Tag Archives: hope

Feeling Blue?

blue candleOver the Christmas season a few months back a story ran on the national news about “blue” Christmas services that some parishes were offering for those who were feeling lonely or grieving the loss of loved ones during the holiday season. The service included lighting candles, listening to comforting words of Scripture and soothing music, surrounded by the presence of loving and caring people.

I found the story heart-warming and touching and something that we can consider doing all year-round in our churches at various times.

The church is designed to be a place of comfort, care and healing for those who are feeling blue. The funny thing about the color blue is that in modern-day vernacular in this turn of phrase blue means sad. But in the church blue is a color of hope, renewal and a future in the heavens above.

Therefore, let us do all we can to help those on their journey from sad to glad through the hope they are given in the love and salvation of Christ our Lord.

Cope With Hope

cope with hopeWhen I was worshiping at Praise and Worship Lutheran Church in Branson, MO, this past fall, Pastor Mark Hunsaker prayed that we would “cope with hope.” I liked that turn of phrase and it made me realize what a wonderful coping mechanism we have in the hope that we have in our crucified and risen Lord. No matter how bad things get in life, we have hope that Christ has conquered sin, trouble and all our frustrations. We have hope that this trial too (no matter how awful) will pass and we will one day be in paradise with our Lord, where there will be no more tears or pain or suffering.

St. Paul makes it clear: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

There is truly light at the end of the tunnel, as St. Peter tells us, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

A few things jump out for me in that verse.

• A little while. Though the suffering may seem endless to us now, this really will in the long run be a short period of time of hardship before the glorious joy to come.

• Restore you and make you strong. When the suffering ends, you will not be a shell of a person or a weak shadow of yourself. You will be renewed, re-energized and strong in the Lord. You will be fully you!

• Firm and steadfast. That is how we shall be and what we should be along the way: confident and sure in our trust in Christ to carry us through. No doubts, no questions, no confusion. Just faith in his power and grace to get us to the other side.

That is how we can cope with hope this week.

 

An Anchor

anchorWe have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. —Hebrews 6:19

Recently I went boating with some friends on a nearby lake. At one point our boat driver took us to a secluded clove, where he heaved a very heavy anchor over the bow until it hit bottom many feet below. This would keep the boat steady while we swam and floated on noodles and rafts behind the boat.

What struck me was that even though the boat was anchored, it still did a lot of moving around because of the prevailing winds, the waves from other boats and currents from the lake. There were times when I had to swim quite a ways to stay close to the back of the boat to stay safe. I had always imagined that once a boat was anchored, it stayed put. That is not the case, I discovered.

Which made me think about this verse from Hebrews about our hope in Christ being an anchor for the soul. Though the anchor is firm and secure, we who are tethered to it are not always still. We are pushed around by doubts, fears, the advice and messages of others who say that God does not matter or that Christianity has become passé. It is not always easy up here on the surface. The waters of life can be rough.

But we who have our hope and faith in Christ have the confidence that though we may be tossed about for a little while, our God will never let us go too far adrift. He keeps us firmly planted in the depths of his love and care and compassion for us to keep us on course in our faith. He will always keep us safe in his forgiveness and grace. That is our hope. That is our anchor. That is our salvation.

 

God’s Plan Is Bigger

God’s plan is biggerIn light of the fact that over the last two decades, the U.S. suicide rate has risen by 25 percent, leaders in the Church are being compelled more than ever to speak out about the meaning of our lives in the context of God’s plan. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, whose own son, Matthew, committed suicide in 2013, has urged those who are suffering to reach out to others for help, and he urges congregations to make a concerted effort to talk to those who are suffering.

What should our message to them be? Warren says we should remind sufferers of this Biblical truth: “God’s plan and purpose for you is greater than the problem or emotion you’re feeling now” (“People in Pain,” World Magazine, June 30, 2018, 9).

The realization that God’s plan and purpose is bigger than ourselves is a very comforting thought and one that I have gone back to quite often since I read this quote.

Are you having a problem at work or at home? God knows about it and will get you through it, as he has planned.

Are you worried, scared, nervous angry, sad, frustrated? God has the power to overcome those emotions and bring you peace and hope and confidence in him.

Life can be messy and not what we envisioned, for sure, but our faith tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

And we are assured that ”he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

We may not be able to see the plan of God for us right now, but we will one day, on the Last Day, and until that time we hold on tight to and find joy in the knowledge that the Lord says, even on our saddest day, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Keep trusting in him.

Fast-Forwarding Through Suffering?

fast forwardKathryn A. Kleinhans, dean of Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, posits, “It’s tempting to fast-forward through Jesus’ suffering and death to Easter lilies and the happy ending. In a broken world, we long for happy endings” (“Easter: The Best News in the World,” Living Lutheran, April 2018, 45).

In fact, the disciples themselves wanted to fast-forward through Jesus’ suffering or avoid it altogether. One time after Jesus explained to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die … and then rise. Peter proclaimed, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22). And two other times Jesus told the disciples that his suffering was coming before his resurrection, but they did not understand.

In our lives today we too often seek to push a fast-forward button through the inevitable suffering in our lives, But there is no such thing as a fast-forward button through the suffering in our lives. Part of being a Christian in the world entails suffering. Martin Luther even calls it a mark of the Church. And as humans in a sinful world, suffering is the result of our brokenness.

The Bible even says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29). There is no getting around it for Jesus or for us.

But we are assured that there is value in the suffering. As St. Paul tells us, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). We are made stronger people through the suffering.

The best news of all is the suffering will not last forever. Just as Jesus rose from the dead three days after his suffering and death, the day will come when suffering will end and we will rise, too, to the overflowing joy of heaven.

As St. Paul declares, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). The happy ending of heaven will be even sweeter for us because of the suffering.

So though we cannot fast-forward through suffering, we can move through it with grace and resolve because Christ fought through the pain to free us forever. Alleluia!

 

Secular Humanism and the Church

globeProbably one of the most rampant worldviews in conflict with the Church today is secular humanism. This is the belief that there is no God, no spiritual direction, no afterlife. This world and this life is all there is to the secular humanist. There is no room for or need for God. Secular humanists rely solely on human reason.

The prevalence of secular humanism leads to a kind of elevation of humanity and a quest to live life to satisfy your own personal needs to the fullest, since this is all there is.

What can the Church do in the midst of secular humanism? One way is to gently point people to the Bible’s statements of the involvement of God in the world.

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The White Helmets

white helmetI watched a story on 60 Minutes in December 2016 on the White Helmets.

The White Helmets, officially called The Syrian Civil Defense, is a volunteer corps of Syrians who act as first responders in the Syrian civil war, which is now in its sixth year. The group’s charter is simple: to carry out search-and-rescue operations to save the maximum number of lives. The group has rescued more than 60,000 people.

At great risk to their own safety and lives, these men in white helmets scour the aftermaths of bombing, clawing through the rubble to see a hand waving or a tiny voice crying from a survivor.

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Evangelism 101

Jesus centerIn the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Prof. Glenn K. Fluegge focuses on the role of evangelism in the article, “The Dual Nature of Evangelism in the Early Church.” He explains that the two goals of evangelism then and now are: spreading the gospel and preserving the gospel.

That second goal of preserving the gospel struck me as something that we don’t often associate with evangelism, but is so vital in our world today.

In today’s world, in our effort to please and placate everyone, the gospel can become so watered down that it can often lose its core concept: Christ crucified for us.

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Media Reformation

smartphoneAs we are fast approaching the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in October 2017, it is time for us to look at where we are as a Church today. To many theologians, we are in the midst of a media reformation as the Church uses all sorts of new technology to spread the message of the Gospel far and wide in the same vein as Martin Luther and his use of the printing press to get his writings out to the masses.

Billy Graham once said, “It is time for the church to use technology to make a statement that in the midst of chaos, emptiness, and despair, there is hope in the person of Jesus Christ” (Christianity Today, October 2016, 42). It is, in fact, hard to be heard in the clutter of messages being spewed out in social media channels, but it is our task to make the effort and be the voice of promise to a people searching for true meaning in life.

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Plans

calendarI am a planner, I will admit. I like to schedule my day and my week and know when I will be where. This is a natural tendency among humans, we can all acknowledge, I think.

But during my recent illness, all my plans went out the window and I realized that I am not as in control of my time and my life as I like to think I am.

When I was talking about this with a friend of mine, she reminded me of this verse from Scripture:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

So I have taken up the practice of prefacing my plans with the disclaimer, “If the Lord wills … ” And I do not find that confining or pessimistic in any way. I am just relaying to others that my plans are not up to me ultimately; they are up to God.

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