What God’s Hope Is, What It Isn’t, and Why It Matters

What God’s Hope Is, What It Isn’t,
and Why It Matters

By Lee Strobel

God’s hope is different from what you might expect. We use the word hope all the time to mean different things. In fact, much of what we call hope could fall into three categories: wishful thinking, blind optimism, and personal dreams.

Wishful thinking is when we try to hope things in or out of existence. It’s when we blow out the candles on our birthday cake and say to ourselves, “I hope I stay healthy for another year.” It’s when we pick up the Wall Street Journal and say, “I hope the prime rate drops again.” It’s when spring training begins and we say, “I hope the Cubs don’t disappoint me again this year.” (Hey, hope springs eternal!)

Wishful thinking is a kind of hopeful feeling that maybe, somehow, some way, things will go the way we want them to, even though we really don’t have any power whatsoever to make it happen.

Another kind of hopeful attitude is blind optimism, like the guy who fell off a thirty-story building and yelled out as he passed the fifteenth floor, “Well, so far, so good!”

While it’s good to have a generally optimistic outlook, some optimists see everything through rose-colored glasses. They paper over their problems as if they didn’t exist. They avert their eyes from the ugly aspects of the world. To them, everything’s just fine all the time-never mind the facts.

It’s like the joke about the parents of two young twins. One of the boys was a depressed pessimist; the other was an incessant optimist. The parents were getting worried because each child’s personality was becoming increasingly extreme. So just before Christmas, the father said, “We need to do something to break them out of their molds.”

The parents decided to put dozens and dozens of shiny new toys in the pessimist’s room, and to fill the optimist’s room with piles of horse manure, hoping this would change their attitudes.

The children went to their rooms for a couple of hours, and then the pessimist came out. “Did you play with your new toys?” the father asked eagerly.

“Nah,” moaned the pessimist. “I never even opened the packages. I was afraid that if I touched them, they’d just break, and then I’d be disappointed.”

That’s when the optimist came bounding out of his room that had been filled with horse manure. He was all smiles. “How come you’re so happy?” asked the dad.

The little boy beamed and said, “I just know that if I keep digging long enough, I’m going to find the pony!”

Do you know people like that—optimists who pretend everything’s always great and who gloss over problems in their lives?

And then there’s hope that takes the form of personal dreams. These are the lofty goals we set for our lives and which we work so hard to achieve. In other words we don’t just hope for a new car, but we begin saving for one. We don’t just hope we’ll become a better golfer, but we take lessons and spend time on the practice tee. We don’t just wish for good health, but we begin to watch our diet and participate in an exercise program.

Generally, there’s nothing wrong with that. But problems arise when our personal dreams are restricted by our own limitations or when they fall victim to factors beyond our control.

For instance, I suppose a lot of General Motors workers had personal dreams of job security and retirement, but that didn’t stop GM from announcing one day that they were going to eliminate thousands of employees. Unfortunately our dreams are often at the mercy of others.

Biblical hope is different. For most people, hoping is something that they do, but the Bible talks about hope as something they can possess. We can actually grab hold of it. For someone who follows Jesus, hope is the secure expectation that He is both willing and able to make good on the promises He has made to us.

The Bible refers to this as “living hope,” because it’s linked directly to the resurrection of Christ. The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3-4: “In [God’s] great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.”

You see, through His decisive conquest of death, Jesus demonstrated that He really is God and that He really does have the power to fulfill His promises in the pages of Scripture. Promises to change our lives. Promises to guide us. Promises that He’ll cause good to emerge from our personal difficulties. Promises that His followers will spend eternity with Him.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,” says Hebrews 6:19. Usually I hate to use sailing analogies because I can get seasick drinking a glass of water, but an anchor is a great metaphor. Our hope is only as good as what we anchor it to.

Let’s face it: In and of itself, hope doesn’t have any power to change reality. We hope for this, we hope for that, and we might feel better for a while. We may even fool ourselves into thinking everything’s okay. But the only way hope has any real power is when we anchor it to the God who has real power. And not only real power, but a heartfelt desire to help.

And I think Jesus would say to you, “Whatever you’re facing, I can infuse hope into your life—a hope that’s firm and secure. In fact, let Me describe for you two specific ways I can introduce hope to you—by absolving you of your past, and by assuring you of your future.”

Presented By Bible Gateway

Painful Blessings?

Today I’d like to share a blog post by Cyndi Lu Moon. I read this while on a blogging hiatus several years ago and it made such an impact on me right there in those circumstances that I knew I had to share it with you. I can no longer find Cyndi’s site so perhaps she has retired from blogging. Nevertheless, I know you will appreciate what she wrote as much as I do.

Painful Blessings?

By Cyndi Lu Moon

Have you walked away from God’s blessing?  Of course, we say, “No way, why would we do something like that?”  At some point in our lives, our human selves rebel and let God know that we don’t like how he’s handled our trial.  What if God is blessing you in the trial and spiritually preparing you for something greater?

Sometimes, I want to run away from my blessing, because it’s disguised as a trial.

The word blessing in itself, sounds peaceful and loving, and many times is associated with love and joy.  In truth, blessings don’t always feel good.  God has blessed me many times, and let me tell you, some of them hurt.

We are all blessed one way or another and it comes in different shapes and sizes.  I hear from different people how they feel blessed to have running water, or how blessed they are with many friends.

Our blessings are unique to our lives.  Yes, friends and running water are definite blessings, but have you ever thought about the painful blessings?  BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE?

This is a loaded blessing that can sometimes sting, and leave you licking your wounds for days, or sometimes weeks, or longer.  Ask God to reveal to you a past blessing in disguise.  It could be that your significant other ended your relationship and broke your heart, only for you to find your true love, one year later.  It could be that your spouse lost their job, only to be offered a better one.

Blessings don’t always feel good in the beginning, but keep faith, God will reveal to you his plans and reasons at a later day.  

WE COULD ALL USE A DOSE OF HOPE!

What hard time in your life, actually ended up being a blessing in disguise?


 Remember your promise to me;
    it is my only hope.
Your promise revives me;
    it comforts me in all my troubles.
—Psalm 119:49-50

The Babe Who Opened the Door

This is a wonderful post from Answers in Genesis.

The Babe Who Opened the Door

by Ken Ham

Over 6,000 years ago, a “door” was shut to a garden. Because Adam sinned, God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden:

Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22–24).

Because of Genesis 3:15, we understand that God told Adam and Eve that someone would come to open the “door,” leading back to the Tree of Life: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

In the Old Testament, prophets predicted that this someone would come: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

We also understand that when God told Noah to place one door in the side of the Ark, so that those who went through that door would be saved from the judgment of the Flood, this door was a picture of the one who would come to open the “door,” for he “set the door of the ark in its side” (Genesis 6:16).

Read the rest here.

Waiting for our Savior Jesus Christ

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
—Micah 7:7

What a wonderful example the prophet Micah is to us! As one of the minor prophets, the first few chapters of his short Old Testament book are messages of God’s judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem. But toward the end of this book, we see clear evidence of Micah’s faith and confidence that God would send a Savior.

We humans think we’ve got all the answers. And even when we don’t, we have the technology to find those answers in an instant by searching the internet for whatever may be baffling or confusing to us.

Because of the huge advancements in technology over the past few years, many people today believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant in this modern world. However, the Old Testament is filled with verses which talk about a Savior or foretell His coming. Here are only a few:

  • You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
    —Psalm 65:5
  • It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. —Isaiah 19:20
  • Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. —Hosea 13:4

 Read the longing in these and many other verses. These men yearned for the Savior of the world to come soon, and exhibited great faith that it would happen. They obviously loved God without restraint and absolutely believed that God would send a Savior, someone who would rescue them from themselves and their sins and provide a way for them to live with and worship God forever.

So many people say they believe in God but when it comes to eternal issues, they are floundering in a huge sea of doubt and frustration. It is understandably difficult to believe in a being we cannot see. On top of that uncertainty, we are asked to trust that believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior is the only way to heaven.

I love what J. Vernon McGee has to say about this:

You may think you have your way of salvation, but God is the only Savior, and He is the only one who can offer you a plan of salvation.

God’s plan for our salvation was always in the works but was truly fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus was born a human and lived an earthly life so that He could experience and relate to every single thing we go through.

The birth of Jesus Christ paved the way for His death on the cross, where He took our sins upon Himself and died on our behalf. That death paved the way for Him to be resurrected from the dead on the third day, proving that death and sin have no more eternal hold on us. All this to show how much God loves us and longs for us to live in heaven with Him forever.

This is where faith and trust come into the picture. We must believe that our only chance for eternal redemption comes from Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with ourselves or what we do or don’t do:

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way
and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

—John 14:6

Sadly, though, too many of us seem unable to take that giant leap of faith and trust:

He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and those who were His own did not receive Him.

But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name, who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God.
—John 1:10-13

Beloved, Christmas is definitely a time of celebration. If you take away all the glitter, packages, decorations, baked goodies and music, we still have the greatest thing for which to be thankful. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the One whom God sent to free us from the bondage of sin.

So if all you have to celebrate Christmas with is that certain knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, then you have it all and more!

Let’s try to remember that Christmas is more about the Reason and less about the Season.

A very Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of you!

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John testified about Him and cried out, saying,
“This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me
has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
For of His fullness we have all received,
and grace upon grace.”
—John 1:14-16

 … for today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
—Luke 2:11

Immanuel

This is an excellent article from Tabletalk Magazine.

Immanuel

By Dr. Burk Parsons

We were made to be with God. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. He led His people Israel through the wilderness and dwelt among them wherever they sojourned, and He dwelt with His people in the tabernacle and temple. The earthly tabernacle and temple of Israel and all their furnishings served Israel by manifesting God’s presence through symbols, types, and shadows. They pointed to the day when God—who is a spirit, sovereign, triune, transcendent, infinite, eternal, immutable, self-existent, self-sufficient, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and full of mercy, love, and truth—would condescend to us to dwell with us, among us, and in us. This truth is encapsulated in the name Immanuel, one of the most beautiful and comforting names that God reveals to us about Himself. Isaiah prophesied to Israel that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”) Isa. 7:14). The eternal Word, the Son of God, became flesh and dwelt among us. God is with us, and He will never leave us or forsake us.

God was not required to dwell with us,
and God does not possess an inherent need to dwell with us,
but because of His sovereign love and for His glory,
He chose to dwell with us and in us.

The tabernacle and temple reveal not only that God would come in the flesh to dwell with us, but also that by His Spirit He would make His people the temple in whom He would dwell forever. We are now in the temple of God by the regenerating, indwelling, cleansing work of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes that in Christ “the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21). The Spirit has made us a holy dwelling place for our holy Lord. We are the household of God, comprised of members from every tribe and nation, built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets with Christ as the chief cornerstone. Peter, for whom the great temple at Jerusalem was a familiar sight, says “like living stones [we] are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

God was not required to dwell with us, and God does not possess an inherent need to dwell with us, but because of His sovereign love and for His glory, He chose to dwell with us and in us. It is His pleasure that “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Rev. 21:3)—that we might know Him, love Him, and glorify Him coram Deo, before His face, now and forever.


Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology

Santa’s Christmas Wish

It’s Christmas Eve once again,
And the world awaits Santa’s return,
But as children sleep with happy faces,
Santa’s face is full of concern.

For he knows that many believe in him,
Even though they see him not;
Yet they don’t believe in the unseen God,
Nor the Son that He begot.

They accept the many gifts from Santa,
As an expression of his love;
But they won’t accept The Greatest Gift,
From the loving God above.

The gift of eternal salvation,
Was offered on Christmas Day –
Through the birth of Baby Jesus,
Who is still rejected today!

“How sad it is,” thought Santa,
As he climbed into his sleigh.
And with tears staining his cheeks,
Santa bowed his head to pray.

“Lord Jesus, ’tis not for my glory,
That I return each Christmas Eve.
But to show men, women, and children,
That they don’t need to see to believe.

“And if they can accept my gifts,
Even though they’re undeserving –
I pray they’ll learn to accept Your Gift,
Through a clearer understanding.

“And Lord, If could have a Christmas wish,
I would ask for it to be —
That on each and every Christmas Eve,
The world would look for Thee, not me!”

-Author Unknown-

What #Joy!

Psalm 126

When Jehovah brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!
How we laughed and sang for joy. And the other nations said,
“What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”

Yes, glorious things! What wonder! What joy! 

May we be refreshed as by streams in the desert.

Those who sow tears shall reap joy.
Yes, they go out weeping, carrying seed for sowing,
and return singing, carrying their sheaves.

.From my Bible study notes:

God’s ability to restore life is beyond our understanding. Forests burn down and are able to grow back. Broken bones heal. Even grief is not a permanent condition. Our tears can be seeds that will grow into a harvest of joy because God is able to bring good out of tragedy.

When burdened by sorrow, know that your times of grief will end and that you will again find joy. We must be patient as we wait. God’s great harvest of joy is coming!