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

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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

 

Able to deliver

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, a favourite for so many reasons. Three men who had well grounded hope and persuasion of deliverance because of the former testimonies of God’s power and goodness in their lives and in the lives of the other captives in Babylon.  There was more though – they considered the glory of God and they put that up against the king’s defiance of God and his blasphemy against Him.  Hard to believe that God would not take notice.

This story found in Daniel 3 gives us warnings, but most of all it gives us hope in the One who will ultimately save us from the presence and power of sin.

Main principle – God’s power is released through faith. There is little hope of enjoying God’s power in full display if we do not expect Him to release it.

Shame that we look at our trials of life as something we dream or wish God will deliver us from – because it is something we can definitely hope on.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord rescues them from them all. – Psalm 34:19

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a big God – a God who could do anything – they offer us strong optimism at a time when hope might seem gone.

The clash between the power of God and the forces of the world; deliverance from an unjust death at the hands of the empire; a miraculous “son of god” not bound even by death; hope for physical restoration and resurrection — these are some of the thematic links connecting Daniel 3 and Easter.

God is in control even when His people are suffering and in their faithfulness God’s power moves.  It gives us the ability to thrive now, and a bright hope for the future.  It gives us meaning today and a role of promise tomorrow. 

Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter.  If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”– Daniel 3:15-18

Promise made by God

God gives a reason for us having hope. The hope that we have allows us to be men and women of God in the midst of trying times where we feel we might not want to give honour, or subdue to the temptation of flattery or worse, be afraid of someone.   Even as our hope may be strong, we must remember to still be men and women of virtue, not chargeable with any open vice or profaneness, and sound in our faith.  These things to do not justify us before God, but they give us our reputation around people.

The hope of the resurrection of the dead and eternal life can be found in the Old Testament ( Job 19:26-27 ) ( Isaiah 26:19 ) ( Daniel 12:2 ).  Funny how the Jews had brought a prisoner to a Roman judge accusing him of a belief they all had.   

And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews!  Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead? – Acts 26:6-8

God Loved the World

We believe

… through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved. Peter compares these two contrary points – to have hope in the grace of Christ and to be under the yoke of the law.  So if we cannot receive salvation until the yoke of the law is removed then it follows that salvation is not in keeping the law at all and it also follows that those who have accepted the grace of Jesus are not subject to the curse of the law.   So it is that we hope for salvation by the grace of Christ.

To speak of salvation it is assumed that one would need salvation from something.  Jesus said He had come to seek and to save the lost.  What does it mean to be lost?

  • To be without hope and without God in this world.
  • To not know what it is to live now, and have no hope for life to come. 
  • Those who were dead while they were still alive.
  • It means to spend eternity in hell.

We believe…our church is doing a sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed – here is a bit of a taste of why such a statement of faith was necessary for the early Church.  Peter here is declaring his first statement of faith – “we believe through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.” 

“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” – Acts 15:6-11

We Believe – Kenneth Cope.wmv

 

They were all cured

When it comes to healing in general, I find myself not too well versed in either ministering for healing or receiving healing.  So I feel for my friends who run from spiritual conferences to healing revivals in the hopes that some person of incredible ministry involving healing may pray for their loved ones who are slowly dying without any hope of surviving unless a miracle happens. The hope is real, the placement of the hope might have been misplaced.

So how does it work with Peter’s shadow?  Is that any different or what is the difference?

First of all, people are healed at these events and people were healed when Peter’s shadow fell on them.  Jesus healed by direct word, sometimes with no contact at all, and sometimes with the use of another physical material like His garment or mud.  All that seemed to be needed was faith from the one who had need and a person from which supernatural power of the Holy Spirit resided and then from time to time a physical representation like Peter’s shadow or Paul’s handkerchief and aprons.  Today, I believe we use oil as James instructs us along with the prayer of faith.

The difference expressed here in Acts was that Peter’s shadow was an expression of the Kingdom of God breaking into their world.  They knew they were surrounded by the glory of God and they hoped to be touched by the power of God, to be changed by it, saved by it and healed by it.  That faith gave witness to the fact that they were all cured.

Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women,  so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by.  A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured. – Acts 5:14-16

 

 

Treasures in heaven

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice,[a]even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials – 1 Peter 1:3-6

The Narrow Way
What thousands never knew the road!
What thousands hate it when ‘tis known!
None but the chosen tribes of God
Will seek or choose it for their own.

A thousand ways in ruin end,
One only leads to joys on high;
By that my willing steps ascend,
Pleased with a journey to the sky.

No more I ask or hope to find
Delight or happiness below;
Sorrow may well possess the mind
That feeds where thorns and thistles grow.

The joy that fades is not for me,
I seek immortal joys above;
There glory without end shall be
The bright reward of faith and love.

Cleave to the world, ye sordid worms,
Contented lick your native dust!
But God shall fight with all his storms,
Against the idol of your trust.

Olney Hymns, William Cowper,
Cowper’s Poems, Sheldon & Company, New York

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;  but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21

Hank Williams “Heaven Holds All My Treasures”

Eternal hope

Those who are not followers of Christ find themselves always hoping for something better.  The line up buying lottery tickets in the hope of wealth and they seek positions that will give them increased power  At the end, death robs them and their hopes die with them.

What a contrast between the salvation offered by Christ and the destruction that is the end of those who reject Him. There are those who are justified by faith and have eternal hope and the others who have no hope other than what is offered in this world.

Yet it is still amazing that while they are living in this world, those who have rejected Christ keep up an air of confident expectation of a certain happiness.  Not sure what that means – is it more hypocritical or is not a form of denial and they are caught up in a web of lies that have entangled them to believe it all to be true. Money has always been the greatest expectation that they hope will ease their lives and increase their happiness.  Imagine their disappointment when they find that the absolute truth of death separates them from their imagined hope.

The concept of wealth and power in themselves are simple concepts of emptiness and as Ecclesiastes puts it – vanity.

He once flattered himself that though he lived in wickedness—that he would not die in it. He adopted many resolutions to amend, and forsake his wickedness toward the close of life, or upon a death-bed. But Oh! how sorely is he disappointed! After all his promising purposes and hopes—he died as he lived—in wickedness! – (Samuel Davies, “The Objects, Grounds, and Evidences of the HOPE of the Righteous”)

When the wicked die, their hope perishes, and the expectation of the godless comes to nothing. – Proverbs 11:7

Eternal Hope – Put Your Hope In God

Eternal Hope and Judgment

 

Living in hope

The world considers that the righteous are not worthy to live in the world, and God declares the world is not worthy of them. Though the righteous and the worldlings widely differ in their judgment, they agree in this, it is not fit that good men should have their rest in this world. Therefore God receives them out of it. The apostle tells the Hebrews, that God had provided some better things for them, therefore they might be sure that he expected as good things from them. As our advantages, with the better things God has provided for us, are so much beyond theirs, so should our obedience of faith, patience of hope, and labour of love, be greater. And unless we get true faith as these believers had, they will rise up to condemn us at the last day. Let us then pray continually for the increase of our faith, that we may follow these bright examples, and be, with them, at length made perfect in holiness and happiness, and shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father for evermore. – Matthew Henry

What is the object of this patient hope, our Christian hope – it centres on the promise of entering the presence of God in His heavenly realm – the fulfillment of a life given to following God in obedience – it is the promise to all believers of an unshakable eschatological Kingdom.

Think about those faithful men and women of God who lived during the OT – they could not receive this promise.  They had to wait until we received it as well. That promise was fulfilled when Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice providing the atonement necessary for our sin.  It was His blood that set us free. Today we are filled with His Holy Spirit, and have the privileges of communion with God and are sustained by the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of our own bodies ending with our final entry into the Kingdom of God.

So while faith is the object of a chapter in Hebrews, all those named therein may seem to have one thing in common – faith – true, but they lived in hope. That was the basis of their trust – looking to God to one day redeem them and in some cases they knew He was going to reward them. Faith was not about immediate fulfillment, it was the fulfillment of a promise. Here faith is tested most – where it matters most.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised,  since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

– Hebrews 11:39-40

Joshua Price – Living Hope – Live

Living in Hope

Living in Hope