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Archive for the ‘God’s Salvation’ Category

For the last two posts I’ve shared journal-contemplations from the first two stanzas of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As with most hymns and praise songs, it’s easy to sing through the lyrics and miss their full significance.

But when we put pen to paper and delve into word meanings, explore implications of the lyrics, and ponder the impressions God brings to our spirits, wonderful blessings emerge: increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Contemplations become worship.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s savor the third stanza:

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

I praise You, Lord Jesus, the only One who can mediate reconciliation between the sin-prone people we are and the righteous God of heaven. Without You, we’d have no hope of eternal life.

I praise You also for the peace of mind you provide as we affirm Your attributes. By Your omnipotent strength you will uphold, and by Your omniscient wisdom You will guide, until our days on earth are complete. We are safe in Your hands (1).

Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Light and Life to all He brings

I praise You, Lord Jesus, that Your radiant presence brings comfort, joy, and prosperity of soul.

Your Light of truth obliterates the lies of our enemy and brings us closer to You.

From Your Light shine beams of blessing such as these:

  • The variety of wholesome pleasures in this world, benefiting us in mind, body, and spirit
  • The love of family and friends, increasing our joy
  • The ability to read and learn, providing knowledge and wisdom
  • The delight of hands, allowing us to pursue a myriad of satisfying activities (2)

Risen with healing in His wings

I praise You, Lord God, for raising Jesus from the dead. Because He’s alive, we who believe in Him can be confident of eternal life also.  

One day Your Son will come on swift wings, ready to bestow perfect healing upon all who’ve come to Him. Our healing from the sickness of sin that causes so much woe will finally be complete. There will be no more pain and suffering, no more harm and brokenness, no more sorrow or death!

But even now, Lord Jesus, just as beams from the sun bring health to every living thing, You bring health to our spirits—a deep-down contentment only You can provide (3).

Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for laying aside Your glory as the Son of God. You left Your celestial throne, the unceasing adoration of angels, and all the splendors of paradise to be born a helpless baby.

During your earthly life, few praised You as You deserved; many found fault with Your glorious perfections.

Nevertheless, You see worth in every human being; you desire that everyone accept God’s gift of eternal life, that “man no more may die.”

I praise You for saving us from the death-sentence of our sin (4).

    

Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for the transformed life You offer, raising each believer out of his plight of eternal death and into the pleasure of eternal life with You–pleasures that begin the moment we say yes to You.

Those gifts include:

  • Security, because our final destiny is secure, and in the meantime You’re always with us, working toward our best good
  • Provision of guidance, strength, help and more
  • Rest for our souls, as Your Spirit of counsel and power takes up residence in our spirits
  • Gladness, as we celebrate Your work around us and in us

One day, Lord God, You will raise all Your children into the magnificence of Your heaven! With joyful expectation we anticipate the wonders You’ve planned for us.

Thank You for making possible this second birth into Your family. All the amazing blessings highlighted in this carol come to us when we choose adoption into Your family (5).

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for providing reconciliation with God, ultimate victory over death, over-arching peace and joy, healing for the wounds of our spirits, and more.

Glory to You, my magnificent, sovereign King!

Notes:

  1. Acts 4:12; 2 Timothy 4:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; John 15:11; Philippians 4:11-13; Hebrews 4:12
  3. John 6:40; Revelation 21:4; Psalm 23:1-3
  4. Philippians 2:6-7; Revelation 5:11-12; 2 Peter 3:8; Romans 6:23
  5. John 11:26; Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:28; Isaiah 11:2; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Psalm 92:4; John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 4:14; John 14:3

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.openclipart.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.open.life.church/resources; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

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Last week I shared with you journal-contemplations from the first verse of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As with most hymns and praise songs, it’s easy to sing through the lyrics of this carol and miss their full significance.  

By putting pen to paper, we slow our thinking and wonderful blessings begin to emerge—like increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Contemplations can become worship.

With that in mind, let’s savor the second verse:

“Christ by highest heaven adored”

How glorious the music in heaven must be! Rich, clear voices, every note perfectly pitched. Intricate harmonies and faultless instrumentation.

All these sublime elements come together to worship You, Lord Christ–the Anointed One–who left the magnificence of heaven to be the Savior of humankind.

Thank you, Father, for giving us a glimpse (in the book of Revelation) of the heavenly song that celebrates King Jesus. I can’t help but hear Handel’s majestic melody from Messiah for the lyrics:

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for Your splendor!

“Christ, the everlasting Lord!”

You, O Christ, existed throughout the infinite past and will prevail into the infinite future.

Though Son of God, You are also the Eternal Father, forever with us and LORD of all. Nothing is outside Your control (1).

Power often corrupts in the human realm. But You are perfect in all attributes and motivated by matchless love.

I praise You, O Christ, for the supreme grace of Your Lordship!

“Late in time behold Him come”

To those who waited for Your arrival, You must have seemed late! Centuries had passed since the last prophecy of Your coming.

“But when the time was right,” You, O God, sent Your Son to redeem us (2).

In retrospect we can see why You chose the time of Roman rule. They had established stability in their far-reaching empire, built thousands of miles of roads, and established a common language.

Such factors meant early Christians could spread the good news about You more easily than ever before (3).

I praise You, O God, for Your masterful orchestration

that’s always in operation for the benefit of Your children!

“Offspring of the Virgin’s womb”

You are the One and Only begotten Son of the God the Father, the only Man of heavenly origin who ever lived on earth.

You committed no sin. Without that absolute perfection in You, there would be no salvation for us. God made You, who never sinned, to be sin so we could be made right with Him (4).

I praise You, Righteous Savior, for Your perfection!

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see”

You embodied all the magnificent attributes of God during Your time on earth, yet You were also human.

You dealt with exhaustion, frustration, temptations, and discomforts, just as we do. The fullness of Your glory was veiled behind the ordinariness of Your humanity (5).

How difficult that must have been to know Your full capabilities yet continually hold Yourself in check.

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for your fierce love

that compelled You to complete such an arduous mission.

“Hail th’incarnate Deity”

No one has ever lived a sinless life except You.

No one espoused wisdom as You did or performed miracles like You.

You are the radiance of God’s glory!

I praise your for your divine holiness.

“Pleased as man with men to dwell”

You chose to come to earth and dwell among us, in spite of our self-centeredness, pride, weakness, and brokenness.

Such an incredible reality!

I praise You, O Lord, for your mercy, for wanting to be with us.

“Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

You are Emmanuel—God with us (7). Once we invite You into our lives we’re never left to our own feeble devices; we’re never without Your attentive care.

In Your presence we experience joy, refreshment, help, and pleasure (8). You enhance every moment of life with Your radiant attributes!

I praise You, O Christ, for choosing to veil Yourself in flesh that we might behold You.

I praise You for dwelling with us that might enjoy You!

Notes:

  1. Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 2:9-11
  2. Galatians 4:4-5 CEV
  3. See “The Appropriate Time” for further details
  4. John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  5. Daniel Ruben, http://www.fbccarson.org/harktheheraldangelssing
  6. John 10:17 and 1:14
  7. Matthew 1:23
  8. Isaiah 9:3; Acts 2:28 and 3:19; Psalm 42:5; Psalm 16:11

Art & photo credits: http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.openclipart.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.worldhistory.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.hippopx.com.

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Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes,

our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions,

they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Quincy Adams

Many in today’s world want to believe that truth is relative. You’ll hear them say, “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me.”

In the case of taste, that statement may apply. You might love coconut, hard rock music, and skinny jeans ; I do not. And that should be OK. We all have our preferences.

But to understand the absolutes of reality, we must consider the facts and evidence in order to judge rightly and respond accordingly. Truth is truth. And when it comes to our eternal destiny, we cannot risk basing our hopes on untruth, no matter how well-intentioned.

Yet falsehoods frequently masquerade as truth, and have for centuries.

So how are we supposed to know what is right and true concerning our eternal destiny?

Behold the Truth

There’s no getting around the fact that every one of us will die. And though we don’t know the details of what happens next, the Bible is clear: When we trust in Jesus, who took the punishment we deserve for our sins, God graciously grants us eternal life with him in heaven (John 3:16). This is the way he’s established (John 14:6).

But why should we believe the Bible? That‘s a key question every person needs to be able to answer.

Whole books have been written on the subject; I’ve listed a few at the end of this post. But here’s a sample of categories that affirm the Bible is reliable truth, to whet your appetite. And with each I’ve provided just one example or a link to one.

So what facts and evidence prove the Bible is true?

  • Thousands of archaeological discoveries verify names and places mentioned in the Bible. Nothing has been found to repudiate any scripture. (One amazing example: When Truth Unfolds.)
  • Over 5,000 ancient manuscripts or fragments corroborate the Bible.
The Dead Sea Scrolls include 800-900 manuscripts representing every Old Testament book except Esther. They date from about 225 B.C. to 50 A.D.
  • Hundreds of prophecies have come true with 100% accuracy. (Compelling Evidence offers just one set of prophecies concerning one city–all of them fulfilled with mind-boggling perfection.)
  • A number of scientific and medical facts mentioned in the Bible have also been proven accurate. One example:
  • Over the centuries, millions of lives have been transformed because of Christ’s work within them. (When Love Drove Out Hate tells just one miraculous story.)

But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself “the state of facts and evidence.”

Study the photos of archaeological finds. Many are available online.

Learn about fulfilled, biblical prophecies and why the argument that they were written after the fact is provably false. (Read Is the Bible True?/ Fulfilled Prophecy as a good starting point.)

Consider all the scientific and medical facts mentioned in the Bible and how unfolding knowledge over the ensuing centuries has verified their accuracy.

Read biographies of those who hit rock bottom in their lives and how God lifted them up, often in miraculous ways.    

We begin to recognize lies

when we know the truth.

Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word, 76

And if we truly seek after God, he has promised, we will find him (Proverbs 8:17).

Believe in the Truth

Many people believe that heaven is earned. If our good deeds outweigh the bad, God will allow us to enter. But that teaching is not in the Bible. And if we’re going to assert the veracity of scripture (which we must, given the overwhelming evidence), then we have to accept:

This is not a matter of taste, choosing our beliefs depending on what we like, as with food, music, or clothing.

This is a matter of life and death.

Now is the time to behold the Truth, believe in the Truth, and belong to the Truth, if you haven’t made that choice before.

You’ll be so glad you did!

If you’re already a Christian, please share in the comment section below about what brought you to accept the Bible as truth and Jesus Christ as the Way to eternal life.

For further reading: The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, both by Lee Strobel, and Why Should I Trust the Bible by William D. Mounce.

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.jenikirbyhistory.getarchive.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.canva.com.

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Some time ago, wise-and-insightful blogger Michele Morin (at Living Our Days) shared that she was journaling through some of the old hymns. I imagined her digging into the meaning of some of the rich language and theology, personalizing the truths, and/or using them as the basis for prayer.

Putting pen or pencil to paper in such a way slows down our thinking, allowing wonderful blessings to emerge:

  • Increased knowledge of God and his Word
  • Clarity of understanding
  • A record of discoveries
  • A record of faith deposits for later encouragement
  • Renewal of the mind
  • Augmented intimacy with God

If writing a meditation sounds intimidating, adopt the attitude of Isaac Asimov:

“Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Isaac Asimov

For Christian journalers, writing can be worshiping through our fingers.

But how do we even begin such a process? Try Anne Sexton’s approach:

When we invite Jesus into our lives, the Spirit of God takes up residence within our spirits (1). We can put our ears down close to our souls and listen hard for him to guide our thoughts and lead us to the insights he would have us discover.

And then, we fill our pages with the breathings of our hearts (2).

The following is an example of a journal entry, based on the first verse of the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”(3). The next four images contain the lyrics.

You, oh God, are the Source of every blessing—every provision, every answered prayer, every wise decision, every creative idea, every moment of joy. All good and perfect gifts come from you (4).

Out of your lavish generosity, blessings flow continually from your hand. May I be quick to praise you for each one as they demonstrate your lovingkindness.

This fount of blessing includes your mercy also. I praise you for your forgiveness, undeserving as I am. Thank you for looking upon me with compassion and tenderness in spite of my weaknesses, failures, and sins.

And I praise you that your mercy never ends! You are faithful to forgive me every time I come to you in repentance. Such grace is beyond comprehension. Yes, I want to sing songs of loudest praise, to honor you rightly for all you’ve done for me and continue to do.

Perhaps if I had the voice of an angel and knew the songs of heaven I could sing the full praise you deserve!

Nevertheless, I celebrate your name(s)—Shepherd, Lord of Peace, God of Grace, Father of Compassion and more. I glory in all the attributes indicated by each one. And I remember: the one trait that is part of them all: your unfailing love.

Thank you for loving me, in spite of my shortcomings; thank you for redeeming me from the consequences of my sins so I might enjoy you forever!

Should you decide to journal through a hymn or praise song, remember: perfection is not the goal, getting to know God better and worship him more passionately are the aims.

An added benefit? Our meditations will positively impact our words and actions (5).

Notes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:16
  2. based on a quote from William Wordsworth
  3. by Robert Robinson, text adapted by Margaret Clarkson
  4. James 1:17
  5. Joshua 1:8

Photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.flicker.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org.

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For most of us, the words Christmas scriptures bring to mind the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.  We may even remember the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah.

Rarely will we think of the psalms as part of the Christmas story, yet at least a dozen passages from the Book of Songs include references related to Christ’s birth. A few qualify as outright prophecies; other statements are less direct, but hindsight allows us to make delightful connections.

So for each passage quoted below, see if an aspect of the Christmas story doesn’t come to mind!  (To keep this post from getting too long, I’ve included just six examples. Answers appear below.)

1. “The Lord said, ‘I have made a covenant with My chosen one, I have sworn to David, My servant, I will establish your offspring forever and build up your throne for all generations” (Psalm 89:3-4 HCSB).

2. “[The Lord] himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (Psalm 130:8).

3. “Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:11).

4. “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory” (Psalm 97:6).

5. “Send me a sign of your favor.  Then those who hate me will be put to shame, for you, O Lord, help and comfort me” (Psalm 86:17 NLT).

6. “Praise the LORD and pray in his name! Tell everyone what he has done” (Psalm 105:1).

7. “Because of your temple at Jerusalem, kings will bring you gifts (Psalm 68:29). 

(The second Jewish temple; a model in the Israel Museum)

Answers:

1. Jesus’ lineage and reign described in Matthew and Luke fulfill this prophecy perfectly (Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:32-33).

2. Psalm 130:8 sounds very similar to Matthew 1:21, doesn’t it?

3. The Light of the world began to shine that night in Bethlehem, and the angel of the Lord proclaimed great joy for all people (Luke 2:9-10).

(by Philip James de Loutherbourg, 1740-1812)

4. The psalmist may have thought he was writing about the stars, sun, and moon—all declaring the power and glory of God.  Little did he know his words foreshadowed events on the night Jesus was born, when the heavenly host proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:9) and the shepherds saw the glory of the Lord shining around them (v. 9, 13-14).

5. This verse also brings to mind the lowly shepherds (whom others often despised) as well as the angel’s words, “This shall be a sign unto you . . .” The birth of the Messiah brought great help and comfort to all his people, but perhaps especially the marginalized. For everyone, the long wait for his appearing was over.

6. The shepherds followed this directive as they left Jesus’ birthplace and “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17).  They glorified and praised God for all the things they’d seen and heard, just as they had been told (v. 20).

7. That’s exactly where the Magi went first—Jerusalem—seeking the one born king of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-2.)  And of course they came bearing gifts–gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:10-11).

Isn’t it amazing–from the Book of Songs written eons ago, come the distant strains of the exquisite, eternal Christmas Song that we celebrate to this day:

All your works declare Your glory;

all creation joins to sing.

Praise resounds as earth rejoices

in the birth of Christ the King (2)!*

*the last four lines of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” stanza 2)

Art & photo credits: Steve Ruegg; http://www.stockvault.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixabay.com.

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“Father, please try to understand. I cannot go back to medical school. I’m not well-suited to be a doctor.” Francis looked hopefully into his father’s eyes. Perhaps this discussion would finally convince Father to let him follow his heart’s desire:  to become a writer.

“Son, you’ve spent six years in training,” began his father, a physician himself. “It would be foolish to throw away all that time and effort. Besides, think of the security provided by a position in the medical field. If you pursue this notion of becoming a writer, there is no guarantee of success or even a steady income.”

Once again, father and son had reached an impasse. And so, with only a few coins in his pocket, Francis set out on his own.  He traveled more than 220 miles to London, found a job as a bookseller, and wrote in earnest as time permitted. The year was 1885.

Francis’ health began to suffer and he lost one job after another until he ended up selling matches in the Whitechapel slums of London’s East End.

That barely provided food much less rent.  Soon Francis was homeless. To make matters worse, he found himself addicted to the opium he had first taken for relief of neuralgia pain. At one point he attempted suicide.

In 1887 Francis sent some of his poems, “scribbled on sugar paper,”[1] to Wilfred Meynell, the editor of a journal, Merrie England. Meynell was highly impressed, in spite of the humble presentation, and agreed to publish them. But the proceeds were meager.

The following year Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of Whitechapel. Francis did what he could to protect the murderer’s would-be victims, the prostitutes of the make-shift brothels. Perhaps it was one of these women who saw Francis collapse in the street one day.  She allowed him to stay with her and even cared for him for a while. (Francis later referred to her as his “savior,” though he never revealed her identity.)

When the publisher Meynell discovered Francis’ dire circumstances, he arranged for the young poet to live at a monastery where he could regain his health and overcome his addiction. The process took five years. As Francis began to heal physically, Meynell and his wife helped Francis renew his faith in God. Sometimes as he walked the peaceful grounds of the monastery, Francis would become overwhelmed by God’s grace to save him, and he’d break out into songs of praise.

(Perhaps scenes such as this caused Francis’ outbursts of praise.)

During this time Francis continued to write—poetry, essays, and short stories—including his most famous work, “The Hound of Heaven.” The autobiographical poem recounts his experience of being lost and God’s persistent pursuit of him.

“Hound of Heaven” begins:

I fled Him down the nights and down the days

I fled Him down the arches of the years

I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears.

(Such a monastery chapel as this may have inspired line 2 above.)

Later in the poem Francis described God’s pursuit:

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after

But with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

They beat–and a Voice beat

More instant than the Feet–

‘All things betray thee who betrayest Me.’

Another section provides God’s explanation for removing certain pleasures from the speaker’s life, because they were leading him in the wrong direction. God’s purpose was to guide him toward choosing the right path.

In the end God tells the speaker that “the happiness he sought by running away was following him all the time” (Cummings).[2] And the darkness of deprivation had been but “the shadow of the Divine hand stretched over him in love” (Blamires).[3]

Once Francis had regained his health in 1893, the Meynells invited him to stay with them. That same year Meynell helped Francis publish his first book of poems. “Hound of Heaven” was included.

“It was immediately recognized as a masterpiece.”[4] One critic called it “one of the great odes of which the English language can boast.”[5]

Over the ensuing years, “Hound of Heaven” was praised by such respected authors as Oscar Wilde, G. K. Chesterton, Eugene O’Neill, and J. R. R. Tolkien. O’Neill showed his high respect for the poem by memorizing it—all 182 lines. Chesterton said, “it is the most magnificent poem ever written in English,” to which Tolkien responded that Chesterton wasn’t giving the poem the credit it deserved.[6]

Francis Thompson subsequently became a well-known, respected poet, essayist, and spiritual writer. But his health suffered due to the hardship of those years in Whitechapel, and he succumbed to tuberculosis in 1907 at the age of 47.

Across the decades since his homegoing to heaven, Francis would surely have us remember these words of the apostle Paul:

Notes:

[1] https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/heavens-hound-got-francis-thompson-11630688.html

[2] https://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides3/hound.html

[3] Harry Blamires as quoted in Oxley, The Hound of Heaven: A Modern Adaptation, 81, as quoted by

www.hopechristianchurch.org

[4] http://houndofheaven.com/product/the-hound-of-heaven-the-story-of-francis-thompson/

[5] https://www.patheos.com/catholic/hound-of-heaven-pat-mcnamara-07-10-2012

[6] https://reasonsforhopejesus.com/is-hound-of-heaven-a-name-for-god/

Additional  Sources:

  1. https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/601/faith-focus/poet-return-god
  2. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/opium-addict-and-derelict-the-extraordinary-life-of-francis-thompson-christian-poet/130930.htm
  3. http://www.teleiaphilia.com/a-modern-adaptation-of-thompsons-hound-of-heaven/
  4. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/undergraduate/modules/fulllist/second/en227/texts/thompson-hound.pdf

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.geograph.org.uk; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.canva.com.

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No doubt about it: Christmas is going to look different this year. Some folks (like me) will opt to scale back the decorating. Church and school programs won’t be presented, parades won’t be processing down Main Street, and fewer families will be cozied up at Grandma’s house for gift giving and feasting.

As if mocking the disappointment already rooting in our spirits, Andy Williams comes on the radio singing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”—about friends coming to call, parties for hosting, and caroling out in the snow.

But wait. Perhaps this year could become a different kind of wonderful. Perhaps with less holiday preparation to complete and fewer activities to attend, we’ll have more time to revel in the preparation of our hearts.

How might we do that? According to pastor/author Handel H. Brown:

An attitude of expectancy includes an outlook of hope—hope in God’s provision for the here and now, and hope for what is to come. Even as we celebrate Christ’s first appearance on earth, we look forward to his second coming when he will “take us to heaven, to live with him there” (1).

Too often I’ve counted down the days until the Christmas tree is glowing, or the family is gathered, or the gift-exchange can finally take place. Those are all superb delights, but they quickly fade into wisps of memory.

We Christians can revel with expectant hope in a countdown of more substantive delight and importance. Peter called it a living hope, based as it is on our living Savior (1 Peter 1:3).

This hope is not just a feeling that fades like the euphoria of Christmas—once family members have departed and decorations are boxed and shelved. No, this hope is absolute certainty, placed in our faithful, eternal God . Everything he has promised he will deliver.

So how do we muster expectant hope? By immersing ourselves in God’s Word.

Hope is living constantly, patiently,

expectantly, resiliently, joyously

in the word of God.

–William Stringfellow

Here’s one scripture that fills me with expectant hope. See if these words don’t lift your spirit as well:

“Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death.

“This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away.

“They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time”–1 Peter 1:3-5 GNT (2).

Praise God for his mercy!

Praise him for the new and abundant life he provides!

Praise him for all the blessings of past, present, and future!

Praise him for the perfected life yet to come–with him in heaven!

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas by immersing ourselves in such scriptures, expectant hope is bound to well up and produce wonderful results.

In addition:

“Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.”

–Unknown

So let’s put the WONDERFUL into Christmas 2020 with renewed, expectant hope in our glorious Father.

Let’s create the atmosphere for miracles!

What scripture fills your spirit with expectant hope?  Please share in the comment section below!

Notes:

  1. The last line from “Away in the Manger,” based on John 14:2-3.
  2. Other scripture passages to explore that foster expectant hope:  a) Isaiah 9:6-7 (See also a previous post, “His Name Shall Be Called.”) b) Isaiah 40:28-31, c) Ephesians 1:3-13, d) 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.pixy.org.

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Joanne examined the young woman again, hopeful that after another hour of labor, she would show signs of progress toward birthing her child. But change was imperceptible.

The prolonged labor was sapping the young woman’s strength.  If intervention didn’t occur soon, Lorsan and the baby would die.

Even so, Joanne smiled reassuringly at the mother-to-be and announced, “We’re going to get some help for you, Lorsan.”*

 

 

Joanne had been midwife for many women of the Biliangao jungle-village in the northern Philippines.  But she didn’t have the training or equipment for a C-section.

As a Wycliffe Bible Translator, her expertise lay in linguistics. Granted, her preparation for remote mission service had included a modicum of medical training, but certainly not for surgery.

Praise God we can arrange for help, thought Joanne. She asked her colleague Anne to use their newly acquired radio (no generator needed for this one) and call for an airlift from JAARS–Jungle Aviation and Radio Service.

 

(Founded in 1948; still in operation today.)

 

Meanwhile, Joanne prayed for her patient, and the villagers who’d gathered listened with wary attention.

Their faith was in the spirits of the jungle and the frequent sacrifices offered to appease them (even though the practice gravely depleted their food supply). The villagers were convinced that all trouble was due to angry spirits, including Lorsan’s difficult delivery.

Of course the JAARS operator who answered Anne’s distress signal knew the missionaries well. They were two of the most courageous women she’d ever met, living as they did in a remote, mountainous region, with people who’d been headhunters in the not-so-distant past.

 

(Mangyan village, Philippines)

 

But Joanne and Anne had been confident this was the people-group God wanted them to reach, and had talked the reluctant Wycliffe director in letting them go–despite their youth and gender. That was in 1962.

Now it was 1967. For five years Joanne and Anne had been learning the language, determining a way to transcribe it, and then translating the New Testament into the Baliangao language.

All the while they built relationships, helped the people as they could, and told them about Jesus.

The villagers were anxious for their language to be available in written form. But a New Testament about a new God? They had serious doubts about his significance and power.

Only a few villagers had accepted Jesus; everyone else feared what the spirits might do in retaliation.

The JAARS radio operator soon dispatched a plane to transport Lorsan to a lowland clinic. Days later she and her healthy baby were returned to the village.

 

 

The people were amazed that mother and child had survived.  Perhaps some also wondered at the kindness of strangers to help a young mother.

They began to ask Joanne and Anne, “Who is this God, the one you’re always talking about?” Among them were several spiritists–witch doctors–desperate for release from their fear and the evil spirits who tormented them.

Joanne prayed as they acknowledged God, the powerful One over all spirits, accepted Jesus into their lives, and committed to end the useless practice of sacrificial appeasement.

Soon there were enough believers to start a church in Baliangao. Joanne’s village “father” and protector soaked up her Bible teaching and became a teacher himself.

By this time, Joanne’s coworker, Anne, had accepted a marriage proposal back in the States. The Wycliffe director recommended that Joanne leave also, but she refused, wanting to complete the New Testament translation for these people she’d grown to love.

While she worked, villagers traveled to near-by villages, telling them about the one true God and his Son Jesus. These neighbors were enemies who warred one another frequently. Many had died in the skirmishes.

But the message of a God who loved them (John 3:16) and offered peace of heart (Psalm 85:8), turned these enemies into brothers and sisters.

 

 

Bible classes grew into village-style conferences, and during the twenty-two years Joanne worked to translate the New Testament, she witnessed several thousand Baliangao people turn from fear of spirits to peace in Jesus.

As for the original village, they are now sending out a second generation of missionaries into other parts of Asia.

And as of February 2019, Joann was still serving God as a speaker with Scripture Engagement International, presenting workshops around the world.

The author of Hebrews wrote:

 

 

Joanne Shetler is certainly a heroine to consider and imitate–for her courage, perseverance, and faith.

 

*Real name unknown

 

Sources:

https://www.jaars.org/updates/my-story-jaars-was-there-for-me/

https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/june-2006/a-message-for-all-people/

https://bulletininserts.org/inspiration-from-a-bible-translator-whose-work-was-offensive/

http://www.thetravelingteam.org/articles/joanne-shetler 

https://www.westsidebiblechapel.ca/1_3_109_missions-history-joanne-shetler.html

http://magazine.biola.edu/article/16-summer/meet-the-2016-alumni-award-winners/

https://www.checkitout.org/check-it-out/speakers/

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pikrepo.com.

 

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Contrasts have a way of attracting notice.  Consider:

  • A sparkling diamond against black velvet
  • One lone light shining against the night
  • The first bright flower of spring against pale snow

The stories of Good Friday and Easter are also full of contrasts. Consider:

  • The false witnesses who twisted Jesus’ words—against his sinless life “full of grace and truth” (Matthew 26:59; John 1:14).

  • The frenzied clamor of the crowd—against the self-controlled silence of Jesus (Matthew 27:22-24; 27:14)
  • The mournful wails of women on their way to Golgotha— against the overflowing joy of women on their way to tell the disciples, “Jesus has risen from the dead!” (Luke 23:27; Matthew 28:8)

  • The horrific ugliness of the scourging and crucifixion—against the poignant beauty of Jesus caring for his mother (John 19:23, 26-27)
  • The disbelief of the centurion, guards, and one of the thieves crucified with Jesus—against the newfound faith they all experienced, born out of watching Jesus die (Luke 22:63-65 and 23:36, Matthew 27:48 and 27:54, Luke 23:40-43)

  • The darkness that covered the land during those last hours of Jesus’ crucifixion—against the lightning-brilliance of the angel who announced his resurrection (Matthew 27:45, 28:2-3)
  • The curtain-barrier to the Most Holy Place in the temple—against the free and open entrance to God’s presence, made available to all when he tore that curtain in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 10:19-22)
  • The most grievous and repugnant deed of history—against the most glorious and life-changing reality: Jesus was raised from the dead to eternal life and now offers the same incredible prospect for us (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 55, 57).

These and other contrasts of the Easter story attract undeniable notice to the perfections of our Savior, the unfathomable love that prompted his sacrifice, and the power of his incomparable resurrection—if we have eyes to see.

And eyes that truly see inspire hearts that fervently respond–in faithful love and grateful obedience.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Precious Jesus, how we long for words to fully express our praise to you! Against all the forces of evil, you arose victorious. Now, in place of our guilt you provide healing forgiveness and eternal salvation. Now we needn’t fear the day when our eyes close on earth for the last time, because in the next moment, they will open in heaven. Hallelujah!      

(Zechariah 9:9; Revelation 19:16; Philippians 2:9-11;

Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 113)

Art & photo credits: http://www.pexels.com; http://www.flickr.com;  www.wallpaper4god.com.; http://www.heartlight.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net.

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If you have an extra $1,300 you need to spend, you’re in luck! A high-end department store offers an item of clothing you can purchase for just that amount: a belt.

You’d think the buckle would be gold at that price. Nope, it’s brass. And it’s shaped in the logo of the company. So you get to pay them to advertise for their company on your midsection.

Now some might treasure such a purchase, but I’d choose a different belt as my treasure: the belt of truth the Apostle Paul referenced in Ephesians 6:14. No doubt he wanted us to understand:

Just as a belt holds clothing close to the body, a belt of truth holds the confidence of our faith close to our hearts.

And truth is a treasure, in spite of ethical relativists who would throw it away.

Why?

 

(www.quotefancy.com/John Owen)

 

Some will say, “That’s a very arrogant and exclusive thing to say, that we have to accept absolutes revealed by God in the Bible!”

But isn’t it just as arrogant to dismiss him–and his Son Jesus? Can we afford to ignore Jesus’ claim to be the [only] way [to God], and the [real] truth, and the [real] life (John 14:6 AMP)– without thorough investigation? And isn’t it being exclusive to exclude the Son of God from careful consideration?

 

 

Such truth as presented in John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 requires a response. We can’t afford to ignore even the possibility of truth about such a life-and-death matter.

But then there are those who do not find John Owen’s statement (above) offensive, and would agree: We find reliable guidance, strengthening confidence, and expectant hope in the truths of God’s Word.

 

 

Imagine that belt of truth Paul wrote about, woven with spirit-strengthening statements. What truths would you choose?

Try on this combination for size. Cinch them snug around your heart by speaking each truth out loud:

 

  • God loves you and has your best interest at heart (Jeremiah 31:3; 29:11).

 

 

  • With perfect wisdom and understanding, he has thoughtfully planned out your life (Psalm 139:16). Therefore,

 

“Never be afraid of giving up your best

and God will give you his better.”

–Unknown

 

  • God is all-powerful and in control of all things, including your circumstances (Isaiah 14:24). How empowering to know…

 

…“There is no situation so chaotic that

God cannot from that situation,

create something surpassingly good.

He did it at the creation.

He did it at the cross.

He is doing it today.”

—Bishop Moule

 

  • He faithfully leads you in the way you should go (Psalm 23:3). You can count on him because:

 

 

  • All that God is, is always at work (John 5:17).

 

“If you are praying about it

God is working on it.”

–Unknown

 

  • He is constantly by your side, ready to help in a myriad of ways (Psalm 145:18-19).

 

“God hath in Himself all power to defend you,

all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you,

all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you,

all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you.”

–Thomas Brooks

 

  • God’s peace, joy and hope are forever available (Psalm 29:11; John 15:11; Romans 5:5).  And what is hope?

 

 

And his word is absolute truth.

The more I learn about archaeological evidence, ancient manuscript verification, fulfilled prophecy, historical substantiation, and creation science, the more astounded I am by the great volume of proof upholding the authenticity of God’s truth in the Bible.

His truth is the reliable confidence of our faith, a treasure worth cinching close to our hearts.

 

What scriptural truths do you treasure?  Share your choice in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pexels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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