Category » Hope
He was called Basil the Great. Bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, he was a staunch defender of the idea of the Trinity. He stood his ground against all opponents, even when the Emperor tried to exile him for his beliefs.
Basil may have been better known for his charity work. He built what many consider to be the first hospital, a complex known as the Basiliad. It had room for more than 300 patients. There was a special ward for those with leprosy. There were rooms for travelers and a section for orphans. The poor could come and eat at a soup kitchen on the grounds of the Basiliad.
The project was funded by wealthy Christians… including the very Emperor that tried to exile Basil. The ruler disagreed with Basil on doctrine, but couldn’t argue with the things he saw Basil was doing.
Gregory of Nazianzus, archbishop of Constantinople, said about Basil: “His words were like thunder because his life was like lightning.”
Sounds like something Jesus said to his followers:
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16)
Don’t just talk about being a Christian; live like one! Live in such a way that you won’t have to tell people that you’re a Christian; they’ll be able to see it for themselves.
The world has seen enough Christians who are all thunder, with no lightning. Christians who just talk about their faith and don’t live it make non-believers turn away from God. We should live the kinds of lives that will make people praise God.
When we shine our light before men, we will be able to talk to them about Jesus. What we say will carry weight when they are backed up by deeds. Our words will be like thunder when our lives are like lightning.
Don’t just talk about what you believe… live it!
It is the time of year when everyone talks about being thankful. It is the month we celebrate a holiday entitled Thanksgiving. Christians talk about always giving thanks. We are told to “count our blessings”. But there are many people who really are not in the mood to give thanks. And there are others who are thankful even in the midst of very difficult times. So why is it so hard to be thankful? What is the secret to recognizing our blessings? Why are Christians so intent of living lives full of thanksgiving?
Here are some ideas to reflect on concerning Christians and thankfulness.
- Short term pain sometimes makes us forget the larger picture. The loss of a job or a relationship, the death of a loved one, natural disasters; these can seem overwhelming and the pain makes it hard to see anything to be thankful for. But Christians see the big picture. The pain of living in this fallen world is not permanent. It will not last. Our hope is rooted in the knowledge that this world is not our home.
- It is hard to be thankful when you focus on what you do not have instead of what you do have. This is especially true when what we want is given priority over what we need. Most people will never have everything they want. Christians strive to be thankful for the daily needs that God provides. Jesus taught his followers to ask for daily bread. God will give us what we need. For that we are thankful.
- Sometimes worry overwhelms gratitude. What will the future hold? Will my children be alright? Will I get sick? What about my job and my retirement? Christians focus on today. We believe God does hold our future. We strive to serve him today.
- It is hard to be thankful when you believe you earned – or deserve – everything you have. Christians know that our greatest blessing is that we will live with God forever. That is something we do not deserve and could not earn. That is the gift of God through his son Jesus who died for our sins.
So happy Thanksgiving every day – both now and forever.
Then I moved to Argentina. I lived 15 years in what is truly the Deep South. I learned the language. I learned the customs. I dressed like an Argentine, ate like an Argentine, lived like an Argentine. But I wasn’t Argentine through and through.
It would happen in a bread store or a hardware store. I’d be out on a normal errand and would ask for something I needed. The salesperson would cock their head in that funny way and make the accusation: “You’re not from here, are you?”
It was my accent. It gave me away every time. As much as I could try and fool everyone, I wasn’t really Argentine. I was a Texan in Argentine clothing. My accent gave me away.
The Bible talks about some people who had a different kind of accent. When talking about some of the great faith heroes from the past, the writer of the book of Hebrews notes:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
These people had an accent. Not a Texan accent or an Argentine accent. Not even a Hebrew accent. They had a heavenly accent. They spoke in such a way that everybody knew they were on a journey, one that would end in heaven. They knew, as the old hymn says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.” They were on their way to the city God was preparing.
The way they talked gave them away.
While I have trouble losing my Texan accent, I am often successful at masking my heavenly accent. While I stand out as being different when living in Argentina, I can blend in all too well in my earthly surroundings.
I don’t want to be that way. I want to live and talk in such a way that people will look at me and say, “You’re not from here, are you?” And I want them to mean that I talk like somebody from the kingdom of heaven.
I run at an indoor facility during the winter. The track is clearly labeled for one direction around the concourse. This is to prevent injuries and so everyone is able to move together and get in their mileage. There are signs clearly labeling the correct direction… and almost every day there is one or more people going the wrong way.
Some clearly are unaware. They did not see the sign or misread the sign. Others go the wrong way as a shortcut to another area of the facility. Going the wrong way is quicker and easier than having to go all the way around the track. And of course there are those that just feel like the rules do not apply to them. They will run the direction they choose and everyone can just watch out.
It is exactly how some people view God’s directions for living a life of purpose and hope. The word of God, the Bible, is very clear in explaining a lifestyle that enables us to live a spiritually and emotionally happy life. It is also a way that ensures we can all live in harmony together. Yet many people choose to live life differently.
Some may not know the directions. They do not even know there is a way to live that makes sense in this world. Those of us who have learned a better way can help them. We can point out the clear directions, model the different life, and even invite them to do life with us.
Then there are those who know the directions but desire the easy way. In fact, Jesus acknowledges some people will choose the path of least resistance. He even said that the road to heaven is hard and narrow while the road to destruction is wide and easy. You can read his exact words in one of his talks recorded in the book of Matthew, Chapter 7. We point to a harder road, but one that will end in life with God forever.
And then there are those who think their way is better. They choose to live life the way they think is best. It is a story as old as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And of course life just does not cooperate with our plans. Christians invite those people to investigate a different lifestyle, one that has proven to be successful.
I can help point you to the life of joy and hope that God offers you through his son Jesus.
The six weeks from the middle of November through the first day of January host THE Trifecta of holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. Most everyone in American society has at least one day off work on these days. We express thankfulness for what we have and for the food, especially the food. Then we plan, ask, spend to give and receive new gifts. Followed by a day where we resolve to make better choices, eat the right things, lose weight and be a better person.
I wonder what our lives would be like if at:
- Thanksgiving, we thank our God for all that He has given us and allowed us to do and be, acknowledging that without Him, our lives would be ones of quiet desperation.
- Christmas, we proclaim the birth of His son and realize that without His birth, His death would not happen and without His death, his birth would have no significance to us or to the rest of the world. And we especially hope to experience “and on earth, peace, good will to men.”
- New Years, we embrace the new beginnings and remember that no matter how hard, difficult, heart wrenching, exhausting, frustrating, powerless, unappreciated, unvalued or wrong things around us are, that the Great God Almighty remains in control of our lives and calls us His children, and is always faithful to keep His promises to those who follow Him and His son Jesus.
Where and what will you be doing during this Holiday season? Will you remember God and His Son?
So as the schedules, demands and pressures of the Holiday Trifecta invade your world, house and family, allow me to offer a short blessing to you and all whom you hold dear…
Vaya Con Dios, Go with God.
Lots of frightful things come out at Halloween. Lots of people in spooky costumes, that is. People like to dress up as zombies, vampires, ghosts, and demons. Such things are far less scary when we know that it’s just a costume that will come off the next day.
I don’t believe in the existence of most of what we see at Halloween, yet I know that there actually are evil spiritual forces at work in this world. Paul tells the Ephesians:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Even if much of the world denies their existence, these forces exist and influence our world. Jesus calls Satan “the prince of this world” (John 12:31), and Paul talks about “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2).
Peter tells us: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Other texts tell us that Satan is actively working to deceive us.
Am I trying to scare you? Not at all. I want you to know that these things exist, yet I also want to remind you that we need not fear them at all. James tells us to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) And John provides the information that should take away all fear:
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
There are scary things in this world, but we need not fear any of them. The one who is in us is greater than the powers of this world.
Is Jesus in you? If not, let me tell you that his power and protection are available to all of us.
Cargo ship lost in a hurricane.
Flooding in the eastern United States.
Mudslides in Guatemala.
Flash floods in France.
Earthquakes in Chile.
Wars, natural disasters, murder, disease, and crime.
Death, loss of possessions, destruction.
Fear, anxiety, and grief.
We live in a hard world. Wars, natural disasters, murder, disease, crime, death, loss of possessions, destruction, fear, anxiety, and grief.
It is a world full of uncertainty and evil. How do you survive? How do you protect yourself, your family, and your possessions? Is there anything you can count on?
I can tell you that as a Christian, I am not surprised by the trouble in this world. It has been this way since Adam and Eve rebelled against God. This world is a battlefield between good and evil.
And I can tell you as a Christian that Jesus has overcome the world. He has won the war. Satan’s greatest weapon is death and Jesus beat it. God sent his son to die for us. Jesus let himself be crucified on a cross. Then God raised him from the dead.
As a Christian, I believe that Jesus has enabled me to overcome this world also. I let God know about my worries and he gives me a peace that I cannot even adequately explain. Because my family is all Christians, I believe that we too will be raised from the dead to live forever. All that I possess is from God and he will see that all of my needs are met.
So yes it is a hard world, but God is stronger.
It’s the one miracle recorded in all four gospels: the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus took a small amount of fish and bread and made a meal for a multitude.
The apostle John records a detail that the others leave out (You can read it in chapter 6 of the Gospel of John). A boy with five small loaves of bread and two small fish offered what he had to feed everyone else. Jesus took that sack lunch and fed thousands.
What could the boy have been thinking? Did he hope that everyone else had as much to offer as he had? Did he innocently hope that his lunch would be enough for everyone?
Or did he have a childlike faith that believed Jesus would work wonders with a couple of sandwiches?
Reason tells us that it was a foolish gesture. Reason tells us that five barley rolls and two sardines would get lost in such a crowd. Reason tells us that even offering that measly amount of food was a waste of time. Reason tells us that what this boy had just wasn’t enough.
Reason is wrong. Reason doesn’t count on God’s power.
What I have to offer God isn’t enough. But what God can do with what I offer is more than enough.
I hear people say that they’re not good enough to be a Christian. Or that they’re not strong enough to face suffering. Or that they’re not disciplined enough to overcome sin.
And they’re right.
But God is powerful enough. He can take my unholy life and make it right. He can take my weak faith and help me overcome. He can take my vulnerable humanity and let me say no to temptation.
After the five thousand ate off of those five small loaves and two fishes, the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of leftovers! God won’t just do “enough”; he’ll do much more.
Take what you have and offer it to God. Give him your money. Give him your time. Give him your life. And he will work wonders.
We have all been there. It is that moment when you have knowledge overload. It is the reason why after a meeting someone often distributes a memo highlighting the main points. It is why students ask if certain material will be on the test. It is the reason we ask people to just give us the most important facts. Trying to learn new things can be overwhelming.
This is especially true when you are not familiar with the subject matter. You may be one of those who has had interest in Jesus but not sure where to start learning about him. Church language seems confusing and just for the insiders. The Bible can seem daunting when you first begin to read it. I get it. After all, one author in the Bible said about another writer that he said things that were hard to understand. There is a story in the Bible about a man who did not understand the Scripture he was reading until someone explained it to him. The Bible says that we only know a small part of what Jesus did while here on earth. It can be overwhelming.
If you have any interest in following Jesus, you may ask if there is some way to identify what is the most important thing to know.
There is! It is found in I Corinthians 15:1-4. Here is the way this information is described.
The basis of the Christian message…
The foundation for the Christian world view…
The news that saves us…
Of first importance…
So here it is. Here is the most important thing for you to know if you have any interest in learning about Jesus:
He died for your sins.
He was buried.
He was raised from the dead on the third day. That is the most important thing you need to know.
That is the good news that will save you.
It’s called The Bucket List, a movie about two men who endured treatment for cancer only to be told they had months to live. Together they compile a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket”. Thus begins a hilarious and poignant journey to discover what is important when life is short.
There is a real life equivalent. On September 18, 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University, a computer professor delivered a lecture entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” a hopeful and ironic marquee, considering that cancer was already devouring his pancreas.
Two presentations: one imagined, one all too real, for Randy Pauch died from pancreatic cancer on July 25, 2008, 10 months after his “Last Lecture.” Both stories reflect the sense of urgency as time is running out and the need to cut all extraneous things of life to focus on what is really important.
These same motivations are seen and felt in The Last Letter. Written by an old man on death row, written in a dark, dank, cell. Written knowing he will not escape the executioner by a last minute reprieve or by a technicality. Written knowing that his end is quickly approaching.
He writes with the urgency of a condemned man and tells his only relative, his adopted son, the most important things to remember. This is what he wrote:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
The prisoner is the Apostle Paul. The adopted son is Timothy and the Last Letter is the New Testament book of II Timothy, written shortly before Paul’s execution around 67 AD.
Today, now, as our world continues to spiral from disaster to warfare, to inhumanity, we must also proclaim the Urgently Important: that our Savior, Jesus Christ, has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
If you had the chance to write your Last Letter, who would you address it to? What would you tell them?