I bet you’re probably sick hearing about two big topics right now so for the sake of this little article and your sanity— I won’t even mention them by name. Believe me, I wish my blog posting day didn’t fall on this particular Tuesday. I thought about avoiding any p*******l-related angles all together. The fact is, it’s a big deal and it’s probably what’s on your mind today.
Well we better pray about it!
I’m sure you’ve heard that in your congregation many times. Let’s clarify what that needs to look like in my life and in every God-fearing individual’s life.
When we bring God a petitioning prayer concerning anything, large or little, let’s first remind ourselves of the sacred ingredients that make up an effective prayer.
Evaluate your spiritual life. The prayers of “righteous” men and women make an impact. James 5:16
God can’t be seen as one option. Think of the rascally child who, after receiving a “no” from his father, approaches his mother in secret seeking a “yes.” That child should receive a stern chat— perhaps a spanking? When we approach God, we must do so with His will above our wants. Sometimes the two line up! If they don’t, accept the answer and press on.
Saturate your petitions with praise and thankfulness. Though the virus remains active or the “wrong” man takes the office— The Almighty deserves your praise and thankful heart. After all, He reigns with perfection and justice on His throne (Psalm 97:1). God has given us the cure to a horrible sickness that not even all the scientists in the world could cure (Ephesians 2:8). Nothing that happens today or any day will ever change those things. We’ve only scratched the surface here, too. God deserves every bit of your praise and thankfulness— no matter what.
Don’t miss the big picture when you pray. Our minds have a way of fooling us into thinking that current events ARE the big picture. That’s just not true. What’s more important? The growth and faith of every member of His church. I can’t help but think of congregations that have been spiritually strengthened and grown— despite an earth shaking pandemic. What’s most important is not this country or nation, it’s His kingdom and that kingdom to come.
Are you righteous?
Please pray for this world and pray for His church. If there’s something keeping you from the righteousness of God, that’s far more urgent than anything else. Your faith is what deserves your full attention.
Let’s be a happy and hopeful people— let’s be those who practice righteousness.
An epistle centering around the superiority of Christi as our all-sufficient One would certainly be expected to contain a message of hope. While some had apparently given up Jesus as their hope (6:4-6), the writer of Hebrews had a higher estimation of those to whom he writes. for one thing, they had a legacy of good works and brotherly love and benevolence (6:10). His desire was that they would continue to stay strong. In expressing this, the writer suggests hope as an integral tool to keep them hanging onto their faith in Christ. In these final ten verses of Hebrews six, he mentions three qualities of hope that would help them–and will help us–hang onto our hope in Christ no matter what.
This hope is durable (11). Look at the language he uses. This hope was tied to an assurance that would endure “until the end.” It was a hope that would lead them to “inherit the promises” (12), just as Abraham’s hope in God led him to his inheritance (13-17). God desires to show us, as heirs of the promise through Christ, His unchanging purpose (17), so He guarantees that promise through an oath build upon the foundation of Himself. Hope which is guaranteed by the very nature and character of God is hope that will outlast anything! Nations rise and fall. Presidents serve only one or two terms. Supreme court justices, at most, can serve only a lifetime. Our hope transcends time.
This hope is tangible(18). These Christians needed to count on a refuge in difficult times (see 12:4), and we desire the same thing in our lives! Knowing that God is so trustworthy, we are encouraged to “take hold of hope” that is found only in Christ. To say that we can take hold of hope and that it is set before us means that it has substance. In a world where nothing seems certain, evidence from scripture, nature, order and design of the universe, and so much more allows us, by faith, to grab this hope. He had already told them to hold onto that hope in Christ earlier in the letter (3:6) and to encourage this response he points them to scripture (cf. 3:7-11; Psa. 95:7-11). Scripture helps us see the solid hope we have in Jesus.
This hope is stable(19). It is an anchor. Anchors keep a vessel from drifting, an appropriate illustration since the Christians were tempted to drift from Christ (2:1). By maintaining their hope, they could anticipate three blessings: (1) sureness, (2) steadfastness, and (3) the service of the sacrificial Savior (19-20). All three of these descriptions of this Almighty anchor underline the security found in keeping ourselves anchored in Christ. Those who keep Jesus as their hope are able to weather the most horrific storms of life!
As Christians, we may find ourselves ready to abandon Jesus as our hope. So many things attempt to pull us from Him. Let us draw encouragement from this inspired writer, as surely these first Christians did, and rejoice in these changeless characteristics of hope!
If I have a favorite chapter of the Bible, it would have to be 2 Timothy 4. Yes, I love the first eight verses, but that alone is not what cinches this chapter as dearest to me. It’s Paul’s personal remarks starting in verse nine. There’s his longing to see his spiritual son, Timothy. Twice he implores Timothy to come see him (9, 21). He’s in prison, persecuted for preaching the Prince of Peace. He longs for Christian companionship. Then, he shares his dejection over the abandonment of certain fellow-workers (10). He wants to see cohorts with whom he has done spiritual battle (11). He has personal needs and wants (13). He warns Timothy of a spiritual troublemaker (14-15). Then, he shares personal feelings of isolation and loneliness, a time when he needed a Christian brother by his side but had none (16). Bold, risk-taking Paul, who would stand up to any opposition, the epitome of true manliness, was now in undoubtedly dire, dank conditions, the smell of squalor in the air. Whatever he saw, heard, and felt as he wrote, Paul scratched out these words: “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (16-18). These words aren’t the end of the letter, but they are the end of the matter!
This faithful Christian was deserted by men, but he felt God’s presence and power:
The Lord stood with him.
The Lord strengthened him.
The Lord spoke through him.
The Lord saved him.
The Lord was steering him.
You and I cannot fathom the price Paul paid for proclaiming Jesus. But even if we were ever to face privation, punishment and pain for our faith, what was true for this apostle will be true of us. He promised to be with us always (Mat. 28:20) and never forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Even if you ever feel physically alone, you will have the spiritual assistance Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 4. Through it all, you can say with Paul, “To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen!”
Recently, I was corresponding with Arthur Ohanov, a gospel preacher in Donetsk, Ukraine, who served as my translator on a couple of mission trips to eastern Ukraine in the early 2000s. In part, he wrote me, “As I am typing this letter I hear bombing in our city, but God is good! We continue our ministry of reconciliation of sinners with their Father!” Brethren like Arthur are heroes, facing difficulties we can only imagine in America. Walking the streets of Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, and Slavyanagorsk back then, I could not fathom that war, carnage, and death could possibly come to that region in so few years.
Periodically, people talk about how the immorality and unbelief in our nation will bring devastation to this nation. While that is undoubtedly a possibility, which we can see even with God’s special nation in Old Testament times, that belongs to the sovereignty and justice of God. Yet, nations throughout the centuries rise up and testify that national peace can quickly and dramatically give way to war and destruction.
Today, we wake up to calm and peace. At the throne of God, we can (and should) humbly thank Him for this tremendous blessing. Each day that begins like this represents a golden opportunity for each of us. Wherever we go, we encounter people who are alienated from God and who are heading for eternal catastrophe. We should consider this peace more than a privilege. It is an obligation. While we have time, we must try to reach as many as possible.
The deacons at Bear Valley have been working for several months, planning and strategizing to enhance our vision for the lost in our area. Many of our members have been approached and asked for help as we try to prepare ourselves as a church to more effectively carry out the Great Commission. That will continue to expand. We really need to feel the urgency expressed by Christ, who said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). “Night” may come by virtue of how swiftly our lives are lived on earth. It can also come at the hands of dramatic changes in our nation and communities. Because the future is wholly unforeseen, act while you can!
On the young man’s Facebook page, he made hopeful comments. He had just graduated High School when he wrote, “Can’t wait to see what’s in store for my future.” Randomly, several weeks later, he gushed, “Some day, I’m going to travel the world.” The Colorado Mesa University student from Lakewood, Colorado, was 19 years old when he went hiking in Bangs Canyon south of Grand Junction and fell to his death on Saturday.
Obituary columns are supposed to be filled with wrinkled faces and names that sound like our grandparent’s generation. Birth dates should go way back to the early or at least mid-1900s. We’re just not conditioned to think that death can come to the young. But if we are careful Bible readers, we realize that there is no guarantee that we reach Moses’ inspired guideline for life expectancy of 70 or 80 (Psa. 90:10). We listen to James as the Holy Spirit leads him to write, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (4:14). It does not say that the vapor floats around for a century and a half or more. We do not get to decide how high and long our vapor hangs in the air.
The fact of this uncertainty ought to cause all of us, wherever we are on the time continuum, to take the attitude James urges. He writes, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that'” (4:15). Such a statement shows submission under God, humility before God, and obligation to God. This will help us see each day as a gift from Him and should cause us to use it wisely and productively to accomplish His will. It should also prompt us not to delay following and submitting our lives to Him. Instead, it should cause us to not delay becoming a Christian, leaving a lifestyle of sin, or getting actively involved in serving Christ.
Most of us will likely reach a ripe old age. The law of averages are at play. But we do not get to choose if we do or do not. What we can choose is who we serve and when!