PANDEMIC: HOPE OR FEAR

We all are aware that a deadly virus is spreading fear across our planet. What can we do? How shall we cope? Where can we find hope?

Many people offer ways to cope with fear, and some try to offer hope even in the midst of a pandemic. (I do not have all the answers, but I know Who does.)

That which we face right now is beyond our control, but we can choose how we react to our new world condition. So then… how do we react to the overwhelming uncertainty that is our current reality?

First each one of us needs to know without a doubt that we are God’s child. We can choose to exercise His gift of faith, and if we have prayed sincerely to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we can know.

When we know Him, then we can experience hope in whatever we face in life. We turn from going our own way to going His way. We learn His way by reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer.

We need to refuse to dwell on fear and negativity. We can choose to focus on God’s Word instead. When we feel fear creeping into our minds, we can feed on Scriptures that share His hope and His promises.

We can pray for His peace and comfort in our current circumstance — whatever it is. We can choose to intentionally experience His presence knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us according to His Word. In fact, God’s Holy Spirit is here to comfort us.  Knowing this brings hope to any circumstance.

We can acknowledge that God is in control of our lives, and nothing takes Him by surprise. We can remember that He cares for us. He loves us so much that He provided our salvation — a sacrifice not given lightly to then leave us abandoned to the ways of a world spinning out of control or to an evil randomly having its own way. We can trust God to finish what He started in the world and in our individual lives. Again, knowing this brings hope to our lives.

May we acknowledge and accept God’s providential will when we recognize it. May we pray for discernment, so we will be aware of His purposes. When we understand His will we can experience His hope.

May we study His Book — the Holy Bible — so we can trust the ending of His story. If we do this then we can look forward without fear. May we believe that His way is best and that our future includes a glorious eternity in His presence with a home Jesus Christ has prepared just for us. When we trust Him for the world to come, we can trust Him in this one. That is real hope.

Also we can care for those around us. We can share the hope that we have in Christ with others, who may be struggling with fear. If we personally know His love, then we will have enough hope to share.

We will contemplate God’s love and care whenever we feel fear overpower our faith. We will practice prayer, choose faith, meditate on the Scriptures, and intentionally respond in hope not in fear.

I do not pretend to know the details of our future lives, but I believe the Bible that says all things will be for our good and His glory. Beyond this I will leave the details to Him. Although that is sometimes easier said than done, I believe He is worthy of our faith and trust.

He alone is God. In Him alone our hope is found. Since He is still on His throne, I can sleep at night knowing that He has got this pandemic.

 

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  (1 John 5:13)

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”  (Psalm 27:1)

“But He [Jesus] answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”  (Matthew 4:4)

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever.”  (John 14:16)

“For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.”  (Psalm 121:1-8)

JOHN 3:16: HOPE IN A SINGLE VERSE

It has been called “the greatest verse in the Bible.” If you are familiar with Scriptures then you may quickly think I refer to John 3:16. You’re right.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Now let’s look at this verse more closely part by part as a way to study it. This is a suggestion from “How to Study the Bible” included in The Open Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers).

(FOR) GOD — the greatest person;
SO LOVED — the greatest devotion;
THE WORLD — the greatest number;
(THAT) HE GAVE — the greatest act;
HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON — the greatest gift;
THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES (IN HIM) — the greatest condition;
SHALL NOT PERISH — the greatest mercy;
(BUT) HAVE ETERNAL LIFE —
the greatest result.

There definitely are great ideas revealed in this one verse. John 3:16 is likely the one verse best known by the most people. It is even more important to be known in the heart than in the head only. Do you understand the difference?

Of course, if we have opportunities to read… study… learn… meditate on additional verses then we should and will benefit. John 3:16 is a great verse with which to start.

It’s rich in its message. It’s deep in meaning. It’s great in its life-changing revelation. It’s a source of hope. May we learn it. May it lead us toward a lifelong love of the Word of God and of the God of the Word.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world but that the world should be saved through Him.” (John 3:16, 17)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)

JOHN TRANTHAM: HOPE IN SOLID FOUNDATION

During the last century sounds so long ago, but today’s blog post comes from a time more than three decades ago. However it is said it still seems a long time ago, but the message is timeless.

My family knew an old retired pastor, B. John Trantham, who loved God and sharing the gospel of hope in Christ. He did those things well with the helper God had given him when he was a young man, the sweet and (in my memories) always smiling Mrs. Trantham.

Even at an advanced age this Christian brother still had powerful thoughts and messages to share. I remember one in particular that he called Fourfold Foundation of Faith. It neatly presents John 3:16, a summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If any one verse could be the foundation of Christian faith, then surely it could be this one.

John 3:16 offers four important aspects: God’s Love, God’s Gift, God’s Gracious Condition, and God’s Great Salvation. This Bible verse says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“For God so loved the world” presents the first foundation part of GOD’S LOVE. “That He gave His only begotten Son” shows the second foundation part of GOD’S GIFT. “That whoever believes in Him” is the third foundation part of GOD’S GRACIOUS CONDITION. “Shall not perish but have eternal life” offers the fourth foundation part of GOD’S GREAT SALVATION.

Together these four aspects of faith are one firm foundation upon which the Christian faith can be built. Together they explain enough of the gospel for one who believes to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

One doesn’t have to know it as Fourfold Foundation of Faith. Know that trusting John 3:16 as the foundation of faith makes an eternal difference. Ponder that verse, and trust God’s Love, Gift, Gracious Condition, and Great Salvation. Do it today!

ZACH WILLIAMS: HOPE IN THE CHAIN BREAKER

Zach Williams was a rock musician bound by chains of alcohol and drugs. He is now free of those chains, but his freedom didn’t happen in his strength. His new freedom — and a better life — happened by the power of Jesus Christ, THE Chain Breaker.

The song he co-wrote, “He’s A Chain Breaker,” reveals Williams’ personal experience. Real change and new freedom is visible in the transformed Zach Williams, who is now a Christian musician.

See if you can relate to the words of the song below. If you can, then consider accepting a better life in Christ free from chains.

HE’S A CHAIN BREAKER:

“If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles;
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies;
If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside;
There’s a better life,
There’s a better life.

If you’ve got pain,
He’s a pain taker.
If you feel lost,
He’s a way maker.
If you need freedom or saving,
He’s a prison-shaking Savior.
If you’ve got chains,
He’s a chain breaker.

We’ve all searched for the light of day in the dead of night;
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight;
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right;
And there’s a better life,
There’s a better life.

If you’ve got pain,
He’s a pain taker.
If you feel lost,
He’s a way maker.
If you need freedom or saving,
He’s a prison-shaking Savior.
If you’ve got chains,
He’s a chain breaker.

If you believe it;
If you receive it;
If you can feel it;
Somebody testify….

If you’ve got pain,
He’s a pain taker.
If you feel lost,
He’s a way maker.
If you need freedom or saving,
He’s a prison-shaking Savior.
If you’ve got chains,
He’s a chain breaker.

If you need freedom or saving,
He’s a prison-shaking Savior.
If you’ve got chains,
He’s a chain breaker.”

(Songwriters: Jonathan Lindley Smith, Mia Fieldes, & Zach Williams)

“Out of my distress I called upon the Lord.” (Psalm 118:5)

“For the law of the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

“So if the Son makes you free you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

SILENT NIGHT: HOPE ON A HOLY NIGHT

If you are familiar with traditional CHRISTmas songs, then you’ve probably heard one of the best-known and most beloved hymns, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” The words were written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, and the music was composed by Franz Gruber on December 24, 1818. It was first performed that CHRISTmas Eve night in Oberndorf, Austria, at a worship service exactly two hundred years ago.

Silent Night, Holy Night! All is calm, All is bright! Round yon virgin, Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Shepherds quake at the sight. Glories stream from heaven afar. Heavenly host sing alleluia. Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

Silent Night, Holy Night. Son of God, Love’s pure light, Radiant beams from Thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus Lord at Thy birth, Jesus Lord at Thy birth!

Silent night, holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light; With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King! Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!”(Mohr)

I don’t know if the first Christmas night was a “silent night” as Mohr imagined, but I do believe it was a holy night filled with great hope! A young virgin mother who experienced a miracle in a Son’s unique birth surely would have been hopeful for more miracles in His life.

A man devoted to the young mother and devoted to the mission God had chosen for him was hopeful that with God’s help he could become an earthly father to this Child born of Holy God Himself.

Lowly shepherds heard an announcement by a heavenly host of angels and had enough hope to hurriedly leave their flocks to witness the miracle baby that was proclaimed along with peace and joy to the world and even to them personally!

I imagine that one holy night was overflowing with hope! All these first CHRISTmas participants experienced hope, because each experienced Jesus, the baby in the manger, who had stepped down from heaven to become the awaited Messiah. Before the world was created God’s plan for our salvation was set in motion, and hope was always included in His plan.

Wherever there is Jesus Christ, there is always hope! A Savior with no hope to offer the world would be sadly lacking.

Are you looking for hope? Jesus is near to be found, and He has an never-ending portion of hope for you personally.

“Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'” (Luke 2:13, 14)

MEANING OF CHRISTMAS: GOD WITH US BRINGS HOPE

  1. As the Christian holy day nears, will you spend time pondering the true meaning of CHRISTmas?

In the book of Matthew in the New Testament we are told that the name of God’s gift to the world in the form of a baby was to be called Immanuel.

Immanuel means “God with us.” This name brings hope to our lost world. Surely there is no more hopeful reality than God Who loves the world enough to come be with us. He came to redeem us despite our falling short of His glory. He came to provide God’s salvation so we can be with Him throughout Eternity!

What could bring more hope than God with us? Yet too many people choose to ignore the awesome reality of the first CHRISTmas. Does it make sense to celebrate a birthday without inviting the Guest of Honor?

A “Scrooge” closes his (or her) eyes to the meaning of CHRISTmas. This results in being stressed and depressed and having too little peace in one’s own heart and no good will toward the rest of humanity.

In the busyness of life you may not give a thought to the One Who is CHRISTmas personified… God with us. Jesus Christ should be included in CHRISTmas of course. Even more than a passing thought, He should be our primary focus!

If you don’t know Jesus and want to… He is found in God’s Holy Bible, in God’s natural creation, in loving hearts of true believers. He can be found in your own personal life when you seek Him with your whole heart.

He came… He brings hope that makes our lives worth living… He is God with us!

 

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’”  (Matthew 1:23 nasb)

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:13 nasb)

“Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
His name is called Emmanuel.
God with us, revealed in us,
His name is called Emmanuel.
We love Him so, we love Him so,
His name is called Emmanuel.” (Bob McGee)

POEM: HOPE IN HIS GRACE FOREVER

Hope may bring joyful attitudes and life-changing direction. Hopelessness may lead to wrong choices and destructive actions. Sometimes the difference is a matter of choice.

I think the following poem offers hope, because it shows the huge transformation possible when a life is redeemed by Jesus Christ.

IN HIS GRACE FOREVER

“Hope sometimes is lacking

In those without backing

Of someone to give them a hand.

And then one with no hope

May turn on to dope

And blinded, hear demons demand:

‘Just destroy your life;

Sow discord and strife.

Who cares if the gutter you’ll land?

Go to kill… go to steal;

Reap trouble that’s real;

Let hatred sift through you like sand.’

But no pit is so deep

That God’s love can’t keep

A life in His mighty strong hand.

When I came to rope’s end,

I found such a Friend,

Who holds me in His nail-scarred hand.

Now I trust and obey

Christ Jesus, the Way;

In His Grace forever I’ll stand.

In His Grace forever I’ll stand!”

(Judy Gillum Foy)

God bless you… and may your heart be open to the life-changing power and hope to be found in Jesus Christ. Salvation is freely offered to all, and the price has already been paid. The best deal in the universe!

“He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed Someone to wash my sins away, And now I sing a brand new song, ‘Amazing Grace‘ all day long. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.” ( anonymous)

“Saved by His grace divine! Saved to new life sublime! Life now is sweet, and my joy is complete for I’m saved, saved, saved!” (Jack Scholfield )

“For by Grace you have been saved through faith. It is the gift of God not as a result of works so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)

FIRST THANKSGIVING: A GREAT HOPE (Part 1)

The Pilgrims, who celebrated America’s first Thanksgiving holiday almost 400 years ago, held fast to a great hope in God and a desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To show this idea is actual fact not just my hopeful opinion, I will share writings of their well-respected Pilgrim leaders, Governor William Bradford and Pastor John Robinson. I am thankful for Governor Bradford’s detailed written record and will include many quotes to enhance this three-part blog.

After years of searching for a home where the Pilgrims could live in peace and worship freely, Bradford wrote of their strong desire to travel to the New World:

…a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”

They faced the reality and risks of such an endeavor and chose to trust Almighty God even if it might cost their lives:

…all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be… overcome with answerable courages. It was granted that the dangers were great, but not desperate, and the difficulties were many, but not invincible… and all of them, through the help of God, fortitude and patience, might either be borne or overcome…

[But] their condition was not ordinary. Their ends were good and honorable, their calling lawful and urgent, and therefore they might expect the blessing of God in their proceeding; yea, though they should lose their lives in this action, yet they might have comfort in the same, and their endeavors would be honorable.”

They anticipated difficulties but also had enough hope to expect help from the all-powerful God they trusted:

Yea, and as the enterprise is weighty and difficult, so the honor is more worthy, to plant a rude wilderness, to enlarge the honor and fame of our dread sovereign, but chiefly to display the efficacy and power of the Gospel, both in zealous preaching, professing, and wise walking under it, before the faces of these poor blind infidels.”

They were concerned with more than themselves and prayed for the natives in the New World:

And first, seeing we daily pray for the conversion of the heathens… it seemeth unto me that we ought also to endeavor and use the means to convert them; and the means cannot be used unless we go to them, or they come to us. To us they cannot come, our land is full; to them we may go… that they may be persuaded at length to embrace the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus, and rest in peace with him forever.”

Their pastor, John Robinson, did not accompany the largest group of Pilgrims who left Holland to board ships in England for their journey to the New World. Instead he stayed behind to care for those physically unable to travel. Pastor Robinson genuinely cared for his flock and sent a letter with those leaving. His letter was filled with reminders of hope and help that would be read many times during challenging days ahead.

These words by Pastor Robinson show the kind of teaching they had been used to, still believed in, and would continue to rely on for needed strength:

“We are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for our sins known and generally for our unknown trespasses…[For] sin being taken away by earnest repentance ad the pardon thereof from the Lord… great shall be [a man’s] security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses.”

(To be continued… See A GREAT HOPE Part 2)

PRECIOUS MOMENTS CHAPEL: MESSAGE of LOVE, HOPE, & INSPIRATION

The Precious Moments Chapel near Carthage, Missouri, is a unique place. It offers visitors an opportunity to experience a moving message from the heart of an artist.  It is a message of love, hope, and inspiration. The results of Sam Butcher’s dream that originated almost 40 years ago has blessed many lives since the Precious Moments Chapel opened almost 30 years ago.

I hope you will visit online at preciousmomentschapel.org to see photos, to learn about the artist, and to understand the history of this special place.  Even better, visit in person to experience firsthand the chapel, the museum, and the beautiful grounds. Enjoy the figurines, murals, fountains, statues, and more. Go, and allow your heart to feel loved, hopeful, and inspired.

Sharing more than his dream and artwork, Sam Butcher shared his faith and this prayer: “It is my prayer that through my work in the Chapel, I might share my faith with others and that the Spirit of God might touch the visitors’ hearts and bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

I am thankful for Sam’s beautiful testament that is a place where precious moments truly abound.

IN CHRIST ALONE: MY HOPE IS FOUND

In 2001 Keith Getty and Stuart Townend wrote a song, “In Christ Alone,” that explains the life of Christ. It’s a beautiful song that is full of hope.

In 2005 it was named the 9th best loved hymn of all time by BBC Songs of Praise survey and in their 2010 survey was named 2nd best hymn of all time. It ranked number one on the UK CCLI charts in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, number two in Australia, number seven in Canada, and number 15 in the United States.  It was nominated by British Hymn Society as one of the top 5 hymns of all time and as a top 10 hymn in 2012 by BBC One’s Song of Praise.

IN CHRIST ALONE

“In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace;
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.

This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied,
For every sin on Him was laid.
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the World by darkness slain,
Then bursting forth in glorious Day,
Up from the grave He rose again,
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.
For I am His, and He is mine,
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand,  I will stand, I will stand.

All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground, all other ground
Is sinking sand, is sinking sand,
So I’ll stand.”

(Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)