Living and Lasting Hope Beyond the Horizon

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1Peter 1:3 ESV

When I retrospectively ponder at all that God has done in my life… I am just floored and humbled.  What a wonderful Savior! God has given every believer a sweet melody of thanksgiving to sing at the top of our lungs.  He has rescued us from our own demise.  A death sentence that we had rightly incurred.  God is the creator and sustainer of all the cosmos! Yet, He is also Christ’s intimate, loving Father and through faith in His death to pay our blood penalty, his burial that put sin to death and His resurrection that defeats that death—He looks at us as on Jesus.  We too are made pure and right like Him and the God of the heavens becomes our daddy and personal friend.  This is such an amazing gift! His mercy and kindness towards us—the ones who rejected and spat at him—us sinners!  It is just out of this world!

In this world, we may find temporary avenues of satisfaction, little roller coaster thrills and moments when all is well that our hopes are high. They might not be bad things, just fleeting things.  Sooner or later, in this life, we may find that things don’t work out as we hoped or would have liked.  We may get bored of the latest attraction that brought us a quick relive from the mundane and the burdens of our world.  However, God never disappoints us if we find joy in Him as the Bible reveals Him to be.  God’s Word tells us that He has caused Christians to be born to a living hope.  This hope does not EVER die! In fact, it defies death to its face.  The power of our living Hope is that it never dies—it is more powerful than death itself!! This Hope can laugh without fear of the future no matter how things turn out.

Showcasing God’s Glory in Unexpected Storms

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Ps 91:1-2 ESV

One of the most amazing desert phenomena during the summer are monsoon storms! The other day the boys and I heard thunder, seconds later we felt a few raindrops, then within minutes it was all gone.  This reminded us of what we miss from Arizona summers.  At one of our favorite hiking spots—the Hualapai Mountains along the main trailhead there is a small storm shelter in anticipation of these spontaneous storms.  Monsoon storms showcase the amazing power of our Creator, yet they can be frightening and dangerous. 

During our life journey of following Christ toward heaven, we encounter many scary storms that showcase God’s glory on earth.  Most of them come at us out of seemingly nowhere! Some may even appear during a sunny season of life or just when we thought the last storm had resided.  If we are not following closing behind Jesus’ footsteps, they may threaten to undo us.  Often during a storm, I run to the nearest easy-up seeking shelter; when God has a tall tower not far.  Yet, it may be an upward incline along a narrow path.  We must keep walking in faith and remember that Christ leads us along the short path and takes our hand bringing us to a safe shelter in the Father’s strong arms.  The picture these verses want to captivate in our hearts is one of steady protection from harm.

Storms can cause much havoc of flooding and destruction.  If we abide in Christ, we don’t have to fear being overcome by the rising waters of our trials or our faith destroyed by doubt.  No matter how we feel we can genuinely have joy in waiting on God to act as we anticipate how He will deliver us and display His greatness.

“On dark days when the only song we feel like singing is a dirge, we can pray. ‘Let the music of thy promise be on my tongue’ (Ps 119:172).  This is no tear-jerking ballad of how I’m feeling.  The promises of God will lift me right out of sad sentimentality and put music in my mouth if I will think steadily on them.  Here’s one to sing: ‘Unfailing love enfolds him who trust in the Lord’ (Ps. 32:10).  Do you feel nothing of the kind? When did the validity to the Eternal Word rest on the mood of one of His poor children? Let the promise be the song you sing   He will hear it and make it true for you.” (Elisabeth Elliot, The Music of His Promises) May we seek to sing God’s praises come rain or shine and take refuge in the Most High.  When our hearts are weighed down, let’s soak in His care and be awe-struck by the sight of the shadow of the Almighty.

The Sweet Aroma of Comfort in Suffering for Christ

Photo credit: Michele Fabbrini

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Cor 1:5

Missions and ministry are often glorified in Christian circles and rightly so.  Prior to going into ministry, I used to think of pastors as more like celebrities I admired with sort of super spiritual powers of their own.  The Christian ministry is an all-encompassing sacrifice to undertake which requires God’s anointing grace and much suffering.  It is not that somehow those in this office are more “spiritual” per say.  Although they should set a good example as their followers cannot rise higher than their teachers (Luke 6:40).  Moreover, those called to preach the gospel and oversee the church will need more encouragement, love, and prayers as they receive the most spiritual, physical and emotional attacks.  If Satan takes down those in leadership steering the church, he can easily take down the entire ship.  As a pastor’s wife I have witnessed first-hand how discouraging and draining pastoral ministry can be.

Going into ministry, I learned of the fierce battle against those in leadership.  Even though I am no longer a pastor’s wife, I still feel the adversary’s attacks from time to time.  We are told in Scripture that “All who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2Tim3:12) and if the world hated Christ, the world will hate us (Mt10:24, Jn15:20).  Spiritual warfare overwhelms me now even more because I feel like I am fighting alone.  Yet, this bewildered feeling is not me abiding in what is true, rather absorbing the poison of another one of Satan’s fiery darts. The truth is the LORD is with us (Joshua 1:9) and we have each other within the church.  Even if we were truly left all alone or every friend was to forget to pray, the Lord is our defender.  It is far better to have the Lord of a vast and infinite host of angels as our defender than the strongest of human military powers.  Lasting joy and comfort can only come from above.  “Comfort based on human wisdom is short-lived, because I does not address the deep issues of the heart.  The only true source of hope and strength is God’s supernatural, transcendent comfort that comes by the Spirit and the Scriptures.” John MacArthur

Those who have surrendered their lives and families to the work of the Lord will experience the worst of sufferings.  At the same time, they will also receive the best of comforts.  Recently while I worked on writing a memoir of our lives stationed at the front lines of ministry, at first I found myself thinking I would NEVER choose to go into the service again.  As I completed the memoir, I recounted God’s comforts.  Then, God used a recent sermon on this exact passage to further convict me to change my mind.  There is an immense reward from suffering for righteousness.  Furthermore, a call from God is not a choice one can refuse.  If we had to suffer wouldn’t we want it to be for doing right rather than for doing wrong?  No matter what God might be calling us to, even if it meanings suffering for the sake of the gospel, may we not run away from God’s call in disobedience like Jonah.  Let us run toward God in repentance and be willing to go to depths of the earth for His name’s sake.

“When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” Jonah 2:7-9

Snuggles of Comfort

“…who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” 2 Cor 1:4 ESV

The morning after July 4th I woke up tired and groggy from accumulated lack of sleep.  My body felt achy and my eyes strained to open to the sunlight beaming through the blinds.  Then, the cutest little man enters the room and crawls into my bed.  My four-year-old son quietly sneaks into my bedroom to snuggle.  We call this our snuggle “buggle” time.  It usually buys me some more rest time, but more than anything we both enjoy the expression of love and affection.  I wrap my arms around him, he lays his head next to mine and we both close our eyes.  I kiss him on his soft checks and tell him I love him and he says, “I love you so much and so much momma!”  Sometimes we play a game of tickle tag in bed.  This morning he asked for a “nose” kiss so we rubbed our noses together.  He giggled and closed his eyes again.  There is so much comfort and joy in displays of affections like these.  It makes our hard-to-wake-up days worthwhile.

Our heavenly Father displays his great love and affections too, and they are a great comfort to His children.  Firstly, he demonstrates His great love for us in that while we were still sinners He sent Christ to die in our place in order to adopt us into His forever family. (Romans 5:8) Then, he gives us His name and likeness through His Spirit that acts as a parental guardian going with us along the bumpy road of our sojourning in this world.  In our afflictions and trials, God himself comforts us with His presence and embraces us in his arms of mercy.  “Puritan preacher Thomas Goodwin depicted the enjoyment of adoption by describing a man ‘walking along the road with his little boy, holding hands—father and son, son and father.  The little boy knows that this man is his father and that his father loves him.  But suddenly the father stops, picks up the boy, lifts him up into his arms, embraces him and kisses him and fondles him.  Then he puts him down again, and they continue walking… The father’s action has not changed the relationship… but oh, the difference in the enjoyment!’”  (Dave Furman, Kiss the Wave)

Our God is love and he is ever by His children’s side.  He is especially near during times when we are in deepest despair, and we run to hide in His bosom.  He gives us divine comfort and even joy so that we could then gladly share His great love with a hurting world.  “Those who experience the most suffering will receive the most comfort.  And those who receive the most comfort are thereby most richly equipped to comfort others.”  (John MacArthur) So if we have been comforted by His own sweet snuggles through His Spirit and Word, we can rest assured God has a much greater purpose in our suffering.  May countless more benefit from the painful but beautiful faith and love God is knitting within our hearts to share with others in Christ’s name.