Against Hope, Believe Hope // Lost Loved Ones

“Who against hope believed in hope,
that he might become the father of many nations;
according to that which was spoken,
So shall thy seed be.”

(Romans 4:18)

Today I experienced the familiar frustration of misplacing the belt clip for my cell phone. Yes, I know they're pretty uncool but, in keeping with my personality, I use one anyway. And although I’m generally an organized person, I’ve found myself searching for this conspicuous accessory more times than I’d care to admit.

So there I was, searching diligently from room to room with no immediate luck. I had errands to run and was becoming annoyed by the delay, but I wasn't leaving the house without it. As I searched, Luke 15:8 came to my mind:

“Either what woman having ten pieces of silver,
if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle,
and sweep the house,
and seek diligently till she find it?”

When something valuable is lost, and when finding it proves difficult, there are generally two ways in which we can choose to respond: 1) concede that it's probably gone forever, or 2) search harder. In this case, the inconvenience of searching was outweighed by my hope of finding something I valued.

The majority of us have a long list of loved ones in desperate need of Christ - sons, daughters, neighbors, and coworkers who are spiritually lost, "having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12). Perhaps some of them are even backsliders who "were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:4-5). You've witnessed to them faithfully and prayed for them tearfully, but nothing has changed. The "search" thus far has been exhausting and unsuccessful.

This is the point where many people give up. They resign themselves to the sad conclusion that what is lost will never be found, that the prodigal who has "departed into a far country" will never again "come to himself" and return home (Luke 15:13, 17).

But all hope is not lost! After all, we've been given the blessed promise from God that "if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us," and certainly He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (1 John 5:14; 2 Pet. 3:9). Your prayers are being heard. Your tears are seen by the "Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort," Who offers us the consolation that "they that sow in tears shall reap in joy" (2 Cor. 1:3; Ps. 126:5). Not only is He deeply "touched with the feeling of our infirmities", but He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Heb. 4:15; Eph. 3:20).

So keep praying, keep witnessing, and most importantly, keep believing. Live every day walking by faith (2 Cor. 5:7), rejoicing in hope (Rom. 12:12), and resting in Divine love (Zeph. 3:17). The answer may be just around the corner.

Give Me Faith

“I need You to soften my heart and break me apart
I need You to open my eyes, to see that You're shaping my life
All I am, I surrender

Give me faith to trust what You say,
That You're good and Your love is great
I'm broken inside, I give You my life

I may be weak but Your Spirit's strong in me
My flesh may fail, but my God You never will”

           (Give Me Faith - Elevation Worship)

I know I usually open my posts with a Scripture, but this song has been resounding loudly in my soul all day long. My heart has been overwhelmed with just about every type of emotion over the last two weeks, and the chorus of this song is a prayer I just can’t seem to get away from: “give me faith.”

As someone who devotes much of my time to various forms of ministry and trying to convince others of the love and goodness of God, it feels awkward to admit that I’ve had to continually pray for Divine reminders of these things. After all, they’re two of the most basics aspects of Christianity. Yet I think it’s because they are in fact so fundamental that Satan makes a special effort to convince us that God is either impressed by our strength or ashamed of our weakness. When we don’t fully believe that God’s love is unconditional and that His grace is free, we inevitably exhaust ourselves trying to earn what we so desperately need.

It’s true that faith and doubt are complete opposites by definition, but I think they often share close quarters in the secret places of our hearts. Even Peter, who had enough faith to step out of a boat onto raging waters with Christ, was overwhelmed by doubt and fear just seconds later and began to sink (Matt. 14:30-31). It’s as if the disappointment we feel every time the love of the world fails keeps us from ever fully trusting in a love that cannot fail.

But God isn’t the earthly father that turned his back on you; He’s your heavenly Father Who imparts “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15) He isn’t a fair-weather friend who doesn’t have time for your problems; He’s “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24) Your boss may capitalize on every opportunity to criticize your mistakes, but the strength of Christ is perfected in weakness and depravity (2 Cor. 12:9-10). He doesn’t hold your humanity against you; He delights in you as His child and “will joy over thee with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17)

You don’t have to make God aware of your fears. He already knows what troubles your mind and burdens your heart. Pray for faith to believe that you really are the object of the greatest love that has ever existed, and that you be made “confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)

 

Grace – The Riches of His Goodness

Untitled-1“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
(Romans 3:24)

I'm someone who generally tries very hard to think as logically and as rationally as possible. Even though I was taught to believe the Bible since I was very young, my commitment to God is based on a personal certainty that Christianity just makes sense. For example…

  • My conscience confirms that sin is wrong; the Bible defines sin and its consequences (1 John 3:4; Rev. 20:15).

  • The beauty of nature points to a divine Maker Who is described in Isaiah 40:28 as "the Creator of the ends of the earth."

  • Thousands of Biblical prophecies have been irrefutably fulfilled in exact detail, and many last-days prophecies are continuing to unfold.*

Despite what anybody says, you don’t have to commit intellectual suicide to become a Christian. In fact, to fully know the truth is impossible without becoming personally acquainted with Jesus, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6)

Of course there are some aspects of the Gospel that no human mind can fully comprehend. The underlying principles of grace and unconditional love defy human logic altogether – especially when you consider that we are offered so much more than salvation from hell. The Son of God Himself stands at the door of our hearts, offering a relationship that will radically transform every moment of the rest of our lives (Rev. 3:20).

If this doesn’t astound you, consider Paul’s analysis of grace in 2 Corinthians 8:9,

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He
became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.”

Even though God’s grace cannot possibly be matched by human generosity, imagine passing a stereotypical homeless person on the street who asks you for money. You could brush him off like most people, or give him $10 and feel proud of yourself for the rest of the day. Would you even consider withdrawing every penny from your bank account and handing over your life savings? Would you volunteer to take his place sleeping under the bridge and sign over the title to your house? Hypothetically speaking, would you trade your good health for tuberculosis and frostbite?

Probably not – and yet that’s only an imperfect picture of the grace of God. According to Isaiah 53, He alone “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (Vs. 4) When we had “turned every one unto his own way”, the Father “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Vs. 6) Our redemption was fashioned through the gruesome crucifixion and marvelous resurrection of Him “Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

No matter how hard I try, I can’t make sense of the grace of God. It goes completely against the grain of human/Adamic nature that mixes ulterior motives of selfishness and pride with nearly everything we do. But even though it may not seem logical, God’s grace is a very real extension of His immeasurable love for humanity. It’s absolutely undeserved and yet completely free.

*http://www.reasons.org/articles/articles/fulfilled-prophecy-evidence-for-the-reliability-of-the-bible

Remembering Redemption

"He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt
cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
(Micah 7:19)

As Christians, we often speak of God's "sea of forgetfulness." We rejoice in the grace and forgiveness of God, and for very good reason. Aside from the fact that He "hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities", we can take comfort in knowing that the Master of creation is on our side and counts us as beloved children He has "bought with a price." (Ps. 103:10; Rom. 8:31; 1 Cor. 7:23)

Simply put, our redemption is an invaluable gift and one that we should keep in constant view. Our attitudes and actions should be influenced above all else by the realization that we are among "they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Rev. 21:27)

But equally as important as recognizing who you are in Christ is remembering who you were before Christ. Let's take a look at Paul's assessment of our spiritual state before salvation:

"And you...were dead in trespasses and sins."
(Ephesians 2:1)

Contrary to common illustrations that depict man as drowning or dying in sin, the reality is that we were already dead, buried in the grave of wickedness. The thief had stolen, killed and destroyed, leaving us spiritually lifeless and morally corrupt (John 10:10). Our tombstone was engraved with the ominous epitaph: "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 8:12) As Paul continued in verse 12, we were "without Christ...having no hope, and without God in the world."

To say we needed help would be a serious understatement; we needed miracle, and a miracle is exactly what we got:

  • We were dead, “but God, who is rich in mercy…hath quickened us together with Christ.” (Eph. 2:4-5)

  • We were “children of wrath” who are now called “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:3; Gal. 3:26)

  • Our “unclean lips” have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Isa. 6:5; Ps. 34:8).

True life is found only in knowing Christ (John. 17:3). If you’ve accepted God’s gift of salvation and eternal life, never forget where you came from or the price that was paid for your soul (Rom. 6:23). Instead, take a moment today and “look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.” (Isa. 51:1) It may be God has brought you further than you think.

Blogging Bible Bits

Capture

If you’re reading this, then chances are you already know that writing has been a part of my life for many years now. And despite the fact that I’ve not been especially active in the blogosphere over the last 12 months (sorry!), I've often felt that my ministry would involve a commitment to writing on a regular basis.

Another aspect of my life you may or may not be familiar with is that I'm a firm believer in the importance of Scripture memorization. Scripture Memory Fellowship, a ministry that has been instrumental in my own spiritual life over the years, is one of few organizations dedicated solely to the practice and principle of memorizing Scripture, and I've been honored by an invitation to serve as a weekly contributor to their brand new website which debuted today: www.scripturememory.com.

In case you're unfamiliar with the ministry of SMF, our goal is a simple one: to get God's Word into people's hearts systematically. We have a variety of resources available, including memory books which organize verses by topic, and audio CD's with whole chapters set to music. My blog posts will point to these resources when appropriate, as well as highlight other methods of Scripture memorization I have found to be effective.

To be clear, this does not mean I’m discontinuing my posts here. In fact, as I return to writing on a regular basis one of my goals is to publish more devotional materials right here at A Look at Life from Deerstand. I’m simply sharing this news in hopes that you'll take a few minutes to look around the new site and send me any feedback or questions you may have. I'd also be interested in knowing what you'd like to see written about on the blog.

Please check back often and, as always, keep in touch!

NOTE: If you’d like to purchase any Scripture memory tools from the website, be sure to use the coupon code “welcome” during your checkout for 20% off through 11/30/14.

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