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Hope Road Bookmarks - 10 Pack

Hope Road Bookmarks - 10 Pack

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To celebrate the release of my book, "A Walk With Jesus Down Hope Road," I had some bookmarks printed!

The bookmark is 2x6. A pack of 10 is available for $25. Sales from the bookmark will help me continue to write.

Thank you for all your support. It truly means more than you know!

Grace & Peace,
Michael

Shipping Information

I have partnered with an independent printer to print and ship my books. After placing your order, you will receive your books within 7-14 business days. I realize this isn't "Amazon speed," and I deeply appreciate your patience.

Thank you for supporting an independent author and printer! :)

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Read a Sample From Each Book:

Jesus Meets the Messes

Day 1: There Is No One Like Jesus
Today's Bible Reading: Luke 19:1-10

I've been to Malawi, Africa four times to work alongside a wonderful organization called Children of The Nations (COTN). Although the very thought of stepping aboard a plane fills me with dread, I always look forward to spending time with my friends there. I also look forward to the singing. In Malawi, it's a guarantee that at some point during the day, you're going to burst into joyful song (accompanied by dancing, of course). My favorite song sung in the Malawian language of Chichewa is called “Palibe Ofana Ndi Yesu.” Translated into English, it means “There is No One Like Jesus.” Here are the words:

There's no one, there's no one like Jesus
There's no one, there's no one like Jesus

I wandered
I wandered everywhere
I turned around everywhere
I searched everywhere
And still, I haven't found anyone like Jesus

I've been singing that song for years, appreciating the lyrics but never giving them much thought. But then one morning on my most recent trip to Malawi, the lyrics stopped me right in my tracks. As we stood there singing along with the COTN staff, I became overwhelmed by the truth of those simple words. When you look at the life of Jesus and see the invitation he offered to others—how he loved and included all people—it's hard to find anyone else that compares to him.

That's why we’re going to spend the next 40 days looking at eight stories of people who crossed paths with Jesus. Some thought they had life all figured out. Others were at the end of their rope, desperately trying to find any scrap of hope they could cling to. Their stories have very little in common except for this: After meeting Jesus, they all realized there was no one like him.

We’ll start things off by looking at one of my favorite stories in the Bible⁠—the story of Zacchaeus. Take some time today to read his story. Zacchaeus was a con man and a traitor to his own people. I'm sure you could make a Netflix Original Series chronicling all of his shady dealings (I can just see it... Don't miss Sneaky Zach, available to stream this spring!). And yet, when Jesus came to town, Zacchaeus zipped up a tree to get a better look at him. Why? Maybe he'd heard the stories. Stories that there was no one like this strange man called Jesus.

Questions to Ponder:

Why do you think Zacchaeus was so eager to see Jesus?

What stories have you heard about Jesus?

Jesus & the Way of Sorrows

Introduction: Traveling Down the Way of Sorrows

I love the victory of Easter Sunday. 

I love gathering at church to celebrate the empty tomb. I love singing hope-filled songs about life winning out over death. As songwriter John Mark McMillan put it in one of my favorite songs, "The man Jesus Christ laid death in his grave."

Because the occasion is so joyous, it's easy for me to brush aside the painful road Jesus journeyed to get there. I quickly forget that the beauty of Easter morning was preceded by horror. The road to the happy ending was paved with suffering. Easter proves that there is no victory without first death. There is no light without first darkness.

The Stations of the Cross Can Guide Us Along the Path of Suffering

The Stations of the Cross is a series of scenes that walk us through the events of Jesus' crucifixion and burial. They guide us down the path of the Via Dolorosa, the route in Jerusalem that Jesus walked on the day of his death. Via Dolorosa is Latin for "sorrowful way." Because of this, the Stations of the Cross is sometimes referred to as the Way of Sorrows. I like this term because it contrasts with the victory of Easter.

There are fourteen "stops" along the Way of Sorrows, beginning with Jesus sweating blood in a garden and ending with his burial. In between, there is a lot of pain, suffering, and despair.

While associated with Catholicism, the Stations of the Cross is a tradition observed in many Christian denominations. It's important to remember that we are not trying to earn God's love by going through the stations. Like any other devotional exercise, we should approach it as a tool to help us engage with God. 

Tradition says that Mary was the first person to walk the Way of Sorrows. She would travel along the Via Dolorosa, remembering the sacrifice made by her son. While we don't know if this is true, I wouldn't be surprised if it is. We know that Mary was a woman who felt things deeply and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

The Traditional Stations of the Cross

There are two "versions" of the Stations of the Cross: traditional and scriptural. Below are the fourteen stations of the Traditional Way. You might find images of this version in Catholic churches today.

1. Jesus is condemned to death

2. Jesus carries his cross

3. Jesus falls for the first time

4. Jesus meets his mother Mary

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

7. Jesus falls for the second time

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

9. Jesus falls for the third time

10. Jesus is stripped of his clothes

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

12. Jesus dies on the cross

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross

14. Jesus is placed in the tomb

Of the fourteen scenes above, only eight are depicted in the Bible. The other six are based on church tradition. These six scenes are:

Stations 3, 7, and 9: The Three Times Jesus Falls 

Although not recorded in Scripture, I wouldn't be surprised if Jesus collapsed in exhaustion during his journey.

Station 4: Jesus Meets His Mother Along the Road

In this scene, Mary and Jesus meet and lock eyes for a brief moment. Although not recorded in any gospel account, it's a moving scene that captures the anguish of a mother about to watch her son die.

Station 6: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

This is a wild story! According to legend, Veronica—an ordinary woman from Jerusalem—gave her veil to Jesus so he could wipe his sweat-covered face. After handing the veil back to her, Veronica saw an impression of Jesus' face on it! This story has no biblical basis and did not pop up in writings until the Middle Ages. Hmmm… I wonder if this is where the legends began of seeing Jesus' face in weird places, like on your toast!

Station 13: Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross

Although Jesus was taken down from the cross, the details found in Scripture differ from this account. In the Bible, Joseph of Arimathea takes down Jesus' body to prepare it for burial. But in this traditional version, Jesus' lifeless body is laid in Mary's arms, which is not found anywhere in Scripture.

The Scriptural Stations of the Cross

On Good Friday in 1991, Pope John Paul II unveiled the Scriptural Stations of the Cross. In this new version, each scene is based on an account written in the Gospels.

I prefer this version over the traditional because it allows us to read each scene as we contemplate it. We can travel along the Way of Sorrows with Jesus and see it all play out in our imaginations. We huddle quietly in the courtroom as Pilate tries Jesus. We feel the shame when Peter denies Jesus. We embrace the hope when Jesus welcomes the thief on the cross.

Below are the fourteen stations of the Scriptural Way. I have included the corresponding passage of Scripture for each one.

1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42)

2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested (John 18:1-13; Luke 22:47-53)

3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53–65)

4. Jesus is denied by Peter (Matthew 26:69-75)

5. Jesus is judged by Pilate (John 18:28-19:16)

6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns (Mark 15:15-20) 

7. Jesus takes up his cross (John 19:16-17)

8. Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross (Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26)

9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31)

10. Jesus is crucified (Mark 15:23-32)

11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief (Luke 23:39-43)

12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other (John 19:25-27)

13. Jesus dies on the cross (Mark 15:33-39)

14. Jesus is placed in the tomb (Matthew 27:57-61)

What About the Resurrection?

In both versions, the fourteenth and final station is Jesus' body resting in the tomb. Some have argued that without the resurrection, the story of Jesus is incomplete. Because of this, a fifteenth station is sometimes added depicting the empty tomb.

People who argue against a fifteenth station say that the Way of Sorrows is not meant to tell the entire story. The purpose is to highlight Jesus' suffering as he traveled down the Via Dolorosa.

I see merits in both views. Celebrating the victory of Jesus’ resurrection seems like an appropriate way to conclude his journey! To that end, I have included a chapter on the fifteenth station in this book.

Journeying With Jesus

In the following pages, we're going to travel down the Way of Sorrows with Jesus. (We'll use the Scriptural version.) It won't be a pretty sight. We will see our Savior broken. We will see the man who fed 5000, healed the sick, and walked on water in a helpless state. We will see a friend who loved deeply get spit on and mocked. 

But before we begin the journey, I want to give three reasons why I think it's helpful to walk down this road of suffering with Jesus.

1. It Reminds Us That Jesus Understands Suffering

Each one of us is traveling down our own Via Dolorosa. It could be dealing with a health issue, a family crisis, or a feeling of isolation and abandonment. At some point, we all look up to the heavens and cry out, "Why, God?! Why is this happening to me?!"

Theologically, there are answers to that question. But let's be honest—no explanation will ever be good enough for me. I may be able to understand my suffering on some intellectual level, but I still won't be okay with it. The pain will always be there.

The Way of Sorrows is an explicit reminder that God entered into our suffering. I may not understand pain, but I know Jesus is in it with me. He chose to enter the mess and put himself into the hands of selfish, agenda-pushing humans. That's not something I would want to do!

When I walk down the Way of Sorrows with Jesus, I begin to realize that Jesus is walking down the Way of Sorrows with me.

2. It Reminds Us of How Much We Are Loved

Why did Jesus walk down this Way of Sorrows when he could have avoided it? Because he loves us. And not just the collective "us," but the individual "us." Jesus loves you

As we journey along the Via Dolorosa, there'll be times we want to look away. It's all too much to take in. But Jesus endured every scar, every insult, and every nail for you and me. And not with the purpose of making us feel guilty enough to "behave." It's a much bigger vision than that! He endured it so we can break free of anything keeping us from living the life we were made to live. We can love others, knowing we are loved.

3. It Reminds Us That Suffering Has an Expiration Date

Suffering may be a universal experience, but it's not going to last forever. The Way of Sorrows has an end. That fifteenth station is coming! The empty tomb is good news for us all. It's proof that God doesn't want anyone left out. Jesus put death in its grave, and one day he'll put our suffering there too.

Walking down the Way of Sorrows with Jesus is not a comfortable journey. But it's a journey where light glimmers in darkness, and hope peeks out from despair. 

We know the story ends with a victorious sunrise on Easter morning.

Waves of Grace

Day 1: More Than a Fish Tale
Today’s Bible Reading: Jonah 1–4

At the risk of offending you right on Day 1 of this devotional, I have a terrible confession to make: I have never seen the movie E.T. in its entirety. I've caught clips of it on television but I've never sat down to watch the film from start to finish. Despite this, one image flashes through my mind whenever I hear the word "E.T.": the iconic scene where Elliott and E.T. fly on a bicycle across the night sky, full moon shining in the background.

Now, imagine if I overheard two film buffs discussing E.T. and I said, "Oh, that's the movie all about bicycles!" They would look at me confused and say, "Well, sure, there's a bicycle scene in the movie… but that's not what the movie is about."

When you hear the word "Jonah," what flashes through your mind? For most of my life, it was the image of a whale. You've heard the outlandish tale before. Jonah runs from God, a fish swallows him, and then he gets vomited out onto dry land. Most retellings end there, even though there are still two more chapters left in the book!

In children's Bibles, the big fish is often portrayed as the main character of the story. But even as adults, our fascination with the fish can quickly become the main point of debate. Some people go to great lengths to prove that surviving three days in a fish is possible. Other people scoff at the implausibility of this tale, using it as evidence to dismiss the Bible as a joke. But both sides are missing the point of this beautiful story. The word "fish" appears only four times in the book of Jonah, and it's presented as one detail in a much larger narrative.

If we can stick a pin (or hook?) in the fish for a moment, we'll see that Jonah is an amazing story, but not because a man survived three days in a sea monster. This little book is amazing because it flips everything we'd expect from a Bible story upside down. Sometimes I can't believe it's in the Bible!

In the book of Jonah, a man of God looks like a fool, and pagans come out smelling like roses. In the book of Jonah, ships have personalities, prophets throw tantrums, and worms teach lessons. And, most importantly, in the book of Jonah, God tenderly reveals to us that his love is big enough for everyone. People who have never opened a Bible have one thing in common with those who can quote it backward and forward: We all need waves and waves of God's grace to get through this life. 

Over the next 40 days, we're going to set sail on an adventure with Jonah. At times it will seem like a misadventure. Jonah gets himself into one messy situation after another, yet God continues to love him through it all. By seeing how God loved Jonah in the middle of his mess, we can be confident that God loves us in the middle of ours.

Take some time to read the book of Jonah today. It's only four chapters with a total of 48 verses and can be read in about ten minutes. As you read, try to approach the story with fresh eyes, as if you've never heard of Jonah (or the big fish) before.

As we explore this book together, we'll discover that, just as E.T. is not about bicycles, the story of Jonah is not about a fish. 

It's a story about how God doesn't want anyone left out and the depths he'll go to remind us of that beautiful truth.

Questions to Ponder:

What has your experience been with the story of Jonah?

After reading the entire book of Jonah, what would you say the story is about? Write down anything about the story that stuck out to you this time around.

A Walk With Jesus Down Hope Road

Introduction: “We Had Hoped…”

"We had hoped…"

Those might be the three most relatable words in all the Bible. 

Who hasn't hoped for something? And—maybe more importantly—who hasn't been disappointed by a hope gone unfulfilled?

A few months ago, I had my own run-in with disappointment. I was in the middle of writing the fourth devotional book in my Nobody Left Out series. It was going well, but then, without warning, I hit a wall and crashed. I felt burnt out and overwhelmed.

At the same time, my family was facing some challenges. My wife, Diana, struggles with chronic fatigue. And if you’ve read any of my previous books, you may know I have cerebral palsy, which presents another set of issues. This makes caring for our wonderful two-year-old son interesting. I have the energy, and Diana has the coordination… if only one of us could possess both at the same time!

I decided to take a break from writing my book. Yes, sometimes writers need to grit their teeth and push through a tough spot. But there are other times when you need to set the book aside and rest. I sensed this was one of those times.

This doesn’t only apply to writers, by the way. God calls all of us into seasons of rest. We may resist it because so much of our self-worth comes from being productive. I often feel a sense of guilt when I’m not getting “enough” done. (How much is “enough”? I don’t know, but it’s always just a little more than what I have already done!) These times of rest are a reminder that our value comes from who we are, not what we do. We are fully loved by God because we were created by him.

Over the next few weeks, my mind drifted to a Bible story that has always comforted me. It's a story about two people who love Jesus but are incredibly disappointed with life. It's a story that takes place on the first Easter Sunday. (But of course, they didn't know that then!) It's a story about hope, and I needed hope. And I knew I wasn’t the only one.

The story is known as the Road to Emmaus. It's found in Luke 24:13-35. This account is one of the most beautiful portraits in Luke's gospel. It's also hilarious if you take a moment to imagine it. Two of Jesus' friends walk along a road, heartbroken that Jesus has died. Then Jesus sneaks right up on them! He joins them on their walk, but they don't recognize him. Slowly, though, hope returns to their hearts.

As I reflected on this story, I realized Jesus took these two disciples on a path of healing. The road they traveled had five different "mile markers." Jesus walked them through each one:

They began the day on Broken Road, feeling shattered by the tragic events they experienced that week.

Jesus then took them to Disappointment Road. Here, they got honest about their unfulfilled hopes.

Suffering Road was the next stop. This is where they found Jesus smack dab in the middle of their pain.

As they turned around a bend, Suffering Road gave way to Redemption Road. This is the part of the journey where they had to decide how to respond to tragedy and pain.

And then, surprisingly, the two disciples looked around and found themselves on Hope Road. But the hope they discovered wasn't the kind of hope you might expect. The hope Jesus leaves them with is a wounded hope. A hope marked by scars. And this is a deeper kind of hope than the world offers us.

It became clear to me that this was the book I needed to write at this moment in my life. Mostly because Jesus had something he wanted to teach me about hope. I wrote it over a period of 30 days. And looking back now, I can see how transformative those days were. Writing this book filled me with a new sense of hope. I pray it does the same for you.

In this short book, we're going to follow the same path the two disciples walked that first Easter morning. We will pass through those same mile markers, traveling from brokenness to hope on the Road to Emmaus.

There are five main chapters of this book. Each one looks at a small section of the Emmaus story. Before jumping into each chapter, I'll give you a passage of the Bible to read. Take a few minutes to read those verses before beginning the chapter. It will set the stage and provide context for what’s to come.

All right, my friend, now go put on a comfortable pair of shoes!

It's time to take a walk with Jesus down Hope Road.