Life Abundant: Hope Does Not Disappoint (1) (May 3)


03 May 2020, Christ Mountain Top, Online, during COVID-19
Praying the Scripture, Psalm 23
Kids, Acts 6.1-7

Message, John 10.1-18


Where/when I am as I offer this message

Q, on Star Trek: The Next Generation “Deja-Q”
       Made human
       Horrible thing happened to me … became unconscious, when I became conscious again, I was lying on the floor.
       “We call it sleep.”
Sleep is so refreshing, but we often fight it. Or our minds fight it. “God gives to his beloved in their sleep” (Psalm 127.2). Not fail to enter rest. “Let us make every effort to enter into that rest” (Hb 4.11).

When Jesus speaks about being the shepherd and being the door, he is talking about how the shepherd sleeps – laying down in the gap protecting the sheep, keeping them from wandering off and getting lost at night. I imagine that a good shepherd is disturbed a few times each night, but the sheep are safe. While Jesus is talking about how the shepherd sleeps, he is also talking about how he dies, how he lays down his life, and takes it up again. In John’s gospel, Jesus death is an act of trust and his crowning glory:

“The hour has come that the Son of Man will be glorified. 24 Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and* dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12.23-24 LEB).
for this reason I have come to this hour! (John 12.27)

In the midst of this reflection on his death – and his word that he has authority to “take it up again,” an anticipation of resurrection – Jesus tells us that he has come for a single purpose: that we may have life and have it abundantly.

So often when we think about life in the midst of struggle, we pay attention to what we don’t have, to what we need, to what we lack. We focus on scarcity, rather than on abundance. Once we start doing that, once we focus on scarcity, we lose all hope. Once we lose hope, we become less resilient. “Hope does not disappoint.” Paul wrote those words to people who lived under extreme pressure because of their faith, who dealt with extreme poverty and extreme discrimination. How is it that they could be not disappointed? Because hope is not tied to our circumstances but to the grace of God. Because hope is not defined by our struggle, whether in spite of or despite of our struggle. Hope is defined by God’s promise and purpose in our lives.

The primitive church is in crisis. The distribution of meals to widows is no longer some great thing we do but something that divides us along language and cultural lines, almost racial lines. And the minority feels not just out of power but not cared for. This story contrasts with an earlier description of the church, just over one chapter prior, where no one had need, because they were all contributing, because they were sharing everything. Acts 4.34, LEB – For there was not even anyone needy among them, because all those who were owners of plots of land or houses were selling them* and* bringing the proceeds...
       This tension in the primitive church was between Hellenists (Jews who grew up outside of Palestine and spoke Greek as well as Aramaic) and Hebraists (Jews who grew up in Palestine and spoke Aramaic as their first language). And the solution? The Hebraists, just like Jesus, “laid down” their lives. The next level leaders in the church, the ones in charge of the first meals on wheels program, were from the Hellenist group. (We know this because they all had names that come from the Greek speaking tradition.) When the Hebraists laid down their lives, they all moved out of scarcity and into abundance, together. And, the church multiplied. That’s what happens when you live in abundance rather than scarcity.
       “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”
       “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”

Robin’s devotions & “The Prince of Preachers”
DAY 11: GALATIANS 5:16-26
A Singular Joy
Spurgeon’s notes on 5:22
Many children of God, even when driven away from the outward means of grace, have, nevertheless, enjoyed such visits of God, such rivers of divine love that they have wondered from where such joy could come. In the wilderness, waters leap forth as do streams in the desert. Believers are not dependent on circumstances. Their joy comes not from what they have but from what they are, not from where they are but from whose they are, not from what they enjoy but from what was suffered for them by their Lord. It is a singular joy, then, because it often buds, blossoms, and ripens in the wintertime when the fig tree does not blossom and there is no herd in the stall.

Laying down your life is the key to joining Jesus.

There is a reason we have come to this hour. No, I’m not saying that God came up with this pandemic as some grand scheme to bring out some good that we were overlooking. What I am saying is that we have a purpose in this hour, a reason. We have something to do in this hour. It is not just happening to us. We are happening to this hour! Jesus’ purpose was to lay down his life. When he lays down his life, the seed bears fruit. When he lays down his life, he protects and keeps his sheep. When he lays down his life, he takes it up again. When he lays down his life, the power and gift of abundant life becomes ours.
       In this hour, we have a reason, we have a purpose. We are not just victims, whether of a virus or a tumor or a pink slip. We are actors, because we belong to Jesus. “Their joy comes not from where they are but from whose they are” (Spurgeon).
       So, even in this hour, I pray that you will find your way to peaceful sleep, that you will enter God’s rest, that you will join Jesus in laying down your life – and that your seed will bear much fruit, that you will discover an abundance that nothing in the world can diminish.

Christ is Risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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