Tag Archives: Biblical truth

Keep Hope Alive: The Anatomy of Hope

Keep Hope Alive: The Anatomy of Hope

 

The Anatomy of Hope

What does hope look like?  What is its structure, composition, or framework?  What is hope made of?

Hope is a combination of desire for something AND the expectation of receiving it.  I’m not talking about “Christmas wishful thinking” but hope that encourages us to embrace the belief that better days are possible.  Hope motivates us to preserve and continue moving forward.  

We chose to create this series on hope because hope is what the world needs most right now.  When we began the series in October, there was no war between Israel and Palestine.  With regards to mass shootings in America, as of October 31, a total of 621 people have been killed and 2,126 other people have been injured in 520 shootings.  Political divisiveness worsens polarizing communities, leaders, and even families. Can hope be kept alive?

What does hope look like?

Is it any wonder that the majority of U.S. adults agree the nations’ future looks bleak?

A majority of adults (62%) disagree with the statement, “our children are going to inherit a better world than we did,” and 63% disagree with the statement, “I feel our country is on the path to being stronger than ever.” More than 3/4 of adults (76%) said that the future of our nation is a significant source of stress in their lives, while 68% said this is the lowest point in our nation’s history that we can remember. 

 Two in three adults (66%) said the culture’s current political climate is a significant source of stress in their lives. Further, three in five adults quote (60%) said that the current social divisiveness in the nation causes them stress. Slightly more than three in five adults 62% reported that the racial climate in the US is a significant source of stress in their lives.[1]

Are these sources of stress going to go away?  Absolutely not!  And these stressors are larger than us and out of our control.  In this environment, we are expected to manage the challenge of daily living and providing for our families–feeding, clothing, and housing.  We search out ways to balance the stresses of life while maintaining healthy relationships, and personal “sanity”.   There enters the need to cultivate our hope because when we cease to hope, we jeopardize our future.

Faith or hope?

How does our faith work with hope?  Can both occupy the same space?  In my reading, I came across a statement that helped me better understand the relationship between the two.  “While faith is a function of the intellect, hope is an act of the will.” [2]  In other words, what we know about God—His goodness, His greatness, and His promises—should cause us to confidently believe God.   Hope moves us forward as we act on our faith in God (Heb. 11:1).

Hope allows us to look beyond what we can see.

Abraham, the Father of Nations, questioned when God would send him an heir, yet Abraham is known to “hope against hope” (Rom. 4:8).  In other words, Abraham did not walk by sight but by faith in what God had promised him.  His hope was built on the promises of God.  Therefore, Abraham persevered.

The Apostle Paul’s faith in Christ (relational) and hope in Christ (motivational) kept him moving forward despite “beatings, in perils, in weariness, and in pain” (2 Cor. 11:23-27).  Paul’s hope of glory moved Him through difficult times to eternity where he looked forward to the day when he would receive the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8).  Therefore, Paul endured.

Hopelessness and true hope

True hope comes from the One who created hope: God.  It comes by trusting God even when circumstances are difficult. I’ve heard many theologians and teachers disparage believers who struggle with hopelessness.  While their intentions may be good, such belief discounts the fact that we are mere humans.  We need hope, too.  It’s important to remember that we are not perfect, simply saved.  And that is more than enough.

Psalms captured this thought in several of its passages.

For He remembered that they were but flesh, A breath that passes away and does not come again. (Ps. 78:39, NKJV)

For He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone as though we had never been here. (Ps. 104:14-16, NLT)

Unless we acknowledge the frailty and fragility of our flesh, we may fail to understand the need for God’s power and presence in our lives.  We must embrace our dependency on God which will solidify our hope.  Can hope be kept alive?  Absolutely!

Trust produces obedience, which produces hope, which results in joy and peace; and that is the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13). When we walk by faith and trust in God, we can persevere and endure.  We have hope.

[1] Stress in America 2022, American Psychological Association.  

[2]Wikipedia, Hope

Keep Hope Alive: An Introduction

 

 

Keep Hope Alive: An Introduction

There is always hope for a better future.

Keep hope alive!  This phrase is most famously associated with Rev. Jesse Jackson, who used it repeatedly in his speeches and sermons during the Civil Rights Movement.

However, the phrase is much older. It has been traced back to at least the 16th century when it was used in religious and philosophical writings.  For example, William Tyndale[1] used the phrase   in his book, “The Pilgrimage of Grace”, where he encouraged his readers not to be overcome by despair.

Over the years, this phrase has been used by activists, artists, athletes, and everyday people to express their belief in the power of hope to overcome adversity. Today “keep hope alive” is still widely used. It is a reminder that even when things are tough, there is always hope for a better future.

Do we need to keep hope alive in the 21st century?  Absolutely!  With the ever-present vulnerability we share as humans in a chaotic world, our lives are forever saturated in the possibility of catastrophe.[2]  Therefore we need hope.  Welcome to our series, “Keep hope alive!”

Hope by any other name

Hope is defined as an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes.  Its synonyms include optimism and anticipation.  The opposite of hope includes hopelessness and despair.

Hope is included as one of the three theological virtues mentioned in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth.  “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three.” (1 Cor. 13:13, KJV).  To the church at Thessalonica, Paul acknowledges the saints for “their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1Thess. 1:3, RSV).

When we use the word hope in casual conversation, we often do so in a doubtful manner.  However biblical hope is never “doubt-filled”.  It is built upon a confident expectation of a future fulfillment based on God’s Word and God’s promises.

Threats to our hope.

As I watched the news this weekend, I was reminded of the challenges we face living in these perilous and tumultuous times.  Wars in Ukraine and Israel.  Gridlock in Congress.  Violence and evil perpetrated upon our communities.  Immorality and filthiness normalized.  What producers thought would be “interesting and important”, only increased my anxiety and threatened my hope.

The writer of Hebrews, however, reminded me that as believers we have a “sure hope” in God through Jesus Christ.  We have hope as “an anchor for our souls, both sure and steadfast.” (Heb. 6:19).

Hope as an anchor of the soul.

Hope will sustain us during difficult times.  The writer of Hebrews depicted hope as an anchor.  It was a familiar object that would illustrate God’s strong attachment to us.  This anchor was “sure and steadfast”.

Sure is interpreted to mean “something that can be relied upon”.  Steadfast continues this thought of God’s hope.  It adds the descriptors of “trustworthy, firm and secure”.   The anchor represents the Object of our faith who is Jesus Christ.  Jesus has secured our position for eternity—past, present, and future.

Hope in God continues to be the message that will sustain us today in these troubling times. Our hope is based on the immutability of His word (Heb. 6:17-18), the certainty of His promise (Rom. 4:16) and the assurance of His presence (Rom. 15:13).  It is this hope that gives us confidence and the ability to persevere.  It is our hope in God that will “keep hope alive.”

[1] (1994-1536) Leading figure in the Protestant Reformation and translator of the Bible into English.

[2] Hope: Why it matters, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, July 16, 2021

Throwback Wednesday: Truth: The Divine Perspective

 

Throwback Wednesday: Truth:  The Divine Perspective

For the past few weeks WordBytes has focused on the process of  “returning”.  Return by definition means to come or go back to a place or person or thing.   As a part of speech, it is an action word that demands a personal response to accomplish a desired outcome.

In our series we suggested that to live victoriously, it is critical that we as believers not forget key spiritual virtues.  If we have “drifted”, it begins by returning to our first love, God.  Other areas include fellowship, faithfulness, joy, and repentance.  Returning is an indication and an admission, that we, at one time, have been in the “right place”.

With that in mind, for Throwback Wednesday we’d like to “return to basics”; and that basic involves truth.  More specifically, God’s Truth.  We offer for your consideration, “Truth:  The Divine Perspective.”

Truth: The Divine Perspective

Return to Joy

 

Returning to joy

What is Joy?

Joy is defined as gladness of heart.  It is listed among the top five things[1] people desperately want in life yet “never seem to be able to get”.  Joy’s allusiveness, in many cases, is the result of our tendency to define joy as external to ourselves.  We believe it is a person, place, or thing.  Once we have “it”, we’ll have joy.  Wrong!

Joy under Attack

As we survey the world we live it, gladness of heart is under attack.  Our attempts to navigate 21st century living seem more daunting and challenging with each new day.  Financial worries served as a significant source of stress ranking higher than three other causes of concern: work, family responsibilities, and health concerns.

Work, family, and health concerns have exploded.  So how can we find joy?   The Apostle Paul shares the secret of not only how to find joy but also how to return to it in spite of the pressures we might face.

Source of Joy

In Philippians 4:4, Paul exhorts the Church at Philippi to holy joy and delight in God.

Delight yourselves in the Lord, yes, find your joy in him at all times.  (Phillips Translation)

God has furnished us with joy even in the worst of circumstances.  Nehemiah in the midst of hostility and threats, said that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Neh. 8:10).

David acknowledged that “in God’s presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).  Jesus instructed His Disciples “to live in The Vine”—in Jesus’ holy presence (John 15:5-11).  By living in the Vine, Jesus’ joy would remain “in them and be full.”  These same offers of joy are extended to you and I who live in the 21st century.    Jesus is the source of our joy.

Returning to Joy

It is God’s desire that we return to joy regardless of life’s circumstances or difficulties.  Jesus describes these as “tribulations” (John 16:33).  Tribulations and trials are “natural outcomes” we suffer as a result of living in a fallen world.

We experience the effects of fallenness every day.  They include death, disease, and difficulties.  However, in Christ and as God’s children, we have been provided with God’s Presence (The Holy Spirit), God’s blessings (Eph. 1:3-17), and God’s inexhaustible grace to sustain us (Phil. 1:6).

Strengthen our Joy

Returning to joy strengthens our resolve and helps us to continue the purpose God has set before us. Such strength can only come from Eternal God Who helps us through the worst of circumstances.   When we come into the presence of the Lord, we connect with His great and eternal power.  God’s power exceeds anything we can do in our own strength (Phil.  4:13).

We are invited to return to the joy that comes from serving God who is sovereign and who has overcome the world (Ps. 119:89-91).

[1]  Top 5 include:   Happiness, Money, Freedom, Peace, Joy

Return to Repentance

The truth sometimes hurts.

As part of my devotions today, I read Isaiah 59.  Although I have read individual verses from this chapter before, today’s full reading of this chapter struck a “spiritual nerve”.   Isaiah 59:2,  in particular, caught my attention.

Your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.  (NRS)

It’s all about us!

Isaiah 59 was not written for people who had no knowledge of God; people we refer to as  “the unsaved”, but it was penned for those whom God had entered into a special covenant relationship with.

Israel had been hand-chosen by God from all the nations in the world (Deut. 7:7-9) to carry out His purpose and plan of salvation.  They were to be a “holy nation, a peculiar people that would show forth His praises” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Unfortunately, instead of heralding God’s praises, Israel went a “whoring” after other gods (Jer. 3:2; Ezek. 43:7), relying on itself and other nations.  The result was punishment—70 years captivity in Assyria and Babylon—away from the land God had promised and given to them.

How do we measure up as a nation?

In reading Isaiah 59, I see an unsettling similarity between the events leading up to Israel’s exile and where we find ourselves today as a nation and yes, as the Church.

As a nation, we have walked away from the spiritual guidance and direction of God.  If you survey our social institutions and political systems, you will see remnants of what we once knew as “one nation under God”.  We have exchanged our “moral compass” for “individual rights”.

The lines of “right and wrong” are no longer determined by God’s holy standards but have been replaced by political affiliations and social relationships.   Man has placed himself on the throne of his heart—doing “what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).  Servility and kindness, community and brotherly love have all been sacrificed on the altar of man’s selfishness.

How about the Church?

As the Church, we have retreated into the safety of our church walls.  Internally focused, we are more concerned with our personal needs and how we can achieve “our purpose to be all we can be”.

We have forgotten about the helpless, the homeless, and the hungry.  Jesus went outside the walls to serve mankind versus being served (Matt. 20:28).  Jesus came “to preach, to bind, to proclaim, and to open” (Is. 61.1).  Can we as the Church do any less?

There is hope!

Hopefully, one of the key outcomes from reading Isaiah 59 is that we will begin to recognize and repent from those “iniquities that have separated us from God” (verse 2).

God wants to be reunited with this nation and His Church.  That’s why Jesus Christ came that our sins—personally and corporately, might be forgiven AND our relationship with the Father restored (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

The Redeemer (Jesus Christ) “did come to Zion” (verse 20) and to the rest of the world—that we might turn from our transgressions.  Let us pray continuously that we as a nation and the Church will repent of those behaviors and attitudes that cause us to transgress against God.

In Search of Peace: When will we find it?

In Search of Peace: When will we find it?

We seek peace.

What peace are we seeking and when will we find it?  Because of God’s grace and mercy, we experience various degrees of peace even in this fallen world.  We are no longer in enmity with God because of Jesus’ gift of life (2 Cor. 5:18).  We on occasion see glimpses of peace between nations and groups divided because of preference, politics, or social agendas.  However, even that peace is tenuous and subject to change with the next difference of opinion.

The search for peace is a pursuit that will continue until we transition to eternity.  So why are we trying so hard to achieve it now?  Because it is God’s desire that we live in peace with each other and experience peace within.  Without peace we will be hindered from accomplishing our divine purpose which includes glorifying God.

Peace was God’s First Choice

When God and man lived in the Garden of Eden, their world was designed to accomplish a specific purpose.  God would provide for His creation—food, clothing, shelter.  Man in turn would be obedient to his Creator and reverence God.  They would enjoy an intimate and harmonious relationship. There was peace.   Of course, we know what happened to the plan of creation.

Although many attempts have been made through the institution of covenants and laws, man has always been troubled with contention, strife, and war (Hab. 1:3; James 4:1; Rom. 2:8).  The biblical text relates attempts by God’s prophets and priests to bring peace, but none could be found—externally nor within.

Only Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah, could bring the “peace” that would reverse the ravages of sin that resulted in broken relationships and shattered hearts (Isa. 9:6-7; Mic. 5:4-5).

Peace is a hard issue.

Early in our study we defined peace as a stress-free state of security and calmness, everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom.  Let’s be real.  Man cannot orchestrate this kind of peace while we live in this fallen world.   And this is the world we must live in right now.   The peace described in this definition will be possible when Jesus Christ returns and rules physically during the Millennial Age.

However, right now God’s peace is guaranteed by His unchanging promises and can be found through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is possible spiritually through the Holy Spirit living within us. The Holy Spirit fortifies us as we live in this fallen world.  He sustains us even in the most desperate of circumstances (Gal. 5:22).

Peace that passes all understanding.

The Apostle Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, appealed to the church in Phillipi, to “rejoice in the Lord”.  Strange message considering Paul’s situation.  But while experiencing the backlash of living in a fallen world, he found peace in his situation.  He offered the same to them (Phil. 4:6-7, NLT).

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Chrysostom, Eastern church father and archbishop of Constantinople wrote these words on “how this peace—God’s peace—passes all understanding”.

The peace of God, which He imparts to us, passes all understanding. For who could have expected and who could have hoped for such benefits? It transcends every human intellect and all speech. For His enemies, for those who hate Him, for the apostates—for all these He did not refuse to give his only begotten Son, so as to make peace with them. The peace which will preserve us is the one of which Christ says, “My peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.”  For this peace passes all human understanding. How? When He sees that we should be at peace with enemies, with the unrighteous, with those who display contentiousness and hostility toward us, how does this not pass human understanding?[1]

God’s peace is what we need for 21st century living.  Peace that will not only exceed our expectations but also guard our hearts and minds, from fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and despair.  Our “call to action” as believers is to, like Jesus’ Disciples and the Apostle Paul, become agents of peace and ministers of reconciliation to a “peaceless” world.  In the world’s search for peace, let us be the light to show them where they can find it (Matt. 5:9).

[1]  Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, New Testament VIII, Mark J. Edwards

In Search of Peace: Whose peace do we want?

In Search of Peace: Whose Peace do we Want?

In Search of peace.

As we learned last week, peace can be defined in many ways. From a world perspective, peace is a stress-free state where there is perfect harmony and freedom. However, peace from a biblical perspective provides us with more precise descriptions on which to focus our attention.

Both the Old and New Testaments use the root word, salom or shalom to capture the meaning of peace as “completeness, contentment, rest, and harmony”.

Peace by any definition can be very elusive and subject to change because of external influences.  That’s why we need to be clear as to what we’re looking for and where we think we may find it.

Loss of our Peace.

At one time man experienced “perfect peace”.  That peace was found in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve.   There was completeness, contentment, rest, and harmony.  On Maslow’s Hierarchy they were “at the top” of the pyramid.  Their peace, however, ended with the entrance of sin.

In the beginning, all creation was in a state of shalom, and this is the environment that Adam and Eve entered into. This Shalom was a perfect peace, where the infinite Creator of all things was in complete communion with his created beings Adam and Eve. Yet sin destroyed that shalom and cast the world into a place of brokenness. The fallen world we live in, with its violence, heartache, pain, and death are very visible results of the Shalom that was lost so very long ago.[1]

As we view the challenges of living in the 21st century with its social challenges, spiritual deficits, and moral vice, we might ask if peace can become a reality in our lifetime.  Peace can be achieved but it must begin with an understanding of the true source of peace.

Man-made peace.

There are two types of peace we can experience.  The first is man-made peace which is based on the creation of external systems to ensure safety and security.  It also includes safeguards to support peaceful interactions between individuals, groups, and communities (relationships).  On a large scale we see governments (local, state, or national) serving in these roles.   Our best efforts in fabricating peace will only leave us in disappointment and despair because our skewed understanding of peace is dependent upon things outside our control![2]

God-given peace.

The other option we have is God-given peace. The pursuit of God-given peace begins with being spiritually reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10).  Because of our sin nature, our relationship is estranged.  The way back to God is only possible through acceptance of Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sin (Rom. 5:8-9).  Once reconciled to God, we are no longer in enmity with each other.  We have peace with God.

Once we have peace with God, we become heirs of salvation and part of God’s Kingdom (Rom. 8:17).  As children of God, we receive the Holy Spirit who dwells within us to comfort and strengthen us during difficult times. The Holy Spirit brings peace by reminding us of the faithfulness of God.  The Spirit speaks to the promises and blessings that are ours because of our righteous standing made possible through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Peter 1:3-4).   We have the peace of God.

As we daily walk in newness of life with the Holy Spirit as our guide, we begin to act like Jesus.  We are told to be conformed to the image of Christ who provides us with the model of how we act and react while living in this fallen world.  We have escaped the corruption that is in the world through our knowledge of God—His power, His purpose, and His presence.  This provides us with great confidence even when pressed on every side (2 Cor. 4:8-9).  We have peace from God.

True Peace

Jesus promised to give His Disciples peace.  Jesus’ peace quiets the inner turmoil that comes with danger.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you: I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled, or fearful.” (John 14:27, CSB)

The Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians that God’s peace is true peace.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7, Living Bible)

Whose peace do we desire?  True peace can only be found in God through Jesus Christ.  God’s peace is underwritten by His unchanging promises and experienced through the presence of the Holy Spirit living within us.   God’s peace meets the perfect biblical standards.  It is complete, leading to contentment, giving us rest (from worry), and creating harmony in our relationships.

[1] Jason Soroski, “What does shalom mean and why is it important?”, Crosswalk.com.   

[2] Samuel Stephens, “The Pursuit of Peace”, Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

In Search of Peace: What is Peace?

 

In Search of Peace: What is Peace?

The Pursuit of Peace

With all the chaos in the world, contention in our country, and personal stress in our life, it is no surprise that one of the things people want most but can’t seem to find is peace.  Whether we’re talking about world peace, peaceful relationships, or peace-of-mind, there just never seems to be enough peace.

What is peace?  A biblical counselor asked their patients to work through an exercise which has them lists the qualities and characteristics of peace.  The results with both Christian and non-Christians are to help people understand that, many times, the peace they seek is “situational, temporary, and experiential”.

It (peace) is seen as the absence of conflict or the removal of hinderance to personal happiness. “When I’m not fighting, when I’m appreciated, when I’m happy, when I’m financially secure.”[1]   

What does OUR list look like?  Take a minute and write down what you think peace looks like.

Do we want peace?

Silly question!  Who doesn’t want peace?  Well, of course, Satan doesn’t want it.  Whether it’s peace in the world or peace of mind, Satan loves confusion, conflict, and division.  So do Satan’s followers: “principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness of this world” and “spiritual wickedness in high places”, i.e., political, commercial, social, religious (Eph.6:12).   Before we answer the question of do we want peace, let’s agree on what it is.

What is peace?

A general definition of peace is a stress-free state of security and calmness that comes when there is no fighting or war, everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom.[2]  Is peace a feeling?

Webster adds to this definition by highlighting the “freedom” aspect of peace: “freedom from disturbance, from war, from civil disorder, and even freedom from disputes and dissension between people.”  Is peace based on our circumstances?

I am enjoying this study on peace.  From a biblical perspective, it gives me an opportunity to closely examine the words that were “carefully” chosen by the Holy Spirit to best represent God’s intended meaning of peace.  It becomes a point of spiritual clarity for me.  Whether it is Greek or Hebrew, the word meaning adds to the “precision” I need to know what peace really looks like.

Peace by any other name!

The biblical concept of peace is larger than what we might read in our modern dictionaries. It rests heavily on the Hebrew word root (slm) which means “to be complete” or “to be sound”.  The verb peace conveys the meaning—”to be complete or whole” or “to live well”.  It is from this root that we get the more familiar word, salom or shalom. 

In the Old Testament, this fine distinction of peace can be grouped into four general categories of shalom:

  1. Wholeness of life or body, i.e., health. (Ps. 34:18; 147:3; Jer. 33:6)
  2. Right relationship or harmony between two parties or people, often established by a covenant. (Numbers 25:12-13; Ezek. 34:25-26)
  3. Prosperity, success, or fulfillment (Lev. 26:3-9)
  4. Victory over one’s enemies or absence of war (Isa. 9:6-7)

The New Testament word for peace, eirene, has been greatly influenced by the Hebrew use of shalom.  It occurs in each book of the New Testament.  Eirene originally referred to the orderly, prosperous life that is possible if there is no war.  Only much later did philosophers begin to apply the concept to an inner, personal peace.

In many ways, the two renderings of peace overlap, especially regarding relationships and harmony between people and nations.   It describes:

  1. Harmonious relationships (Luke 14:32)
  2. Freedom from harassment (rest from war) (Luke 11:21; Acts 9:31)
  3. Order, rest, and contentment (Matt.10:13, John 14:27)
  4. Harmonized relationship between God and man (Acts 10:36; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:14-17)

Shalom is still used in both greetings and farewells.  It is meant to act as a blessing to the one to whom it is spoken.

Where is my peace?

In answer to my earlier question, “do we want peace?”  Of course, we do! So, if we all want peace, why don’t we have it and why is it so elusive?  As stated earlier, many times the peace we seek is situational, temporary, and experiential.  If we base our peace on the things of “this world, our peace is tied to an unstable, ever-changing world (1 John 2: 15-17).

Unfortunately, we often allow this type of peace to dictate our feelings and our emotions.  We may feel safe, secure, and calm; that is until there is a change in circumstances.

Peace may appear to elude us because we don’t know what REAL PEACE looks like.  That is the purpose of this series to better understand what real peace looks like.  Once we have a clear understanding of what it looks like and its true source, we will find shalom as we navigate the tumultuous waters of 21st century living.

May your life be filled with health, prosperity, and victory.

May it be filled with God’s shalom.

[1] The Pursuit of Peace, Samuel Stephens, Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, April, 2020

[2] Vocabulary.com

Clarion Word Classics: What if Jesus Really Meant what He Said?

Expand our spiritual thought

Earlier this year, WordBytes launched a new learning format entitled The Clarion Word Classics.  The word “clarion” comes from the Latin word claru or ‘clear’.  Used as an adjective, it means ‘loud and clear’.

Our intent with this quarterly series is to make “loud and clear” what is ours in Christ (Rom. 8:17) and  the relevancy of our faith for this present generation (Matt. 24:34).

New thought

With The Clarion Word Classics we will share faith writings from key theologians who will strengthen and enrich our spiritual lives and faith walk.  Some from  sage theologians and writers  and also introduce contemporary writers who express spiritual answers to the challenges of 21st century living.

To kickoff this Clarion Word Classics (CWC), we introduce the book Red Letter Revolution:  What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?  Listed among the most popular devotional books, we thought this may be of interest to our curious readers.  Shane Claiborn and Tony Campolo , offer interesting perspectives on how to make our faith real in a world with no absolutes and growing disbelief in God and Jesus.

Let the Holy Spirit guide you

In the Word Ministries provides CWC in our effort to “inspire authentic communities of faith, fellowship, and learning.”  It is in that spirit that we share this book.  This is not an endorsement or agreement with the views shared.  Here  is an excerpt from and about  Red Letter Revolution.  

With Eternity in Mind: Where do we go from here?

 

Where do we do from here?

Eternity Recapitulated

What have we learned about eternity?  Eternity is generally not a topic of discussion within most social circles, although it should be.  Why?  Because it represents not only where we will spend “forever and ever” but also will influence how we CHOOSE TO LIVE our life today.  Eternity begins the moment we are born and continues until our demise.  Everybody gets eternity!

However, believers also receive eternal/everlasting life.   Everlasting life is the blessedness in God’s presence.  This relates not only to the quality of life in this age, but also to both the quality and duration of life in the age to come.  Everlasting life begins when individuals accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Everybody may not get everlasting life!  

Because eternity is so important, it is imperative that we have a clear and accurate understanding about it.  What’s the threat?  The sway of myths, lies, and misunderstandings.  That is why we believers depend on the authority and inerrancy of the Bible to guide us.

The blessedness in God’s presence

The biggest learning, for me, is that eternal life begins NOW.  Scripture teaches that to experience the fullness of God’s glory we need to separate from our flesh—the part that temporarily houses our spirit.  Our spirit—our essence, the part that never dies—will ultimately enter the “spiritual place” prepared for us in heaven.  (John 14:1-2)

That is why it is important to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (2 Cor. 5:16-17).  Spiritual conversion (redemption and renewal) is needed to prepare us to enter God’s presence—on earth and in the future, in heaven.  While I am yet alive, the blessedness of God’s presence is possible through the gift of His Holy Spirit—a foretaste of glory divine.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 
(John 3:6)

What does blessedness look like?

How does the blessedness of God’s presence manifest itself?  What does eternal/everlasting life look like in my everyday life?  Here are several scriptures to begin answering those questions?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Gal. 5: 22-24, RSV)

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence. Thus, he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust and may become participants of the divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:3-4)

The greatest witness to God’s presence in our lives are the spiritual blessings we receive in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14).  God’s blessedness is shown in His love, His provision, and His protection.

God’s presence, the reality of eternity now, gives us a “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3-7)—boldness, perseverance, and tenacity–to live out God’s purpose for our life (Eph. 2:10).  His presence guarantees it!

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory,
he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit. 
(Ephesian 3:16)

Where do we go from here?

Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, author of Eternity:  Reclaiming a Passion for What Endures writes:

Many Christians become disillusioned as their quest for peace and pleasure on this earth feel them with despair.  If you are one of these believers who senses you’re missing something—who have hoped for more—it may be that your perspective is distorted by your focus on this world. With heaven as our point of reference, we can learn to live a satisfying, balance, and victorious life even in a fallen world.

We MUST “reclaim our passion for what endures”—eternity.  We best serve The King and His Kingdom, by:

    • FOCUSING  our attention on eternity and things of God.
    • DEMOSTRATING to others what eternal life looks like in everyday life.
    • SHARING  the reality of eternity with both believers and nonbelievers.