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He Chose Poorly

by on May.24, 2015, under Hope

The story of the founding of Apple Computers is legendary, how a couple of guys in a garage started the company that would change the computer industry. Almost everyone knows of Steve Jobs. And many have heard of Steve Wozniak. Not many remember Ronald Wayne, however.

Wayne helped Jobs and Wozniak start Apple; in fact, he wrote the document that formally created Apple. He soon got cold feet, however, and sold his stake in the company for $800. He eventually signed an agreement renouncing all claims against Apple, receiving a further compensation of $1500.

In 2013 it was estimated that Wayne’s stake in the company would have been worth approximately $35 billion. It’s value would be even greater today.

In the book of Genesis, we read about a man who sold his family rights for a plate of stew. His name was Esau. In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the writer refers to his story and says:

“See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.” (Hebrews 12:16–17)

I seriously doubt that you’ll ever make a financial mistake on the scale that Ronald Wayne did. And I doubt that you’ll give up your family fortune for a plate of food.

But do you value what God has given you the way you should? Do you remember that God made you to be a unique, special individual? Do you keep in mind that he loved you so much that he sent Jesus to die for you? Do you live knowing that he chose you to be his own special possession?

You can choose to get full value on God’s gift, receiving eternal life. Or you can squander what you’ve been given, and you’ll live forever with the consequences. Because, just like Ronald Wayne and just like Esau, you will reach a point where your poor choice can never be undone.

Choose God. Choose life. Choose salvation.

Do You Believe in Jesus?

by on May.17, 2015, under Hope

Almost everyone who sees this title will answer that yes they believe in Jesus.  It is something many people are convinced is true, and it is not.  They think once you acknowledge believing in Jesus, it surely means that you will be saved, you will not have to answer for your sins, and when you die you will go to heaven instead of hell.  Of course you believe. 

Or do you? 

Read these words of Jesus.

            But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

            Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Do you really believe in Jesus?

To really believe in Jesus is not an easy life.  It is a life that will not fit well with the majority of the people in our world.  To believe in Jesus is to live life the way Jesus lived.  It is to seek his will, to treat people the way he wants you to, to live as God asks you to.  It is to follow Jesus.

Many people will say they believe in Jesus yet never give him a thought.  They will claim belief while living any way they desire.  And all the while they are fooling themselves into thinking this is a belief that will save them.

Not according to what Jesus said.  It is an easy thing to affirm belief in Jesus.  It is a different matter entirely to follow him — to really believe in him.  Jesus was sent by a loving God to die for your sins so you could live forever.  Do not fool yourself into thinking it is enough to agree this is true.  Believing in Jesus is more than know about Jesus… real belief is to follow Jesus.  And real belief will save you. 




Thinking About Heaven…. Again

by on May.10, 2015, under Hope

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Heaven…again. I wonder why?

It could be because I’m older and facing my own mortality, that I am looking to those “end of days” things. Or it could be that in March I traveled outside of the United States, my third trip to Cuba, and again gained the perspective of how blessed I am compared to people who live on less than $20 a month. Or it could be that the members of our fellowship in Cuba are very passionate that their family and friends know and accept Jesus as Lord! It could be an accumulation of all of those things.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about Heaven….again. So this is what I think about:

  • All of us will have eternal life; it’s just a matter of where you will spend it. I want to be where God and Jesus are! I John 5:1-13
  • That the followers of Jesus will have different bodies with God’s name on our foreheads.
  • That there will be no death, no sorrow, or crying, or pain. Revelation 21:3-4
  • I don’t decide who goes to Heaven and I probably will be surprised who’s there. It’s God’s job to save people; if it were my job some of you should talk to me.
  • I personally believe that we will know our friends and family. I look forward to seeing my mom and dad again, talking with Peter so he can tell me how he got along with his mother-in-law, and meeting Chano Fernandez, Tony Fernandez’s dad and one of the first members of the church of Christ in Cuba.
  • And most of all, I want to claim the promise of seeing God’s face. And I think He will look at me and others and say “Welcome home my child.” Revelation 22:4

Yep, I’ve been thinking about Heaven… again. I have fewer days ahead of me than behind me and I recently have been reminded by those with fewer things than I, about having family and friends in Heaven with you.

I’ve been thinking about Heaven…again and I hope you, too, will think about being there with those you love. If you’re not sure if you or they will be seeing God’s face, talk to God and talk to them about Heaven.

So who do you want to go to Heaven and be there when you arrive? Why them individuals specifically?
I’ve been thinking about Heaven….again.

Dressing Down For God

by on May.03, 2015, under Hope

So what do you think of when someone says their clothes are designed for “glory and beauty”? A high-end fashion designer? An exclusive clothes boutique? A Jewish high priest?

You probably wouldn’t have chosen the last one, but the Bible says that was the idea behind the garments worn by the High Priest. He had an ornate robe. He wore a special tunic. He had a breastplate encrusted with precious stones. Like the other priests, he wore a turban, but his had a gold plate on the front with words proclaiming the holiness of his office.

There was only one High Priest at a time, according to the Law. And these special clothes were meant to impress others, reflecting his special standing among the people.

But there was one time a year when he dressed differently. One day a year he put on simple clothes, like a servant. That was when he was going into God’s presence, the place known as the Most Holy Place.

It was the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest offered sacrifices for his sins and those of his people. On that day, he would humble himself. He would get rid of the “glory and beauty.” He would dress himself with simple linen clothing, more in line with a servant than the High Priest. These were special clothes, used only for this occasion, but they were very plain.

Christians no longer have to have someone go into God’s presence for us. The New Testament tells us:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19–22)

What the High Priest used to do once a year, Christians can now do on a regular basis: enter the Most Holy Place. We can go into God’s presence.

But one thing hasn’t changed. Coming before God still requires that we take off our aspirations of “glory and beauty.” We don’t show off for God. We don’t try to impress him with who we are or what we’ve done. The Bible says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). It also tells us: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

You may be rich or powerful or beautiful or famous or extremely talented. But when you come to God, you take all that off. You humble yourself and say to him, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Revisionist History

by on Apr.26, 2015, under Hope

It happens all the time.  People often remember, or tell, a different version of events than what really happened.  Most people recognize that this happens.  Winners write the history, so they were always just, noble, and right.  Your great-grandparents walked ten miles to school in the snow – uphill both ways.  12,000 people claim to have witnessed a game in a stadium that only holds 8,000.  Everyone saw it coming; whatever it was.

It is called Revisionist History.   

The funny thing is that revisionist history always makes us look smarter, better, moral, and right.  No one does revisionist history to make himself look worse.  But the fact still remains that telling a different version of events does not change reality.  It does not in fact alter what was done, or the consequences, or the character of the people involved.

That is true about our sin as well.  No amount of revisionist history changes what you did.  The guilt and the consequences remain.  Unless…

Jesus is the one way to revise history.  And here is how he makes your past different.

  1.  The blood of Jesus takes away the guilt of your sin.  It is as if it never happened.
  2. Life in Jesus helps you to manage the consequences of your sin.  Relationships can be healed, your mess can become your message, and joy, peace, hope, and purpose can be yours.
  3. Jesus changes you.  You can become a different person than you have been.  God’s forgiveness, following Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit can make you into a new person.



The Elephant is Still an Elephant

by on Apr.19, 2015, under Hope

There’s an old story about six blind men who wanted to know what an elephant was like. They were allowed to touch a tame elephant and each described what he felt.

“This animal is like the pillar of a house,” said the first man after touching one of the legs of the elephant.

“No, it’s more like a rope,” said the second, who was grasping the tail.

“I’d say the elephant is like a thick tree branch,” argued the third blind man, who had encountered the trunk.

“You’re all confused,” proclaimed the fourth, touching the elephant’s ear, “An elephant is like a fan.”

“A fan?” said the fifth, “I should say not! This animal feels like a wall.” He was, of course, touching the animal’s belly.

The sixth man, with a hand on a tusk, could hardly contain himself. “You must be fools!” he cried. “The elephant is just like a spear.”

This story is often told to describe how our own experience limits how we view things. People with different perspectives can look at the same evidence and draw different conclusions.

But I think there’s something that we need to remember as we listen to this story. The elephant never stopped being an elephant. Despite what these men said, it wasn’t a pillar or a rope or a branch or a fan or a wall or a spear. It was an elephant.

When it comes to God, there’s also a lot of confusion. Some would argue that all viewpoints are valid, that the different religions in this world are just different understandings of the basic concepts.

The Bible doesn’t see it that way. The apostle Paul wrote:

“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” (1 Corinthians 8:4–6)

And Jesus himself said:

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

There are many opinions, many theories, and many philosophies. But there is an absolute truth: there is only one God and the only way to Him is through Jesus Christ.

You Have To Decide Who Jesus Is

by on Apr.12, 2015, under Hope

It is up to you to decide who Jesus is.  That may sound like a strange thing for a Christian to say, but it is true.  Even when Jesus was here on earth, there was quite a bit of discussion about who he really was.  Jesus himself sometimes asked who people said he was.  The answers were often that he was one of the Jewish prophets—Elijah perhaps, or maybe Jeremiah.  Some thought he might be his cousin, John the baptizer.  But Jesus wanted to know one more thing.  He asked his closest followers who they thought that he was.  Peter answered for them all when he said he believed him to be the Son of the Living God.

You have to decide who you believe Jesus to be.

You might believe he is a mythical figure that represents an idealistic moral code.  In other words, you can get some good advice about an ethical way to live.  Or you may believe he was a real person who led a religious movement that still has followers today.  Interesting, maybe even worth studying.  Neither of those options make him any different than dozens of other people who have lived on this earth or in our stories.

If that is who you believe Jesus to be, it really does not demand much from you.

But if you believe him to be the Son of God, it changes everything.  That conviction demands everything from you.  That would mean he really did die for you sins.  It would mean he really was raised from the dead.  Mythical people are not real, and good religious people who die have nothing to do with forgiveness of our sins.  If Jesus is the Son of God, then that changes everything.

That conviction does demand of response.  Believing that will change your life.  Peter confessed his belief that Jesus was the Son of God.  He gave his whole life to following Jesus because of that belief.  You can read about him in the Bible in the book of Acts.

And I too believe Jesus to be the Son of God.  That truth has made all the difference in my life also. 



They Ran!

by on Apr.05, 2015, under Hope

It was early; very early before the starlight gave way to sunlight. They trudged along the path, shifting their bundles, prepared to do the work as the stench of rotting flesh would fill their noses and convulse their stomachs. They would become “unclean” by touching a dead body, but they owed him the honor of cleaning and preparing his body.

Then as they gazed at the place where his remains should have been they hear the words “He is risen!” Those words changed their lives, changed the world. The story is so important that all four Gospels tell it, albeit from different vantage points.
During the Easter season it is appropriate to focus on He is Risen! for that gives humankind the promise that it too can live with God forever.

What is overlooked is what the people who hear He is Risen! did with that news.

Once the words were said, or the followers encountered the risen Jesus, they ran to tell others. Read the story in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20. As you read you’ll notice words like: great Joy, disbelief, frightened, fear, trembled, amazed, wept. Emotions cross the spectrum of human expression describe the encounter that Jesus lives. And they ran to tell others.

In “church” there is talk about “sharing the Gospel”, almost as an academic exercise. Yet, it wasn’t an analytical exercise for those who first faced a risen Jesus, and maybe it shouldn’t be for us.

The example is very clear. He is Risen! and we need to run and tell others.

Who would your run and tell that Jesus is Risen!?

Surprising Service

by on Mar.29, 2015, under Hope

It was a hot day in the Uruguayan countryside. Gerhald Acosta wasn’t allowed to enter the factory that day because his I.D. card had expired. Now he was hitchhiking home, watching car after car pass by him without stopping.

Finally an SUV stopped, together with a car that was traveling behind it. A man from the second car asked where Acosta was going, told him they could take him part of the way, and invited him to get into the SUV. When Acosta got into the truck, he discovered that his benefactors were none other than Uruguayan president Jose Mujica and his wife Lucia!

Acosta says they only took him a short distance, as far as the next town, but that the famous couple was extremely friendly. Had Acosta not taken pictures during the ride, no one would have believed his tale.

We don’t often think of powerful people serving others; we expect them to want to be served. That’s how it was in Jesus’ day as well. That’s why he was such a surprising figure.

Rather than coming into this world in the nursery of a palace, Jesus was born in the stable of an inn. He had no castle to live in; he once said he didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Instead of receiving manicures and visiting spas, Jesus took up a towel and washed the feet of his disciples. Where others would ride in chariots or mount chargers, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey’s foal.

He told his followers: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

When the Creator of everything came to this world, he came as a servant. And he came to die on a cross so that we could have life.

It’s great to be given a ride by a president. It’s much, much greater to be given life by the King, Jesus Christ.

If I become a Christian, do I have to go to chrch?

by on Mar.22, 2015, under Hope

This is a question I have often been asked by people thinking about becoming a Christian.  I am never sure why they ask it.  Is it because they do not want to be locked in to weekly commitment?  Have they had negative experiences in their past that make them not want to go ever again?  Maybe they want to be sure they are still in charge of their life and time.  Perhaps they like to play golf on Sunday, or spend the day in their pajamas.  Or maybe it is a careful way to ask just how much is expected of them if they decide to follow Jesus.

But sometimes Christians have not been fair in answering the question.  They may say it is something to discuss after you become a Christian.  Or they may try to avoid having to give a straight answer.  They may even feel guilty because they have issues with going to church themselves.  Maybe it is just that they do not want to give an answer that may cause someone to say no to Jesus.

So if you are wondering if you have to go church when you become a Christian, let me answer the question clearly.  Yes.  Of course you do.  For one thing, when you become a Christian you are added to the church.  But you are expected to meet together with other Christians.  We do this so we can share a meal called the Lord’s Supper and proclaim to the world our unity and our belief that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and will return for us someday.  We do it so we can be inspired and motivated to love God, to love our neighbor, and to do good in this world.  We meet because we need each other.  We go to church because if we do not, it becomes much easier for Satan to pick us off while separated from each other. 

Following Jesus is not just a series of things to do, it is a lifestyle.  One that includes going to church. 



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