Character produces hope

“Character that has been shaped by God through suffering has amazing abilities that non-character simply doesn’t. It’s capable of seeing beyond circumstances. It knows that God is faithful. It embraces the truth of the Gospel that if God sent His Son, He spares nothing for the good of His children. All this produces hope, that is, the confidence that God delivers on His promises. The stronger the character, the greater the hope…” Suffering, Endurance and Character; The Christian Worldview Journal.

We can joy in the midst of any circumstance because of where our hope is placed. Hope is the highway that keeps us moving and rejoicing through whatever circumstances life throws our way.

We have hope when our faith is resting firmly in Jesus. When suffering or persecution comes our way, hope lets us rejoice in the midst of it.

Most of us have questioned our salvation quite a few times in our journey of following Jesus – are we really a Christian? When your faith has been tried and you have persevered – does that not prove genuinely and authentically that you are? Does that not give you hope that you will inherit His glory?

In other words, one of the great obstacles to a full and strong hope in the glory of God is the fear that we are hypocrites – that our faith is not real and that we just inherited it from our parents and have been motivated by things that are not honoring to God. One of the purposes of afflictions in our lives is to give us victory over those fears and make us full of hope and confidence as the children of God. – John Piper

So God takes us through hard times to temper the steel of our faith and show us that we are real, authentic, genuine, proven, and in that way give us hope that we really will inherit the glory of God and not come into judgment.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.          Romans 5:1-6

Tenth Avenue North – I Have This Hope

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Cry out for help

Where does your hope come from?

The beginning of the story of Gideon only happens because the people of Israel knew there was only one place to go, one place to put their hope – God – and they began to call on Him and ask Him for help.  In the midst of our own trying circumstances, may we not wait seven years to do this as Israel did.

 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help. – Judges 6:6

Third Day – Cry Out To Jesus

 

Who have risked their lives

When I look at the national leaders who are going into regions of the world who have never heard the name of Jesus before, I see their passion for Christ as being the soul of this bold calling for their life, an interior thrust to serve without reservations, and always the fresh source of an indestructible hope.

Today, we can celebrate our Church because of those who have shown an example of heroic witness to the faith, who have known persecution, which in turn unites all Christians in their places of suffering and making our shared sacrifice a sign of hope for times still to come.

“The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.  Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds,  we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,  who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials:  that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” – Acts 15:23-29

Fear God and do what is right

Peter proclaiming to the house of Cornelius the good news is a truth right from heart of God with equity and love, sweeping away all the narrow-mindedness which, in this case, was the hope of salvation found in being circumcised or in the theology of the Rabbis.  For ourselves, we too may be wrapped up in the theology of our favourite theologian or in our faith’s dogmatism too.  What Peter preached was similar to the words Paul used in Romans —

 Because[a] if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. – Romans 10:9-10

We will only taste the full meaning of salvation when we call on the Lord by whom we shall be saved.

Believing in the name of Jesus does not refer to a general, vague sort of belief. Rather, it is specific and personal. To believe in Jesus means that I believe He is the Lord who gave Himself on the cross for my sins. I believe the promise of God, that whoever believes on Him receives eternal life as God’s gift, not based on any human merit, but only on God’s free grace. To believe in Jesus means that I no longer rely on anything in myself to commend myself to God. Rather, I trust only in what Jesus did on the cross as my hope for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

When Jesus Christ arrived, He destroyed the effects of evil everywhere He went. He did this openly, before witnesses, where everyone could see. He came to a world that was lost and despairing, without hope. Everywhere He went He set people free and brought again to human hearts the hope that there is a way out of the desperate bondage of fallen humanity. 

 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,  but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.  You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.  That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.  We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;  but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,  not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” – Acts 10:34-43

Turn to the Lord

 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth,[a] called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands—  remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.  He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace,  and might reconcile both groups to God in one body[b] through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.[c]  So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;  for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,  built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.[d]  In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;  in whom you also are built together spiritually[e] into a dwelling place for God. – Ephesians 2:11-22

Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda.  There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed.  Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And immediately he got up. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. – Acts 9:32-35

Turn to Jesus – Hermann Kim

Who is like you

One has to love the blessings that Moses gives to each tribe found in Deuteronomy 33.  If you have not compared them to the blessing that Jacob gave in Genesis 49, take a look.

We can look at these promises in light of spiritual values and understand the directions given to love God with all our hearts, to serve Him with the righteousness and holiness that He imparts to us and to not be afraid for the rest of our lives.

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

In his blessings, Moses offers us hope in that we can have power over false gods and Satan’s stronghold – those things that have a hold on us.  Faith and God’s Word – our shield and our sword.

Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. – John 14:23

The blessings given to Zebulon intrigue me the most as their blessings came down to their dwellings.  Trying to look at the spiritual significance of this blessing I am reminded that our own bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we are encouraged to invite Him into our lives with His presence.  Buildings are only shells or if you will, tools.  We worship the Builder and not the building so our love is God and we keep His commandments.  I think about Jesus standing at the door of my heart too, knocking, and if I open it, He will come in.  It is this hope that invites me to practice the presence of God and to walk my life with Christ. 

Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you; and you shall tread upon their high places. – Deuteronomy 33:29

Laura Story – Who is like our God

Choose life

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water[a] of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7

 

What is it that we are all here to do? They were here, as Browning would tell them, to make a choice. Their life’s value would be judged by the choice they made. A moral choice and a moral judgment—that was what they must, at their peril, to their cost, have made before they died. ‘I have set before you this day good and evil, life and death; therefore choose life.’ That was the cardinal secret, the challenge that was to ring in their ears day and night in every variety of experience and circumstance and condition, in hope and in fear, in sorrow and in joy, in confidence and in doubt, in darkness and light, at whatever social level their lot was cast, under whatever limitations life and death were set before them, and they were to choose one or the other; and each such choice determined their bent, and each such determination built up their character, and by that character, so formed, they were judged. Character—that was the key-word needed. They were looking round anxiously in London for men of character. But character belonged to the man who had gained a steady bent towards the right, and who had made his choice, who had committed himself on the side of a sound life, who could be counted on to be straight and true and pure. There was something in the man on which they could rely. His will always made in one way, and nothing could turn it aside, and that was the way of justice, and righteousness, and conscience. – Canon Scott Holland

As we follow Jesus, we are not choosing a life that by-passes the law or negates the need for boundaries, but we are looking for trust and love and hope in all of our actions.  A lot depends on why we seek to live a good life, to be responsible and to have principles – essentially determining why we want to live.  If by fear, then we play safe.  If to exclude and condemn, then others are right and others are wrong – welcome to structure turning life into a prison.  If out of trust in God, then we love how He purposed our lives to be – a world of caring for one another and having hope for the future no matter what life throws at us – in other words, real life.  If our life is lived in any matter resembling that of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is making our life real and that discovery is what makes real life, the only life worth living.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. – Deuteronomy 30:19-20

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

Have mercy on me

Jesus pretty much stayed in the boundaries of Israel, and even so, Israel hosted many travelers from other countries and neighbouring regions so that His fame went well past the physical boundaries of travel.

When He did travel to Tyre and Sidon, He did so for the direct purpose of finding rest, a place where they did not know Him. Unfortunately that rest did not come. The mother of a demoniac daughter was hoping that Jesus would come to her home and He had.

When she approached Jesus, He did not insult her nor was He insensitive in His rejection.  He was both sensitive to her need as well as His desire to teach something to His disciples.  He used well known household imagery in which to create an opportunity to lead the woman to a maturity in her faith, a more precise hope.  He also was wanting the disciples to see their role and their privilege in ministering to a needy, faith-filled heart. For both her and the disciples He showed that the greater the test comes greater faith in God. 

In asking for mercy for herself and healing for her daughter to the “son of David” she knew of the Jewish hope in the Messiah, as did the woman at Jacob’s well.  She hoped for, and expected to share in that Messianic blessing.

Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”  But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”  He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. – Matthew 15:22-28

Save me!

I would also say to any unconverted person who is here, under conviction of sin, — Dear friend, if you are beginning to sink, yet still pray. If your sins stare you in the face, and threaten to drive you to despair, yet still draw near to God in prayer. Though it seems as if hell had opened its mouth to swallow you up, yet still cry unto God. “While there’s life, there is hope.”

“While the lamp holds out to burn
The vilest sinner may return;” —

and the vilest sinner who returns shall find that God is both able and willing to save him. Never believe that lie of Satan that prayer will not prevail with God. Only go as the publican did, smiting upon your breast, and crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and rest assured that God is waiting to be gracious unto you. – Charles Spurgeon

Peter will only come out of the boat in the midst of the storm if Jesus says, “Come.” He is not trying to grandstand and go for the miracle, He is not making a show, but his hope stems from his impulsive love.  And in the same swift motion of love, when he falters and starts to sink, that same hope in Jesus makes him call out, “Save me.” 

It is too hard to explain why we go through the dark, distressing and even mysterious times of our walk with God.  I have seen people at complete wit’s end when plans and hopes are disappointed and the only conclusion is that God must be mad at me – but the call is still the same – “Save me.”

Hard to imagine what our world was like before Jesus invited us to “come.”  Those dark waves with nothing for us to hang on to, no bright hope to sustain us and life seeming to make more downward turns engulfing us in those movements.  How could we be satisfied for so long in living life without God, without Jesus and without hope? So thankful to have been able to cry out, “Save me!”

Thank you Lord for the hand that has reached down into the lives of so many that I read in the Bible, and the countless times You have reached down into mine.  You are my Saviour.  Thank you for making me holy and blameless and above reproach and for securing an everlasting hope for me.

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:28-31