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Words by Wil Triggs

I’ve been asked to give a testimony to our men’s Bible study. We’ve been doing Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology, a chapter or two at a time, and then they ask someone from the group to give a testimony. This week they asked me and the chapter is death and the intermediate state. It’s Wednesday night. I’m not finished exactly, but this is what I have so far…

Talk for Men’s Bible Study

Lately when I wake up in the morning, I check my weather app to see if the weather is 50 with wind or 25 with snow. This is so I know how to dress when I walk the dog and what I’m in for when I step outside.

The other day, I noticed that the Weather Channel added a feature to their app—the COVID-19 button down in the bottom right corner. I clicked on it and got a Coronavirus graph of how many people have been diagnosed and how many people have died in DuPage County every day for the last seven days. You can get it by county or by the whole state. You can choose infections, deaths or both.

To tell you the truth it seems a little macabre.

The thing is—Covid-19 is not the only thing that’s killing people. All the other ways people die are continuing unabated—the flu, cancer, heart disease. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the other things killing people just stopped? Is it supposed to make me feel better when I see social media posts that say more people die of the flu than Covid-19? That doesn’t really help.

When it comes to death, each one of us is going to be part of a statistic like that someday. Every single one of us. It strikes me in the midst of this pandemic, that in normal life, death is something most of the modern world would choose to forget. Maybe this is not a modern phenomenon—perhaps it’s always been that way. As humans, we do our best to social distance from death.

But not now. Day by day, as I check my app every morning, I can’t help it. I look to see how many people died of COVID-19 yesterday in DuPage County. I’m kind of fixated on it. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I mean, they’re talking about mass graves in New York. So 77 deaths in DuPage County isn’t so bad. But death is death.

And since death is on my mind more than usual, I end up thinking about some of my best friends in life who have died.

I think of Jim. The best man in my wedding—and I was the best man in his—he was a youth pastor, magician, puppeteer, trombonist, master of the pun and corny jokes, Christian formation professor at Trinity and Biola. Jim just sort of got me in a way that is hard to describe. People appreciate me. They like me, but with Jim, it clicked. He got me. One day he was walking with his wife and his leg went numb. He thought he was having a stroke. But it turned out to be inoperable brain cancer.

I did my best to walk with him through that, even though I was here in Illinois and he was out in California. I called him most nights and we checked with each other on how things were. Then, when he couldn’t talk anymore, his wife would tell me what was going on. Toward the end he said he saw Jesus in the room with him, praying. And then he went to heaven. For me, there’s no replacing Jim.

And there’s Peter. He was the missionary force that God used to put my heart in Russia and Ukraine, to serve the church there. Mostly, though, Peter was a man who wanted to do everything he could to help other people know and follow Jesus. I was part of a small handful of people who worked here in Wheaton while he lived in Moscow. Every morning there would be 20-30 sheets of handwritten fax pages telling us the latest news of what was happening and what we needed to do that day on top of our regular work. And then, email replaced fax, and 20-30 fax pages became 20-30 emails. We worked to impact legislation on religious freedom, connected church leaders with key partners, or directed them away from cult leaders who looked just like any other Christian from the West.

Then, out of nowhere, he and his wife were coming home early and heading to Mayo Clinic. His lymphoma was aggressive and fast. He fought hard and we prayed hard. One of the last things he told me was about our plans to do summer camp ministry with kids in Russia. Go, he said, you need to go. And we did. Peter’s energy, humility and ministry partnership with his wife have shaped me and Lorraine in ways that I can’t even begin to express. For me, there’s no replacing Peter.

One thing I’ll say—death is the enemy. Even Jesus prayed for the cup to pass if there was any other way. Of course, when we die, we won’t be taking the sins of the world on ourselves as he did, so his cup is a lot different than the ones we will all drink.

Death is with us because of sin. We aren’t supposed to embrace it.

I miss these people more than I can say. My life felt better with them physically here. The grief of losing them doesn’t end. But Jesus called them home. I trust him. Our days are in his loving, nail-scarred hands.

I don’t want to think so much of those dear ones I miss so that l lose out on the amazing wonder of the people right in front of me. I mean, every person is a universe of creative wonder, a unique expression from the hand of God. God’s stamp is on each of us and it’s not some kind of die-cut cookie cutter stamp. Everyone is different. My table guys—Mike and Michael and Val and Rick and Jeff and John—what a gift to walk with you guys and pray together and look together at the wonder of God’s Word. Seeing your faces in little boxes on my laptop, that’s better than nothing. It’s good. Just walking together through life with you –that’s so great. For me, there’s no replacing you guys either.

We aren’t people of death. We Christians are all about life. The hymn isn’t Jesus died and so shall I. It’s Jesus Lives and So Shall I—and that means that I will see Jim and Peter again. That means that someday all of us connecting tonight won’t have to use the internet and our devices to connect. We won’t have to drive to church and find places to park. That day is going to be richer and fuller and better than we can even imagine and we’re going to get to see Jesus and one another and Jim and Peter all at the same time and cry out together

Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.

There’s one more thing. Not everyone’s going to get this. People we know, people we love, some will go to a different place. Let’s not forget that and do all we can to show them the fountain of God’s love that none of us deserve but we all get to drink from because of the wondrous flow from the lamb of God.

Come. Drink. Live.

copyright 2020 Wil Triggs

A Quarantine Wedding

There are so many ripple effects of the COVID 19 pandemic. One of them is that it has become the very unwelcome wedding guest as couples have to scrap their plans, can’t honeymoon and are unable to get a wedding license. Saturday, April 18th was the date Dale and Megan set long ago. It was engraved on the band. Invitations were sent. Friends were asked to stand up with them. Showers and celebrations were arranged. And my organized niece, with a list, was in her element when the virus struck and all was postponed – maybe August? maybe not? Rather than become a statistical and logistical casualty, this couple met the potential roadblock with resolve and creativity to keep their most significant day a reality!

So, these 2 decided that the show must go on and on Saturday, with a live stream so that all those who could not travel and all those who wanted to witness this happy moment could tune in and virtually join in the celebration. Some dressed up in their living rooms. Some took screen shots and sent them to the couple. Some had a Zoom meeting so they could all watch “together”. It was special in the backyard that Megan called home. I had the honor of officiating. The parents were there. The matron of honor and the best man both gave toasts. We had masks and distancing but mostly we celebrated what no pandemic can stop – Here’s to the power of love!

Since their marriage started with the “hard times” may all the good times and the happily ever after begin. I love you Megan and Dale!

Resurrection Buns

It is interesting how each of us have different memories which turn into traditions or anti- traditions. I grew up the oldest and hated Easter egg hunts because I always had to hunt in a separate room from my siblings. On the flip side, I love many of the traditions of Easter and was once again reminded of a devotional I wrote many years ago for the junior high students in Scottsdale. I probably should see if I can find the original and print out a few more for my kids.

One of the traditions we had as a family in IL was the sunrise service that Christ Church would host along the shore of Lake Michigan. Finally a sunrise service facing East as the sun came up! It was usually too cold to put on typical spring clothing but we would bundle up and pack a picnic breakfast and head out to worship with our church family. Our breakfast usually included Hot cocoa, Orangina, hard boiled eggs, strawberries and resurrection buns. This year Clayton made the buns! Yum!!!

Resurrection buns are sweet empty tomb rolls where the marshmallow melts down to a sticky caramel sauce inside the roll and looks like the empty tomb when bitten into and it tastes like the sweet victory over death! Jesus’ body is no longer there because He is risen! All of us can live forever because of the death and resurrection of Christ!

There are other things that can be object lessons as well. If there is a little bit of marshmallow left in the bottom of the roll it is a reminder of the burial clothes. Also, the cinnamon reminds us of the spices and the butter represents the oils Jesus was anointed with when he was buried. The rolls are placed in the oven, aka the tomb!

Resurrection Rolls:

Ingredients:

18 frozen yeast rolls (Rhodes or Bridgeford) thawed. (Can also use Pillsbury Crescent rolls)

18 Marshmallows

1/4 c. sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon mixed together

1/4 c. melted butter

Directions:

1. Start out with the dough and press or roll each ball into a flat circle (about 4-5 inches in diameter). Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon sugar.

2. Roll marshmallow in melted butter and then into the cinnamon sugar,

3. Place in the middle of the dough circle and seal up the dough around the marshmallow.

4. Place the pinched side down in a greased or sprayed baking pan (9×13). Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar over the rolls

5. Let the rolls rest for about 15 min while the oven preheats to 350 degrees F. (They are best if made and eaten warm but if you make them the night before then you will need to let them come back to room temp for 30 min or so before baking)

6. Bake about 15 minutes until golden brown. Eat immediately

5 Years

Happy 5th Anniversary Osborns!

It is startling to wake up and realize that it has already been 5 years since your wedding day!  Is married life what you expected? Do you remember being single? Does it feel like 5 years? 5 years is the anniversary of wood – whatever that means…

So I will start a word play to honor the family sense of humor…

Would you promise to love each other better this year than you have the past year? Would you bravely ask each other what you need to do to make the other want to marry you all over again? Would you choose each other again? And, then would you be courageous enough to implement whatever it takes to do make it a reality? Would you have let go of some of the bickering and selfish things if you knew how much it meant to the other?

There is an Imagineering trick I learned from McNair Wilson years ago that I will share in honor of 5 years. The imagineers for Disney would routinely ask the question,  “what do we want this attraction to look like, smell like, sound like, taste like, feel like?” Then they would incorporate all five senses into everything. There are 5 senses  – see, hear, smell, taste and touch. But I might suggest 5 more:

  • Innocence
  • Nonsense
  • common sense
  • conscience
  • magnificence

And they make the most sense with the 6th sense, which is humor.

So, how can you imagineer your marriage relationship into an even more creative and beautiful reality in this, your 6th year?!

Wouldn’t you know it?! I love you both and I sense God is going great things in and through you together!

Mom

Staff Words

Every day during this pandemic the staff are taking turns writing a thought or word of encouragement. I was on tap for today

When the foundations crumble, what can the righteous do? Ps. 11:3

At the beginning of this year I had not really heard of the corona virus, Wuhan or Dr. Fauci. I never used the expression “social distancing” and I had no idea of how much toilet paper I had on hand.  I never dreamed that I would be trying to teach my parents how to use Zoom nor scold them for running errands.  

Things seemed less fragile a month ago than they do now but we all know that isn’t true, in spite of how it feels. Life is not newly difficult. It is just as difficult as it has been. But, it is also dangerous, magnificent, exciting, short, adventurous, fragile, humorous, magical, and forever.  And none of the challenges we have ever faced or will face are a surprise to God. All the things I believe about God, all my theology, has  onceagain become biography in the last month.  The constant challenge for each person is the translation of all we say we believe to be real and true into daily living.  I guess it is always a struggle, but when suffering and crises happen, it forces the choice. 

I am reminded of something Kenny Poure used to say.  One time he asked someone how they were doing.  The response was, “Pretty good under the circumstances.”  His reply was, “What are you doing under the circumstances?”  I suppose I would best sum up these days as living “in the meantime”.  Pastor Kent Hughes once called it “living in the now and the not yet”.  It is probably the most important place in life. Since we are living in light of eternity, then the things we focus on now are different than if our last best goals and dreams happen here on earth.  We could choose to focus on the Coronavirus only, but think how much we would miss!  The relationships, the blessings, the abundant living promised by God would all be diminished.  And, life in between salvation and glory is where we choose to live rather than focusing on the past, which we can’t change, or the future, which we can’t control. It is the way one chooses to spend the “in the meantime” that really matters. 

In the meantime we can choose to live life to the fullest. 

In the meantime we are answering the call and trying to trust and obey.

In the meantime we are still leaning hard into His amazing grace.

In the meantime we will continue to live with purpose and passion all the days ordained for us. 

In the meantime we can serve and give and love and reflect.

In the meantime we gratefully and joyfully live…

God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic.  Yet, in His largeness, nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse slips through the cracks. Ps 36:5,6

Isn’t that inspiring?!  We know God is bigger than this.  He is sufficient.  He is still our focus and we know that he is using this current situation to deepen our love for Christ.  We cherish him by both our need for Him and our joyful gratitude. 

Prayer requests – 

  • All those who are without work (There are many in my family)
  • Medical Leaders – insight into how to stop this pandemic and resolve to keep fighting
  • For me to find ways to continue to honor and support others around me with joyful hope and courage.
  • For God to be glorified

Baseball 2020!

What horrible luck – Spectrum finally ends the stalemate so everyone can finally watch the Dodgers and there is no baseball season!

The thing about this whole covid-19 thing is that every day is like a whole new ballgame.  And I started thinking right off the bat, the whole baseball lingo really describes this current season of life.
Warning – the following may be too much for you… just trying to cover my bases!
For starters, No matter how on the ball we are in ministry, we were really thrown a curve ball this year.  Several on our strike teams are pinch-hitting for others and MANY are stepping up to the plate to help the team.  And others have been touching base with friends regularly!

I could be way off base, but I think that together we are batting a thousand as we play hard ball with this virus.  Even though we are rookies at dealing with this we are keeping our eye on the ball (goal) and trusting God to coach us to victory!

Okay, you have probably had more than enough!  But really baseball is a lot like life.  It is a team sport – it can’t be played or won alone.  Everyone has a specific role to play/job to do.  One person can make a difference, no matter how late in the game it is.   Sometimes we have to make sacrifices.  And sometimes we make errors or end up in a slump.  Everyone benefits from encouragement and cheering on.  Many things aren’t fair, there are ups and downs, but a true player learns to make the most of the opportunities he gets.  It can be as fun to watch as it is to play.  The goal is always home!  (How is that for hitting it out of the park?!)  Thanks for humoring me through these very random thoughts, that may even seem out of left field!

There is a sign as you leave the Angel’s ballpark which says: In life, as in baseball, it is the number of times you safely reach home that counts.  My dear friend Ruth has said that when she travels she prays that she and her loved ones will all safely reach home.  Of course you can see the double meaning…asking for protection for safe travels in this life, and also to safely arrive in heaven.  That is my prayer too.

2 Tim 4:7 says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have remained faithful.”  We can remain faithful to the calling, no matter how the play is called.

FYI – Of course baseball is biblical. 
In the big inning (beginning), Eve stole first, Adam stole second.  Cain struck out Abel, Rebekah went to the well with a pitcher, Moses stretched out his hand and caught it, Gideon rattled the pitchers,  Goliath was put out by David, the Angels and the Giants were rained out, Ezekiel caused men to walk and the prodigal son made a home run.

On Hold

So the other day I called my phone company to add a personal hotspot to one of the lines on my plan. I was on hold for over 2 hours so eventually the “soothing” music was not so soothing and I was worried that I would be cut off and have to start over. It reminded me of Phoebe Buffet from the TV show Friends who was on hold for 2 days. Eventually I got through and the situation was taken care of, but it got me thinking about how to behave when life is put on hold. Most of us are not used to being slowed down and we don’t like having to stay home. We don’t like waiting for our turn; we don’t do well with long lines; we can’t stand a lack of choices or being limited in any way. Yes, it is hard to be patient, to take orders from authorities, to feel out of control (As if we ever had control anyway!) Yet, this exactly what we are called every day – to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer, Rom.12:12.

The Bible is full of people whose lives were on hold and most were for much longer than 2 hours or 2 days. Joseph was on hold for 2 years in prison. Abraham and Sarah waited for years for an heir and Hannah for a son. Paul waited a long time to be a missionary to the gentiles. Heb. 11:13 says that some people who waited even died in faith before receiving the answer at the end of the long hold! Think about this: being on hold can actually be a good thing, especially if we let faith change us even before it changes our circumstances. Seeds die before a harvest is reaped. Germs are thwarted when we don’t touch anything. Patience’s perfect work makes us complete.

There is a sense that this time of social distancing and quarantine is like being on hold. We have no idea when the order to stay at home will be lifted. We don’t have any idea when the store shelves will be restocked or if the stock market will stop sliding downhill. Being on hold is not fun but God is more concerned about how we conduct ourselves while “on hold”.  We can sit angrily and plan a sharp response to the person who will eventually answer at the other end, or we can do plenty of other things while waiting our place in the queue!  We can exercise. We can pray.  We can put on someone else’s “shoes”. We can tidy up our “waiting” room. We can practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques. We can let God be God. We can look ahead and make plans for the celebration when we are finally released from the temporary prison of being on hold.

I think the best thing to do while being on hold is to hold on. Hold on to hope. Hold on to joy. Hold on to the promises. Hold on to the One who first laid hold of us (Phil. 3:12).  Let’s hang on and hang in there together.

Happy Anniversary!

40 years ago your marriage began. I am so blessed to have been there. It is a privilege to stand up for a marriage but it is also a responsibility to stand before God and loved ones and promise to support and pray for and defend another’s relationship. I have tried to not taken that job lightly.  It is still humbling and I am grateful that you asked me. I truly believe the goal of a marriage, rather than the reason, is an important distinction.  How can a person best honor God with their life? If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then how can I honor God in all of my relationships? Perhaps it includes daily putting another’s needs before my own and becoming one with that person to shine even brighter as witnesses in a dark world.  Marriage is an opportunity from God to grow further in faith with another person and yours does that well. Thank you for the example you set for my own marriage. Thank you for the example you set for others, primarily your children and grand children.

Marriage is God’s idea. In fact, I would suggest that it is meant to be the closest understanding of the intimate relationship that the triune God experiences. People are meant to live in communion with one another, sharing life and love with others sacrificially, like the communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Further, there may be no analogy used more in scripture to illustrate the love Christ has for his Church than that of marriage; bridegroom and bride, husband and wife. If the writers of scripture see this spousal relationship as important enough to illustrate Christ’s love, the conclusion can be drawn that the love and communion shared in marriage must have profound importance. No other relationship symbolizes life and love as marriage does.

People often ask couples who have been married for a long time what the secret to their happily ever after is. I would love to hear your answers but I am sure part of that is based on your relationship to the Lord as well as choosing to love one another each day. 

Once I saw an anniversary card that showed an older couple holding hands and the caption said something to the effect, “Falling in love is easy, but growing old in love is a rare gift.” Both are incredible parts of life and you have enjoyed both.

  • Young love loves every quirky thing they do and mature love loves them even when they are driving you crazy.
  • Young love sees every new adventure as exciting. Mature love realizes it is all an adventure – even the little moments.
  • Young love is finding the right person. Mature love is being the right person.
  • Young love does everything is its power to make the other happy; and mature love knows that making difficult and selfless choices means more than one’s own desires.
  • Young love wants to introduce them to all your best friends. Mature love knows an intimacy that is deeper and closer than any other best friend you’ve ever had.
  • Young love does everything to be noticed and valued by the other. Mature love notices and values everything and every moment with the other.
  • Young love brings out the best in oneself. Mature love brings out the best in the other.
  • Young love enjoys the sweet, easy laughter that comes with being new. Mature love means making each other laugh the unquenchable laugh of grace.
  • Young love looks forward to the next moment you get to spend together and treasures the little things. Mature love knows without a doubt that they will be there every moment in your heart, and thankfully hears their happy voice in the next room or the quiet breathing next to you each night.
  • Young love can’t stop thinking about the other person. Mature love can’t either.
  • Young love means uncovering all the layers of the person who has captivated you and revealing more of yourself to them piece by piece. Mature love can’t tell the difference between your 2 hearts for the two are one, knowing that there is no end to the depths of love.
  • Young love cannot stop looking at the other person. Mature love is 2 people looking together in the same direction.
  • Young love is based on emotion. Mature love is a decision.
  • Young love’s story starts ‘once upon a time’. Mature love’s story is ‘happily ever after’.

May you both continue grow in wisdom, joy and grace before God and your families.

May your home always be a place of truth and lovingkindness, of faith and good will toward all who enter it.

May your marriage advance the kingdom.

May the blessings of the last 40 years be only a glimpse of the joys yet to come.

May the God who has kept you together, in His infinite goodness and mercy, continue to mold you into the likeness of  His Son.

May the Lord look upon you with favor and preserve you all your days.

May your life instill hope and may you never lose sight of the cross for Jesus’ sake.

Amen.

Boring is a bad word

Are you bored? Is sheltering at home driving you crazy? Have you binged watched until you want to puke? Have you cleaned and purged every corner of your living space? I have heard that word more in the last few weeks than I have in quite awhile so I felt compelled to share my views.

One of the assignments I used to assign my TIU classes was a Creativity Calendar, where the students were to proactively plan something creative every day for 30 days. It takes 21 days to create a habit and then 6 weeks to make that habit “permanent.” The idea was to do something, however small, that was different to start to work out the imagination muscle, which for many had atrophied.  Creativity is a muscle that grows stronger as it is flexed.  And if we don’t flex it, it won’t move, as most muscles do not put themselves into action.

Since we are created in the image of the Creator we are all made in His creative likeness. Many people who say they are not creative are really just people who have ignored this reality or have narrowed the definition of creativity and imagination to people who dance and draw, in much the same way that modern Christians have reduced the majesty of worship to singing alone.  God’s world is full of wonders and we have the great privilege and responsibility to communicate His beauty in many and varied ways.  Additionally, creativity is contagious. When I hear stories of people in history who used it, I catch it. When I hang around so many creative people within so many different disciplines, I am challenged to behave likewise. For example, as the people I work with come up with creative solutions to and during this pandemic and share them, it inspires other creativity.

Being bored is a choice! We are all familiar with the experience of boredom: full bookshelves with nothing to read, hundreds of channels with nothing to watch on TV, forced stillness on a long car ride without distraction. It is the acute awareness of time’s passing.  Even with the constant companionship of the internet, social media and 24/7 shopping, we are still bored! Having down time is sometimes necessary and a good thing as it pushes us to reflect and discover new things. While being still and restful is a healthy discipline, being thoughtlessly idle and lazy, or bored, is not a good thing.  The former is restorative as we realign with the Creator and the latter is tedious and draining.  The former gives spiritual purpose and the latter drowns direction and focus.

Being bored some would consider a sin. I don’t know about that, but I would say that is the sign of a shallow mind and the result of consumerism and an entitled attitude that needs constant entertainment and stimuli.  “I’m bored” is a phrase that I consider to be in the same category as “You’re stupid” and “That’s retarded”. Offensive words of cursing that I do not say and I would not allow my kids to say when they were growing up. Have you ever heard, “if you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”? That is just nonsense. But, I would adapt it to say, “if you don’t stop being bored I will give you something really boring to do!” Any push to get unstuck, a swift kick in the proverbial pants, can start the creative juices flowing again.  It reminds me of Brother Lawrence who committed to looking for God’s presence in every day and the discipline of doing all, even washing dishes, to the glory of God. When we say we are bored it feels like we are denying God’s value in us as He designed us for something more.

I think that imagination kills boredom. As we learn ways to illuminate creativity, we reflect the glory of the Lord. In fact, imagination may be the most godly work our minds do. It is the closest we get to creating something ex nihilo – out of nothing.  Imagination and creativity are part of who we are as Christ followers, because to walk in another person’s shoes, to live compassionately, to be readily available, to pray in the name of the Lord is dependent on the imaginative love of the person who hears and obeys the whispers and prompts the Holy Spirit. Additionally, it is God-honoring to live like the King,  Humor and creativity are in the same side of the brain and they both influence each other, building our joy and hope as we use them regularly.

When people “give up” something for lent, the idea is to “fast” in order to focus on the Lord and the holiest day of the year. The problem is that most people go back to whatever they went without as soon as Easter comes; they start eating chocolate or meat or return to facebook. That is all okay because none of those things is inherently wrong, and going without helps us remember to be grateful for things we would normally take for granted. I would like to propose that the purpose of lent is actually not about doing without for 40 days; rather it is about what we need to do or change. Is there a sin to confess, or a lifestyle choice to repent from? Is there something I can do to be more like Jesus, that I can keep doing for 40 years until He returns or calls me home?  Since the COVID-19 crisis we have all had to think differently about how we treat others and how we care for God’s creation.  This pandemic may last for more than 40 days and it definitely has the potential to be a life-altering event.  At the very least, it shows us the things we have taken for granted and helped us to count our blessings.

Since we live in an over stimulated, busy culture bombarded by choices, activities and entertainment it is hard to recognize this abrupt halt as an opportunity to step out of a rut. It reminds me of the sensation of motion that lingers after a ride has stopped. It may take awhile to redirect our thoughts and activities but it really has been a blessing to have this season of rest. Time will tell if it is transformative or if we will just go back to our old habits after the pandemic goes away. But instead of giving in to idleness and apathy, join me in creating new things, renewing old habits, and living joyfully each day with a grateful heart. It sure beats boring.

This is something I wrote awhile ago and tweaked it last week as I thought about this current crisis. Keep your hope in the battle.

President Trump said that we are at war with this pandemic. Since we are at war, I am reminded once again that, in addition to hand washing and human separation, hope is a powerful weapon.  Hope is a word that can be used over and over and not used enough.  It can mean anything like ‘I hope you can avoid this virus’ to ‘I hope you can find toilet paper’.  Similarly, the word love in English does the same thing. It can mean that you love ice cream or the beach to I love my family. Just as the Bible says that God is love (I John 4:7,8) it says that Christ is our hope (Col.1:28). While the regular use of the word hope includes uncertainty, biblical hope does not convey doubt at all (as in I hope so), rather it means confidence, security, assurance. (There is never a “so” after the word hope in the Bible.)

Biblical hope desires something good in the future BUT it expects it to happen!  And even more, it is confident that it will be a reality! Hope is more than just logical or mathematical certainty, it also includes an assurance based on the character and will of the person. There is a certainty that comes from knowing about a person; because I am certain in God and his character and will, I can sleep at night.  I can make it through rough times.  I can say, “Hope in God and expect great things” and I do not have to add, “cross your fingers or don’t hold your breath!” When hope is founded on the Rock there is no doubt!  In Hebrews 11:18 it says that Abraham, against all hope, became the father of many nations.  I think that is because it was humanly impossible and yet hope looks away from man to the promises of God.  Paul tells us that Abe’s hopeful faith was reckoned as righteousness.

So, how is hope a weapon?  Studies show that hope can be transformed into biochemistry. Attitude can directly be linked to how hopeful we are.  In fact our attitude can lead to a perspective on life that is either optimistic or pessimistic and that can also affect our health.  Hoping in God does not come naturally, but the Bible says in Hebrews 11, the great chapter of faith, which begins with hope, “now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” This carries the idea that all the actions of the heroes of the Bible were made possible because God honored their faith based on hope; all the confidence that comes from knowing for sure, without question, what we have been promised in God’s word as we lean into Him! Accepting the gift of eternal life means that hope is based on the entirety of God’s Word, the entirety of God’s character and the finished work of Christ. We can live with endless hope, while those who don’t know what we know live thinking that life has a hopeless end. It all boils down to this – hope is the full assurance of faith!  It is the part of faith that focuses on the future or faith in the future tense!

So hope sharpens resolve. It pushes back doubt and despair. It attacks grief and self-pity.  Hope increases victory by never failing, giving up, losing, or retreating.  Hope increases as we are grateful, through the Word, declaring and worshipping, remembering and leaning in.

Often we have to wait for something we want.  If we purchase something online we have to wait for delivery. If we are going on a trip we have to wait with anticipation.  Hope is the same way.  If we have something we don’t have to hope for it.  But if we don’t have it we have to wait patiently. Billy Graham said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible.  It’s all going to turn out all right.” It is the same thing with this war against COVID-19! We wait with hope that we will win the war as we lean in to the One in whom we hope.

Everyday, in the midst of chaos, new routines, upheaval and uncertainty, we cling to hope. One of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption, is: “Never Forget. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies”.

Emily Dickinson, a favorite poet, wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,…

Someone once said that a person can live 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 minutes without air, but only 3 seconds without hope. (Perhaps 3 hours without a computer/phone – or is that pushing it!?) Biblical hope as opposed to optimism or wishful thinking is an amazing thing because it is certainty, a confident expectation, rooted in promise and a trustworthy God! So, we are full of hope and we are ready to give an account to anyone who asks of the hope that lies within us. We are singing about the best of things: HOPE!

We long to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer (Rom 12:12). Amen.

Other thoughts:

Hope in God is a shield in life. It is a defensive weapon and protects us.  (Ps. 33:20)

As we remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness, hope grows and we are able to quiet a downcast spirit. (Ps. 33:18-22)

As believers we are called to give answers based on the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15) Hope is unending (Ps. 131:3)

Hope is to be fixed on Grace (1 peter 1:13-16)

Hope is built through trials.  It is made stronger as we persevere. (Romans 5:3-5) (James 1:2)

Hope defeats discouragement. It is like a reservoir of emotional strength.  It doesn’t disappoint (Romans 5:3-5) (Ps. 42:11)

Hope gives strength to repay evil with good. It acts as a shield against self pity.

Hope gives a second wind to keep going and not give up.

When I am tempted it is hope that helps me hold fast to the way of righteousness.

Hope is like a tank that needs to be filled daily.  Ps. 71:14.  As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Praise and a thankful heart keeps the reservoir overflowing with joy!

Rom. 12:12 – Be joyful in hope!

As we rest in him without worrying about tomorrow since it is already taken care of by God Ps. 62:5.  We can be secure because of hope (Job 11:18)

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