‘Day One’ Blog

HOPE for Real – Pt. 2

תִּקְוָה tiqvâh,
ἐλπίς elpís,

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my HOPE is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
Psalm 62:5-6

I’m pretty sure that HOPE is a commodity I have not seen for the true RICH (and possibly rare) thing that it is. If it is hewn as the Apostle Paul suggests in his letter to the saints in Rome, it comes by rugged means. But the thing is, I can’t live without it… and neither can you. And it’s not just HOPE we’re talking about. It’s mainly about the object of that HOPE. Christians (Christ Ones) HOPE in God.

The pursuit of HOPE is ultimately about the development of relationship with God. Whether that development comes through the refinement of my inner person, or whether is comes from time spent with God in His Word, I can expect HOPE to surface as the invaluable undergirding that God intends for it to be.

HOPE is described as an anchor for my soul, (Hebrews 6:19). It is sure and steadfast because it is attached to Someone who is sure and steadfast. I don’t HOPE in HOPE, I HOPE in God, so it’s not the anchor that is the windfall but the One it’s attached to. My soul anchors to God because He is the singular reliable attachment. It’s what the writer of Psalm 62 is stating as he talks to his soul.

When I feel HOPE waning, it’s NOT because the anchor has detached and I’m adrift. But my perception has shifted so that it seems as if I’m no longer attached. That can and does happen for so many reasons, but it can’t be overstated: God never severs my attachment to Him. This helps me understand why Believers through the ages have had to talk to their souls… to remind themselves of what is true.

But sometimes despair is overwhelmingly present so that my efforts to waken my own soul will fail. It’s at that point that healthy, Christ centered community becomes especially essential. I have come to terms with the fact there will be gaps in the presence of HOPE in me. That’s a far less scary proposition when my brothers and sisters in the Lord are at the ready to hope all things (1 Corinthians 13:7) on my behalf. It also compels me to make sure I am ready to offer HOPE to anyone at any time.

So what is this rugged, non-negotiable path to becoming a person of HOPE? Both of these broad thoughts have their roots in relationship. This is what I’ve been learning:

Hope emerges out of the pursuit of God through His Word
HOPE comes through “the encouragement of the Scriptures,” (Romans 15:4). If I’m going to be a person of HOPE I must be committed to the diligent pursuit of God through His Word (non-optional). The Psalmist says, I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope, (Psalm 130:5). This thread runs throughout Psalm 119 as well. Here HOPE manifests naturally as the roots of my relationship with God deepen through ongoing fellowship with Him in His Word. The more I experience Him, the more confident I am that He is entirely reliable. That translates into HOPE.

Hope emerges out of deep personal refinement
HOPE is the final manifestation of this formidable sequence found in Romans 5:3-4:
Suffering (which begets…)
Endurance (which begets…)
Character (which begets…)
Each is a predecessor to the next, necessary before what follows can manifest. I’ve had a mental playlist of this sequence on “repeat” for several weeks now. Each time I come ‘round to HOPE, I get a little flush. Why do you imagine HOPE shows up after the previous three traits have their full affect?

I can’t help thinking – There’s only one reason a person could end up displaying Godly character, and that is that God Himself would have been present to carve and craft him or her (apparently through the portals of suffering and endurance). If you were that person, wouldn’t you have come to know God pretty well through that lengthy process? And isn’t it reasonable to think that after you had traversed the valleys of surrender and submission and the abdication of your will to Gods (which you would have to do before character could emerge), the roots of your relationship with the Lord would be extremely deep? So why wouldn’t HOPE surface in the aftermath of that kind of intimate journey? Something would be wrong if it didn’t.

This is a massive conversation – but here’s where I’m landing for the moment. People who manifest the HOPE that the book of Romans speaks of, know God intimately. They enjoy true abiding fellowship with Him. They practice His presence with openness to His pervasive influence in them, and they pursue Him with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength. They are so sure of His character that even the storms of life do not cloud their perception of His goodness and ultimate control of all things. And when those moments come when HOPE wanes for them, somewhere in their soul is stored a lifetime of memories of the faithfulness of their God. When HOPE returns, they become ever stronger. I want THAT. And yet if I’m honest, I’m also afraid of the path to getting what I want.

Where to from here, my brothers and sisters? You and I are supposed to be poised to, at any moment, “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” (1 Peter 3:15). The world is desperate for HOPE. The source of HOPE is our Father. Please Father, give us courage to pursue You relentlessly. Shape us into the men and women You would have us be. Build our faith and trust in You as we take our place and remain in your presenceuntil HOPE abounds!

May the God of HOPE fill you
with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in HOPE.
Romans 15:13

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HOPE for Real

How is your HOPE meter registering these days? And how about your people? These days I’m finding there’s a major HOPE deficit no matter where I turn, (which of course means that people are despairing at an all time high). Do you wonder why? Why so much hopelessness?

The Word of God is very specific about the necessity of having HOPE. And it’s very specific about the Source of HOPE. The picture is of a human soul metaphorically anchored to GOD, (Hebrews 6). There is no other reliable place to anchor our souls. Any other anchoring will fail. Anchoring to GOD cannot fail. No new news here for Christ followers…

However, I am learning afresh that I have been thinking far too narrowly about HOPE, settling for an elementary understanding when something far more significant is right under my nose. Can you identify? And if so, might this be a clue as to why HOPE is plummeting in record proportions, (more about that in the next post). For now, I wonder how the following thoughts, along with the scripture references below, will strike you. Perhaps the LORD will speak to you as He has been to me.

~ HOPE appears to be a treasured commodity, one produced through very specific means (think how a pearl or a diamond come to be what they are).
~ HOPE is an essential. Its polar-opposite is despair. People experiencing despair struggle to find a reason to keep living. People of HOPE remain anchored in the midst of all manner of hardship.
~ Hope wanes. No one is always HOPE-filled. When hope wanes and I cannot waken my own soul, my brothers and sisters in Christ are meant to stand at the ready… to HOPE for me until I get my feet again.

I’m looking forward to posting again soon, to flesh out what I’m learning as thoughts keeps percolating in the company of God. I would love to hear from you too if the Spirit is speaking to you about HOPE.

“Hope means hoping when things are hopeless,
or it is no virtue at all…
As long as matters are really hopeful,
hope is mere flattery or platitude;
it is only when everything is hopeless
that hope begins to be a strength.”

G.K. Chesterton

~For reflection~
Romans 5:3-4; 15:4,
I Corinthians 13:7,
Psalm 130:5-6,
Lamentations 3:24-25,
1 Peter 3:14-16

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Shifting Awareness

How AWARE would you say you are, right in this moment, of your NEED of GOD? In general, would you say you have a pervasive awareness of your needfulness, or not so much? This has been on my mind for many years, especially as I live in the aftermath of some of my “not so great moments” in life.

The thing is, I’m certain as I read the Bible, that my need of God is comprehensive, whatever my awareness. If I slip into the template Jesus established when He walked the earth, I would do NOTHING of my own will or in my own power. The idea is that God is supplying every need 24/7. You can’t be more dependent than that.

But the truth is, I’ve scooted through moments or days or even whole seasons of life dangerously oblivious as I’ve lived in my own strength. “I got this!” (famous last words). It’s been to my detriment (and sometimes to those around me) to allow my own ability or competence or self-discipline to come to bear. When I choose to forget the pervasiveness of my need of God, I exit the safety of His care, let alone His power. “Shift my awareness of my need of you, God!”

How needful was King David as he lounged on his rooftop with Bathsheba in his sites? How needful was Eve when she applied her own reasoning in response to the serpent’s challenge to her in Eden? How needful was Abraham when he took Sarah’s advise so that they might hurry along the arrival of the promised child? How needful was Peter the Apostle, when he passionately insisted his devotion to Jesus could never waver?

Does it really matter that I acknowledge my need of God and practice dependance rather than allowing my own competence to come to bear? I have woken from too many self imposed slumbers to find myself having drifted a very long way from the company of God. Those scenarios happened one “I could do this in my sleep” day at a time. All the while the full breadth of my need remained. God has been very merciful to remind me time and again: both the ordinary and extraordinary days are laden with land-mines. I don’t want to navigate either in my flesh.

Lord, shift my awareness of my comprehensive need of You, and then bolt me to that bit of ground. May both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of today be lived out under the sway of Your Spirit. It matters more than I know.

~for further reflection~
Psalm 40:16-17; 139:7-10,
John 5:30; 8:28,
Philippians 4:10-20,
Galatians 5:16-17,
Romans 8

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Face to Face

What words would you, as a Christ Follower, use to describe how you relate WITH God? Distant – Intimate – Contentious – Familial – Fractured – Friendly – Cool – Seasoned…

I ask because too many of us seem to be starving from a lack of meaningful relationship with God. I would wonder how on earth that’s possible for children of God except I’ve lived my share of years unable to bridge the invisible chasm I FELT between myself and my Maker. The thing is, without doubt the LORD is offering His sons and daughters a highly personal connection with Himself, even friendship. That’s where the lifeblood flows from, so it’s a monumental deal if the connection is lousy.

From Eden forward, God has been inviting us to take our place in the center of His company. In this “fellowship” we learn that we are not simply relating to another human, but to the Living God – one human intimately connected to the One True God. It’s NOT going to be like any other relationship we have, yet it promises to satisfy as no human relationship can. Any discrepancy that exists between God and I can only EVER be on my end. But that ends up being very good news.

So, what to do about this lack of fellowship? There’s no getting around it: We must be willing to figuratively RUN in God’s direction, with our Bibles open (that part isn’t figurative). And we must be willing to take our place in His company and practice patience as He teaches us. He will show us who He is and who we are. He will take the lead in cultivating meaningful fellowship between Himself and us. Our job is to remain and submit, (I’m pretty sure that’s why this process takes a lifetime!). But there is NO OTHER path to fulfillment and purposefulness. None.

When we actually begin to experience God through the portal of His Word, we begin to waken to the reason we exist. There is no greater joy than communing with and making MUCH of the One we have tethered our hearts to. He is the ultimate Companion. And it might just be that after a time God would describe our relationship with Him the way He described another from ages past…

“The LORD used to speak to Moses,
face to face,
the way a man speaks to His friend.”
Exodus 33:11

Today would be a perfect day to open the Word of God, and enter the narrative God has been writing with humankind from the beginning. Open it with the objective of finding Him rather than as a utilitarian exercise. If you don’t know where to begin, start on page one. God might very well meet you and reveal Himself to you in a way you NEVER thought possible. It happened to me!
I’m sincerely praying for you ~

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Paying MERCY Forward

I had never noticed the details in the exchange between God and Moses when God sent him off the mountain to deal with the rebellion of the people, (Exodus Thirty-two, The Golden Calf). God was incensed, ready to consume His “stiff-necked people” and start all over through Moses offspring. The Lord’s desire in that moment was to allow His wrath to “burn hot” against Israel. Moses made a bold plea on the people’s behalf, and God “relented of the disaster He has spoken of bringing.”

So there you go. Moses’ intercession worked and the people were spared. Moses then headed down the mountain to face what God has just informed him he would face. Here’s where my ears perk up: Moses, upon seeing for himself the people’s lewd behavior, burned with rage, and in a fit of temper destroyed the precious tablets of stone he carried with him. Then Moses burned the golden calf, ground it to power, scattered it in the water, and made the people drink it, (that whole sequence took a minute… or days).

Do you see a discrepancy between the Lord’s response to the people’s actions and Moses response? I harken forward in time to the story Jesus told of the man who was forgiven much, who almost immediately refused to extend the same mercy he had only just received, (Matthew Eighteen). I realize these two stories have significant differences, but they both involve a giant display of mercy, followed by “not so much.”

I cannot help but do a self-exam and wonder how often I have walked away from the throne of MERCY only to withhold it from another. I also wonder how many times I am hard on someone whom God has chosen to shower with mercy. This is no small thing. Because in the face of my personal rebellion, the breadth of the mercy of God toward me is immeasurable. If I’m at all clued in to that FACT I ought to see it paying forward! Yikes.

Back to the throne of mercy I go! Lord, forgive me for not doing for others what You do for me time and again, (more than likely many times every day). Teach me to offer what is not deserved. Teach me to be like Christ, who showers the human race with mercy upon mercy.

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