Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

Monday

29

November 2021

The Reason for the Season: A primer on Advent

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

What is Advent?

Advent, taken from the Latin word adventus, means "coming". Read more about what Advent is on hopereflected.com

Advent, taken from the Latin word adventus, means “coming”. During the four weeks of December each year, we celebrate the first advent of Christ and prepare our hearts for Christmas. Some families have an advent calendar for each day leading right up to Christmas day. Others prepare by reading through a selection of devotionals each day.

Some churches use an advent wreath and light a candle for each of the four Sundays:

  • the Prophecy candle, which symbolizes the hope of fulfilled Scripture;
  • the Bethlehem candle, which reminds us of the humility of Christ and symbolizes our faith in Him;
  • the Shepherd’s candle, which symbolizes love and reminds us that Christ came for all (including the shepherds who were some of the most inconspicuous people of their time);
  • the Angel’s candle, which symbolizes peace and reminds us of the Good News that angels announced.
During the first four weeks of December each year, we celebrate the first coming (advent) of Christ, and prepare our hearts for Christmas. Read more about what Advent means on hopereflected.com

Why does Advent matter?

Advent matters a great deal, because through it, we’re reminded of the accuracy of God’s Word. Advent represents truth. However we celebrate Advent, we remember that we are celebrating the first advent of Christ. After all, that is what Christmas is all about.

Christ’s birth fulfills so many prophecies in Scripture:

  • the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14);
  • the incarnation of Christ (Isaiah 9:6);
  • the timing of Christ’s arrival on earth (Daniel 9:24);
  • man’s rejection of Christ (Isaiah 53:1-4);
  • Christ’s crucifixion (Psalm 2);
  • Christ’s resurrection (Psalm 16).

Does Advent matter if I’m not a Christian?

It sure does! Advent is an opportunity for you to come to know Christ and have a personal relationship with Him. (If you’re wondering how you can come to know Christ, please read this). Advent serves as a reminder that Christ came to this earth so that every person could come to know Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Advent is a reminder that God so loved the world, and that includes you and I!

Should I celebrate Advent?

Should we celebrate the fact that God sent His Son to be birthed in a lowly manger, sent His Son to offer salvation to anyone who calls on His name? Yes!

This is a time of year when each of us can be reassured that no matter where we’re at – lonely, discouraged, or overrun and under-appreciated – God has a purpose and He cares about every detail. Look how He worked in the lives of the shepherds. There they were, “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night,” (Luke 2:8). God’s glory shone around them, and everything changed. No matter where we are, God can work. We just need to be faithful. Notice how the shepherds were being faithful, quietly going about their work, and that’s when God works. He is all about recognizing the unnoticed, the overlooked, and the under-appreciated.

This is a time of year when we can be reassured that no matter where we're at - lonely, discouraged, overrun, or under-appreciated - God has a purpose and He cares about every detail. Read more about what Advent means on hopereflected.com

Who would have thought that the King of Kings would come to earth in the most humble of surroundings – in a stable, where the animals find shelter? Jesus, who throughout His earthly life was the model of humility, encouraged all of us to take up our yoke and come after Him, “for I am meek and lowly in heart:” (Matthew 11:29). It was Christ who reminded us – while speaking to perhaps one of the most prideful groups of His day, the Pharisees – “whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) Humility was one of the most incredible characteristics of Christ, and yet how often we fail to consider it during the Christmas season. Oh that our journey through advent will bring us closer to Christ. He is, after all, the reason for the season.

Originally published as “The reason for the season.” Independent Plus. December 12, 2019: 5. Print. Web.

Monday

22

November 2021

Launch out into the deep

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

An unsuccessful night at work

After working all night, Peter and his crew got out of their boats and started cleaning their nets. Being a fisherman was no easy task; the vocation was a risky one, and the income wasn’t always steady. After this night in particular, Peter and his crew hadn’t caught any fish at all, which meant they wouldn’t have anything to sell at market.

As Peter painstakingly washed his nets, getting rid of any dirt and debris, Jesus got into Peter’s boat and asked him to put out a little from shore (Luke 5:3). Can you imagine? You’re just getting things cleaned up after a non-productive night at work, and someone asks you to get all your equipment back out – equipment that you’ve just cleaned and put away – and head out for another shift? And yet, Peter does it.

Peter was willing; are we?

Peter, without complaint or question, stopped what he was doing and followed Jesus. After Christ finished teaching, he said to Peter, “Launch out into the deep, and let down the nets for a draught.” (Luke 5:4). Peter responded, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” (5:5). Peter was willing to go out his way not just a little bit, but a lot. Can the same be said for us?

We get so caught up in our work that we put our relationship with Christ on the back burner. We can’t even keep up with simple tasks like reading God’s Word regularly and praying – we make other things higher priority. And yet, how many of us ask why God has not given us more? We put Him off, make excuses, waste time trying to rationalize what He wants us to do and question how it makes it sense, when what we ought to do is simply put out a little from shore. We will never get out into the deep waters Christ has for us if we’re not willing to wade into the shallow waters at all.

Our faith has a ripple effect

Peter, in his acts of faith, saw the results when he and his crew collected such a great multitude of fishes that “their net brake.” (Luke 5:6). The catch was so overwhelming that they needed another boat to help them out! Peter’s acts of faith didn’t just have an impact on him, but on those around him as well. Like waves on the water, our faith has a ripple effect. Our example makes an impression on those around us, whether for good or bad.

Like waves on the water, our faith has a ripple effect.

Hope Reflected

After catching all these fish, and more than compensating for a failed night on the water, rather than saying “Thanks, Lord! Gotta get these fish to market!” Peter instead humbled himself and “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (v. 8). Everyone around saw his response. Unfortunately, when Christ allows us to see success in our earthly ventures, we often let it go to our head. As Matthew Henry said, “Those whom Christ designs to admit the most intimate acquaintance with him he first makes sensible that they deserve to be set at the greatest distance from him.”

Originally published as “And yet, Peter does it.” Independent Plus. July 22, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Friday

19

November 2021

Our task in tribulation

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Romans 8:35, 37 Read more on hopereflected.com

There’s only one way to be encouraged in tribulation

We should not endeavour to evade tribulation; we should expect tribulation in this life. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that though they endured many trying times, they encouraged believers to continue in their faith and expect tribulation (Acts 14:21-22). Matthew Henry wrote that in our Christian walk, “we must count upon much tribulation, but it is encouragement that we shall not be lost and perish in it.” There is only one way to be encouraged in tribulation, and that is to keep our eyes on Christ.

Paul wrote in Romans that “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:3).

How Christ develops and grows our faith

Our task in tribulation is to glory in it, because through tribulation, Christ develops and grows our faith. Charles Spurgeon said that, “As God more fully equips your ship to sail in storms, He will send you on longer voyages to more boisterous seas, so that you may honour Him and increase in holy confidence.” Christ knew a storm was coming when He sent the disciples out to sea; He will not leave us helpless.

As we read in Romans 5 that tribulation works patience, this is another part of our task. We are to be patient. Jesus said that, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19). It is part of our Christian duty to be patient in tribulation, as Paul wrote in Romans 12:12. What a test, especially for those of us who so often struggle to rest in Him. “Only lovers of the Lord will hold out in the hour of trial;” Spurgeon said, “the rest will either sink or sulk, or slink back to the world.” In tribulation, we choose to either sit tight or sink.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God

Our task in tribulation may at times seem impossible, especially when we can’t see Christ through the storm. If we could only remember that through Christ we will overcome our obstacles. As Paul wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:35,37). Not even our most troubling tribulation can separate us from the love of God. This truth is what enables us to glory in tribulation and to be patient in it.

“There is no stumbling when a man walks with his eyes up to Jesus. He that looks at Christ walks safely.”

Charles Spurgeon

“CHRISTIAN! In all thy troubles, look unto God, and be saved. In all thy trials and afflictions, look unto Christ, and find deliverance. In all thine agony, in all thy repentance for thy guilt, look unto Christ, and find pardon. Remember to put thine eyes heavenward, and thine heart heavenward too. Bind round thyself a golden chain, and put one link of it in the staple of heaven. Look unto Christ; fear not. There is no stumbling when a man walks with his eyes up to Jesus. He that looks at Christ walks safely.” (Spurgeon).

Originally published as “Our task in tribulation.” Independent Plus. July 15, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

18

November 2021

Making the choice to rejoice

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"Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." (Philippians 4:4) Read more of "Making the choice to rejoice" on hopereflected.com

Instruction from the Bible

Rejoicing is actually an instruction that we’re given very clearly in the Bible, but as with all commandments, we have to make the choice to obey. Writing from prison to the believers at Philippi, Paul instructs them to “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (4:4). The peace of God determined Paul’s position, not a prison cell. Rejoicing is certainly not the easiest thing to do, but it is necessary for our faith.

Not always our first response

We don’t always rejoice as a first response to hard times, and yet this is what we are commanded to do. Habakkuk is a good example of contentment in uncertain circumstances. Seeing beyond the hard times his people were walking through and towards, the prophet said, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (3:18). Habakkuk’s contentment was possible despite his circumstances because his focus was in the right place. It would be impossible for him to rejoice if his focus had been on the fig tree, the vines, the failing fields, the flocks, and the empty stalls.

In the midst of it all, Habakkuk looked to the One who would help him through. “The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” (3:19). As Matthew Henry said, “And thus faith in Christ prepares for every event. The name of Jesus, when we can speak of Him as ours, is balm for every wound, a cordial for every care.” Rejoicing during hard times doesn’t mean we live in denial, or that we don’t acknowledge what’s going on around us. On the contrary, rejoicing requires us to admit our reality, and to recognize that we can’t deal with our problems on our own.

Even in the face of opposition, we can rejoice

Look at the apostles after they had been beaten and persecuted, and commanded to be quiet and no longer proclaim the name of Jesus. Did they shrink back and go home? No! Look at the first thing they did after being dismissed by their detractors. They rejoiced! “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:41). They weren’t rejoicing in the persecution; they were rejoicing in the name of Jesus. Peter, who was present before the council, later wrote “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:13).

“… if you and I can keep near Jesus Christ always… He will take care that our keeping near Him will not want in its reward in that blessed continuity of felt repose which is very near the sunniness of gladness.”

Alexander Maclaren

We don’t rejoice in persecution, but rather in the glory of the One who gives us peace in the face of it all. Rejoicing is possible when our focus is on the great Giver rather than the gift. When we recognize the source of our blessings, we can rejoice. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “… if you and I can keep near Jesus Christ always…He will take care that our keeping near Him will not want in its reward in that blessed continuity of felt repose which is very near the sunniness of gladness.”

Originally published as “Making the choice to rejoice.” Independent Plus. July 8, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Wednesday

17

November 2021

The agony of antagonism

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

There are two types of characters in every story - the protagonist and the antagonist. Learn more on hopereflected.com

Character Development 101

One of the essential elements taught in any story-writing class is that of character development. Generally, there are two types of characters in a story: The protagonist – who is usually the star, the good guy, the one we’re rooting for, and the antagonist – who is usually the bad guy, the villain, the one working against the protagonist.

Sounds kind of like real life, doesn’t it? We’re always living lesson after lesson of our own character development, and God tends to teach us through the other characters that He brings into our lives.

The word antagonist comes from the Latin antagonista, meaning “competitor, opponent, rival” or “one who contends with another”. Anti means “against” and agon means “a struggle, contest”, and is where we get our present-day word agony. Appropriate, as it can be agonizing dealing with an antagonist.

God tends to develop our character by the other characters that He brings into our lives. Read more of The agony of antagonism on hopereflected.com

Provoked and purposefully poked

Antagonists typically provoke someone of whom they’re jealous, resentful, or they just don’t like. In the case of Elkanah’s two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, Peninnah knew that Hannah was barren and she continuously contended with her about this. Even though Peninnah had children and Hannah was barren, Elkanah gave Hannah “a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah” (v. 5). Peninnah was jealous, and because of her resentment, Peninnah preyed upon Hannah’s weakness and “provoked her sore, for to make her fret,” (v. 6). It wasn’t that Peninnah antagonized Hannah once, no, the Bible says, “so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her;” (v. 7). Hannah was so deeply affected by this antagonism that “she wept, and did not eat.” (v. 7). Can’t we all relate? Chances are you have someone in your life who knows something that really bothers you, and they purposefully poke you in that area, trying to provoke you and get a reaction out of you.

The proper response to antagonism

Hannah’s response is everything. “And she was in bitterness of soul,” (v. 10). It would be a lie to say that when someone antagonizes you that you can just rise above and be the bigger person; God knows our hearts. It hurts when someone maliciously tries to manipulate and provoke you. Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and she “prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.” (v. 10). Can’t you just picture her, completely worn out, worn thin, and weary – falling flat on her face and giving it all to God? And what does she pray? She asks God to remember her, and not forget her, and she asks in faith and commits the deepest desires of her heart to God. Can the same be said for us? When we’re antagonized and provoked, do we – bitterness of soul and all – take our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses to the Lord? Or do we bite back, allow the antagonists in our lives to hurt us, and to control us through their actions?

Learn more about a Biblical response to antagonism on hopereflected.com

Do we take our vulnerabilities and weaknesses to the Lord? Or do we bite back and allow the antagonists in our lives to hurt us?

Hope Reflected

It’s interesting to note that after Hannah commits it to the Lord, we don’t read of Peninnah again. We do read, however, that the Lord remembers Hannah (v. 19), and that she remembers God’s faithfulness to her.

Originally published as “The agony of antagonism.” Independent Plus. July 1, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Wednesday

10

November 2021

To be servants

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

Read more of To be servants on hopereflected.com

We all seek approval in some shape or form

Perhaps it’s a longing to please parents, or even a boss at work. It’s human nature to want the reassurance that we’re doing the right things, and making good decisions. We often place so much emphasis on earthly success rather than focusing on what we’re layinIg up for eternity. For many, we’d rather hear, “Great job!” from a peer right now than wait for, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant:” (Matthew 25:21) from our Lord.

In Matthew 25, the parable of the talents, the master gives talents to his servants and then follows up with them to see what they did with the talents. Two of the servants receive a “thou good and faithful servant,” (vv. 21, 23) when they bring an increase, and one of the servants receives a “Thou wicked and slothful servant,” (v. 24) when he hides his talent in the earth. While we often focus on the talents, it’s important to remember the people as well. The difference between the “good and faithful” and the “wicked and slothful”, is all in how they served.

Christ is our most formidable example of what it means to be a servant. Read more on hopereflected.com

A person serving

Servant. From the Old French “servir” (meaning to serve), the word servant literally means a person serving. Christ is our most formidable example of what it means to be a servant. During His earthly ministry, He served God in absolute loyalty, humility, and love. Consider how Christ, in the last hours before His death on the cross, took a towel and basin and washed the feet of His disciples. Surely there were other ways He could have occupied His time before He died, but this act of servitude was vitally important. As Jesus said in John 13:15, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” We are called to be servants.

What matters most

What matters is not our intelligence quotient, or our looks, or our money, or the letters behind or before our name. To hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” what matters most is our heart. Are we walking in humility and love for our Lord and what that involves? Spurgeon said, “It is not ‘Well done, thou good and brilliant servant;’ for perhaps the man never shone at all in the eyes of those who appreciate glare and glitter. It is not, ‘Well done, thou great and distinguished servant;’ for it is possible that he was never known beyond his native village.” The other thing that it is not, is “Well done, thou good and faithful Director.” Or Manager. Or Mother. Or Farmer. Or Philanthropist. It is simply, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

We can seek approval, or we can serve after Christ.

Hope Reflected

Jesus said that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Paul reiterated this in his letter to the churches of Galatia. “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10). We can hide our talents in the earth, or bring an increase. We can seek approval, or serve after Christ.

Originally published as “To be servants.” Independent Plus. June 18, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

4

November 2021

Countenance Sharpeners

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:" Hebrews 10:24 | Read more of Coutenance Sharpeners on hopereflected.com

The victor’s material

In Biblical times, iron was the victor’s material for weapons of war. We read in Judges that Judah could not defeat the Philistines of the valley “because they had chariots of iron.” (1:19). Before the days of steel, iron was popular for the making of swords and other weapons, because it was stronger and could be sharpened better than other prominent metals of the time period.

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." Proverbs 27:17 | Read more on hopereflected.com

Sharpening is important

In woodworking, a dull blade can ruin a good piece of wood. In the kitchen, an unsharpened knife can cause serious injury to the person using it. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:17 that as “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Good friends help to keep each other sharp. You know the feeling when you finish a conversation with a good friend, and you feel better, lighter, and refreshed? That is the countenance sharpening that Solomon referred to. True friends help to refine, encourage us to grow in wisdom, and point us to the Lord. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” (Hebrews 10:24). True friends prepare us for action.

Realignment and straightening

Many people have a knife set in their kitchen. A standard knife set usually includes an unusual-looking column of steel or ceramic. This tool is called a honing rod. Contrary to popular belief, a honing rod doesn’t actually sharpen knives. A honing rod is used to realign and straighten knife blades that have become blunt or curled. Beyond countenance sharpening, a good friend offers correction when we’re going astray. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:2 that in addition to exhorting one another, we are to reprove and rebuke when necessary. Jesus Himself said that when a brother sins against us, we’re to “go and tell him his fault,” (Matthew 18:15). As much as we all need sharpening, we also need to be realigned and straightened out once in a while, too!

"True friends help to keep each other sharp. They help to refine, to encourage, and to grow." | Read more of Countenance Sharpeners on hopereflected.com

True friends point one another to Christ

Some commentaries suggest that to “sharpen” in Proverbs 27:17 is to antagonize or exasperate. A true friend doesn’t provoke; a true friend promotes others to be better people and most importantly points their friends toward Christ. Anything contrary to this is not friendship.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves that, “In friendship… we think we have chosen our peers…for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ Friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to us the beauties of others.” The opposite of sharp is to be dull, blunt, or blurred. We’ve all had occasions where we’ve felt less than our best. In such times, it is prayer answered to have a friend come alongside to sharpen our countenance.

“It is prayer answered to have a friend come alongside to sharpen our countenance.”

Hope Reflected

Originally published as “Countenance sharpeners.” Independent Plus. June 10, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Saturday

30

October 2021

Like Hinds’ Feet

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties." C.S. Lewis | Read more of "Like Hinds' Feet" on hopereflected.com

Deer are incredible creatures

Super absorbent shocks, smooth steering, excellent traction in most kinds of weather, making sharp turns effortlessly, top speeds of 60 km per hour, clearing 8 foot high fences from standing position – no, we’re not talking about some kind of hybrid vehicle, we’re talking about deer power.

With 47 species worldwide, deer are incredible creatures. We often associate deer with beloved storybook characters like Bambi or Rudolph. While they are gentle, deer are also an exceptionally nimble animal, due mostly to their hooves. If you’ve ever seen the feet of a deer, you may wonder what their tiny tootsies have to do with their agility. With two big toes covered in a hard, black nail made of a similar but stronger material than our fingernails, and two dewclaws on each foot, at first glance deer hooves certainly don’t seem like anything special. The hooves of a deer however help the animal sprint at very fast speeds, maneuver through various ground conditions, scale steep inclines, and clear tall structures from a standing jump.

The Bible references hinds’ feet

Just as Isaiah wrote that we shall “mount up with wings as eagles,” (40:31), the Bible also references hinds’ feet several times when talking about our spiritual position and the benefits that come when we have God as our strength.

In his song of deliverance (2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18), after the Lord delivered him from his enemies and from the hand of Saul, David wrote that the Lord “maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.” Similarly, in the book of Habakkuk, the prophet prayed and said that God “is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” (3:19).

David and Habakkuk both claimed God as their strength

While David and Habakkuk lived during two different periods of time and endured separate sufferings, they both recognized and revived their spiritual life and faith when they claimed God as their strength. They recognized that it is He who made their feet as “hinds’ feet” and set them on their high places.

Our strength is not in and of ourselves. If that’s where we’re looking, we will be gravely disappointed and consistently tired. Deer are not without their trials; they’re often hunted for game, afflicted with ticks or other parasites, and on the run from predators. As believers, we can expect affliction in various forms throughout our lives. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.”

It’s a necessity to claim God as our strength

For peace in difficulties, we must purpose ourselves to rely on God over and over again. For calm in chaotic times, we must repeatedly remind ourselves to rest in Him. For the antidote to anxiety, we must constantly cast our burdens on Christ. In order to absorb life’s shocks, to steer smooth, maintain traction through life’s trials, to run swiftly, and succeed through those sharp turns, it’s a necessity to claim God as our strength. Only then can we say, “he makes my feet like hinds’ feet.”

“For peace in difficulties, we must purpose ourselves to rely on God over and over again. For calm in chaotic times, we must repeatedly remind ourselves to rest in Him. For the antidote to anxiety, we must constantly cast our burdens on Christ.”

Hope Reflected

Originally published as “Like hinds’ feet.” Independent Plus. June 3, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

21

October 2021

The Grateful Retrospect

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

Read more about the grateful retrospect on hopereflected.com

Throughout the Old Testament, the children of Israel were told to remember how the Lord led them out of Egypt

One would think that such a significant event – which involved a whole people group leaving the land with all their belongings and more, witnessing the magnificent parting of the Red Sea and the crossing thereof, and the destruction of the entire Egyptian army – would be something that people would remember forever. And yet, they needed constant reminding because they were so quick to forget. “…beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Deuteronomy 6:12).

The disciples found themselves in a similar situation as they tried to navigate stormy seas

After the Lord walked to them on the water and calmed the wind, “they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.” (Mark 6:51-52). The disciples got caught up in their current circumstances and forgot about the miracle that they had witnessed earlier that evening when Jesus fed the five thousand. They shouldn’t have been surprised that Jesus came to them in the middle of the storm, for He had just taken a couple of fish and five loaves of bread and created a feast with leftovers. And yet, they were quick to forget.

Psalm 18:16-20 - Read more about the grateful retrospect on hopereflected.com

David made a point of remembering and meditating on the Lord, and all that He had done for him.

Hope Reflected

In Psalm 103:2, David said, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”. Unless we’re actively working to remember, we have a tendency to forget. “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands,” David later wrote in Psalm 143. David made a point of remembering and meditating on the Lord and all that He had done for him. It is wisdom when we do likewise. Some people choose to keep a prayer journal to record prayer requests and praises, while others make a point of offering thanksgiving during prayer before making requests.

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." (Psalm 103:2) Read more about the grateful retrospect on hopereflected.com

Whatever we do, we should remember God’s blessings to us, because they are many.

When the path seems dark and when there are storms on the sea, we have a hard time remembering the goodness of the Lord. “For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28). In the midst of turmoil, David wrote Psalm 18, where he recalls to mind all the ways that God has delivered him in the past. Spurgeon called it “the grateful retrospect”. “He…drew me out of many waters.” (v 16), “He delivered me,” (v 17), “He brought me forth… he delighted in me. The LORD rewarded me…” (vv 19-20). Though he was enduring an incredibly stressful and uncertain time, David remembered the goodness of the Lord. As Spurgeon said, “The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through them all.” How’s our memory doing? It helps us to remember when we practice the grateful retrospect.

Originally published as “The grateful retrospect.” Independent Plus. May 21, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

7

October 2021

Sent into stormy seas

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Even the most experienced among us will at times struggle through the storm. The disciples at least kept rowing; do we? | Read more at hopereflected.com

“And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.” (Matthew 14:21)

When we read the account of Jesus walking on the water, we usually focus on the miracle itself, and Peter’s attempt to come meet Him. We don’t always consider how the disciples got out into the storm-tossed sea in the first place.

After the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus instructed His disciples to get into a ship and to go before Him to the other side of the sea. “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples,” we read in Matthew 14. Other versions of the Bible say that Jesus “made the disciples” get in the ship (NIV), and that Jesus “insisted” that His disciples go on before Him (MSG). Our all-knowing God sent His disciples out into the sea when He knew there was a storm coming and that the water would be rough. God is not surprised by the storms that we encounter, or by any clouds under which we’re living that just seem to keep lingering and pouring on us day after day.

"And he saw the toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary to unto them:" (Mark 6:48a) | Read more of Sent into stormy seas on hopereflected.com

The disciples weren’t inexperienced boaters

These were men among whom were true fishermen, making their living on the water. They would have been accustomed to unsettled waters and known how to handle the ship when it was “tossed with waves” (Matt. 14:24). We read in Mark however that Jesus saw the disciples “toiling in rowing,” (Mark 6:48). Even the most experienced among us will at times struggle through the storm. The disciples at least kept rowing; do we? Joseph Benson wrote, “Though the wind was contrary, and they were tossed with the waves, yet being ordered by their Master to the other side, they did not tack about and come back again, but made the best of their way forward.”

How do we make the best of the way forward when we’re in the middle of the storm?

Like the disciples, we keep pressing on. When the disciples were stuck on the sea in the storm, “they willingly received him into the ship” (John 6:21). It’s integral as we keep going to draw on the Lord’s strength, that we willingly receive Him into our ship. Relying on our own strength will only lead to self-destruction. 

"Though the wind was contrary, and they were tossed with the waves, yet being ordered by their Master to the other side, they did not tack about and come back again, but made the best of their way forward." Joseph Benson | Read more of Sent into stormy seas on hopereflected.com

“The world can create trouble in peace,

but God can create peace in trouble.”

Thomas Watson

Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said that “If God be our God, He will give us peace in trouble. When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble.” When we’re being tossed about in the heart of raging waters and stormy seas, to say it’s hard to keep our focus on Him rather than the waves is an understatement. And yet, this is what we are called to do. In the middle of the storm, God says to us, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.” (Matt. 14:27). He who sends us into stormy seas will provide a way through.

Originally published as “Sent into stormy seas.” Independent Plus. May 13, 2021: 5. Print. Web.