To Bring Hope – Matthew 11:4-5

“And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind receive their sight and the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up,
and the poor have good news preached to them.’”

Matthew 11:4-5

Reading through this list of Jesus’ actions in ministry, it is the last that stands out to me. The wonders are recounted, which would cause anyone to stop in amazement: blind seeing, lame walking, lepers cleansed, deaf hearing, dead raised. He likely could have stopped there and presented evidence enough to confirm who He is.

But He didn’t.

Because the last action matters as much as the others. The poor, the brokenhearted, the weary, those with nothing to offer and nothing to cling to – they are given hope. The Son of God will not forget these, and He will not fail to mention this vital part of His ministry: preaching good news to those who desperately need it.

They matter.

Maybe it isn’t what some observers would write home about. But it is why He came. To bring hope. To bring light to our darkness. To bring salvation. To make a way for us, where there was none. The other items mentioned demonstrate His great power; this one shows His heart and His true purpose.

Jesus determined to preach good news to the poor, and His words, His hope, continue today.

Telling us that we are not forgotten.

Communicating that we are seen.

Showing us that we matter.

And not to just anyone. We matter to the God who created the universe, the One who sets up kings and kingdoms and who determines the end of all things from their very beginning.

There is hope here, in the words of our Savior. He wants us to know in our brokenness that the God of all comfort will draw near to us, if we will draw near to Him (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; James 4:8). He wants us to experience life abundant, steady with all joy and peace in believing, because the God of hope fills us with Himself (John 10:10; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 3:19). He wants us to rest in the realization that our sovereign, wise, gracious God is sowing light and joy into our path – and they will root down deep and reveal themselves in wondrous beauty at His perfectly appointed time (Psalm 97:11).

There is good news here.

Because we are known fully and fully loved. By One whose perfect love can drive out all our fears, if we will fix our eyes and heart and mind on Him (1 John 4:18; Psalm 34:4).

Today, “may the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). Hear His words spoken to your heart, conveying the good news of His hope, His glory, His goodness and salvation in your life.

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Do You Believe? – Matthew 9:28

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
Matthew 9:28

Faith is vital to seeing God work. Even if our faith is small as a mustard seed. He knows how hard it is. How discouraging life can be. This is why our God compels us to be strong, and let our heart take courage as we wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14) – because courage is required if we choose to believe in the stillness. It entails risk. But praise God, we know whom we have believed. He has proven Himself constant. His Word has proven true (Psalm 18:30).

The risk can still be scary. But our God is faithful. My heart can take courage because of who He is. And even if it gets hurt again, my God will not waste it. The fullness of life does not come without some measure of pain. But it is better to experience the richness of all He has for us, the depth of emotion He has made us capable of, than to not realize the abundant love and joy and delight and hope our God wants us to know fully.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:14). This is where our delight must be rooted. And this is where our heart’s deepest desires can be expressed, pouring out our heart to the One in whom our purest joy is found. If our focus is fixed on the Lord, rather than our desires, we will trust Him to weave the details of our life together, guide our steps clearly, and satisfy our longings in the way that will bring the most joy – the way that will bring us to more of Him, rather than turning our attention toward a lesser light.

I won’t understand all His workings and timing. I can’t see all that He can, the various outcomes and unseen opportunities. But I can keep trusting. I can keep delighting in the One who will never fail me. I can keep guarding my heart from rooting its hope in things other than my Lord. My heart is safe with Him; it can take courage in Him and His plans.

There, I can believe fully.

There, I can remain steadfast in hope – because my hope is in Him. In His love, His wisdom, and His grace that sustains.

Accepted – Matthew 9:10

“And as Jesus reclined at table in the house,
behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples.”

Matthew 9:10

What beautiful acceptance is displayed here.

These people were cast out of “good” society, some despised for alliance with Roman oppressors, others condemned for unrighteous acts.

But Jesus did not cast them out. They were welcomed into His presence. The presence of the Holy One, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).

These tax collectors and sinners were shown love, honor, and respect. Compassion and understanding. Because Jesus came down from heaven to meet us where we are, broken and lost in sin, and lovingly draw us out. Not with harsh words or condemnation, but with tender care and a desire for our good, our joy, and our freedom.

Oh, may we exhibit this compassion to all those we encounter. Regardless of how different their lives and viewpoints are from our own. May we display the gentle, lowly heart of our Savior, who beckoned all who are weary and burdened to come and find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-29). May we accept others in love, that they may glimpse the heart of the One who truly understands and who loves them more than they can imagine.

Lord, what our world needs now is love. Sincere, powerful love flowing from Your heart. May they find it in Your people, those who are called by Your name. Cleanse us from our sense of self-righteousness. Humble us, Father. Show us our desperate need of You and Your great love for us, that we may be changed into reflections of Your character and Your beautiful heart.

Fullness of Days – Job 42:17

“And Job died, an old man, and full of days.”
Job 42:17

I want to live recognizing the fullness of my days. However many there are before my Lord takes me home. Because there is life within them. Abundant life that is promised (John 10:10), and fullness of joy if I will abide in Christ and His love (John 15:11).

Some days can seem monotonous and mundane. Some appear to drag on. Some days it feels like everything takes too long and I can’t get caught up to where I want to be. I can so easily get tunnel-vision and end up overwhelmed or discouraged or weary as I walk through my day – or as I look to the future and see a pattern that is less than satisfying.

But that is not the perspective our God came to give us.

My days are to be filled with light – the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6), light brilliant and unfading.

There is fullness in my days because there is purpose within each of them. Because God is in each of them.

Each day brings new mercies, if I will open my eyes to see and my ears to hear.

Each day inspires a new song in my heart, if I will pay attention to what my Lord is doing and be further transformed as I behold His glory.

Perhaps this all sounds idealistic. After all, we each have days of unspeakable pain and unrelenting darkness. Days where we feel lost, where chaos seems to surround us, where we struggle to even get a hold of how we feel or what we think or what in the world we should do.

But even here, in these moments, God is with us. Surrounding us in immovable strength, as the mountains surround Jerusalem (Psalm 125:2). Closer than a breath, dwelling between our shoulders (Deuteronomy 33:12). If we will pour out our heart instead of shutting Him out, He will be a refuge for us (Psalm 62:8).

He will meet you in your pain and convey soft, sweet comfort. You will experience His deep compassion and You will find Him faithful. Faithful to never leave you, to never condemn, to never misunderstand or deceive. Faithful to stay, to love, to heal and restore. He will lighten your darkness, even if little by little, and you will know you are not alone.

And you just may discover that those days, the hardest ones, are the fullest you’ve known. Because they were filled with the intentional, precious nearness of your God who draws particularly close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3).

So let us not waste a day. However it appears to our eyes, wherever we are on our journey, this day has been written for us (Psalm 139:16). A necessary detail of our story. It is a day purposed for our increasing joy, a day in which we can experience further evidence of God’s faithfulness and see more clearly His great glory. It is a day that gets us closer to Christ, our hope and the delight of our hearts. It is a day when we can know Him more and know the fullness of His incomprehensible, unchanging love for us.

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
Psalm 92:12-15

“Lord, You have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting You are God…
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom…
Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil,
Let Your work be shown to Your servants,
and Your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!”

Psalm 90:1-2, 12-17

Hope Here – Hosea 2:15

“And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

Hosea 2:15a

It can be difficult to form thoughts into words in the face of tragedy…this is where I find myself this morning, in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting.

I have prayed for God’s presence with those who are hurting – the wounded, the mourning, those who have witnessed and heard horrors, even for the shooter’s family as they undoubtedly encounter stigma and a lack of sympathy from those around them. And as I continued to pray for those impacted by this event, my thoughts expanded to other recent events and to the divided state of our country.

Still struggling to find words, and struggling to muster faith that God can still heal us, that He can use something so terrible for good.

That is when this verse filtered through my mind.

And in my heart, hope stirred.

Hosea 2:15 contains one of my favorite phrases in Scripture. A promise of God to “make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

Because Achor means trouble. Whether trouble of our own making or trouble that seems to land at our doorstep unexpected – how beautiful to find a verse promising that the very trouble that has uprooted your life, possibly causing great distress and pain, will be the very means by which hope will enter in.

Hope for us. Hope for the broken. Hope for those who feel lost in darkness and chaos.

Our God is able to make this Valley of Achor a door of hope. So let us pray to that end. Let us rise up and cry out for Him to make this a door of hope for us. He works through our prayers. So that we will know it is Him, know He is God, and know He hears us.

I don’t know His purposes in all of this. But I am certain that He has them, and that they are beautiful and good. Playing out on an individual level, through His personal presence and help and healing to survivors who now face a new normal and must work through the trauma of what they have experienced; perhaps displayed on a grander scale as well. Let us pray for hope here, and believe that He will come through. Hope for each one of us. Hope in the lives and hearts of each survivor, of each victim’s family. May hope enter in, hope that they never imagined possible, hope ushered directly through the doors of this valley of trouble.

Because hope lives in the light of our Savior.

“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined…
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:2, 6

“For [the LORD] has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and He has not hidden His face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to Him.”
Psalm 22:26

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

Unclean – Matthew 8:1-3

“When [Jesus] came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
Matthew 8:1-3

In his Morning and Evening devotional for this day, Charles H. Spurgeon writes,

“Sin mourned and confessed, however black and foul, shall never shut a man out from the Lord Jesus. Whosoever cometh unto Him, He will in no wise cast out. Though dishonest as the thief, though unchaste as the woman who was a sinner, though fierce as Saul of Tarsus, though cruel as Manasseh, though rebellious as the prodigal, the great heart of love will look upon the man who feels himself to have no soundness in him, and will pronounce him clean,
when he trusts in Jesus crucified.”

What beautiful, powerful truth. There is no sin too dark, no person too trapped or too far gone, that Jesus cannot cleanse with a touch. This includes you. It includes me. It includes all whom we might write off as impossible to reach.

As I dwelt on Spurgeon’s words, I opened my Bible to where I had left off in reading Matthew. The next verses were these in chapter 8 – perfectly capturing what I was already contemplating. This afflicted outcast, one who had to cry out “unclean” to warn others to steer clear, throws himself at Jesus’ feet. Openly confessing his desperate need, Jesus’ ability to cleanse, and His authority to choose whether or not to do so. With nothing to offer, entirely at Jesus’ mercy.

Jesus does not recoil. He does not hesitate. He reaches out and touches him, this unclean and typically avoided leper, and immediately the man is cleansed.

O beloved of God, this is what He will do for you. Regardless of how many times you have failed, no matter how much darkness you see in your heart, whatever cycle you feel you are trapped in – there is hope for you.

You can come to Jesus, filled with desperate need and covered in the blackness of sin, and with a touch of His nail-scarred, powerful, compassionate hand, He will make you clean.

“Hear the voice of Love that’s calling,
There’s a chair that waits for you
And a Friend who understands everything you’re going through.
But you keep standing at a distance
In the shadows of your shame.
But there’s a light of hope that shines,
Won’t you come and take your place.
And bring it all to the table.
There’s nothing He ain’t seen before.
For all your sin, all your sorrows, all your sadness,
There’s a Savior and He calls, ‘Bring it all to the table.’”

– Zach Williams, To The Table

For Our Heart is Glad in Him – Psalm 33:21

“For our heart is glad in Him,
because we trust in His holy name.”

Psalm 33:21

The foundation of this gladness of heart strikes me. Because it is not based on circumstances. It is based on faith – and not faith in just anything, but faith in the name of this God who is known to the psalmist.

The gladness referenced is also not a surface happiness, something easily affected and fleeting. There is depth here. It goes down to the core of who you are. It is an undercurrent that remains even in great pain, difficulty, and confusion. Because its foundation, trust in the name of the Lord, is immovable and unchanging.

Because His name encompasses all that He is. His character, His power, His sovereignty, His wisdom, His grace and mercy, His all-sufficiency. If there is ever a question as to what His character looks like when played out in real life, He has given us an example: Jesus Christ. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3a).

As I processed this verse in Psalm 33, other Scriptures began filtering through my mind. I offer them now, to help more specifically define what it is we are trusting our God to do. May He speak to you this morning, resonating whatever it is your heart needs to hear.

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,
on those who hope in His steadfast love.”
Psalm 33:18

“‘For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed.’
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
Isaiah 54:10

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Luke 12:6-7

“In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf;
for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
John 16:26-27

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep….My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life,
and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
John 10:14-15, 27-28

“As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.”
Psalm 40:17a

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority,
before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Jude 24-25

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know Your name put their trust in You,
for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.”
Psalm 9:9-10