Poetry Saturday—Hope

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops—at all

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet—never—in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me. —Emily Dickinson

Poetry Saturday—New Every Morning

Every day is a fresh beginning,
Every morn is a world made new.
You who are weary of sorrow and sinning,
Here is a beautiful hope for you—
A hope for me and a hope for you.

All of the past things are past and over;
The tasks are done and the tears are shed.
Yesterday’s errors let yesterday cover,
Yesterday’s wounds which smarted and bled,
Are healed with the healing which night has shed.

Yesterday is now a part of forever,
Bound up in a sheaf, which God holds tight,
With glad days, and sad days, and bad days, which never
Shall visit us more with their bloom and their blight,
Their fullness of sunshine or sorrowful night.

Let them go, since we cannot re-live them,
Cannot undo and cannot atone;
God in His mercy receive, forgive them!
Only the new days are our own;
Today is ours, and today alone.

Here are the skies all burnished brightly,
Here is the spent earth all re-born,
Here are the tired limbs springing lightly
To face the sun and to share with the morn
In the chrism of dew and the cool of dawn.

Every day is a fresh beginning;
Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,
And spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
And puzzles forecasted and possible pain,
Take heart with the day, and begin again. —Susan Coolidge

Poetry Saturday—Sacred Bond

‘Twixt Jesus and the chosen race, 
Subsists a bond of sovereign grace. 
That hell, with its infernal train. 
Shall ne’er dissolve, or rend in twain. 

This sacred bond shall never break, 
Though earth should to her centre shake ; 
Rest, doubting saint, assured of this, 
For God has pledged His holiness. 

He swore but once, the deed was done; 
‘Twas settled by the great Three One; 
Christ was appointed to r’deem 
All that the Father loved in Him. 

Hail sacred union, firm and strong! 
How great the grace, how sweet the song! 
That worms of earth should ever be 
One with incarnate Deity! 

One in the tomb, one when He rose, 
One when He triumph’d o’er His foes. 
One when in heaven He took His seat. 
While seraph’s sung all hell’s defeat. 

This sacred tie forbids their fears, 
For all He is, or has, is theirs; 
With Him their head, they stand or fall, 
Their life, their surety, and their all. —Anonymous

A Graphical Look At Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:11-21

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the Cross, by which He put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

 

Poetry Saturday—Trinitie Sunday

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
    And hast redeem’d me through Thy bloud,
    And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
    For I confesse my heavie score,
    And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
    With faith, with hope, with charitie;
    That I may runne, rise, rest with Thee. —George Herbert

Coronavirus And Christ (book review)

Coronavirus And Christ is a quintessential example of how the Bible’s message is applicable to any situation we face. This book could have been written as “The Bubonic Plague And Christ” or “The Great War And Christ” or even “The Spanish Flu And Christ” and the message would have been the same. 

John Piper himself states, “What John Piper has to say on this topic isn’t nearly as important as what God has to say on this topic.” God’s Word is timeless, always applicable, and always authoritative. Coronavirus And Christ is steeped in biblical principles. 

The first half of this book reminds us of God’s sovereignty even in times that we may see as unexpected or chaotic. Pastor John writes, “The secret of ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ [2 Corinthians 6:10] is this: knowing that the same sovereignty that could stop the coronavirus, yet doesn’t, is the very sovereignty that sustains the soul in it. Indeed, more than sustains—sweetens. Sweetens with hope that God’s purposes are kind, even in death—for those who trust Him.” 

In the second half of this book, Pastor John elaborates on six possible answers to the question, “What is God doing through the coronavirus?” I am confident that you will be encouraged to see how God is in control of events that seem out of our hands. 

Coronavirus And Christ is a short book, but one that will arm you with faith-building insights that will help you throughout not just this time, but any others that will inevitably come along. Desiring God has made the ebook version of this book available for free (click here to access the link). 

Where’s God When I Fear Death?

Is death the #1 fear people have? The simple and complicated answer is: It depends. Fear of dying is a BIG fear in those that statistically are the least likely to die: the young. But fear of dying is very LOW for those on death row, the elderly, and the terminally ill.

I hope to convince you of a fourth group that shouldn’t fear death. It’s a group that all of us can be a member of: Those who understand that physical death is not the end. 

In the Garden of Eden, God planted one tree that was off-limits, and He said that the penalty for eating from this tree was death (Genesis 2:16-17). satan tried to get Adam and Eve to doubt what God said, and after they ate the fruit, it appeared satan was correct—they didn’t die. At least not physically.

But their sin did something far, far worse—it separated them from God’s presence. Now when God appeared, Adam and Eve hid in fear. In fact, Jesus even told His followers that the greatest fear wasn’t physical death but spiritual death (Luke 12:4-5). 

Jesus came to lift our hope to something beyond this physical world. He said, “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not die, but would have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

Famed atheist Bertrand Russell said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” 

On the other hand, Jesus DID die for His beliefs and proved He was right by His resurrection! 

Friend, listen to me—We’re definitely not living our best life now. We are all terminal. Unless Jesus returns, the chances of our physical death are 1-in-1. 

But physical death is not the end! Death of the body means freedom for the soul. Jesus has defeated Death once for all! “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades,” Jesus said (Revelation 1:17-18) 

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) 

Invite Jesus into your life right this moment!! 

Once you have invited Jesus into your life, and your sins have been forgiven, and your destiny following your physical death is assured, this is how you should now live: 

  1. Live in joyful hope. Not optimism—that’s just the belief in what you think you can do. But hope is the belief in what you know Jesus has already done!
  1. Live free of all anxiety and the fear of death. Because nothing can separate you from God’s love and presence (Romans 8:38-39).  
  1. Live telling others about your Risen Savior. It’s the most loving thing that you could do for anyone. 

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be fearful of death is a sin. A fearful Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy, secure Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. A happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too! 

We can live this way because Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins that separated you from God, and He was resurrected back to life to assure you that your eternal home in God’s presence is secure!

Refined By The Fire

Where is God in our trials? When we call, Jesus runs to our cry. He is able to help us because He knows exactly what our cries sound like. Aren’t you glad He does?! 

While we are in these difficult times, you might find yourself asking a question I have asked, “Okay, God, I believe You are doing something, but what exactly are You doing?” 

I can’t tell you specifically what God is doing in your life, because your story is unique and special. But I can tell you that during the hard, painful chapters of our lives, God is accomplishing at least five things in all of us.

  1. God is opening our eyes to new paradigms

We will learn lessons in these fiery trials that we couldn’t possibly learn any other way. 

  1. God is building empathy in us which we didn’t have before

One dictionary defines empathy as “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.” It’s only because of our trials that we no longer have to imagine what someone else is feeling, but instead we know exactly what they’re feeling and how we can help. 

  1. God is growing our patience 

It’s been said that patience is the “mother of all other virtues.” Paul said that “these troubles produce patience” (Romans 5:3). As God grows your patience, He will also help you to grow all of the other Christlike virtues. 

  1. God is refining His character in us 

Paul went on to add that not only does trouble produce patience, but “patience produces character” (Romans 5:4). During the times of difficulty and uncertainty, we become more aware of deficiencies in our character. 

  1. God is building in us an unshakable hope in His future grace 

Hope is not wishful thinking; it’s well-founded believing! 

I want to circle back to that word refining because I think that best sums up what God is doing in our painful times. Romans 8 tells us—The Spirit Himself thus testifies together with our own spirit, assuring us that we are children of God. And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ—sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory. But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! (Romans 8:15-18) 

So where’s God in this time of fire? He is overseeing our trial as a Perfect Refiner. Do you know how the silversmith knows he has purified the impurities from the silver ore? The silver is pure when he can see his own reflection in the silver! 

In the heat of your trial, God is close to you. He knows the perfect temperature and the precise time that it will take to allow His face to be seen in you! 

Sometimes you will see what God is doing through your furnace time, sometimes you won’t. But don’t ever bail out! God IS working! He is giving you a new perspective, a deeper empathy, more patience, an unshakable hope, and most of all—He is removing the impurities that will allow His face to be seen more clearly in you! 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn where God is in our darkest times. And if you didn’t catch the previous messages in this series, please check out The God That Runs To You and How Long Will This Last?

Hope-Filled Declarations

Whether it’s a doctor’s diagnosis of cancer, or a rapidly-spreading virus, or a painful relationship, Lynn Eib helps us keep these unexpected things in perspective. These may have taken us by surprise, but nothing takes God by surprise. No diagnosis nor prognostication can limit God’s power and love. 

As David learned in his painful time: “God has spoken once, twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belong mercy and loving-kindness” (Psalm 62:11-12). He is All-Powerful and All-Loving. 

Let these declarations Lynn made when receiving her cancer diagnosis help put things in perspective for you—

I refuse to believe my diagnosis is a death sentence.

I believe God is on the side of my healing because His unbreakable Word says so.

I believe treatment is effective against this illness, especially the skillful efforts of scientific medicine with my strategies for replacing lying thoughts with truth.

I believe my hormones and immune system are on the side of my healing and are even now working to overcome this illness.

I believe I am personally responsible for my treatment and for managing it.

I believe hope is a choice. I choose hope, not hopelessness.

My major aim is to have a mind fully submitted to the Spirit of God and His truth, not just to see better lab results or improvement in physical symptoms.

I believe I am on earth to share Christ, hope, and joy with others. I am here only to love others, regardless of my physical condition.

I believe that God’s will is good. 

I believe that He loves me and wants only the best for me—whatever He is allowing me to experience right now.

I can recover from this illness and live a rich, productive life of service. But whether I recover or not, I am going to leave this life someday regardless. Until then I can live a full life of service every day for as long as I am given. 

—Lynn Eib, in Peace In The Face Of Cancer 

On Living In A [COVID-19] Age

In 1948, World War II had come to a close and the nuclear age had dawned. The Cold War was beginning to ratchet up and the fear of nuclear annihilation was gripping people’s hearts. 

In this environment, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay entitled On Living In An Atomic Age. I have changed the word “atomic” for “COVID-19,” and I think you will see the relevance. 

In one way we think a great deal too much of the COVID-19 virus. “How are we to live in a COVID-19 age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the COVID-19 virus was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by the COVID-19 virus, let that virus when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about viruses. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

For Christians, I would urge you to think in ways in which I am certain C.S. Lewis would agree: 

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2) 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) 

Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times. (Romans 12:12)

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