Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

encouragement Archive

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thursday

4

November 2021

Countenance Sharpeners

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

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

The victor’s material

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

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

Sharpening is important

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

Realignment and straightening

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

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

True friends point one another to Christ

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

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

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

Hope Reflected

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

Saturday

30

October 2021

Like Hinds’ Feet

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

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

Deer are incredible creatures

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

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

The Bible references hinds’ feet

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

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

David and Habakkuk both claimed God as their strength

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

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

It’s a necessity to claim God as our strength

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

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

Hope Reflected

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

Thursday

7

October 2021

Sent into stormy seas

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

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

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

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

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

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

The disciples weren’t inexperienced boaters

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

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

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

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

“The world can create trouble in peace,

but God can create peace in trouble.”

Thomas Watson

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

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

Wednesday

15

September 2021

The gift of grace

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"Just as a careful gardener will stand over a plant that needs water, and will pour water on the surface until the earth has drunk it up, and then add a little more; so He gives step by step, grace for grace, an uninterrupted bestowal, yet regulated according to the absorbing power of the heart that receives it." Alexander MacLaren | Read more on hopereflected.com

“And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” (John 1:16)

Whether exercising, consuming too much salt, or working out in the heat of the summer, there are times when we get really thirsty for a glass of water. We drink until we’re satisfied, or until we’re thirsty again, and our bodies absorb all the water we need. Clean drinking water is important, and even more so is the body’s ability to absorb water.

So what does any of this have to do with grace?

Just as absorption is an important aspect for our physical health, it’s even more important when it comes to spiritual virtues. In his Expositions of Holy Scripture, Alexander MacLaren wrote that, “Just as a careful gardener will stand over a plant that needs water, and will pour the water on the surface until the earth has drunk it up, and then add a little more; so He gives step by step, grace for grace, an uninterrupted bestowal, yet regulated according to the absorbing power of the heart that receives it.”

Grace is a quality that we can grow in. Read more on hopereflected.com

Grace is a quality that we can grow in

This is great news for those of us who have a grace deficiency! “But grow in grace,” Peter encourages believers, “and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18). Earlier in 2 Peter, he writes that with growth comes fruitfulness (2 Peter 1:8). If we are ever feeling less than productive in our relationships with God and one another, we ought to do a check on the absorbing power of our heart. While our personal preference would have us do unto others as we think they deserve, we ought rather to give what is not deserved, just as God gives to us.

Grace is a gift that we don't absorb or appreciate as we should. Read more on hopereflected.com

Like many of the physical things that we take for granted every day – getting out of bed in the morning, blue skies and the freedom to walk outside, and even our very breath – grace is one of those spiritual virtues that we don’t “absorb” or appreciate as we should.

Hope Reflected

More great news about the gift of grace

More great news about the gift of grace is that it is something that we can abound in. To abound means not just to be full, but to be overflowing, not just to survive, but to thrive. Certainly this is not possible in and of ourselves – that would completely defeat the original purpose of grace – but overflowing grace is possible with God. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

In order for us to abound in grace, we must be willing to give it away. As Matthew Henry said, “God gives not only enough for ourselves, but that also wherewith we may supply the wants of others, and this should be as seed to be sown.” If we want to live lives with grace abounding, we need to be prepared to live lives that demonstrate grace faithfully and consistently to others.

Originally published as “The gift of grace.” Independent Plus. May 6, 2021: 5. Print. Web.