Deeper Hope:

An Abiding Virtue

This book explores the meaning -- and application -- of Christian Hope. It takes the fuzzy concept of Hope and reveals it in everyday settings



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Entries in Repost from March 2015 (2)

The Secret Name; The White Stone

To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. ~ Revelation 2:17

Today I’m intrigued with a smooth white stone, engraved with a name known only to God—and the path to that stone.

The setting for this single verse is the resurrected and glorious Jesus walking among oil-burning lampstands, speaking to believers huddled together against the attacks of a dying world. In every single case (he dictates seven letters) Jesus reminds us that overcoming is a practical, attainable hope. He himself is our example of overcoming—not by winning the next battle or election, but by laying down his life, even for those who hate him.

Our resurrected Lord teaches us that we discover the overcoming life only when the Father raises us again to a new kind of life.

The path to the white stone not only involves overcoming but also a secret supernatural food: the hidden manna, given from the Lord’s own hand. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? I have no firm idea what it means. Perhaps he’s talking about the sustaining life that comes from abiding with Jesus day-by-day, or perhaps yet another miracle wrapped in the wonder of the Eucharist. I know only that it is from him, and I hope to have the good sense to eat the bread he offers.

It is a Kingdom meal, served to those who sit at the banqueting table made possible by his life, death, and resurrection. No worldly connections can gain a seat at this table, but the poor, the sick, the lame, and the sinner will find an engraved place setting.

Finally: here, among the overcomers and the feast of the secret bread, Jesus presents a personal gift. Let the rich and famous have their swag bags. The swag of God is a 
small white stone, engraved with a name not even you yourself knew, but when you see it for the first time you immediately know it to be your true name, the name only a loving Creator can bestow. All your life you had the feeling that whoever you were, it wasn't really you. Not fully you. Not even you knew you. The name you learned to spell with great block letters as a child, the name that followed you through adolescence and adulthood, the name you handed to others like a business card—that name never fit. Not fully. But there was someone who knew who you really were. Someone who was calling you by that name, and the sound of his voice summoned you to a new identity.

Carl Jung said, “The world will ask you who you are, and if you do not know, the world
will tell you.” He was only half right: while the world asks our name, Jesus reveals our name. While the world tries to twist our desires, Jesus serves the true food: food that satisfies and comes only from him. Only in the overcoming do we discover our destiny, and we overcome not by our effort but by his example. In fact, this same book reveals another secret: “They overcame because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” That's what he demonstrated by his own life; that's what we are called to imitate.

Only then will I know myself. I will find myself when I find him.

God's Transformational Heart

I once attended a meeting of pastors who were planning a “city-wide revival.” The pastor of a respected and growing church opened the meeting with these words: “God is only going to ask each of us two questions when we get to heaven: ’Do you know my Son?’ and ‘How many others did you bring with you?’” It was a memorable opening because it was short, dramatic, and wrong. The record of the first century church reveals a profound concern for a spiritual transformation that flows from a decision to follow Jesus.

The Apostle Paul prayed for the spiritual transformation of people who “already knew” Jesus. Perhaps we can discover God's transformational heart, as revealed in Paul’s prayer:

Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14)

First, we need to be filled. Paul asked God to pour “the knowledge of his will” into the believers in Colossae. Apparently the next step after coming to Jesus as Lord is to be filled with the knowledge of his will. It requires something more than mere human intellect—it requires spiritual wisdom and understanding. We have a tendency to apply the old way of living life to our new life in Christ, but the problem is we were born again into a new kingdom. If we take the image of the new birth seriously we should realize there’s a new kind of life ahead, and we are mere babes. This new life ahead requires something beyond our old-life resources.

Second, we can live a life “worthy of God.” Each of us has heard the message of forgiveness so often we are tempted to think forgiveness is all there is to the gospel. Some live in a continuing cycle of sin-forgiveness-sin, and consider it normative for God’s children. Paul knew better. He understood there is a proper response to God’s initial grace. That response is a changed life—a life “worthy of the Lord.” A life in which it is possible to please God, bear fruit, and grow in new life. These first two aspects of Paul’s inspired prayer are beyond the grasp of many believers.

Finally the kingdom of God is at hand—especially for those who know him: Paul prays that we would each receive our inheritance: ”the kingdom of light.” Jesus died to pay the price for our sin, and like everyone who dies, he left an inheritance to his family: a new kind of life. This new life looks dramatically different from the old kind of life. He described this life as “righteousness, peace, and joy in he Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) Here’s a bell-weather question for each follower of Jesus—does my life differ dramatically from my old kind of life? The inbreaking of God’s kingdom floods our lives with light, and light is necessary if we are going to move through this new kind of Kingdom-life.

Paul envisioned a church filled with individuals able to receive the Kingdom-life God offers to everyone born from above. His prayer was not for the Colossians alone: can you hear him praying over you now?