The God of Hope

Love and hope are inseparable. God’s love offers hope that leads to joy and peace beyond description. Romans 15:13 is a sweet blessing that fills my heart each time I read it.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” NASB

Only the power of the Holy Spirit can bring the love, hope, joy, and peace of God. There are many substitutes in this world, but none compare to what God has to offer. I forget the Spirit and head out on my own sometimes and find myself lost and alone. When I am not feeling connected, I know the problem is love. I belong to the body of Christ and that means loving God and others. I can try to worship Him on my own, but it just won’t work. I can try to worship with others without loving them, but that will also fail.

Christ says this about love in Matthew 22:36-40.

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” NASB

Love isn’t negotiable and neither is being a part of His body. I am, and always will be, whether I like it or not. I can try to separate myself from other believers, but it is as futile an act as an eye deciding to take off on its own. “We are one in the bond of love” as the beautiful hymn says, and I cannot love or fully live without being connected to others.

I love being in a house filled with the sounds of love. The girls bless me each time they come running to my room to say good morning or good night. My heart is right at home here, and the lessons in love just keep getting better. This week’s have gone straight to my core and hurt deeply, but God is faithful to bless, heal, and stretch my heart a little with each lesson:)

Taking Sides Simply Divides

Jesus never took anyone’s side but God’s. That kept His heart whole and His mind clear. Taking sides breaks the heart, clogs the mind, and frustrates the body of Christ. The singleness of Christ’s allegiance and love is a beautiful example to follow. Unfortunately, even the disciples had trouble doing that. It is human nature to take sides and choose teams.

When I was young, I was always the last one picked for any team. I was small and hated it when we played a game that involved choosing teams. I knew I would be the last or next to last no matter what the game. I always played hard and tried to compensate for my size. It never worked, but I kept trying. The sweetest compliment I ever got was from a student when my intramural class was getting ready to play one afternoon.

Dusty came up to me before homebase and looked at my clothing and shoes. He said, “Mrs. Proctor, you’re not dressed out!” I was always dressed to play and loved being part of the team, but I had a big meeting right after school and wouldn’t have time to change before going. I loved that my students loved for me to play alongside them and looked forward to the games and activities as much as they did. However, I wasn’t prepared for Dusty’s next remark.

He was seriously concerned as he told me adamantly that I was the team’s third best player, and he needed for me to be ready to play. I didn’t smile, but I sure wanted to. I knew Nick must have been second on Dusty’s list! I also knew Nick would have been first on his list with Dusty second:) He inspired me so much that I decided not to worry about the silly meeting and quickly ran to get ready for the game. We often didn’t even keep score during those games designed to build community, but I was so lifted by Dusty’s estimation of me that I played harder than ever before. Funny how the way others view us affects our performance.

I think of Dusty when I think of how Jesus feels about my doing the work God places before me. God chose me and other silly humans to be on His side, and Jesus makes it clear that He needs all of us and sees us in the same way Dusty saw me. He bids me to get ready because He needs me. That is a mystery I don’t suppose I’ll understand until I’m in His presence, but it inspires me to do my best because He believes in me. That truly does affect my performance and attitude in a miraculous way!

The scripture this week is a beautiful reminder that the disciples behaved much like those kids picking teams when I was young. That leaves folks feeling left out or last picked. Jesus, like Dusty, comes to me and to all who serve Him and says just what Dusty said, “I need you, and you’re not dressed out!” He says it seriously, sincerely, and with a look that makes me drop the reasons or excuses I have for not getting out in the field, get ready, and go on that field with new life knowing that He believes in me and knows I can do what He needs for me to do.

The Pharisees take a beating in the Sunday School classes and children’s stories, but Mark reminds us that the disciples weren’t any better. That’s a great lesson for me to remember. It’s easy to point fingers at those who aren’t like me, but it’s not much fun to see myself in those disciples. Jesus knew they needed a reminder that we are all on the same team, and every member of that team is important. It’s a great reminder to me, as well. Here’s what Jesus had to say to a group who were concerned about taking sides.

Mark 9:38-50

The Message Eugene Peterson

 John spoke up, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn’t in our group.”Jesus wasn’t pleased. “Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath cut me down. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.“On the other hand, if you give one of these simple, childlike believers a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. “If your hand or your foot gets in God’s way, chop it off and throw it away. You’re better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owner of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You’re better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell. “Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.”

Jesus sure doesn’t mince words when it comes to dividing His body. Preserve the peace indeed! Taking sides causes the body of Christ to be divided, and Jesus hates that because it hurts God’s work. How I wish we could understand that simple lesson and stop sizing up one another and deciding who’s on God’s team. Now, I don’t think we need to rank the members as Dusty did, but I do know that feeling I am important part of God’s work gives me the courage to take the field.

The work Jesus has for me is much more important than the intramural game we played that afternoon, but the sweet lesson I learned from Dusty helps me remember to get dressed out and be ready for all God has for me to do each day. We are all on the same team and must see everyone as important if God’s work is to be done the way He desires.