Category » Hope
One of the psalms describes the anxiety pilgrims would feel while making the trip. Many travelers would pass through Jericho; the road from Jericho to Jerusalem rises more than 3200 feet in less than 20 miles. Mountain roads were dangerous, full of robbers and bandits. Traveling on the plain, a traveler could see any ambush ahead. In the mountains, danger could lurk around any bend.
The psalm begins by saying, “I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?” (Psalms 121:1) We can easily imagine an anxious traveler eying the ominous mountains ahead and worrying about his safety. Who would protect him against unknown foes?
“Where does my help come from?” The psalm offers an answer to this question:
“My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalms 121:2–8)
As we face an uncertain life full of hidden dangers, we ask the same question: where will our help come from? In other words, who will we turn to for help? Where will we put our trust?
Where can we find hope?
The answer remains the same: our help comes from the Lord. He’ll never be too weak or too distracted or too tired or too distant to come to our rescue. We have eternal security knowing that God is our helper. We don’t have to trust in money or politics or armies to rescue us. We can fully trust in God.
What’s your hope for the future? Who or what are you putting your trust in? Let me encourage you to fully trust in the Lord and his salvation. If you want to know more about trusting in the Lord, write to me at email@example.com or join the conversation on our www.hopeforlife.org website.
Satan, the devil, has one main goal in life: to separate you from God and keep you separated. Very early after creation, Satan attacked Adam and Eve. He used three basic approaches and they are the same ones he uses today.
- Sow confusion about what God said. “Did God really say…?” Satan does not want you to read God’s Word for yourself. He wants you to think you cannot understand it, or believe that it could not possible mean what it says. So you do not have to worry about doing – or not doing – what it says.
- Lie about God. In this approach, Satan contradicts God. “You will not die if you eat of this tree.” The argument goes like this: God wants you to be happy, and so whatever you want to do to be happy is fine with God. Anytime you hear terms like “God would never…” or “God will do…”, it would be best to check your Bible and see what God actually says about things.
- You can be your own god. Satan told Eve the only reason God would not them eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was that then they would be like God. Of course, the problem is not just to know good from evil, but to know what to do about it. Or how to handle it when you choose evil.
You can read this story yourself. It is in the very first pages of the Bible in the book of Genesis, chapter 3. Satan will use the same approach to separate you from God. He keeps using it because it works so well. He uses the same approach because it works so well. The only flaw in his plan is that he cannot keep us away from God. God sent his Son Jesus to provide a way for us to come back to God. Not only can I show you where to read about that, but I can show you how to live with God instead of living away from him.
The most basic principle of leadership is to keep safe and take care of the people who you are responsible for. And they had failed!! They were to protect, take care of, feed and render first aid, but all they did was secure their wellbeing. And the result would be conquest and enslavement for 70 years. The leaders betrayed the trust of their people and of the one who allowed them to be leaders.
Then their failure was heralded to everyone along with their punishment.
The story is in the thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel. The prophet’s utterance of God’s judgment clearly blames the shepherds (leaders) of Israel for its eventual fall to the Babylonians and the forced conquest of the Jewish people. This is what God told Ezekiel to say:
Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves, should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with wool: you slaughter the fattlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken nor brought back what was driven away, or sought what was lost: but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. Thus, says the Lord God: Behold I am against the shepherds, and I will require my flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them. Ezekiel 34:2-4:10
These dynamics of leadership, while ancient, are present today. As a leader, whether political, military, or religious, you are responsible for your people. If you do not take care of, feed, heal and attend to their welfare, they will become enslaved to others and you will be held accountable for their capture and conquest. And God will remember your failure!!
There are plenty of religious and secular examples of failed leadership, but there are also examples for good effective leadership with the primary example being Jesus.
From your experience whom do you think was a good Leader? Why? Who was not and why? Most importantly what do you look for in a religious leader?
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it some day for a crown
These words to the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” used to catch my attention when I was young. I would think a lot about how hard it would be to lay my trophies down. I had trophies for basketball, for football, and for baseball. Some of them were championship trophies, others were merely for participation. But they meant a lot to me. I didn’t really look forward to laying them down.
Recently, while going through some of the things that are still in the house where I grew up, I saw those old trophies. They don’t mean so much any more. They’ll undoubtedly end up in the trash soon. Somehow “laying them down” doesn’t seem as hard as I once thought it would be.
Of course, the hymn isn’t really talking about those kinds of trophies. It’s talking about all of life’s accomplishments and achievements. It’s talking about laying down everything I’ve done and everything I’ve been.
The apostle Paul knew about that. In Philippians 3, he goes through a list of “trophies,” a résumé of sorts, listing the things he could brag about regarding his life and his heritage. Then he says,
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7)
Paul isn’t just talking about baseball trophies from his childhood. He’s talking about being willing to turn his back on everything for the sake of Christ. He goes on to say,
“I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8–11)
I know that just as my childhood trophies have lost their value to me, I’ll one day look at all the things that seem so important to me now and see that they are like trash compared to knowing Christ. On that day, I’ll lay my trophies down and receive what God has to give me: life without end.
His name was Bartimaeus and he was a blind beggar who encountered Jesus. He heard the crowd talking about Jesus coming toward him. So he began to shout for Jesus to have mercy on him. Maybe he had heard of the miracles Jesus had performed on others. Or perhaps he had heard the talk that he was the Son of God come to earth and he was hoping to be healed from his blindness.
But it was not very proper for a blind beggar to be shouting at Jesus. Many in the crowd told him to be quiet. Until Jesus called for him to approach. Then the message changed. All of a sudden, the crowd was cheering for him, urging him to get up and go to Jesus. One minute you are being told to shut up and the next you are getting a standing ovation. Mixed messages.
And that is why you cannot let your decision about Jesus be based on what everyone else thinks. Not the culture around you, not your friends, or not even your family. The decision to follow Jesus has to be a personal one. Some people will try to discourage you. They will try to keep you from radically following Jesus. Ignore them.
Others will cheer you decision but you cannot decide to follow Jesus based on what others think. Do not follow Jesus because some will congratulate you or because you think some will like you if you do. Follow Jesus because you believe in him and in his message.
As for Bartimaeus, he went to Jesus. He was healed from his blindness because of his faith in Jesus, and he spent the rest of his days following Jesus as one of his disciples. He did that for himself because he believed.
So do not make a decision about Jesus based on everyone else and their opinion.
Make a decision based on what you believe.
For the first time, and quite possibly the last time, my wife and I are traveling to Israel. We will see many of the places where the great stories of the Bible took place. We will walk the roads of what is called the Holy Land.
What we won’t see in Israel is the temple in Jerusalem. We’ll see partial ruins of where it once stood, but the temple itself was destroyed in the first century and never rebuilt. All that remains is the Western Wall, what is called the Wailing Wall.
Yet it’s not entirely true to say that I won’t see God’s temple while on my trip to Israel. In fact, I’ll see that temple every morning when I look in the mirror, just as I do every day. The apostle Paul twice told the Christians in Corinth that God’s temple still stands today:
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
I am a temple of God because God lives in me. He comes to live in every person who is born again of water and Spirit.
While preaching to non-Christians in Athens, Paul told them:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Acts 17:24)
There’s no building that is more of a temple than I am. God lives in people, not buildings built by human hands.
I’m excited to go to Israel, to see the historical sites there. I’m anxious to come to know better the lands that I read about in the Bible.
I’m also truly excited to have the privilege of being a temple of God. I, too, am “holy land.” The God who made the world and everything in it lives in me.
You can be holy as well. You can be a temple of God. Let him come live inside you.
I know how tempting it must have been for him. He was four years old and he loved watermelon. And there it sat – a big, round, sure to be juicy, watermelon. It was right on the edge of the cabinet. Everyone told him to leave it alone, that Mom and Dad would cut it up later. It was explained that it would be too hard for him to lift it, and that if he tried he would drop it and it might split open on the floor. Sure that he understood the danger, everyone went on about their business.
Until there was a loud thump, and there it was; watermelon on the floor, cracked right down the middle. Everyone turned around and saw what had happened. You could sense the various feelings among the adults: disappointment, frustration, surprise, and anger. But before anyone could do or say anything, that four year looked up and said…
“Well, I never saw that happening.”
Obviously he thought he could handle it, he just knew he would not drop it, and he must have thought that none of us knew what we were talking about. Right up until the moment it fell.
It was just a watermelon, so the damage was actually pretty minimal. And since the boy in question was my grandson Austin I thought it was actually funny. But it reminded me of how so many people go through life.
The devil sets up temptations in your life. You may know that you are not supposed to do something and people warn you of the consequences if you do. Maybe you do not believe them, or you do not really hear the warnings, or you do not believe bad consequences can happen to you.
Until everything crashes down. You just really did not see that happening. Until it did.
God sent Jesus to forgive our sins and to heal us from the consequences of our bad decisions. And that I do see happening.
He had prepared, trained and studied. Now the military insertion was to begin, a 40 day infiltration to obtain intel on fortifications, topography, enemy strength and the best routes for the invasion to come. At age 45 he was one of the oldest men to be part of the equivalent of Seal Team 6.
The extraction was almost routine, but the debrief wasn’t. 10 of the 12 men sent in reported that their forces could never defeat the enemy. Only he and his partner forcefully recommended moving ahead with the invasion. The commanding general chose to wait. And from Numbers 13 to Joshua 3 of the Old Testament is a wait of 40 years.
Now a new general, Joshua, has led his army of Israelites in the conquest of the Land of Canaan, the same land settled by Abraham and Lot and their families some 400 years earlier.
It is then that the old combat veteran, now 80 years old asks his friend and fellow spy for the toughest assignment. The story is told in Joshua 14:6-15.
Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb, son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, said to him, ‘You know the word which the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.
Never-the-less, my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt but I wholly followed the Lord my God.’
So Moses swore that day saying, ‘Surely, the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’
And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as he said, these forty five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty five years old.
As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.
Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how that Anakin were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.’
And Joshua blessed him an gave Hebron to Caleb, the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance
Caleb was an old warrior by the time he and his family began to rout the inhabitants of Hebron. When they had finished they had become the sole tribe in the area. Caleb consistently attributed his success to the fact that he wholly followed the Lord my God.
While the lessons are numerous when studying the life of Caleb, the single ever present aspect is his commitment to following God whether on a secret mission, unsuccessfully arguing to take the land, waiting 40 years or finally defeating the enemy.
What does wholly followed the Lord my God mean to you and have you actually followed God? In your life is there a difference between professing and the doing? Are you going to do something about that?
The apostle John, in his writings about the life of Jesus, presented some interesting insights into Jesus’ life. He wrote about things Jesus did that other writers didn’t comment about.
In the second chapter of the gospel of John, we see Jesus working in two very different settings. In the first story, we see Jesus at a wedding feast. The refreshments run short, and Jesus turns water into wine so that the revelry may continue.
The second story that we see takes place in the temple in Jerusalem. There Jesus disrupts the status quo, driving the merchants out of the temple courts, accusing them of turning God’s house into a market.
We’re not surprised to see a holy man in the temple. We’re a bit surprised to see him at a party.
But that was a mark of Jesus’ ministry. He often ate with people that the religious leaders of his day considered to be sinners. (The same religious leaders, of course, that tolerated the merchants in the temple) Jesus made such a habit of doing that that some called him a glutton, a drunkard, and a “friend of sinners.” (Matthew 11:19)
All through the Bible, God shows that he loves a good party. Much of the worship in the Old Testament involved feasting. When people were especially thankful to God, they showed that by gathering to celebrate with food and drink.
The Bible also describes ungodly parties, feasts full of gluttony. drunkenness, and immorality. These aren’t pleasing to God. His people are told to avoid such events.
But when people come together to enjoy God’s blessings and celebrate God’s goodness, God not only approves; he comes to be a part. It’s common for the Bible to talk about eating, drinking, and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord. (see Deuteronomy 14:22-27, for example)
When the prophet Isaiah described God’s Kingdom, he spoke of a great feast prepared by God himself. (Isaiah 25:6) The last book of the Bible, Revelation, describes the end as a great triumphal banquet… a wedding party. (Revelation 19:7-9)
So one day, there will be a party to end all parties. God’s people will gather from all nations, all languages, and even all times to celebrate the final victory over sin and death.
That’s a party that I want to go to. How about you?
If you don’t know how to be a part of that great celebration, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll try to help you see what the Bible says. Or join us on our www.hopeforlife.org website.
I love to watch Little League baseball, and I really like to watch the little kids play. I enjoy watching when the batter hits it to the pitcher who lets it roll between his legs. Then the second baseman picks the ball up and throws it into right field. Now the batter is running to second. He runs to third while the outfielder is picking the ball up and dropping it a couple of times. Then when the ball is thrown into the dugout, the batter makes it all the way home. And that is when someone yells: “He hit a homerun.” It was fun. It was exciting. It was a run scored. But it was not a homerun. It was four errors. It was not even a hit. Calling it a homerun does not change the facts. It does not make it true. Telling the batter he hit a homerun may make him feel good, but it is still not right.
It reminds me of how some people talk about following Jesus.
There are some who do not know what the Bible says about following Jesus. They may believe that something is true when it is not. That is why it is important to know what God says about salvation, and not just what someone told them was right.
Some would even say if I feel good about things, then I must be right. “ God surely wants me to be happy, so whatever makes me happy will be approved by God.” So they end up expecting God’s approval based on what they believe.
It is better to find out what God expects you to do to be approved by Him. Then live accordingly. You will find lasting joy in His will.
God is the ultimate judge. He determines who lives with Him forever. He sent a Son to make that possible. He told the story of His love in a book we call the Bible. There are people living their lives based on that truth. And you are invited to join us on that journey.