Hope

The Poor Are Also Created in the Image of God

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

Wow. I must confess, this passage is difficult for me to imitate. Throughout life, I have bypassed many beggars on the streets and ignored their plea for money. What’s my excuses consist of?

Here is a list that usually runs in my head: If they are able-bodied, why can’t they get a job? What if they use that money for drugs or alcohol? How do I know they are telling me the truth? I need that money for myself. I have a family to feed.

How do you respond when a beggar asks for money? Have these thoughts ever entered your mind? If so, you are not alone. But are these excuses valid? As Christians, I do think we need to be wise in how we give money to strangers, but are we ever justified to ignore a person in need?

Let’s examine the Bible. Jesus makes it clear in Luke 6:30, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

The Greek word for everyone is πᾶς. It means, “all people.” Similarly, in the passage above, the Greek word for anyone is ὅς, which has a totality emphasis, meaning to give unconditionally. There are at least 30 additional passages that Jesus preaches on concerning charity towards the poor.

Based on Scripture, I believe all of us have a duty to help people in need. Does that help always include financial assistance? Not all the time. If you are financially unstable, and someone is begging from you, it may be unwise to give them money you don’t have.

However, I still think there is an obligation to show Christ’s love to that person. You can certainly pray for them. Peter is a perfect example of this in Acts: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (Acts 3:6).”

Therefore, while there may be conditions in which you can’t give monetarily, there are no conditions in which you should ignore the person.

When I was in college, I used to preach in the open air. Homeless people would come up to me all the time and ask for money. Instead of giving them money, I invited them to eat a meal with me. Most declined.

There was one person I vividly remember accepting my invitation. When we walked into the restaurant, I will never forget the reaction on the customers’ faces. It’s almost as if you could read their minds. “What is he doing in here? He smells bad.” I felt sympathy for this homeless man because I experienced what it was like to sense strong rejection, as if I was sub-human.

While we were eating, he told me his life story. I came to the realization that he was a person just like me. Full of dreams. Creative. A sense of humor. Personable. On the other hand, broken. Confused. Depressed. Despite the virtues and vices, this man was a priceless vessel created in the image of God.

This experience has helped me to become more sympathetic towards the poor and needy. And it should. The Bible tells us that if we don’t have pity for the brokenhearted, then the love of God does not reside in us. James tells us that if we have faith, but not works, our faith is futile. Our religion becomes worthless when we abandon the widows and orphans in distress.

On judgment day, Jesus will say to the righteous: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matt. 25:40).” Next time you see a stranger in need, remember that a day is coming when you will either be exhorted by your decision to help a person in need or rebuked for failing to imitate Christ’s love.

Be encouraged. There are endless opportunities to show the love of Christ to the outcasts. Here are 7 suggestions. Please add more to this list in the comments below. God bless.

  1. Go on a mission trip with your local church.
  2. Help out at Vacation Bible School.
  3. Adopt a child in the foster care system.
  4. Give to Hope for the Hungry.
  5. Bring food to a homeless person.
  6. Instead of buying a cup of coffee, save that money for a beggar.
  7. Grab some lunch with an outcast at your church who may not have a family nearby.

Why Does a Good God Allow Human Suffering?

“Good and upright is the Lord.” – Psalm 25:8

Why does a loving God allow human suffering and evil? If God is all-powerful, doesn’t he have the ability to prevent it? If the Creator truly cares, wouldn’t he bring peace upon this earth? What is the purpose of suffering, if any at all? These are all common questions that people ask, especially when they are experiencing tragedy.

When my wife was a child, she had a younger sister named Natalia. At the age of 1, it was evident something physically was wrong. Her parents went from doctor to doctor to get a diagnosis. Finally, the worst news possible: Natalia had terminal cancer.

Her parents were determined to save Natalia’s life. They tried chemotherapy, surgery, traveled to clinics around the country, but there was no remedy for this cancer. It started in the tailbone and spread to her lungs.

When Natalia began to walk, she would complain about her leg pain. She just wanted relief. My wife vividly remembers a time when Natalia said to her Mom, “I just want an injection. Can you give me an injection to relieve this pain?” Most children loathe shots, but Natalia needed it because her pain was unbearable. That same year Natalia passed away and began the journey to her heavenly home.

Stories like these are hard to hear. My wife and her family were devastated. Heartbroken. Questioning the goodness of God was a natural conversation considering their circumstances. Despite the pain, this tragedy had started a positive direction for their family.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

After the funeral, my Father-in-Law, who was an agnostic, started attending church. He had nowhere else to go. In his brokenness, the only relief was to be part of a community of believers who would pray and comfort him and his family during this ravenous storm.

My wife started going to church with her grandpa. My Mother-in-Law also began attending church. Although Natalie had passed into eternity, her influence was prevalent. This tragedy brought the entire family into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Today, my wife loves the Lord. She has helped missionaries translate the gospel from English to Ukrainian. She has counseled several women in the church. Everyday,  she teaches my two boys the importance of God’s love. For instance, our eldest son Evan is already sharing Jesus with kids he meets at the park. She has been a tremendous helper for me and a vital asset to the strength of our family.

My Father-in-Law owns a successful business. He gives employees the option of staying after work to do in-depth Bible studies with him. And yes, they get paid for being present. He has contributed greatly to their city, revamping dilapidated buildings, creating programs for youth, and teaching Bible studies at his house. He knows the Bible better than any seminary trained professor I have ever met.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4

All of us will experience tragedy at some point. It’s inevitable. When these tragedies do arise, what will your attitude be? If you become bitter and angry towards God, I can promise you, life will become a dark tunnel filled with disappointment. Bitterness always leads to the grave.

My wife’s sister Natalia was a heartbroken event. Both her laughter and tears will never be forgotten. And yes, grieving is the right attitude, but it’s not the final outcome. Natalia had a positive impact on my wife and her entire family. Her death brought brokenness, but that brokenness led the Livinyuk family to seek refuge in Christ. Praise be to God.

The Hope of our Inheritance is Found in Christ

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you (1 Pet. 1:3-4).”

It was tough to see my Grandpa die. He was diagnosed with bone cancer in the winter of 2008. I just graduated from college that summer and was staying home for a year before attending seminary. I remember watching my grandpa go through pain and agony. One day I moved him from the living room to his bed. It was a struggle for him to move his body and get off the wheelchair. He stayed on that same bed for a couple more weeks.

By this time, hospice visited the home. My grandpa could no longer speak to us, but began his descent towards death. I remember quoting Scripture out loud with my Mom, Dad, Grandma, and two older brothers. Toward the last couple of days, Grandpa struggled for breath. It was hard to hear and see him go through this, and I felt like the grip of death was even upon me. He passed away on Valentines Day, February 14th, 2009.

Grandpa loved to watch sports, go hunting, eat pie, and most importantly, hang out with his grandkids. Whenever I left the house, he would always say, “Be good now.” These memories of him are perched in my conscience and will forever remain with me.

I have hope that I will see my Grandpa again. I know he liked watching Billy Graham preach on television and hearing the good news of Jesus Christ. This fact alone gives me confidence and hope.

This is what the Lord is telling us in 1 Peter. You and I have hope. Jesus has washed away our sins and has given us an inheritance that can’t be destroyed, not even by our greatest foe, death! Jesus has conquered death and if you put your faith in him, you will be with him in heaven forever. This hope is real and I pray that it will become more real as I get closer to my death from this life.

The Suffering Savior

Cross, Calvary, Crown of Thorns

“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered (Heb. 2:9).”

A famous evangelist told the following incident: “I have a friend who in a time of business recession lost his job, a sizable fortune, and his beautiful home. To add to his sorrow, his precious wife died; yet he tenaciously held to his faith, which was the only thing he had left. One day when he was out walking in search of employment, he stopped to watch some men who were doing stonework on a large church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock, “where are you putting that?” he asked. The man said, ‘Do you see that little opening up there near the steeple? Well, I’m shaping this stone down here so that it will fit in up there. Tears filled my friend’s eyes as he walked away, for the Lord had spoken to him through that laborer whose words gave new meaning to his troubled situation.” – Daily Bread

We can relate to the man in the story. Some of us have been betrayed by our best friends, others have watched their own family members suffer from cancer, and some may have experienced an illness themselves, leading to mental or physical suffering. The gospel of James reminds us to count it a great joy whenever we experience various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. Doesn’t this concept seem contradictory to what the culture tells us? Don’t they preach to us that fulfillment is found in a beautiful family, a nice fenced in backyard, and a job that pays our salary and gives good insurance?

This wasn’t what our Creator had in mind for us. He doesn’t promise us, at least in this life, that our pain and suffering will magically go away or that we will live the American dream. Instead, in the midst of our storms, Jesus whispers to us: “I am with you. I know what you are going through. I took on human flesh and became like you in every way. Yes, life is full of difficulty, but remember that I work together for good to those who are calling according to my purposes.”

The man realized at the end of the story that the rock that was being chiseled, worked on, renewed, and shaped was someday going to be a beautiful piece on top of the steeple. In the same way, God allows the trials of life to chisel and work in us, but His goal is to sanctify and ultimately glorify us when we get to heaven. And yes, He does promise us in the new heaven and the new earth that all of our tears, frustrations, and pains will be wiped away and remembered no more. Aren’t you glad we have a hope and a future through Jesus? I am.

HOPE

English: Red sunrise over Oostende, Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romans 8:24-25 “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

As Alexander the Great was preparing for his conquest in Asia, he examined the finances of his supporters. To assure that they would not be troubled over the welfare of their families during their duty at war, he distributed crown estates and revenues among them. When Alexander the Great got rid of nearly all the royal resources he had, his friend General Perdiccas asked Alexander what he had kept for himself. “Hope,” answered the king. Perdiccas cheerfully replied “In that case, we who share in your labors will also take part in your hopes.” He then refused the estate given to him, and many other of the king’s friends did the same.

In the letter written to the Romans, the Apostle Paul is encouraging them to have hope with patience. This is a man who received thirty-line lashes from the Jews, beaten with rods, shipwrecked three times, and almost stoned to death. He had been on frequent journeys, in danger from robbers, countrymen, and false brothers who endeavored to destroy the testimony of Paul.

However, like general Perdiccas, Paul refused material comfort for hope. Instead, he gave up all the resources he had to put his hope in the eternal King, Jesus Christ. This hope is infinitely better than what Alexander could provide. King Jesus provides resurrection from the dead (Acts 23:6), the redemption of the body and the whole creation (Rom. 8:23-25), eternal glory (Col. 1:27), eternal life and the inheritance of the saints (Tit. 3:5-7), and the joy of personally knowing the Creator God Jesus forever (1 Tim. 1:1).

APPLICATION: When you have time, memorize Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” When your at work, school, in the car, at home doing the dishes, mediate on this truth. The enemy will surely come and whisper words of discouragement, and instead of dwelling on those lies, think on the verse that is true; that is, our hope in Christ!