Category » Hope
Getting a call from God was unusual but not unheard of as one reads the Bible. However, if you were the recipient of such an interaction, life changed.
Almost all of the calls from the Almighty included: bright illumination, a voice that was hard to describe except that it was overpowering, some type of physical reaction by the mortal to whom the call was directed (falling down was a regular response) and then an acknowledgement that it was God who initiated the contact.
The Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel is a case in point. He describes his encounter with God in the first three chapters of the book in the Bible that bears his name.
He sees God in the appearance of fire with brightness all around and he falls on his face (1:27-28). Then God speaks to him (Chapters 2 & 3). The Spirit lifts him up and he hears the proclamation: Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place.
This call to Ezekiel precedes receiving his commission or mission because God had directed him to do something specific.
There are amazing similarities when others who received their calls from God. It is interesting to compare all of these to each other.
Moses: Exodus 3:1-7
Isaiah: Isaiah 6:1-8
Zechariah: Zechariah 1:7-2-13
Saul/Paul: Acts 9:3-18
John: Rev. 1:9-17
God’s calls today may be different in the way He sends them, but I believe there is still: illumination of understanding, hearing God’s voice through scripture and thoughts, a physical reaction of doing what he says do or stop doing things you know are evil and there must be an acknowledgement that He is God.
Ezekiel and others had very dramatic calls from God; our somewhat less spectacular receptions do not minimize how essential is His direction in your life.
Has God called you? If He has not, why not?
Pray for everybody. That’s what the apostle Paul tells his friend Timothy in the second chapter of the book of the Bible we call 1 Timothy. He says to pray for kings and rulers so that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
He then goes on to explain that a bit more:
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3–4)
Paul says to pray for people everywhere so that they we may have peace to share the good news about God. And the good news is that God wants everyone to be saved.
When we think about God, that’s an important place to start. He wants everyone to be saved. He wants everyone to know the truth. He wants everyone to live.
Not just people in this country or that one. Not just people who look like me or don’t look like me. Not just the rich or the poor or the educated or the simple. God wants everyone to be saved.
That fits with what John wrote in his gospel:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16–18)
God wants everyone to be saved. Not everyone will be saved, at least not according to the Bible. But that’s not because God wants anyone to be lost. It’s just that some will refuse to believe.
So let me tell you these simple facts: God loves you. And he wants you to be saved.
Do you want the same?
“I cannot do anything to help anyone anymore. I am worthless.” You will hear some version of this complaint from old people. With failing health, limited mobility, and inability to do things that that they used to value highly.
“The things that happened to me have ruined me forever.” Abuse, financial or natural disaster, divorce, or any number of other things can lead to this attitude.
“But my past has ruined my future.” Broken relationships, addictions, and horrible choices all contribute to this feeling of hopelessness.
Living in the past, bound by the past, shackled by the past. Hopeless and helpless. But followers of Jesus do not have to live in the past. Here is why…
- Jesus has forgiven our past. Our guilt and shame has been taken away. God says our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. We have story after story of healed relationships, new lives, and healing. As a Christian, your future is not defined by your past.
- God is more powerful than anyone in your past. God gives new life through Jesus. Your identity is formed by Jesus and not by those who hurt you in the past.
- God has purposes and plans no matter what stage of life you are in now. You pray for others, and be a living witness to God’s goodness as you age. God gives value and purpose to his followers every day.
- The future will always look better than our past. Someday this world will cease to exist. Christians will be in the presence of God forever. Nothing in your past is better than that.
So Christmas has come and gone. Or has it? The 12 days of Christmas don’t end on December 25. They begin either on the 25th or 26th, depending on which region of the world you are in, and run right through Epiphany, on January 6.
My wife grew up in Argentina, where Epiphany is celebrated as the Day of the Magi Kings. Preparations are made the night before. Children leave out a pair of shoes, along with grass and water for the kings’ camels. They awaken the next day to find the grass and water scattered; in their place are presents which have been carefully left by each child’s shoes. This day was always much bigger than Christmas, though that has changed somewhat in recent years.
These traditions have their basis in the story of the wise men from the east, as told in the gospel of Matthew:
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”” (Matthew 2:1–2)
These men came to find the child, Jesus, who was living in a house there in Bethlehem. When they found him, they worshiped him and presented him with gifts:
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9–11)
Modern society has turned this event. Instead of giving gifts to Jesus, we give them to one another. Instead of looking for a king to worship, we focus our attention on one another.
This year, may I suggest that you follow the example of these men from the east? Rather than choosing one day out of the year to accumulate more presents, why don’t you dedicate all of 2015 to the Christ child? Like the wise men, you should:
- Seek him: Don’t let Jesus merely be part of ancient history; make him a part of your life.
- Learn about him: Study the Bible, especially the gospels, to learn about Jesus and what he did for you.
- Worship him: Recognize that Jesus isn’t just a great moral teacher; he is Lord and Savior.
- Give to him: Give him the one gift that only you can give — yourself!
That’s the best way to commemorate what was done all those years ago.
It is the time of year when people make New Year’s resolutions. Most of them concern ways to make next year better. Some resolve that this is the year to mend broken relationships. That they will forgive past hurts, or reach out to someone they used to be close to. How great would it be if the New Year could start with every bad decision of your past forgotten? No wondering if someone was holding a grudge. No stress over whether or not you could be forgiven. Not even a worry about whether old hurts would still be remembered.
Or how about the resolution to pay of your Christmas shopping in a timely manner? Or pay off last Christmas. Or save more this year. What if all of your old debts were just gone? Cancelled. Paid off by someone else.
Maybe you have made so many unfulfilled resolutions over the years that it really does not seem to matter anymore . What is the point if life is just going to be the same as it has always been? You feel worthless, useless, and without any value to anyone. The one resolution you wish you could fulfill would be to have value and purpose.
This year can be the best year of your life. Jesus offers the one real chance to start over, to be forgiven, and to find purpose.
If you worry about not having a relationship with God, know that God still loves you. He sent his son Jesus to earth to make a way for us to come back to Him. If you have been afraid the bad choices you have made can never be forgiven, there is good news. Jesus died for your sins so you could have a new life. God will never again hold those sins against you. Jesus was raised from the dead so you too could be raised with him. God values you that much. He has a purpose for you here and now. He invites you into a relationship with Him and then empowers you to follow his son in doing Kingdom work.
New life, relationship with God, forgiveness, purpose. That would be the best New Year ever.
Ordained by God, proclaimed by prophets, heralded by angels, and hoped for by His creations, the story of the Savior’s birth still resonates today in the hearts of mankind.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”
(Luke 3: 8-14)
Centuries ago, in a small unimportant town, our salvation began with a baby’s cry.
We continue to search and hope for:
Peace, goodwill toward men.
Immanuel. A beautiful name that means “God with us.” It’s a name that we associate with Christmas, for it’s mentioned in Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ birth. But Immanuel was actually someone who lived a long time before Jesus.
Approximately 700 years before Jesus’ birth, God’s people had divided themselves into two nations. A man named Ahaz was king of the southern kingdom, Judah. His kingdom was being threatened by two powerful enemies: Israel, the northern kingdom, and Syria. God sent the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, encouraging the king to trust in God instead of making alliances with other foreign powers.
Isaiah told Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz refused. So Isaiah told him what the sign would be:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
The prophet explained that before this young boy was weaned, the nations Ahaz feared would no longer be a threat, while the ally he sought would turn out to be a more powerful enemy.
So a little boy was born, named Immanuel. He was a living sign from God, a reminder that God is with his people. Because Ahaz wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t put his trust in God, his nation would suffer defeat. But he had in this young boy the constant reminder of God’s presence and willingness to help.
The name Immanuel took on a new meaning when a virgin gave birth to a son. God’s presence among his people changed from a spiritual reality to a physical reality. The Word became flesh. God dwelt among his people as a human.
When Jesus left this earth, he left with a promise: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) We know that God is still with us.
Yet like Ahaz, we find it hard to trust. We see the problems around us. We face crisis after crisis. We come to believe that the only solutions available to us are human solutions. We’re blind to the fact that those solutions will bring their own problems.
And we forget the reality that God is with us.
December is a nice time to have that reminder. God came to us. He lived among us. And he promised to never leave us.
Immanuel. God with us. May we never forget.
I love Christmas. I love family gatherings, giving gifts, and sharing meals together. I love it that our world talks more about Jesus during Christmas. I like nativity scenes. I love the manger displays. Away in a Manger is a great song. So much talk about God sending his son to be born. For so many people, that is the only message they hear. Cute, baby Jesus. But that is not all there is to the Christmas story.
Baby Jesus grew up. Jesus lived as a real man in a real world. He lived among us so we would see how to treat others. He left an example so we would know what following God means in a real world. He taught us about God, about living in community, and about telling our world the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Baby Jesus grew up and died. We killed him. It was our sin that cost him his life. He died so we could live. That is the real Christmas story. Jesus came to earth to die. The cross is not cute, nor is it cuddly. But it is life. It is life because God raised him from the dead. He will never die again.
Jesus invites us to die with him. If we do, we will never die again. In fact, the death that this world fears so much becomes the door to forever life for us Christians.
The coming of Jesus is worth celebrating. Not just as a cute baby at Christmastime, but as the man who came to die for us. The baby grew up, then died, then was raised, and now lives. And because of that, I too have died, been raised, and will live forever. So can you.
There once was a king named Jehoshaphat. His story is told in the book of 2nd Chronicles in the Bible.
In chapter 20 of 2nd Chronicles, we read the story of a time when Jehoshaphat’s kingdom came under attack. A great army, with soldiers from three different nations, marched against the city of Jerusalem, where Jehoshaphat had his palace.
God’s temple was also in Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat believed in God. He went to the temple and prayed in a loud voice, in the presence of many people, asking for God’s help. One of God’s prophets was there and gave Jehoshaphat God’s answer:
“Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15–17)
Jehoshaphat and his people believed God. They believed that God would protect them and defend them; they were willing to merely watch and not fight.
As an act of faith, Jehoshaphat sent out some “special forces” ahead of his troops. The Bible says:
“After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.”” (2 Chronicles 20:21)
The special troops that the king sent out were singers! These men marched at the front of the army, singing and praising God. They celebrated the victory that God had promised, even before it happened.
And God kept his word. The enemy forces begin to fight among themselves, eventually destroying one another. When the Israelites arrived on the scene, the only thing left to do was gather the spoils. God had already done the fighting.
That had to be hard. It had to be hard to sing praises while marching against a more powerful enemy. It had to be hard to trust that God would fight the battle.
It’s easier to depend on ourselves, to trust in our strength, to put our faith in what we see and know. But faith requires that we trust that God will keep his promises.
I recently watched two very different people walking. One was Nik Wallenda. I viewed his walk on a video clip, not in person. He walked on a tightrope between two buildings in downtown Chicago, the windy city. The tightrope was even slanted upward at an angle. It was courageous, amazing, and inspiring. It was a feat that simply would not be attempted by almost anyone else. He had trained for it. He worked at it. I know it helped that he grew up with a family heritage of tightrope walking, but still…
The other walk I witnessed was an older man crossing the street in a mid-size West Texas town. He had to use a walker and he could not move very quickly. Each step seemed to take a great deal of effort. It was courageous, amazing, and inspiring. Cars waiting at the light, impatient drivers drumming their fingers on the steering wheel. It seemed to take forever. Just stepping up and down on the curb was a major undertaking.
One of these made me think about my life as a Christian, and it may not be the one you think it is. Christians often refer to our life in Christ as a walk. What we mean is that our life on this earth is a journey with the ultimate purpose of living forever with God. What Nic Wallenda did is not really how Christians live. We do not walk above the clouds. We are not on a journey that is impossible for the average person.
Our walk is more like the gentlemen I watched crossing the street. Life is hard. We live as believers in a world full of unbelief. Evil abounds and Satan has made this life dangerous. There are excuses and objections to overcome if you want to follow Jesus. But we walk on with purpose. We have a destination ahead of us. We overcome the obstacles. We walk through the danger. We do not stop till we reach the other side. We are following Jesus right to the throne of God.