Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

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.

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.