Category » Hope
There are times when your entire world is turned upside down. Times when the pain is unbearable and the future seems unfathomable. When God did not answer your prayer and you wonder if he even heard your cries. Events that change your life forever. The things that make tomorrow an impossible dream. And one of the worst of these is the death of a child. It does not seem to matter if they die in the womb or as adults in an accident. Death strikes at any age. And parents have to bury children.
Nothing will ever be the same. Questions fill your every waking hour. How will I ever go on? How can I face tomorrow… and the day after that … and the day after that? Why did my child die? Why are other children spared? Where was God? Where is my child? What did I do to deserve this? So many questions and so few answers. Having dealt with far too many families in situations like this, I have learned that I do not have the wisdom to give answers.
But I do think I know where there is an answer. God speaks into our lives through a story in the Bible. It is the story of when King David and Bathsheba lost their infant child. David fasted, prayed, and pleaded with God to heal his sick child. Probably begging God not to hold his sin of adultery against the child. But the baby died. So David got up, cleaned up, and ate. He went on with life. When asked how that was possible, he said that the baby was not coming back to him… but that he could go to where his child was.
So here are three things that are certain.
- You are not the only one to experience this. It is a world where death happens and evil exists. God does not always do what we want. I do not know why because I am not God. And that is a good thing because there has to be someone bigger and stronger than me in control. So God’s people chose to believe in spite of the pain.
- Life goes on. You may want it to stop. You may even wish that it would, but it will not. So those of us in God’s family keep on living. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time … because we believe.
- This is not the end. Christians know that we will see our children again. Death is not the end. It is only final for the short time we are on this earth. It is not final forever.
So if you have wondered where answers are when there seem to be no answers… listen to God. If you want to live through the darkest night imaginable… hold on to faith in God. If you want to live forever with your children… believe in Jesus.
The questioner had posed his inquiry in order to ridicule Jesus, but the response reframed the responsibilities to others then and now.
The story is found in the gospel of Luke, the tenth chapter. And it, as is always the case when Jesus speaks, has numerous facets. It’s called the story of the Good Samaritan, about the disenfranchised traveler, who when others didn’t want to get involved, took care of a robbery victim who had been left for dead. The story begins in verse 29 and concludes at verse 37.
As Jesus finishes the scenario, he asks the questioner who was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” The acknowledgement was made that it was “he who showed mercy on him.” The questioner was Jewish and racism was so vicious, that he couldn’t even say the word Samaritan.
It was Jesus who then said, “Go and Do Likewise.”
The direction from Jesus was that the questioner help those he came across on his journey in life.
There is an aspect of personal responsibility to help those who are in need. It is not a corporate demand: it is a personal admonition.
For us in the 21st century religious community, we are used to having the church, a corporate body, develop a program or ministry to deal with just such situations.
Yet this parable, or teaching story is focused on one man who personally, intimately and immediately did something. Thus the lesson is that as followers of Jesus, we need to go and do likewise as we travel over our own roads of life and help those in need as we come across them.
What do you do, actually do, to help your neighbor?
How would you like to stay somewhere built for royalty? For a mere $35000 per month, you can rent a 15,000 square foot castle in New York City that was made for a king… the King of Kings.
In 1928, a religious order called the Outer Court of the Order of the Living Christ decided to build Jesus a place from which to reign here on earth. For thirty years, no one lived in the house, but members of the order kept the house clean and dusted, every ready for Jesus’ return. Eventually, they abandoned the house and the surrounding property; now it’s privately owned and available for rent.
I share something with those misguided believers from the 1920s… I’m also doing my best to prepare a place for Jesus to live. Where we differ is that I don’t think that Jesus plans to come live in a mansion. In fact, I know where he wants to live: in my heart. What’s more, he’s living there now.
The apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Rome:
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:9–10)
Imagine it. Christ living in me. He could have a mansion in the Bronx or any palace he chose, but he has decided to live in me. He has made a home in my heart, giving me life, guiding me in the way I should go. My job is to follow his lead and become like him, become like the one who lives in me.
Do you want to know more about Jesus, more of how he lived here on earth, and more about what he expects of us? Sign-up for the “Discovering Jesus” course; the link is at the bottom of this page. It will guide you through what the Bible teaches us about Jesus. Learn about him, become his disciple, and he will come to live in you, as well.
One thing is true for each of us: we have not done everything that we should have done and we have all done things we should not have done. Not only have these failures resulted in guilt, shame, and remorse… but they have also come between us and God. We are separated from God because of our bad decisions and wrong choices – our sin.
But you do not have to stay estranged from God. He loves you so much that he took the initiative to bring you back to himself. He has taken action to restore your relationship. God has made it possible for you to live with him forever.
So if you have ever had that sense that you and God are estranged, or that your life has not really been lived as well as it could have been – then I have good news for you. In fact, it is more than good news, it is the best news ever. This message of good news is explained clearly in your Bible. You can read one announcement of this news in the book of II Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 16-21.
Here it is:
- God does not count our sins against us if we are in Christ. If you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus, your sins will never be held against you. You are forgiven.
- This is possible because God made Jesus – the one who had no sin – to be sin for us. Jesus took your sin on himself and paid for those sins when he died on the cross. This enables us to be restored to a right relationship with God.
- So we are reconciled to God through Jesus. We are brought back to God by his gift of love in letting his Son die for our sins on the cross.
So if you have never believed this good news, I am begging you to be reconciled to God through Jesus. You can be in a right relationship with God.
Jonah didn’t like Assyria. Assyria was a cruel bully that dominated the surrounding nations. One of those nations was Israel, Jonah’s homeland. Jonah didn’t like Assyria.
Jonah didn’t like Assyrians. He probably didn’t know any of them personally, but they had a reputation for being violent and profane. They were his enemies. Jonah didn’t like Assyrians.
One day, God told Jonah to go preach in Nineveh the Assyrian capital (located where Mosul, Iraq, is today). Jonah didn’t want to go. Not because he was scared, but because he didn’t want God to warn the Assyrians before punishing them. Jonah was afraid the people would repent, and God would spare the Assyrians.
Jonah didn’t like Assyrians. So he tried to run away from God, making a run to the coast, and heading out to sea. God sent a storm that almost capsized the boat Jonah was in, and Jonah convinced the sailors to throw him overboard to save the ship. They reluctantly did so, and the storm stopped.
God didn’t let Jonah drown. He sent a big fish to swallow Jonah and bring him back to dry land. Then God again told Jonah to go preach in Nineveh.
This time Jonah went. He announced God’s judgment against the city, and the people believed him. They responded by turning to God, seeking his mercy. God listened to the people and spared the city.
Jonah was mad. He didn’t like Assyria. He didn’t like Assyrians. And frankly, he didn’t care too much for God’s mercy. He told God:
“O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Amazing. Jonah was so mad he wanted to die. Why? Because God spared the people he didn’t like.
When Paul wrote Timothy about the need to pray for all people, he said,
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
(1 Timothy 2:3–4)
So are you like Jonah? Are there people you dislike so much that you don’t want God to have mercy on them? Or are you willing to pray that all people come to know the truth?
Take some time today to pray for everyone… especially the people you don’t like.
The Bible has some interesting things in it. One of my favorite passages is in I Peter, chapter 2, where Peter writes about dogs, pigs, vomit, and mud. When I was a kid I liked this verse because I thought it was cool that this was in the Bible. As I got older, I was impressed the way Scripture uses common events to make a point. After all, pigs do go right back into the mud after you wash them off and dogs do stick their nose right back into their vomit.
Those two actions make absolutely no sense to us. Why would a dog be so interested in vomit? What is this compulsion pigs have to roll in mud? Peter thought these observations had a spiritual point. He wrote about people who escaped the evil of this world through knowing Jesus and then go back to it. Just like dogs and vomit and pigs and mud. In fact, Peter says when a Christian turns his back on Jesus, it would have been better for him never to have known the way of righteousness.
This is a strong warning to Christians not to return to the ways of an evil world. It is a vivid reminder not to quit on Jesus. But it is also instructive for those thinking about becoming a follower of Jesus. It is a serious decision.
There is no better news than the fact that God loves you so much that he sent his son Jesus to bring you into relationship with him. Your life will have joy, peace, hope, and purpose. You will make a difference in this world, and then live forever with God.
It is worth everything, but be all in. There is no turning back.
A fourth of the way through his Gospel, Luke uses the seventh chapter to have Jesus, in words and actions, leave little doubt that he is God
The chapter opens with him healing a servant from a distance, then he raises a son from the dead as his corpse was being carried to the grave yard. In fact, Jesus himself describes the activities by saying:
that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the
Gospel preached to them. Luke 7:22.
Jesus did a lot of miracles in the course of two days, things that man could do only with God’s help. In fact, some of the Old Testament prophets did similar things, with God’s help.
It is at the end of the chapter, that he does something only God can do.
The story has Jesus eating at the home of one of the religious leaders, when a woman from the city begins to wash Jesus’ feet. This woman had a reputation. Jesus knew this, the religious leader knew, everyone else knew, that she was a sinner. Actually that probably should be spelled SINNER.
I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for
She loved much….Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are
Forgiven….Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.
And with those words, spoken out loud for all to hear, Jesus claims he is God. Only God can forgive sin, his followers couldn’t, the religious leader couldn’t, the woman herself couldn’t, only God could and can.
Only God through Jesus can forgive you, SINNER!
So the questions are simple to ask but difficult to answer:
Are you a SINNER?
What do you need to do be have your sins forgiven by God?
Wu Chen is not a trusting man. Especially when it comes to his money. So instead of investing his life savings or putting them in a bank account, Chen chose to bury the cash. He took all of the savings from his work as a fishermen plus a pension payment he had received and put the money in a plastic bag. Then he buried the bag near his home in the Sichuan Province of China.
When Chen dug up the bag five years later, he discovered his error. The bag he had used wasn’t airtight. Moisture had gotten in and most of the cash was rotten. Fortunately for the distraught fisherman, the untrustworthy local bank was willing to exchange about half the bills for usable ones.
The story reminds me of something that Jesus taught his followers:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19–21)
Notice that Jesus isn’t just talking about how to keep your money safe. He’s talking about how to keep your heart safe. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So instead of burying your money in the ground, you should be storing up treasure in heaven. How do you do that? The apostle Paul explains:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17–19)
If you want to be rich, it’s not that hard. Do good. Be rich in good deeds. Be generous. And be willing to share.
In that way, you’ll gather treasure that no one can steal and nothing can destroy. Here’s to your future prosperity!
I freely admit that my New Year’s Resolution this year is borrowed from someone else. I wanted a very simple goal for this year. I decided to select one thing a make it my 2016 focus. I found it in my Bible. It was stated by the Apostle Paul in a letter to the church in Philippi, and it is my one resolution for the year. Here it is:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
The resolution is Jesus and here are the three things that he is determined to do. These are good resolutions for all of us.
- Forget the past. Let go of your past sins and poor choices. God has forgiven you in Christ. Your past does not have to determine your future. Let go of guilt, shame, and humiliation. Stop hanging on to past hurts. You cannot look forward when you are focused on the past.
- Go for the prize. We are going home to heaven. Do not quit. Do not get distracted. Do not lose sight of where you are going. Stay on the road that leads to where God has called you.
- Press On. Choose faith over fear, joy over depression, hope over despair, forgiveness over revenge, and love over hate. Be bold and radical this year in following Jesus. Give generously. Pray boldly. Read God’s Word daily. Share your faith. Represent Jesus in your world. Share your faith.
One thing: Jesus. Three things to do: forget the past, focus on heaven, and press on till you get there.
I know that some of you reading this have not yet fully bought in to following Jesus. Why not make this is the year to hear the call of God in Jesus.
King Herod had moved a mountain. When he constructed the Herodium fortress, he wanted to be able to see the Dead Sea to the south and the temple in Jerusalem to the north. So Herod took dirt from one hill and used that dirt to build up another nearby. Like all of Herod’s construction projects, it was an impressive feat, requiring the work of 20,000 slaves over a period of twelve years.
The Herodium dominated the landscape south of Jerusalem. It was part fortress and part palace. The walls were built in three concentric rings, with a seven-story tower at each point of the compass. Within the upper complex there were luxurious living quarters, a Roman theater, a bathhouse, and banquet rooms. There was a large walkway, as well as courtyards which would have been filled with flowers and ornamental plants.
The only access to this upper area was a grand stairway described as having two hundred steps made of the choicest marble. This made the top of the fortress easily defensible, while allowing the residents access to the lower complex.
The lower Herodium had a huge pool, with an island in the center. Water was brought in via aqueducts to allow for swimming and the occasional re-enactment of naval battles. The pool was surrounded by elaborate gardens and a horse-racing track. Between the pool and the mountain, there was another palace and a large building which may have served as Herod’s tomb.
To the west, there was a small town filled with shepherds and craftsmen. The residents couldn’t escape the shadow of Herod’s grand palace. If you lived in Bethlehem, you knew the Herodium. It was a constant reminder of the power of the one they called the king of the Jews
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)
The Herodium lies in ruins today. Herod is long dead and almost forgotten. But the baby that was born in a stable in the little town of Bethlehem is remembered, loved, and worshipped.
Many today are impressed by the rich and powerful, as they were in Herod’s day. But remember that the rightful King of the Jews wasn’t born in the palace on the manmade mountaintop but in a stable in tiny Bethlehem.