Posts tagged ‘Hope’

Take Your Sin to the Right Place

One of the most tragic stories in Scripture is that of Judas Iscariot – the one who betrayed Jesus into the hands of His enemies and, ultimately, His executioners for a pitiful pittance of 30 pieces of silver. Shortly after Judas leads the Jewish religious leaders to Jesus so they can arrest Him, he is overwhelmed by the anguish of his guilt:

When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

Judas’ actions against Jesus are treacherous and wicked. But this does not make his end any less tragic.

Part of what makes Judas’ end so devastating is that he understood the gravity of his actions and began looking for a path to redemption. He rushed back to the ones who had paid him the paltry sum of silver and confessed:

“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

But the religious leaders only lobbed his sin right back on him.

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” (Matthew 27:4).

“That’s your responsibility.” These are the most damning words anyone can speak to any sinner. They remove every hope for redemption, restoration, or reconciliation. This is why it is so important that we not only feel remorse over our sin, but take our sin to the right person.

I have often wondered what would have happened if Judas would have taken his confession to Jesus. How would Jesus have responded? Here’s my guess:

“Judas, you mean the world to Me. I’ll take your sin to the very place to which you betrayed Me. But it is no longer your responsibility.”

Are you overwhelmed by remorse, guilt, or shame? Take it to Jesus – no matter what it is. He will take it from you and, in exchange, give you freedom, forgiveness, and righteousness.

One more thing: if you, like Judas, struggle, for whatever reason, with thoughts of taking your own life, seek help. Whatever it is that is leading you into these thoughts, Jesus wants more for you. Jesus wants life for you. He died so that you can live.

September 19, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Joy in Trials

Credit: Quang Anh Ha Nguyen / Pexels.com

I love joy.

I love watching a child’s eyes light up when dessert is served. I love watching a dog wag its tail in anticipation of fetching a tennis ball. I love watching a couple on their wedding day look into each other’s tearful eyes and hold each other’s hands tight.

I love joy.

And yet, joy can sometimes be tough to come by – or at least to sustain.

Joy is often overcome by anger when we see injustice in our world. Or it is overtaken with loneliness when we feel isolated with no one to talk to. Or it is overwhelmed by grief when we lose a husband, a wife, a son, a daughter, or another loved one.

The prophet Habakkuk ministered to the nation of Israel during a season when joy was tough to come by. The nation of Israel had fallen into spiritual corruption and the Babylonians were on their way to attack – and eventually conquer – Habakkuk’s home. In the midst of all this, Habakkuk, as most of us would, struggled to find joy. He opens his book by questioning – and implicitly accusing – God:

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen? Or cry out to You, “Violence!” but You do not save? Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

“Nothing is going well,” Habakkuk complains. “There is no reason to have joy.”

Except that, according to Habakkuk, there is.

Habakkuk closes his book:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

“Even when all else fails and is lost,” Habakkuk writes, “I still have the Lord. And He is enough for me to have joy.”

The apostle Paul writes, “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). This injunction, at first read, feels impossible. We can understand rejoicing, but to do so always seems ridiculous. But if Paul gives us the “what we are to do,” Habakkuk gives us the “how we are to do it.” We are to be joyful in God our Savior. Joy found in things other than the Lord will always come and go because other things always come and go. Joy found in anything other than the Lord is ultimately unsustainable. But joy that is in the Lord can endure always – because He is with us always. Find your joy in Him.

August 22, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Raising Up a Remnant

Credit: Jonathan Borba / Pexels.com

The prophet Micah ministered during a dark period in the nation of Israel’s history. Externally, the Assyrians were menacing Israel, and internally, both the secular and spiritual leaders of Israel had become corrupt. The secular leaders were abusing their privilege to take advantage of the powerless:

They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance. (Micah 2:2)

The spiritual leaders, in turn, were willing to overlook such gross misuses of power because they were being paid by the secular leaders to do so:

Her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.” (Micah 3:11)

With depravity running rampant throughout the nation, it was tempting to feel as if no one righteous was left – as if evil had gotten its way and seized the day. And for a time, that looked to be the case. The Assyrians not only menaced Israel, but eventually routed Israel, followed by the Babylonians who did the same thing a little over 100 years later. Israel had fallen and righteousness had been extinguished.

But Micah knew better. Micah understood that, even amid much fallenness and darkness, God could preserve and raise up a remnant of people for Himself:

The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which do not wait for anyone or depend on man. (Micah 5:7)

Micah declares that much will have been lost by the time Israel’s judgment is through, but God will nevertheless raise up a few.

It is especially important to note how Micah describes this small group. They are “like showers on the grass, which do not wait for anyone or depend on man.” The key difference between those who fall in judgment and those who are raised up in a remnant is that those who are raised up in a remnant “do not…depend on man.” Their status as part of God’s remnant does not depend on any person, any treaty, any riches, any social status, or any act of human power, but on the righteousness of God. It depends not on human efforts, but on faith in God. Their status as God’s remnant is not their achievement, but God’s gift.

In a world where we can sometimes feel isolated because we see sin all around us or we struggle with sin within us, we can rest assured that we are part of God’s people – His remnant. As Jesus put it: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). God’s flock may be little, but it is real. And by simple faith, anyone can be a part. May this be a promise we all take to heart.

July 25, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The Day of the Lord

Credit: eberhard grossgasteiger / Pexels.com

One of the most prominent themes in Scripture is the Day of the Lord. This is the day God will reveal Himself in His power and glory. And what a day this will be. It will be a day of awe. It will be a day of fear. It will be a day of judgment. And it is a day that is near.

The prophet Obadiah describes this day thusly:

The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head. (Obadiah 15)

In Obadiah’s telling, the Day of the Lord will be one of recompense. What you have done – both good and evil – will boomerang back to you on this day.

For me, this sounds terrifying. I have done some good in my life – but I have also done plenty of bad. There are things I have done to others that I would not want done to me. A day of recompense, for me, would be a day of ruin.

And this is precisely what Obadiah wants his readers to worry about. He continues:

Just as you drank on My holy hill, so all the nations will drink continually; they will drink and drink and be as if they had never been. (Obadiah 16)

God warns that the nations will “drink continually” – a metaphor for the pouring out of divine wrath. The wrath that God pours out on this day will be so intense and God’s destructive judgment so definitive, that it will be as if there had never been any nations.

But it does not have to be this way. In the middle of a day of inescapable divine judgment, there will be a refuge:

But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and Jacob will possess his inheritance. (Obadiah 17)

Zion will be a place of refuge from the judgment all around it. Jacob – that is, Israel – will receive an inheritance. But how?

A parent bequeaths an inheritance to a child for the simple reason that they are a child. It is not something that is earned – and often not even deserved, for many children are scoundrels – it is simply given out of love.

The apostle Paul writes:

In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. (Galatians 3:26)

This is how we are rescued from the recompense for sin that comes with the Day of Lord and, instead, given refuge in spite of our sin at the day of the Lord – through faith in Christ. Jesus is the One who turns a terrifying day into a triumphant day. He is the One who delivers us.

When the Day of the Lord comes, it will be either a day of wrath or a day of redemption in Christ. Which will it be for you?

June 27, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Hope In Troubles

Credit: Faruk Tokluou011flu / Pexels.com

Recently, in my personal devotions, I have been reading through the book of Hosea. Hosea is the first of the so-called “Minor Prophets” at the end of the Old Testament. He, like so many of the other ancient Israelites prophets, carried out his ministry during a time of great trouble and turmoil in Israel. The people had fallen prey to idolatry. They were defrauding and exploiting each other. They were engaged in all sorts of crass and harmful immorality, such as cultic sexual rituals. God raised up prophet after prophet to try to call the people back to righteousness – back to Him.

When God called Hosea, He called him not only to be a preacher, but, in some sense, a performer. Hosea is asked by God to use his life as a giant object lesson as a divine message to Israel:

The Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2)

So, Hosea does. And, predictably, she cheats on him. What Israel has done to God – cheating on Him by worshiping other gods – Hosea plays out in his life and marriage, at a great personal expense of suffering.

But even in the midst of much sin and pain, all is not lost. God makes a promise through Hosea to Israel:

I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. (Hosea 2:14-15)

God promises to restore Israel even after her faithlessness. This promise does not mean there will be no fallout from her sin. Hosea speaks of the “Valley of Achor,” which, in Hebrew, means “valley of trouble.” This is the same valley where, eight centuries earlier, a man named Achan was stoned to death for lying about stealing what belonged to God (cf. Joshua 7:24-26). Sin brings trouble.

But God reminds us that trouble does not have the last word. For, even in the Valley of Achor, God brings a “door of hope.”

Where has sin brought trouble in your life? Maybe your trouble is the result of a lie you told, a confidence you betrayed, or a boundary you breached. Then again, perhaps trouble has come to you through no fault of your own. Perhaps it is simply the result of living in a sinful, broken world. No matter what trouble you may be facing, even if God does not rescue you from the Valley of Achor, God will not abandon you in the Valley of Achor. Instead, when you are most troubled, God will give you a door – right in the midst of your valley of trouble. He will provide hope – right there in your pain.

How? Through One who has seen trouble, too – not in a valley, but on a hill called Calvary. And as this One once said:

I am the door. (John 10:7).

Jesus is our hope, no matter what our trouble.

June 6, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Say Something

First it was Buffalo. Then, last week, Uvalde. In total, 31 people lost their lives. The pictures, stories, and stunted potential of so many precious people is heart-rending.

Again and again, we ask: Why can’t we stop this? And again and again, we discover all sorts of signs were there that deadly trouble was brewing. Law enforcement referred the Buffalo shooter for psychiatric evaluation because of his macabre musings. Days before the Uvalde shooter commenced with his massacre, he sent disturbing social media messages to random teenage girls in Germany and California. So, we ask again and again: If the signs were there, why didn’t someone intervene?

When Eve falls to the twisted temptations of a talking snake to eat some divinely forbidden fruit, not only does she partake, “she also gives some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:6). Adam was with Eve the whole time she was conversing with a snake, which, in and of itself should have been a signal to him that something was drastically amiss, but he didn’t say anything. The warning signs were there, but Adam never intervened. And the result was death as sin came into the world.

At the heart of the Christian message are people who saw something – and said something. As one of Jesus’ followers, Peter, explains:

We did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

Because these first followers of Jesus said something, the world was changed – and lives were, for eternity, saved.

As debates continue to rage over the police response in Uvalde and over how to address and prevent these mass shootings more generally on the local, state, and national levels, on a personal level, if we see something, we need to say something. And we need to remind others to do the same. What we say might just be what saves a life – or many lives.

For those who are grieving because they have lost loved ones in these depraved shootings, here is a promise: the God who sees them and loves them will say something. And what He says will be life-restoring:

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. (Ephesians 5:15)

The losses we have endured are unspeakably evil, but they do not have the last word. This is the last word: Christ is risen – and so will they.

May 30, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Resurrection Trouble

Credit: cottonbro / Pexels.com

Easter is hopeful and scandalous all at the same time. It is scandalous because its message insists that what we think we know about death – that it is inescapable – has been escaped by Jesus. It is hopeful because there is something about death’s demise that strikes in us a chord of longing.

Sadly, the message of Easter – that Christ has risen in space and in time and in His body – has often been reduced to little more than a message about general hope for tomorrow and a slightly more spiritual-sounding non-descript existence after death. But it was not this way in the beginning. As N.T. Wright explains:

Death is the last weapon of the tyrant, and the point of the resurrection, despite much misunderstanding, is that death has been defeated. Resurrection is not the redescription of death; it is its overthrow and, with that, the overthrow of those whose power depends on it. Despite the sneers and slurs of some contemporary scholars, it was those who believed in the bodily resurrection who were burned at the stake and thrown to the lions. Resurrection was never a way of settling down and becoming respectable.

The resurrection caused trouble in that world – and it can still cause trouble in this world.

To the tyrant who murders to secure your power – the resurrection will destroy you.

To the disease that saps and sucks the life out of bodies – the resurrection will undo you.

To the hopelessness and helplessness and grief that can set in when a loved one dies – the resurrection will conquer you.

To the devil himself – the resurrection has already defeated you.

This is what we mean when we declare, “Christ is risen.”

And He has, indeed. Alleluia.   

April 18, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Thorny Lies

Satan loves to send malicious messages. This was something the apostle Paul struggled with. When writing to the church he planted in Corinth, he admits:

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. (2 Corinthians 12:7)

Paul struggled with a thorn. Exactly what this “thorn” was, we don’t know. Some people think it was a physical malady like a loss of sight while others conjecture that he battled some spiritual temptation. Whatever it was, Satan used this thorn as his messenger to torment Paul.

Satan does the same thing with us, too. When we struggle with and suffer from life’s thorns, Satan loves to say:

        “This thorn is because God is angry at you for a sin.”

        “This thorn means God does not care for you.”

        “This thorn proves you are unworthy of others’ love.”

        “This thorn will never end. You’ll be miserable forever.”

Have you ever struggled with thoughts that sound something like these? Satan is tormenting you with his malevolent messages.

Do not believe them. Do not believe him.

Paul certainly doesn’t. Because at the same time Satan is seeking to torment Paul with his deceptive messages, God is speaking loving words to Paul:

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God responds to Satan’s lies of human worthlessness with the truth of His worthiness, which He gladly and freely shares with us out of His grace. When Satan tells us we are insufficient, God reminds us that His grace is wonderfully sufficient.

Satan may try to speak to us through thorns, but these thorns, instead of destroying us, are taken for us. They’ve all landed on Jesus’ head. And, in exchange, He gives us grace.

Believe that. Believe Him.

April 4, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

A New Genesis

Credit: Pixabay

The Old Testament opens with these famous words:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

In Greek, one word for “beginning” is genesis, which is why we call the first book of the Bible “Genesis.” It is a book about humanity’s beginning.

The New Testament opens with these words:

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)

In Greek, the word for “genealogy” is genesis. Matthew opens with a genealogy that describes Jesus from the beginning, which echoes the beginning described in Genesis 1:1 because, as John notes, Jesus “was with God in the beginning” (John 1:2). In other words, there was never a time – even in the very beginning – when Jesus was not.

But there’s more.

A little later in Genesis, we read:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. (Genesis 5:1)

What follows is a genealogy of Adam’s descendants, just like in Matthew we get a genealogy of Jesus’ ancestors. And the Greek word behind “generations” is again genesis.

But by Genesis 5, there is a problem. Adam has fallen into sin and has reaped the consequences of sin, including pain, struggle, and death. In other words, Adam’s beginning is now marching toward a tragic end. He will perish.

The story of Scripture, then, is that of a struggle and search for a new beginning that will not inevitably end in pain, struggle, and death. And in Matthew 1, the Scriptures show us that ever since the beginning of Genesis 1, God has been planning to give us a new beginning in Jesus Christ. Genesis 1 is not the only genesis we have. We have a new genesis in Jesus.

So, where do you need a fresh start? A second chance? A new beginning? What has tragically ended for you in this life? A relationship? A hope? A dream?

Christ takes your first beginning – the one we have in Adam – and nails it to a cross and exchanges it for another beginning that will not end. No ending in this life can stop what will endure eternally in the next life.

Now that’s the kind of new beginning we all need.

The end.

March 21, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Not Much Lasts Forever

Credit: Meruyert Gonullu / Pexels.com

Whenever I was encountering a tough time as a child, my mother used to remind me, “Not much lasts forever.” Though it was hard for me to believe or see at the time, she was right. The problems that seemed to be such a big deal when I was in grade school, middle school, or high school are now just distant memories – and, in many cases, not even memories at all. I have forgotten about most of the things I was once upon a time so upset about.

Perhaps the most famous story in the Bible of a tough time belongs to a man named Job. His story opens with him as the richest man around, but then, through a series of Satanic-inspired calamities, he loses his wealth, his family, and his health. He wonders out loud if he will even lose his life:

A man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more. As the water of a lake dries up or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, so he lies down and does not rise. (Job 14:10-12)

As Job ponders death, he, at first, indicates that death would be a tough time that would last forever. When a person dies, after all, “he breathes his last and is no more” and “he lies down and does not rise.” Death, Job seemingly indicates, is permanent.

But Job is not quite done yet. After Job speaks of how a man, in death, “lies down and does not rise,” he continues:

…till the heavens are no more, people will not awake or be roused from their sleep. (Job 14:12)

Death, Job says, comes with a “till.” Death will last “till” the heavens are no more. But what about after the heavens are no more? The apostle Peter helps us:

The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10, 13)

After the heavens disappear, Peter promises that there will be a new heavens and a new earth – along with a new us. We will be raised from death. For, as my mother reminded me, not much lasts forever – not even death.

Job asks:

If someone dies, will they live again? (Job 14:14)

Peter answers Job’s question with a resounding, “Yes.”

November 8, 2021 at 5:15 am 3 comments

Older Posts


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,138 other followers

%d bloggers like this: