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The Unseen

open book in shallow photography

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. [Romans 8:24-25]

How are the studs looking in your house? How about the drywall? What color is the engine in your car? When was the last time you examined the hard drive in your computer?

Often, those things that are unseen by the eye are very important. From cars to houses to our own bodies, we don’t always get to see the parts that hold us up or keep us moving. And if we are seeing them, it’s probably because something is wrong!

The unseen things are of utmost importance. That’s where hope fits in. Like our lungs, which keep breathing even if we aren’t thinking about it, hope keeps our spirit alive and well. We don’t see it, but we know we have life in our bodies because our lungs are functioning. And we know our souls are thriving when hope is working.

What we see in this world can take the wind out of our sails. The realities around us can make us panic and worry. Those things which are so easy to see can hinder us from breathing in hope. The diagnosis, the calamity, the national tragedy, the neighbor’s devastation: things we see have the power to upend the things we cannot see.

But a hole in the drywall is much easier to deal with than a crack in the foundation. God can do all things, and we put our trust in Him. All people are longing for more, and we know where our longings are pointing us- to Jesus. He has placed deep within us an unquenchable hope.

So wait with patience. Even if what you are seeing is not good. Even if what you are experiencing is overwhelming. Jesus has risen from the dead! And He has promised to raise you, too! Your body will be redeemed. Your relationships will be restored. This world will be put right. Have hope! And let’s wait together and be the Church- the visible sign of hope in a broken world.

Heavenly Father, we know you rose from the dead. We know your promises of life and love for all who put their trust in you. Strengthen our hope, that we might endure with patience everything we experience this side of eternity. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

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Overcoming the World

blue green and yellow abstract painting
 

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  I John 5:4-5

Do you remember the “old, evil triumvirate” from catechism class?   The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.  These are the enemies that wage war against our soul.  The devil seeks to tempt us away from Christ; the world tries to lure us into its values and purposes; our own sinful flesh tries to control us.  We need help!

And these are enemies that we can’t defeat on our own.  But the Good News is that we have the Valiant One who fights for us!  Jesus Himself tells us:

  • “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  (Luke 10:18)
  • “In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world!”  (John 16:33)
  • “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the          Spirit of God dwells in you”  (Romans 8:8-9a)  

 
In this Epistle, John reminds us especially of the second of those vicious enemies: the world.  Earlier he wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world….for all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but from the world.”  (I John 2:15-16)

But the good news is that we have overcome the world by faith in Jesus!  We see so much sin and sorrow, death and disease, pain and pride in our world every day.  But through faith, we’ve overcome the world which is passing away.

As we await Jesus’ return on the Last Day, we do all that we can to avoid the sinfulness of the world, even as we reach out with the love of Jesus to the people of the world.  God help us!

Gracious Heavenly Father, in Christ You have defeated all of our enemies.  Though we still live in a sinful and fallen world, we have overcome this world through faith in Your Son.  Help us to be free from the world’s sins even as we point others to the only hope:  Jesus.   In His name, Amen.  


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Futility & Decay

woman sitting on brown ledge while holding book

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. [Romans 8:19-22]

My car has some rust on it. I guess it should be expected; it isn’t new. It isn’t even close! It probably won’t be too much longer before something breaks, and a little while after that it will be done. That’s what happens with cars, though. They eventually break down and decay.

It isn’t just cars. It’s “all creation,” as Paul makes clear in Romans 8:20. All of creation has been subjected to futility and decay. Nothing lasts forever, not even people. We can plant a tree that might outlast us, but even that will eventually come crashing to the ground.

What’s the point of all this hardship, vanity, emptiness, decay, corruption, and rot? It is hard to believe, but God uses it to get us to hope in Jesus. All the bad is to ground us in hope. If we looked at the history of humanity and saw only progress and humans continuing to improve in every way all the time, we would be even more self-reliant than we already are. But as we look back in history, we see that all the great empires came to an end. We see that all great leaders died and gave way to not-so-great leaders. We see that corruption and decay and death is a universal problem.

And our universal problem anchors us in the universal hope of the Resurrection. On the 8th day, the first day of the new week, Jesus rose from the dead as a sign and guarantee that we can earnestly yearn and hope for the same reality.

But our world is still governed by futility and decay. How do we live, then? Well, the same way the creation does: yearning. We yearn for God, earnestly seeking and desiring God’s will and God’s ways. Even if the rust spots shine through or our cars break down, let us yearn for and seek out the Hope of the world.

Dear Father, we experience pain and loss and futility and decay. Yet we know that You are still God. Allow these things to drive us deeper and deeper into Your will. We yearn to see Your kingdom come and Your will be done. Guide us always in the light of Christ, Amen.


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Accept No Substitutes (Part 3)

white ceramic teacup on white ceramic saucer on table

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

The genuine article, the original product, usually begins with a wonderful idea that comes at the right time. However, that original idea usually costs more than its imitators. But that’s all right if it works. If it works better than anything else, it’ll sell and we’ll be glad to tell others about it.

You’ve done this. You read the reviews, you asked your friends and you debated if you should buy it. You finally take the plunge and get it. And it works!  It works so well, you invent new reasons to use it. The new vacuum works so well, and it’s so light and easy to use, for the first week, you vacuum every day. The new dishwasher works so well, you make Tator Tot hot dish, just so you can put that pan through the wash cycle and see how clean it gets. I once won a pair of Snap-On screwdrivers and was amazed at how well they worked. That first day, I walked around the house, looking for doorknobs I could unscrew and then screw in again just for the fun of it.

When God gives us the genuine Gospel, we have this same three-part sequence:  An original idea, a great cost, and a wonderful result. But with the Gospel of Jesus, all three of these are unique. We have the amazing God who takes on human flesh to live among us—the ultimate original spiritual idea. We have the great cost of redeeming the world, but God pays that cost himself through the priceless death of his Son. And the result is as Paul says in our verse, we are set free by his work. We are delivered from the fear of death by his being willing to die. He gives us freedom from the demands of the law by fulfilling the law for us. And he lives within us and promises that this life is just the beginning. Heaven and eternity are waiting for us. This freedom changes us every day. We’re not endlessly trying to make amends to God or hoping to avoid him altogether. We’re the children he has adopted and the people he’s joined by taking on our human nature. And we’re the people he’s purchased so that we can stand in awe of the price but never stand underneath its debt. Instead we live with him in the freedom of his original Gospel message. This Gospel is unique and works like nothing else. That makes all the difference.

Heavenly Father, remind us of the unique gift of your Gospel. Remind us of the freedom that comes because of your sacrifice and help us to live lives that celebrate with thanks all that you’ve done for us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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Freedom Through Faith

assorted books on wooden table
 
“For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1
 
What is the high school class you would never take again? Maybe it was the subject, or maybe the teacher just didn’t connect with you.  Maybe you found you really have no rhythm, no artistic talent, and no eye-hand coordination.  So, do you want a second helping of Calculus, another semester of Senior Choir, or another eighteen weeks of Phy. Ed.? 

Absolutely not.

That is the mystery for Paul with the Galatians.  He has announced their freedom through the death and resurrection of Jesus. They are done with any attempt on their part to earn a right standing with God.  Now by the Gospel they’re free, released from jail.

So, who would go back to jail or to their worst class?  No one. But, still we’re tempted to do exactly that along with the Galatians. Whenever we think that all our patched-together promises will be kept, we’re stepping back into the worst failed class ever.

But we’ve learned better than that.  The only One who can keep the promises of a perfect life has already lived that life for us. He has passed every heavenly exam.  He was affirmed by God to be the perfect Son in whom the Father was pleased.  Now he gives that perfect standing to each of us. 

So faith says we can walk past that old classroom of broken promises.  We are already in relationship with God by his work alone.  Now enjoy the freedom of walking out the classroom door with the One who was perfect for our sake.
 
Our Heavenly Father, so often we foolishly try to go back to school, promising to get it right this time.  We imagine that that’s how we stay with you.  Remind us that we have a new freedom through faith.  You have kept every promise and filled every assignment for us.  Let us walk with you in the freedom of faith and trust in your perfection, In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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