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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

 

 

 

Johnny reached for the highball near his workspace, even though it was only 10:00 in the morning. It was a necessity, he told himself, to help release his creativity and wit. How else was he supposed to come up with new ideas day after day?

He had thought a new home in the country would provide inspiration, renewed energy for his work, and the tranquility he longed for. But once he and his wife Bobby settled on their 150-acre estate, with a huge, wood-paneled studio overlooking a 25-acre lake, Johnny found himself just as unhappy and uninspired as before the move.

 

(Not Johnny’s and Bobby’s lake, but perhaps similar)

 

The success he’d achieved, the fortune he had acquired, the entertainment he pursued did not provide the satisfaction he’d expected.

Not long after settling into their new home, Johnny and Bobby decided to address its one drawback: there was no television reception. They purchased a satellite system.

The company sent a father/son team to install it—a process that became more complicated and time-consuming than anyone expected. The father and son stayed in the large studio for the days it took to complete the task.

As work progressed to hook up the several TVs in the house and one in the studio, the two men tuned in to a Christian station. Johnny found himself drawn to the screens, listening to the likes of D. James Kennedy, a well-respected preacher and author at the time.  Johnny had been a believer in Jesus when he was young, but had drifted away in adulthood.

The more he listened, the more he remembered what he’d learned years before in Sunday School: God made us humans and loves us. But we are sinful, and sin separates us from him. So God sent his perfect Son, Jesus, to die in our place. And those who believe in him receive the incredible gift of eternal life with him in heaven when we die (John 3:16).

 

 

Johnny began reading the Bible and felt his doubts, dissatisfaction and fears melting away. In their place he noticed a deep sense of peace and purpose.

Part of that purpose was to allow his rekindled faith to impact his work as a cartoonist. He began to include Christian references in his highly successful comic strip, “B.C.”

You might remember it. Simple drawings of cavemen, dinosaurs, ants, and other animals inhabited a very stark habitat. The genius wasn’t in the drawings; it was in the puns, irony, wordplay, and dry humor that Johnny Hart produced for fifty years, from 1957-2007.

For example, in one strip, a caveman says, “God, if you’re up there, give me a sign.” In the next frame, a huge neon sign sits crookedly and slightly buried in the sand in front of the caveman. It has obviously just fallen from the sky, and it reads—in big capital letters—“I’M UP HERE.”

Of course, Johnny was criticized for those strips that affirmed Christian beliefs. His response to such reproach was to ask a question:

“What purpose would I serve if I had the answer to the mystery of life only I did not tell it for the sake of what other people believe (1)?”

One of Johnny Hart’s strips about the mystery of life moved me to tears.

It appeared on Good Friday, 1996.

There were simply four empty panels with no artwork and no conversation bubbles. The first panel was gray, the second a shade darker, the third darker still, and the last frame was completely black. That final panel carried the simple caption: Good Friday.

Such a simple presentation, but overflowing with meaning. For me, the progression toward black was symbolic of Jesus’ experiences that day—from betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane to an unlawful trial, a flogging, a crown of thorns, a heavy cross to carry, and the worst torture man has ever devised: crucifixion. The land was shrouded in darkness that day for three hours (Mark 15:33).

But oh, it is Good Friday, because that darkest deed of history became our bright victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

 

 

And because of Jesus’ profound sacrifice, we do have hope, peace, purpose, and more.

Johnny Hart would want us to know.

 

Note:

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/04/04/god-thats-funny/38fc77f9-dee5-4a18-b8c5-e5283c3e0964/?utm_term=.ff75a4558709

 

Sources:

1) https://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/572-newsletters/the-buzz/4671-johnny-hart-i-did-it-his-way

2)http://jeffjenkinsocala.blogspot.com/2008/07/bc-comics-censored.html

3) https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/04/04/god-thats-funny/38fc77f9-dee5-4a18-b8c5-e5283c3e0964/?utm_term=.ff75a4558709

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flicr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net (2).

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at       https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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(A personal psalm in honor of our Lord Jesus)

 

 

We praise you, Author and Perfecter of our Faith.

BY your death on the cross we are saved from eternal separation from you and all that is good.  Your sacrifice made possible our adoption as children of the God of the universe. Your forgiveness covers every failure, and as your character permeates our own, your grace transforms us into works of art.

 

 

We praise you, Righteous One.

IN you there is no condemnation hanging over us like a black cloud. No longer must each of us wear the label sinner; we become saints when clothed in your righteousness.   Who dares point the finger and cry “Guilty?” Because of you, Lord Jesus, God has already forgiven us and granted right standing with himself.

 

 

We praise you, Emmanuel (God with us).

WITH you we may live a new life of confidence that Someone stronger and wiser is in charge, Someone available day or night for whatever we need, Someone perfectly capable to take on our troubles, Someone dedicated to increasing our joy, and Someone to infuse our lives with purpose and fulfillment.

 

 

We praise you, Ruler of Creation.

TO you all things are brought into existence. Everything in creation is for your glory—from the innumerable stars spilling across the sky to the diverse creatures inhabiting every corner of our planet.   As for humanity, we too are diverse—each endowed with unique gifts and talents to live for the praise of your glory.

 

 

We praise you, Great Shepherd.

FROM you we receive grace, mercy, and peace. Because of your grace, you listen to the broken heart, the guilt-ridden soul, the desperate plea. Lovingly you reply, “Come, and I will give you rest.” Out of your mercy you keep no record of wrongs. Your peace accompanies us through every storm of life.

 

 

We praise you, Lord of All.

THROUGH you we can do all things. Your perfect strength equips us for all life’s challenges, as we avail ourselves through continual, affirmative prayer. How reassuring to know “your power flows most freely into those who acknowledge their need for you” (Unknown).

 

 

We praise you, Christ Jesus our Hope.

LIKE you we will be raised from death to eternal life. That’s not just wishful thinking; it’s reliable truth. A whole body of proof corroborates the scripture record of your resurrection.* And because you came back to life, we can know beyond a shadow of doubt that eternity in heaven is guaranteed to us who put our trust in you.

 

 

Such astounding truths—too glorious for full comprehension.

But may I never cease to try.

_________________________

 

*The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (Zondervan, updated 2016) offers proof after proof of the resurrection from scholars in the fields of science, history, and philosophy.  The book became the basis for a movie by the same title in 2017.

 

Scriptures used for this post:

Author and Protector–Hebrews 12:2; Acts 4:12; Romans 8:14-15; 1 John 1:9; Ephesians 2:10.

Righteous One–1 John 2:1; Romans 8:1 MSG; Hebrews 10:14-18; Romans 8:33-34.

Emmanuel–Matthew 1:23; Romans 6:4; Daniel 2:20; Psalm 46:1; Matthew 19:26; John 15:11; Philippians 2:13.

Ruler of Creation–Colossians 1:15; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:12.

Great Shepherd–Hebrews 13:2; 2 John 3; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Corinthians 13:5; John 4:27.

Lord of All–Acts 10:36; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians:9.

Christ Jesus Our Hope–1 Peter 1:3; John 5:24; 1 John 5:12.

 

Art & photo credits: Ephesians 2:10–www.dailyverses.net; John 14:27–dailyverses.net; 2 Corinthians 12:9–www.heartlight.org.   

 

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On May 30, 1778, eighty-three year old Voltaire lay dying. His had been a writerly life, as he produced plays, poetry, essays, historical and scientific works, over 21,000 letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets.

Now he would never pick up his pen again.

Some of that writing criticized the Christian faith and the church. He had no use for them personally, asserting that a person could achieve moral character through reason. Wasn’t that what Christianity was all about anyway?

But Voltaire had also decided the way to dissolve the tight alliance between the self-serving state church and the totalitarian government of France was to discredit God and the Bible. Then the people would abandon Christianity and the church would become useless.

To that end he wrote in 1758:

 

 

Those twenty years passed. God was not in a pretty plight.

Voltaire made a new prediction around 1775: “Fifty years from now the world will hear no more of the Bible.”*

Of course, Voltaire was eighty years old by this time. He had no hope of being alive to see if his prediction came true.

Three years later on his deathbed, however, Voltaire was not concerned about his predictions. It would seem he was reconsidering if the Christians and their Bible may have been right after all about the importance of faith in Jesus.

Voltaire’s last words, as reported by his doctor, were these:

 

“I am abandoned by God and man! I shall go to hell!

O Christ, O Jesus Christ!”

 

Such a sad end for a brilliant man. We can only hope his last thoughts expressed the faith he fought against for so long.

But what about dying saints? Are they too tortured by doubt, fear, and aloneness?

Far from it.

“The very happiest persons I have ever met with have been departing believers,” said Charles Spurgeon. As a pastor to thousands over thirty-eight years of ministry, he must surely have visited many.

 

(Charles Spurgeon preaches to a crowd in 1858.)

 

In reality, the last remarks of saints most often offer hope, encouragement, and affirmation.

We can look forward to death, like Sir David Brewster (1781-1868)—a Scottish physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor of the kaleidoscope, and writer:

 

 

“I will see Jesus; I shall see Him as He is!

I have had the light for many years.

Oh how bright it is! I feel so safe and satisfied!”

 

Willielma Campbell (1741-1786), patroness of missionary work in Scotland and elsewhere, expressed complete contentment:

 

 

“If this is dying, it is the pleasantest thing imaginable.”

 

And John A. Lyth (1821-1886), a minister who served as a missionary in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), died with his heart bursting with joy:

 

“Can this be death? Why it is better than living!

Tell them I die happy in Jesus!”

 

Another missionary, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), created a delightful visual with his last words:

 

 

“I go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.

I feel so strong in Christ.”

 

And the famous evangelist, D. L. Moody, gave us a brief but bright glimpse of what awaits us beyond death.

Moody had been sleeping, although fitfully. When he awoke, Moody said, “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me!” His son thought his father had been dreaming. “No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, I must go.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *

 

O Father, thank you for this wonderful record of  joy-filled hope for the day when we, too, must go.

Even better, thank you for your great promises that you will be our refuge, even as we die. You will be our guide beyond death. And though we must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have no need to fear for you are with us. Hallelujah!

(Proverbs 14:32b; Psalm 48:14 (GW); Psalm 23:4)

 

 

*Fifty years after Voltaire’s prediction, the Geneva Bible Society was printing Bibles in the house where Voltaire had lived. They even used Voltaire’s printing presses.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.com; http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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Hope.

Such a small word for such a big, important concept.

Multi-syllable synonyms seem to carry more clout:  expectation, assurance, confidence, and conviction offer a few.  (Thank you, Dr. Roget.)

Stir them together and we can create a definition for faith-filled hope:  the constant, confident, assured expectation that God will see us through every circumstance until we’re standing before him in heaven.  Those are words with heft that we can hang onto through dark and stormy nights.

 

 

You see, hope is much more than wishful thinking.

But sometimes it hides behind the overwhelming issues we face:  health concerns, financial problems, troubled relationships, difficult circumstances, foreboding futures.

 

 

How can we live with confident assurance that all will be well when uncertainty seems to rule the day, the week, the year?

As always, scripture offers us insight:

  • Understand that hope doesn’t come from a hidden reservoir within ourselves.  According to 1 Peter 1:3, our hope comes from God, provided for us out of his loving mercy.  It’s a living hope, breathing energy and strength into our souls.
  • Remember:  we can move forward with positive expectation because He is our all-powerful, grace-filled God—loving, kind, and wise, too.  He’s not just watching from afar; he’s an involved God, tending over us like an attentive Shepherd (Isaiah 40:11a).

 

 

  • Rest assured that our faithful God will see us through to a satisfying conclusion—either through events that unfold over time, or perhaps through an instantaneous miracle.  It may be the satisfying conclusion will not come until we cross the threshold into eternity (1 Peter 5:10).  But then, in the glorious ecstasy of that moment, our earthly trials will no longer matter (Philippians 1:21-23).
  • God’s plan is designed for our good (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Hope involves waiting (Micah 7:7)—expectantly and patiently.

Sometime during second grade I noticed that being a teacher looked like fun.  And soon my favorite pastime became playing school with whomever I could cajole into being students.  When necessary, dolls were pressed into service.

That desire to become a teacher stayed with me all through high school and college.  Finally, after fourteen years, I was the one sitting at my own teacher’s desk, awaiting the arrival of my first students.  My hope, my confident expectation that I would one day be a teacher, had at long last become reality.  The import of the moment was not lost on me.  I had to fight back the tears.

 

 

Such euphoric joy does not happen often without waiting.  We appreciate more what we have to wait for.  And frequently, hard work is also involved.

God allows us to be part of the process, teaching us important lessons about patience and perseverance along the way.

Here’s what I need to remember:

Long-term waiting and steady hard work toward a dream makes the fulfillment all the sweeter when it finally comes.

For now, we can enjoy hopeful anticipation of a new reality that is coming, perhaps in this new year 2018—good health, financial security, improved relationships, or fulfilled dreams.  We can take comfort from the knowledge that our God, who is unlimited by the constraints of time, already resides there.  And…

 

Through the dark and stormy night

Faith beholds a feeble light

Up the blackness streaking;

Knowing God’s own time is best,

In patient hope I rest

For the full day-breaking!

– John Greenleaf Whittier

 

 

Let’s step out into each new day breaking with trust and obedience, because God is preparing us for that new reality.

And may these words ring in our ears:

 

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him.”

–Lamentations 3:25

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

What hope have you been clinging to?  Are there scriptures which contribute to your confidence and expectation?  What experiences of the past give you assurance for your hopes of the future?  Please share your insights below in the comments section!

 

(Revised and reblogged from January 31, 2013.  I do apologize for posting a reblog again.  Steve and I have been sick, catching a nasty bug on New Year’s Eve.  First I succumbed, and then he did.  A new post will be forthcoming next week!)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.wikipedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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“Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth to Bethlehem,

because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary,

who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

–Luke 2:4-5 excerpts, NIV

 

The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about eighty-five miles. Can you imagine walking that far, nine months pregnant? I can’t. Even if Mary rode on a donkey, she’d have been jostled and swayed from side to side. How comfortable would that have been? I think I’d rather walk.

And yet, in spite of Mary’s unremitting discomfort and Joseph’s growing concern, the couple surely traveled the road to Bethlehem with great hope in their hearts. Her firstborn would soon enter the world—a Child like no other. The angel, Gabriel, had made it clear to both of them: Mary would bear a son, the promised Messiah, and he would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Sure enough, Mary delivered the child while they were in Bethlehem, the exact birthplace identified by the prophet Micah (5:2), centuries before the event.

 

 

That same night shepherds cowered in the grass as blinding light pierced the darkness and a startling figure appeared—an angel. Fear quickly gave way to wonder, however, as the shepherds heard the astounding announcement. The Messiah had finally been born, not in the Holy City of Jerusalem as one might expect, but just a stone’s throw away in their own little village.

Soon the shepherds were also traveling a road to Bethlehem. But this was undoubtedly no midnight stroll; they may have even tried to outrun each other. And the exuberant joy that propelled them was accompanied by confident faith in their hearts. They knew the angel’s message had come from the Lord (Luke 2:15).

 

 

Many miles to the east wise men took note of a special star and shortly thereafter set out upon their own long road to Bethlehem. It’s possible they followed the star westward for two years, in order to worship the Messiah and present him with precious treasure: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Theirs was a road of generosity.

And now it’s our turn to travel the road to Bethlehem—a figurative one. With Thanksgiving behind us, we journey toward December 25, the final destination after a month-long celebration of our Savior’s birth.

Like Mary and Joseph we can travel with hope because our Heavenly Father is a God of his Word, who loves, encourages, strengthens, and more (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

 

 

Like the shepherds, we can embrace the truth of our Savior’s birth and all its implications for an abundant, God-enhanced life now and unending euphoria in heaven yet to come (John 10:10, 1 John 5:11-13).

Last, like the wise men, we can follow the road of generosity, not only with presents for family and friends or contributions to ministries and charities, but also with such gifts as:

  • A smile for the harried store clerk,
  • Focused attention on the toddler who wants to sing “Rudolph,”
  • A listening ear for the elderly lady at the grocery store,
  • Cheerful patience while waiting in line at the post office, and
  • The benefit of the doubt—for everyone.

Best of all, our road to Bethlehem extends beyond December 25—into eternity—where hope will be culminated, faith will become sight, and generosity will be rewarded (1 Peter 1:3-4; Hebrews 11:1; Ephesians 6:8).

 

 

The road may seem long at times.   But the destination will be rapturously worth it.

______________________________

Your turn:

Of course these three–hope, faith, and generosity–aren’t the only roads to Bethlehem.  There are many, including the familiar roads of love, joy and peace.  What road (s) will you travel this Advent season?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.slideplayer.com; http://www.pexels.com.)

 

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Ever had a sleepless night due to a relentless whirl of what-ifs, a churning jumble of distress and anxiety, a racing heart?

Worry will do that. No wonder we’ve been told worry is bad for us.  In fact, according to Charles Mayo (co-founder of the Mayo Clinic), worry causes adverse affects on the circulatory system, heart, glands, and nervous system.*

But what about concern? Is that different from worry? Is it OK to be concerned?

The answer is yes. Scripture gives much evidence that even our perfect Heavenly Father exhibits concern. He demonstrates:

  • Compassion on all he has made (Psalm 145:9).
  • Care for each of us (1 Peter 5:7).
  • Mindful attention (Hebrews 2:6).
  • Watchful protection (Jeremiah 31:10).
  • Careful planning for us (Psalm 40:5).

 

 

As God exemplifies, concern prompts beneficial action; worry, on the other hand, accomplishes nothing but harm.

Worry creates a thick fog of fear; concern invites God into our experience with all his wisdom, power, and comforting presence. He is, after all, the only One who can dispel fog, whether it’s water vapor in nature or worry on our minds.

Just the reminder our loving Father is right in the midst of the mess with us will do much to sweep away worry.  And “there is heaven in the depth of that word—Father!” (Charles Spurgeon, emphasis added).

Indeed. If we dig into the heavenly depths of our Father’s love we’ll see:

  • The support of his powerful right hand (Psalm 65:8).
  • The protection of his everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
  • The comfort of being carried close to his heart (Isaiah 40:10).

 

 

And that’s just for starters.

If we dig into what we know about him, we can affirm:

  • “Nothing happens in any particular unless God’s will is behind it; therefore [we] can rest in perfect confidence in him” (Oswald Chambers).
  • The God who made us will equip us for whatever lies ahead—even if it’s unpleasant (Habakkuk 3:19).
  • Difficulties most often set the scene for his glory to be displayed (Romans 11:36).

 

 

Sometimes, though, the fog of worry shrouds even the strongest mental images and the most affirming truths. We’re forced to admit: trustful concern is not easy.

For most of us, it is a learned discipline that grows over time. Slowly we’re able to embrace the truth that all will be well because all is in God’s perfect and capable hands. Slowly we develop the habit of affirming God’s character and power, to develop a near worry-less state of contentment.

And we learn the value of gratitude amidst turmoil—as illogical as that may sound. The very act of thanking God releases our minds from negative focus. When we turn our attention to him, problems fade in significance and the fog is dispersed. That’s why Paul recommended, “Pray with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6).

 

 

And that’s how we turn worthless worry into productive concern.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I thank you, Father, that NO situation is hopeless because you are the God of eternal hope. I can count on you because you are the God of universal sovereignty, complete sufficiency, and abundant goodness.

I thank you for your comforting presence, for your power at work (even though I can’t see it right now), and for your glorious promise that you always bring good from every situation. I praise you that, while we may sow in tears, there will come the day we reap with songs of joy. Hallelujah!

 

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; Romans 11:36; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Psalm 145:7;

Matthew 28:20; John 5:17; Romans 8:28; Psalm 126:5

 

*www.todayinsci.com.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.flicker.com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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