My Hope

I’m feeling a little gross today. Upset stomach, really sleep deprived, and a tinge cranky. But no need to worry, friends. Because yesterday was great.

I help lead a 9th grade girls Bible study at my church and last night we talked about the fact that each person who believes in Christ has a story to tell. We get caught up in trying to fit in or trying to lay low and we forget that the story we have to tell is important and life-changing. We encouraged the girls to share their personal stories about when they first believed that God was God and how their relationship with Him started.

Almost all the girls have shared at this point. Just two or three of the 14 are still holding out. A couple of them have brought me to tears. A couple of them have made me laugh (in a good way, of course) and a couple of them have challenged me to rethink the way I’m doing Christianity. Because these girls have been so willing to share their stories, I decided that today I’d tell you the greatest story I know.

I was practically born in a church. My dad was a youth and music minister and we were in the pew rain or shine, sickness or health, day and night. We even sat in the same spot in each church we attended. Third row back from the piano.

I have always been a rule follower. It was easy for me to obey and to do what was expected and I was always the kid saying, “You’re going to get in so much trouble!” My life of following rules was an easy transition into walking down the center aisle at church to learn about how to become a Christian. My parents and the pastor explained to me what that meant. I believed every word.

God is holy -set apart. He created man and woman in His own image, but Adam and Eve went against what God had planned for them. Their sin broke the bond we had with God and sin deserves death. Because life outside of Christ is a terrible and hopeless thing and God knew that when He made us, He wants us to live for Him. Every person from that day forward has sinned and so every person from that day forward deserved to be separated eternally from Christ by going to Hell. That’s a little heavy, right? The God who created the universe also put eyelashes on me. He wants me to know Him because He’s awesome. If I refuse to know Him, I’m going to suffer for it and He knows that and wants us to choose Him. Because God loved me in a way that still doesn’t make sense, He sent his son, Jesus, to earth to act as a bridge between our sinful lives and His complete forgiveness. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man.

As a kid that didn’t make much sense to me, and honestly it still doesn’t make sense. But my mind is finite, and I’m okay with not understanding everything. What I did understand was that Jesus died a terribly painful death. He was tortured and beaten because the love He had for me was so incredibly powerful that He chose to die – to take my place – because He wanted me to be with Him in Heaven after I die. His death gave me life. And do you know what happened after He died on the cross? He came back from the grave. For real. He was alive. People didn’t believe it, but it was real. He told them to tell their friends and they did because it was… well… shocking, I’m sure. But also because it was a relief. His life and His death and His resurrection from the grave are exactly what had been promised to us. His death saved us. His death saved me.

Isn’t that ridiculous? ME. I do some really awful stuff. I’m still a rule follower for the most part… but I am rotten. Rotten to the core. I’m judgmental and I’m selfish and I ignore Him most of the time. I go through life like I don’t need Him far too often. But He’s still completely in love with me. That sure doesn’t make sense to me either. I’m very unlovely at times and He’s still jealous for me. Because I believe that I’m a sinner and that my life is nowhere near complete without His love and forgiveness, I am trying to live a life in relationship with Him. I’ve accepted Him into my life and I’m forever saved. I can’t lose that. He won’t go back on His word. I’ve been washed clean by His grace.

I’ve been washed clean by His grace.

It hasn’t always been easy. You can read about how NOT easy it has been here. Being a Christian doesn’t mean life is perfect. It means life is hopeful.

All the really awful stuff is temporary. The stomach aches and the sleep deprivation too, I suppose. If you want to know more about being a Christian or if you want to share YOUR story with me… I would SO love to hear that. Shoot me an email (stephhagenart@gmail.com ) or leave a message in the comments section. I promise I will really listen to what you have to say.

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