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Monday, June 23, 2014

Hope...

        
is for Hope
Noun - 1.  the feeling that what is wanted can be had or   
         that events will turn out for the best 
 2. a particular instance of this feeling
 3. grounds for this feeling in a particular instance
4. a person or thing in which expectations are centered 
5. something that is hoped for
Verb
1. to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.
2. to believe, desire, or trust.
3. to feel that something desired may happen
4. to place trust; rely 

Whether we are talking about hope or hoping, life is only an empty existence without it.  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.  I Corinthians 13:13   Hope is the link that holds faith and love together.

How many times a day do we use the word hope?  “I hope this works.”  “I hope it doesn’t rain. ”  “I hope this dress is OK."  “I hope we don’t run out of gas. ”  “I hope my children are happy. ”  “I hope there is enough food. ”

One day while I ‘hoped’ through the day, I wondered why I was saying: “I hope you will get well.”  I hope you have success in the job interview.”  I hope you do well in your exams.”  Why did I say hope?  Is it an “I hope so, but I don’t know?”  Or did I mean that I was praying?  “I pray that your surgery is successful. ”  “I pray that you don’t get lost on your way. ”  “I pray that your child recovers.” 

When we hope, what are we saying? 
-  We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. Psalm 31:20
-  So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord!
    Psalm 31:24
-  You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.
    Psalm  119:114
-  May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put     
   my hope in your word.  Psalm 11:74

Without God, hope would be dead.  What do we do that indicates a hope of the future?  Plant a garden or a wheat field.  Sew garments to wear.  Plan a party.  Celebrate past events in preparation for another celebration.  Say goodbye, expecting another hello.  Prepare a meal for family and guests.  Put gas in the car to travel a distant place.  Milk a cow to make room for new milk.  Gather harvests.  Fix the bed and launder clothing.  In each of these we do, it is because of the expectation of tomorrow.  There is always an expectation that the sun will rise. It is a given hope, and we don’t even consider any other result. It just IS.

That IS, we see every day, is because of our Creator. He created everything we see about us, under us and above us.  He made the seeds we plant, provided the clothing we wear and the food we eat.  Furthermore, he answers our prayers, guides our footsteps, straightens our path, and gives us joy and peace through His Grace.  He gives us the desire to be His and learn his ways.  He gives us the strength and wisdom to hold on to Him no matter how big the storm grows that surrounds us.  He turns our hearts from sorrow into song, praising His name.  We recognize in our Lord God the meaning of Hope.

Where does the recognition of this hope lead?  Hope leads to Heaven.  But how does it lead to Heaven?  God gave us the hope when He sent his Only Begotten Son, Jesus to this earth to die on the cross in payment of our sins, past, present and future.  God raised Jesus up from the dead after three days.  Where was the hope during this time?  It was live and well, because the Father and the Son knew ‘the rest of the story.’

Hope is a matter of life and death. It changes everything. If our hope is in the world, it leads to death.  If our hope is in our Lord, it leads to life eternal. Hope in God removes the bars of hopelessness around our spirit.  Hope brightens the eyes and the will to live.  Hope in Jesus creates joy.

Hope is a stairway to Heaven.  A smile leads to encouragement, encouragement leads to a spirit of “I can” in Christ, the spirit of “I can” in Christ leads to trust, trust leads to hope in Christ, and hope in Christ leads to love.  Loving God and others leads to strength in the Lord who made Heaven and Earth.  What a difference hope makes! 

- Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.  I Peter 1:2
- I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.  Ephesians 1:18
- For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.  Ephesians 4:4
- After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!  I Thessalonians 2:19
- Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  I Corinthians 13:7


Photo by moroka323
Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

G is for Grace


 is for Grace
            1. Elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
            2. A pleasing or pleasing attractive quality or endowment.
            3. Favor or good will
            4. A manifestation of favor, especially by a superior
            5. Mercy, clemency or pardon.
Christian meaning of grace: unmerited favor of God toward man - forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation.

A grace note in music is a small note written beside a larger note.  This grace note, when played, gives depth, an elegance of beauty to the melody.  The grace-filled dancer communicates another world of graciously flowing to the rhythm.  So, what is Grace?  Is it mercy, favor or pardon?  Or is Grace more?

Have you met anyone who exudes love with every part of his being?  Everyone has a line drawn, a limit of giving of himself, a cautious air protecting himself from rejection, shame or hurt. 

While teaching a sixth grade class, I attached small flags to pencils and ‘flew’ them on my desk.  The flags were color-coded to Caution (yellow – you are on the edge), Go for it! (blue – let’s have fun) and Stop (Red - I have had it!).  The flag placed in the tallest position was in play.  My students curbed their behavior to the color displayed.  That is NOT Grace,  but it is living under the law.  "Don’t cross the line, or you are in big trouble."  Living under the law is the way our world works.

God gave his people the ten commandments – the law – that they would live by the law.  If we are ever tempted to exceed by the speed limit, just 2 miles, we have broken the law.  We do the same with God’s law; we rationalize the reason it doesn’t mean what it says. 

When I was a little girl, I heard a vivid sermon that pictured a scene on the edge of precipice overlooking a deep everlasting fire filled crevice.  Many people moved toward the edge and tumbled into the fire.  I wondered, how far can I come to the edge without falling?  I took baby steps to the edge.  Ever closer... At the last moment I backed away. It is so easy to want to creep toward sure death in this world.

God created us with the power to make choices.  To follow the law God gave or not. Then, in the fullness of time, a rhythm of love running-over for His children, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to give His life on the cross for us.  He removed the sting of disobedience and fear of punishment with the Gift of Grace.  In His Grace we are made complete.

It has taken so long for me to understand the power of His unconditional love.  To be loved for no other reason other than I am.  To love others for no reason except they are.  We all need love. Eternity is placed in our souls before we are born.  We want to be loved for who we are and what we will become….in love and loving as God loves.  We need God in our lives to make our lives worth living.  Understanding that one sentence opens our hearts and minds to the extent of truly living His love gives us. Following Jesus fills us with the joy of a long journey in the same direction (as a wise man once said).

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:11-14

God sees Jesus, when He looks at us, because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on earth, covers our sinfulness.  Our sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus and He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:12 

I picture in my mind my Suderman grandparents.  Gerhard and Anna Suderman came to visit us.  They held out their arms to us as they exited the car.  We, my two brothers and me, ran to meet them.  That is the unconditional love I picture with God.  There was no fear of punishment.  No transgression of laws in our hearts.  The relationship is pure love.  We longed to do whatever our grandparents wished. We simply wanted to please them because they loved us.  This is how we love Jesus.  Because of His great love for us, our desire is to worship Him, obey Him and live for Him.  We never want to ‘baby-step to the edge of sin.’

Grace speaks of love, forgiveness, relationship, faith, humility, willingness, an open heart, a disciplined mind, an open-arms spirit and ‘being’ that brings confidence and joy.  It is not what we do or can do for Jesus, but what Jesus has done for us.  Accepting His Grace is His Joy for it is His Gift to us.   

-- Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Matthew 8:3-4
-- What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.  Hebrews 2:9
-- For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.  Philippians 3:3
-- Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.  Romans 6:14
-- God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.   Ephesians 2:8
-- “Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:7
-- May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.  Galatians 1:3-4
-- Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne.  Revelation 1:4b


Comments? eacombs@att.net

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Climbing Mount Forgiveness


 is for Forgiveness  
     1.  act of forgiving; state of being forgiven.
     2.    disposition or willingness to forgive.
     3.    Spiritual Definition: God's pardon of our sins, and our obligation to pardon others.
     4.    (From What So Amazing about Grace? Philip Yancey) Forgiveness is 
           spiritual surgery, separating a person from his hurtful act.

Mom demanded we practice childhood forgiveness. “Getting Even” was paramount in our sibling relationship between my two brothers and me. Shaking hands, saying a forced ‘thank you’ or giving a hug didn’t add up to true forgiveness, but seemed to satisfy Mom.  The forgiveness exercise remained futile. We built a pride-wall built with ‘I am right’ blocks. Then Mom told us that God would do the ‘getting even.'  He would take care of us.  After that, when we had an argument, we wait for God to take care of the argument…. accompanied by finger-pointing and a chorus of “Nah, nah, nah, nah!”   Romans 12:19 - Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.

The worldview is the lens through which we interpret our world.  If we have not learned the value of forgiveness, our worldview becomes a thick layer of defensive arrogance.  Any perceived offense against us becomes a deep chasm of forgiveness water that threatens to overwhelm us.  In the choppy false waters of vengeance, we feel safe and protected.  Any relationship throughout life becomes a danger zone of failure, harsh words and degrading insults and zingers. In this worldview we see chaos, hurt and loneliness.  But there is another way.  How can we change our worldview to become truly free and filled with joy?

There is one level of forgiveness where each in a relationship can say the required words as a prelude.  Reciprocity Forgiveness is built on, “I will forgive you if you forgive me."  Then there is what I call Blind Forgiveness.  After missing one Sunday’s service, I returned to the church the following week.  I learned that a friend said, “I forgive Emily,” before my brothers and sisters in Christ. That was forty years ago, and I am still unaware for what I was forgiven – incomplete forgiveness.  I never saw my friend again.

How do we achieve this forgiving spirit? How can we become truly free?  There is only one way – understand the reality of God in our lives and the extent to which He loves us. When we understand and stand before him in humility, as a child, His love makes our life complete.  He creates us with the ability to make choices.  We choose so many things in our lives – from the clothing we wear, the food we eat, the car we drive to the vocations that we use to provide.  We also choose our worldview and our desire to worship or not worship God. 

From every side, we are badgered with options on how to live.  Often our peers further create havoc with our choices.  Whatever we choose, those choices bind us.  If it is freedom we choose – it is ours through Jesus Christ.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.  John 8:36

Choosing to forgive gives us freedom. As God forgives us, He gives us spiritual freedom.  Though our bodies are enslaved by illness, evil, evil men, our spirits and our minds are still free to choose God.  The God who forgives, for He removes our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.  Psalm 103:12. …and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Mark 11:4a.

How can un-forgiveness chain our spirit and our heart? The weapons of Satan for soul-crunching include betrayal, anger, impatience, hurt, hate, malice, lack of control, jealousy, deceit.  These patterns in life chain us to hurt and only God’s Grace can loose us.  Living in these chains, we are in a State of Ungrace, (from So What is So Amazing about Grace, Philip Yancy)  Again, it is our choice to be free of the chains of ‘ungrace.'

Compare the life of forgiveness laced with compassion, hope and humility that exhibits love, joy, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control.  It is only a choice away.  This choice is to forgive. Do we understand that this is what Jesus modeled?  We see that trusting and being faithful to God’s teaching is the sum and total of freedom and a peace-filled life.  A life of hope is when our hearts are filled running over with God’s Grace.  Grace is not just a prayer at mealtime; it is forgiveness and hope.  Grace is not a period of days until payment is due.  Grace is the forgiveness of our sins through the death on the cross, and burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is abundant love, love without end, into eternity.

When I was a child, someone held a coin worth 50 cents close to my eye.  He asked what I could see.  At first I could see beyond the coin.  As he drew it closer to my eye, all I could see was the coin.  Living close to Jesus, we do not see any other godlike idol in our lives.  We see the world for what it is – fleeting.  We are made for eternal living and not for a temporary life here on earth.

Climbing the heights of the Mount of Forgiveness each day brings us treasures in our hearts beyond any that we can find anywhere on this earth.  Eternal Treasures.  I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure. Psalm 119:162

•  Micah 7:18-19 - Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people?
You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!
  Mark 11:25 - But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.
  Matthew 26:28 - …for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.
  II Corinthians 5:17 - This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
  Ephesians 1:7 - He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.
•  Colossians 1:13-14 - For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.



Comments? eacombs@att.net