Hope And The Here And Now – Reprise

westcoast sunsetWhile I acknowledge that this world is filled with disappointment, I also recognize the beauty of God’s handiwork. Yes, there is sadness, but there are also joys. People get married, and babies come into the world. People get promotions and book deals and raises. People go on vacation and spend an evening with friends.

There are so many joys, I can’t help but be hopeful about today.

There are friends, too, bringing laughter and acceptance and companionship. How about family and loved ones—people who don’t care what our hair looks like in the morning and aren’t afraid to tell us if something is hanging from our nose. They love us in such everyday ways we sometimes overlook them, but when we list what we’re thankful for, they come to mind first.

snow_road-winter-xsYes, the joys and the people are part of God’s handiwork, but of course the natural world can’t be left out. Which of the beautiful things tops the list—the white-capped Rockies, the sunset over the Pacific, the snow-dressed forest, the green and golden fields, the woods clothed in autumn finery, the dew-kissed rose, the yellow-breasted song bird . . . the list is endless.

Joy, people, creation. God’s fingerprints are everywhere, and each one brings hope. If things are this good today, can’t tomorrow be just as good? Or better?

The greatest present hope is God Himself. The amazing truth is that God IS, though all else fails. God is the greatest treasure, so I may be poor in this world’s estimation, but if I have Jesus, I am rich. I may mourn, but joy comes in the morning. I may feel defeated, but Christ is the victor. I may be grieving, but not without hope.

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places. (Hab. 3:17-19a)

God, in His great mercy, gives us memorials so that we don’t lose sight of hope. He gives us sun after the rain, spring after winter. He gives us comfort in the midst of sorrow, kindness from unexpected places.

He tells us to remember Him in the broken bread and shared cup at Communion. He established His Church as the “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” He gave us the Lord’s Day and reminded us to continue gathering together then.

He gave us His word that is sharper than any two-edged sword—the perfect weapon against the false teaching our adversary throws at us. He taught us to pray and gives His Holy Spirit to interpret when we don’t know what we ought to say.

This is the same Holy Spirit that lives in us—which is why we can truthfully say we are never alone. He is the One Jesus sent when He left earth, promising that it was to our advantage that He go.

God’s presence in the form of His Spirit, His communication with me through prayer, His word, His fingerprints all over the world—these are things I have now that fill me with hope.

Though our society is far from God, why not revival, I think. God changed my heart. He can change anyone’s heart, even atheists putting up anti-church billboards—Nebuchadnezzar was just such a man, and God brought him to his senses. Even people killing others in some mistaken view that they’re doing God’s work—the Apostle Paul was just such a man, and God opened his blind eyes.

With God, there are no limits.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power. (Isaiah 40:28-29)

To him who lacks hope, I daresay, He gives that, too.

This article originally appeared here December 2014.

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Published in: on November 3, 2017 at 4:39 pm  Comments (8)  
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  1. Rebecca, I understand the lows and highs about the world such as “there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food,”

    The high is I assume “God, in His great mercy, gives us memorials so that we don’t lose sight of hope.”

    I can see that this is what gets you through the emotional times in your life and that is great and of course the cream of Christianity is the everlasting life in heaven.

    The trouble I have is that this stacks up very nicely for advanced Western nations and well off middle class Christian populations.
    Even though Christians may suffer some hardships and Christ is there to make it better for them, what chances do the poor, starving and diseased people in third world countries have?

    What is the point of these children being born into an agonising death before many are able to know what life is?

    If there is a higher power, a god, alien or whatever monster, there can be no justification for such callousness. Gods plan, and his mysterious workings do not come close to justify this ongoing cruelty.

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    • Hey, Steve, thanks for engaging in this conversation. The high, as you refer to it, is hope generated by all those things–the memorials in nature, the people in our lives, the Holy Spirit in each Christian. Those things are not dependent on a rich economy. In fact, it might be surprising to learn that Christianity grows faster where there is suffering and persecution. Here’s a list generated by Operation World, with the countries where Evangelical Christianity is growing fastest and the percentage of growth in the second column. Keep in mind this fact: “For many of these countries, evangelical growth rates appear high because the evangelical population base is so small to begin with.’

      1 Iran 19.6%
      2 Afghanistan 16.7%
      3 Gambia, The 8.9%
      4 Cambodia 8.8%
      5 Greenland 8.4%
      6 Algeria 8.1%
      7 Somalia 8.1%
      8 Mongolia 7.9%
      9 Kuwait 7.3%
      10 Tajikistan 6.9%
      11 Laos 6.8%
      12 Mauritania 6.7%
      13 Sao Tome & Principe 6.5%
      14 Sudan 6.4%
      15 Suriname 6.3%
      16 Guinea-Bissau 6.2%
      17 Senegal 6.1%
      18 Korea, North 6.0%
      19 Colombia 6.0%
      20 Andorra 5.9%

      The next 20 are similar—countries from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East. In contrast, the nations that leads in the negative or slow growth list include Sweden, Finland, the UK, and other rich countries. The US made the list as the 30th, with Canada right behind, In other words, while your hypothesis sounds as if it has merit, Steve, the facts don’t confirm it.

      The point that most atheists miss is that we bring the “ongoing cruelty’ on ourselves. God says over and over in the Bible that He gave various people groups over to the desires of their own heart. We think we know what will make us happy and instead it leads to misery and incredible harm. You’d think we’d be smart enough to figure out that going our own way is not working!

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was very uplifting, Becky, thanks much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Praise God, Wally. I realize more than ever I need to keep my eyes on Him.

      Becky

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      • Me too Becky, me too. My only wish is others would get it sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Rebecca, for your informed reply. I think maybe it is more obvious than you think as to why that these poor countries have increased evangelical growth faster than most Western nations.

    First of all, in many of these countries you list, the people switch religious beliefs on a regular basis and in many African based nations they believe in witchcraft as much as any mainstream religion, and for many years in the Central African Republic witch burning rebels were under instruction from leaders of the mainly Christian “anti-balaka” militia. Therefore, these figures are not static and are unreliable where the law of the bush reigns supreme.

    Secondly, without any joys in life would you not want to receive the promise of a better life and an everlasting life in heaven when you are living in what could only be described as a hell? Many of these countries suffer at government hands and political wars, they have diseases we will never know about and a serious lack of food, water and medicines. Therefore, what have these poor individuals done to deserve this and what do they have to lose when they know they have a hard short life and are receiving promises of a good after life from preachers?

    Conversions of many of the underprivileged and condemned people has nothing to do with them freely choosing Christian ideology, In fact, the controversially corrupt Catholic, Mother Teresa, was converting many of the poor malnourished and sick Indians who were on their death beds in agony without medicine and pain relief she was able, but did not provide while she told them their pain was bringing them closer to God.

    I understand perfectly that we bring the “ongoing cruelty’ on ourselves. This is a human thing; however, it was a supposed Christian God who created humans to work this way. The reduction of Christians in Western countries is due to more freedom of thought and education in the sciences with the realisation also that if the so called creator is allowed to destroy whatever and whoever he likes but will not watch over those he is supposed to love and protect and allow such inhumane suffering for the most vulnerable people it is simply a case of he does not exist outside of your remarkable evolved brain.

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    • Interesting response, Steve, particularly in light of your earlier comment which included this:

      The trouble I have is that this stacks up very nicely for advanced Western nations and well off middle class Christian populations.
      Even though Christians may suffer some hardships and Christ is there to make it better for them, what chances do the poor, starving and diseased people in third world countries have?

      Actually everything you said about the poor fits with the premise of this article—that Christ offers hope.

      But there’s something I think needs to be cleared up. I’ve read it before in other discussions. God is not the one who made this world and the humans in it to generate “ongoing cruelty.” Just the opposite. Everything He created was good, and when it came to the humans, it was VERY good. The existence of cruelty is our footprint, our defiance of God’s law and His order of things. If you fault God for making us with the capacity to choose evil, then what you’re saying is that we’d be better off as robots. Ironic. The very freedom that allows you to doubt God is the very thing you think He should have denied to the human race.

      As it happens, God wants people who freely choose Him, which inevitably means some will choose against Him. And the latter, He gives over to the desires of their heart.

      Becky

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      • Yes, I agree with you Rebecca, to the poor and dying Christ offers hope that is going to provide food and medicine to prevent their deaths. Like I have basically said, desperation for the miracle of a longer life would be the major reason they converted, Mother Teresa worked that out as Hindus and Muslims were secretly baptised without regard to the individual’s religion while they were on their death beds. She boasted of baptising as many as 29,000 people who had died at Nirmal Hriday since 1952.

        Why would God want bad things to corrupt his creation and why should we not have been created as not being able to do evil but still have the choices in all the other aspects of life, especially if the creator is supposed to have the power to do this and if he really wanted perfection from his creation?

        As intrinsically good people worshiping him regularly would make us exactly what he wanted, is this not what the Bible and heaven is about? Therefore, why would you introduce sin, a Satan and evil or produce a heaven and hell as reward and punishment and then sit back on your cloud and either direct lives or just allow people (depending on your belief) to start wars, murder each other, have kids raped, and have millions starve to death and die of diseases? Good entertainment value if you are some sort of god I expect.

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