A source of hope

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2 ESV).

Our Bibles are “bookended” with references to the Tree of Life. Near the beginning, Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22). Then at the end of the final book Heaven is depicted as the environment where the tree of life continually bears fruit. Earlier in that same book Jesus promised, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). Continue reading “A source of hope”

Learning humility

“Then when Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. He said to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor because a person more distinguished than you may have been invited by your host. So the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your place.’ Then, ashamed, you will begin to move to the least important place. But when you are invited, go and take the least important place, so that when your host approaches he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up here to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who share the meal with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11 NET)

Humility. So easy to see yet so difficult to practice. Continue reading “Learning humility”

The Essential and the insistent

When Jesus spoke you listened. Jesus didn’t draw people to him because he was physically imposing, like Saul. Nor did he draw people because he told them what they wanted to hear, like the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. He was earnest and kind, forthright and compassionate, full of truth and full of love. He was the master teacher, mentor, debater, defender, and friend.

As the Word made flesh, God incarnate, Jesus demanded your attention, not because he was loud, obnoxious, or insistent, but because his words were essential. He did not speak to hear himself, nor did he waste his breath speaking that which was superfluous (see Matthew 12:36, 37).

As we look back upon the ministry of Jesus, we should be captivated by the brevity of it. God is eternal. He created man as a temporal, mortal being. His plan to help man achieve immortality was gradually revealed over four millennia. Then, when the moment was perfect (Galatians 4:4), he pierced time and wrapped his everlasting spirit with flesh and blood. The pure Word walked around on this sin soaked soil for about one-third of a century. Continue reading “The Essential and the insistent”

Developing the mindset of gratitude

Gratitude journals are a popular thing in some circles. Isn’t it good to see this? In a harsh and bitter world, cultivating a grateful heart can only produce good things.

Gratitude makes up a large part of a Christian’s prayers. So reasons for gratitude provide plenty of material for one’s communion with God.

Remember that many Israelites fell in the desert between Egypt and Canaan for lack of gratitude (mumbling and complaining). The apostle Paul considered it so important that he told saints to cultivate it three times, in three different ways, each mention in close proximity, in Colossians 3.15-17 (ESV): Continue reading “Developing the mindset of gratitude”

Rejoicing in hope

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God … Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:1-2, 5, NKJV).

Some years ago I was part of a group of Americans in another country who were stranded because of an uprising which caused our airline to suspend operations. For several days we stayed in a hotel trying to arrange travel on other carriers. Needless to say, we were anxious about the situation and frustrated at the delay in our return home. Continue reading “Rejoicing in hope”

The cost of following Jesus

When most people decide to purchase something they want to know how much it will cost. If we are looking to buy a house, we realise that in addition to the advertised price there will be other costs as well: taxes, possibly property taxes, fees for filing the change of ownership, and interest on a mortgage we might have to take out. Most of us want to know the bottom line: how much will this cost in total?

If we have been a Christian for any length of time we realise that there is a ‘cost’ to following Jesus. This is not a monetary cost or any type of ‘fee’ we have to pay, but there is a cost that we have to be willing to pay to follow him. Jesus was very up front when he talked about the cost of following him. Continue reading “The cost of following Jesus”

Hope inside

He sat in his car for over ten minutes struggling to enter. His story is familiar although he might have felt as though he was unique.

The scenario plays out in that surreal colorless shadowlands where shame, fragility, hopelessness, fear, guilt, feelings of failure and confusion reign. And yet, from within a car or from the motionless stance on a sidewalk the possibility that hope dwells within urges taking the first step.  Continue reading “Hope inside”

On rewards, punishments, and our journey to them

“How we travel to someplace determines how we feel about that place.”

The above quote comes from writer Eric Weiner on Travel with Rick Steves. During his interview, Mr. Weiner also commented upon the connection between traveling and travailing. “To travel is to travail,” he said. He was speaking in the context of taking a long train ride and feeling differently about his destination as a result of his journey. But my thoughts went to much more consequential things.

As followers of the Way and sojourners upon earth, we are all travelers. It is certain that how we travel determines our destination. If we walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), “in the light” (1 John 1:7), “in the truth” (2 John 1:4), and “in love” (Ephesians 5:2), by God’s grace we will dwell with him for eternity. Peace, joy, rest, and utter amazement will be ours forever. Continue reading “On rewards, punishments, and our journey to them”

Opportunities lost, opportunities found

“Make hay while the sun shines,” says the old farming adage. Farmers cannot cut and bale hay when it’s raining, for sure. 

While my little slice of heaven that I call “garden” is no farm by any means, the rule still applies. That yard sale I wanted to go to will have to be forfeited in favor of getting those tomato plants in before the rain comes, and the housework has often (too often) been put on hold until one or another time-sensitive garden task is done. 

Last spring I came across some forgotten daffodil bulbs under my potting table, trying with their last ounce of rootless strength to bloom in spite of my neglect. It is true that the neglect was caused by my attending to a human emergency, and for that I am not sorry. Continue reading “Opportunities lost, opportunities found”