Category » Hope
Ebola. It is the latest disease to strike fear into much of the world’s population. People are dying in Africa from Ebola. Now it has appeared in the United States. Even with precautions now being taken at US entry airports, people are frightened. How can I avoid contacting Ebola? Can I survive if I do? And if I can avoid Ebola, what about MERV? Or what if Avian Flu comes back? Or the Black Plague?
If I manage to avoid catching some deadly disease, what about car wrecks? Plane crashes? Industrial accidents? What if terrorists strike where I live? How about school and work shootings? Murders? The possibility of death is everywhere. And we have not even mentioned tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, fire, and earthquakes.
Even if you manage to avoid all of these threats, there is still the deadliest one of all: old age. It will get you if nothing else does. Let’s face it, we are all going to die. Me, you, everyone. How can anyone live in the face of certain death, and with no certainty about when it may happen? All your plans, hopes, dreams crushed. Everyone you love gone forever.
Unless you believe in Jesus.
Christians believe that when Jesus rose from the dead he conquered death. He defeated the enemy of life. Because we believe in Jesus, we too will live again. We believe that we will be raised from the dead. We believe that we will live with our Christian loved ones forever. We believe that our life here on earth is under the control of Jesus. We believe this world is not the end, it is not our home. We are aliens and strangers here. That is why Jesus followers remind each other to not be afraid. Not to be afraid of anything in this life… even death.
And that is our hope for life. Because we believe.
I have an interesting family heritage. My Dad’s family lived in New York City and on “the Island”. I have ancestors who fought in the Civil War, some on the Union side, some on the Confederate side. Between my sophomore and Junior years in high school, I moved from the Northeast, from a city of 8 million rooting for the New York Yankees to a Southern town of 800 where my new high school team was the Southland Rebels. This would be the last time I would be in New York for over 40 years.
In September, I traveled to Long Island and was able to have dinner with one of my cousins and his wife. I had no idea what he looked like, because all my memories were of a very young teenager. But as soon as he walked in the door, I knew him. He looked just like his father, and he said I looked like my Dad. As we talked that evening over fantastic Italian food I noticed that some of his wording, mannerisms, even the way he held his head were just like his dad’s and that he and I shared some of those same things. I’ve called them “aBrantthing”. Between us there was a family resemblance.
For those of us who claim to follow Jesus, there should be a family resemblance between each of us and God and Jesus. We should not look like the people around us, but we should be uniquely different and by our look we should be part of God’s family.
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in the knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Knowing Jesus is to transform us from what we are into the image of He who created us. Being a Christian means we are to be Christ like. We are to have the family of God resemblance.
Do who do you resemble in your physical family?
And who do you resemble in the Spiritual family?
My friend Juan Monroy doesn’t like to talk about age. “Man is not chronology,” he says. “Man is biology. Age is just a number.”
I won’t give away Juan’s age, but I will say that he was born before the stock market crash that brought about the Great Depression. And he has had an amazing life. Juan has been imprisoned three times for being a Christian. He was expelled from his native country for the same crime. He has shared a taxi with a Nobel prize winner and had coffee with a king. He has written dozens of books, preached on five continents, and baptized thousands of people.
A defender of religious freedom, Juan helped found Amnesty International. He has helped found churches in Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea, and the United States. Living in Madrid, he travels several times a year to the Americas to preach and to lecture in universities.
There’s one topic that Juan likes even less than the discussion of age: retirement. Juan says, “God called me to preach, and that’s what I will do until he decides to call me home.”
His story reminds me of a character in the Bible, a man named Caleb. When God’s people were about to enter the Promised Land, Caleb and eleven other men were sent to spy out the land. Ten of the spies came back saying that there was no way that the Israelites could conquer the people of that land; Caleb was one of the two who showed faith in God’s promises and God’s power.
Then we see Caleb 45 years later, at the age of 85, ready to receive the land that God had promised him. When asked which part of the Promised Land he wanted for his own, Caleb replied:
“Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Joshua 14:12)
Caleb could have asked for part of the land that had already been conquered or some place where the battles would be easy. Instead, he asked for an area where the rest of God’s armies had been unable to drive out their enemies. Caleb didn’t want a place to retire; he wanted to be a part of advancing God’s Kingdom.
I pray that my life may ever be focused on what I can do, not what I can stop doing. I want to be like my friend Juan. I want to be like Caleb. Even if the effects of age force me to limit my activities, may I ever be seeking ways to serve the Lord.
Give me this hill country. May I serve God faithfully until the end.
How about you?
You see them often in large, but very close, families. You hear them among the laughter, the excited conversations, and the greetings when they enter the room. Nicknames. Special names given by people who love them. Nicknames given to special people because they are loved. Everyone in my Dad’s extended family had nicknames. I can still remember as a child wondering when I would get mine. It was a rite of passage in that family. Getting your special nickname showed you belonged, that they accepted you, and that you belonged.
Some were obviously ironic: the really large man called “Tiny.” Some were obvious: lots of athletes are called “Hands,” or “Speedy.” Others clearly affectionate: “Jody Babe,” “Honey.” Mine was “Little Joe,” because I looked just like my Dad looked.
Nicknames are special names, names for people who are loved and belong, names given from people who love you.
Names like the one God wants to give you.
It is a promise from Jesus given to a group of Christians living in a town called Pergamum. And it is a promise to all those who overcome this world because of their faith in Jesus. God is going to give us a white stone with a new name written on it. A name known only to God. Our secret nickname given to us by someone who loves us.
A name that only believers in Jesus get to receive.
It thrills me to know that God has given me a new name because of my faith in Jesus.
You can get one too. The God that made you, that loves you, and that wants you to belong to him forever has a special name for you. All you have to do is believe in the One who has overcome this world. Believe in the One who died and now lives.
“You’ll need to go in first.”
Those weren’t the words I wanted to hear. It was about 3:00 in the morning on a windy, rainy night. I was standing in front of our language institute in Córdoba, Argentina. A middle-of-the-night phone call had yanked me out of bed; now I was in the company of two police officers, looking at the open garage door.
“You’ll need to go in first,” one of the officers said, “Our regulations don’t allow us to enter the property until the owner is inside.”
It was a sad reality that people were more worried about what police officers might steal than they were about the crimes that might be prevented. That’s why the department had those regulations. But that wasn’t my concern that night.
Twice in the preceding months I’d had someone point a gun at me, demanding money. One of those times had been inside the very building we were looking at. Now these policemen wanted me to go in before they did!
Fortunately, it was a false alarm. Someone hadn’t close the door well, and the wind blew it open. But those were some tense moments.
In the Old Testament, when God’s people were about to enter the Promised Land, God repeated a promise over and over: I will go before you. I will fight your battles. I will drive out the people from the land where you are going to live.
I don’t want a God who stays behind while I go first. I don’t want a God who waits until I’m in trouble and then comes to my rescue. I want a God that goes ahead of me. I want a God that I can follow, one who will lead me the way I should go.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1–4)
That’s the kind of God I want. That’s the kind of God I have. He doesn’t say, “You go first.” He says, “Come, follow me.”
Dramatic conversion stories get attention! A man full of demons becomes an evangelist. A woman with a checkered past leads a whole village to follow Jesus. Sinners, bad people, and evil doers need Jesus. But what about the good people? There are people I know who are nice to others, help those in need, and live moral lives. They live this way without Jesus. So do they really need him? It is not as if there will be some dramatic change in the way they act.
If you are one of those good people wondering if you really need Jesus, here is a story for you. It is from the book of Acts, and it is about a man named Cornelius. He was devout and God-fearing. He gave generously to those in need and prayed multiple times every day. He was a good man. God heard his prayers and sent a believer to him to tell the story of Jesus. Cornelius was so impressed that he and many of his family and friends became Christians.
He was a better man than most, and still needed Jesus. And here is why…
No one is good enough to measure up to God. God is perfect. You may be good, but you are not perfect. So are you good enough to live in the presence of God forever? You may be really good by the standards of the people around you. You may be better than most people. But you are not heaven material. No one is that good. Except God. And his Son Jesus.
Which is why Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus said no one would get to the Father except by him. No one. Jesus is the way. He is truth. He is life. One way to God, and it is not determined by how good we are.
So if you are one of the really good people in this world, I am thankful for you. I appreciate that the world is a better place because you are in it. But you still need Jesus. Just like Cornelius. God made sure Cornelius connected with someone who could help him know Jesus. God still works today. Maybe that is why you are reading this article. I would like to help you know the Jesus that is the way to God for all us.
His story is recorded in Hebrew, Christian and Islamic literature. All three religions consider him a prophet of God Almighty. He is remembered for the fish story more than his persuasiveness to the citizens of a city.
His story is told in the book of Jonah.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” Jonah 1:1-2
And though the three days in the fish has become the most remembered of his exploits, it is his work in Nineveh that has elevated his stature. Nineveh was located on the east side of the Tigris River in Assyria and was one of the greatest cities of Mesopotamia. It was here that Jonah preached God’s message: Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown. Jonah 3:4. And the people and their king believed God.
Then God saw their works; that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. Jonah 3:10
The book of Jonah leaves the glum prophet outside the city, but secular history notes that Jonah remained in Nineveh for the remainder of his life. He is said to have become the Spiritual leader to the citizens there. And when he died, the people built his burial tomb so he could always watch over the city he helped save. Over the centuries the tomb became a complex of buildings visited by pilgrims of all faiths.
On the west bank of the Tigris another city grew, eventually jumping across the river and encompassing the old city of Nineveh. The new city is now Mosul in the country of Iraq.
This past July, the militant group ISIS destroyed Jonah’s tomb because according to them it had become a “place of apostasy.”
Jonah is not remembered for his birth place and burial tomb, but because he finally did what God directed him to do. And the people he talked to responded to God’s call.
What will you be remembered for?
Do you help deliver God’s call to others?
It was going to be a big moment: the first live broadcast of a giant panda giving birth. These popular animals, considered an endangered species, have a very low birth rate in the wild; this makes captive breeding programs extremely important. The broadcast of a live birth would be an important milestone.
Then the event was cancelled. To their chagrin, the staff at the Chengdu Breeding Research Centre discovered that the female panda had apparently faked her pregnancy.
Apparently the panda had noticed that pregnant females received extra food, rooms with air conditioning, and round-the-clock pampering; she was smart enough to imitate the symptoms of pregnancy in order to receive such special treatment. Shortly after being moved to the maternity ward, the panda’s vital signs returned to normal.
If you can’t trust a panda, who can you trust?
When I was growing up in West Texas, Sunday was church day. We had “blue laws” that limited what retail business could be done on that day. And everyone was expected to go to church. In fact, it was hard to have much success in business or in politics if you weren’t seen as a churchgoer.
Times have changed. A lot of people still go to church, but a growing number don’t. Some of that reflects a decline in faith, but I’m guessing that some of it is due to a decline in faking. Since church attendance is no longer an expected behavior, a lot of those who went “just to be seen” no longer feel the need to be there.
I once heard a preacher say, “The Christian life is a simple thing to fake.” And that’s very true. Go to church on Sunday, avoid major public sins, and everyone around will consider you a fine upstanding Christian.
Everyone, that is, except God. You can fool me. You can’t fool him. The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Rather than trying to fake the Christian life, let me encourage you instead to try to live the Christian life. Give yourself completely over to God and discover the rewards that only he can give.
Faking Christianity can score points with your friends and neighbors. Living the Christian life can fill your life with purpose and meaning, giving you a powerful hope for the future.
Don’t fake it. Live it.
She was nobody. A nameless woman in a sea of people. A woman with a secret: she had a gynecological problem that caused her to bleed continually. Under Jewish law, anyone that touched her would be ceremonially unclean. So she hid in the crowd, seeking anonymity and isolation.
Jesus was with Jairus, an important man in the community, a ruler of the synagogue. They were on an urgent mission to save Jairus’ daughter, who was gravely ill.
The woman wanted to be healed as well. She had heard of Jesus and the miracles he had done. She knew that no holy man would touch her on purpose… they wouldn’t want to defile themselves in that way. She would have to find a way to be healed in secret.
The gospel of Mark tells the story:
“When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” (Mark 5:27–29)
The woman’s plan was ruined, however, because Jesus realized what had happened. He stopped to find out who had been healed. When he discovered the woman, he told her:
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:34)
The Greek word that is translated “healed” can also mean “saved.” Your faith has saved you; go in peace and be free! Those are words that anyone would love to hear from Jesus.
Have you ever felt like you had no right to ask God for anything? Or maybe you thought that others would judge you and reject you if they knew your secret? Does it seem like Jesus has something to offer others, but nothing for you?
You can have peace. You can be free. You can be made whole.
Jesus can do that for you. You don’t have to be rich enough, nor good enough. You don’t have to be socially acceptable. You don’t have to fix your problems first, nor get your life in order ahead of time.
You need to have faith. You need to reach out to Jesus and let his cleansing touch bring you God’s peace and freedom.
I’d love to share with you how to reach out to Jesus, how to let his power set you free. Write to me at email@example.com or read the article “Invited Into The Family” on our www.hopeforlife.org website.
It’s a title you do not see often: Hooker to Hero. But it is a true story from a long time ago. Her name was Rahab and she made her living as a prostitute. She lived in the city of Jericho at the time when God was leading his people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. God promised them the fertile land of Canaan and Jericho was one of the cities they would need to destroy to take the land.
Joshua, the Israelite leader, sent two spies into Jericho to gather information about the city. They met Rahab the Prostitute. She gave them information, hid them from the Jericho police, and helped them escape the city. In exchange, the spies promised to spare her and her family when God delivered Jericho. She did this because she believed the stories she had heard about the one true God. She believed that his people were going to take the city. They did, and the spies kept their promise and spared Rahab and her family.
She became part of the community of God’s people, eventually marrying an Israelite and having a family. And she is one of the ancestors of Jesus. She was a prostitute, a liar, a schemer, and a pagan. She was courageous, loved her family, and she believed God. She is listed in the Bible as a hero of faith.
So why write about her on a website like this? Because it may be that you are reading this and you desperately need hope in your life. You know it is a site about Jesus. You may believe – or deep down want to believe – that the things you have heard about God and Jesus are true. You want to believe someone would love you enough to die for you. You want to believe there is a life of hope, peace, joy, and purpose… even for someone like you. Even if you do not believe you are good enough. Even if you have done things you are ashamed of, lived a life that left you feeling guilty. So you are reading this wishing and hoping it could be true for you.
Rahab is your good news story: Hooker to Hero. None of us are good enough to earn God’s love. And none of us are so bad that his love cannot change us. Not me. Not you.