want to live. Hope is what they have coming from somewhere that they can change and I am right in front of them knowing where that hope is coming from. They can be raised up in Jesus who sits at God’s right hand and they can live with Him forever if they believe and put their faith in Him.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. – Romans 14:7-9

We Are the Lord’s; His All Sufficient Merit

1. We are the Lord’s; His all-sufficient merit, Sealed on the cross, to us this grace accords. We are the Lord’s and all things shall inherit; Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

2. We are the Lord’s; then let us gladly tender Our souls to Him in deeds, not empty words. Let heart and tongue and life combine to render No doubtful witness that we are the Lord’s.

3. We are the Lord’s; no darkness brooding o’er us Can make us tremble while this star affords A steady light along the path before us– Faith’s full assurance that we are the Lord’s.

4. We are the Lord’s; no evil can befall us In the dread hour of life’s fast-loos’ning cords; No pangs of death shall even then appal us. Death we shall vanquish, for we are the Lord’s.

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Hope is what sustains us and the power of love we need to have for each other and our enemies in the midst of all our frustrations, losses and pain.

 If the “armour of light” in Romans 13:12 signifies faith, hope and love, then we better put them on.  Everywhere you turn there is a weapon of darkness aimed at you chest and your head – your emotions, will and reason. Those weapons are not meant to scare you – just the opposite – they aim to lull you into sleep through pleasure.

We have to wake up to the battle we are in – put on the armour of light – faith, hope, love – and stay awake.

Is this too vague? Maybe verse fourteen is the link – “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ..”

Father, thank you for the hope in the coming of Jesus. Just knowing this encourages us to live they way we ought. Thank you for this great hope.  May we find that when we stand before Him we would have not just wakened from sleep, but clothed with the armour of light.  We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;  let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. – Romans 13:12b-14

Kelly Joe Phelps – “Hope In The Lord To Provide” performance and interview

Rejoice in hope

Finally came to the theme verse for this blog.  It’s a pretty big deal as the whole point for this year was to see if there was anyway that hope could pull it off.  Is there someting in hope I have been missing most of my life?  Big on faith, big on love, not sure I had time for hope. I have been finding that hope is what has been keeping me going.  I am a big on hope.

The twelfth chapter of Romans is a great description of the Christian life.  It includes the rejoicing in hope, the paticence in tribulation and the constant need for prayer.  Romans is not shy in describing that this joy is in Jesus, this hope is for Jesus, this patience is from Jesus, this tribulation is with Jesus and this constan prayer is through Jesus to God the Father. An early Christmas present to those who cannot wait to celebrate with community the coming of Jesus so that He could die and set us free.

The Christian life now works like this – affliction is normal, Christ has come and carried our sin and sorrows to the cross and into the grave, and left them there, and He rose so that now we have unshakable hope in (not instead of) suffering, and this hope gives rise to joy.   This joy sustains patient endurance,  endurance sustains us in the sacrifices of love, since the cross was the most loving act that was ever done. 

  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Rejoice, Rejoice – Graham Kendrick

Come and see what God has done

There are so many stories in the Old Testament and the New Testament of what God has done that I believe if the sky was paper and the oceans were ink there would not be enough space to record them all. 

However, all the stories go back to one central story – the fulfillment of God’s redemption of His people.  The message of redemption is clear – on the cross, Jesus, the sinless Son of God, gave Himself to redeem us from our sins, was buried and was raised from the dead.  He ascended and will return again in power and glory to judge the world and He will be our only hope.

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.  Psalm 66:5

He Has Risen