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Bold Enough to Share Our Hope (Part 1)

white cross under blue sky during daytime

1 Peter 3:14  But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as Holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

There are numerous things that turn people off to us as Christians.  In book entitled “They Like Jesus but not the Church” by Dan Kimball, we are offered some obstacles that cause people to be hesitant of our message or us.  We may be perceived as too hypocritical, anti-homosexual, too political, too exclusive.  Let’s take that last one.  One of the things that non-Christians reportedly don’t like about Christians or the church is that we generally insist that there is only one way to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, and that no other way is possible.  How do we handle this?

Peter encourages us to be ready to make a defense for the hope that is in us.  He doesn’t say anything about backing down.  We do not water down the truth of Scripture or compromise it in order to make it more palatable to the unbeliever.  We will make our defense that Jesus is the way to eternal life, through faith in Him.  But as much as we will stand firm on the hope that is in us, we will also not allow ourselves to get in the way of the message.  That’s what Peter is driving at when he tells us to defend with “gentleness and respect.” 

It is possible to stand firm lovingly, and it is possible to stand firm arrogantly or condescendingly.  We strive for the former…and for good reason.  It should be easy for us as Christians to confess the truth of Christ in a loving way, because of the love we ourselves have received from Christ.  We defend the truth not out of a desire to win an argument, but because the truth has set us free, and can set others free as well.  What a glorious hope we have that eternal life has been won for us through Christ.  Far from backing down from that, we trumpet it with all the love and joy that comes with the message.  How privileged we are to be able to do that!

Gracious Lord, may we always be eager to stand on the truth of your Word, with the joy and love that comes from our salvation in Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Bold Enough to Share Our Home (Part 3)

trees beside white house

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Hebrews 13:1-2

What is hospitality? According to our good friend the dictionary, hospitality is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Hospitality can happen anywhere but we often associate it with our homes. For most people, showing hospitality to our family and friends may be relatively easy, but with people that we don’t know well it may be much more challenging and even a little scary. What if it doesn’t go well? What if it’s uncomfortable? Isn’t it risky to show hospitality, especially to strangers?

Yet that is what the writer to the Hebrews tells us in God’s Word. It might involve some level of risk, but where there is risk, there is often reward. So what might that reward be? Might this person who is a stranger become a dear friend? He or she might, or might not. We simply don’t know the answer when we first meet or when we extend hospitality to them. But we won’t know if we don’t make the effort.

In both of his letters to the Romans and to the Colossians, Paul doesn’t simply refer to us as starting out as strangers to God, no, he tells us that we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). Yet even then, God loved us enough to take a chance on us, to risk being rejected. God cares enough about having a relationship with us that He was willing to put it all on the line through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. And now through faith in Him, we are no longer enemies of God, but we have become His dearly loved children. We have been welcomed into His family and will some day be welcomed into His eternal home.

Take a chance with people. Be willing to show the love of God with others that we ourselves have first received. As we do, the Holy Spirit will be at work and by God’s grace, another stranger will become part of the family.

Most gracious God, thank you for the gift of Jesus who loved us enough to die for us that we might become your children. Make us bold enough to share that good news with others that they too may receive what only you can offer. Bless us in our service to You as we show love to others in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Rejoice in Hope

silhouette of person standing on rock surrounded by body of water
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Sometimes we need permission. We want to do something, but we’re still enough of a child at heart that we need permission. We need someone to say, “It’s ok. Go ahead.”
Thinking of permission-giving, I would love if my doctor would say, “Go ahead. Have another cookie. Take two. They’re good for you.”  That’s a dream that’s never coming true. Besides, even if the doctor said it, somehow I would know it’s just not true.
But what if we got permission from God himself.  Permission not to eat more cookies, but permission to rejoice.  Our text says, “Rejoice in hope.” We would love to rejoice and we would be glad to have hope. But we don’t want to be foolish or to lead ourselves into a trap of future disappointment. So we’re naturally cautious about joy and hope.
Likely because we’re so careful, God needs to give us permission here. Rejoice in hope.  Rejoicing in hope isn’t merely being glad that we’re not as bad off as some people. Rejoicing in hope is more than just saying, “Well, it could be worse.”  Rejoicing in hope isn’t even just remembering the good that has come already.  That would be rejoicing in what we already have. 
Instead, God says, “Rejoice in hope.” Look ahead with hope, with the confidence that our Father knows what we need and will provide for us at least as well as he provides for the birds and the flowers. Rejoice in hope, in the certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Rejoice in hope, in the promise that God will raise us out of the grave and hold us with him for eternity. We’re not foolish or wrong to have this hope and to have the joy that comes with it.
So here’s your permission. Maybe don’t go for the second cookie, but do have a second and third helping of hope and the joy that comes with it.
Our Father in heaven, thank you for giving us hope and its joy.  We need your permission and your promises, but with them, we have every reason to hope. You know us, our needs, and will hold us safely in your hand. Help us to rejoice in this sure hope. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen


Bold Enough to Share Our Home (Part 2)

brown brick house with white wooden door

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.  Acts 16:30-34

The story of the jailer in Philippi as recorded in Acts is truly amazing. Through the words and actions of Paul and Silas, not only did this jailer come to faith in Christ, but his entire family was welcomed into the kingdom of God through the waters of baptism. In gratitude for this precious gift that he had received, the jailer opened his home and his heart to men who were once his prisoners.

I wonder what those who were over this jailer would have thought? It’s unlikely that they would have commended him for his actions. In fact, the jailer probably invited Paul and Silas to his home at great risk to himself, his career, and possibly even his family. But to him, it was worth the risk. He was willing to be bold enough to share his home in thanksgiving for the gift of faith that he had received through Paul’s ministry.

When was the last time that you were bold enough to share the Gospel with someone? Was risk and fear of rejection enough to keep you from telling someone else about God’s love for them? Many times, our timid spirits get the better of us and we choose silence over being bold. But by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can confess Christ in a loving and winsome way even as Paul did. We never know when or where the opportunity will arise, but when it does, may we be bold enough to share.

Father, forgive us when we fail to share with others the love and grace that is ours in Christ. Thank You for welcoming us into Your kingdom even as You did for the jailer in Philippi and his family. Embolden us to share Your saving message with others for Jesus’ sake. Amen.


Morning Joy

white daisy flowers
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5
The clock in our house chimes the hours and then gives a single chime on the half hour. Imagine that you’re sick, just not feeling well at all, and you can’t sleep. You wake up to the half hour chime, but that really doesn’t tell you anything. It’s pitch dark outside so you can’t tell the time. You wish it were close to morning, but who knows?  How long will it take to get to the full hour when you can hear the chimes tell the time?  Thirty minutes.
But does it feel like thirty minutes as you’re there in bed waiting? No, it feels like an eternity plus thirty minutes.  You’re sure the clock has broken, the batteries have died, and time has stopped. If only it would hurry up and get to morning!
David who wrote Psalm 30 must have had that sort of night of waiting. We don’t know the exact difficulty he had, but we can all supply one of our own. You might be in the middle of a long, dark night right now. It’s certainly more than one night long. It’s been beyond one calendar page or a whole year’s worth of pages. Weeping continues throughout the length of our night.
But there is one certainty. The clock is moving. Though you think it must be broken, the clock is running and it will chime. It will finally be 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m. and then morning. Morning will come because it has to.
When God tells us Psalm 30:5, he gives us the same solid promise. Weeping endures through the night and the night is amazingly long, it seems. But there must be a morning and joy with it. God can’t say this to others and leave us out.  So we can pray for the patience to go through this long night but also for the faith that trusts a new morning and joy with it will come.
Dear Father in heaven, it’s been a long dark night at times.  But you promised that a brighter morning with joy would come.  Keep me trusting your promises even in the darkest times. Bring the brighter morning and the joy that comes with it, just as you promised. When that morning joy comes, remind me that it is all due to your kindness. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.