What does “hope” really mean?

What does “hope” really mean?

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent in the Christian calendar, and traditionally the first Sunday represents “hope.”

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve always struggled with the idea of hope. To me, it’s seemed like another word for optimism. Not that that’s a bad thing at all — I’m a very optimistic person, and I always try to find the good in everything. But I’ve never really understood the theological reason for the subject of hope to be so predominant throughout scripture. Until now.

According to Webster dictionary, hope is “cherishing a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true.”

So often, I simply tell God that I’m trusting Him because I know He has everything in control. I trust Him with my life and with my relationships and with my career and with everything. And that’s good. God wants us to trust Him. But that’s not all He wants us to do. He wants us to have hope in Him.

Without hope, trust is empty and futile. There’s no anticipation. Trust becomes easy and religious; it becomes pharisaical — blind to expectation and a strict adherence to the things we trust.

Hope brings that sense of expectation that God is going to do what He said He’s going to do and that He will fulfill His promises.

It’s not blind optimism. It’s anticipating in Someone.

And that’s what Christmas is all about. It’s the celebration of the moment God began to fulfill His promise that He will reunite us back with Him in a personal relationship.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Tale of a King

Tale of a King

Once upon a time, there lived a great and mighty king. This king ruled over the people with tremendous love and mercy. He genuinely cared for every one of his subjects. Throughout the week, everyone would gladly work hard and make sure the land was prosperous. At the end of the week, they would all attend the royal ball that the king would host in his great palace. Every man, woman, and child would dress in their finest suits and gowns. They would sing and dance, and the king would fill the banquet table with the most delicious food and drink you can imagine. You could see it in his eyes — the great love he had for his people, and it gave him immense joy to see his people so happy.

One night, something was different. Out of the thousands of gowns twirling and voices singing, the king noticed someone was missing. A child — a young girl with a crippled leg — was not in attendance.

So the king commanded his son — a young and mighty prince who cared just as much for the kingdom as his father — to go find her. For an entire week, the prince searched every square inch of the kingdom.

In a far, dark corner just outside the kingdom domain, the prince finally found the young child caught helpless in a ravine. As the prince began to pick her up, an evil witch appeared.

“The child is mine,” snarled the witch. “I tricked her into believing I could make her more beautiful than the king ever could.”

The prince looked down at the young crippled girl and asked if it was true. “All of the other children tease me for my bad leg,” admitted the girl shamefully. “The crutches make me ugly, and I just want to be able to run and dance like all of the other children. But now I just want to go home.”

“Dear child, the king loves you more than you can imagine. You may not be able to run like the other children, but I promise you are special for a reason.”

The witch bartered with the prince. “If the king wants her, then you must stay and pay the price. As the law declares, if a subject steps into my kingdom, they must die here. She can leave if you die.”

So the prince placed the young girl on his horse and sent her back to the king. The witch bound his hands, tied a rock to his feet, and threw him into the nearby lake. As the horse guided her back to the kingdom, the young girl looked over her shoulder to see the ripples fade away.

The next morning, the young girl woke up to notice that she was riding on the horse with the prince walking next to her. Startled and confused, she wiped the sleep from her eyes and asked what happened.

“The witch was crafty. What she said about the law is correct. Someone had to die in order for you to return home. But what the witch does not know is that I have the power of the king. Because I sacrificed myself, that power brought me back to life, and now I’m able to guide you home.”

Throughout the rest of their journey, the prince taught the young girl all about the king. As they arrived back at the palace, another royal ball was just about to begin. As the crowd split, the young girl hobbled up with her crutches to the center of the floor where the mighty king stood waiting.

The prince took her crutches as the king picked up the girl into his arms. At that moment, a violin began to play a waltz, and for the next few minutes, the entire kingdom watched as the majestic king danced with the lost, crippled child.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” —John 1:14

Simple

Simple

If you’ve read anything by me, you probably know I love telling stories. I love painting pictures in the minds of others using nothing but words. Whether it be a divine letter, a dream by a lake, or a dragon fight, I love to think as creatively as possible.

If you love to read these stories, then this post might disappoint you. I’m not here to paint a word picture tonight. Instead, I want the simplicity of this post to ring the following truth loud and clear. I want it to resonate in your mind. The fact is…

God wants a meaningful, positive relationship with you.

 

Now, I could take this post in a million different ways from this point forward. That’s the beauty of God. We can’t see God and have only the bible and our spiritual experiences to explain it, so a relationship with God is incredibly complex.

But I’m going to keep it simple for right now. Because that’s what Christmas celebrates: God making it all simple.

Two-thousand years ago, God said enough of all these rules, regulations, prophetic analogies. He said here I am — in the flesh — so that you can experience my love first-hand. I want you to have a meaningful, positive relationship with me so much that I am going to live with you. I’m going to heal the sick, love the sinners, teach the teachers, and ultimately surrender my life to you so that you can be free of what burdens you. So that you can love the One who loves you.

So my simple challenge to you is one this:

Do you want a meaningful, positive relationship with God?

 

If your answer is yes, then let it be the most meaningful relationship you have. Embrace it. Let God’s love consume you. Let that love be on the forefront of your mind from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Starting today, make that relationship a priority this year.

”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

First Christmas Letter

First Christmas Letter

In the vast emptiness of space, outside of time itself, I existed. Rather, I always existed. In fact I created everything there ever was. With a single word I spoke every galaxy into motion and filled them with all kinds of planets, spinning them all into orbit. There was one special planet. In it I carved mountains and oceans, and filled them with all kinds of living creatures. Everything was good, but something was missing.

See, I am love. I wanted to show my love through my creation, so I created you in my own image. You would reflect my love in a perfect, intimate relationship. You would work but not feel pain… we would walk and talk… I would know you and you would know me.

Satan, who is the complete absence of me, has deceived you and brought sin into my creation. This sin keeps you from me, and it keeps you from knowing my love.

Now while the Deceiver has some power, my power is the greatest (after all, I created the very idea of power). Even though the payment for sin is death, I cannot and will not allow my most-loved creation to exist with no way of being cleaned of your sin.

So, I have a plan (I always do). I will become flesh and live among you. I will be born as an infant, grow as a child, and live as a man. I’ll experience what you experience, and I’ll feel what you feel. I’ll have growing pains, I’ll be laughed at in school, I’ll make friends — some of whom will stick by me, others will betray me. Ultimately, I will die for you.

You won’t understand it all, but that’s okay. The maker of the universe, the Lord of all creation, entering humanity as a child, being raised by a poor family is all difficult to comprehend. But know this: I am doing it all out of love. To show my love, and for you to know my love.

After all, this isn’t any ordinary letter. It’s a love story. This is the first Christmas letter.

Love,

God

When Laughter Cries

When Laughter Cries

Two years ago today, the world lost one of the funniest men who ever lived: Robin Williams. The man was a comedic genius, yet this post is not about him specifically. It is about the way the world lost him.

Honestly, I don’t want to talk about this subject because it’s not a happy topic. But this world has lost too many people to suicide, and that breaks my heart.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages, and it is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old Americans. Additionally, it is the third leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-44 according to the World Health Organization (WHO), so culture, ethnicity, and race don’t matter when it comes to suicide.

Now enough about statistics. What can we do?

When I first think about this topic, my gut reaction is that I have no idea. Life is so precious, and I can’t begin to imagine someone ending their life. I care so deeply about people, and it hurts to think that someone has come to the ultimate conclusion that the world would be better off without them.

So my second reaction is love.

For goodness’ sake, love people.

I mean, isn’t that what God commanded us to do in the first place? Love your neighbor as yourself, right? (I’d put the biblical references here, but since it’s mentioned several times in the bible, God must have really meant it).
I realize I’m a big-picture kind of person, and some of you might need a little more evidence. How about the fact that “80%-90% of adolescents that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication”? (Source: SAVE)

This isn’t the cure-all for suicide. The people I know who have been the victims of suicide were well-loved, so suicide will never just magically go away. But I can’t help but wonder what this world would look like if we all just made a little more effort to genuinely love the people around us and showed a little more patience with annoying strangers.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a loved one or call the national suicide hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. —Dead Poets Society

Love, pizza, and other significants

As a persistently single guy, there’s one thing that really bugs me every February, and that’s “Single Awareness Day.” However, it’s not the day itself that bothers me, it’s the nickname people have attributed to it.

Despite the fact that I’ve never had a date for Valentine’s Day (except for Pizza Hut), I actually look really forward to this season every year. It’s a time when we celebrate love, and I think that’s a pretty amazing idea to celebrate. After all, love is far more than just romance.

True love is the most awesome force in the world. It causes people to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t. It brings out the absolute, raw, untamed best in people. It’s what drives us.

To give love is to give all of yourself. It’s to share who you are — all of you — with someone else. Without a second of hesitation. With no conscious thought.

It’s who we are. We are made by the wild, crazy, love of God. Love is engrained in us. We are designed by, for, and to love.

Love is not an object. It can’t be sized, weighed, or timed. It’s a force. A wild, un-channeled, irrational phenomenon.

Many things claim to be love. They may offer things that — at times — may look like love. But only love is completely selfless, for true love is focused on someone other than yourself.

To have a day that celebrates love is, in my mind, a day worth celebrating. If you’re single, be happy for those who have a significant other to share the day with (and enjoy having a whole pizza to yourself). If you have a significant other, cherish your time together. This day is meant for all of us.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!