Category » Hope
In Genesis 22, we find the story of Abraham being told to offer his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. We can only imagine his agony as he takes his son “Isaac, whom you love” on that three-day death march. Could he look him in the eye? Could he sleep at night? As a father, I can’t begin to imagine.
It must have torn Abraham apart when his son innocently asked, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” All he could say was, “The Lord will provide.” And provide He did. Abraham tied his son, laid him on the altar and prepared to kill him as he had done so many times with animals he had offered. But this offering was his son. He went so far as to raise his arm to kill Isaac when an angel of the Lord stopped him. And a substitute was provided, a ram that Abraham could offer instead of his own son.
Years later, another man stood on Moriah. His name was David and he came seeking a substitute, seeking to offer the sacrifice that would stop the slaughter of his people. We read in 2 Samuel 24 how he bought a threshing floor and offered a sacrifice to stop the plague that had been sent to punish him for his arrogance. Later David’s son, Solomon, built a temple, building it on Moriah, on the very spot where his father had offered that sacrifice. Thousands of animals were offered there, offered as a substitute for God’s people.
Then came the day when God offered His own Son. All of creation watched and waited, knowing that this was the God of substitutes, the God of mercy. Where would the substitute come from this time? But there was none to be offered, for Jesus was the substitute. “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
We can have new life because Jesus was the substitute, the One who died for us. If you want to know more about how to have that new life, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation at www.hopeforlife.org.
It is a question asked for any number of reasons. It may be a matter of curiosity from someone who is not sure if they believe in Jesus but would like to know more. Or it could come from someone who has seen or heard something about Christianity that makes them want to investigate Jesus more in depth. Sometimes it is from a person who wants to believe in him but just does not know how to begin the journey to follow him.
So if you find yourself among those asking this question, here are some suggestions to find out more about Jesus.
- Read his story. There are two books in the Bible that are very helpful for an introduction to Jesus. The book of Luke in the New Testament is the story of life of Jesus. Then read the book of Acts. It is the story of the early followers of Jesus. Just look them up in the table of contents in your Bible and start reading.
- Visit www.hopeforlife.org. This website is designed to help you begin learning about how to experience hope through Jesus. You will find resources to read and study. You will find video testimonies from people just like you who found hope for life through Jesus.
- Connect with Jesus followers. Ask some of the Christians you know to share the story of their faith journey. Visit a local church and meet some Christians. This will give you a chance to see how following Jesus works in real lives. You can ask questions of people who will be honored to get to know you. If you do not know how to go about finding a group of Christians, please let me know generally where you live. It may be that I will know someone in your area who would enjoy talking with you.
I hope these suggestions will start you on the journey to know Jesus.
Let me know how it goes.
“I’m afraid of what might happen to the church if abundance comes to the island.” That’s how one of my Christian friends in Cuba described his country’s situation. People in Cuba are going through a time of hardship, with the weight of international disputes falling on the shoulders of ordinary people.
In these difficult times, people are looking for God. They are hungry for hope. Churches are growing at a fantastic rate.
My friend is concerned that some of that could change should conditions improve. He doesn’t desire suffering on anyone; he’s just aware that abundance brings its own problems.
I know that he’s right, for the Bible says many similar things. Jesus talked about how hard it is for the rich to be saved (Matthew 19:23-24), and he warned of gathering riches in this life rather than the coming one (Matthew 6:19-21). In one of his parables, Jesus warned of “the deceitfulness of riches” that could choke out a growing faith (Matthew 13:22). The apostle Paul said that trying to get rich was a good way to ruin your faith (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
That’s why we each have to make a decision. What are we going to prioritize? Will we put more emphasis on comfort, pleasure, and financial security? Or will we seek faithfulness to God above all else?
Jesus explained it this way:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)
Christians can be rich. Rich people can be Christians. But we need to remember that material things can often get in the way of our faith. We need to keep Paul’s words in mind:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
Godliness with contentment. That should be our goal.
I love to attend school activities: sports, plays, concerts, and contests. I enjoyed watching my children and now my grandchildren and their friends. I have found one common trait among all students. They look for people in the audience. The younger students wave at family and friends – sometimes shyly, sometimes enthusiastically. The older ones are more subtle, but you can see them looking. They are looking for friends and family. Looking to affirmation, checking to see the reaction to how they are doing.
Every one of them is excited when they do well, knowing they have made their family proud. But I also watch them when it does not go so well. Some immediately look for support, encouragement, and reassurance. Others look with the expectation that they have disappointed, or embarrassed not just themselves, but also the ones who came to see them perform. I wonder if they have been conditioned to expect anger, ridicule, or punishment for their failure.
I think that is how many people think about their lives and God. He is watching, and how will he react? They know he is pleased with them when they live according to their faith in him. They expect and anticipate encouragement and comfort. Some see the God who is loving, proud, supportive, and welcoming even when we fail… maybe especially when we fail.
But others have a feeling of dread and fear that God is in the audience. They believe that God is waiting for us to fail so he can condemn us to hell. As if that is what he really wants for us. That is the concept of God that someone has taught them. And it is a lie.
The truth is that God is pleased when we follow him. He is hurt when we fail, but he does not want to condemn us. He wants to save us. That is why he sent his son to die on the cross for all our failures. That is why his son came to earth. He came so he would know and understand how it is down here. So he could save us.
“You can’t understand. I’ve done things to my family, to strangers, to myself,” the words were said almost defiantly and his eyes looked straight into mine. Then he lowered his gaze to his hands and almost whispered, “I’m bad and no god could forgive me!”
His words were not the first I had heard with the same or similar thoughts. I’ve heard them in Africa, Spain, Cuba, and in every state I’ve visited. My colleagues at Hope for Life tell similar stories from their travels across the world.
Yes, there are people in this world that have done Horrible, Awful, Unspeakable Things to children, family members, strangers, and to themselves. Some of these offenders have no regard for themselves or for others.
Yet, the great God Almighty sent His Son to die for them as well as for you.
There is a God who can forgive all the heinous acts anyone can perform. There is a God who allowed His only Son to save all of us by paying the price none of us deserved. There is a God who can take the worst sinner and transfer him or her into a forgiven saint.
Yes, there is a God who loved you so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Because God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.
Why does He love You so much?
Why would He forgive you of all those wounds you’ve caused?
Why would He care?
What do you think?
Oh, we can start by reading a passage in the Bible, John 3:16-17. It will sound familiar.
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.