Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Hope 10

 wait - qava - expectantly look for, linger

hope -telehet - hope; by implication, to be patient, trust and tarry

[We are nothing by a breath...a mere shadow...for all the turmoil...all the pursuit of gain....] O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you.  Psalm 39: 7 (6-11)

Life carries no meaning apart from the Lord.  All the pursuits, all the messaging, all is vainglory, in King James' language, just a shadow of greater things from the Lord.  Nothing satisfies independent from God.  Yet, within life's meaning, can we, with an expectant eye, look for God?  Any meaning for living only happens when we see, when we look for the presence of God within all of life's efforts.  Can we tarry long enough, stop and smell the roses?  Can we be patient as we wait for the revelation of God?

Hope may not be a sudden clarification, but a gradual expansion of our view of the Triune God.  Can we let Him be greater than anything this earth provides?  Can we let Him be closer to us than any expectation we have that comes from our culture?  No matter the noise around us, pursue the presence of God within the activity and  within our own beings.

Lord, help me to open my eyes to your everyday presence, your intent and power to make it so in the world, in others and in me.  Amen.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Hope 9

 The Hope of Christ 

Word - Logos - Something said, made true by its speaking.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God.

All things  were made through him and without him nothing was made.  In him was life and the life was the light of men.  That light shines in the darkness and darkness cannot comprehend it.  John 1:1-5

Jesus' originalness with God and his participation with the Godhead comes with his identity within it and by proximity to it.  He and God are "one and the same." Jesus becomes the very expression of God to humanity.  

Darkness on earth had obscured the Divine's presence (in creation) and led to an ignorance of people to God's intent for all creation.  The darkness was an ignorance of the Divine that had produced misery and God intended to dispel that ignorance and its resultant misery with the life of his Son.

Jesus's life can now reveal God's purposes for all. His appearance  illuminates God's truth and presence, even to the point that his presence obscures the darkness. The purpose for this expression of God (although he would not be the last, as he indicated he would send the Holy Spirit) was to dispel the lack of understanding of the Divine.

There is now no reason for doubt, since Jesus' intent and expression now provides a channel for knowledge and understanding of the truth of God. It is an ongoing effort by the Holy Spirit through his holy people to have that light of Jesus still shine.  His intent is clear:  we are the presentation of revealed truth in these days.

It is our hope that the light given us will continue to go out to a needy world needing the revelation of the Father who loves them.

You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead, they put it on its stand and it gives light to every in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Hope 8

 Yahal - to wait, hope, expect

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a false hope for salvation and by its great might, it cannot rescue.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield.  For our heart is glad in him because we trust in his holy name.  Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you!   Ps 33:16-22

    false hope/vain thing - seqer - deception, disappointment, betrayal

    steadfast love/mercy - hesed - goodness, kindness, faithfulness

    trust - batah - security; place of freedom

We have built our "armies" and they have failed us.  The world gives us a formula for success, for protection.  It only helps for awhile and deceives us into trusting it and the work of our own hands for protection and provision.  Personal strength? Yet, we soon realize that we have failed ourselves.  We soon find that the battle will go on too long.  The forces of evil are too strong.  Our deception will be our failure.

The Lord!  He is the one!  He is the one who can save, protect and feed us.  He alone is our shield.  And he is available through the easiest of means:

    regard his greatness highly

    press into his love; look for it

    be patient and watch as he acts

    rejoice in God's being.

Let that hope be on the grounds (foundationally) of resting upon the love of God.  God is for us; who can be against us? 

It has been you all along, Father.  Help me to celebrate the travail and the victory!  Amen!

Monday, October 02, 2023

The Hidden Rules of Religion

 truth - alethia - objective (not situational) truth in any matter; personal excellence, candor;  transparency and authenticity

Alethia is made of "alpha" + "hidden" in the Greek, literally meaning "first revelation."  Truth as the notion of idea revealed (from God) as in true nature of God and circumstances, standing in direct contrast to cultural norms.

The hidden rules of the religious class and church culture often do not reflect the truth of God.  These rules serve to exclude others and build a fortress of isolation around itself.  In religious extremism this is seen in theocracies which sequester their members through clothing (the hajib), food (LDS doesn't allow its members to drink coffee) , or body-expression (remember no dancing or card playing?), often isolating gender (women) from the worship center and creating a hierarchy for participation and service.  It can include violence against aliens and apostates.  

Are we willing to own whether our religious entity (church or small group) is exclusionary?

And the purpose of these rules?  They protect and preserve the religious class. They segregate the haves ("chosen") from the have-nots.  They create conformity to the point of exclusion.  The closed church appropriates Jesus and his message to create a sequestered body, safe by economic and power structures, like Constantine's use and protection of the early church in the 400s, when he made Christianity the religion of the state.

What if our religious culture is more tradition than truth, especially as a way to maintain bias, separation, position and comfort?  What if we have built a fortress instead of a community that is expansive and expanding?   

Are we like Mary and Joseph, who went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the seat and center of their faith, and in their return home lost Jesus in the crowd?  They assumed Jesus was in the crowd of fellow pilgrims...assumed.  They were absorbed in their communal practice, but were not in Jesus' presence.  They didn't know where he was. To find him, they returned to the Temple.  

"Temple" literally means "altar of speech," the place where God speaks, the inner sanctum. Have we been enmeshed in the Christian community and its rules and rituals such that we have missed Jesus' presence?  How do we find the temple where he resides? 

Jesus has assured us the temple is now in a new place: our hearts and souls, where his Holy Spirit now resides. It is the inner sanctum, to which we must return. While we are not to neglect the community, we are also not to forget our first love.  We are to hold them in balance.  Have we?

Yet this:  you have forsaken the love you held at first.  Revelation 2:4

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Hope 7

 tiqva - hope; longing, expectation; literally, a cord. 

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed (crushed), a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you...for the needy will not remain forgotten and the hope of the poor will not perish...Psalm 9:9, 10, 18

In what hole have you found yourself?  Crushed by the toils of life?  Emotionally destroyed?  Afflicted?  Weakened?  Depressed?  Needing help?

All of us have had all of these.  Life takes a toll on us.  

Our Lord is present to provide a safe place when we have lost all security, when we feel unstable.  He can comfort and supply our emotional needs by his presence and then he offers a connection to the future:  next steps, next opportunity, helping a person or finding solutions.  And he comforts in the meantime.

Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  The Father of all mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.  We need not bear any burden alone.  We need not depend on our own resources, for God has many more to offer.  

Hope makes me thankful to know you, Lord, are at work in both situations and in me.  You know what you are doing even when I do not.  Amen.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Hope 6


to trust; to wait, to expect; to tarry (as in not get ahead of God).

God might kill me, but I have no other hope.  I am going to argue my case before him.  God will be my salvation, because I am not godless and can stand before him.  Job 13:15-16

Job is desperate and he knows God is his only hope.  He knows God will hear him out.  Job's friends have tried to diminish Job, blame him, leaving him in a pitying pile, but Job will nave none of it.  He is clear as to his only source for hope.

I think we often go to many other sources before we go to God.  Many other comforts, when God is our only comfort.  He is the only one to trust.  "Imagine that!" my friend use to say after we had sat around and bemoaned our plight.  "We could pray!"  

When will we learn to pray first?  At the slightest level of need, run to God first.  We are like Job, in right-standing with God.  He wants us to come to him.  He wants us to trust him.

Help me, Lord to first raise my voice to you!  I will plead my case to you.  I will recognize my privileged place to come to you.  I am blessed just knowing you are my God, desiring to hear from me.  Amen!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Hope 5

 tiqva - grounds for hope; longing expectation.  Literally, a chord, which can twist and stretch.

Oh, that I might have my request and that God would fulfill my hope...What strength do I have in order to persist?  And what is my end that I should forestall it?  Is my strength like that of stones?  My skin as bronze?  Can I even help myself, or is all chance of help driven from me?

A despondent person deserves kindness from his friend, even though he strays from the fear of the Highest One.  Job 6: 8, 11-14

Job's friend's words (in Job 5) have brought no comfort.  They were ill-timed and accusatory words.  Can we take a lesson on how to be a true help, provide hope? A person is emptied by calamity, so there is no source of hope within. When a person is so afflicted, help (ezra - assistance) and wisdom (tusiya - sound knowledge; substance) cannot come from within.  

What provides help and hope?  Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, mercy.  We don't have to have answers, instead, we can care for a person in distress.  We don't have to solve their problems, but offer compassion, love and support:  a phone call, a silent sitting, a listening ear, a hug.  The presence of another human being provides hope.  Could you provide such a simple act of kindness?

Lord, draw me into the presence of the hurting.  Help me to carry your spirit of comfort to others.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Hope 4

 tiqva - hope; longing, expectation; literally, a cord. 

...sorrow is not a natural product of the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the earth itself...This is why, if I were you, I would appeal to God.  I would lay my cause at his feet.  He does wonderful things that confound, with an infinite number of there is still hope for the helpless and poor..  Job 5:6-16

For there to be hope for the future, hope for wonderful things, miracles, lifting up, bolstering, justice, it must be tied to the efforts of God in each.  Also, remember that these are only needed in the face of calamity.  Only when we are dry, downtrodden, bereaved, the victim of deceitful plotting and physical peril do we recognize our own weakness and tie ourselves, "hitch our wagon," to the God of the universe, who saves.  

We will only be able to avoid some of those calamities and God will provide and provide comfort, when not.  The hope God provides in difficult and calamitous times become our guide to the future:  safety which delivers us to another day; "water" for flourishing; intervention against plots against us, blinding and binding of our enemies.

The message of Job 5 confounds and upsets Job (seen in chapter 6), but even this righteous man was a victim of a plot against him by Satan himself.  God will prove himself righteous and return Job to good favor.  Can we stand the test as well?

Lord, help me keep my eyes on your favor in the midst of trial;  my hope tied to you. Amen. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Hope 3

 tiqva - hope; longing, expectation; literally, a cord.

Behold, you have instructed many and you have strengthened weak hands.  Your words have upheld him who was stumbling and you have made firm the feeble knees.  Now trouble has come to you and you are impatient with it.  Trouble touches you and you are dismayed. Is not your fear of God your confidence and the integrity of your ways your hope? Job 4:2-6

Ah, Job, teach yourself!  All this time you extolled God, helped others, taught others, did you not think the promise was for you or did you think you would be excluded from the general malaise of humanity?

Some would say Job's friends were no help to him.  Okay.  This is kind of blaming, but did Job need to hear the truth of his own words?  Maybe.  Did he need to be pointed to the depth of his own purported faith and comfort that he once gave to others?  I think so. 

And then I think of myself.  The lessons I have taught others, I must cling to!  The care and comfort I gave, I must now accept!  That is my hope!  When I am fraught with disaster, in a weakened state, dare I hope for the help from others or mercy from my God?  Dare I ask?

Lord, help me to know how to be vulnerable enough to ask for help and thus receive hope from others!  My connection to them - the cord that binds - is what will give me hope.  Let me prove my dependence and awe of you when trouble comes by living by the hope of you, Lord, and the proofing of my claimed dependence on you.  Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Hope 2

 Miqve - the grounds or foundation of hope; a collection, a gathering;  bond together

As Ezra was praying and weeping and bowing on the steps of the temple of God, a huge group of Israelite men, women and children joined him in weeping.  Shecaniah:  You are right to weep, Ezra.  We have forgotten our true God and [sinned], but there is hope for Israel yet.  We shall make a new commitment with our True God....and you who are righteous (i.e. follow the law) must guide us...and we will support you.  Ezra 10:1-4

Hope must have a foundation...of truth and right living. Sometimes, hope rests on those who are in leadership, who live rightly.  When a group - here a nation - has completely abandoned the principles of God, their actions have amounted to a broken faith. Deep confession with a change of heart and path is initiated from within, when the people can see their wrongs as an afront to God. 

Then hope reaches out for leadership.

The people of Israel then build on their confession with a commitment to follow and support agents of change, their prophet and priests. It is never an independent faith.  Sin is often communal.  Righteous leadership can lead the community back to relationship with God.  

Lord, lead me to confession and to leaders who would give me hope and whom I can support in their effort to guide.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Hope I


hope; expectation of a desired outcome

literally: a cord; attached to the future

"...if I should say I have hope...." Ruth 1:12

Naomi has had husband and sons die:  she has no hope for her or her abandoned daughters-in-law.  She has no future hope, no cord, to offer them, let alone herself.  Without hope, they wailed.  

One daughter-in-law returned to her people, where she might secure a hope for her future.  Ruth, though, attached her hope to Naomi:

"Where you go, I will go and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried...(verses 16, 17)

To salve an unrequited hope, Ruth knew she would need family.  She would need intimacy, closely tied to her mother-in-law.  Later, we know her dedication to relationship would give her a new hope, a new husband with the same connections.

This is the hope of social capital.  When we stay connected to the people who can most secure our future, our continuation, hope survives.  This tells me that when I am in desperate straits, when I am feeling helpless, I need those around me who can connect me to the solutions, the relationships, the future I need.

Lord, give me the social capital, the connections to relationships so as to build hope for my future.