Thursday, January 17, 2013

Courage



"Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.” Mark 15:43

Joseph of Arimathea found himself in a dilemma.  He had heard the loving and truth-filled words of Jesus, and had seen His miracles. He then watched members of his own council get caught up in murderous envy, condemning Jesus to death through lies and false accusations. The innocent was then tortured, dying unjustly at the hands of the same group of which he was a part.  Joseph’s heart must have broken as he helplessly saw hate run it’s course.

As the lifeless body of Jesus hung on the tree alone, Joseph knew that now was His time to act.  At great risk to his position and even his own life, Joseph reached out and gathered courage, putting it on like a man preparing for battle dons his breastplate.  He put on courage and asked Pilot for the pierced body of Jesus.  He then took Jesus down from the cross and placed Him in the brand new tomb that he had paid to house his own body in the future.  He gave Jesus his own resting place.
Years earlier, the courage of another Joseph, Jesus’ step-father, had led him to act also.  Facing the stigma of being with a woman who was pregnant with a child that wasn’t his, he set aside his own personal reputation, married her and then led her to Bethlehem to be counted as a part of his family. The courage of Joseph gave protection for a pregnant woman, leading to the Savior of the world being born in Bethlehem.  The courage of Joseph of Arimethea provided this same Savior a grave from which He was resurrected to life. 

Courage isn’t something we are born with, it’s something that’s gathered.  Courage is a choice, an act of our will to do the right thing at the crucial time. Life follows.  At some personal risk, perhaps looking foolish or even great danger, courage is the action that an ordinary person makes to step forward and do justice for someone else. 

You and I are offered many opportunities to gather courage during our lifetimes.  When we see injustice, it’s our opportunity to act.  It’s our opportunity to stand up for kids who are mistreated, for wives who are abused.  It’s our opportunity to speak up for those without a voice, or for those who are being killed or enslaved around the world. When we seize the opportunities that are presented and gather courage to act on behalf of someone else, life is released and place is prepared for the Savior to enter or resurrect things that have been harmed or damaged. 

- Matt Peterson
 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where Hope Belongs


As long as I can remember being alive, I’ve been hoping. I can’t remember a time that I’ve been absent of hope. When I was a kid, I hoped that my Mom would let me go outside and play in the yard with my cousin, Josh. When I turned sixteen I hoped that I’d pass my driver’s license test. I hoped I would get a pretty date to the dance. I hoped I’d be accepted into ministry school. I hoped I would have a job that I love. Now, as 2013 has invited us in, there are hopes for a good year and wonderful blessings. My life has been a progression of hopes. 

I’ve had the joy of many hopes being fulfilled, in which I’m thankful for God’s goodness. But as good as those things were, they never left me satisfied in the long term. They were never meant to. You and I were born with hunger, desire and longing to be filled. Until we discover that our God given desire can only be satisfied by the Creator of desire itself, and that our hope must be placed in God alone, we will constantly be pushing our hope forward into the next event, the next purchase or the next promotion.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” What separates believers in Christ from the rest of the world is a hope for something outside of the hear and now. Our hope goes far beyond a promotion, a pay raise, a sparkling romance. Our hope is eternal. The deepest part of who we are believes with all our heart that eternity matters, and the weight that eternity bears upon our souls causes us to put all of our hope in Christ alone. 

In Philippians chapter 1, Paul finds himself in prison awaiting his sentence. In his jail cell, he is thinking about his condition and contemplating life and death. As I read through Paul’s recorded dialogue with himself, it is so evident to me that Paul lived in with a revelation of eternity. On one hand, he says, he could go on living, which meant preaching the Gospel and pouring His life out as an offering to Jesus. On the other hand, if he died, he would finally see the One in whom his heart longed for. At the thought of being with Jesus, not even death was something to be feared. Paul had his hope in Jesus alone. He was longing for something beyond what this world could never offer him, and something that death could never steal from him. 

Do you live with this revelation of eternity? If we would drop the point of an ink pen on a piece of paper, take the mark that it would make on that piece of paper and compare it in length to millions of miles of highway stretching into space, that ink dot would be too small of a representation of our short lives here on earth compared to eternity. When I think about how brief life is compared to eternity, it makes me want to live differently. It makes me want to invest into things that are eternal, things that will last. The reality of eternity bears weight on my decisions and it gives fresh perspective to my pains and struggles. I can look at the most broken parts of this world and the most painful parts of life and know in my heart that God will one day restore everything. Whether we realize it or not, this is the ultimate hope that we're all longing for. The only place our hope belongs is in Christ.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21: 1-4
- David Olinger