Hope for Life Blog

Tag: discipleship

Rivals and a jealous God

by on Apr.02, 2017, under Hope

An enterprising young Chinese woman, identified only as Xiaoli, found herself a little short of cash. So she convinced her boyfriend to buy her an iPhone 7.

Then she got another iPhone 7… by convincing another boyfriend to buy her the smartphone. She did the same with yet another boyfriend. And another. And another.

Eventually, Xiaoli got 20 new phones from 20 boyfriends. She then sold the phones on the Internet and bought herself a house in the countryside! No one is sure which of the boyfriends will share the house with her or if any of them will.

In the Bible, God frequently told his people that he wasn’t willing to share their love. They could worship him, or they could worship false gods, but they couldn’t do both. God doesn’t want to be one “boyfriend” among many; he wants people to love him will all their hearts.

Are you willing to give your whole heart to God? Or are the things that would compete with him for the top spot in your life? Here are some common rivals:

  • Family. We’re often tempted to put people we love ahead of God. The Bible says that won’t work:

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37)

  • Possessions. We love our stuff. We love money. We love having things around us. We can’t let those things become more important than God.

“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)

  • Sin. That should be pretty obvious, but some people have trouble coming to God because they don’t want to give up the bad things that they are doing. We have to be ready to let go of things that are wrong.

“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:5–6)

  • Life itself. Sometimes, we’re so in love with this present life that we just aren’t that interested in the life that God offers. Jesus came to reach out to those who are weary of this world and long for something better. If we want to love God, we can’t continue loving the world as it is:

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

A girl with 20 boyfriends isn’t being faithful to any of them. Those guys aren’t going to let her continue to live that way and still be in a relationship with them. In the same way, if want to be with God, we have to be willing to put aside all of his rivals.
Jesus said it this way:

“Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37–38)

If you want to know more about loving God and giving yourself to him alone, contact us. Or just leave a comment on this post.


Following Jesus Is Not About You

by on Sep.13, 2015, under Hope

I spend most of my life talking to people about following Jesus so I get asked a lot of questions about what that means.

            Do I have to start going to church?

            How much of my lifestyle has to change?

            Am I going to be asked for money?

            What do I have to do?

What do I have to give up?

What do I have to believe?

The problem with all these questions is that they are addressing the wrong subject.  They are about you, not Jesus.  So I often respond by apologizing for not explaining the story of Jesus better.  If you believe in Jesus, the response is never about what you have to do, how much time or money is involved, or what behaviors are allowed.

The key words for following Jesus are things like “deny yourself”, “die with Jesus”, “being crucified with Christ”.  These words are about complete and total surrender to the call of Jesus.  There is no bare minimum standard of behavior.  There is no set of steps to complete.  Nor is faith measured by a percentage of belief in certain facts.  There is only surrender of your body, mind, soul, and heart to Jesus. 

Some have asked at this point – “but don’t I have to get baptized. Isn’t that an act or a step.”  No it is not.  The language of Scripture about baptism is language of faith, death, and resurrection.

So if you want to follow Jesus there is just one decision.  Do you believe in Jesus, or do you not?  If you do, then say no to yourself, die with Jesus, and be raised to a new life following him with all of your heart.  Anything short of that and you are missing the truth about Jesus. 

Blessings,

steve

 


The Old Spy’s Request

by on Jun.14, 2015, under Hope

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?


First Called

by on Jun.24, 2012, under Hope

He was the first to answer the call of mission, the first to recognize the specialness, the first to tell someone else of the unique find.

30 years later he was at the mercy of the authorities and he must have known that this time his life would be taken from him.

He had traveled far from his fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. He had seen Constantinople, the natural wonders of modern countries such as Greece, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and some even think Austria, and everywhere he went he told people about Jesus, the Messiah and planted new churches.

Andrew’s story is read in the first chapter of John’s Gospel:

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ),. And he brought him to Jesus. (John 1:40-42)

Andrew becomes one of the four disciples most closely associated with Jesus, he was a speaker on the Day of Pentecost and then he traveled, mostly by foot. Eventually, to be tortured and crucified in the city of Patras on the Peloponnese peninsula of what is now known as Greece. The X shaped cross called a Saltire has become known as “Saint Andrew’s Cross.”

From that time by the Sea of Galilee, Andrew saw a lifetime fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to make he and Peter fishers of men. Mark 1:17

As exemplified in the life of Andrew, being a follower of Jesus is rough and costly, yet the outcome is never in doubt.

Have you been called and did you answer? What did it cost you? Was it worth it and how do you know?


Kid Games and Jesus

by on Jun.10, 2012, under Hope

I enjoy watching kids play games.  Some of the same games I enjoyed as a child were the ones my children enjoyed.  Now my grandkids play some of those same games.  So I began to wonder if the games children play can teach us anything about Christianity. 

Some people think Christianity is like playing Simon Says.  You remember that game.  The leader (Simon) tells you something to do and you must do it.  Fail to do the right thing, or do the wrong thing, and you lose.  That view of Christianity leads people to a life of fear.  Did I do everything right?  Did I fail to do something I should?  That is a hard way to live because none of us will do everything perfectly.  If we could do that, we would not need Jesus to start with.

Red Light, Green Light is not correct either.  That is the game were the leader says “green light” and everyone moves toward the finish line.  “Red light” and everyone stops.  Move on the red light and you go back to the start.  Christianity is not a series of rules that you must get right.  God does not stand at the finish line waiting to catch you in a mistake and then send you back to the start.  God wants you to get to the finish line.  That is why he sent Jesus.

So what game reflects Christianity?  Follow the Leader.  God sent Jesus to lead us back to him.  He is the way to get home to God.  Walk in his steps, do what he does, do not go where he does not.  Follow his steps.  Follow him.  We live in a hard world.  And if you decide to follow Jesus, it will be a hostile world.  God wants you to live life to the fullest.  So he did not just send down a bunch of rules for you to follow.  He does not want to make it hard for you to live a life of faith. 

So he sent Jesus so you could see how to live.  For Christians, follow the leader is not a game to play.  It is a lifestyle to choose.

Blessings,

steve


It is as easy as one, two, three…

by on Apr.22, 2012, under Hope

That is what the ad said:  getting a motorized wheelchair for your loved one is as easy as one, two, three.  Not only that but it would be cheap or perhaps even free.  What my father-in-law heard was that it would be easy to get your free motorized wheelchair if you need it.  He needed it, so he and my wife set out to get this free and easy chair.  I am not sure how lots of paperwork, including the visit to the Doctor to get his assessment and then to a therapist to get his endorsement, is considered easy.  That took several weeks and at least three appointments plus the paperwork.

The chair did end up being free.  It just was not easy.  And of course, if you want to transport it you need a power lift on the back of your vehicle.  Not included.  Not easy.  That lift then requires a hitch added on to the vehicle.  Again, not part of the deal.  Not easy.  Maybe what they meant and what we expected did not match up.  It took quite a bit of time and what we considered significant expense to secure the free and easy motorized wheelchair.  But Grandpa is thrilled.  He is able to go places on that chair easier and pain free.  Great decision; we just did not understand the cost.  If we had, we would have done it anyway.  The benefit is worth it.  We just wish we had known the true cost in time and effort up front.

So I wonder if we Christians mean something different than what non-believers hear when we talk about the free gift of salvation through Jesus.  Salvation is God’s free gift, but that does not mean it is easy.  Jesus himself said if we want to follow him we must deny ourselves.  He said if we wanted to find our life we must first lose it.  The decision to follow Jesus is described as a death.  And if you follow Jesus you will be persecuted by a world that does not know him.  The Bible gives much advice on how to live in a hard world full of trouble and trials.

Free does not mean easy, but it is so worth it.   

Blessings,

steve


After Easter

by on Apr.08, 2012, under Hope

I think they were suffering a bit of post-Easter depression. Not the kind that comes from too many chocolate eggs or lack of sleep from going to a sunrise service. No, this was the real thing.

Peter and the other apostles had lived an emotional roller coaster that few of us can imagine. Their beloved Teacher, the one they thought was going to be king, had been arrested and killed. Then, a few days later, they learned that He had risen from the dead! They saw Him, ate with Him, then were told to go to Galilee to wait.

It was during that wait that I think they got the blues. Or, if not that, they at least got bored. So Peter suggested they do what they had always done before meeting Jesus: go fishing.

Chapter 21 of the gospel of John tells us how they worked all night without catching anything. A few weeks before, they had been part of the big show. They were the disciples of the Great One, the Maestro, the Messiah. Now they were spending all night throwing nets into cold, dark water, without anything to show for their efforts.

That’s when Jesus showed up on the shore. That’s when everything changed. That’s when one command from His lips filled their nets to the breaking point and almost capsized their boats. That’s when Peter and the others knew they were back in the presence of the Risen Lord. Jesus had come to meet these Galilean fishermen at the place they knew best.

How far is it from the temple in Jerusalem to the banks of the Sea of Galilee? It’s the same distance as it is from church on Sunday to the office on Monday. It’s the distance from Holy Communion to lunch out of a bag. It’s the distance from Easter bonnets to oil-soaked coveralls.

Special religious days can be nice for recharging our batteries, but the Christian life is lived out 24/7, both in holy places and on dirty streets. God comes to meet us anywhere and everywhere. He doesn’t just wait for us inside a church building on Easter Sunday. He’s willing to be there with us, every day of the year.

Jesus came to tell the apostles that it was okay for them to be fishermen. He also came to remind them that they had been called to be fishers of men. God wants to come and make your job a calling, to make your employment a vocation. He wants to make every day a holy day, and every place a sanctuary.

The day we call Easter comes once a year… but today and every day can be just as special! Let God transform your ordinary into something high and holy.



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