“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”              I Peter 3:18


Before I take you on a mental jog in which we examine the presence (and value) of substitutes, let me first take you for a walk down memory lane.   Let’s go back to the time…probably the mid-elementary school years…when you were asked to compare and contrast two things.  The teacher asked you to draw two circles that overlapped.  Where the circles were separate, you were to write individual characteristics (how each item was different from the other) and where they overlapped, you were to write shared attributes (how the two items were alike).  Remember?  If your memory serves you well…or if you didn’t have as far to stroll…you’ll recall that what you created was a Venn diagram.  It’s a simple tool whose purpose is to illustrate how two seemingly different things may also be alike.  Now, with that memory in tow, let’s start our mental jog and talk about substitutes.  No…wait.  Let’s substitute walking for running.  After all, it’s difficult to talk while running…even if it’s just a mental jog!

Continue reading “Substitutions”

And the Award Goes to…Hope, for Best Virtue in a Lead!

And the Award Goes to…Hope, for Best Virtue in a Lead!

“Sustain me as You promised, and I will live; do not let me be ashamed of my hope.”   Psalm 119:116

 Hope, it’s a word we love to use and long to hear.  Phrases like, “I hope you get better soon,” or “I hope to see you next week,” roll off our tongue with little effort and, far too often, with little thought.  But true hope, real hope, is a God-given virtue that has every right to take center stage.  And so, that’s what I want to do!  I want to call on Hope to take its rightful place, as lead performer in a life…because nobody puts Hope in a corner!  (Oh, I know it’s bad, but I just had to!  Feel free to groan; I deserve it and, hey, I can’t hear you anyway!)

We have seen Hope cast in many roles, but usually as a supporting virtue.  For example, there’s its placement in the distinctive trilogy of Faith, Hope, and Love, for which Love received the “Best Leading Virtue” award as recorded in I Corinthians 13:13 (“and the greatest of these is love”).  Then, there’s its appearance in Hebrews 11:1 where it again stepped into the sidelines so that Faith could receive its accolades (“Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen”).  And so it goes that, time after time, Hope is beautifully cast alongside its counterparts of Faith and Love, where it selflessly lends its support, but today, it’s time to nominate Hope for “Best Leading Virtue” in the docudrama:  My Christian Life.

There are three reasons for which Hope deserves this nomination.  First of all, Hope should be recognized for its stellar portrayal of a place.  Secondly, Hope should be acknowledged for its incredible representation of a Person.  And thirdly, Hope should be heralded for its exemplification of perpetual peace…of permanent peace.

Let’s first take a look at Hope’s performance in There’s No Place Like Home.  Truly, Hope’s portrayal of the life that is yet to come has caused souls to long for eternity since its debut!  Reviews recorded in the book of Titus give us insight to Hope’s rousing presentation:  “So that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” (Titus 3:7).  With this review, we learn that one of Hope’s roles is to cause us to long for Heaven, to long for our eternal home.  Hoping for trips to the beach or tours of the Bastille fade away in light of what we should rightly hope for…treks along pearled shores and visits to the pearly gate.

And, while we await our arrival to our Heavenly home, Hope fuels our longing by stretching our minds as we try to imagine light clearer than any we have ever seen, colors richer than any we have ever encountered, and music that not only surrounds us but emanates from within us.  It takes our imaginary breath away, so much so that we long to have our actual breath taken away!  Our ultimate trip is not to any location this world has to offer, but to Heaven’s courts where we’ll finally be who we were created to be and worship the One whom we were created to worship.  Hope keeps our eyes looking to the future and our hearts beating for forever.  Paul said it best when he stated, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied,” (I Cor. 15:19).  Because our hearts are stirred by Hope’s performance, our souls are stretched to long for eternity.

The second reason I’d like to nominate Hope for “Best Leading Virtue” lies in its performance in Israel’s Hope:  The Life of a Nazarene.  In this role, Hope so closely identified with its character that it literally “put on His flesh”.  When Jesus left His seat of honor at the right hand of God the Father to come to earth, He reignited Hope on earth.  Though He returned to His Father’s right hand when His work was complete, Hope remained.  The reason this performance deserves recognition is because, as seen in this role, Hope is a Person.

We’ve typecast Hope to serve in smaller roles by assigning it to those whom we admire.  We hope our parents are proud of us, we hope the doctor says the tests are fine, we hope the judge rules in our favor, we hope our team wins the championship.  All are examples of hope placed upon people, but the ultimate role of Hope is not placed on a person, but in a Person, and His name is Jesus Christ.  In Psalm 130:7, we read, “O Israel, hope in the LORD!  For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.”  And, in Titus 2:13, Hope is again depicted as a Person when Paul writes, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Is there any Hope apart from Jesus Christ?  Can we worship the Son and not have Hope in His supreme redemption and in His second return?  Surely, for this role Hope deserves an honor!

The third reason I believe Hope should receive the coveted “Best Leading Virtue” award is for its exemplification in The State of Permanence: A Never Ending Story.  This role required much from the substance of Hope as it pushed it into a theatrical orbit, causing even its audience to experience a gravitational spin in its collective mindset as it moved from positional thinking to perpetual thinking.  How often have we allowed hope to be stereotyped as something short-term or transitional?  We have treated Hope as if it were a wishing well…we throw in a coin, make a wish, and hope it comes true.  We have attached it to Christmas morning, hoping we’d get what we’d wished for, and to days at the lake, hoping the rain would hold off.  We’ve sometimes stretched it out as we try to cover our relationships and careers with it; we hope we marry the perfect mate, we hope we have the perfect children, we hope we land the perfect job.  We hope, we hope, we hope…but we fail to have true Hope.  We forget that true Hope is lasting hope, that perfect Hope is perpetual hope.  And so we settle for the short-term, we sell-out for the here-and-now; we toss a coin, make a wish, and call it hope.  But Hope came along and changed the scene, rewrote the lines.  Hope entered stage right…and stayed there; for the entire performance, for the second and third encore, and for all the performances that continue to play out night after night, year after year, century after century. 

Hope’s role in The State of Permanence has shown us, and continues to show us, that Hope is here to stay.  Hope isn’t temporary but is timeless.  It is what tethers believers in the present to their destination in the future, and it never wears out, runs down, or expires.  Hope is eternity that touches the present and pulls us to its anchoring point day by day, month by month, year by year, until we cease to stand in the present without also standing in the future.  Paul attests to Hope’s antiquity in Titus 2:1 when he writes, “In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began,” and Solomon declares Hope’s longevity when he states “hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:14).  So from before time until beyond time, Hope was, and is, and will be.  And so, I raise my hat to Hope; I bow to Hope; I stand for…and in…Hope!

Will you cast your vote for Hope as “Best Leading Virtue”?  Truly, it could not be successful without its two leading counterparts, Love and Faith; but because every attribute deserves its time in the spotlight, today I nominate Hope for its depiction of a Place, its representation of a Person, and its exemplification of a Permanence.

And the award goes to…Hope! 

Where do I put my hope