Category » Hope
I don’t always appreciate modern art. That is, I sometimes find it difficult to find the “art” for all of the “modern.” It doesn’t make sense to me.
Apparently, I’m not the only one. In an art gallery in Italy, an employee of a cleaning firm discarded random bits of newspaper, cardboard, and cookies, not realizing that it was a display of contemporary art. The display was valued at 10,000 euros (over $13,000), but lost all value when carted off with the rest of the trash.
Such things have happened before. In 2001, a collection of beer bottles, coffee cups, and ashtrays were thrown out of the Eyestorm Gallery in London. You guessed it… it was an exhibition by artist Damien Hirst. The same thing happened in 2004 with an exhibition in Berlin by artist Gustav Metzger.
It’s like the old saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Or in these cases, one man’s treasure was another man’s trash.
In the Old Testament, we read the story of Esau and Jacob. They were twins, but Esau had been born first and would receive the birthright, the extra share of the family inheritance that was given to the eldest son.
But Esau didn’t appreciate what he had. One day when he was very hungry, he sold his birthright to his brother for a single plate of food. (You can read that story in Genesis 25:29-34) As the Bible says, “Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25:34) That is, he didn’t value the family inheritance.
God sent his son Jesus to die for us. He sent him to die so that we could live. The offer of salvation is a precious treasure, yet some won’t recognize that. They’ll “despise” God’s offer, discarding this gift like yesterday’s trash.
What about you? Do you value what Jesus did for you? Do you treasure God’s salvation or will you throw it away?
The choice is yours.
Many different types of people read my articles. Some are believers in Jesus who are looking for encouragement and inspiration on their spiritual journey. But there are others reading this who want to know more about Jesus. Maybe you are curious about him, perhaps you wonder if he really is the hope for your life, or it may be that you wish you could believe but you just do not know how. You are not alone. In fact, there is a story in the Bible about a man like you.
He was a man who believed in God but did not understand about Jesus. He even traveled from his home in Africa all the way to Jerusalem to learn more. He read Scripture, but he did not really understand it. He needed help.
At the same time, there was a faithful follower of Jesus who was busy telling people the good news of salvation. When he told the story of Jesus, many believed him and became followers also. God had this man go to a desert road – a road the African was going to be traveling.
And they met on that road: the follower of Jesus and the man who wanted to know more.
So what does that have to do with you reading this article? I believe God still works to connect believers with those seeking answers. So if you are a believer reading this, God has placed you in a neighborhood for a reason. You may have friends that are looking for Jesus. Or there may be someone you work with who will be open to the story of Jesus. Just like the man from Africa was.
You may be one of those who is looking. The one who is curious. One who does not understand the Jesus story but would like to. And now God has put us together. I can help you.
A few months before his death, Mikhail Kalashnikov wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Kalashnikov wanted to know if he was responsible for all of the deaths caused by his greatest invention, the AK-47 assault rifle.
In the letter, Kalashnikov said, “The pain in my soul is unbearable. I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people’s lives, it means that I, Mikhail Kalashnikov, … am responsible for people’s deaths.”
Kalashnikov’s situation was unique, but his feelings were all too common. Many of us know that pain: remorse over something we’ve done in the past. We blame ourselves for something we did or didn’t do. We see the consequences of our words and our actions, and we wonder if there could ever be forgiveness for someone like us.
I’ll state a few things quite frankly:
- You are a sinner. You have done things in the past that were wrong. Things that hurt others. Things that hurt you. Things that hurt your relationship with God. I can say that quite confidently, for we are all sinners. (Romans 3:23)
- God wants to forgive you. He wants to wipe your sin away, remove it “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12)
- God sent his son to die for your sin. And my sin. And the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
- Through Jesus Christ, you can receive forgiveness for any and every sin that you have committed. (1 John 1:9)
In the New Testament, we read of a man named Paul. He was a devout Jew who thought that Christianity was a false religion. Because of that, he persecuted Christians, seeing to it that they were imprisoned and put to death. Then he had a vision of the risen Jesus and learned that he was mistaken.
A man like that would have every right to believe that his sins could never be forgiven. Yet God sent a Christian teacher named Ananias to tell Paul how to receive forgiveness and begin a new life. After telling Paul about Jesus, Ananias said:
“And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)
It doesn’t matter what you have done. Your sins can be washed away. You can start over. God will cleanse you and give you a new life.
Don’t suffer as Kalashnikov did. Let God wipe away your past.
I will admit it right up front. I like my old clothes. I appreciate the fact that I am comfortable in shirts and pants that are familiar. When I get new clothes as a gift, I say “thank-you” and then hang them in the back of my closet. Recently my wife cleaned out my closet and my clothes drawer. She threw away some of my favorite shirts. I could not find my comfortable pants. And my dresser draw was full of new underwear and socks.
So there was not really much choice. I was forced into wearing a new wardrobe. And I was shocked. I liked the new things. They felt better than the old stuff. They looked better too. My new shirts were even comfortable. I never would have believed it. I had gotten so used to the old clothes that I did not even realize how bad they were. I thought frayed cuffs and pants that could not hold a crease were normal. My wife told me I would love having new clothes. I just did not believe it.
Thinking that my old clothes were the only way to dress was wrong. I had been deceived. I did not know what I was missing.
Life is like that sometimes. Old patterns and making the same old choices. It seems normal. It may be we believe everyone lives that way. It is comfortable because we do not know there is a different way. You live so long with guilt and shame that feeling useless and worthless seems normal, even comfortable.
Until someone helps us to see what we are missing. Life with purpose and hope. Life lived with peace and joy.
Jesus offers new clothes…new life. It is a life that is better than you ever dreamed. And it is real.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting closer to that “Three score and ten” mark, not that 70 automatically denotes the end of one’s life, but I’ve been thinkin’ about Heaven, a lot, lately.
The Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel both wrote about what they saw when they glanced into Heaven. But it’s the New Testament writer, John, who tells the details of Heaven in his Revelation.
From the fourth chapter through the last chapter, 22, John tells what he saw in heaven.
In the middle of Heaven is a throne and God is sitting there surrounded by 24 elders sitting on smaller thrones. Angels and other beings, some with wings and different animal heads, fly around the area. Jesus is there appearing as a lamb whose throat was slit as a sacrifice. Also present are those who have been faithful to God and Jesus, where on their foreheads a new name is placed.
There is also a promise in Revelation 7:9-12 that says the followers of the Lamb will serve him:
Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His Temple. And he who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore, nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, or any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will Shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
That promise is repeated in Revelation, chapter 21. There Heaven is described as a large city, with jewels and pearls for its foundation and gates. Gold is used for the streets and Jesus is the light.
Then the final promise, that God’s servants will see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads. Revelation 22:4.
I’ve been thinkin’ about Heaven, a lot, lately. And I’ve decided that I don’t care what it looks like, or if we have to wait a1000 years, or if everything I know will be made new. Heaven is where God and Jesus are and that’s where I want to be.
He became king at age 16. He ruled for 52 years. And he was a very good king.
His name was Uzziah, and we read his story in the Bible, in the book of 2 Chronicles, chapter 26. We can read of how he was a religious man, trying to do what God wanted. Because of that, God blessed the king with great success, militarily and economically. Everything he did turned out well.
Until he got too proud. Then Uzziah decided that his power as king wasn’t great enough, that he wanted the power the priests had as well. When he tried to go against God’s law and make an offering in the temple, God gave Uzziah a terrible disease. The king was immediately removed from public life and died in shame a few years later.
Can you imagine how his followers felt the terrible day when someone said, “Did you hear about King Uzziah?” Can you imagine the heartbreak and the disillusionment? Great and powerful King Uzziah was now disgraced and dying King Uzziah.
Some of you know the story. You’ve read it in the newspaper: the pastor caught in sexual sin, the church leader found to be embezzling funds, the public figure with a drug problem.
Others have lived the story. Someone that you believed in failed in a terrible way. Your role model turned out to have feet of clay. A person you trusted betrayed that trust.
What do you do at times like that? What do you do when it’s not a politician, but someone in the church. Do you blame God? Turn your back on religion? Leave the church?
We know how one young man reacted back in Uzziah’s day. We read about it in the book of Isaiah, chapter 6:
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.” (Isaiah 6:1)
I don’t think the timing is coincidental. I think it took Uzziah’s death for Isaiah to really see the Lord, to recognize who the real king was.
Who is between you and God? Who are you letting be bigger than God in your life? Who keeps you from really seeing the Lord?
When someone fails you, look up. When the church fails you, look up. When Isaiah did, he found a wondrous Lord who would never disappoint.
You’ll find the same.
I have a brand new calendar on my desk. I am filling it in with appointments, notes, and reminders. I look forward to the things that will happen this year. As exciting as it was to get my new calendar in place, I found myself wondering what to do with last year’s calendar. There were so many wonderful memories on those pages. God did some amazing things last year. I saw appointments with people who ended up giving their lives to Jesus. I saw notes on hospital visits, Bible classes, and preaching assignments.
It was then that I realized I could spend the rest of the day enjoying the good things from the year before. I could end up spending several days/weeks/months living in the past. There were some good days last year. I could live in the past. Of course, then I would end up ten years from now still talking about what I had done a decade ago.
And I found that there were bad days on last year’s calendar. Some recorded, some not. There were missed opportunities, poor choices, and bad decisions. It would be possible to spend days/weeks/months lost in the regret, shame, and guilt of those days from the past that were not so good.
So I decided to throw away last year’s calendar. I would remember the good times with thankfulness, but I would start with a new calendar to record the wonderful things that would happen this year. And I would hope to learn from the past mistakes, but I would not let them keep me from doing better this year.
Then it dawned on me. My calendar was a representation of life as a Christian. If your past has shame, guilt, and regret – you need to know that God offers forgiveness and healing. He offers new life. He lets you start new. Your future is full of plans that God has prepared for you to do. Healing and forgiveness for past, purpose for you present, hope for your future.
Nelson Mandela took a bit of proverbial wisdom and made it his: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Others had said it before him, but Mandela lived it out in a public way, showing nothing but forgiveness toward those who kept him in prison. When inaugurated as President of South Africa, Mandela even invited one of the prison guards to the ceremony.
Studies have shown resentment to be harmful to our health, while forgiveness has the opposite effect. A 2004 Harvard study found five principal benefits to forgiveness:
- Reduced stress
- Better heart health
- Stronger relationships
- Reduced pain
- Greater happiness
Jesus offered more powerful reasons. One is that we forgive others because God forgave us. He told the story of a man who was forgiven an impossible debt who then had another man thrown into prison because of a much smaller debt. God is willing to forgive every one of our sins; how can we then turn around and be unforgiving toward others?
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14–15)
Forgiveness is good for you. Resentment is harmful. The choice should be easy, yet we often find ourselves keeping a record of the wrongs done against us.
Let me encourage you to let them go. Forgive. Move on with your life, focusing on the future and not the past. Find the peace that God can bring to your life when you’re willing to forgive.
One of our dogs is a tattletale. She is small, cute, and has a very loud excitable bark when something sets her off. And nothing sets her off like when our Golden Retriever does something he should not. If he sticks his nose in the trash, she gets about six inches from his face and starts barking as loud as she can. If he puts one paw on the couch, same thing. If he does anything he is not supposed to do, then she lets him, us, and everyone in earshot know about it.
You have known people like that. They want to be sure everyone knows about every mistake you have ever made. It is as if their greatest joy in life is to see someone get in trouble. Tattletales want to get people in trouble, see people “get what is coming to them”, and make sure everyone knows about it. You see them among children on the playground, and among employees in the workplace.
There is even a tattletale who wants to be sure God gives you what you deserve for all the wrong choices in your life. A prophet named Zechariah tells about it in the book he wrote in the Bible. He describes how Satan is standing before God to accuse one of the priests of God. But before he can tell on him, God cuts him off. God tells Satan that he has snatched this man out of the fire. God reminds this priest that he has taken away his sins. He has his dirty clothes removed and is then dressed in clean clothes
That is not just a story about a priest. It is a story about me too. I should be thrown into the fires of hell. Satan will be at the judgment day to be sure and tell God everything I did wrong. He will want me to get what is coming to me. And God will stop him. God has taken away my sin because of Jesus. He has snatched me out of the fire. Satan the tattletale cannot tell God anything he does not already know about my life. But because of Jesus, I do not get what I deserve. I get mercy.
So can you.
2014 began at midnight on January first, and that New Year was ushered in with toasts, hugs, kisses and hopes of things being better. With a New Year there comes a sense of a “fresh start”, “do over”, “a clean slate”, of a “new day dawning.”
Everything is NEW in a new year. There is a sense of optimism that old mistakes will be forgotten and new opportunities will result in positive progress in life’s journey forward.
We resolve not to revert to old ways but to follow a new path that will offer rewards.
I am reminded that the Hebrew scholar turned Christian, Saul of Tarsus, eventually known as Paul the Apostle, explained being a Christian much like entering a new year. He wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (II Cor. 5:17)
Being a follower of Jesus makes one’s life NEW and notice the words that said old things have passed away. When you make that decision to follow Jesus and are baptized, then your “old things” do not matter to God anymore; you are NEW.
Doesn’t sound possible? Just look at the life of the man who wrote those words. In the book of Acts where his life is chronicled starting in the 8th chapter, Paul hated Christians, went throughout the region putting them in prison and in at least one case consented to a man’s death. Then he saw Jesus and he arose and was baptized….immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that ‘He is the Son of God’ (Acts 9:1-22) Paul was made new and his old things passed away.
And once you’re “made new” you don’t have to do it again every New Year. That’s the real NEW of New Years.
So what old things do you want to pass away? If you are made new, what will or did you change? Maybe it’s time to make that commitment and be NEW. What do you think?