40 Days of Hope Week 6
(Devotions are written by Pastor Brenda unless otherwise indicated.)
Day 35 Sunday, November 3
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15: 13 (NIV)
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thessalonians 5: 11 (NIV)
We are in our last week in this series on hope. A crucial understanding is that connections bring hope. We find hope as we draw closer to God. We find hope through our connections to one another. We were created by God with the need to feel connected- to feel supported and valued. When I ponder my own experiences, I realize how just the smallest of interactions or a brief word from another has the power to brighten my entire day.
God wants to bless us with hope so that we will have the strength for difficult times and the joy of the moment. God also calls us to be ‘hope-bearers.’ In Romans 15, the goal is for us to overflow with hope….this is overflowing into our relationships and connections. In I Thessalonians, we are specifically instructed to encourage one another.
In this last week of our 40 Days of Hope, I invite you to consider how we, as the church, can build stronger connections and answer God’s call to be hope-bearers. Brainstorm a few ideas about how to connect with ministries already meeting at Muir’s Chapel: (Or if you attend another church- how to connect with the ministries meeting at your home church)
Scouts– Do you have a skill that could help our scouts earn a badge? Could you offer devotions for a scout meeting and spend some time with the boys?
Playschool- What about a secret pal program for the teachers- sending encouraging notes? Or maybe providing home-baked goods for the playschool staff every once in a while?
Be an Ambassador– Have you ever thought about going to meetings and offering a 1-minute welcome from the church and staying around to answer any questions one might have about the fellowship or missions of the church?
Welcoming Team– What about serving as a parking lot greeter? Or mingling on Sunday mornings before service and greeting as many folks as possible- especially those you do not know yet?
“Lord, show me the person this week that needs that word of encouragement from me. Sometimes, I am busy enough and settled enough with my friend circle that I don’t even think about reaching out to someone new. Replace my inward focus to an outward focus. Teach me that by giving hope I also receive hope. We grow and serve with an outward focus. Replace my ‘hands-off’ posture towards those folks that come through the church each week with a genuine interest and concern to make their programs or ministries stronger. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward so that I will be a ‘hope-bearer.’”
36 Monday, November 4th
Psalm 34:18-19 (NRSV)
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord rescues them from them all.
Jeremiah 31:3 (NRSV)
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
This week in our worship services we sang “Come Ye Disconsolate” (11:00) and “Come As You Are” (9:00, and a fave of mine.) I’d say it’s hard to find two better texts of ultimate hope and rescue than these. David Crowder, songwriter of “Come As You Are” actually wrote the song as a modern re-write of “Come Ye Disconsolate”. A friend saw the title and knew David Crowder could do something cool with it. As Crowder read and prayed over the hymn text, he knew these heavy words were as important now as they were when the hymn was originally written. Both the hymn, written in 1831, and the Crowder song, released in 2014, have the same ending refrain: “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”
Often, in today’s world, we are caught up in doing the important work of “contextualizing” our faith, teaching, and worship. It is important to find Christ’s message for today’s time and people. It’s important to realize the Bible was written in a place in time, for a people in time. But we can never forget that the gospel- the good news, is transcendent. The good news of “Jesus saves” is beyond time. The message of hope offered to us is the same now as it was in 1831, as it was when the angels proclaimed to the shepherds, as it was when God gave the words above to Jeremiah. “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Yesterday, today, forever—Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. Take a look at the texts below, and meditate on the hope in them.
1 Come, you disconsolate,
where’er you languish;
come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts,
here tell your anguish;
earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal.
2 Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, in mercy saying,
“Earth has no sorrows
that heaven cannot cure.”
3 Here see the bread of life; see waters flowing
forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast prepared;
come, ever knowing
earth has no sorrows but heaven can remove.
Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure
There’s joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Everlasting God, who loves us with an everlasting love. You have given us an eternal message of hope. We know from your promises that there is nothing in this world that you cannot heal, cure, or take away—either in this life or the next. Fix our hearts on your hope. Fix our minds on your word. Fix our eyes on Jesus. Amen.
Day 37 Tuesday, November 5
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3 (NRSV)
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3: 1-2 (ESV)
“Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, Harper Edition, 2001, pp. 134-135)
Laurin Allred, our Worship & Creative Arts Director, recently reminded me of this passage from Mere Christianity. It brought to my mind playschool graduation at Muir’s Chapel. This is a highlight for me each year. One of the things I enjoy the most is when the children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. The responses vary from a firefighter to a dancer to President. I have observed that when children are around 10-12 years old, an increased number simply respond that they want to be famous. Our society has an obsession with celebrities, and it seems to me that fewer and fewer celebrities are actually doing something that could be considered culturally or socially constructive. They have sought fame for the sake of fame without a larger goal of benefitting society with their status.
As adults, what do we want to be? What are you obsessed with? What are you seeking? The scripture from Colossians instructs us to seek the things that are above. What ‘thing from above’ are you focused on in such a way that you are making an impact on earth? God’s desire for a just society, holy behaviors towards one another, hospitality, sacrificial living?
“Lord, focus me on Your work in our midst. Help me to answer the call to work alongside You doing ‘kingdom’ work on earth. Help me to aim for Heaven. Replace my inward focus to a focus on You and the needs of others. Restore my hope where I have allowed the hopelessness in society to invade my spirit. Help me to seek the things that are above that I might be used to bring others to You. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”
Day 38 Wednesday, November 6
“4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15: 4-5 (NRSV)
This passage tells us that we belong to God and that we are connected to one another. Vineyards were crucial to the survival of people in Jesus’ day, and our connection to the vine is critical for hope. The vine is Jesus. The gardener is God. We, the believers, are the branches. The reality behind the symbol is a close connection- the only connection that can save us is an intimate living relationship with God. We are not free-standing individuals, because when we distance ourselves from God, we put ourselves in a precarious position because our strength is from the vine. Our nutrients are from the vine. Our ability to produce fruit is from the vine.
The truth is that our connection with God colors and defines all other connections in life. This imagery also points to the importance of our connections with others. Vine branches are almost indistinguishable from one another. It is nearly impossible to determine where one branch stops and another branch starts. We are not free-standing individuals; we are to care for each other. Each branch does its part and this is a contribution to the entire crop- the fruit.
This scripture challenges our modern idea of independence. We are challenged to make something of ourselves and it can feel like it is all up to us. Have you ever found yourself struggling with a problem but are too embarrassed to share with anyone? Maybe you have experienced a deep wound, but rather than sharing it and praying for healing, you begin to wound others out of your own pain.
This passage from John 15 is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples. Though he knew they were about to face a hard time, rather than sounding a note of despair, Jesus spoke a word of hope and trust for their souls. They were going to need to stay close to Him. Jesus promised that if they abide in Him, they would not only survive, they would produce fruit.
Our fruit, our acts of love, is produced when we hold dear our connection to God and to one another.
“Lord, I keep trying to do it all myself. I pray but do not seek out a prayer partner. I read Your word, but do not consult biblical scholars or discuss insights with fellow learners. I do not have time to listen to others and develop those connections that could bring hope. I have let myself fall in despair before because I have wondered too far away from You. Lord, I can’t be a Christian by myself. And I can’t bear fruit- love others- sitting on the sidelines. Help me to live close to You and look outward at others so that I will experience hope. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”
Day 39 Thursday, November 7
Today’s Devotion is written by Brian Edwards, our Director of Youth and Discipleship.
“You have shown me the path of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.” Acts 2:28 (NLT)
So my birthday is February 28th or 2/28. I looked through the Bible to see if there was a “birth verse” that would mean something to me. So I began looking at the 2nd chapter and 28th verse of each book of the Bible. Beginning with Genesis 2:28 it took me all the way to Acts 2:28 to find a verse that really spoke to me. And boy, did it ever speak to me. This verse is a perfect verse in terms of the HOPE we gain from the PROMISES of God. Read it again, slowly …
“You have shown me the path of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.” Acts 2:28 (NLT)
Talk about a beautiful promise! To have God Himself show you the path to life AND fill you with the joy of His presence. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to know that I NEVER have to worry about God’s presence.
God is always with me. God is always with you, too.
Everyone has their own path in life. None of us have experienced the same things. Even though our paths are different – the same God is leading each of us to LIFE. We have God in common. We have God that unites us even in our differences. I am so thankful for that.
So remember – God has a path for you and it leads to life. And God is always with you and that leads to joy. That is quite the promise. It’s the kind of promise that gives birth to HOPE, a living HOPE. Thankfully we have a God who always keeps His promises. Praise be to God!
Day 40 Friday, November 8
“Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
Isaiah 40: 1-2 (NRSV)
“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 (NIV)
God’s promise to comfort us is surely one of our strongest reasons to hope. Given how often we use the word comfort, we could easily miss the full impact of these verses. I know, for myself, that I like ‘comfort’ foods too much- mashed potatoes, bread, cookies, pumpkin pie. Chilly fall nights lead me to wrap up in the ‘comfort’ of a blanket. If you are a parent of a young child or have small grandchildren, comfort is giving them a hug after they fall.
In Isaiah, God’s promise of comfort is given to a people in exile and punishment. It is given to them in a time where it seemed futile to hope. They had lost their homes, their life as they knew it. They knew that they had turned away from God, so they wondered if it was also futile to pray. The prophet Isaiah assured them that God had not abandoned them, would forgive, and heard their cries of despair. Isaiah also assured them of a homecoming. Their circumstance did not have the last say.
In 2 Corinthians, the comfort was also given during a time of trouble. The description of God itself offers hope for our souls- God is called the God of all comfort. God is ever ready to bless us with comfort and strength and wisdom and guidance. God does, however, ask something in return. God asks us to comfort others. When we have been comforted, then we are to turn around and comfort others. When we have been encouraged, then we are to turn around and encourage others. When we have been forgiven, then we are to turn around and forgive others. In all of these ways, we are ‘hope-bearers.’
We should never underestimate how much that hug means to a small child. The hugs and comfort we give them when they are small give them the confidence and courage to keep trying new things. The forgiveness we give to a friend frees them to be open and develop healthy relationships. The encouragement we offer one another when we have failed is the power for the next adventure. “Hope-bearing” is a beautiful gift.
“Lord, thank You for comfort, strength, guidance, forgiveness. Thank You for the gift of hope. Thank You that I can trust in Your promises and that You will continue to bless me with all of these gifts as I draw close to You. Help me to overflow with hope so that I offer comfort and encouragement and forgiveness to those around me. Fill me with the hope in You that grants the spiritual courage to move forward.”
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19
As we close our 40 Days of Hope, we remember that Christian hope is hope in God’s power and presence with us. It is hope in God’s love for us. It is hope in God’s choice to forgive and save us as we seek Him. It is hope in all of God’s promises to us that are sure and steady- an anchor for every time.