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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Pinnacle Overlook
View of Susquehanna River from The Pinnacle Overlook, Southern Lancaster County.
(Click on photo for larger view and to read quote)

"The Ultimate Game Changer"
"A Living Hope!"

Message summary: The late British theologian F.F. Bruce gives this description of Christian hope, "We are refugees from the sinking ship of this present world order, so soon to disappear; our hope is fixed in the eternal order, where the promises of God are made good to His people in perpetuity." Isn't that a great thought to consider in the midst of this world-wide coronavirus pandemic?

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared "The grave has no claim on Me"

Peter and Yelena Peter and Yelena are Russian friends and committed Christians. We were discussing our various customs for Easter services and Yelena shared that the Russian word for Sunday is Воскресенье meaning "Resurrection". Thus the word for Sunday reminds the Russians of the resurrection each first day of the week, just by the meaning and repetition of the word.

This week we are examining the centrality of the resurrection as expressed in each major section of the New Testament. Today we consider the centrality of the resurrection in the portion known as the general epistles. These are the letters in the New Testament not explicitly identified as written by Paul. These writers also emphasized the resurrection and today we focus on the powerful introduction in Peter’s first epistle. Let us especially consider the phrase, "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead".

A living hope is not static or dead but is active and vigorous in expressing itself in the hearts, minds and lives of Christians, if we keep our minds set on the things above. Paul expresses it this way, "Be joyful in hope..." (Romans 12:12). Somehow hope springs up joy within us, since it conveys the sense of not giving up.

The late British theologian F.F. Bruce gives this description of Christian hope, "We are refugees from the sinking ship of this present world order, so soon to disappear; our hope is fixed in the eternal order, where the promises of God are made good to His people in perpetuity." Isn't that a great thought to consider in the midst of this world-wide coronavirus pandemic? Or for that matter, when we consider loved ones who have left our presence and now reside in the Lord's perfect eternal dwelling.

Sadly there are scores and scores of people who have no hope. These are the kind of people that Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians concerning their outlook at death when he wrote, "that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Hopelessness and despair can cut off the very air we breathe and debilitate us emotionally and physically. The great hymn writer Isaac Watts has an insightful description, “Despair tells us that difficulty is insurmountable.” In fact it distorts our perspective and rarely takes us beyond the difficulty, but rather erects a brick wall in our minds so that we see no way out of the situation.

Before the cross Jesus’ disciples had seen many miracles, fellowshipped with Christ daily, overcame their shadowed past, and yet they were thrust into what seemed to be a hopeless situation. Their leader was betrayed by one of their very own. Priests, scribes, and political heads, and the nameless crowd came against them and cast Jesus as a dangerous rebel.

Judas who allowed Satan to use him, afterward, recognized what a mistake he’d made. When he "saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders" (Matthew 27:3). When they refused his money and proceeded with plans for Jesus’ death Judas saw no hope and cut his life short. His major failure consumed his soul which prevented him from seeing beyond Jesus’ suffering on the cross to rejoicing in the salvation He provided for a lost world.

On the other hand, Peter, who also failed in his discipleship role, denied Christ. He was utterly disappointed in himself since he was adamant in his declaration the night before, "Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you" (Matthew 26:35). After the rooster crowed, "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61). Following his denial he went outside and wept bitterly. In spite of his major failure was it the look of compassion and understanding Peter saw in Jesus’ eyes, rather than vengeance or judgment, that eventually restored his hope and trust? He chose to let go of his hopeless failure and took up the living hope in the One who would soon be crucified and resurrected to life. That's the power of the opening words in his first letter.

“Living hope” for the follower of Christ is a result of God’s great mercy and the new birth He has given us, grounded in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The apostle Peter wrote these words to encourage believers undergoing various trials and persecution. Some thirty years after Christ’s resurrection the church entered a time of horrific persecution during Nero’s reign. It was shortly after this that Peter, once filled with fear and shame, was likely martyred for his faith.

All of us who trust in Christ have this living hope. As we live out our lives we have many of the same problems as others. But our perspective differs based on an empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our hope is alive and our eternal future awaits us, no matter the present circumstances. Billy Graham characteristically stated it so simply, "As a Christian I have hope not just for this life but for Heaven and the life to come."

Today we need to hold fast to our living hope. Never lose sight of it. The writer of Hebrews spoke of this hope as “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure". As God’s children we have a living hope and an assurance that God will see us through. I encourage you this day to keep the presence of our living hope ever before you! In doing so, I promise that you will be encouraged in your circumstance and strengthened in your faith!

Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There's salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we fix our thoughts upon the living hope we have in Jesus Christ our Lord. We anchor our soul in the bedrock of Your Holy Word so that when other viewpoints counter the truths You teach our anchor remains firm. When difficulties appear insurmountable remind us that we serve an extraordinary God who does not rely on natural solutions but works in the supernatural realm to meet our needs. Satan builds brick walls in our mind to block our faith and trust in Your plan to make “all things work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose.” Our faith is grounded in the living hope of our resurrected Savior and it is in His name that we pray. Amen.

Personal note: After several weeks of seeking to receive from and practice "virtual ministry" we sure are seeing the shortcomings. Having church at home is not the same as gathering with others of like, precious faith. There's a dynamic in being in the physical presence of others whether you attend a small church or a large one, not necessarily even related to touch, but just being in close proximity with others. However we do miss contact such as a firm handshake or kind hug. We wonder how this growing season of social separation will have a long-term impact our physical interconnections.

But we also are experiencing the deficiencies within our chaplain care. Our regular worksite visits to companies have been essentially suspended and thus we seek to reach out virtually.

  • Monday began with a call concerning the death of an employee from one of the companies we serve. We sought to share comfort over the phone with his companion and colleagues who were grieving. An email and phone conversation left us feeling that the person to person contact was what was really needed.
  • Tuesday Brooksyne spoke with the daughter of an employee who had a miscarriage and in sharing comfort and perspective she experienced the limitations of telechaplaincy.
  • Wednesday afternoon we received news of another death, the sister of a friend of ours. We so much wanted to offer to be with our friends at this time but she especially has a very compromised immunological system and must be protected.
  • Wednesday we also learned that a long-time friend from a church we had attended died. She was a faithful choir member over the years that Brooksyne directed the choir and it would only be natural to celebrate her life with family members, but a graveside burial was announced rather than a setting where there would be a gathering of people. Sickness and deaths during this time of covid 19 presents the most difficult circumstances to process so we pray for any of our readers who are in the midst of such emotional turmoil to look to the One who is always with us. While we cannot go, touch, or see ones(s) that we love we can uplift them in prayer. When all we can do is pray, let us do just that!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Brooksyne with Calvary Church choir
"Living Hope"  Video  Calvary Church choir, orchestra and congregation from last year's Easter service. Brooksyne sings in this choir and I managed to get a screenshot of her singing along with her soprano sisters!

This song, similar to "Way Maker" we shared on Tuesday, has a great message and has become very popular the last several years.

BBSO Romanian youth choir
"Doar Cristos, Speranța Mea"  Video  BBSO (Romanian) What a great blessing to see the joy, energy and enthusiasm of these young people singing for our Lord! Just over 30 years ago Romania was one of the saddest places on earth under one of the most brutal dictators of modern times, Nicolae Ceaușescu. We also remember how there were so many orphans and the dreaded conditions of the orphanages. How many of the young people in this video had a very rough start in life. Some perhaps had been in these orphanages. This song is dedicated to Andrei, a Romanian friend and engineer, I miss seeing at his place of work.

Our Hope in Life and Death
"Christ Our Hope in Life and Death"  Video  Keith & Kristyn Getty, Matt Papa

Home-bound photos

Mourning dove on nest in barn overhang
Every spring our outside buildings and bird houses host several birds such as this bird nesting on our barn eaves. This year we have four nests in these ready-made nesting spots. This mourning dove is a faithful mother and even during a fierce, howling and windy storm the other day stayed nestled on her nest.

Robin in nest on top of Gazebo
Yesterday I found this robin nest at the top of our gazebo! The main canvas top blew off last fall and I have some work to do on this but will now wait till the young'uns have flown the coop. Deuteronomy 22:6

These colorful tulips are showing their vibrant colors during this brief season.

SpookyNook Greenhouse
Each spring we are each invigorated by the colorful scene and pleasant fragrance within a greenhouse! My favorite fragrance is the distinct aroma of a geranium.
This is the Spookynook Greenhouse between Mount Joy and Manheim.
Click to enlarge

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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