Tag Archives: Jesus

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 20

Here’s a little secret: Hope is not just an attitude or an ambition. It’s a person. His name is Jesus. But my guess is you already knew that.  Sounds so simple—yet if you’re like me, you sometimes forget that Jesus is a real, living person. He’s the whole point of our faith. The indwelling presence that animates our very life.

I’ve heard it said that if you want to succeed in life, then “the main thing is to make the main thing the main thing.” In our case, as believers, the “main thing” is Jesus.

The Apostle Paul knew this full well. Here’s how he identifies himself in his letter to his young protégé, Timothy: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1). He says that Christ Jesus, Himself, is our hope.

We often try to build our hope on strength, ambition, dreams, Bible study practices, knowledge, or even friends. But in the end, the only lasting hope, the hope that stands up under fire, is Christ Jesus. Paul fastened his identity and his hope to Jesus.  It’s clear he knew his destiny and calling as an apostle by the command of God. But beyond that, he knew Christ Jesus as his “hope.”

This is day 20 of 30 Days of Hopeful. Hope is just one dimension of our life as believers. The Bible lists hope, along with faith and love, as the three attributes which remain with us into eternity (1 Corinthians 13:13). I can’t quite get my head around that one just yet.

For now, let’s simply ponder the thought that hope is a person. We have hope as we reflect upon Jesus; talk with Him; dwell in Him; meditate on His Word; get to know Him better.

So Pray. Listen. Worship. Serve. Give. Spend time in solitude with Jesus. Look for Him in the faces of the least and the lost. You’ll increase the fires of your hope because you’ll get to know true hope—His name is Jesus.

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 18

Sometimes it’s hard to hold onto hope in the middle of life’s storms. We may have to lean on the help of a few good friends. It was one of those times for the paralytic in Luke 5. We don’t know the man’s ailment; what we do know is that he was helpless. So his friends carried the man on a mat to see the Master.  Their way was blocked by the crowd, but they were persistent and clever. They climbed on the roof, hauled up their sick buddy, and lowered him through a hole they made in the roof—right in front of Jesus. Pretty daring!

But instead of rebuking them, Jesus (maybe with a hint of a smile) applauded their faith.  Right then and there, he healed their friend!

Let’s reflect further on this miracle:  Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.  When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven”  (Luke 5:17-20 NIV).

Jesus saw the faith of the sick man’s friends and forgave the man of his sins. Then he healed him. As everyone watched, the man “jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God” (Luke 5:25, 26). The onlookers were “gripped with awe and wonder” and praised God, too. Could the faith of a few friends have ignited such miracle? Was it their persistence? Their willingness to take a risk? Maybe all of those.

But I like to think it was also their love for their friend that opened the door to the miracle. They had suffered with this man. Prayed for him. Refused to give up on him.  Did whatever it took to get him to Jesus. Most important of all, they believed in the power of Jesus, Son of the Living God, to set their friend free.

These friends were true intercessors. They knew what it meant to stand in the gap. They remind me of some friends who stood in the gap for a woman I know. She was caught in the grip of addiction. She’d lost hope—even the will to live. Together, her friends waged a battle for her on their knees.

How they did pray! That little team of friends demonstrated the power of persistent prayer and loving action. They “made a hole in the roof” to place their friend at the feet of Jesus.  Maybe this is our calling as believers.  To be vessels of the same mercy we’ve received from the Lord. Agents of hope.  It was Jesus himself who reminds us that there is no greater love than to “lay down our life for our friends.”

I‘ll leave you with my favorite definition of mercy:  “Mercy is the willingness to enter the chaos of another person’s life.” 

Lord, make us willing to be Your vessels of mercy and agents of hope to a hurting and broken world. –Amen

30 Days of Hopeful: Day 14

The local atheist club was sitting at the table behind me the other night while I was doing some writing in my favorite coffee shop.  I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation. I had to chuckle. For one thing, they were planning a Christmas Eve “service,” minus Jesus or God or anything religious, of course. But also,  I was a little amused because I used to be one of them—an atheist, that is. That was many years ago. Back then, I didn’t consider myself a political atheist or an activist, like so many atheists these days. I simply didn’t believe in God. Funny how things turn out.

I found myself thinking about why I am no longer an atheist…but rather a sold-out follower of Jesus. And why the hope that now fills my heart has become for me, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, an “anchor for my soul” (Hebrews 6:19). A fitting topic for 30 Days of Hopeful, don’t you think?

I reflected on the ways I draw joy and purpose from the practical, day-to-day hope threaded throughout the Bible. This hope “does not put us to shame,” because God’s amazing love has been “poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  Over the years, it has proven to be a sturdy hope.  I’ve learned that it’s real, tangible, and stands up under the fires of suffering (Romans 5:3-5).

But there is another type of hope I’ve discovered. This kind is a stark reminder for me that this world is not my home. It’s a far-reaching, transcendent brand of hope. Something I can’t quite get my arms around—not yet, anyway. This is the eternal hope God promises to the followers of His Son. It’s the same hope Colossians 1:5 tells me is “stored up for me in heaven.” The word translated as “stored up” can also mean “destined.”

I’m destined for this eternal hope. That means it’s my destiny. And my destination. I think it’s the “destination” aspect of hope that came to mind the other night as I listened to the atheists. There was lots of laughter in their conversation. Lightheartedness. Even camraderie. But I couldn’t pick up a trace of certainty about their purpose—other than just “not being religious.” I’m not sure any of them had a grasp of their destiny. Or of their destination.

I found myself thanking God, filled with fresh gratitude that years ago, a friend put a book in my hands, and simply said: “One day, when you have questions, read this.” The book was by a former atheist. And I gotta tell you. C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity nailed me. In the time it took to read chapter 8, God snatched me from the “dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13) and “brought me into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” It’s in Him that I have “redemption and the forgiveness of my sins” (verse 14).

No wonder I have hope. Hope in the daily stuff. Hope for my future and the future of those I love. And hope for heaven. It’s stored up waiting for me there. And as my shelf-life gets shorter, that’s better and better news.  But until then, I walk in confident expectation, knowing I am destined. I have a destiny. And I am traveling toward my destination.

30 Days of Thankful: Day 26

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NKJV).

Giving thanks to God can diffuse even life’s most difficult circumstances. Gratitude has a healing power all its own. I have seen this over and over in our decades of ministry as we have come alongside people during their times of trial. I’ve watched praise and thanksgiving emerge from those walking through the worst of tragedies—clear evidence that God is providing supernatural strength and comfort.

But I’m learning the value of giving thanks all over again while spending much of the last few days in the trauma unit of our local hospital. This time I’m not here as a caregiver, but as a family member.  My younger sister, while battling an illness,  sustained a head injury in a fall and has been fighting for her life. Some of you have walked this journey yourself. There’s lots of watching and waiting and praying at a time like this.

Since we are going through our 30 Days of Thankful, I’ve chosen to begin each difficult morning thanking God for what He is doing and will continue to do in this situation. I’ve also been watching for evidence of His work, jotting down each little sign of hope—however tiny—in my journal.

There have been many. Like the kind custodian who assured me that God was “in control” and then, looking over at my comatose sister, said with conviction, “She’s going to be all right.” Or the beautiful chaplain with a Middle Eastern background whose family had once smuggled Bibles into her closed country. What a special time of prayer we had together. Or the beautiful garden I discovered—a nice spot to have lunch in the bright October sunshine; and the beautiful walking trail just outside the hospital; the friends who dropped by at just the right moment to pray for my sister. The list goes on. We have a long road ahead of us—but today, I have hope. And I am thankful.

Life here on planet Earth is full of these kind of laboratory experiments…opportunities to take God at His Word. It’s not like Jesus didn’t warn us: I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] (John 16:33 AMP).

30 Days of Thankful: Day 11

How not to say thank you. An unusual topic for Day 11 of 30 Days of Thankful.  Is it possible to offend God with the way we thank Him? Apparently so—if our “thank you” comes from a self-righteous heart. Jesus told this story to a group of religious leaders who were confident in their own “goodness” and scorned everyone else:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. ’“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-13).

The two men couldn’t have been more different. The Pharisee was well-bred, well-educated, and well-off. He had an impressive religious pedigree. He had arrived. The tax-collector, on the other hand, was a loser.  To the Jews, he was an object of scorn–a  pagan Gentile.   A sinner, and easy to despise. He had no social standing, no prestige, and probably not many friends. Then as now—nobody much likes a tax collector.

At first glance, it looks like the Pharisee is thanking God for his many blessings. But a closer look lets us in on the real truth.  His “prayer of thanks” was just a way to boast that he wasn’t like the “evildoers.”  He probably spoke loudly enough for the tax collector to hear him.   Then, his “thanks” to God was just an announcement of his own righteousness–a reminder to everyone in his hearing that he fasted and tithed.

The Greek translation of this passage sheds even more light on the true nature of this man’s prayer: “The Pharisee stood and prayed like this to himself” (Luke 18:11 MOUNCE).  To himself. Did you catch that? The Pharisee’s prayer went no further than himself.

But the tax collector was stricken at his own sinfulness. He stood at a distance—not even daring to look to heaven as he uttered, “God have mercy on me, a sinner” (v. 13).

Jesus spells it out plainly:  The tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified—righteous before God. His prayers were heard.

A few reminders as we develop a thankful heart:

  1. True thankfulness is always accompanied by humility.
  2. None of our acts of righteousness will ever make us righteous in God’s sight—we all need grace and mercy, just like the tax collector.
  3. The ground at the foot of the cross is level.