Series 31


No Hope…Here’s Hope

“When hope is gone,” Pastor Alan said, “There’s not much left.”  When he said this a scene from a week ago blazed into my mind.

My wife Nancy had arrived home from work. Skipping her typical greeting, instead she said: “We let someone down.” She faltered for a moment: “Corey committed suicide.”

Corey was 26. He’s one of the hundreds of people who come into my wife’s ministry—The Free Store. He always projected a down countenance. I never remember seeing him smile. In a loose way, we kept up on the twists and turns of his life.

My wife’s words: “We let someone down,” tilted responsibility toward us. Now we weren’t personal friends with Corey. He never confided in us. So should we really take blame?

Jesus was asked, “Which is the most important of all the commandments?” He immediately cited wholehearted loving God. Then added, “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”

Who’s my neighbor? Corey and anyone else I see in need. Anyone who seems hopeless.

I have felt hopeless. At one time, committing suicide seemed reasonable to Nancy.

Then we found Jesus.

And the hope the Bible speaks of: “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts…for while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope…”


Are You An Unsalted Surfer?

I wrinkled my forehead, shaking my head, “No.” How could I write a God-focused column inspired by a surfing movie? That’s what my brother-in law Bill suggested.

I actually watched the movie Unsalted twice. It’s a documentary about surfing on the Great Lakes. One brief snippet kept popping into my brain.

A professional surfer from California stood on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. His words stirred me: “They’ve lost the passion or they’ve never had it.” He was talking about surfing passion. But there’s an exact parallel to our spiritual lives. I could just as easily be looking over a massive gathering of Christians, saying: “They’ve lost the passion or they’ve never had it.”

And sometimes, those words are part of my own inner reflection.

Jesus said, ‘I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot…So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Jesus is essentially saying unpassionate Christians make Him sick.

Jesus also said, “You are the salt of the Earth; but if the salt loses its flavor how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”

At a recent Bible study, a young man’s words exemplified Jesus’ desire for our attitudes. “The atoms in my soul are just jumping around; I'm so excited about Jesus I can't contain myself.”

Everyday a new wave to ride on our spiritual journey awaits us. The decision of our level of vigor, vitality and purpose for the ways of God also awaits us.

Like salt, the path to passion is basic, simple—essential. Read your Bible. Pray. Maintain vital connections with fellow Christians.  The level of passion you choose for these will mirror your overall passion for Jesus.


Miracle Grandma

It said, “I love you,” twice on the outer flap. Across the top of the card in a second grader’s handwriting was printed, “Happy Grandparents Day.”

Mimi handed it to Miracle Grandma and the warm fuzzy emotions continued as she looked inside and read, “Thank you for being the best grandparent! Love, Mimi.”

So why is Connie, Miracle Grandma? She says, “My husband and I choose not to have children. We always said that there are plenty of children in the world and we can find some who might need us in their lives.”

For the most part this scenario hovered near zero. But then the first miracle happened. Connie became a follower of Jesus Christ. Then this Scripture became alive in her life. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

“The first time I saw Mimi,” Connie says, “I fell in love with her.” While volunteering at a ministry serving the needy, their paths crossed. Four year-old Mimi and her mother spoke limited English. Mimi, her mom and sister Maria returned often. Smiles and gestures sprinkled with a few words effectively communicated love.

Connie doesn’t recall when Mimi started calling her, “Grandma.” Her love for Mimi, and Maria and now two additional siblings is described by Grandma Connie as: “A miracle.”

When a person becomes a Christian, lifestyle changes to become God’s new creature are necessary.  And for some not-yet-Christians the idea of changing, give up things, seems like too high of a cost.

Connie what would you be willing to give up in your pre-Christian life to be a Grandma?


And that is the way God’s great exchange works. God always provides superior replacements as we are transformed into people who choose to live for Him.


Serving God and Failing?

Patricia couldn’t help thinking she had failed.

Months prior she had felt an inner stirring from God to lead a Bible study. Non-typical. She had setup in a downtown shopping area.

But now she was asking herself, “Why am I even bothering to do this?” She had committed through the end of summer—eleven sessions. This was meeting number ten. No one showed up. Actually…the grand total for all the meetings Numerous people had verbally committed to coming. Countless flyers were handed out; prayer and diligent preparation were abundant.

A week later it was the final Bible study. It looked like another no-show gathering. Then Tammy poked her head in the door, “Is this where the Bible study is?” Clinging behind her was David, her seven year-old.

Patricia served refreshments. Led songs on her guitar. Taught God’s Word with all her heart. Yet after the meeting she felt a tinge of failure: “It seemed like they didn’t get anything”

A few months later Patricia saw Tammy. She said, “David keeps talking about the songs we sang and talking about God.”  A pattern of very sporadic contact continued for years. And every time Tammy mentioned: “David is still talking about the Bible study.”

Six years after their initial meeting, their paths crossed once again. “You’ve had a big impact on David’s life,” Tammy said. “He’s going to church now.”

The words, “Big Impact,” seemed strange to Patricia’s brain. She knows this Bible verse: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  And now Patricia has her harvest—David’s life direction has been changed. And likely his eternal destination.

Do not grow weary in doing good…you have not failed. Your harvest awaits.


Jesus’ New Commandment

My ire spiked. Eight-year old Tyanna told me about a ritual she, her siblings, and a friend had undergone at a church down the street. They were told to lay on the floor as the pastor’s wife prayed over them. The thrust was to get these children to speak in tongues as part of their salvation experience.

A day later my ire spiked again. A Preacher was analyzing the Jesus-walking-on-the-water event. When Peter saw Jesus, he desired to walk on the water also. He took a couple of steps and sank. This nationally known Pastor, in essence, concluded and taught that Peter could have succeeded if he had had enough faith in himself.

Ire number one. Think about this. All of these children would significantly fail in correctly explaining the fundamentals of a salvation relationship with Jesus. Yet speaking in tongues had been elevated to the highest order. My suggestion—teach Jesus and the cross above…above all.

Ire number two. Believing enough self-faith could propel Peter across the water is flat out silly. Furthermore this high-impact Preacher’s attempt at authenticating this teaching is highly misleading. And spiritually dangerous.

Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” From my observations, those who were the target of my negative emotions are disciples of Jesus.

My ire was not love.

Jesus’ new commandment declares that a hallmark of a Christian is to show Jesus-like love to anyone who is a follower of His. Jesus left zero loopholes for exclusion.

If a person is a follower of Jesus, love them—no exceptions.

This means I need to change. How about you?