Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Where's the HOPE... Part II

I found myself talking with a couple of ladies today in Wicklow Town about the challenges we face here in Ireland.  Challenges, that I might add, are the growing reality of many in our world.  We can read Story after story of people who find themselves facing overwhelming obstacles.  Marriages falling apart, jobs lost, and individuals trying to meet financial obligations beyond their ability.  I mean what do you do if mortgage payment is $1500 a month but your income is less than $1000?  I'm no math genius, but not even someone with a PhD in mathematics can make that work.  

Yet all joking aside, this is serious.  There are many who today find themselves living right there; between a rock and that hard place.  It reminds me of something I read in Psalm 44, that comes from someone who I think might understand some of the challenges we face.  Just listen... and as you do, remember this person to talking to God...

       "....you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies.
       You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us.
       You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations.
       You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale.

       You have made us a reproach to our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us.
       You have made us a byword among the nations; the peoples shake their heads at us.
       I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shame
       at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

       All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant.
       Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path.
       But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us over with deep darkness.

       If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
       would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?
       Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

       Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
       Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?

       We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.
       Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love."

Did you notice the honesty?  Did you notice the pain? This Psalm has no happy ending. Instead it ends with the Psalmist waiting, waiting on God.

I wonder if sometimes we call on people to put on a happy face, instead of inviting them to embrace their pain and share it with God, who our Psalmist reminds us is, "of unfailing love".  Guess what, our Psalmist knew something we need to remember.  God can handle our struggles, our pain, our doubts, yes even our questions.  You see the HOPE of us all is found in the very character of the God we serve, a God who is faithful.  I wish I knew how... I can tell you I have longed for the answers in my own life, more times than I can recall.  Yet the reality is... I place my trust in HIS unfailing love.

I want to share that God with my neighbours, with those I see on the streets of Wicklow.  How about you?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Where's the HOPE!

"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Do you hear the confidence in those words?  Paul, it seems believes in the people of Philippi.  We have no reason to question his confidence.  They were from everything we read a great church.  Yet was that the reason for his confidence, his Hope?

I remember as Annette and I prepared to come to Ireland.  People expressed confidence in us.  This even though we would share we had NO idea what we would do upon our arrival.  Not exactly the words you'd expect to engender confidence.  So what was the reason for the apparent confidence.

That got me thinking about Jesus.  He's on a mountain with his disciples getting ready to ascend into heaven.  The disciples are all around him and he speaks words that have come to be known as "the Great Commission."  You'd probably expect a missionary to bring them up.  Yet think about this.

He was leaving the church and its success to a group that not many days before had deserted him like rats from a sinking ship.  And those who didn't desert, immediately... denied even knowing Him.

And yet Jesus calls on them to carry forward HIS mission, and he didn't say try!  Talk about confidence.  

I think if you glance back at the words that Paul penned at the beginning of Philippians you'll discover the reason for the hope.  The reason for this HOPE is Christ.  Or to put it the way Paul did in Colossians... the reason for his confidence is simply "Christ in you, the HOPE of glory." 

As you look at the church of today.  As you think about God's call to reach OUR world.  As you think about your missionaries here in Ireland and around the world.  As you think about the lack of resources, the overwhelming challenges of today, perhaps you do have hope, or maybe you just want to throw up your hands in surrender.  Let's face it the task is incredible, much like it was for those early disciples.  Yet as Paul suggests...  Remember... HE is our HOPE.

Perhaps you saw the picture on this post and wondered... You may love Obama, you may loath him.  Yet the truth is the HOPE of our world is NOT in the next president of ANY nation, but in Christ, the Hope of Glory!  

The future is BRIGHT! After all....
"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  TNIV(Php 1:3–6)