Hope for Life Blog

Archive for April, 2009

Just Watch The Ball

by on Apr.28, 2009, under Hope

I love sports. I enjoy playing them and watching them. I especially enjoy watching three and four year olds play ball. I remember teaching my children to play ball when they were young, and now I am watching my grandchildren start to play ball. After watching preschool teams for thirty years, I am convinced nothing is as cute, or as frustrating, as teaching them how to play soccer or baseball.

An airplane passing overhead can bring the whole game to a stop. Flowers are somehow much more interesting than what is going on in the game. Friends must be waved at, parents must be located, and outfits adjusted. Sometimes I wonder if they even realize there is such a thing as a ball … much less what its function might be. I have watched soccer players run up and down the field for an entire game without once knowing where the ball was. If the other kids ran, so did they. I cannot count the times a slowly hit ball has rolled past three fielders and not a one of them even noticed. I have witnessed powerful swings of the bat that did not come within two feet of the ball — and the ball was sitting on a tee. Of course, the batter had his eyes tightly shut.

So here is my coaching advice for preschool soccer and baseball: just focus on one thing. Do not try to explain strategy, or even all the rules. Just teach them to watch the ball. They will learn the rest later. If they do not get this basic principle down, they will never learn to play well. It works in soccer. If they learn to watch the ball, they will kick it more often. It works in baseball also. Watch the ball and you will hit it. Watch the ball and you will catch it. It is the basic principle in sports. Just watch the ball. Interestingly enough, that basic principle never changes in sports no matter how old you get.

The same principle works for learning about Jesus. If you do not know much about Jesus and his followers, it sure looks confusing. What is all the activity about, what are all the rules, and is there a strategy I need to know? Let me encourage you to focus on the one thing that really matters: Jesus. He died for the things we have done that were wrong, he was buried, and God raised him from the dead. Focus on that and the rest will begin to make sense. And if you miss that, nothing else will ever make sense.

That is still good advice for those of us who have been following Jesus for a long time. Focus on the one important thing. Jesus.

Steve Ridgell

Blessings Through Brokenness

by on Apr.20, 2009, under Hope

As the shadows lengthened and the sun began to hide itself behind the distant edges of the lake, the crowd lingered on its shore. They had been there for some time listening to the wise words of Jesus. Surely they were growing hungry and the opportunity to get food was some distance away. Andrew, one of the disciples, spotted a young boy with a small lunch (only five small barley loaves and two fish). How far would such a meager amount go among so many?

Jesus instructed his disciples to have the crowd sit down. He took the small loaves of bread and the fish, gave thanks for what He had, broke the bread and made a banquet. Bread and fish in abundance! The blessing came after the loaves were broken.

The world is filled with brokenness: broken homes, broken lives, shattered dreams, and broken health. Sometimes we must be broken to meet our full potential in kingdom service. We don’t like to think of experiencing great difficulties to help us grow spiritually. There are indeed great blessings in following the statutes that have been laid down for us, but we must realize that often the greatest blessings come on the other side of brokenness.

We might feel that there are so many scattered pieces and fragments of our lives that we could not be “put back together.” Just as the left over pieces of bread and fish were gathered up, so can we be gathered up and not wasted.

“Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12b).

As we encounter the blessings that we receive, even through brokenness and suffering, we can trust God to gather us up into His loving arms and put us back together.

It has happened for me! You can view my story here on hopeforlife.org; just click on the video at the top of the page.

by Kay Talley

Preaching Your Own Funeral

by on Apr.13, 2009, under Hope

There were two brothers who were the richest men in that small town. They were also the meanest and most immoral of men. When one of them died, the other went to the preacher of the local church and asked him to do the funeral. He said that he would give the church $25,000 if the preacher would say that his brother was a saint. “But I can’t do that!” said the preacher, “Everyone knows what kind of man your brother was.” But the more he thought about it, he realized that the church really needed that money. So on the day of the funeral he got up and said, “This man was a lying, cheating, stealing, wicked old man. But next to his brother, he was a saint.”

Someday, when we’re gone, somebody is going to have to stand up and say a few words about our lives. When they stand up to talk about us, will it be an easy task or a hard one? Will they struggle to find something good to say or will they struggle to choose between all of the uplifting stories told of your life?

I remember when I was a student at Abilene Christian University, Jim Dotson, the preacher at Brookwood Way Church of Christ in Mansfield, Ohio, preached a funeral sermon that became famous. His sermon was videotaped and can still be viewed in the ACU library. Dotson’s sermon did not become famous because of its content nor because of the outstanding delivery. Dotson’s funeral sermon became famous because he preached his own funeral. Dying of cancer, he videotaped the funeral sermon. He spoke about the Christian’s victory over death.

It’s a remarkable thing to preach your own funeral. That is, it’s remarkable to videotape yourself speaking so that everyone hears the exact words that you wanted them to hear. But the fact is, we all do our own funeral sermons. By the way we live. No matter what the minister says at the service itself, our lives will leave behind their own testimony, for good or for bad.

So what does your sermon sound like so far? Is it full of jokes and stories, but little substance? Is it a shining example of what everyone would like their life to be? Or, to borrow a phrase from a calendar I saw, is the main purpose of your life to serve as a warning for others?

Make someone’s job a little easier! Don’t make them hunt and scrounge for something good to say. Don’t make it hard for them to find words of comfort for those left behind. Live such a life that your funeral will be a celebration of triumph, a joyous remembrance of a life well lived.

Grace and peace,
Tim Archer

It is not news

by on Apr.07, 2009, under Hope

Does faith heal? A major American news magazine just devoted a recent issue to this question. There was a balanced presentation of all sides of the question. It is clear that to some degree a person of faith heals quicker, lives longer, and lives healthier. Some are convinced that the data is being misinterpreted, that there must be other factors at work that have not been identified. Others assume that the benefits of faith are psychological: that is, if you believe strongly enough in something, you may feel better because you are convinced in your mind that you will.

However, it is evident that faith plays some role in health and healing. I am not surprised by these findings. I am a Christian. I know God heals. But I am not a Christian because it makes me healthier. Or wealthier. Or wiser. I am a Christian because I believe that there is a God who loves me and who sent a Son to this earth so I could live forever. My faith is not about how I can use it to make my life better. It is about believing in what God has already done for me.

Yes, God does take care of us on this earth. He said:

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up (James 5:14-15).

Science is just now beginning to affirm something we Christians have known for a long time. God acts on behalf of his people. I am never surprised when science “discovers” that what God said in the Bible is true. My faith does not depend on what scientists decide. I am convinced that God is who he says he is.

As a Christian, I know that God is the One who heals. When I am sick, I ask Him for healing. If he grants health, I acknowledge Him. If not, it is His decision and I still acknowledge Him as God. My faith is what allows me to trust God with my health. And I trust Him with my health just like with everything else in my life.

Steve Ridgell

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