“God proves to be good to (those) who passionately wait,
to the woman (and man) who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you stick it out
through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take…
enter the silence. Bow in prayer.
Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.”
Lamentations 3: 25-29
The Message Bible
Celebration of Hope
“There are times when I feel despairing,
when all around seems dark
and my cry for help is unheard,
Then, unexpected, a faint light appears,
gradually dispersing the darkness.
The silence is broken
by the sound of angelic voices.
I know that God has heard my cry
and reaches out to heal me.
I experience transforming power.
Now, I know what changes can be made
by a community of love.”
Today’s Study Texts:
“Jesus answered, ‘If I want (John the Apostle) to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.’ Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that (John) would not die; (Jesus) only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?’ This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world not have room for the books that would be written.”
John 21: 22-25
“How Much More Proof Do You Need?”
“After (2100) years, Jesus Christ still counts for more in human life than any other man that ever lived.”
What proof do I need to believe that Christ cares for me?
In Jesus’ life, what recorded event touches my heart the most?
“The simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind, than all the (investigations) disquisitions of philosophers and than all the exhortations of moralists.”
W. E. H. Lecky
“Jesus is not the Great…He is the Only!”
During the past several weeks, my full intention upon finishing our studies on the “beach breakfast” held by Jesus and seven of His closest disciples was to began a new series based on Jesus’ Sermon on the
However, as I studied, I began to get this nagging feeling that there was more to uncover in Jesus’ life just before His return to heaven. As I’ve shared with you before, I have never heard a voice from heaven or some outer space directive. But, I do believe when we ask for heavenly guidance, our Father responds in ways that may surprise us. And this is exactly what has happened, especially during the last couple of weeks.
First of all, there have been a substantial number of prayer requests and notes from individuals who are feeling alone and abandoned. Some of you have conveyed to me that you feel God has forsaken you. There have been notes from those of you who are grieving because of the loss of someone dear to your heart.
Secondly, there is a huge hole in our world right now where “hope” used to be. Not long ago I happened upon an article which noted that so many people on planet earth are mired in what they believe to be a pit of hopelessness. After reading some of the examples such as a mother in Africa, who when she awakens each day is forced to have her first thought be, “How will I get food and water for my children today?” I began to understand why there is such an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. There are wars all over the globe. There’s famine. There’s drought. There’s hunger. There’s hate. The list goes on and on.
As I prayed about the challenge I faced in proceeding with the devotionals, I went back to John 21, and all of a sudden. like the lightening bolts which have lighted up our night sky for days now, it hit me – “We haven’t finished! The fact is that I had left Jesus on the beach and this was not the end of the Bible record by any means. Jesus didn’t stay on the beach. That wasn’t His permanent home. Thank God for that! His journey continued until He reached “Home” at last.
So for those of you who need to be reminded today that the rough sea you are on is not “all” there is, hang on! There’s a light of hope at the end of your tunnel. And we’re going to begin exploring that light by looking at the way the Apostle John ends the book that bears his name – the record of Jesus’ life found in the book of John.
As I’ve studied the Apostle’s “diary” I found that quite a number of scholars believe the Book of John is actually the last book written by John. When you and I read the Bible, the book of Revelation ends the New Testament in a most dramatic fashion. But for those who believe that John penned his book about Jesus after his banishment to the Island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation, our study text for today makes a great deal of sense for John’s last words about Jesus go something like this and I’m putting John 21: 24, 25 in words for us today: “I know what I’m talking about because I saw Jesus with my own eyes. I heard His words with my own ears. I’m leaving you a record to encourage your heart. Furthermore, if I had written down everything Jesus did or said while He was here on earth, there wouldn’t be enough books to contain all He did and said. What more could I have said? How much more proof do you need?” For someone who spent their entire life around Jesus, not only as a disciple, but also as a relative, linked by family ties, John’s account provides you and me with a tremendous opportunity, as we study, to be filled with the same sense of certainty which permeated John’s life. There is a singular emotion which infuses John’s words and it is his message of hope. There’s no defeatist attitude which drips from John’s pen. His are the comforting words from Jesus own lips, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14: 1-3, K.J.V.).
The author Joseph Conrad, in his book The Mirror of the Sea, describes what the ocean appears to look like during the dark, cold winter months:
“The grayness of the whole immense surface, the wind furrows upon the faces of the waves, the great masses of foam, tossed about and waving, like matted white locks, give to the sea a gale an appearance of hoary age, lusterless, dull, without gleams, as though it had been created before the light itself.”
If this is how you feel in the darkness of winter’s sea in your own life – in a time of hopelessness when you find it difficult to navigate a clear path through the wind ravaged storm, then I want to encourage you with the words of Rachel Carson who offers this hopeful vision: “The symbols of hope are not lacking even in the greyness and bleakness of the winter sea. On land we know that the apparent lifelessness of winter is an illusion. Look closely at the bare branches of a tree, on which not the palest gleam of green can be discerned. Yet, spaced along each branch are the leaf buds, all the spring’s magic of swelling green concealed and safely preserved under the insulating, overlapping layers…So, too, the lifelessness, the hopelessness, the despair of the winter sea are an illusion. Everywhere are the assurances…of renewal.”
This is how John ended his book. “Are you feeling hopeless? There’s more than enough hope to fill all the books the world could hold. Jesus is alive, here among us. Just look at the proof – He’s more than enough to meet all your needs.”
In the words of Bernard of Clairvaux and translated in 1849 by Edward Caswall:
“Jesus, the very thought of Thee,
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
O hope of every contrite heart!
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!”
Pregnant With Hope
“Now is a time of watching and waiting
a time pregnant with hope
a time to watch and pray.
Christ our hope,
bare brown trees,
etched dark across a winter sky,
leaves fallen, rustling,
ground hard and cold…
May we watch for the signs,
listen for the messenger…
Christ our hope,
help us to clear the way for you;
to clear the clutter from our minds,
to sift the silt from our hearts,
to move the boulders that prevent us meeting You.
May sorrow take flight,
and Your people sing a song of peace –
and hope be born again.”
Kate Mc Ilhagga
Blessing For The Hopeless”
“May you come safely to the shore across the dark ocean and know that even in the darkest depths there is hope to be found.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
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The Bridge of Sighs
“At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs – He hears; He rescues.” (Psa_55:17, The Message)
Have you ever sighed?
Of course you have. It’s a dumb question. We each sigh all the time. The struggle has ended…and so we sigh. The deal fell through…and so we sigh. Our team won…and so we sigh. Our team lost…and so we sigh. The movie ended happily ever after…and so we sigh.
A sigh is part of the vocabulary of dreamers and lovers alike.
A sigh gathers up our deepest longings, our faintest hopes, and our most treasured dreams and carries them where words cannot go. Yes, we may feel a set back from the momentary loss of hope, or the superficial dash of a great expectation. And so we sigh. And in that sigh is an unspoken prayer; a faint blush of hope — for tomorrow may bring it in after all.
A sigh lets go of the disappointment and breathes in a fresh faith for another run at the prize. A sigh vents out of our emotional store the tepid air of failure, and makes room for optimism’s mysterious power.
God has given us an invitation to walk through the door of faith into His presence and commune at the most intimate level – just beyond the bridge of sighs. The apostle put it this way, “with groanings too deep to be uttered.”
What if there was a way to speak words we’ve never learned, in a vocabulary known only to God? And what if a sigh were the means of transporting those words beyond the veil that separates earth from heaven? Who in their right mind would refuse to sigh?
The wicked; that’s who.The wicked do not sigh. They huff and puff, and (dare I say it?) — blow their house down. Or, at least they try. That’s it. They try, but they do not sigh. Hard hearts and shallow lungs are often found in the same place.
But for childlike souls the wide world over, this bridge of sighs provides safe passage above and beyond the limitations of land-locked trivialities, and carries us into the presence of the Lord where we are filled afresh with new mercies every day.
OK…so take a deep breath and slowly let it out. Sigh. Now didn’t that just feel right? Keep it up and you just might cross that bridge into the Lord’s presence!
The Thankful Spirit
Be ye thankful — Col_3:15
In the Midst of Adversity
The people to whom this was addressed were mostly people in very humble circumstances. Many of them would have been slaves. Their lot at the best was not a pleasant lot. Their privileges were as few as their enjoyments. And always in a heathen city to be a Christian aggravated everything. Yet the singular thing is that when the apostle wrote them, in such letters as this to the Colossians, he never seems to have offered them his sympathy. When death enters any of our homes, the mourners receive many kind letters. I have often wondered what fashion of a letter the apostle would have written in such circumstances. That it would have been exquisitely gracious we may take for granted from all we know of him, but unquestionably its leading theme would have been praise. The truest sympathy sometimes is not pity. The truest sympathy sometimes is encouragement. The hand that helps is the hand that points the way to new fidelity and service. And so the apostle never hesitates, even when writing to Colossian slaves, to urge them to the grace of thankfulness.
Paul’s Thankful Spirit
In doing so he of course was calling them to what he himself practiced so magnificently. Perhaps there never was a more thankful heart than the heart of the Apostle Paul. Would you know, asks William Law the mystic, would you know who is the greatest saint? It is not the man who prays most or who does most. It is the man who is most thankful. And certainly, tried by such a test, you might search the annals of the Christian church and not discover a greater saint than Paul. You have but to think of him in the prison of Philippi singing praises there to God at midnight to see how he had practiced what he preached when he urged the Colossians to thankfulness.
Thankfulness Rarer than We Think
And so I should like to dwell a little upon that most important Christian duty, and I begin by saying that true thankfulness is probably harder and rarer than we think. All of us abhor ingratitude. We speak of it in the severest terms. I have heard people, Christian people, say they could forgive anything except ingratitude. And yet as life goes on, we often find that the sins which are hardest to forgive are the sins which are easiest to commit. On one occasion our Savior healed ten lepers. He healed them all and healed them equally. Yet of the ten, only one came back and showed himself a grateful man. And we might question without any cynicism whether among all of us who name the Name of Christ today, even one in ten is truly grateful. Doubtless all these ten, while cursed as lepers, had thought that it would be heaven to be healed. They had pictured it and dreamed of it, and in their dreams had Worshiped their deliverer. But among all the hours that come to us to test us and to reveal our hearts, there are few hours more penetrative than the hour in which we get all that we want. The thing we coveted was one thing. When we get it is another thing. It was so easily given. It cost so little. And, after all, did we not deserve it? Indeed, when we look around upon our fellows and see how many have got far more than we, is there any cause for gratitude at all? No doubt such thoughts were in the lepers’ hearts. No doubt they were in the Colossians’ hearts. And he must be strangely ignorant of his own heart who has never been conscious of that quiet revulsion. And that is why, over and over again as if calling us to what is rare and difficult, the Gospel exhorts you and me to be thankful.
Thankfulness in Unique and Routine Circumstances
Of course, in times of special mercy, thankfulness is an instinctive feeling. There are hours when it is natural to weep and hours when it is natural to cry “Thank God.” When a child is rescued from a burning house, when a man is rescued from a watery grave, when the crisis is past and the light of life comes back as in a fever or from the surgeon’s knife, then in a rush of feeling from the depths pure and fervent gratitude is born. And God, who may have been long ignored, is recognized again in that glad moment as He who woundeth and yet His hands make whole. Christian friend, all such hours are good: but in any life such hours come very seldom. And it is not the rare hours that show the man: it is the common hours of common years. It takes far more than one exciting moment to tell you that anyone is really brave. And it takes far more than any tragic moment to tell you that anyone is really thankful. To be thankful in the sense of Scripture is to be thankful every ordinary day. It is to bear our routine burdens cheerfully, to meet our common sorrows without murmuring. It is so to feel the hand of God in everything, so to acknowledge the ordering of His love that for us there is nothing common or unclean. He who is rarely clean is not a clean man, and he who is rarely thankful is not a thankful man. The very joy and power of this great grace lie in the fact that it is universal. And that was what mightily impressed the world when the Christian Gospel began to spread abroad; it was the wonderful gladness of it all.
Resignation in Contrast to Thankfulness
Thankfulness, when you come to think of it, really depends upon our view of God. As is our God, so is our gratitude. If all that happens to us comes by chance, then of course no man can be grateful. Gratitude is not a duty then, for there is no one to be grateful to. Nor can gratitude ever be a duty if God be only a cold mid distant Spirit who takes no personal interest in men. Given a heaven like that, at his best two duties alone are in the power of man. The one is fortitude to face the worst, and the other is resignation in the worst. And that is why in the old pagan world the noblest gospel that was known was that of fortitude and resignation. Then came the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and resignation was swallowed up in thankfulness. And it was not because their lot was different: it was really because their God was different. They had been awakened through their Lord and Savior to a God whose name and character was Love, Love that stooped from heaven to the cross. Given such love, such individual love, life becomes a different thing at once. There is a loving purpose in its darkest hours; a loving watchfulness in all its ordering. And the moment that anyone awakes to that and with all his heart and soul believes in that, then gratitude is born. That is why Paul says in another passage, “In everything give thanks.” Not in some things of quite peculiar gladness, but in everything give thanks. For in everything there is the love of God; love is ordering and arranging everything and willeth not that any man should perish.
The Thankfulness of Jesus
The spirit of universal thankfulness was very conspicuous in Jesus Christ. You do not think of Jesus as resigned: you think of Jesus as rejoicing. There are three occasions in the life of Christ when you find Him giving thanks to God. Three times over, from the depths within, His thankfulness welled over into speech. And one has only to study these thanksgivings and all that is implied in them to realize the thankfulness of Jesus. Once He gave thanks for common things when He broke the loaves upon the mountainside. Once He gave thanks for ordinary people in that God had revealed His secret unto babes. And once in the darkest hour of His life on that night on which He was betrayed, He broke forth into such glorious thanksgiving as none who heard it ever could forget. Think of it: on that night on which He was betrayed when all He had toiled for seemed to be in vain, when the cross was waiting Him and all its agony, and the spitting and the mocking and the grave. Yet on that night we find our Savior thankful and pouring out His gratitude in prayer. My brother and sister, it is that great example that lies at the back of a command like this. We are to walk even as Jesus walked. We are to be thankful as He was. Not for the glad things only but for the shadowed things, not for the great things only but for the common things, and why, just because God is love and in love is ordering all, and all things are working together for our good.
Thankfulness—the Secret of Happiness
This grace of thankfulness diligently cultivated is one of the secrets of true happiness. It is not the happy people who are thankful. It is the thankful people who are happy. Happiness does not depend on what we have, else those who have the most would be the happiest. As a matter of fact, how often do we find that those who have the most are not the happiest? Happiness does not depend on what we have: it rather depends upon our point of view, and he who has won the thankful point of view is always on the highway of gladness. The flower that to the farmer is a weed may to the botanist be treasure trove. The rain that is so vexing to the child is just what the angler has been looking for. And so in life there are a thousand things that have an equal power to vex us or to bless us, according to our different point of view. No one who murmurs is ever really happy, and no one who worries is ever really happy. They have forgotten God and left Him out, and to leave Him out is to leave out the music. And it is only when, through Christ our Savior, we come to see His loving hand in everything that we win the thankful, grateful heart without which nobody ever can be glad. Ungrateful people are never happy people. They are always querulous and discontented. The more we are thankful for our everyday mercies, the more does life become a joyful thing. And that is why Christian life is always joyful, because everything the years may bring to us, Christ makes it possible for all who trust Him to cultivate the thankful spirit. The tiniest gift from somebody we love is of more value than many a costly offering. We take it gratefully just because love is there, and, taking it gratefully, it makes us happy. And so when we learn, as every man can learn, that God is love and that in Him we live, there is a worth in things we never saw before. The way to be glad is to be grateful, and the way to be grateful is to trust in God, to trust in Him as Jesus trusted Him on that night in which He was betrayed. Thus grows the assurance that there is no mistake, that He is watching, guiding, guarding, blessing us, which, when a man has learned, he ceases murmuring and finds that being thankful he is glad.
Thankfulness—the Source of Dedicated Service
But not only is thankfulness the spring of joy, it is also the source of dedicated service. And that is why the service of the Christian is perhaps the freest service in the world. We have all heard of the slave who after years of slavery was purchased by a stranger and set free, and how he fell at his liberator’s feet and offered him all his service for the future. And we do not need to read how that new service, offered freely from a grateful heart, was richer than all the service of the past. Once he had toiled because he had to toil, and now he toiled because he loved to toil. Once he had done his work in daily fear, and now he did it all in daily gratitude. And that swift change of motive in his heart, from the haunting terror of the lash to love, made all the difference in what he did. It made all the difference to him, and it makes all the difference to us. Service is changed down to its very depths when we realize that we have been redeemed. And when we realize that we have been redeemed, not with gold but with the blood of Christ, what can we say each morning that we awaken but “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” My brother and sister, be ye thankful. It may be a secret you have never learned. Think of all you owe to God in Christ, you who are less than the least of all His saints. So shall there come new peace into your life, a happiness to which you are a stranger, a passion to do a little ere the night fall for Him who loved you and gave Himself for you.