A Hope That Does Not Disappoint

The last few months I’ve been bumping up against the word Hope. I’ve also been bumping up against people who are either walking this life’s path filled with it, or seemingly strangely empty of it.

It’s comforting to meet folks filled with hope. You can’t help but smile and walk away from their presence a bit lighter than when you entered it.

Hope is meant to be contagious, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it can be downright irritating to those whose perspective is jaded toward goodness. Unfortunately, I’ve met a few people in this condition recently. Worse yet, I’ve sometimes joined them in their cynicism toward hope.  And that thought saddens me.

How often have you found yourself living with a jaded perspective toward goodness and truth? How often have you allowed tiredness or boredom to drain your enthusiasm toward the joy that is ours in Christ? It’s unsettling how easily apathy and cynicism creep in, turning our thoughts from the pathway of peace.

The other day I saw a facebook post which stated: Expecting is my favorite crime, and disappointment is always my punishment. I couldn’t help but cringe when I realized the heaviness of that phrase. And the utter lie that it is. Or how easily we buy into it.

Expecting is not a crime. As Christians, we are asked to live expecting always. Expecting God’s goodness and faithfulness to overcome the worst in this world. The worst in us. Yet we are duped into placing our expectations in temporary things instead of in eternal truths. No wonder we reap disappointment.

When our focus shifts to the shaking of a fallen world instead of the timeless sureness of a faithful Father God, a jaded hope is our reward.

When our thoughts are consumed by rapid-fire agendas in place of the natural rhythm of the journey, we become weary and worn out. When our vision is near-sighted instead of far-reaching, we are bound to become discouraged. When we cling to people instead of to God, we are certain to be disappointed. When we fail to embrace grace, our hearts become hardened. Embittered. Jaded. Disenfranchised with hope. Distraught by change or by the continuing sameness of a trial appearing to stretch before us for miles on end.

Instead of living at peace in the known of God, who remains stable despite our floundering, we allow our hearts to become disenfranchised. Unable to rest easy. Tempted to go on a rampage against the very hope that has been given to hold us steady.

I found it of great interest to note the actual meaning of the word disenfranchised comes from the French root enfranchir – to make free. When the negative prefix is added, we end up in bondage – made unfree.

Made unfree.

This is where a jaded outlook leads – straight into the bonds of captivity. Made unfree.

I can’t help but wonder how many folks are wandering this earth disenfranchised with faith. Disenfranchised with what they thought they were entitled to in a relationship, or in a career, or in a ministry, or in a religion. Disenfranchised with life in general.

The good news is, if you are in Christ, you will never have to experience this. You will never be cut off from hope nor separated from grace.

But you can choose to walk away from it.

Today I challenge you to fight against the temptation toward jaded disenfranchisement. If you’ve found yourself teetering toward the cynical or reaching out toward disappointment, just stop.

Stop.

Stop and think upon the One who has plans of hope and a future for you. Ponder His promises. Remember His past faithfulness to you. Look again upon the cross of Christ and know the greatness of a love that has no limits. A hope that overcomes the very gates of hell. A peace that shakes the dust from empty graves in overcoming victory. For good.

Things are not always what they seem in this tilt-a whirl world. This life is so very fleeting. Even the longest of human breath is a mere gasp in eternity’s lifespan.

This trial. This painful relationship. This sickness. This hurt. Whatever your this is. It will not last, my friend.

In the span of a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed. Changed into eternity’s form and granted eyes to see the One who will cause every knee to bow in absolute and final declaration of His glory and dominion.

But we don’t have to wait for the end of this life to experience His hope. You can break free from the delusion of disappointment today.

Liberate your heart to remember.

Open eyes to see the eternal and the true as you revive a grateful spirit.

Cling to goodness and to Jesus.

Expect to find hope… and you will.

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And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. — Romans 5:5 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

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Waste or Worship?

The world calls Mary’s expenditure a waste because it carried no returns. Jesus loved her gift precisely because it didn’t. 
(from A Childlike Heart by Alan Wright)

When was the last time you did something totally selfless?

Served another without expectations of receiving anything in return?

It’s alarming how often we have built-in stipulations for doing things. Whether consciously or subconsciously, our motives are often tainted. Even if it is merely with the satisfaction of knowing we served someone without expectations.

What was Mary thinking when she approached Jesus with her jar of expensive perfume? (See John 12: 1-8.) Was she expecting to be rewarded for her lavish outpouring? Was she expecting the criticism that came from the roomful of men seated at the table with the soon-to-be-realized Savior?

Or was there really no expectation at all?

Just a gentle tugging in her spirit which caused her to waste her worship upon Jesus.

For that’s what others accused it of being. A waste. The squandering of perfectly good valuables.

In the eyes of wise money management, Mary’s outpouring was a complete and total failure. Her anointing of Jesus’ feet was akin to throwing a few thousand dollars over the edge of a cliff while surrounded by a crowd of hungry orphans. It just didn’t add up.

But then again, serving others seldom does.

If looking to live by a logical formula of 1 + 2 = 3, Christians are sure to be disappointed. Because God seldom does things according to the equations of man. His ways tend to stretch finite minds to their furthest limits and still leave us wondering how to wrap our thinking around them.

Mary’s gift could be entered as Exhibit A in the “His ways are not my own” trial. As much as I’d like to think I’d be enthralled with such a lavish outpouring of love extended to Jesus, I’m fairly certain I would have sided with Judas, becoming frustrated at what appeared to be an act so wasteful to these natural, earthly eyes.

I would have joined in labeling Mary’s expenditure a waste because it carried no returns.  But Jesus didn’t.

Jesus loved Mary’s gift because it was given without any thought of a return for her investment. Unlike the story of the widow and her sons who were directed to gather empty vessels for a filling from the Lord (2 Kings 4:1-7), Mary was not expecting her jar to be filled again. She simply emptied it at the feet of Jesus, no turning back. No restitution required.

Just the fragrant spilling of love poured freely from a heart overflowing with overwhelming gratitude for who Jesus was.

And the Lord received her act of worship. Not as a waste of treasures, but treasured because she was willing to waste her most valuable possession in worship to her Lord.

Sometimes we are called to places of significant sacrifice.

Sometimes we are prompted to release our greatest treasures into God’s keeping — without any signs of return in the natural realm.

And in those moments, we each have a choice to make.

Will we begrudge the giving of the gift?

Or will we, like Mary, surrender it freely?

Trusting to be received with God’s love and favor, even if all others fail to understand.

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The Rebel Duck

Not long ago, a friend posted this photo on facebook:

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While the sentiment enclosed was a positive encouragement to “go against the crowd,” I looked at the lone duck and thought, “That’s exactly what happens when I attempt to get my ducks in a row.” As much as I try to corral my many tasks and responsibilities, there is always a “rebel” out there. Something that refuses to come under my authority and behave according to my expectations. The audacity of that lone duck!

Because I tend to be organized and task-oriented by nature, one of the things that absolutely drives me crazy is… interruptions. You would think after raising five children spaced within nine years of each other I would be laid back and mellow, but unfortunately that is not the case. I still have the mother duck fetish for aligning things in a neat row and expecting them all to follow along smoothly. No time for stray ducklings. And yet, there is always that annoying little stuff and fluff that wants to meander aimlessly while I am marching with staccato rhythm to an internal drumbeat. A  cadence that prods me toward accomplishing every task in my carefully-planned (and most often, too-full day).

And when one little duck goes to wandering, I go ballistic.



It’s incredible how easily I allow one little interruption to set my entire day off-kilter. How effortlessly irritation slips in and upsets my peaceful disposition. And while many of you can understand and perhaps even share in my propensity toward “interruption irritation,”  I have come to the conclusion that it is one of the sins that most easily ensnares me.

It’s true. I am a repeat offender.

When it comes to allowing my flesh to overrule my spirit man, this is my besetting sin. And as much as I seek God’s intervention and forgiveness regarding this particular struggle, I am sure to need His grace again.

Because ducks are prone to wandering.

As am I.

Yet as often as I respond in frustration to moments of interruptions, God responds in mercy toward me.

And I am grateful.

Grateful that God never views my exceeding neediness as an interruption.

Grateful that He always responds with kindness as He leads me toward repentance.

Grateful that His mercies are promised to be extended to me – morning after morning, day after day. Duck after duck.

As I head into yet another day where I am certain to be interrupted, may I do so with a heart that yields quickly to the Spirit’s tug toward holiness. Even if my ducks are tugging to break free from the row of my carefully-organized life.

May I bring myself into submission before God before attempting to corral a stray duckling. And maybe, just maybe, I might even allow myself a few moments to meander along. Who knows, there just may be a bit of joy found off the beaten path of my carefully-laid plans.

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