Sunday, December 23, 2012


     According to Webster’s Dictionary, hope is defined as "to cherish a desire with anticipation; to desire with expectation of obtainment; to expect with confidence" with the archaic definition: trust. (interesting)
     I hear the word “hope” used a lot. I hope you have a happy birthday. I hope I have enough….(fill in the blank), we hope there’s a white Christmas, you just got to have hope and... on and on. 
      Then I hear that Jesus is our hope.  Is it the same kind of hope? Until a recent Bible study, I never thought of the implications of the differences in the word “hope.”
Understand that when the Bible speaks of hope, it does not use the word in the same way we usually do today, meaning a faint glimmer of possibility…When the New Testament speaks of hope, it speaks of a certainty: The hope of eternal life rests upon the One who came to give us eternal life, and we are justified by His grace. This is rock-solid Reality!...If we do  not have a rock-solid hope in the midst of such rapidly shifting, dizzying, sickening changes, we will succumb to despair.   (Ray Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible)
   Now that got me thinking about how much I say “I hope this” and “I hope that.”  Then, a few days later, my morning devotion was on hope:
     … The hope of heaven is meant to strengthen and encourage you, filling you with wondrous Joy.  Many Christians have misunderstood this word hope, believing that it denotes wishful thinking.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  … This hope keeps you spiritually alive during dark times of adversity; it brightens your path and heightens your awareness of my Presence.  My desire is that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling )

     This made me think of the old hymn (yes, I do know a few) The Solid Rock and the words "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." 
     I think twice now before I use the word "hope."  I no longer "hope" things turn out for the best. Now, regardless of how things turn out, my Hope (built on Jesus) will be with me and see me through.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Second Collapse of the Mayan Culture...

   The Mayan Culture, at one time, was complex with its economy, government, etc. It's collapse before the Colonial  Period was said to be caused by many things...natural disasters, disease, peasant revolt, etc. There's been a lot of talk lately about the "end of the world" because the Mayan calendar ends this year. My calendar ends every year, but the world doesn't end. A  friend pointed out, even if it does end, if you're ready (you're sure of eternity) why worry?
   So even though historians can't agree on what caused the first collapse of the Mayan Culture, I'm pretty sure the second collapse can be traced to a girl from Oklahoma on her first mission trip to Belize who didn't know a thing about their culture. Guess I should explain.
   On my first mission trip to Belize I was in charge of games for the afternoons we spent in the villages doing Everyday Sunday School. I was okay with that; I had lots of experience.  I planned games and the kids, although shy at first, really got into the games and had a great time. We played girls against the boys and the competitions were lively. I thought things were going well.
   The second day our mission director pulled me aside and said the Village Chairman (like our mayor) had said he'd never seen the children so competitive.  I asked what he meant.  According to the Village Chairman, the children were not usually so competitive...especially the girls.  The girls never competed with the boys.  I was horrified! In just two days I felt like I had totally destroyed the culture. I was assured that all was not lost and the Chairman thought it was okay for a little competition.
   I made it a point to do research and find out more about the culture before my next trip to Belize. I've come to realize that know the culture of a people and respecting that culture goes a long way to effectively sharing the gospel.
   A few days ago I heard a Casting Crowns song called "While You Were Sleeping." It talks about how Bethlehem was sleeping during Christ's birth and Jerusalem was sleeping during His resurrection. It goes on to talk about America and Christ's return.  The song is what got me thinking about that first mission trip and how the American culture is eroding day by day. Yes, we have international "clout" and remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, but, especially this time of year, I'm more aware of commercialism, selfishness and the need to have more, have bigger, have better.
   What happened to putting others first? What happened to servant leadership? What happened to the difference between needs and wants? How did dollars become an expression of love?
   There are still those who do selfless acts...random acts of kindness, angel trees, helping neighbors, etc.  Recently in our community a child asked those attending his birthday party to bring gifts to donate for Toys for Tots. He invited the whole town and donated over 500 toys.
   All is not lost. Prayer Warriors are still on their knees for friends, family, our nation and our world. God's kingdom is still being tended to today. I pray I don't forget Whose I am and just because our culture says something is permissible doesn't mean it's okay. I don't want to be caught sleeping.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Comfort of the Incarnate

   So Thanksgiving evening I started listening to Christmas songs. I refuse to listen any earlier! Yet, as I thought about the words to some of my favorite songs and carols, I began to think, "These really are for every day, all year long." Without the birth, the life would have never been offered up on my behalf so I could spend eternity with God. I love the way the Message translates John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
   The whole "moved into the neighborhood" thing is what really makes it alive for me. There are several other verses translated in the Message that use that talk about God living with His people, yes, even moving into the neighborhood.  Check out Exodus 29:45-46, Zechariah 2:11 (Talking about the Gentiles, you think?) , Ezekiel 37:26-27, (WooHoo for the Everlasting Covenant!) Jeremiah 7:7, II Chronicles 6:18 (The cosmos isn't big enough to contain God, but He chose to live with us, in us.), and Revelation 21:3.
   The three songs that really get me thinking about the incarnate Christ are  "This Baby" sung by Steven Curtis Chapman ("Holy and human right from the start."), "Did You Know?" sung by Todd Agnew (Did the cross cast a shadow o'er your cradle?), and "Mary Did You Know?" sung by Mark Lowery (this child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you...And when you kiss your little baby, you've kissed the face of God...This sleeping child you're holding is the great I Am."
   Thinking about Jesus being fully God and fully man is a profound concept. Can it be explained? I read an Albert Einstein quote about things that said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." The simplest explanation I can give, based on what I've discovered from Bible study and personal relationship, is well put in Hebrews 10:14 (The Message) "It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people" The reason, simply put, is pure love.
   Here are the songs I mentioned:
     "This Baby"

"Did You Know?"

"Mary, Did You Know?"