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If You Can’t Trust A Panda

by on Aug.31, 2014, under Hope

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.


Touching Jesus

by on Aug.17, 2014, under Hope

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 tarcher@heraldoftruth.org or read the article “Invited Into The Family” on our www.hopeforlife.org website.


Hooker to Hero

by on Aug.10, 2014, under Hope

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. 

Blessings, 

steve

 

 


Christian Graces

by on Aug.03, 2014, under Hope

Two nurses pushed and steered the bed as we walked from one part of the hospital to another. The final destination was the Hospice floor and everyone in the slow moving procession knew what that meant; time was short. Her husband of 64 years, their only child, a daughter, and I, a family friend, wanted to make her final hours or days comfortable.

The room in the hospital in Abilene, TX, was large, with space for the bed, a sofa and chairs for those who waited.

After the Hospice charge nurse quietly arranged her now shrunken body, her husband went and slowly, softly caressed her face, kissed her lips, said something to her that I couldn’t hear, but she did because she moved her face toward him. Husband and daughter resumed their vigil, waiting for a wife and mother to be released from the grip of this world.

He showed me the photo of his wife taken 65 years before. He had always kept it in his wallet, still unmarred from the years. He told me that in their living room their recliners were side by side and they always held hands and when they went to bed they would hold hands until they fell asleep. But his hand would soon be empty.

A few short days later people came to the funeral home to pay their respects to her and to him. The next day was a burial, a family meal hosted by the church and then a memorial service.

As he was getting ready to leave the church and return home, alone, he said, “Please tell everyone thank you for all they have done for us. We appreciate it very much.”

Dying and death come at inconvenient times, interrupting life. Yet, I have become convinced it is at precisely those times that one can see firsthand Christian Graces. Walking with the real people as death interrupts their living, by listening, preparing a meal, or crying with them. There is more Kingdom work done in hospital rooms, funeral homes and burial services than in most Worship services.

A community of believers demonstrates their faith by offering Christian Graces to those whose living has been interrupted.

Tell us what Christian Graces you have experienced when your living was interrupted.

Now the larger question, let’s talk about when you offered Christian Graces to someone else who was in the midst of an interruption.


A Place of Rest

by on Jul.27, 2014, under Hope

The house was quiet and dark. The family inside was under quarantine. Diphtheria had found its way inside, claiming the lives of two infant girls; the young sisters had died within twenty-four hours of each other.

Now a group of people gathered outside the house. Among them was Cleland McAfee, uncle of the dead girls, brother to the grieving father. A Presbyterian minister and hymn writer, McAfee brought comfort in the best way he knew how: comfort in song. He had composed a hymn to express the consolation he was looking for during this difficult time. The first verse of his beautiful hymn says:

There is a place of quiet rest,

near to the heart of God;

a place where sin cannot molest,

near to the heart of God.

Words of comfort and quiet assurance. Not everyone finds such peace when faced with loss. But some receive that gift of God, the gift of a peace that passes understanding.

In the Old Testament, we read of King David and his infant son. The mighty king was powerless when his son fell ill; all he could do was pray, begging God to spare his son. Yet the baby died.

When they realized the child was dead, the king’s servants were afraid to tell him. Their whispers gave them away, however, and the king realized his son had died. He rose, cleaned himself up, and went to the temple to worship God. When questioned about his behavior, David replied:

“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22–23)

May such tragedies never come your way. But should they come, please remember these thoughts. A child who dies leaves a world of strife, finding a place of rest. We can’t bring them back, but we can live our lives in such a way that we will go to them.

Our God gave up his only Son, sending him to this world to bring us the hope of eternal life. He reaches out to grieving families saying, “I know your pain. And I can turn that pain into hope.”


It is not too late…

by on Jul.20, 2014, under Hope

At first glance it seems so unfair.  He hired a group of day laborers who worked hard all day, but they were not going to finish the job.  Throughout the day he added to his workforce, even adding people who were only able to work the last hour.  When it came time to pay his workers, he gave everyone the same amount.  For those who had worked all day, it seemed so unfair.  But for those who had worked only at the end of the day, it was a wonderful surprise.  The employer explained that he had paid the first workers exactly what he agreed to pay.  As for the others, it was his choice to be generous.

This is a story that Jesus told and it is a story of hope.  It is for those who think they missed their chance to believe in Jesus.  There are those times in life when people face their regrets about choices they made.  And those regrets are often because they chose not to follow Jesus.  It may be that the children have grown up and you wish you had shown them value and purpose based on the eternal principles found in Christianity.  Perhaps you have retired, and now realize that most of the things you thought were important really do not matter to you now.  Or as you age, you realize that you will die and you are not really prepared for the afterlife.

You realize you do believe, but you wonder if you have waited too long.  Is it is too late?  Did you miss your opportunity to believe in Jesus?  Have you wasted your life?  You long for a chance to start over.  If you find yourself having some of these thoughts, this story is for you.  Our God is generous and gracious.  His invitation to believe in his Son Jesus and live forever is still open.  It is not too late.  Becoming a Christian late in life will make a statement to your family about what matters.  God will still use your life as an example to influence others.  But most importantly… it changes your eternal future. 

I know this because my own grandfather was over 80 when he became a Christian.  Of course he wished he had done it earlier.  But he received the same reward as my grandmother who became a Christian when she was a young girl.  They are together in heaven. 

It is not too late. 

Blessings, 

steve 

 


Sinners and Holy People

by on Jul.13, 2014, under Hope

In the time of Jesus, people hated tax collectors. Admittedly, tax collectors can be unpopular today, but nothing like what it was back then.

The Jews saw tax collectors as collaborators, for these men worked with the Roman occupiers of the Jewish homeland. In addition, the tax system left plenty of room for corruption, and tax collectors had earned a reputation for dishonesty.

Because of this, taxmen couldn’t testify in Jewish court. They couldn’t participate in the synagogues. Because of their constant contact with non-Jews, they were considered to be unclean; even their money was seen as tainted and couldn’t be used for charity work.

There was a group of people at the other extreme of Jewish society. They were religious leaders known as the Pharisees. They were strict adherents to God’s Law, zealously studying the Scriptures to see what God wanted them to do. They looked down on everyone who didn’t do what they did.

Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. It goes like this:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10–14)

Sometimes I hear people describing others and saying, “They are faithful Christians.” What they mean is, those people regularly attend church services and don’t commit obvious, public sins.

The Pharisee in this story would fit that description. Yet Jesus wants to remind us that performing a series of religious acts doesn’t make us right with God. Our attitude matters. What the Bible calls “the heart.” While men look at the outside, God looks at the heart.

So even if we’re what the world considers “sinners,” we can be right with God. We need to go to him with faith and humility. We must recognize our sin and accept his forgiveness. We participate in a symbolic death, burial, and resurrection through baptism. And we let God’s Spirit lead us as we live our new life in Christ.

Now here’s a secret… even Pharisees can do the same! Whether we’re living a moral lifestyle or a sin-filled life, God’s offer of salvation is available to us all.


Lost and Found

by on Jul.06, 2014, under Hope

It is a moment of panic.  You reach inside your purse where you have put five $20 bills – and you only find four.  Immediately you empty the purse out and go through every pocket and every corner looking for your lost money.  It really is not comforting to have someone remind you that you still have four.  You want to find the lost money.  It is the same reasoning behind the lost and found rooms at schools, stores, or churches.  Things get lost and people are desperate to find them.

People get lost too.  I don’t mean that you need better travel directions.  But that you need direction – a reason for living.  You hear the phrase “lost boys” concerning war orphans.  Or” lost souls” in reference to young people with no sense of purpose.  Lost is even used in a spiritual sense to indicate those who have broken their relationship with God because of their sin.

 Lost things matter and we want to find them.  Watch how people react when they find the lost item.  Observe children who find their jacket in the lost and found.  Or adults who find the lost money.  There will be big smiles, shouts of joy, and sometimes tears of happiness. 

Jesus told stories about how important lost things are.  He told of how people will do anything to find a lost coin or a lost sheep. He pointed out how happy everyone is when the lost thing is found. 

He also told a story about a lost son.  One who finally found his way back home.  He told it so you would know how important you are to God.  He told it so you would know how much God loves you.  God will do anything to restore us to a relationship with him.  In fact, he did.  He sent His Son from heaven to earth to find us and make a way back to God.  If you are one of those lost souls away from God, then please know that God is seeking you.  He sent a Son to find you and bring you back to him.

 Blessings, 

steve


A Fan

by on Jun.29, 2014, under Hope

I am a baseball fan, and in spite of living in Texas Rangers country, I root for the New York Yankees. But to be honest, MY Yankees were the teams from 1958-1964. The names of Howard, Berra, Ford, Mantle, Maris, Stengal, and Kubek remind me of my “wonder bread” years of living in New York City during the almost Noble Age of Baseball.

A player that I liked a lot then and admire the most now was/is Bobby Richardson. He played second base and spent his entire playing career in the Yankee organization. But Bobby was different. He didn’t just claim or talk about being a Christian, he lived like one and still does today.

I own and have read his autobiography published in 1965 and I also have an autographed copy of his 2012 memoir entitled Impact Player. Both books discuss the challenges of being in the Major Leagues but staying true to your beliefs and not being caught in the temptations of the Major Leagues’ lifestyle.

I had the opportunity to meet Bobby a number of years ago when he came to Abilene, Texas to participate in the Big Country Celebrity Quail Hunt; Bobby likes to hunt quail. He was kind and gracious and signed a lot of baseballs that I gave to sponsors of the event. He was very willing to do anything he could to help.

I am struck by the fact that our culture disregards the “role model” for the “role idol” where everything celebrities do is worshipped including their unseemly behavior and outward expressions.

Like Bobby Richardson, there are some celebrities who strive to live the Christ like life and most never earn the spotlight for it or are ridiculed.

Doing right is always good, but not always honored by the world around you.

At the end of Impact Player, Bobby Richardson writes,

“When accounts of my life are written, I hope two things will be said of me. First, that I played baseball in a way that made my team better. Second, and more important, that I lived my life in a way that drew others to my Savior. To God be the glory.”

Today what celebrities, sports figures or other personalities can you identify that demonstrate a Christian lifestyle? How are those individuals portrayed in the media? Do you think having an obvious Christian faith is positive or negative in our Culture today?


Fences

by on Jun.22, 2014, under Hope

My dogs hate squirrels. Especially squirrels in trees. The dogs bark and whine, running and jumping as they follow the squirrels from below. One of the dogs even used to climb high in the trees after her hated foes, until she got too old for such.

When they are in the middle of a chase, the dogs become frustrated when they find a fence between them and their target. If the ground is soft enough, they quickly burrow under the obstacle and continue the chase.

We’ve recently moved to a new neighborhood, one with more traffic than our old neighborhood. That’s a bit of a problem, since the dogs keep digging out under the fence. It doesn’t matter that the dogs are only chasing squirrels; there’s mortal danger for them if they wander out into the street.

So I spend a lot of time and effort trying to thwart my dogs’ plans to leave our yard. It’s not that I’m against squirrel chasing nor that I want my dogs to feel frustrated. I just want to keep them safe from the dangers that lie outside the borders of our yard.

Does it ever feel like God just made up a bunch of arbitrary rules that were designed to ruin our fun? Someone one said that everything truly enjoyable is either illegal or sinful. Do you ever feel that way?

Some of the lifestyles that the world offers look very inviting, even though we know they are not what God wants for us. Surely life in the fast lane is more fun than life on the straight and narrow!

When I get to feeling like that, I remember my dogs. They aren’t looking to get run over. They aren’t hoping to get lost. They just want to chase squirrels. What they don’t realize is the danger that puts them in. They don’t understand that the fence that seems restricting is actually something put there to protect them.

I need to remember the same. God’s way is the best way. The Christian life is the healthiest life. In the end, it’s the happiest life, as well.

We have to accept the fact that God knows what’s best for us. And we don’t.



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