Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“God proves to be good to (those) who passionately wait,
to the woman (and man) who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you stick it out
through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take…
enter the silence. Bow in prayer.
Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.”
Lamentations 3: 25-29
The Message Bible
Celebration of Hope
“There are times when I feel despairing,
when all around seems dark
and my cry for help is unheard,
Then, unexpected, a faint light appears,
gradually dispersing the darkness.
The silence is broken
by the sound of angelic voices.
I know that God has heard my cry
and reaches out to heal me.
I experience transforming power.
Now, I know what changes can be made
by a community of love.”
Today’s Study Texts:
“Jesus answered, ‘If I want (John the Apostle) to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me.’ Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that (John) would not die; (Jesus) only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?’ This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world not have room for the books that would be written.”
John 21: 22-25
“How Much More Proof Do You Need?”
“After (2100) years, Jesus Christ still counts for more in human life than any other man that ever lived.”
What proof do I need to believe that Christ cares for me?
In Jesus’ life, what recorded event touches my heart the most?
“The simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind, than all the (investigations) disquisitions of philosophers and than all the exhortations of moralists.”
W. E. H. Lecky
“Jesus is not the Great…He is the Only!”
During the past several weeks, my full intention upon finishing our studies on the “beach breakfast” held by Jesus and seven of His closest disciples was to return to II Kings and continue our studies through the Old Testament. So my nightly study time has been focused on resource materials which deal especially with the books of I and II Kings and I and II Chronicles.
However, as I studied, I began to get this nagging feeling that there was more to uncover in Jesus’ life just before His return to heaven. As I’ve shared with you before, I have never heard a voice from heaven or some outer space directive. But, I do believe when we ask for heavenly guidance, our Father responds in ways that may surprise us. And this is exactly what has happened, especially during the last couple of weeks.
First of all, there have been a substantial number of prayer requests and notes from individuals who are feeling alone and abandoned. Some of you have conveyed to me that you feel God has forsaken you. There have been notes from those of you who are grieving because of the loss of someone dear to your heart. I feel for you as my precious Uncle Mel lost his valiant battle with cancer several weeks ago. For the past thirty five years, he stepped into the empty place left by my dad’s sudden death. As I told uncle Mel, he couldn’t have been a better “dad.”
Second, there is a huge hole in our world right now where “hope” used to be. Not long ago I happened upon an article which noted that so many people on planet earth are mired in what they believe to be a pit of hopelessness. After reading some of the examples such as a mother in Africa, who when she awakens each day is forced to have her first thought be, “How will I get food and water for my children today?” I began to understand why there is such an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. There are wars all over the globe. There’s famine. There’s drought. There’s hunger. There’s hate. The list goes on and on.
As I prayed about the challenge I faced in proceeding with the devotionals, I went back to John 21, and all of a sudden. like the lightening bolts which have lighted up our night sky for days now, it hit me – “We haven’t finished! The fact is that I had left Jesus on the beach and this was not the end of the Bible record by any means. Jesus didn’t stay on the beach. That wasn’t His permanent home. Thank God for that! His journey continued until He reached “Home” at last.
And so, with your kind permission, I want to continue studying about Jesus until that moment when He moved from earth to heaven. And then, I’d like to spend forty days, the same amount of time Jesus took after His crucifixion and resurrection to look at Jesus’ own words – the very words He left behind to encourage us when life appears dark and dismal.
I can’t tell you how excited I am about these upcoming studies. Maybe it’s because all of us need a transfusion of hope every now and then and this is just what Jesus’ life is going to give us in the coming weeks.
So for those of you who need to be reminded today that the rough sea you are on is not “all” there is, hang on! There’s a light of hope at the end of your tunnel. And we’re going to begin exploring that light by looking at the way the Apostle John ends the book that bears his name – the record of Jesus’ life found in the book of John.
As I’ve studied the Apostle’s “diary” I found that quite a number of scholars believed this book to actually be the last book written by John. When you and I read the Bible, the book of Revelation ends the New Testament in a most dramatic fashion. But for those who believe that John penned his book about Jesus after his banishment to the Island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation, our study text for today makes a great deal of sense for John’s last words about Jesus go something like this and I’m putting John 21: 24, 25 in words for us today: “I know what I’m talking about because I saw Jesus with my own eyes. I heard His words with my own ears. I’m leaving you a record to encourage your heart. Furthermore, if I had written down everything Jesus did or said while He was here on earth, there wouldn’t be enough books to contain all He did and said. What more could I have said? How much more proof do you need?” For someone who spent their entire life around Jesus, not only as a disciple, but also as a relative, linked by family ties, John’s account provides you and me with a tremendous opportunity, as we study, to be filled with the same sense of certainty which permeated John’s life. There is a singular emotion which infuses John’s words and it is his message of hope. There’s no defeatist attitude which drips from John’s pen. His are the comforting words from Jesus own lips, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14: 1-3, K.J.V.).
The author Joseph Conrad, in his book The Mirror of the Sea, describes what the ocean appears to look like during the dark, cold winter months:
“The grayness of the whole immense surface, the wind furrows upon the faces of the waves, the great masses of foam, tossed about and waving, like matted white locks, give to the sea a gale an appearance of hoary age, lusterless, dull, without gleams, as though it had been created before the light itself.”
If this is how you feel in the darkness of winter’s sea in your own life – in a time of hopelessness when you find it difficult to navigate a clear path through the wind ravaged storm, then I want to encourage you with the words of Rachel Carson who offers this hopeful vision: “The symbols of hope are not lacking even in the greyness and bleakness of the winter sea. On land we know that the apparent lifelessness of winter is an illusion. Look closely at the bare branches of a tree, on which not the palest gleam of green can be discerned. Yet, spaced along each branch are the leaf buds, all the spring’s magic of swelling green concealed and safely preserved under the insulating, overlapping layers…So, too, the lifelessness, the hopelessness, the despair of the winter sea are an illusion. Everywhere are the assurances…of renewal.”
This is how John ended his book. “Are you feeling hopeless? There’s more than enough hope to fill all the books the world could hold. Jesus is alive, here among us. Just look at the proof – He’s more than enough to meet all your needs.”
In the words of Bernard of Clairvaux and translated in 1849 by Edward Caswall:
“Jesus, the very thought of Thee,
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
O hope of every contrite heart!
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!”
Pregnant With Hope
“Now is a time of watching and waiting
a time pregnant with hope
a time to watch and pray.
Christ our hope,
bare brown trees,
etched dark across a winter sky,
leaves fallen, rustling,
ground hard and cold…
May we watch for the signs,
listen for the messenger…
Christ our hope,
help us to clear the way for you;
to clear the clutter from our minds,
to sift the silt from our hearts,
to move the boulders that prevent us meeting You.
May sorrow take flight,
and Your people sing a song of peace –
and hope be born again.”
Kate Mc Ilhagga
Blessing For The Hopeless”
“May you come safely to the shore across the dark ocean and know that even in the darkest depths there is hope to be found.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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