Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

Published Work Archive

Wednesday

26

January 2022

Surviving the storm, part 2

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

How many times in the storm do we miss shelter because we don't petition the very One who calms the storm we are stuck in? | Read more about surviving the storm on hopereflected.com

In the storm, how can we remember the presence of God?

Spurgeon said, “The Christian is made strong and firmly rooted by all the trials and storms of life.” We can only be made strong and firmly rooted when our foundation is sure. After the disciples call out to Christ, “saying, Lord, save us: we perish.” (Matthew 8:25), Jesus questions them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). For the Christian, fear and faith cannot coexist. Ultimately, one will overpower the other. Matthew Henry wrote, “How imperfect are the best of saints! Faith and fear take their turns while we are in this world; but ere long, fear will be overcome, and faith will be lost in sight.”

The very One who calms the storm

Jesus then “…arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 8:26). How many times in the storm do we miss shelter because we don’t petition the very One who calms the storm we are stuck in? “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.” David wrote in Psalm 61:1-4. “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.” When it storms, birds protect their babies from the wind and rain by covering them with their wings. God, in His great care for us, does the same, offering us shelter under the cover of His loving arms. Does our cry come unto Him first, or do we exhaust our own devices and strength before seeking His shelter?

"Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer... For thou hast been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy." (Psalm 61: 1, 3) | Read more about surviving the storm on hopereflected.com

In the midst of the storm, God is still in control

Sometimes this is hard to believe, but it is true. In His timing, He will arise, and He will rebuke the winds and sea that are tossing us about. We need only “Be still” and rest in the knowledge that He is in control (Psalm 46:10). When someone is stuck in the water, or in danger of drowning, the worst thing they can do is to panic. But that’s our human instinct. We fight to keep our head above the waves, we struggle to swim. It seems senseless to try to remain still and breathe deeply even though these are two of the ways that can help us stay afloat. We are instructed throughout the Bible to “Be still,” (Psalm 46:10), to “rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him,” (Psalm 37:7). Even in the midst of the storm when it doesn’t make sense, we need to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5).

“But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this,

that even the winds and the sea obey him!”

Matthew 8:27

When we’re tempted to worry, may we marvel instead that the One who controls the winds and the sea cares for us. “But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8:27). The bigger God is to us, the smaller the storm will seem.

Originally published as “Surviving the storm, part two.” Independent Plus. September 16, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Read part one of Surviving the storm here.

Monday

24

January 2022

Surviving the storm, part one

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be trouble, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah." (Psalm 46:1-3) | Read more about surviving the storm on hopereflected.com

Storms can make us ask all kinds of questions

“Why would a good God allow this to happen to me?”

“What is the point to this?”

“Where do I go from here?”

“How did I get here?”

“Who would have ever thought this would happen?”

Storms have a way of making us wax existential and ask some serious questions of our Creator.

The disciples had questions too, after they ended up in a great storm whilst traveling with Jesus. "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38). Read more of surviving the storm on hopereflected.com

The disciples had questions too

The disciples had questions too after they ended up in a great storm whilst traveling with Jesus.

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

What a question to ask, especially on the heels of the miracles Jesus had just performed, healing a leper, a centurion’s son, and even Peter’s mother-in-law! One would think that by witnessing Christ’s healing power firsthand that the disciples would have no doubt of His love for them, and yet, they asked, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Be prepared for rough waters

We can learn so much from the accounts of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8, Mark 4, and Luke 8. When we follow Christ, we ought to be prepared for rough waters. “And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.” (Matthew 8:23).

If we’re following Christ because we think by doing so we’ll be exempt from troubles, think again! Before the disciples followed Him on to the ship, what did Jesus say? “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14).

Following Christ is not for the faint of heart.

Troubled waters need not trouble us, because God is a very present help in any kind of trouble. Read more of surviving the storm on hopereflected.com

Comfort in the storm

What a comfort that God is not worried about the storms that we’re going through. God is not worried about the waves washing on board our ships. “And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.” (Matthew 8:24). God already knows what we are going through.

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 46:1-3, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.” Troubled waters need not trouble us, because God is a very present help in any kind of trouble.

“Troubled waters need not trouble us, because God is a very present help in any kind of trouble.”

Hope Reflected

Charles Spurgeon famously said, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.” In the midst of the storm, are we coming to the only One who can save us?

“And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.” (Matthew 8:25). He hears our petitions; He wants us to come to Him! We should never let the presence of a storm cause us to doubt the very presence of God.

Originally published as “Surviving the storm, part one.” Independent Plus. September 9, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Tuesday

18

January 2022

Bold as a lion

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"The Bible not only describes the devil as a lion; this mighty animal is used to illustrate Christians as well. "...the righteous are bold as a lion." (Proverbs 28:1) Read more on hopereflected.com

A roaring lion

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8). Anyone who’s watched a documentary about lions understands the picture being described here. A roaring lion is both fierce and hungry, with a powerful roar that can be heard up to 8km away. Lions have a distinctive prowess; they act gracefully and swiftly to take over their prey – even when their prey is running in the opposite direction.

Peter warned believers that the devil is “seeking whom he may devour,” walking and watching for the best opportunity to destroy Christians. If he fails at one attempt, most assuredly he will continue trying until he succeeds.

Lions are not afraid to face each other head on

Fortunately, this is not a one-sided battle. The Bible not only describes the devil as a lion; this mighty animal is used to illustrate Christians as well. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth:” Proverbs 28:1 opens, “but the righteous are bold as a lion.” Bold as a lion not only in the sense of our ability to pursue, but also bold as a lion that is not afraid to face another lion head on. Observation of nature has shown us that lions will fight one another in situations when they are threatened, when their cubs are in danger, and when another lion assaults their territory.

Biblical examples of courageous Christians

Fellow Christians, we are not to turn away in times of adversity, we are not to shrink back and sulk away silently when our beliefs are openly contradicted and wrongfully made out to be backwards; these are the very times that we are trained for. The confrontations that we face courageously every day prepare us for even greater adversaries.

Consider David, who before defeating Goliath bravely killed a lion that threatened his sheep (1 Samuel 17:35). Look at Samson, who before destroying the temple and defeating the Philistines, killed a lion that attacked him (Judges 14:5-6). Famously, Daniel was cast into a den of ravenous lions and demonstrated courageous bravery the whole night through, and then his accusers were cast in and destroyed by the same lions before they reached the bottom of the den (Daniel 6:20-24).

Be prepared to give an answer

Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians that Christians become more confident when they see other Christians boldly “speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14). What do our brothers and sisters in Christ see when they look at us? We are exhorted in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Are we working for God, are we prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us when someone questions us or contradicts what’s right?

“speak the word without fear.”

Philippians 1:14

We should not be ashamed! Unfortunately, we often avoid giving hard answers because we want to be liked and we want to be comfortable. In doing so, we become cowards, and we teach our children the same. Matthew Henry wrote that, “Sin makes men cowards. Whatever difficulties the righteous meet in the way of duty, they are not daunted.” Christian lions need to stop basking and start being bold.

Originally published as “Bold as a lion.” Independent Plus. September 2, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Read more about being bold here.

Monday

17

January 2022

Forgiveness: Lord, increase our faith

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

Forgiveness is often very difficult and hard. Read more about why on hopereflected.com

Why does forgiveness seem like such a hard option?

When someone wrongs us, our initial response is to set up our favourite defence mechanism. For some, it’s avoidance. For others, it’s revenge. For even more, it’s what I call the slow cooker, where we internalize whatever has happened. We put our hurt feelings in the slow cooker and set it to low, or high, and let it cook, stew, burn, and eventually harden to the sides of the slow cooker until getting that thing clean is near impossible. All of these responses are wrong, but it seems as though forgiveness is just as hard an option.

Why?

Forgiveness is part of God's nature, not ours. Read more on hopereflected.com

Forgiveness is part of God’s nature, not ours

To start, forgiveness is part of God’s nature, and because we’re fallen, sinful creatures, forgiveness is not something that comes naturally to us. Some people are born with the natural ability to sing, while others sound best when they keep their mouths closed. Other people have a natural aptitude to dance, while some people are safest when they stand still.

“For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee,” David prayed in Psalm 86:5. God – without trying – is good and ready to forgive. He doesn’t need time, He doesn’t need to think about it, He is ready to forgive and shower us with mercy when we call on Him.

Forgiveness is an act of humility. Read more about forgiveness on hopereflected.com

Forgiveness is an act of humility

Another reason that forgiveness is so hard for us is that forgiveness is an act of humility. C.S. Lewis wrote, “…if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”

James wrote in his eponymous epistle, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:10). Similarly, Peter wrote “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” (1 Peter 5:6). To humble ourselves is first a choice, and also an act of repentance. Each one of us understands how humiliating it can be to go to another and say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me”. It is a difficult task to admit that we are wrong and repent.

Like humility, forgiveness is a choice. It is something that we do, and that we are called to do over and over and over again, many, many times (Luke 17:4).

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,

and he shall lift you up.”

James 4:10
Forgiveness is a method of healing. Read more on hopereflected.com

Forgiveness is a method of healing

Anyone who has been injured, sick, or undergone surgery knows that the road to recovery is not easy. Some days, healing hurts. Initially, forgiveness may hurt as well. Who wants to uncover old wounds or rip off the bandages hiding our hurt? Spurgeon said, “It is nobler to forgive and let the offense pass. To let an injury rankle in your bosom and to meditate revenge is to keep old wounds open and to make new ones.” Wounds must be treated if they are to heal properly.

When Hezekiah prayed for the Lord to pardon those that prepared their hearts to seek God, we read that the Lord healed the people (2 Chronicles 30:20). Forgiveness is no easy task. Like the disciples, we ought to approach it by asking the Lord to increase our faith.

Originally published as “Lord, increase our faith.” Independent Plus. August 19, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

13

January 2022

When fear is holding you back

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"There is neither in heaven nor earth nor hell anything that we need fear when we are once right with God. Settle the centre, and the circumference is secure." (Charles Spurgeon) | Read "When fear holds you back" on hopereflected.com

Fear makes us do funny things

In John 9, Jesus miraculously restored the sight of a man who was blind from birth. If a member of your family were miraculously healed of a life-long ailment or disability, would you not rejoice? And yet, when questioned by the Pharisees about how their son could now see, the parents of this man said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.” (John 9:20-21). Rather than rejoice and profess the glory of God and the healing power of Christ, they were silent. Rather than share their incredible testimony, they stood still.

Fear can affect when and how we share our faith

We may think we’d react differently, but this response is sadly like many of us. We often allow the fear of others to affect when and how we share our faith. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” We get trapped when we’re afraid of others. We do or say things we ought not to. The Message paraphrase puts Proverbs 29:25 like this: “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in GOD protects you from that.” When our testimony is tested, have we ever said, “I felt trapped!” “I was caught off-guard!” or “I was afraid of what they would think!” as an answer to why we didn’t speak up? Why do we care so much about the opinion of others, when we read right in scripture that, “whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe”?

We act foolishly when we let fear control us. Abraham is an example of this, when he asked his wife Sarah to lie for him in Genesis 12:12, because he was afraid of what others would do if he told the truth. When we choose fear over faith, the outcome is never good. Thankfully, Abraham checked his behavior and changed his ways, ultimately moving forward in his faith.

God can help us break out of the fear trap

When fear is holding us back, only God can help us break out of the trap. Calling on the name of Christ is the only way to go from fearful to fearless. When his parents fizzled out and the Pharisees questioned him, the man who Jesus healed spoke the truth. “If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:33). As a result, he was excommunicated. But what man meant for evil, God meant for good.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (9:35). Jesus personally seeks us out. He finds us. When a child is afraid, he usually calls out for his mother or father to comfort. Will we call on Christ to come to us? Jesus relieves our fears when He finds us. When fear is holding us back, only God can help us move forward.

“There is neither in heaven nor earth nor hell anything that we need fear when we are once right with God. Settle the centre, and the circumference is secure.”

Charles Spurgeon

Originally published as “When fear is holding us back.” Independent Plus. August 12, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Wednesday

5

January 2022

Accused or excused?

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

Our obedience to God’s Word determines the outcome.

"My conscience is captive to the Word of God." (Martin Luther) Read more of "Accused or excused?" on hopereflected.com

Our inner compass

To accuse is to place blame, and to excuse is to forgive or pardon. Our conscience is our inner compass to help us recognize right from wrong, to help us understand where blame ought to be placed, and where pardon should be granted. Our conscience is not our judge; it acts more as a witness. As Paul wrote in Romans about the following of the Law between the Jews and the Gentiles, “… their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;” (2:15). C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Problem of Pain that God speaks to us through our conscience. For Christians, this should be true, but so often today we run into people making decisions guided by their “conscience” whose internal value system is not based off the Bible. Unless we let God through His Word lead our conscience, we are in great danger of buying into distorted views and making poor decisions.

Where do our convictions come from?

Martin Luther said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” Unfortunately, this isn’t always true for us. We frequently hear even prominent “Christians” claim that they agree with everything in the Bible, except the parts where God lists ____ [fill in the blank here] as a sin.

It should be a red flag when we hear Christians claim that they agree with every thing in the Bible, except the parts where God lists ___ [fill in the blank here] as sin. Read more of "Accused or excused?" on hopereflected.com

Where do these convictions come from if not from the Word of God? R.C. Sproul said that, “acting according to conscience may sometimes be sin as well. If the conscience is misinformed, then we seek the reasons for this misinformation. Is it misinformed because the person has been negligent in studying the Word of God?” Most likely, especially in cases where Christians take on viewpoints that completely contradict Scripture. We cannot pick and pull parts of God’s Word to work for our convenience.

God’s Word is the final authority

“But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:25). God’s Word was not only the final authority thousands of years ago, or just for a short time, or only before we “progressed” as a society, God’s Word endures forever and is always the final authority. When we believe this, we should be prepared to come into opposition. When people don’t want to be accountable, when they know the right way but they prefer to follow their own path and pleasures, they don’t just shy away from the truth, they outright oppose it and accuse others of being wrong.

“What the Bible calls wrong, the world calls right; what the Bible calls sin, the world calls virtue.”

Hope Reflected
God's Word always has been and always will be the final authority. Read more of "Accused or excused?" on hopereflected.com

What the Bible calls wrong the world calls right; what the Bible calls sin the world calls virtue. With misinformation and conflicting messages abounding, it can be hard to discern what’s really right from what’s really wrong. We need to bring it back to Biblical basics. “let God be true, but every man is a liar;” (Romans 3:4). Paul called out Jew and Gentile alike who were making themselves judge and jury, who were accusing or excusing behaviours amongst themselves.

There is only one judge, and He is God. What the Bible says is what ultimately goes, even if we don’t like the case. Our obedience to God’s Word will be the determining factor of whether we stand accused or excused.

Originally published as “Accused or excused?” Independent Plus. August 5, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

30

December 2021

With us always

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

No matter who is against us, even when we are surrounded with opposition, God is with us.

"No matter what is in front of you, you don't have to face it alone." Read about how God is with us always on hopereflected.com

He is with us.

“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” (Acts 23:11). The Lord was with Paul, and He is with us. As Matthew Henry wrote, “Whoever is against us, we need not fear, if the Lord stand by us.”

No matter what we face, we don’t face it alone.

As the new leader of the children of Israel, tasked with leading them into Canaan after the death of Moses (talk about intimidating!), Joshua needed to be reminded more than once that God was with him. First, Moses assured Joshua of God’s presence in Deuteronomy 31:6 when Joshua was commissioned to be Moses’ successor. “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

There is no greater reassurance than the presence of God.

Then, as he prepared for the conquest of Canaan, Joshua needed to be reminded by the Lord Himself that God was with him. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9). Whatever season we are going into, there is no greater reassurance than the presence of God. Even when we face unknowns and uncertainty, we don’t face it alone. We need to be reminded of this frequently!

"I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:20). Read about how God is always with us on hopereflected.com

David, nearing the end of his life, reminded himself of God’s presence, when he penned Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (v. 4). After a lifetime of danger, death, and no shortage of drama, David recalled how no matter what he faced – even in death – God was with him.

“…for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Joshua 1:9 (KJV)

Thousands of years later, these inspired words are often-quoted and continue to provide hope to God’s people, even in the darkest of times. What a comfort that even in the deepest valley and under constantly cloudy skies, the Great Shepherd still leaves His flock to come and find us, and bring us back. His rod and His staff guide us and defend us wherever we are.

"Jesus didn't say He might be with us, He didn't say, "I was," in past tense. He says in very present tense, "I am with you always."" Read about how God is always with you on hopereflected.com

Our Lord is with us, always.

Jesus Himself gave this promise, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus didn’t say He might be with us. He didn’t say, “I will be,” in future tense, or “I was,” in past tense. He says in very present tense, “I am with you always”. Jesus doesn’t claim to be with us sometimes, or only when we’re good. He promises that He is with us always. No matter where we are, no matter who we face, and no matter what season we’re coming into or coming out of – it does not matter what – our Lord is with us, always.

Originally published as “With us always.” Independent Plus. July 29, 2021: 5. Print. Web.

Friday

10

December 2021

The Lord has His way

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

“The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power… the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” (Nahum 1:3)

"Wherever this Christmas season finds us, may we remember that the Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm (Nahum 1:3). Read more on hopereflected.com

Even in the midst of circumstances that we don’t understand, even when it seems that everything is being thrown at us, and even during trying times when we long to grasp God’s purpose, He is working. “…the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm…” When we are being thrown about, tossed and turned, the Lord still has His way.

Our response during the whirlwind and the storm is important. That is not to say that it’s wrong to be troubled, or that it’s wrong to ask questions. Take Mary for example.

Mary trusted the Lord. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38). Read more on hopereflected.com

Mary had questions

In Luke 1, when the angel Gabriel is sent by God to share with Mary that she will conceive and birth Jesus, we read that Mary “cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.” (v. 29) and was troubled at Gabriel’s words (v. 29). Rather than be flattered, Mary was confounded. “How shall this be?” she asked Gabriel (v. 34). After Gabriel’s explanation, Mary ultimately accepted the responsibility, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (v. 38).

Mary sought godly counsel

Immediately following her encounter with the angel, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth (v. 39), where she found encouragement from Elizabeth regarding what had transpired. As Matthew Henry wrote, “Sometimes it may prove a better piece of service that we think to bring good people together, to compare notes.” During the whirlwind and the storm, when we find ourselves questioning what is going on, it’s wise to seek godly counsel from trusted Christian family and friends. It’s encouraging to be enveloped in prayer by fellow believers. It’s reassuring to know that we are not alone.

Mary was faithful and "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19). Read more on hopereflected.com

Mary was faithful

When it came time to give birth to the Messiah, Mary brought Jesus forth “and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7). Imagine, hearing from an angel that God has chosen you to deliver the Son of God, of whose kingdom there shall be no end, and then delivering him in a seemingly sad surrounding. If we were in Mary’s place, we would likely have images of grandeur in our minds; thoughts of huge celebration, attention showering, rejoicing, and gifts.

Talk about underwhelming; imagine Mary’s thoughts as she birthed our Lord, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger – used to hold animal feed, likely in a stable or just outside. Was she disappointed, or upset? Evidently Mary didn’t become overly emotional, but rather “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (2:19). Mary remained faithful.

“Wherever this Christmas season finds us – in the whirlwind or in the storm – may we remember that the Lord has His way.”

Hope Reflected

C.S. Lewis wrote that, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.” Wherever this Christmas season finds us – in the whirlwind or in the storm – may we remember that the Lord has His way. And may we be faithful like Mary, even when things don’t quite go as we plan, and even when we don’t understand.

Originally published as “The Lord has His way.” Independent Plus. December 10, 2020: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

9

December 2021

What are we doing while we’re waiting?

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

There is a blessing when we wait on the Lord

As much as Advent is a season of celebrating, it is also a season of waiting. Read more of "What are you doing while you're waiting?" on hopereflected.com

Advent is a season that’s filled with anticipation as we celebrate the first advent of Christ, and prepare for Christmas. As much as Advent is a season of celebration, it is also a season of waiting.

When I was a child, there were several years that I found it particularly difficult to go to bed on Christmas Eve. My heart was filled with such anticipation of waking up to a stocking hanging on my bedroom door, gifts under the tree, delicious food to eat, and cousins to play with – it felt like I literally could not wait for Christmas. I had to, however. I can recall my parents tucking me in to bed, saying that Christmas morning would be here soon enough, and I can remember thinking that it would never come, but eventually it did.

Advent means coming. When something is coming, it has not yet arrived, and therefore, we must wait. We have to wait for Christmas, as we do many things in life. Perhaps it’s not Christmas that you’re waiting for. Maybe you’re waiting for a phone call, for a difficult season to end, an exciting new season to begin, or for a certain milestone. We’re all waiting for something. My Mum and I recently talked about waiting and “what-ifs”, and she asked me, “What are you doing while you’re waiting? That’s the key.”

How to wait on the Lord

Are our hearts focused on Christ? Are we worrying or resting in Him? Worrying is tiring because it requires a great deal of energy. Remember what the Bible says about waiting on the Lord: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) When we wait on the Lord, we rest in Him. Even if we have to remind ourselves multiple times throughout the day, we should choose to rest in Him rather than to worry. Waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean that He’ll remove our challenges or speed up time, but when we wait on the Lord, He promises to strengthen our hearts (Psalm 27:14).

“Waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean that He’ll remove our challenges or speed up time, but when we wait on the Lord, He promises to strengthen our hearts (Psalm 27:14).”

Hope Reflected

Rather than fretting about the future, we should commit our way to the Lord. “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) When we wait on the Lord, He will bring it to pass! Though the outcome may not always be what we think – or sometimes even what we want – there is a blessing when we wait on the Lord.

Working faithfully while we’re waiting

While the shepherds were waiting, they worked faithfully. “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:8) As a result they witnessed the first incarnation of Christ, what we celebrate today as Christmas. The Lord is good to those who wait on Him! (Lam. 3:25) As we celebrate Advent, may we recognize the benefits and blessings of waiting on the Lord. As C.S. Lewis once said, “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.”

Originally published as “What are we doing while we’re waiting?” Independent Plus. December 19, 2019: 5. Print. Web.

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.