The Advent of Hope

Walking through a dark and evil world can leave us with deep pain and an abundance of tears.  We lose, and we grieve.  We wander, and we mourn.  We look down, and then we look in.  We forget about the light.  We find ourselves in a state of hopelessness.

But Isaiah 50:10 says, “Who walks in darkness and has no light?  Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.”*  So, if we look up to see the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, shining all around us, that hope will raise us up.  The truth of His hope will enable us to keep moving forward.  His power will enable us to walk and love again.  Joy will flood the empty spaces of our beings.  The pain will be touched by supernatural comfort. The mourning heart will sing again.

Just as the sun always shines even though we can’t see it, God’s hands and heart are outstretched for us to see by faith.  God is good, sovereign, and omnipotent.  He makes a way out of no way. He provides for every need.  He keeps every promise. 

The first week of the Advent season, we celebrate hope.  Many waited for hope to come to the world, and it finally came.  Its name was Jesus. 

Jesus gave His life on the cross to give eternal hope through salvation.  What a precious gift!  And then, He left for a while to prepare a place for those who would believe in Him.  And one day, Hope will return to the world.  He will come again.  He will take all who believe to their eternal home.  Have you accepted His gift of hope?  Are you ready for His second advent? 

This is the truth of hope.  Hope has come.  And Hope is coming back.

~~~~~

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 NKJV

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*Taken from Isaiah 50:10 NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, November 29, 2020

Easter—The Preparation, the Purpose, and the Promise (A 3-part Series)

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Part 1: The Preparation

Are you preparing for Easter? Most people I know are doing so. Of course, things may look a bit different this year, but preparations are still underway. There is a bit of hustle and bustle, planning and buying, hoping and anticipating. But beyond the calendar and the events, is there a deeper preparation taking place? Are people preparing their hearts? Are you? Am I?

Why would we do this? Why take the time to prepare our hearts for Easter?  Well, think of the gravity of the situation. Think of what Easter is really all about.

Think of the weight of our sins. Think of that weight being placed upon the sinless shoulders of Jesus Christ.

Think of the things Jesus gave up for us.
• He left His throne room to hang on a cross.
• He set aside His crown as King of all the universe to wear a crown of thorns.
• He set aside His vestments as Lord of all Lords, to be stripped and beaten, mocked and humiliated, tortured and killed.
• He gave up the company of His Father so He could die alone, covered in our sins that the Father could not look upon.

As He labored for His very breath, He labored for our very souls.

Yes, Jesus gave up much so that we could have much. He gave up His very life so we could have life. And not just any life, but life abundant and life eternal.

Easter was not a random event.  It was not comprised of random circumstances. It was not set into motion by random people.  Easter was very much planned and was an act of the heart.

God prepared for Easter: He sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. God readied His heart with love and offered us a relationship with Himself.

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
    believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV)

Jesus prepared for Easter: He surrendered to death on the cross in order to save souls. Jesus readied His heart with grace and offered His life in the stead of ours.

           I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more
                                        abundantly. (John 10:10b NKJV)

How will we prepare for Easter?  Will we ready our hearts for God’s great plans for them?  Will we give our very hearts to God?

                  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
                                               (Romans 10:13 NKJV)

 

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 9, 2020

Wise Men Still Seek Him

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𝑀𝑎𝑛𝑦 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑗𝑢𝑠𝑡 𝑝𝑎𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑓 𝑐𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝐶ℎ𝑟𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑚𝑎𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑇ℎ𝑟𝑒𝑒 𝐾𝑖𝑛𝑔𝑠’ 𝐷𝑎𝑦. 𝑊ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠 𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑒𝑚𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟? 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑐𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑑? 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑠𝑜𝑢𝑔ℎ𝑡? 𝑊ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑔𝑖𝑓𝑡𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑔𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑛?

Chapter 5  Hide and Seek (book excerpt)
I have seen a phrase on Christmas merchandise that says, “Wise men still seek Him.” The foundational reference is to the wise men who were seeking Jesus around the time of His birth, the ones who traveled many miles in order to worship Him and present Him with gifts (see Matt. 2:1–11). The reference for today’s usage of the phrase is that wisdom is indicated if we are spiritually seeking Jesus. We often put great emphasis on this story, focusing our thoughts onto it to see how we might apply the concept to our own lives. What does it mean today for us to seek Him? And will we be wise enough to do it? Will we do it even if it involves much time and great distances? What gifts will we present to Him when we find Him? These are important questions for us to answer, not just at Christmastime, but every day of the year.

***
CHAPTER 6 Lost and Found
We lose all sorts of things in life: money, homes, jobs, loved ones, health, quality of life, and sometimes even life itself. We also find all sorts of things: happiness, the loves of our lives, the perfect jobs, and sometimes even our car keys. But have we ever found the most important thing, the thing that we can never lose: the salvation of our eternal souls?

THE CALL TO THE LOST
There were specific events for which Jesus came to live on earth. He was given an invitation by His Father to be the Savior of the world, and He responded favorably to the invitation. He prepared for the event of saving the world by His first advent: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). During the course of His ministry, Jesus clarified why He came and why He did not come. He came to preach, to call sinners to repentance, and to save lives (see Mark 1:38, 2:17; Luke 9:56). Jesus came into many cities, and He came in with the intent to minister (Mark 10:45).

As Jesus traveled around, He gave people His time, and He gave them Himself. He did not blow through town like a whirlwind, forcing and rushing His way through. While He was going along His way, He focused His time and attention on the people He encountered. He sometimes spent all day healing the crowds although He could have done it in a single moment with a single word. He saw that the crowds were like sheep without a shepherd, and thus, had compassion on them (Mark 6:34). He gave people His personal touch. He asked them of their faith, asked what they wanted and needed, and took time to encourage them. And then the healing came.

… The underlying reason why Jesus lived like He did was that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came unto us! He did not come for Himself and His benefit, but for us and our benefit. Jesus offered life and help to the people He encountered during His lifetime on earth, and His offer still stands today. Let the love of Jesus find you, wherever it is that you are in life. Let Him shepherd your wandering heart and lead you safely to your eternal home.

Jesus is not only our Shepherd but also our High Priest, the Mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5). Because He is holy, He was able to victoriously do away with our sin by dying on the cross for us. And because He did this for us and then was resurrected from the dead, we can overcome sin and emerge victorious through His power. His sacrifice gives us access to His Father, His power, and His kingdom. Jesus calls each of us to salvation. The wonderful truth is that the lost sheep (us) can be claimed if they want to be claimed! When we come, we will discover that we are welcomed, loved, and valued. Jesus came for us–will we come to Him?

All of the preparations for us to be found have been made, and the barriers that would separate us from God were removed when they were broken down at the cross. We now need to make our way over to His side, walking past those broken barriers instead of repairing them. A simple yes will do. The fighting in our hearts can stop and we can be at peace, if only we will come. We can stop wandering aimlessly through life like lost sheep. We can instead let Him minister to us, heal us, and save us. That is what He came to do, and we are who He came to find.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 57, 63-64.

Originally posted Jan. 7, 2019. Reposted January 6, 2020.
Photo by Francee Strain, January 1, 2020.

CHAPTER 6  Lost and Found

While we are on the topic of Advent and shepherds, here is an excerpt about the most amazing Shepherd of all. This is an excerpt taken from my book No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose.
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We lose all sorts of things in life: money, homes, jobs, loved ones, health, quality of life, and sometimes even life itself. We also find all sorts of things: happiness, the loves of our lives, the perfect jobs, and sometimes even our car keys. But have we ever found the most important thing, the thing that we can never lose: the salvation of our eternal souls?

THE CALL TO THE LOST
There were specific events for which Jesus came to live on earth. He was given an invitation by His Father to be the Savior of the world, and He responded favorably to the invitation. He prepared for the event of saving the world by His first advent: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). During the course of His ministry, Jesus clarified why He came and why He did not come. He came to preach, to call sinners to repentance, and to save lives (see Mark 1:38, 2:17; Luke 9:56). Jesus came into many cities, and He came in with the intent to minister (Mark 10:45).

As Jesus traveled around, He gave people His time, and He gave them Himself. He did not blow through town like a whirlwind, forcing and rushing His way through. While He was going along His way, He focused His time and attention on the people He encountered. He sometimes spent all day healing the crowds although He could have done it in a single moment with a single word. He saw that the crowds were like sheep without a shepherd, and thus, had compassion on them (Mark 6:34). He gave people His personal touch. He asked them of their faith, asked what they wanted and needed, and took time to encourage them. And then the healing came.

… The underlying reason why Jesus lived like He did was that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came unto us! He did not come for Himself and His benefit, but for us and our benefit. Jesus offered life and help to the people He encountered during His lifetime on earth, and His offer still stands today. Let the love of Jesus find you, wherever it is that you are in life. Let Him shepherd your wandering heart and lead you safely to your eternal home.

Jesus is not only our Shepherd but also our High Priest, the Mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5). Because He is holy, He was able to victoriously do away with our sin by dying on the cross for us. And because He did this for us and then was resurrected from the dead, we can overcome sin and emerge victorious through His power. His sacrifice gives us access to His Father, His power, and His kingdom. Jesus calls each of us to salvation. The wonderful truth is that the lost sheep (us) can be claimed if they want to be claimed! When we come, we will discover that we are welcomed, loved, and valued. Jesus came for us–will we come to Him?

All of the preparations for us to be found have been made, and the barriers that would separate us from God were removed when they were broken down at the cross. We now need to make our way over to His side, walking past those broken barriers instead of repairing them. A simple yes will do. The fighting in our hearts can stop and we can be at peace, if only we will come. We can stop wandering aimlessly through life like lost
sheep. We can instead let Him minister to us, heal us, and save us. That is what He came to do, and we are who He came to find.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 63-64.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version.