Hugs and Hope
We all stare at unthinkable circumstances, wishing they would go away. One day they will! But, for now, we can find comfort in knowing God is with us in our struggles, interceding on our behalf…praying we will not despair. If it is not God’s will for us, and those we love, to fully understand why things happen on Earth, then may God give us the grace to help those facing the unimaginable with hugs and hope. When emotions are overwhelming, trite words only make matters worse. At those times, we can merely offer our reassuring presence. God will help us as we help others learn to lean on Him. The Message Bible says, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, MSG)
Meeting Paul Newman
We all need to laugh more. I know I do. Here’s a funny story. A woman was buying an ice cream cone in a Beverly Hills store. She was amazed when Paul Newman walked in and stood right behind her. Though she was rattled, she was determined to maintain her composure. She proceeded to pay for her ice cream cone and then confidently walked out. Once outside, though, she realized she didn’t have her cone. Not wanting to look foolish, she waited a few minutes before reentering the store. When she did not find her ice cream cone at the counter, she stood wondering where it was. Just then, she was tapped on the shoulder, and was startled to find it was Paul Newman. He politely told her “Miss, if you’re looking for your ice cream cone, you put it in your purse.”
Welcome to America!
The secret of making people feel valued is to honor them. A bi-lingual pastor has seen his church grow into many thousands by doing just that. Whenever he meets a Mexican-American he asks them, “Has anyone welcomed you to America since you’ve been here?” Invariably they will say, “No!” Then, with a big smile, and total sincerity, he says, “I’m so sorry that hasn’t happened yet. Let me be then the first to say to you, ‘Welcome to America! We’re glad you’re here!” The response to these heartfelt words is often shocking. Smiles come to faces, tears to eyes. They’ve finally been welcomed to their new home. They’ve been honored. The Message Bible says, “Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners…” (Leviticus 19:34)
Praying in a Restaurant
I was once in a crowded restaurant on a Sunday after church with a pastor friend when the Lord prompted me to invite the entire restaurant to pray. I stood up with a big smile and said to the 50 people who could hear me, “Could I have your attention please?” The busy room went completely silent in about 10 seconds. I continued, “You know, we’re having such a wonderful time here with family and friends in this great restaurant, why don’t we just take a moment and thank God for this beautiful day.” I then bowed my head and offered a brief, uplifting prayer before sitting down. What happened next was even more surprising. Throughout the meal, people began to come over and thank me, even waitresses. It’s funny, how just obeying God at times is the best thing we can do.
Volunteering vs. Obedience
What would you rather do, volunteer to do something, or do something because you’re told to? It’s no surprise that we’d all probably rather volunteer. Yet the Bible says, “to obey is better than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22, NKJV) God’s not looking for volunteers, He’s looking for people who are willing to be obedient out of love for Him. He doesn’t want us to be creative about His will. He wants us to do His will. He isn’t looking for scriptwriters. He needs script-doers! We don’t train our children to be volunteers. Our hope is that they’d learn to be obedient to us, and even more so to God. There are people waiting for us on the other side of our obedience, and only through obedience to Christ can we find our destiny and true identity.
One day, my six-year-old grandson said, after I asked him to escort his little brother outside, “Grandpa, why do I have to always do what you say?” I chuckled at his honesty and sincerity and said, “I know Judah, it’s hard sometimes to have to obey, but that’s just the way life is.” At times, we all dislike being under someone else’s authority. Because we’re sinners, we all tend to want to rebel. The word “authority” comes from the root, “author or originator.” If Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, then we each need to learn to be under His authority. Even Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered. He didn’t get to call the shots. He was a man under authority. We only have authority if we are under authority. Whose authority are you under?
Our greatest challenges will invariably lead to the most extraordinary opportunities. Resurrections follow crucifixions! Have you ever pierced a piece of wax paper? Isn’t it interesting that you encounter the most resistance right before breaking through? The point of greatest difficulty is usually right before discovery. If we give up too soon, we’ll miss the moment. The Bible says, “…let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, ESV) If we faint, we may reap nothing. If we persevere, then God has His way, and breakthrough eventually happens . Scripture challenges each of us to “…press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14, NLT)
Replenishing Your Hope
Ever notice how at different times, the things we need most are in short supply. Sometimes it’s water, other times it’s a certain type of food. We all run low on things that need to be replenished. Right now, a lot of us are a little short on hope. But because hope is eternal, we’re always going to need it. Would you like to know a sure-fire way to increase your hope? 1 Peter 1:13 says, “…rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NKJV) In other words, I’m not putting my hope in what I can or can’t do. I’m placing my hope fully, completely, totally on what only Jesus can do in my life. It’s called grace! The more grace I receive, the more hope I’ll have.
When I was a barely a teenager my twin brother and I decided we were going to bypass the elevator and take the stairs to the top of the Washington Monument. As was typical, we made it a race. On and on we went until completely exhausted. Our biggest problem was we never knew how close we were to the top. There were 50 landings and 897 steps, but not one sign, no indication of the finish line. By the time we quit and walked all the way back down, we could have been one or two landings away. We’ll never know! What a lesson in life? I’m reminded of the words of the irrepressible Winston Churchill, who repeated over and over again in one of his final speeches, “Never give up! Never give up!”
Emotions in Movies
Every time you experience an emotion during a movie that touches your heart in a profound way, it somehow connects you to a quality found first in the heart of God. Whether we like it or not, in our purest moments, we have each been hardwired to love what God loves and hate what He hates. It is only when we continually allow God to have all of us that we remain in tune with our Creator. For, after all, we have been created in His image and likeness, carved out of His heart, and destined to reflect Him forever. The Bible says, “As all of us reflect the Lord’s glory with faces that are not covered with veils, we are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, GWT)
Memories are a funny thing. When someone has hurt us, the edges can appear sharper than they really were, until we are healed. But when someone has helped us, inspired us, blessed us, all the edges in the end appear to be gone. The majesty of his or her life seems to have even greater prominence. Deep down we all know how hard life can be, how at times it can appear hopeless. So, when someone leaves a lasting impression of hope that is truly impressive, it is because they have become, as the Bible says, “…more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37, ESV) They have conquered attitudes, responses, and challenges in life that many of us have failed to. But in truth, they were only able to do this because of Jesus.
When I look back to before I surrendered my life to Jesus, I believe one of the principle reasons I became an atheist was because I was shown a misrepresentation of Christ. In stark contrast, it was the people who showed me the true Jesus, who modeled His life and heart so marvelously, they made me want to receive Him, and want to be like Him. They represented Jesus well. The true value of a godly example, someone who we know is flawed, but in so many ways appears flawless, is that they bring Heaven to Earth, they give us a glimpse into what is most important…eternity. Are you and I ready to stand before our Creator? Have you allowed Jesus to take His rightful place as Lord and God of your life? May God help us all to become the godly examples who represent Jesus well.