Tag Archives: hope

Be Patient, A Change is Coming!

Text: Luke 21:5-19

Introduction

Votes were cast November 8th; the polls closed across the nation between 7-8pm; people waited patiently for the results, but even after votes were in, the winner was too close to call. People held their breath in hopes that their candidate would win. Then early Wednesday morning, we heard President-Elect Donald Trump would be our 45th President come January 20, 2017.

Shock, amazement, jubilation, despair, anger and joy filled the atmosphere. Millennials began protesting in the streets across the nation. Prophets of doom are being hired to speak in churches; news pundits and broadcasters are telling Donald what he needs to do next, as if he will listen to those who counted him out just a few months prior.

The world is in shock. They never expected Americans to elect such a brute of a man to the presidency. But this my friends is not the end. This is not the time for us to panic. World situations will continue to confound.

Jesus in our text addresses an impatient, stressed out crowd just like those in America today. Jesus talks to his disciples; not those in the world, but his disciples. And I pray today that you and I are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and can glean from his wisdom about what to do in tough times.

Move 1
His disciples’ questions about the future, reveal some impatience, some frustration about how they are going to make it in the coming days.
First, they are Impatient for Justice. They have suffered police brutality from the Roman Soldiers; been unfairly taxed to pay for government projects; incarcerated for minor infractions just for being Jewish; and murdered in the streets as if Jewish lives do not matter.
Second, they are impatient for validation. They know they are God’s children; people who have been blessed with gifts to help their people and the nation. Yet their dreams, hopes, and aspirations continue to be deferred.

Third, they are impatient for love. Hatred by the Romans is pervasive and can be evidenced by classism within the empire. Everyone has a place and moving up the social ladder outside their group is impossible. There is a place for the rich and a place for the poor within each ethnic and political group. No one can break out of the box that has been enforced upon them by the political powers of their community.
And so, they ask Jesus, the one anointed by God, to speak and lead them, “How much longer must we your disciples and God’s people contend with these unjust conditions?” They ask, “How can we stand in days like this?”

Move 2
Jesus responds in a way they least expect. Rather than tell them what will happen to the Romans, Jesus begins to tell them what will happen among their own community. Jesus says in Luke 21:5-6 (read). The things that are sacred to you; the things you hold most dear will be destroyed before change will come against your enemies. Jesus says you think God is going to begin his revolution with destruction of the Roman Empire, but not so.

The signs of change will begin with more deception and violence among your own people. In effect Jesus says situations must occur that cause God’s children to put their trust in God and not this world’s system of finance, government, and religion. Lord, have mercy!
Jesus breaks it down in Luke 21:7-19. Listen to the areas that Jesus addresses as signs that change is coming:

• False Christ will show up (v.8). People will begin to declare that they are the Messiah returned to deliver God’s people from bondage.

• Wars and rumors of wars will spread throughout the media (v.9). CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, continue to predict increased involvement in war against ISIS, Syria, North Korea, and the like.

• Civil Unrest (v.10). When Jesus says, nation shall rise against nation, he is referring to tribes, people groups (ethnicities). He is saying cultures will collide each fighting for the seemingly scarce resources on the earth that they need to survive.

• Natural disasters (v.11). And don’t we see that today? Flooding, fires, earthquakes, pestilences (incurable illnesses), and hunger abound.
That notwithstanding, Jesus says in Luke 21:12-18 that before any of these world issues take center stage, the people of God will be singled out for harsh times.

Listen to what Jesus says (read verses 12-18). Jesus says the people of God should be aware that things will get worse for them before they get better but a change is coming. Lord, have mercy!

Move 3
Jesus says there is only one way for God’s people, his disciples to get through these turbulent times of testing. He says in Luke 21:19, “By your patience possess your souls.” It is not a suggestion, it is a direct command from our commander in chief, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Protests do not trump patience; fighting police and destroying property will not trump patience! Jesus says activate patience as a weapon against injustice. Jesus says exercise patience and don’t live your life in panic mode as if the world is coming to an end because it is not yet time for God’s judgment of the world, God is getting his people ready to inherit the kingdom of God. Hallelujah!

Patience in this text is referring to “trials incident to service in the gospel.” In other words, as we follow the Great Commission, that of making disciples, we will be tested. For this word patience derives from the Greek word “hupomone” which is translated, “an abiding under.” It means that as we live out our calling as disciples, as we obey the command of Jesus in Luke 21:12-18, the things we suffer will be overcome by our testimony. How? Because the Holy Spirit will continue to empower us to think feel, choose, and imagine how great life will be in the coming kingdom of God as opposed to the trials we endure in this life.

Beloved, our task is to continue to stand for Jesus in the face of proclamations of doom and destruction. Our task is to be a witness about our great God and His Christ. And Jesus says that as we continue to confess Jesus as Lord, we will be empowered to stand. In other words, our test will not defeat us. We won’t look like what we been through, hallelujah!

Listen beloved, the world is destined for destruction; religious systems will become bankrupt; political systems will crumble; economic systems will falter; and ethnic groups will be divided into classes with no power. But God’s people and God’s word will stand forever. God’s people Jesus says will be unharmed because we have eternal life in Jesus.

Yes, they will arrest some of you, but hold on. Yes, they will talk about you and your stand for Christ, but hold on. Yes, they will put some of you to death, but hold on. Yes, relatives, parents, and friends will betray you, but hold on. Be patient, a change is coming

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What Is Hope?

HopeThere is a distinct difference between the definition of hope used from an ordinary human standpoint, and the definition of hope we find in the pages of Scripture. It is pretty common to hope, right? We hope we get a job. We hope our kids are well behaved. We hope we make enough money to pay our bills. But our human hope implies a degree of uncertainty, things are not sure, they are possibilities but not certainties. In Scripture, however, hope is void of uncertainty. In fact, certainty is at its core, because it rests in the stability of God, His character and His will, which are unwavering. Biblical hope, then, can be defined as, “the confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.”

 

We also see in Scripture the close connection between hope and faith. In Hebrews 6:11-12, the writer of Hebrews uses the term, “full assurance of hope”. This phrase is also used in Hebrews 10:22 and translated, “full assurance of faith”. Faith defined for us in Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is both the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. So hope is an element of faith looking specifically toward the future, while faith encompasses a belief and trust in God for our past, our present, and our future. This distinction is critical to understanding the confidence that lies in a biblically defined hope. Hope is essential to our faith.

Good News in Tough Times

Luke 2:7-10

Introduction

This text describes some tough times. First, it was tax time. Time to pay those infamous taxes that make the middle class and the poor cringe. It was tax time. And in order to pay the tax, Joseph and Mary had to travel all the way back to Bethlehem, the city of David the place of their inheritance. It was the place where all the deeds to the family property were held in store; the place where their wealth could be assessed with all the proper documentation readily available for verification. It was tax time. Second, it was winter. This was to be no ordinary journey. Mary who was almost eight months pregnant and ready to deliver had to take this journey in freezing temperatures with no hospitals along the way. Thieves and bandits would lie in wait on this journey to deceive and rob unsuspecting travelers. Thieves and robbers would take advantage of travelers unaware of the road and its turns and crooks. It was cold; it was dangerous; it was mandatory. Thirdly, it was crowded. Taxpayers filled the roads going to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. It was like going from Manchester to Atlanta on I-85 in the middle of the day and then having to drive thru downtown Atlanta during rush hour. It was crowded; it was frustrating; it was hectic. Still Joseph and Mary had to persevere.

Then having finally arrived in Bethlehem, they found themselves one-room short of having a place to stay. When they reached the front desk to Hotel Bethlehem, the clerk said, “We just sold our last room. There is no more room here or anywhere else in town.” Imagine traveling a great distance in the freezing cold winter climate to pay taxes and upon arrival the desk clerk saying, “We have no more rooms available.” Imagine that on top of all this, you were almost nine months pregnant, even with money in your husband’s pocket; money couldn’t fix your situation. Imagine how you would feel.

Moreover, imagine how you would feel if told the only place you could lodge would be a small courtyard where the animals had been housed. Imagine wrapping your baby in swaddling clothes and laying him in a manger. Now swaddling clothes were customary, no big deal. Swaddling clothes were just a bunch of bandages or clothes that Mary used to wrap the baby’s arms and legs to keep him from moving. But a manger, the place where the animals’ food was placed. These three-foot long, eighteen inches wide, and two feet deep, troughs were cold and hard. Imagine that. I guarantee you that this was not Mary’s idea of a bed for her first child. Yet, Jesus, our Savior was born in an animal courtyard and Mary made his first bed out of an animal’s feeding trough. Isn’t that the mark of a good mother? She uses what she has to make the best environment she can for her children. Hallelujah!

Move 2

Notwithstanding their personal struggles, Joseph and Mary lived in austere time. There were political, social, religious and economic hardships that the people of God had to live through.. Politically, they had just experienced the Maccabean revolts against the Greek General Alexander and his sons, the Ptolemy. Then, the Romans came, occupied their lands and confiscated their treasures. Roman taxation had nearly robbed the temple treasury and caused countless Jews to loose their land and valuables. They just could not afford the taxes and through a government process, lost all that they had worked hard to maintain. Socially, the Jews were broken down into the poor, middle class, upper class, and elitist – or what we call “the haves and the have nots.” There was racial division among brethren and social taboos that society dared people to cross. In other words, captivity had produced a strain on familial relationships that caused many squabbles and clashes between brothers. Religiously, there were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Zealots. The Pharisees were legalistically superior in their external religious observance, while the Sadducees were more concerned with prosperity and position in the world. Meanwhile, the Zealots were frequently causing revolutions among the populace that always threatened the existence of the other Jews. Yet, for all these the majority of the people disowned membership in any of these groups. They were the simple people who mixed a little prosperity with a little religion to help fuel a little protest every now and then. They were the cosmopolitan – heard to utter – “can’t we all just get along.”

Economically, times were tough. It was hard for the common person just to make ends meet. The updraft would catch the common person because of the political upheavals and the religious tyranny. Loyalties to the Romans could produce suits in the courts against family members who refused to play along. It could also cause family members to become jobless and the authorities could strip them of their land, livelihood, and status overnight. These were indeed tough and perilous times.

Move 3

To top all this off, God was angry with the people. They had disobeyed his laws, trampled over his commandments, disgraced his rituals, and taken advantage of his grace. These people had been obstinate, stubborn, and incorrigible toward God. God, who had successfully led them out of bondage in Egypt, into the Promised Land, and through numerous hardships looked and saw how the people had totally denied his existence and taken him for granted. He had every right to be furious at them, yet he loved them more than life itself. God could not envision abandoning them; he could not envision life without his beloved people. Therefore, after more than 430 years of silence, God spoke.

In the toughest of tough times, God speaks. He did not speak to condemn humanity. He did not deal out justice against their sinful nature. He did not add insult to injury. Rather, God spoke a word of grace. He sent his angels in the midst of those tough times and this is what they said, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. They broke out singing, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

What an awesome word! What a change of heart. God who had every right to be angry and to mete out justice on the world, spoke a word of love and forgiveness. God spoke of a Savior, a deliverer, a person who would save his people from their sins. Hallelujah!

And what of you this Christmas morning. Do you know anyone who deserves your wrath? Yet, you will impute your love and forgiveness to them. Do you know someone with whom you have every right to be angry? Yet, you have chosen to give that person love instead of hate, forgiveness instead of wrath.

Do you know how tough it can be to have everything in your life going wrong, and experience the anger of God as well? That’s what these people were experiencing. If it had not been the Lord move in their favor, they would not have made it. Moreover, some of you, right now, hold in your hands the key to someone’s release into their destiny. God wants you to give them the greatest gift they could ever receive this holiday – love and forgiveness.

This was truly good news in tough times. This was news that made the difference in their lives. This was news that despite what had happened to them as a family, politically, socially, or economically, God was with them. God was no longer angry with them. God did not want to inflame their misery; he wanted to ignite their passion to excel above their misfortunes. Beloved, whatever you are going through right now, God wants to inspire your creativity to reach above it. Do not let your tough times defeat you. Receive the word of God this morning. There is good news for your tough time! You are greater than your misfortune; you are stronger than your trouble; you are a child of Gold, rejoice in Him!

Move 4 (Celebration)

The good news is that Jesus Christ was born. He came that you might have life and that more abundantly. He came so that you would no longer be a stranger in the household of faith. He came so that you would no longer be an alien and stranger to your covenant with God. He came so that you would embrace God as God has embraced you. This is the good news this morning – Jesus Christ has come! Hallelujah!

You can achieve; you can succeed; you can be free from the burdens of life because Jesus Christ is come! You can receive God’s love and forgiveness this holiday season. You can experience his grace in your life right now. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ, you can rise up from the pit of despair and put on the joy of hope that springs eternal. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ, trouble can make you better rather than bitter. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ, there is strength for the weary and power for the faint. The good news is that you are not alone any more, Jesus Christ has come, and if you will receive him this morning, he will make a difference in your life. Hallelujah!

A Desperate Plea for Restoration

Psalm 80:1-3

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. 3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Move 1

“Our world is not okay,” these Advent readings declare in stark terms, and God’s apparent absence isn’t okay, either. We are surrounded by evil and suffering, and we’re not sure our faith can endure what our eyes reluctantly witness each day. Though we long for a Savior to rend the heavens and come down, the very ferocity of that longing often wearies our souls.

The first gift of Advent, then, is the permission to tell the truth, even if that truth is laced with sorrow. We are invited to describe life “on earth as it is,” and not as we mistakenly assume our religion requires us to render it.[1]

Cities are exploding over worsening racial injustice and police misconduct. Football players like Ray Rice get a free pass on domestic violence. Colleges shrug off epidemics of rape and cheating.

Banks and the financially independent wage unrelenting war on their fellow Americans. Descendants of immigrants turn against new arrivals and call it patriotism. Large companies like General Motors sell defective products. Lobbyists control our legislators, and they in turn deny votes and basic rights to certain citizens.[2]

The second is the gift — and the discipline — of waiting. During Advent, we live with quiet anticipation in the “not yet.” We stop rushing, and decide to call sacred what is yet in-process and unformed. As Paul puts it in this week’s reading from 1st Corinthians, we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is no easy task in the modern world, which applauds arrivals, finish lines, shortcuts, and end products, far more than it does the meandering journey or odd way station. Eugene Peterson calls the Christian life “a long obedience in the same direction,” and I don’t think we can get more counter-cultural than that. If the secular world speeds past darkness to the safe certainty of light, then Advent reminds us that necessary things — things worth waiting for — happen in the dark. Next spring’s seeds break open in dark winter soil. God’s Spirit hovers over dark water, preparing to create worlds. The child we yearn for grows in the deep darkness of the womb. “Our food is expectation,” writes Nora Gallagher about Advent. In this season, we strive to find, “not perfection, but possibility.”

Thirdly, Advent prepares us for the God who is coming — a God who will turn out to be very different from the one we expect and maybe even hope to find.[3]

The end of all this prayer, all this pleading with God is ‘we want some peace in our lives; we want peace in our world.” But what is peace without God as King and Sovereign. Certainly the bible declares “There is no peace to the wicked.” So if this plea is to be fulfilled, somebody has to invite God into their lives as Lord and King. Indeed, what we need is restoration. Thus we find ourselves waiting and God finds himself waiting. We wait for God and God waits upon us. God waits for us to change our attitudes and lifestyle to that of a worshipper. We wait until we’re so sick and tired of being sick and tired until we are able to change to meet God’s demands. Waiting then is for both God and man. And that is why peace alludes us; Restoration precedes peace!

Move 2

Billy Graham, world famed Evangelist remarked, “We’ve lost sight of the fact that some things are always right and some things are always wrong. We’ve lost our reference point. We don’t have any moral philosophy to undergird our way of life in this country, and our way of life is in serious jeopardy and serious danger unless something happens. And that something must be a spiritual revival.”[4]

The following is a fictitious story but it’s a beautiful way to illustrate God’s work to restore his fallen creation or his power to restore broken people.

Ever since he was a little boy, his parents had been promising that they would give him a beautiful car to drive when he turned 16. He even planned to park it in the family’s barn where it could stay warm and dry. Only first his dad would have to get rid of that old car sitting in the barn. He couldn’t wait for his dad to haul it off to the dump to make way for his dream car.

But when would that day come? When would that new car arrive? And when would his dad get rid of that old junky car under the tarp? Then one evening in early summer he heard strange sounds coming from that old barn. It sounded like power tools … a drill … a hammer. What was going on? Peering into the darkness he saw nothing but the stars overhead. And he noticed that a light was on in the barn. He walked into the warm night air, down the dirt path, and poked his head into the barn door.

When he saw the tarp, rolled up and left against the door, he excitedly thought, Was Dad finally getting rid of that junky old car? But then he suddenly looked and saw one of the most incredible sports cars in automotive history. It was a Corvette, but not just any Corvette. It was the coveted, beautiful, powerful 1963 Corvette 327 V8 with a split window, aluminum knock-off wheels, painted candy apple red.

So that was the car underneath the tarp all those years. He stood there stunned. It was always there, just getting ready for his father’s masterful work of restoration. At that moment his father looked up, his hands deep in the engine bay, and handed his son a socket wrench. With a broad smile, he said, “Come on, son. Grab a tool and let’s get this car ready.”[5]

Move 3

According to George Gallup, Jr. “Any revitalization of faith in this country will have to start with prayer, in which we gain a sense of the living presence of God.”[6]Prayer is our work done in the dark. Revival, restoration and renewal are God’s work revealed in the light. That’s what we need today. That’s the solution for this hour. We need intercessors who will pray under cover of darkness.

God does his best work under cover of darkness. It was in the darkness that God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham saying surely I will be with you wherever I send you and you and your family will be blessed forever.

It was in the darkness that God spoke to Pharaoh saying you’ve kept my firstborn, my people Israel in bondage too long. And about midnight the death angel passed over Egypt and destroyed the Egyptian firstborn. Yet the children of God remained untouched, covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

It was in darkness that God eradicated sin and its power by hanging on the cross of calvary.   There Jesus destroyed Satan and displayed to the world Satan’s impotence.

Just as that Father restored that old clunker under the tarp, God will restore us. It’s dark for Black people, its darker still for immigrants in America. Black sons and daughters of Abraham are being killed all over the country. Yet, I hear the Lord declare in Isaiah 43:1-7:

“Now this is what the Lord says — the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them back! Bring My sons from far away, and My daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him. ”

Yes Lord, we cry out to you: “Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.” (Psalms 80:2b-3) Come Lord, because you know what we need; come Lord, because you created us in your image and in your likeness. Lord, when you come, peace will flow. When you come we will indeed be saved.

Works Cited

[1] Thomas, Debie (November 2014) “Hard Gifts” Retrieved from http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141124JJ.shtml

[2] Ehrich, Tom (2014). “Can a nation so wounded by its divisions survive?” Retrieved from http://www.ministrymatters.com/preach/entry/5580/can-a-nation-so-wounded-by-its-divisions-survive.

[3] Thomas, Debie (November 2014) “Hard Gifts” Retrieved from http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141124JJ.shtml

[4] Billy Graham in a speech at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Founder’s Day (April 4, 1989). Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 9.

[5] Adapted from Randall Rauser, What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven?(Baker Books, 2013), pp. 157-158

[6] George H. Gallup, Jr. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.

The Power of Hope

Hope is not a strategy” ~ John Maxwell

Hope

But don’t you just love it anyway.  Hope is an outstretched neck poised with anticipation of what will happen.  You know something wonderful, something adventurous, something new is coming.  It is not frivolous; it’s based on a plan that you’ve implemented and you’re working diligently to see come to fruition.  You hope inwardly, silently, and then with outward jubilation because you just know.

Hope is powerful indeed; it chases depression, attacks despair, and exterminates doubt. What are you hoping for based on what you’re working toward?  Promises have been made, collaborations have been formed, all that remains is accomplishment of the dream.

Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”  I’m singing because I just believe something good is about to happen!  Can’t you sense something on the horizon?  Sing a new song; it’s 2014 – hope, believe, dream, let it capture your soul!

The rainbow shouts, “It’s not over yet!  Sunshine is coming!”  So perk up, dance, and sing.  You’ve got another chance. Barbara Kingsolver said,  “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”  I totally agree; live in hope based on faith that your work will reap a great harvest.  Dare to Hope in 2014!