"My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less," ELW 597
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
no merit of my own I claim,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in ev'ry high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil. Refrain
His oath, his covenant, his blood
sustain me in the raging flood;
when all supports are washed away,
he then is all my hope and stay. Refrain
When he shall come with trumpet sound,
oh, may I then in him be found,
clothed in his righteousness alone,
redeemed to stand before the throne! Refrain
What do you hope for? I talk a lot about hope with church councils, call committees and other people who are trying to figure out what is in store for their congregation or ministry. In the midst of pressing concerns and uncertain directions, it seems that the hardest thing for so many of us is to build our hope on the promises of God through Jesus Christ. Perhaps, part of the reason is that it is so difficult to see that budgets and other administrative issues that belong to institutions are also issues of God's concern for how we live into the future with hope. If we let God into all our decision-making processes, our focus would be clearer and our work tuned to the working out of God's purposes.
God, who brings hope to the hopeless, help us to value our neighbors more than electric bills or lawn mowing. Help us balance our budgets with care for the stranger and love for all creation. Amen.
In Whose Life Do You Live?
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."
The university gymnasium is packed, and from the platform, I can see every student. The microphone works fine. I can see my notes. But something is wrong. I am only ten minutes into my message, but there's a restlessness in the air. The faces of the students in the front row hold blank expressions. They look as dull as I feel.
I realize that I sound hollow. More than that, I feel hollow. Even though I'm sharing powerful truths from God's Word, I know that my words lack energy. I'm separated from my message -- disconnected, out of gear. Before I embark on my next sentence, I breathe a silent prayer -- no more going through the motions.
Within minutes I can sense the difference between my effort and God's energy working through me. I feel relaxed, free. There is joy in my voice and the faces of the kids on the front row even begin to brighten.
Nothing is more mechanical than when we attempt to live a supernatural life apart from God. I've done it. You do it. When we live apart from Him, prayer becomes dull, witnessing becomes dry, and relationships sag under the weight of selfishness. Our jobs become routine, and even performing an act of kindness becomes an unpleasant duty. Our relationship to the Lord even becomes a chore.
In case you're feeling a little self-sufficient, remember that in Him you live, move, and have your being. Apart from Him you can't do a thing. So count yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ.
Lord Christ, You were raised from the dead through the glory of the Father that I, too, might live a new life. Forgive me when I go through the motions. Let me live through You today, always and only in Your power.
"Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us."
It is our wisdom, as well as our necessity, to beseech God continually to strengthen that which he has wrought in us. It is because of their neglect in this, that many Christians may blame themselves for those trials and afflictions of spirit which arise from unbelief. It is true that Satan seeks to flood the fair garden of the heart and make it a scene of desolation, but it is also true that many Christians leave open the sluice-gates themselves, and let in the dreadful deluge through carelessness and want of prayer to their strong Helper. We often forget that the Author of our faith must be the Preserver of it also. The lamp which was burning in the temple was never allowed to go out, but it had to be daily replenished with fresh oil; in like manner, our faith can only live by being sustained with the oil of grace, and we can only obtain this from God himself. Foolish virgins we shall prove, if we do not secure the needed sustenance for our lamps. He who built the world upholds it, or it would fall in one tremendous crash; he who made us Christians must maintain us by his Spirit, or our ruin will be speedy and final. Let us, then, evening by evening, go to our Lord for the grace and strength we need. We have a strong argument to plead, for it is his own work of grace which we ask him to strengthen--"that which thou hast wrought for us." Think you he will fail to protect and sustain that? Only let your faith take hold of his strength, and all the powers of darkness, led on by the master fiend of hell, cannot cast a cloud or shadow over your joy and peace. Why faint when you may be strong? Why suffer defeat when you may conquer? Oh! take your wavering faith and drooping graces to him who can revive and replenish them, and earnestly pray, "Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us."