My wife is an excellent cook. When she gets close to the end of one of her culinary masterpieces she will ask me to come for a taste. I of course readily comply. She will then look at me and often say: “something’s missing”. It may need more salt or a certain spice or even a little more time for the ingredients to blend. The missing ingredient makes the dish complete.
Relationships can resemble a meal that turns out being a tasteless disaster. Our marriages, our families, our government, our neighbors are all relationships that we must get right. However many times there is something missing. The absence of this missing ingredient generates conflict, anger, bitterness, distance, standoffs and a whole host of relationship breakers. What is this missing ingredient? It is love. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 13:4-8: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” The kind of love that is described here is selfless and seeks the greatest good of someone else. Think of how wonderful our marriages would be if we constantly added love to the recipe. Think of how happy our families would be if love was the overriding rule. Just imagine how much could be accomplished even in government if both sides would put into practice the love spoken about in scripture.
I realize it seems impossible for our sinful natures to love someone else selflessly. I agree. This kind of love can only come supernaturally. The Bible tells us that believers are given that capacity to love through the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). We all can become master chefs in creating relationships that are delicious. All we need to do is add the missing ingredient of love.
I am many times completely unaware of the latest fashion trends adopted by the younger generation. I was in the mall the other day and witnessed a member of the younger generation wearing jeans that to me appeared completely worn out. Crossways rips up and down the front of the leg made the jeans to look like they had seen better days. Then someone else was wearing the same kind of jeans and then I realized that they didn’t wear them out, they purchased them with the rips already in place. Go figure.
Those jeans that looked worn out are a picture of what the Lord tells us about this world and its whole system. Heb. 1:10-12 tells us: “And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end”. Our clothing wears out, fashion trends are changed, buildings go up and then they are torn down. Communities change, countries change, and people change. Everything in this world is in a constant state of change and decay. Everything however, but God. He is still the Everlasting Holy God of the universe. His Son is still the only Savior who died on the cross. The Bible is still the inerrant Word of God. The gospel is still the only good news that can save a sinner. And faith in Jesus is still the only way we can ever expect to get to heaven. Our God is the everlasting and unchangeable ruler of the universe.
Where are you placing your trust? The attractive things that we pursue will one day end up in the landfill. The philosophical fads that are constantly being bandied about will all fade from popularity like a pair of worn out jeans. Only simple faith in God and His unchanging Word will endure.
I am sure that all of us have done things in our life that we are ashamed of and embarrassed by. When I was about 9 years old and mischievous I wanted to catch some birds. I thought about getting a cardboard box propped up by a stick but it didn’t quite work. So I got another idea. My dad had some steel traps hanging in the garage. So I waited until no one was around and took a trap out to the back yard and set it. I carefully placed some pieces of bread on the trap and went and hid. I watched and waited to see if my trap would be successful. I noticed that some sparrows landed around the trap and were pecking at the bread. Then I saw the trap spring. Excitedly I ran to the scene and picked up the trap. I caught a bird but the poor little sparrow hanging limp in my hands was dead, a victim of my devilish plot. It was then that it hit me. A wave of guilt and shame washed over me. I buried the bird and put the trap back on the peg in the garage. The deed was done but the shame and regret remained.
The Bible teaches that Jesus will come again (John 14:3). We eagerly wait for the Savior with anticipation and are looking forward to spending eternity with our Lord. However, living our lives for Him right now matters. It matters if we are doing things that are contrary to His revealed will found in the scriptures. We may be involved in some sinful activities that we know He would not approve of. It is possible there are some things that if Jesus would come right now we would be sorely ashamed of. 1 John 2:28 tells us: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming”.
The incident of the sparrows and the steal trap plagued my juvenile mind for some time until I confessed it all to the Lord. I wonder if we have any shame-producing deeds that need to be confessed and forgiven. Jesus will come again. Let’s not be ashamed at His coming.
I remember in elementary school I had to ride the bus. Each morning mom would pack my lunch and I would go to the kitchen window and wait with my eyes fixed on the road. As I waited in anticipation each morning my hopes were fulfilled when I saw that yellow vehicle appear as it crested the hill down that country road. I then ran down the lane to get on the bus that would take me to another day of school. My daily hope for the school bus was part of my childhood life.
Man needs hope to survive. He needs something to look forward to, something to anticipate in order to keep him going. There are plenty of things that can destroy our hope. We can experience the loss of our spouse or lose all of our life savings. We can contract a terminal disease or go through a family turmoil that destroys our prospects and hope. However the child of God is promised a hope that will never fail. This hope is also called the rapture of the church. It refers to the promise that Jesus made that He will return for all of those who have placed their faith in Him. He told us that when He returns He will take us to the Father’s House and we will always be with Him (John 14:1-3). This expectation of the return of Jesus is called the blessed hope (Titus 2:13). This hope is called a living hope in 1 Peter 1:3. It is called a sure hope in Heb. 6:19, a comforting hope in 1 Thess. 4:18 and a purifying hope in 1 Jn. 3:3.
Our hopes for something better that may come to us in this life may not happen. Our anticipation for more excitement, more security, and more comfort may absolutely fail. But those who know Christ have the sure promise of Jesus that will never be canceled or never die or never expire. Instead of fixing my eyes on the road for the yellow school bus, I now look to the skies for the blessed hope, the return of Jesus.
In the mid-1960s, researchers at the University of Florida developed a drink to replenish electrolytes, sugars and minerals that their athletes lost during strenuous physical activity. The drink, which became a mainstay on the sidelines of Florida Gators football games, soon became known as Gatorade. This idea that started in research labs at the University of Florida grew into an entire industry. Gatorade has grown into a multi-billion dollar business. One of Gatorade’s most well-known slogans is the simple question, “is it in you?”
As we launch into this new year another question needs to be asked: “hope, is it in you”? The apostle Peter challenges all of us with these words in 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”. Our faith in Christ is the hope which anyone can have residing in them. This faith in Christ is such a precious gift that we need to be always ready to share it with others. Because of our faith in Christ our past is forgiven. We no longer have to worry that our sins will be held against us. They have been washed away through the blood of Jesus Christ and will never be held against us. Because of the hope that in us our future is secure. The Lord has guaranteed His followers that He will return for us and we: “…shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). No matter what may happen in the turbulent climate of political and world events those of us who know Christ have that unshakeable blessed hope. Because of the hope that is in us our present makes sense. We are here in this world with a glorious purpose. We are to live our lives for the glory of God and use our gifts and talents to serve our Lord and introduce people to Him.
We may never be asked to do a Gatorade commercial. However each of us need to ask ourselves the question: “hope, is it in you?”
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation