Category: Hope (Page 1 of 2)

Resurrection Hope

“Hope doesn’t spring from logical, scientific, and rational deductions about the ‘facts.’ Science is useless in the Valley of Dry Bones. I love a good space documentary as much as the next person, but quasars and black holes, as wondrous as they are, provide zero hope to the people in prison. Facts are dry bones… Hope comes from the outside.”

~Richard Beck, Hunting Magic Eels

Closer Than You Think

You are familiar with the warning etched into the bottom of the passenger’s side-view mirror on your car: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. This authoritative statement is located on the passenger’s side-view mirror, but not the driver’s side. Why?

Your driver’s side-view mirror is just a standard flat-surface mirror. Your eyes are less than 18-inches away from that mirror and there’s hardly any angle. You can see almost everything behind you on that side through that mirror. But a normal mirror doesn’t work on the passenger’s side. The driver’s eyes are at least six feet away from that mirror and the angle is extremely sharp. A flat mirror would only allow you to see a tiny sliver of what is behind you on that side. So those mirrors are convex in shape. To compensate for the increased distance between you and the mirror and the severe angle, the passenger’s side mirror bulges out in the middle and curves away toward the sides to give you a wider view. You can see much more with the wider angle, but it comes at a price. The wider focal point compresses the image so it makes the objects appear to be smaller and farther away than they really are. Hence, the warning: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

Every time you get behind the wheel, you are reminded that what you are seeing on that side is a lot bigger and a lot closer than you think. That’s what the warning is all about. This thing in the mirror is closer than it looks. It will impact you sooner than you think. You need to act on this, and your response is important. Time is short. The gap is small. It’s closer than it appears to be.

There is a similar warning for us  in the Bible. It should probably be heard or read as a comfort.

“The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” ~Romans 13:11-12

It feels like night. It has for a while. We were told at the end of March that we only needed 15-days. If we shut everything down for 15-days, we can flatten the curve and avoid any real crisis. Fifteen days and we’ll be good.

That was nine months ago. And we’re not good. I’m not good. Are you? I feel like I’m in a fog. Sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions. I don’t know what to do. I’m not sure anybody really knows.

We have a vaccine now, praise the Lord. It seems like a miracle we’ve received the vaccines so quickly and we should be thanking God for this answer to our prayers. But most health officials are saying the darkest days of the pandemic are still ahead. And now a new strain? It feels like nobody knows what to do and nobody knows when it’s going to be over.

Our salvation seems like a smaller thing in the face of all the suffering and loss that surrounds us. The dawn of a new day feels a long way off in the suffocating darkness of the present.

We all have questions as we head into the new year. When will the coronavirus crisis end? How will the vaccines work? Is 2021 going to be better than 2020, or will it just be more of the same? Will handshakes and hugs ever be normalized again? What about my own peace of mind? My own sense of well-being? Lots of questions.

Romans 13 reminds us of what the Bible affirms for us over and over again: that we belong to a God who does his very best work in the dark and his deliverance is always closer than you think.

What we see right now can throw us off. You know, it is possible to focus too much on the coronavirus and develop a distorted view. We can pay too much attention to the experts. We can watch too much news and get sucked into a false narrative. We can scroll through too much Facebook, we can read too many emails and websites, we can easily lose sight. Our salvation can seem much smaller than it really is. And farther away. The presence and power of our God can appear to be smaller and farther away.

We need an authoritative statement on the fronts of all our phones and etched into the bottom of all our screens: God’s presence and power is closer than it appears! God’s rescue is closer than you think!

New life always begins in the dark. A seed in the ground. A baby in the womb. Jesus in the tomb. A church in a pandemic. A Christian in despair. We can believe the night is nearly over and the day is almost here. You can have faith in the middle of your fears. You can be calm and certain through your anxieties. You can experience true life even as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Because we know what the prophet Micah knows: “Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” And we know what our Lord has promised: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Which is closer than you think.

Peace,

Allan

Patience

“The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are.”      ~Henri Nouwen

Hope in What’s Up

“We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints — the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the Gospel that has come to you.” ~Colossians 1:4-6

It’s interesting that Paul tells the Christians in Colosse that hope is the source of their faith and love. Their hope doesn’t come from their faith — it’s the opposite. Their faith is grounded in their hope. That means hope, at least in this setting, is not about their mood or their attitude. It’s about the thing that is hoped for. It’s the thing that is stored up in heaven. This future glory with Christ, these eternal promises of God we know are coming true.

Not hope in the things of this world. Not hope in our careers or family, not hope in degrees or scholarships, not hope in elections or supreme courts, not hope in science or technology — hope in what God is holding for us in heaven. That kind of certainty is what gives birth to a faith in Christ Jesus, a faith that our God has acted decisively in his Son as our Savior. It generates a deep love for all the saints, a love that’s increasingly for others instead of self. This kind of biblical hope is a strong knowing, a confident conviction that impacts our every thought and deed.

Christian hope is not blind optimism with no foundation to it. It’s not, “I hope the Cowboys win the Super Bowl.” That’s just baseless positivism. Like when George Lloyd addressed the House of Commons on Armistice Day in 1918: “I hope we may say that on this fateful morning came an end to all wars.” That’s just wishful thinking. It just means, “I hope so.” It’s not really based on anything concrete.

That’s what led Alexander Pope to write: “Blessed is the one who expects nothing for he shall never be disappointed.” In other words, don’t get your hopes up and you’ll never be let down.

For Christians, our hopes are always way up! We expect everything!

We expect that our God is at work in this world through Jesus Christ and that he is reconciling all people and all things together in himself. We expect that God is right now fixing everything that’s broken and making right everything that’s gone wrong. Our hope is secure because God himself has sealed it by placing his Holy Spirit inside us.

“All over the world, this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” ~ Colossians 1:6

That Christian faith and that mutual love and that common hope is changing our lives and changing the world and connecting us together forever.

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Whitney and I took a quick road trip to Austin over the weekend to see our nephew, Isaac, play cornerback for the Brentwood Christian High School Bears. We also paid our respects at the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Auditorium Shores, ate some famous Austin barbecue at Oakwood BBQ, cruised the shops on South Congress, climbed Mount Bonnell for the amazing views of the Colorado River, and enjoyed a pre-game meal at the Chuy’s on Lamar. Isaac dominated and the Bears beat some Catholic school 24-0.

 

 

 

 

 

That’s a good weekend.

Go Cards.

Allan

Suffering is Real. So is God.

“Man is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upward.”  
~Job 5:7

As surely as the wind blows in Amarillo. As surely as the Cowboys lose to the Eagles in December with a playoff berth on the line. All people are born to trouble. It just happens. It’s a fact. Jesus says, “In this world, you will have trouble.”

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
~Psalm 130:1-2

This Psalm of Ascents does two things to the problem of suffering and pain. First, it gives human suffering dignity.

This is an anguished prayer. And by bringing the pain and suffering out into the open like this, by making the pain public, the psalmist gives dignity to suffering. The psalm doesn’t treat suffering like it’s something to be embarrassed about or something we’ve got to hush up or lock up in a closet somewhere so nobody can see it. The writer owns it. I cry to you. Hear my voice. Be attentive to my cry. I am suffering. Me!

And it doesn’t treat suffering like it’s a mystery or a puzzle to be figured out and explained. The pain and suffering is just proclaimed. Boom! Here it is! The depths, acknowledged and expressed. It’s in the open.

And if that’s all this psalm did, that would be huge by itself. Giving dignity to human suffering? Nobody does that. Our culture does not respect people in pain. Our society says everybody should be constantly happy and healthy. And, if you’re not, well, something’s wrong with you. You’re a problem that has to be solved. Everybody you know will try to fix you. And when they can’t fix you, they’ll forget about you.

The problem is that we want to cover up our suffering. We want to ignore it. But that’s not the reality. Suffering is real. It happens to everybody. Psalm 130 knows that and dignifies it by talking about it. This cry comes from deep, dark place; and it’s real. Christians respond to suffering as reality, we don’t deny it as an illusion.

If we ever wanted to ignore suffering, we certainly can’t do it right now. The virus pandemic, the racial injustice, and the economic disasters won’t let us. All the sickness and death, all the disparity and violence, all the poverty and loss — it’s all real. And we don’t avoid it out of fear; we face it in faith.

And we don’t pretend like there are easy answers. No cliches here about what went wrong and how to fix it. No quick Band-Aid to cover it up so nobody has to see it. Psalm 130 is like the whole Bible, really. You never read in the Bible that there’s a quick fix to suffering: take a vacation, pick up a new hobby, go get a massage. Human suffering is held up and proclaimed as the real experience of all people. It’s given great dignity.

And it’s given to God.

All this deep, dark suffering is lifted to God, which means God is taken seriously. God is real. The name of God is used eight times in the eight verses of Psalm 130. It’s not a religious formality, God is at the very center of the whole thing. God is described in this psalm as a personal redeemer: he is personal, so you can have a real relationship with him and he is a redeemer, which means you can expect to receive help from him. Even in the middle of suffering, there is great meaning to your life because there is salvation for your life.

Psalm 130 tells us God forgives sin. It tells us God is full of steadfast love and abundant redemption for us. The psalm says God is not indifferent toward you or apathetic about what’s happening with you. He acts decidedly and positively toward his people. He’s not rejecting. He’s not condemning. He’s not silent, still, absent, missing in action, or not paying attention. And he’s not stingy. He’s not doling out just enough so that you can barely survive each day. He comes to us and he gives us everything.

The presupposition behind the Scriptures is that God’s child is in distress and God’s intent is to help the person out. He is on my side, remember? Psalm 124. He is my help.

We know this about our Father and that’s why we bring our pain to him. That’s why we can face it and live through it. Our God is in control of it and he’s the only one who can do anything about it. And he will. He does.

That’s why we bring our suffering to God in prayer. We don’t write letters to the editor, gripe and complain at the beauty shop, or look for relief in alcohol or drugs or Facebook. We bring it to God. We immerse it in God. Your suffering is real. And our God is real. That’s where we find our hope.

Go Mavs.

Allan

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