Focus on the Greatest: Faith, Hope, and Love

Faith, Hope, Love

Can you imagine the impact upon us as individuals and upon our society if everyone would turn their focus toward faith, hope, and love? These are undoubtably the greatest and best assets anyone could possess and share with others, not just now but for eternity.

Many people live frivolously, even selfishly, expecting unending tomorrows in which to “eat, drink and be merry.” But what if we knew our time was short, our opportunities limited? Would the flow and direction of our lives change? Would an eternal perspective help us refocus our priorities and energies?

“And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.’ ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you . . . ” ‘ ”
Luke 12:19-20

It is all too easy to become distracted by the trivial and consumed with the mundane. Too often the responsibilities of life dictate our agendas and demand our time. The urgent pushes ahead of the necessary. Re-evaluating our focus helps to center us, pulling us toward far-reaching eternal goals and targets.

Whether I speak, write, teach, mentor or encourage, I’m continually brought back to the motivation behind it all — faith, hope, and love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

“These three remain,” existing for eternity!

Faith

Paul commends the church in Corinth for their effective use of spiritual gifts. He asks them to remember and honor each individual, valuing their uniqueness. Like us, the Corinthian church struggled to maintain unity within diversity. Like us, they elevated the minor and diminished the major. They found it easy to focus on the external functioning of gifts and ignore the deeper issues of the heart. They faced these challenges — sometimes well, sometimes not.

Faith, Hope, Love

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2

That’s an impressive list, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want a faith to move mountains or the gift of prophecy? What about an ability to understand the deep secrets and mysteries of God? Many people pursue these gifts and receive them. God, speaking through Paul, clearly states that these things don’t impress or please Him. Unless, of course, they spill from a heart overflowing with love.

Unbelief, scepticism, cynicism, and doubt permeate our culture. But there’s good news. they are all temporary ailments of a society in which God is absent. Every negative will come to an end. Faith leads the list of eternal qualities, replacing all negative undercurrents.

Hope

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Proverbs 13:12

Never before have people become so connected yet disconnected at the same time. The bombardment of information and influence serves only to amplify our loneliness. People feel incredibly isolated and ignored while their social media “friend” lists explode and expand.

Hopelessness in various forms pervades. Hope defers. Heartsickness abounds.

The Greatest Things

The longing within us refuses to be quenched and screams for more faith, hope, and love. For a while people hope; often, they give up. Like the faint scent of rain swept away by the harsh winds of reality, hearts lie barren and dry — hopeless in a world without significant hope.

Jesus restores hope!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”
1 Peter 1:3-4

No matter how hopeless your situation appears, it lasts for a season. Jesus Christ grants each one of us an eternal and living hope. Receive your inheritance of hope, securely kept for you. Hope floods your eternal future! Nothing and no one can stop it!

Love

We have all experienced frail, fickle, and faltering love. Genuine love, never fails or falters. We all crave a love that endures. It is a basic need of all humanity.

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease, where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
1 Corinthians 13:8

Even in Christian circles, we easily major on the minors and overlook the major or greatest qualities within God’s Kingdom. No attribute outweighs the significance of love.

I don’t need to look outside myself to find a discrepancy between belief and action. Oh, how frail, fickle, and faltering my own love often becomes!

Jesus Love

Many people feel rejected, abandoned, and unloved. Maybe, you know the feeling all too well. Listen to the following verse and allow God to speak directly to your heart,

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
Isaiah 54:10

It’s possible for mountains to shake and crumble, but impossible for God’s love to be shaken, let alone cease. I find it comforting to know that hatred will end, but God’s love remains eternally secure.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Since God’s Word is true, enduring forever, how should we respond? Since everything else will eventually pass away, how can we nurture faith, hope and love, first in our lives and then in others?

God has given to each of us a measure of these qualities in seed form. When we plant and nurture them (activating them), they will grow and increase. The principle of sowing and reaping runs throughout God’s Word.

  • “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” Psalm 126:5.
  • “A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” Proverbs 11:18.
  • “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.
Sharing Faith

Together, let’s aim to live our lives in the best way possible. Let’s pursue the eternal qualities of faith, hope, and love, both in ourselves and in others. May we commit ourselves to inspire faith, instill hope, and ignite love. How we each accomplish the task will look different, but every one of us possesses the ability to make a difference.

May we focus on these greatest and enduring qualities of faith, hope, and love, receiving them fully, and then just as freely, giving them away. Let’s stop for a moment to ask God how we might spread these attributes further.

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Tamar, Contending for Her Inheritance! A Woman Who Would Not be Denied!

Meet a contender wrestling with cultural inequality to secure her inheritance. Tamar would not be denied life, dignity and destiny.

Tamar is the first woman listed in the genealogical record of Jesus the Messiah. What merited Matthew’s inclusion of this incredible woman?

God intends for man to take his place as defender, protector and provider of his household, walking faithfully before Him. What happens when men stumble and lose their way? When deliberate choices to abandon personal identity, home and family invade, then what?

Choices

Judah

Genesis 38 begins with the words, “at that time

What time is “that time”?

“At that time” when Judah was involved in a jealous conspiracy to kill his own brother, eventually selling him into slavery. It was “that time” when lies couldn’t conceal sin or soothe a father’s grief. “At that time” when guilt haunted and self condemnation screamed.

“At that time,
Judah left his brothers
and went down to stay…”
Genesis 38:1

Little words containing enormous ramifications! Judah “left”Running away from his family, he hoped to escape himself. He “went down” the well-travelled road ultimately leading to dead ends.

Boundary crossed

Judah withdrew from more than his family, however. He crossed God’s boundary line of protection by marrying a Canaanite woman.

Together their marriage produced three sons: Er, Onan, and Selah.

Tamar

Tamar enters the picture as the wife chosen for Er.  Er was wicked in the LORD’s sight“, so wicked God put him to death. (38:7). Are there any willing volunteers  to take Tamar’s place? Instead of the fulfillment of a little girl’s dream of happy marriage, Tamar found herself in a painful nightmare.

Judah instructs his second son to fulfill the Levirate marriage requirement to ensure the continuation of his brother’s family line and protection of his widow. Onan also was “wicked” (38:10). He was all too happy to use Tamar for his own sexual pleasure while refusing to fulfill any obligation to her, his family or God.

Stubbornly refusing to face his own sinful heart or the blatant wickedness of his sons, Judah casts all blame toward Tamar.

Sin is never “private”! It’s twisted deception infects and affects everyone! 

Live as a widow
in your father’s household
until my son Shelah grows up.”
Genesis 38:11

Unknown path

An hollow empty promise, to be sure! With a word, Judah cut Tamar from her inheritance pushing her out of his sight — a widow, childless and vulnerable.

Her story unfolds like a soap opera! Tamar waits! Years pass! Still she waits.

Tamar means date palm, the ultimate symbol of life and productivity. Her confinement concealed the true destiny and calling within her name! Would she settle as castaway? Would she bare the burden of another’s sins in powerless obscurity?

Life

How long the wait was, we are uncertain. The bible simply says,

After a long time,
Judah’s wife … died.
When Judah had recovered from his grief,
he went to Timnah…” 
Genesis 38:12

Judah too had experienced great loss; no one dare minimize his anguish and grief. However, he gave himself permission to “recover from his grief.” 

His daughter-in-law was granted no such grace!

Because of Judah’s unwillingness to give his youngest son Shelah to Tamar, he alone could fulfill the Levirate Law.  With courage and boldness, Tamar veils herself and waits by the road, risking all to defend her family rights.

“When Judah saw her,
he thought she was a prostitute,
for she had covered her face.
Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law,
he went over to her by the roadside and said,
come now, let me sleep with you.”
Genesis 38: 15-16

One black sheep

Judah’s journey took him further than he ever thought possible! The cost was incalculable! 

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
keep you longer than you want to stay,
and cost you more than you want to pay.”
R. Zaccharias

This account of Judah is nestled within Joseph’s larger story.  A young goat’s blood was given to convince his father of Joseph’s staged death. Now Judah reaches into the flock a second time to mask another dark deception.

The Pledge

Judah promises a goat as payment for her services — a payment woefully lacking! Not searching to satisfy lust or fleshly desire, nor seeking revenge for gross injustice and mistreatment, she asks only for what is due her.

Boldly she claims her inheritance!

“What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord,
and the staff in your hand,” she answered.
So he gave them to her…”
Genesis 38:18

The seal was a symbol of a man’s identity marking his personal worth, while the attached cord symbolized the binding of two things together. The staff in Judah’s hand was far more than a walking stick! It was an emblem of his authority, like a royal sceptre. It was probably hand carved; the length carefully etched with the names of his ancestry.

Staff of authority

Yet Judah willingly placed everything into the hands of an “unknown” woman! For one moment of sexual pleasure, he yielded his identity, authority and generational inheritance. Astonishing! 

Judah later sent his friend with the goat to pay the woman and retrieve his pledge. Unable to find her, his friend returns empty-handed.

Let her keep what she has,
or we will become a laughingstock.”
Genesis 38:23

“Let her keep what she has?” Judah flippantly disregards the value of what has been lost. Nonetheless, words prophetically spoken.

Tamar’s Honour

Tamar became pregnant in the encounter. The life growing within her forming the connecting link between Abraham and Jesus. The promise protected in her womb outweighed any treasure in her hand!

“The “widow” is pregnant!”

Years of suppressed resentment and anger burst forth from Judah with hot volcanic force,

Bring her out
and have her burned to death.”
Genesis 38:24

What could satiate a man’s tormented mind and heart? Public disgrace? Cruel aggression? Murder?

The flames of anger

Tamar’s godliness shines through in polar opposite,

“As she was being brought out,
she sent a message to her father-in-law,
“I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said … 
“See if you recognize whose
seal and cord and staff these are.”
Genesis 38:25

Tamar’s strength of character and honour toward a man unworthy of such kindness overcomes. No public accusation of his failure! No shaming the guilty or demanding justice! Tamar privately presents the evidence and leaves the result to God.

Destiny Secured

Judah is humbled by Tamar’s integrity, wisdom, and bravery.

“…She is more righteous than I…”
Genesis 38:26

Within her, Tamar carried a double portion — two sons! One of them, Perez, would carry the DNA of his courageous mother who refused to forfeit her destiny. The DNA of a woman worthy of inclusion in the bloodline of the Messiah!

Tamar spurned the victim’s stool! She disdained the wicked example of those around her. By living above reproach she saw fulfillment of her destiny. Without compromise, she humbly followed the God others openly rejected.

Her reward? Her name forever written in God’s record of great women

Tamar's inheritance

Tamar modelled godliness in ungodly circumstances. Will her example of contending for inheritance be duplicated in our day? Who among us will choose integrity and honour in the face of injustice? Who will lay claim to the spiritual blessing available for this and future generations?  

Is there anyone who will stand against the cultural currents bringing Christ to the world today?  

Tamar presents a challenge worth considering!

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Inheritance and Promise – Our Heritage in Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55 - Inheritance

The inheritance and promise within Isaiah 55 is for every follower of Christ. Even though I have studied this passage repeatedly, I continue to glean new and fresh insights from this little portion. Isaiah 55 is like seed producing continuing harvest in my life.

There is an old Arab proverb that says,

“Man can count seeds in grape!
Only God can count grapes in seed!”

God uses the seeds of His written word, the bible, to speak directly to us regarding our identity and purpose. These seeds become our personal inheritance to absorb in faith.

Isaiah 55 invites us to come, listen, see, seek and go.

Come

Invitations welcome us to one-on-one fellowship, business meetings, weddings, home groups, family reunions or larger gatherings; relationships are important. God designed us for relationship with Him and with others. Even introverts, like me, must resist the urge of solitude and embrace community.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
Isaiah 55:1

Our Inheritance to Come

The only requirement is thirst! That is a good thing! We don’t need money; the expenses around this invitation have been paid in full.

As a young girl, I would stand on the ridge of a coulee along the Qu’Appelle Valley and call, funneling the sound of my voice with small cupped hands around my mouth. The echo would resound again and again and again off the valley walls.

I hear God’s echo through the generations, “Come…come…come…come…” My little echo diminished with each repetition, His never does. God calls,

“Come as you are!
The door is open!
Everything is ready just for you!
I’m waiting!
Come quickly and linger long!
Come!”

The ability to come into God’s presence is part of the wonderful inheritance we have through Christ. We are welcome here with Him, our friends are welcome, so is our family, and wonder-upon-wonders, I am too!

Listen

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.”
Isaiah 55:2-3

Listen

God is much more anxious for us to come and listen than we are to respond. Our hesitancy proves our doubt in His good character, His loving nature, and His desire to bless us.

When you stop and think about it, this is an astounding verse. God is giving us the same promises He gave to David. (II Samuel 7, I Chronicles 17, and Psalms 89) That is a lot of inheritance!

Nonetheless, it is part and parcel of the covenant relationship we have with the God of heaven and earth, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

See

“…Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Isaiah 55:4-5

God wants us not just to hear, but to grab hold of, this vision He has for us.

 

See

 

[bctt tweet=”God’s faithful love is revealed through His promises, provision and purposes for our lives.” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

God’s faithful love is revealed through His promises, provision, and purposes for our lives. These Davidic promises include:

freedom from enemies and oppression,
generational blessings,
unending love,
bringing blessing to the nations,
authority and power….

We dishonour God by thinking small! His promise to us is international in scope! We each have a part to play in bringing the Good News to all nations.

Because His splendor is within us, it also radiates from us. Endowed “with splendor” may mean promotion and honour. Receive them humbly and graciously.

It is important to recognize every advancement is God’s inheritance for us. Let’s be sure to thank Him when our sphere of influence grows. These opportunities are less a reflection of us than of God’s goodness.

Seek

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.”
Isaiah 55:6

Today is a good time to respond to God’s invitation to draw near to Him. It is arrogant to think we will always have this opportunity.

A friend of mine has recently accepted God’s, “Come!”

She is perplexed as to why she hesitated so long. What held her back? Ashamed  by the weight of personal sin and afraid of being transparent, she had refused His invitation time and time again. Only in desperation and loss of all hope was she willing to say, “Yes!”

Her life has been a progressive journey of freedom ever since, full of excitement, new friendships, and a sense of belonging and value.

She is thankful!

Go

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
Isaiah 55:12

Go

It is easier to go when we know we are being led!

Our lives are not aimless; God is faithfully leading and sending. Even when we are uncertain of our direction, we need not fear. He continues to guide.

[bctt tweet=”Our lives are not aimless; God is faithfully leading!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

In Christ, we not only go, we go in joy!

Good Inheritance

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

God’s thoughts and ways are absolutely brilliant; we have no capacity to comprehend them.  One thing is certain; God is good! In responding to His invitation to participate in our inheritance, we come, listen, see, seek and go, trusting in His excellent design.

Life in Christ is a process of discovering His higher and better purpose. Today as we consider this one little portion of scripture, may we with new awareness go in all He has promised.

In coming to Him, we go with joy!

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