Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

Christian Living Archive

Saturday

28

January 2023

Disobedience is our downfall

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"The fall is simply and solely disobedience—doing what you have been told not to do; and it results from pride—from being too big for your boots, forgetting your place, thinking that you are God." (C.S. Lewis) | Read more about disobedience on hopereflected.com

Recently, Wes and I were reading through 2 Samuel 6 and we came to the part where David and the house of Israel transport the ark of God out of the house of Abinadab to bring it to Jerusalem. What stood out to both of us was how Uzzah was killed when he reached out and tried to steady the ark of God.

“Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.” (2 Samuel 6:6-7).

Wasn’t Uzzah trying to help?

Wasn’t Uzzah trying to do the right thing by steadying the ark of God so that it didn’t fall?

God is perfect and we are not

To the average reader, we may question how God could kill Uzzah for touching the ark of God, when it appeared that Uzzah was just trying to help. There may be portions of Scripture that appear to us to be wrong or outdated, but as many theologians have pointed out, God is perfect, we are not, and it’s not up to us to question His Word.

Digging a little deeper, it turns out that while Uzzah was trying to help, he was actually directly disobeying God’s commands. Had David, Uzzah, and company obeyed God, they never would have been transporting the ark of God by cart in the first place. God instructed only His children – more specifically the sons of Kohath (Num. 4:15) – to carry the ark, according to His specific design of the ark in Exodus 25.

The consequences of disobedience

One might ask then if only one group of people was allowed to carry the ark, and the ark wasn’t to be moved by cart, then how come God didn’t kill the Philistines for transporting the ark in 1 Samuel 4 and 6?

As Christians, one of the indicators of our salvation is that we will act differently than we did before we came to know the Lord. Our salvation is not dependent upon our works; our works are demonstrations of our salvation. We are called to obey God.

Because the Philistines did not know God, they didn’t understand God’s rules. David, Uzzah, and the rest of the children of Israel did know God, and they understood God’s rules, but chose to disobey them and do their own thing. Hence why God allowed for Uzzah to be killed. There are consequences when we directly disobey God’s Word.

“The fall is simply and solely disobedience –
doing what you have been told not to do; and it results from pride –
from being too big for your boots, forgetting your place,
thinking that you are God.”

C.S. Lewis

In A Preface to Paradise Lost, C.S. Lewis wrote that “The fall is simply and solely disobedience – doing what you have been told not to do; and it results from pride – from being too big for your boots, forgetting your place, thinking that you are God.”

On the outside, Uzzah’s intentions looked good – I certainly questioned why God would kill him – but God could see his heart, that “proud presumption”, as Matthew Henry called it.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18).

Disobedience was Uzzah’s downfall.

Originally published as “Disobedience is our downfall.” Independent Plus. May 26, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Wednesday

18

January 2023

The cost of compromise

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“Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan…” (Genesis 13:10)

In the case of Lot, he walked by sight and not by faith. "Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan..." (Genesis 13:10). Read more about compromise on hopereflected.com

How compromise starts

It started with a look. Abram generously offered Lot first dibs on the land, and Lot chose for himself and his family the lush plain of Jordan, “…and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” (Genesis 13:12). Lot purposefully set up his homestead looking out toward Sodom, the inhabitants of which “were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” (Gen. 13:13).

This is how compromise starts; we see something and on the surface it probably looks good. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that “we walk by faith, not by sight:” however in this case, Lot walked by sight. Lot wasn’t trusting the Lord; he was trusting what he could see and what he thought looked good.

One of the problems with Christians today

We see more of the news and what the world declares to be right and wrong, and suddenly we’re making decisions based not on God’s Word, but on the world around us. Ever wonder why the world is actually fighting about things like “the right” to kill unborn children or trying to “change” biology? We’re more interested in cultural morality than we are in what God says is right and wrong.

At some point, Lot went from looking at Sodom to living right in Sodom, as we read in Genesis 14:12 that Lot gets taken hostage by the four kings, “And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.”

The sin of compromise is a slippery slope

The sin of compromise is a slippery slope; we start by looking at something, and the next thing you know we’re living it. Lot may have been a lukewarm Christian, but because he was lukewarm, he was weak, he compromised, and he was unwilling to stand up for what was right. His entire family suffered as a result and didn’t follow God.

Look around; certainly, there are things happening where we are living that are wrong, but what are we doing about it? We’re often afraid to speak up or stand up for the truth because we do not want to be accused of being intolerant. D.A. Carson, founder of the Gospel Coalition, once said that “People don’t drift toward holiness, they drift toward compromise and call it tolerance, and drift toward disobedience and call it freedom.”

“People don’t drift toward holiness, they drift toward compromise
and call it tolerance, and drift toward disobedience and call it freedom.”

D.A. Carson

Compromise doesn’t lead to anything good

In Genesis 19:1, we read that Lot “sat in the gate of Sodom:”. As I wrote in a previous column, gates in ancient times were places were the kings and civic leaders of a community or a city gathered to work. Lot was a leader in Sodom, probably using “tolerance” and “freedom” as his talking points.

Sin is a progressive thing. Lot started looking, then living, and then leading in Sodom. And what happened next? He lost everything. God literally destroyed Sodom and everything in it, and Lot ended up living in a cave. That’s the cost of compromise. Don’t be deceived; compromise in our lives doesn’t lead to anything good.

Originally published as “The cost of compromise.” Independent Plus. May 19, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

12

January 2023

All things are become new

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Barely a week and a half into the new year, and if someone asked how your new year’s resolutions were proceeding, how would you respond?

To become a Christian and walk in newness of life means that we must mortify our sins and crucify our old way of living. | Read more about how God makes all things new on hopereflected.com

Many of us love the idea of starting a new year; the mere suggestion of anything new—clothing, notebook, relationship, year—is in itself like a clean slate, a chance to start fresh at something or many things. A love for newness is not something that happens by chance; it’s an intrinsic part of our spirits.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans “Therefore are we buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4).

Old to New

To have anything new requires the death of something old. Buying new clothing usually means getting rid of old clothing to make room in your closet.

Starting a fresh notebook means retiring the old notebook to the shelf.

Beginning a new relationship means that a former relationship has ended.

Entering a new year means that we can never return to the old year again.

To become a Christian and walk in newness of life means that we must mortify our sins and crucify our old way of living.

Paul wrote on this topic multiple times through the New Testament, which suggests that this is certainly not an easy concept to grasp, and for those of us who are practicing it, this is most definitely a challenge to live.

New Creatures

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary that this “ought to be the care of all who profess the Christian faith, that they be new creatures; not only that they have a new name, and wear a new livery, but that they have a new heart and new nature. And so great is the change the grace of God makes in the soul, that, as it follows, old things are passed away—old thoughts, old principles, and old practices, are passed away; and all these things must become new.”

You’re not alone if you think this seems impossible.

Every day each one of us makes mistakes.

We all have failings, and as long as we’re living here that will be the case.

We should not, as Paul wrote, continue in sin, that grace may abound.

We must begin anew every day.

“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”

C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

Learning to rely on God each day

In his Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis wrote that “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” Thankfully, just as the dawn is new each day, and our mistakes are guaranteed us, so are God’s mercies to us.

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Originally published as “All things are become new.” Independent Plus. January 12, 2023: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

5

January 2023

20 life lessons learned in 2022

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The celebration of Christmas and the excitement of a new year are an ideal time to reflect on the past year and the life lessons we’ve learned. For certain this past year I’ve learned more than my share of life lessons, and here are some of the highlights.

"God allows us to experience the low points in life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way." C.S. Lewis | Read more life lessons learned in 2022 on hopereflected.com
  1. Running is an activity that requires great patience, is never perfected, and always practiced. “…let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
  2. Christians have a responsibility to stand out and to stand up for Biblical truth. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matthew 5:13).
  3. Though there may be unrest in the world, there can still be peace within us, and there are always glimmers of God’s grace around us. “No times are so wild but that in them are quiet corners, green oases, all the greener for their surroundings, where life glides on in peaceful isolation from the tumult.” (Alexander MacLaren).
  4. God is never surprised; there is no event to which He responds, “Oh boy, I didn’t know that was going to happen.” “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 1:8, 21:6)
  5. Service requires sacrifice, and so love is not just service, love is also sacrifice. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10).
  6. Even on days when we can’t see the sun, it’s still shining. There is always light. “One sun enlightens the whole world; so does one Christ, and there needs no more. What a dark dungeon would the world be without the sun!” (Matthew Henry).
  7. Anyone can lay up treasures on earth that they can’t keep; it takes real wisdom to lay up eternal treasures that you can’t lose. “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:5).
  8. When we strive to do things on our own and in our own power, we are bound to be anxious and worried. “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12:24).
  9. To wait, to keep serving the Lord requires great faithfulness and good courage because it is not easy, especially in the face of fighting and turmoil. “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14).
  10. We won’t get far if we try to flee from God. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Psalm 139:7).
  11. We are disillusioned if we think that we can get away with directly disobeying God. “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” (Psalm 37:2).
  12. It is a privilege to have friends who will labour to carry us to Christ and exercise their faith on our behalf. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Mark 2:5).
  13. We are not really living our faith if our lives don’t bear fruit. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
  14. We don’t have to understand all the details when we trust that God is working every detail for His glory. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  15. We can only grow spiritually if we are daily in God’s Word as a way of living, not an occasional activity. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:” (Colossians 2:6).
  16. “Although the Lord may not appear for us in the way we expect, or desire, or suppose, yet He will in some way or other provide for us.” (Charles Spurgeon).
  17. Sin is a slippery slope, and there is always a cost to compromise. “And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.” (Genesis 14:12).
  18. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18). “The fall is simply and solely disobedience – doing what you have been told not do; and it results from pride – from being too big for your boots, forgetting your place, thinking that you are God.” (C.S. Lewis).
  19. We should be more interested in getting understanding than getting our point across. “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” (Proverbs 29:11).
  20. Vain repetitions are many words with no meaning; persistence in prayer has power because it requires us to have great faith. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

It was C.S. Lewis who wrote that “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My god, do you learn.” Lewis also wrote that “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” Whether these lessons are learned at a low point or a high point, I hope these life hacks are found to be of value.

Originally published as “20 Life Lessons learned in 2022: Parts 1 and 2.” Independent Plus. December 29, 2022 and January 5, 2023: 5. Print. Web.

Friday

23

December 2022

A season for those who are discouraged and down

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

Finding joy at Christmas can be very difficult for some people.

No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened. (C.S. Lewis) | Read more about joy during advent on hopereflected.com

As we move through the final week of Advent, we look at the theme of joy. The first advent of Jesus came during a time when people were discouraged and down. It was a time when people were not joyful. This is one reason the Gospel of Luke’s account of that first Christmas includes a history of John the Baptist and his parents Zacharias and Elisabeth.

Then joy arrived

Zacharias and Elisabeth lived during the “days of Herod the king” (Luke 1:5). A foreign ruler and friend of the Romans, Herod made Judea part of the Roman empire. Things were not going in Israel’s favour. Things were bad, and then joy arrived with the birth of John and then Christ’s first coming. Things got really good. As Matthew Henry wrote, “Israel enslaved, yet then comes the glory of Israel.”

Zacharias and Elisabeth were John’s parents. Elisabeth was barren, and in addition, she and her husband were now “well stricken in years” so she was past the age of bearing children. In Biblical times, part of being a woman included having children, and to not be able to have children was a tremendously difficult burden to bear. (Read 1 Samuel 1 for a better understanding of the grief and depression of being barren).

“joy cometh in the morning.”

David wrote in Psalm 30:5 “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Just as we cannot grow our faith without first facing fear and other unfavourable feelings, so we cannot experience joy without first experiencing grief and other sorrows. How do you even know what joy is unless you’ve first come to know what it most certainly is not?

The angel of the Lord visited Zacharias and foretold of John’s birth. “…thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.” (1:13-14). The angel also visited Mary and shared with her the news that she would carry Christ, and the news that her cousin Elisabeth was pregnant. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (1:36). After the grief of barrenness, imagine the joy of a child! What a beautiful reminder that in and of ourselves we are fruitless, until God miraculously intervenes!

A strength to grow our faith

Mary hurried to visit Elisabeth, who greeted Mary, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb… For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.” (1:42, 44). The babe, John (very much a living human in the womb), leaped for joy.

“No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.
Those who seek find.
To those who knock it is opened.”

C.S. Lewis

Joy! What a strength to grow Mary’s faith! “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour… For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (1:46-47, 49). The first advent of Christ reminds us that God does great things on behalf of those who believe in Him. And to believe in Him is to know true joy. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

Originally published as “A season for those who are discouraged and down.” Independent Plus. December 22, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

You can read more about the themes of Advent here.

Thursday

15

December 2022

A season for those pursuing peace

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"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) | Read more about peace during advent on hopereflected.com

Another theme of Advent is peace, and what better time for peace than a season that for some seems to have anything but.

Peace is not something that happens when we are passive; peace is something that happens when we remember our position. We are under the authority of the Prince of Peace, and we have peace when we live out His purpose for us. He is our Provider, and He gives real peace.

Subjects of The Prince of Peace

Throughout history, everyone has been the subject of some kind of ruler, from Kings and Queens to Princes and Princesses, Prime Ministers and Presidents to Governors and Senators. It’s expected that any citizen of a country has their allegiance therewith. At Christmas, we are reminded that just as there are earthly rulers, there is one Creator and Ruler over all. He came to earth so that we might know Him. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6).

Matthew Henry wrote of Jesus that “He is the prince of peace. As a King, he preserves the peace, commands peace, nay, he creates peace, in his kingdom. He is our peace, and it is his peace that both keeps the hearts of his people and rules in them. He is not only a peaceable prince, and his reign peaceable, but he is the author and giver of all good, all that peace which is the present and future bliss of his subjects.”

Pursuing after real peace

So many people become subjects of the commercialization of Christmas, falsely thinking that pursuing after price tags and parties and popular gifts will provide some parallel of peace. What they don’t realize is that God provides peace to those who pursue after Him, not to those who pursue after appearances. The peace of God that we read about in Colossians 3:15 is possible when we know the God of peace.

When we look at all the “perfect” Christmas card photos, decorated homes, and the abundance of gifts and giving that others have going for them, suddenly Christmas can be a time when our own imperfections are highlighted. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we put our passion into pursuing after The Prince of Peace, rather than into making our own Christmas “perfect”, that’s when we will find true peace. The prophet Isaiah wrote that God “wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3).

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on thee:
because he trusteth in thee.”

Isaiah 26:3

Peace, no matter what is happening

Contrary to what the world would have you think, Christmas isn’t about buying the most expensive gifts, or putting together the prettiest highlight reel, or even having the most beautiful table setting. Christmas is about focusing our hearts and thoughts on that first Advent of Christ, and having peace because—no matter what is happening in the world around us—He’s coming again.

Originally published as “A season for those pursuing peace.” Independent Plus. December 15, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

8

December 2022

A season for anyone afraid of the future

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"And blessed is she that believed." Luke 1:45 | Read more about the theme of Faith in Advent on hopereflected.com

The first week of Advent traditionally focuses on the theme of hope: The Hope of fulfilled Scripture, the Hope of Christ’s birth, the Hope of Christ’s second coming, the Hope that came to earth for you and for me.

As we continue our Advent journey through its second week, another of the themes of this wonderful season is faith. Just as we cannot have Christmas without hope, we also cannot have Christmas without faith. Hope and faith are part and parcel.

A season for anyone who is afraid of the future

As much as Christmas is a season for the hopeless, the grieving, the lonely, and the sad, Christmas is also a season for anyone who is afraid of the future. Perhaps you find yourself afraid of the uncertainty that you’re feeling this season, questioning who you’ll spend Christmas with, what the New Year will bring, why you’re all alone, or how come you’re the only person who feels this way. Feeling afraid? You are not alone!

Right there, in that first chapter of Luke, at the beginning of Christ’s Advent history, we see this example of a woman who was—at least to start—more fearful than faith-filled, but who finished faithful rather than fear-filled.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, when the angel Gabriel came to visit her, was afraid. “And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.” (Luke 1:29). Mary had questions. She was anything but confident, but ultimately Mary chose faith over fear, saying “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38).

Faith must be first

“Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity. To grow any kind of faith, we must hold on and move through fear. Just as hope and faith go hand-in-hand, we can expect that for us to grow any kind of meaningful faith means that we must first face and uproot all kinds of fear and other unfavourable feelings.

To hear that “blessed is she that believed” (Luke 1:45), we must put faith first. That doesn’t mean that we won’t ever experience uncertainty or that we’ll never feel afraid, quite the contrary: We will, it just means that we don’t give those feelings first place. Faith must be first and always at the forefront, over fear and other feelings.

“Faith respects the thing to come, which is the object of that hope.
Faith respects the promise, hope the thing promised.
Faith is the evidence, hope the expectation, of things not seen.
Faith is the mother of hope.”

Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry wrote that “Faith respects the thing to come, which is the object of that hope. Faith respects the promise, hope the thing promised. Faith is the evidence, hope the expectation, of things not seen. Faith is the mother of hope.” Christ’s birth, His second coming, His coming to earth for you and for me—and Christ Himself.

Advent is the time where we grow our faith and abide in hope that things will not always be like this, that there is a better day to come, that Christ will make His triumphant return.

Originally published as “A season for anyone who is afraid of the future.” Independent Plus. December 8, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

1

December 2022

Advent: A season for the grieving

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It’s that time of year when Christmas preparations are getting into full swing—families and companies are hosting Christmas parties, friends are planning gift exchanges, and children everywhere are compiling their Christmas wish lists—and for some, this can be a hard season.

The first Advent - Christ's birth - gives us hope, because through it, God highlighted the significance of the hopeless. Read more about advent and a season for the grieving on hopereflected.com

For anyone grieving

For anyone suffering strained familial relationships, to say Christmas can be a challenge would be an understatement. For anyone who is grieving, the celebratory season of Christmas can cause an inconsolable heart to break even more. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we redirect our attention from the family get-togethers, the food, and the gift exchanges, and we look to understand the true meaning behind Christmas, this season can become what it was originally meant to be: A season of hope.

A brief history of Advent

Christmas is a season which celebrates the birth of Christ, beginning with Advent (which always starts the Sunday closest to November 30, November 27 this year), and ending on Christmas Day. Advent is a key part of fully embracing Christmas. Taken from the Latin word adventus, Advent literally means “coming”. People who celebrate Advent usually explore different themes for the four weeks of December leading up to Christmas, traditionally themes of Hope, Faith, Peace, Love, or Joy.

Hope can be a difficult thing to grasp

Hope can be a very difficult thing to grasp, especially for anyone who is grieving or alone. Christmas, the first advent of Christ, is all about Hope. You cannot have Christmas without Hope. Christ’s birth gives us hope in that it is the fulfillment of several prophecies in Scripture: The virgin birth (prophesied in Isaiah 7:14), the incarnation of Christ (prophesied in Isaiah 9:6), the timing of Christ’s arrival on earth (prophesied in Daniel 9:24), man’s rejection of Christ (Isaiah 53:1-4), Christ’s crucifixion (Psalm 2), and Christ’s resurrection (Psalm 16).

Refusing to give up hope

Christ’s birth gives us Hope because through it, God highlighted the significance of all those who were without hope. Who was instrumental in Christ’s birth? Not Queens and Kings, not the rich and powerful, and certainly nobody famous. The unnoticed, the overlooked, and the under-appreciated, these were the people who played a role in the first advent of Christ. Mary and Joseph and the shepherds were no celebrities. What they were was faithful despite the dark season and refusing to give up hope when it seemed like there was no hope to be found.

“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.”

C.S. Lewis wrote that “The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth, the very thing the whole story has been about.” Christ’s birth gives us Hope because His coming to earth was for you and for me. We are all familiar with John 3:16, “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.”

Christmas is a season for the grieving, for the lonely, for the sad, for the hopeless—Christ’s birth gives us Hope because it serves as a reminder that God gave His Son for you and I! Christ took on all our grief, loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness, so that we might find true Hope in Him.

Originally published as “A season for the grieving.” Independent Plus. December 1, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Friday

25

November 2022

Consider the ravens

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He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. Psalm 147:9 | Read more about the significance of ravens on hopereflected.com

True or false: After the flood, the first bird Noah sent out of the ark was a dove?

False.

After the flood, the first bird Noah sent out of the ark was a raven (Genesis 8:7).

Even though it’s written right in Scripture, perhaps we are surprised at this because we prefer the illustration of the presence and promise of God associated with the dove more than we do the darkness and death often associated with the raven. Several commentaries observe that Noah’s reasoning for sending out the raven first was likely because as a scavenger bird, the raven would be first to smell the decaying flesh of dead carcasses on the dry earth. And yet, when we think of Noah’s ark, we are more likely to recall the dove returning to the ark with an olive leaf. We should not discount the importance of ravens in Scripture, however.

Ravens in the Bible are very significant.

Ravens are fascinating creatures. When we read about ravens in the Bible, several times throughout Scripture ravens are used as examples of darkness, however ravens also paint a beautiful picture of God’s provision. It is interesting to note that God would choose to use such a bird as an example, because in Biblical times ravens were abominated by the Jews and considered to be unclean (Lev. 11:15). This is what makes the picture so beautiful: If God cares and provides for even the raven—a bottom-feeding bird that is despised and unclean—how much more must He care for us!

God cares for all His creatures.

The same God who cares about people whose homes and lives are being destroyed because of ravaging war also cares about birds in backyards who are building their nests. While we may not understand how He can care simultaneously for both, Jesus Himself told the disciples to “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?” (Luke 12:24). God demonstrates care for all His creatures; both great and small. Creatures that don’t matter at all to us matter a great deal to Him. God Himself asked Job, “Who provideth for the raven his food? When his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.” (Job 38:41). Who provides for the ravens? Certainly not man, but God. And if God provides for even the lowliest of creatures, will He not also provide for us?

“Although the Lord may not appear for us in the way we expect, or desire, or suppose,
yet He will in some way or other provide for us.”

Charles Spurgeon

When Elijah could not provide food for himself, he remained obedient to God and trusted Him. It was no coincidence that God used ravens to provide Elijah with what he needed (1 Kings 17:6). Here again we see a beautiful picture of God’s providence and provision for us, painted from one of the most unlikely sources (ravens in the Bible). As Spurgeon said, “Although the Lord may not appear for us in the way we expect, or desire, or suppose, yet He will in some way or other provide for us.”

“He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psalm 147:9). God provides all things to all creatures, even the ravens.

Originally published as “Consider the ravens.” Independent Plus. April 28, 2022: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

17

November 2022

Of Faith and Friendship

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

We should consider it a privilege to have friends who will carry us to Christ

When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. Mark 2:5 | Read more on hopereflected.com

True friends are of utmost importance as we walk through the land of the living. One of the most frequently-referred to friendships in the Bible is that of David and Jonathan. Read almost anything about Biblical friendship, and theirs is likely an example that pops up.

Another important Biblical friendship

Of no less significance is the friendship between the unnamed men shared in Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5. We don’t know much about the group of friends, other than one of them was paralyzed from birth, and there would have likely been four others carrying him around (as in verse 3 it says he “was borne of four”). After word spread of the many miracles Jesus was performing, these men heard that Jesus was in Capernaum, and they brought their palsied friend to Jesus to be healed.

Bringing friends to Jesus

We read in Mark 2 that there were so many people gathered to see Jesus that the men couldn’t get into the house where He was (v. 4). Convinced that Christ could heal their friend, and desperate to get their friend into His presence, these guys went up on the rooftop, broke up the tiles and other roof coverings, and let their friend down through the ceiling. This was no easy task—it was difficult enough to carry a paralyzed man, let alone break up the roof, and safely lower the man in the bed down into the building—and yet these men knew if they could get their friend in front of Jesus, that Jesus could heal him. There was no guarantee that Jesus would heal the paralyzed man, but they had to try. Now that’s friendship!

We read in Mark 2:5, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” When Jesus saw their faith, not when Jesus saw the paralyzed man’s faith, but when Jesus saw their faith. Matthew Henry wrote that, “True faith and strong faith may work variously, conquering sometimes the objections of reason, sometimes those of sense; but however manifested, it shall be accepted and approved by Jesus Christ.” The faith of these friends was evident, so much so, that Jesus saw their faith. These friends were what we say today, “Living your faith.” Their faith was seen through their actions. Can the same be said for us?

It is a privilege to have friends who will labour to carry us to Christ

In the face of uncertainties – and let’s be real, there are many uncertainties in the world right now – do we demonstrate a visible faith? Are we willing to step out and act in faith, even if we don’t know exactly what the plan is? Do we trust God enough knowing that He is in total control, to totally yield to Him, even if we can’t see the outcome? It is hard to answer “yes” to these questions, but the answer becomes easier when – like the paralyzed man – it is believed and carried by a group of friends. We should consider it a privilege if when we are unable to answer “yes” for ourselves, we have such friends who will labour to carry us to Christ and exercise their faith on our behalf. 

Originally published as “Of faith and friendship.” Independent Plus. March 31, 2022: 5. Print. Web.