Tag Archives: hope

What’s a Christian to do?

Hourglass

The world is a very confusing place right now. Values accepted by Christians and non-Christians alike for as long as there have been human beings now seem to be set on their heads. Up is down. Right is left. Black is white.

The Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage is especially troubling, because we have already seen at the state level what the new definition does to confessing Christians who refuse to participate in sinful behavior. It makes everyone ask, what do I do?

The answer is to follow a practice that has proved itself over generations of Christians. In times like these, we need nourishment for our faith and strength to hope that God is still in charge. The best way to get the nourishment we need is to follow a daily practice of prayer and Bible study.

When we tell people that an important fact about marriage is that the union of one man and one woman is a model for God’s relationship with his church, many scoff. In these times, we who love the Lord need to remember that the relationship of marriage is, indeed, a place to learn about the relationship each of us has with the Lord. Now is a good time to discover a universal truth about marriage that is equally applicable to your relationship with God: a relationship thrives on time spent together, time when each partner focuses on the other. Daily prayer and Bible reading is one way to spend time with God that will nourish your relationship with him while it builds your faith and strengthens your hope.

I have never met a Christian who did not think that this practice was a good idea, but I have met many Christians who don’t follow it. A few complain that they don’t know how, but the almost universal complaint is lack of time. It isn’t a complaint isolated to faith practices; they complain equally of no time to read to children, no time for exercise, no time to attend worship, and so forth. When did time itself become a tyrant that enslaves humanity? Is time for us, or are we for time?

The fact is that, like any scarce resource, our time is allocated according to the importance of the way we use it. Sleep is very important, and for many people, even the notion of 8 hours of sleep is unthinkable due to other demands on their time. Some will say that there are so many demands on their time already that to make time for prayer and Bible study would further reduce their time for healthful sleep. God’s gift of time is seen as a resource that is used as dictated by other people, not by each individual for himself. There is no time for the Lord simply because he does not punish anyone for failure to give him some of it.

Nobody exactly says this, but it is implied by the fact that they all explain the price of failing to meet other people’s expectations for their use of time. “My kid will be devastated if he has to miss a game.” In other words, the child will dish out the punishment for parental failure to attend a game. Heaven forbid the parent should choose to make a child miss a game. “My boss says that people who go home every day at 5PM have no passion for their work, and he remembers that in each employee’s annual review.” The boss dishes out the punishment for failure to use time according to his values. “My husband is in sales, so we must appear at a lot of social functions. His success depends on it.” The husband, or the husband’s boss, will punish failure to use time as expected. And so forth. There seems to be a price to pay for disappointing people, while God apparently sits silent when he is ignored.

There is a different way to see time. Time is God’s gift to each person in this world, and each person owes God faithful stewardship of time. Time is a gift, and it is yours until you give it away. You have all the control, unless you cede it to others. A prisoner serving a life sentence for murder has the same gift of time as the CEO of Apple, and the same rights and responsibilities before God with regard to his use of time.

What is a Christian to do if his or her gift of time has been snatched away by other people?

That is the real problem for most Christians. It explains a lack of time for prayer and Bible study, and it explains a lack of time for worship, fellowship with Christians, and even the lack of time for personal rest.

Try this idea: Think of the 24 hours starting right this minute as God’s unique gift to you. If you use this time as God’s steward, in the expectation that 24 hours from now God will ask you what you did with them, how will that change the way you use them? Is there any chance that in the next 24 hours you can choose to give five minutes to God in prayer and Bible study? Does God deserve that much of your time?

These are troubled times. Christians are wringing their hands, crying aloud on Facebook, and tweeting plaintively across cyberspace. What is a Christian to do? The first thing, the best thing, the most useful thing a Christian can do is to accept stewardship of each day’s time and make time for daily prayer and Bible study.

That is what a Christian must do.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com

Image by Curioso
Source: http://humbliceous.blogspot.com/
License: ShareAlike 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Stop and Think about a Hymn

hymnalMy Hope is Built on Nothing Less

by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

1. My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
(Refrain)

3. His oath, his covenant, his blood
supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
(Refrain)

4. When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found!
Dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne!
(Refrain)

 

 

 

 

Text: based on 1 Timothy 1:1,
source http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh368.sht
Author: Edward Mote, c. 1834
Text in the public domain

  • Why is it safe to build your hope on nothing more than Jesus, his blood and his righteousness? Who is Jesus, anyway?
  • Verse 2 explains what hope is. The theme is that we can count on Jesus, who is God in the flesh, because he will always do what he says he will do. How is that different from wishful thinking?
  • A young Christian girl in Nigeria was kidnapped by Boko Haram. She was given the choice to convert to Islam or to be chained to a bed and raped repeatedly. All her earthly props have given way. What is her hope?
  • Each Sunday we testify to our faith in the words of the creed. What does this hymn say in the fourth verse that parallels our creeds?
  • How do you understand Christ’s oath, his covenant, and his blood. How will you become clothed in the righteousness of Christ in the new earth?

A Hymn for Meditation

  1. hymnalWhat a friend we have in Jesus,
    all our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    everything to God in prayer!
    O what peace we often forfeit,
    O what needless pain we bear,
    all because we do not carry
    everything to God in prayer.
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged;
    take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful
    who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    take it to the Lord in prayer.
  3. Are we weak and heavy laden,
    cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge;
    take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In his arms he’ll take and shield thee;
    thou wilt find a solace there.

Words by Joseph Scriven
Text from http://www.hymnsite.com

  •  When I feel discouraged, no matter what the reason, this hymn is comforting. What sources of anguish are addressed here?
  • What biblical basis is there for believing we should take “everything” to God in prayer?
  • The second verse is particularly gripping. Who doesn’t have moments when he feels like an abject failure, worthless in the eyes of God and everybody. What is the hymn writer’s advice for those moments?
  • The daily news is not only discouraging as to its moral content, but the logic used to justify immorality is without any basis in logic or common sense. What recourse does the hymn writer find for such experiences?
  • The cultural restrictions on the expression of Christian faith in word and deed are increasing. How will Christians sustain faith and testimony against the pressure to be silent and stay out of sight?

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollI wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

When I was a little girl I did something my mother had explicitly forbidden. I felt guilty while doing it, but I felt even worse when she discovered the truth. I cried. “I am so sorry! I’m sorry!” My cry sounds like the psalmist, crying out to God after he recognizes his sin.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
Psalm 130:1-2

  • Secular thinkers reject the idea of sin. They reject the phrase “sinful human nature” even more. They also deny the existence of God. How would you explain this cry to them?

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
Psalm 130:3-4

  • Anyone who reads prophecy knows that God keeps track of what people do. What is it about God that causes the psalmist to suggest that God does not have a record of all his sins? The psalmist lived long before Jesus. On what basis was he forgiven? (Hint: John 17:24, 1 Peter 1:20)

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
Psalm 130:5

  • Why does the psalmist put his hope in the word of the Lord? Human beings sometimes say, “My word is my bond.” Have you known someone in whose word you could trust? How does that compare with trusting in God’s word? Why can the psalmist who is grieving his sin put his hope in the word of the Lord?

My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
Psalm 130:6-8

  • How long can you wait for the Lord? Do you ever really wait for him?
  • On what basis can you identify yourself with Israel in this psalm and claim promises made to Israel?

 

Is God the LOrd of our Nation?

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:12-22

There was a time in the US when a preponderance of the population believed that God had, indeed, chosen the US to be a special nation, a nation where God’s gift of freedom to every human being was celebrated and protected. Today more and more public figures reject any reference to the work of God in the founding of the nation. This Psalm addresses Israel at some time when Israel felt tempted to believe that the nation was taking care of itself. The Bible describes the founding of the nation of Israel, and the psalm writer speaks as if he himself treasures that history. Yet all around him people reject God and think they don’t need him. This psalm is message to all of them, and it is a message to the people of the USA as well.

After reminding readers that a nation that chooses God is blessed, the psalmist takes us to the heavenly throne room described in the book of Revelation. From that lofty place, God looks down on the earth, and he sees everything. He sees what people do, and he sees into their hearts. God knows not only their deeds but the reasons they tell themselves for their deeds. He is not fooled. God knows that people engage in crafty wickedness and think they can deceive one another as well as God, but he also sees when the deceptions fall apart. God sees how people scheme and manipulate to achieve what may look like a victory for a time, and God sees when the arrogance of a nation causes it to implode.

The psalmist reminds everyone that when things are falling apart, it isn’t the national leader, who may be a complete fool, who will save the nation. If the nation is saved, it is God’s work. If a soldier engages in battle and lives to tell the story, it isn’t a credit to his strength; it is God’s work. Neither a horse nor a tank nor a drone can save the day unless God acts. It is God who works in the midst of chaos, never abandoning those who love him and serve him. He goes with them through the murder and mayhem. They can count on him.

This psalm is an eye-opening prayer for people who wonder if things will ever get better. The psalmist says that sometimes things don’t get better, but if they do, it isn’t because humans have become cleverer or stronger; it is always God’s work.

The psalm reminds us that when we face situations that might drive us to despair, we must hope only in God. There is no other hope for us. We don’t simply engage in wishful thinking. We put our hope in the one whose work is always so good and righteous that even the worst outcome we can imagine is still the best if it is God’s outcome. We are reminded that God’s perspective on everything is different from ours. He views all our concerns from the perspective of his eternal and infinite love.

Everyone faces bad situations. There are a lot of things to be afraid of if we read the daily news. Psalm 33 reminds us that the perspective expressed by headlines in newspapers or online is not God’s perspective. Rather than succumb to hopelessness and despair, the psalmist chooses to trust God and God’s unfailing love. Rather than doubt God and become despondent, the psalmist remembers that God’s ways are not our ways and trusts him completely. We must pray the same prayer, confident that even if our nation is destroyed, we can and must hope in God.

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:20-22