Pastor's Blog

Recognizing Blessings

I recently saw a picture on Facebook that caught my attention. The picture was a snowy scene with words printed across this picture that said, “On a positive note: I haven’t seen any mosquitoes in weeks!”

This picture got me thinking about how often we fail to appreciate many of God’s blessings. Often it is easier for us to recognize the things we don’t like rather than the things we do. We often are drawn into complaining about the problems of life, such as the snow and cold of winter, rather than recognizing the blessings that God grants, like a season without mosquitoes!

Thinking about this, my mind went to the words of Job. Job was experiencing horrible suffering. He had lost most of his possessions through theft and disaster. All of his children had died in a house collapse. Now he was suffering from an incredibly painful skin disease. His wife thought he should just give up, not only his trust in God, but even his very life. How was it that Job responded? “‘You speak as a foolish woman speaks,’ he told her. ‘Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?’” (Job 2:10).

Job knew that God was in control. Even if it didn’t look like it, Job knew that God would work through this in his life. God has given us this promise many times throughout the Bible. Maybe you could think of God’s words to Joshua, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Jesus himself encourages us with the promise: “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Or maybe you could think of the Apostle Paul’s words to the Romans, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

As we close out one year and begin another, it is good to take time to think about and recognize God’s blessings. As we do that, let us not forget to thank God for the blessings found even in times of suffering. Even when we are experiencing a hardship in which we cannot imagine how any good could result, we can still thank God. Whether or not we can see the blessings in the midst of our sufferings, we know that God has promised that he will bless us. He will make everything work for our good. And after all, no matter what happens in the coming year, God has promised that he will be with us.

So we can approach the New Year with confidence and contentment, as the writer to the Hebrews urges us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).


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What's in a name?

A few years ago I was talking with someone about names. This woman told me that she feels that parents today just take a hat full of letters, pull some out, and whatever they spell, that’s what they name their child. This woman was commenting about how, these days, there seems to be a number of names that have some rather odd spellings.

This makes me think: has the naming of children changed over time? It appears that today, many parents choose names because they like how they sound. Yet, when you look back in history, many names were chosen not because of how they sounded, but rather they were chosen because of the meaning of the name. One such example is found in the angel’s announcement to Joseph, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew name Joshua. Both names mean, “the Lord saves.”

Joseph was told to give the child born to Mary the name Jesus because of what he would do. This child, born by the miraculous virgin birth, would save the world from sin.

If you keep reading in the Gospel of Matthew you hear another name for Jesus. Matthew 1:22-23 says, “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the Prophet [Isaiah 7:14]: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’” Jesus is Immanuel. He is God with us on the earth. Jesus was born in a miraculous way with a human mother but no human father. And it had to be this way. In order for Jesus to save us from our sins, he had to be both God and man in one person. He had to be man so that he could live under the law for us. He had to be God so that he could follow that law perfectly. He had to be man so that he could die. He had to be God so that his death could count not for himself but for the world.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, Jesus told his disciples, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). In these words we find another name for Jesus: Messiah. Messiah is the Hebrew form of the Greek word Christ. Both of these words mean “the anointed one.” Messiah and Christ really aren’t names but they are titles. In Bible times, when people were anointed, they were set apart for a specific task or purpose. What was the Messiah’s (the Christ’s) purpose? Jesus was the anointed one. He was the one who (as his name tells us) would save the world from sin.

Understanding the fact that Christ is a title and not a name also helps us understand why the word Christ is sometimes found before and sometimes after the name of Jesus. Sometimes the Bible says, “Christ Jesus” and other times it says, “Jesus Christ.” Since Christ is not a name but a title, it can be placed either before or after the name of Jesus.

There are many other names and titles for Jesus given in the Bible. Although this article will not attempt to list nor explain them all, hopefully each time you read a name or title for Jesus you can ask “What does this name mean?”! Even though parents today may not be concerned about the meaning of the names they give their children, when we look at the names of our Savior listed in the Bible, each name has great meaning.


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Hell is for real!

You might think that there is a mistake in the title to this article. Based on books and movies we’ve seen in recent years shouldn’t it say “Heaven is for real!”? Although that is a true statement, so also is this one: “Hell is for real!”

Many people, even whole churches, in our world try to deny or ignore this truth. People don’t want to talk about hell. Many think that the discussion of hell makes God seem unloving. But do you know that actually it is the other way around? Without hell, you would have a less loving God. With it, you have a God who was willing to suffer for you, who was willing to die for you, and even faced hell for you. The depth of the punishment sets up the height of the gift.

To understand this though, we need to understand what hell is. To do that, look to what Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:41: “Then he will also say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!’” Notice who hell was prepared for! Hell was not created as a place for people. Rather, hell was created as a place for the Devil and his angels/demons. As we are also told in 2 Peter 2:4, “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment.”

Hell was never created for humans. Yet, hell is filled with humans; and, not only that, but hell is filled with humans for whom Jesus died. How can that be? Because Jesus died for all! The Book of Hebrews says, “But now [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). That same book also says, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). The second letter to the Corinthians also makes this clear, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Peter also assures us of this point when he wrote: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Jesus died for all! Yet, not everyone will receive the benefit of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Why not? Because they don’t believe in him. Jesus tells us, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Jesus also tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:16-18).

Even though hell was never created for humans, there will be a day when Jesus says to some humans, “‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ … Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:41,49).

Hell is for real! Hell is a place where no one wants to be! Hell is also a place where no one has to be! As shown above, Jesus died for all! Jesus won forgiveness for all! Jesus wants all to be saved! Therefore, don’t reject him. Don’t turn away from him. Instead, trust him. Believe in him. Know the comfort that Jesus gives, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).


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Who is Israel?

A few weeks ago my wife was talking to our three year old son at the dinner table. In the midst of what she was telling him, he looked up and innocently said, “Are you talking to me?” He was in his own little world and hadn’t paid attention to what she was saying.

That sometimes happens when we use that pronoun “you.” In the English language it is sometimes very easy to misunderstand who you’re talking about. For, unlike most other languages that distinguish between you (singular) and you (plural), the English language uses the same word for each. So unless you are in the South where you might hear, “y’all” or “all y’all,” you have to figure out from context who is being talked about.

A similar thing happens when you read the name “Israel” in the Bible. Most people probably think that the use of the word “Israel” in the Bible either means the nation of Israel or the land of Israel. Although those are possibilities, they are not the only possibilities.

The name “Israel” traces its history back to one man: Jacob (the grandson of Abraham). In Genesis 32 you can read about how Jacob was given that name. There was a night where, in a very interesting episode of his life, he wrestled with God. In the midst of that wrestling match, God gives Jacob this new name. For God said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob…it will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:38).

So, originally, the name Israel applied to one man, but over time it was applied to many others. An example is found at the beginning of the book of Joshua: “After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, who had served Moses: Moses My servant is dead. Now you and all the people prepare to cross over the Jordan to the land I am giving the Israelites” (Joshua 1:1-2). The Israelites were those who were descendants of Israel (Jacob). Most people think of the Israelites being descended from Abraham (which is true), yet not all of Abraham’s descendants are Israelites. Only those who descended from Abraham’s grandson named Jacob are Israelites. For example: Jacob had a twin brother named Esau. Although Esau’s descendants also were descendants of Abraham, they were not Israelites, but rather they were known as Edomites.

Over time, not only did Jacob and his descendants use the name of Israel, but also the land on which they lived. Throughout the Bible you can find many places where the promised land is called the land of Israel.

One more possibility exists. Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians. He said, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants. On the contrary, ‘your offspring will be traced through Isaac.’ That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring” (Romans 9:6-8). What is Paul saying here? Spiritually speaking, not all who are physically descended from Israel can call themselves Israelites. However, those who are Abraham’s children by faith in the promise that God gave to Abraham can (spiritually speaking) call themselves Israelites.

So when you read the word Israel, make sure to read it in its context. You may be reading about the man named Jacob. You may be reading about his physical descendants. You may be reading about the land on which they lived. Or you may even be reading about yourself. For, by faith in the promised Savior, who we know to be Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again; by faith in Jesus we too can be called Israelites.


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An Olympic Lesson

26-0. That was the win-loss record for Kerri Walsh Jennings in Olympic Beach Volleyball. She had never lost a match during the Olympics. She was the three-time defending Gold Medal champion. The last time anyone else had ever won the Gold Medal was 16 years ago in the year 2000.

That’s an impressive record! But that record came to an end earlier this month. In the semi-final match, Walsh Jennings’ team lost to the Brazilian team. Therefore, instead of winning Olympic Gold, she had to settle for the Bronze Medal. If this was her final Olympics, she would go out with a career Olympic record of 27-1.

Even with the loss, that is an impressive record. Yet, I believe the one loss showed me something even more impressive than the 27 victories. I was impressed by the way she carried herself in defeat.

What is the typical response from a professional athlete when they lose? Many times they play the blame game. It’s the referee’s fault, or the coaches, or the other players’. Rarely do you see someone who places the blame squarely on themselves. Yet, that is exactly what Kerri Walsh Jennings did. The only blame she threw was directed at herself and her own performance.

Her reaction to a loss can be used as an example as we think about the way we react in defeat. The defeat I am talking about is not the loss of a game, but rather the loss of a battle against Satan’s temptations. We (like most professional athletes) like to play the blame game. We like to blame others for our sins. When we do that, we aren’t doing anything new. Go back to the beginning of time. Go back to the Garden of Eden. What do you find? In Genesis 3, immediately after the first sin, do you find Adam and Eve accepting blame? No, instead they are trying to pass the blame to others. Adam said, “The woman You gave to be with Me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). Adam not only blamed his wife, but he was even so bold to blame God. Notice how he was telling God that if God hadn’t made Eve, none of this would have ever happened. But then it was Eve’s turn; and instead of accepting blame for her actions, she said, “It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:13).

Ever since Adam and Eve, and all the way down to today, people (including you and me) like to blame others for our sins. Yet what does God want us to do instead? Listen to what God tells us through the Apostle John, “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

God does not want us to pass the blame, but to accept it; to confess it. God wants us to own up to our sins and repent of them. And do you know the most impressive, the most amazing thing of all? 2000 years ago, on a cross, Jesus already did that for us. He accepted the blame for the sins of the world. He was punished, not because he deserved it, but because we do. The Apostle John also tells us, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

God doesn’t want us to pass the blame to others; because he has done that already for us. He has taken the blame off of us and put it on Jesus. We are told in Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses….For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Praise God that, even though we deserve the blame for our sins, he has taken the blame for us. He has paid the price. Through the blood of Jesus, you are forgiven; you stand blameless in God’s sight.


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Politics and the 8th Commandment

Are we there yet? Those of you who have children are probably quite familiar with that phrase. Over and over again it is asked on a long car ride. They just want to be done.

Do you ever feel that way when it comes to politics? Maybe we might rephrase the question, “Is it November yet?” We are just beginning the main portion of the presidential election season. Yet many are ready to be done: done with phone calls, done with commercials, done with hearing arguments between grown adults.

Lately, as I have been thinking about politics, the 8th Commandment has repeatedly come to mind: “Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

[Note: Some count this as the 9th Commandment rather than the 8th. God gives us the Commandments in Exodus 20. In Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4, we are told that there are 10 Commandments. Yet, the Bible never numbers them for us. That’s why some people number them differently than others. In the end, the numbering of them is not important, but what is important is the truth God is teaching here.]

When it comes to politics (especially national politics) this commandment is not just repeatedly broken, but shattered! Just think about the explanation given to this commandment: “We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him, and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way.”

Consider also what God says elsewhere in Scripture: “Be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult” (1 Peter 3:8-9). “The Lord hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

As you consider all these thoughts, it is probably very easy to point the finger at various politicians and how they are not following God’s instructions here. Yet, rather than point the finger at others, we should point the finger at ourselves. How often have you run down a presidential candidate because you disagree with them? Maybe you did this vocally, or maybe it was just in your heart. Either way, you committed a sin against this and other commandments. It is so very easy to do, especially in the political climate in which we live. It is very challenging in our world to be able to respectfully disagree with our politicians’ opinions and policies without crossing the line into tearing them down and giving them a bad name.

So where do we turn? Where can we find our strength to do this? Where can we find the strength to build up rather than to tear down? We find our strength in Jesus. We see his example as he perfectly fulfilled this commandment for us. We find our strength in the forgiveness that he won for us. God used the Apostle Peter to remind us of this: “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He was suffering, He did not threaten but entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds” (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Therefore, living in the forgiveness that Jesus won, what should we do? Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote to Pastor Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2-4).


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Christmas in July

When do you celebrate Christmas? That might seem like a strange question to ask; for Christmas (unlike Easter) lands on the same calendar date every year: December 25th. Yet, that doesn’t answer the question. I didn’t ask when Christmas was, but, instead, when you celebrate Christmas. A year ago, my family celebrated Christmas on December 6th, December 25th, and January 17th.

With everything that takes place in the month of December, it is often challenging, sometimes even impossible, for families to get everyone together to celebrate. Because of that, some families celebrate Christmas in July.

Whether your family has this practice or not, July might be a great time for you personally to open your Bible and read through the Christmas account once again. With all the stress of the Christmas season, some details of the Christmas account may have escaped your memory. Maybe last December you didn’t take the time to treasure up and ponder all these things in your heart like Mary did. Therefore, July might be a great time for you to read through and ponder the message of Christmas (Matthew 1, Luke 2).

Yet, as we think about the account of Christmas, Matthew 1 and Luke 2 are not the only places to turn. There are various places throughout the Old Testament to turn as well. Long before Jesus was born, many details of his birth were foretold, and they happened exactly as prophesied. One example can be found in Matthew 1:23 where Matthew quotes from the Prophet Isaiah who lived 700 years earlier, “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’”

This detail of the virgin birth of Jesus has been debated by and denied by many. Why is this so controversial? Because it doesn’t make logical sense; humanly speaking, a virgin birth is impossible. Therefore, people have tried to find other explanations. One explanation often given is that the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 doesn’t necessarily have to mean a virgin, but it could just mean a young woman. Although that is true, we know that it means “virgin” here; the New Testament clearly shows that the birth of Jesus was a virgin birth. Not only that, but the other occurrences of this Hebrew word in the Old Testament are in contexts where the young woman being talked about is clearly a virgin.

Regarding this point there is another place where we may turn as well: Genesis 3:15. After Adam and Eve first fell into sin, God came with the first promise of the Savior to come. Speaking to the devil, God said, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” The seed of the woman listed here is talking about Jesus. Some English translations use the word “offspring” here. Although there is nothing wrong with that translation, the more literal translation is “seed.” When you talk about the seed of something or someone, to whom is that referring: the man or the woman? ‘Seed’ always is spoken of as coming from the man. Yet, here we find God speaking of the seed of the woman. Why is that? Because in Jesus’ birth, there would be no human father involved. Jesus would be born of a virgin, and thereby Jesus would be Immanuel, God with us, true God and true Man. And it had to be this way! If Jesus was born in the normal way with a human father and a human mother, Jesus would have inherited a sinful nature from his earthly parents. If Jesus had a sinful nature he could not have been the Savior. Jesus had to be born in this supernatural way so that being true God and true Man in one person he would live the perfect life that God demands of us all, die an innocent death in our place, and have his death count as the payment for the sins of the world. The virgin birth is not just another interesting detail, but rather an essential detail in the historical account of our eternal salvation.


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Follow The Leader

It’s not only a children’s game, but it is something we do naturally. We follow the leader. Often times, this is a good thing. Those who have more experience can teach the inexperienced the right way to go. But what if the leader goes the wrong direction? Is following the leader still the right thing to do?

This thought can be applied to various situations, but in this article I would like to apply it specifically to the topic of sex and marriage. What leader do you follow? Who is it that is leading you? Are you led by God’s Word, by his design that sex is a gift of God to be used only within the bounds of marriage? Or are you being led by society that says sex and marriage are to be used however you please?

More and more it appears that society is the leader when it comes to this topic (even within the church). There are many today (even within Christian Churches) that believe that waiting for sex until you are married is just old-fashioned. I’ve heard comments recently that “people just don’t get married anymore”. Those comments seem to be expressing the thought that this is the way it is and we should be ok with that.

But here lies the problem: these people don’t recognize that they have allowed their thoughts and beliefs to be led by society rather than being led by the Word of God. Society tells us that living together before marriage helps you see whether or not you will be compatible. Society says that this “trial run” will help your marriage last. Yet, statistics show that this often is not the case. I’ve seen various statistics. Most statistics show that those who cohabitate before marriage are about 33%-50% more likely to divorce than those who wait until marriage. Why is this? Think about it: when someone is having a “trial marriage” (i.e. living together), there is the thought in the back of the mind that if things don’t work out, there’s the door. When this couple gets married, how do they change from that mindset?

Some might argue with my statistics. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the numbers I have seen, but what I can say is that, in counseling various people, I have seen how, often times, sexual sins from their past are the underlying causes of their current problems. People often don’t think about how their current choices will affect them 20, 40, or even 60 years later.

Yet, when all is said and done, what is the real reason why a Christian wants to wait for marriage? Because that’s what God wants for us. In the 10 Commandments God says, “Do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). In Hebrews 13:4, God says, “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.”

What is the danger of rejecting God’s clear command regarding sex and marriage? Listen to what we are told in Hebrews 10:26, “For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.” When we follow society rather than the Word of God, we are placing ourselves in grave danger. When Jesus died and rose again, he won forgiveness for the sins of the world. But if we choose to deliberately reject God’s commands, we are choosing to reject Jesus’ forgiveness. Be careful what leader you follow!


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Hope Changes Everything!

Have you ever noticed how a person’s attitude can make a huge difference? When someone can no longer live on their own and is forced into Assisted Living or Nursing Care, their attitude can make an enormous difference in how well they adjust. When someone is healing from serious illness or injury, it has often been shown that those with a positive attitude toward the healing process will often heal faster. When someone holds onto hope, it changes things!

A word of hope from a friend (or even from a stranger) can brighten someone’s day. Therefore, it is a good practice to regularly say to others, “I hope you have a nice day!”

When we say that, what is meant by the word “hope”? It is a wishful expectation. It may or may not happen, but our desire would be that it would. We want them to have a nice day.

The Bible sometimes uses the word hope in that way. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome he said, “I have strongly desired for many years to come to you whenever I travel to Spain. For I hope to see you when I pass through, and to be assisted by you for my journey there” (Romans 15:23-24). As Paul wrote these words, did he know whether this goal would be accomplished? No, but he had a wishful expectation (a hope) that it would turn out this way.

Although we normally use the word hope the same way that Paul did here, the Bible typically uses hope in a different sense. Most often when hope is spoken of in the Bible, it is not a “wishful expectation” but a “confident expectation.” Take the Apostle Paul’s words to the Colossians as an example, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. You have already heard about this hope in the message of truth, the gospel that has come to you” (Colossians 1:3-6).

Is “the hope reserved for you in heaven” wishful thinking, or is it a confident expectation? Jesus tells us, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

Through faith in Jesus, the hope of heaven is not wishful thinking, but a sure and certain reality. Then why is it called hope? Because we aren’t there yet! It is still coming in our future. Therefore, heaven is a hope, an expectation. And as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Hope changes everything! Not just our attitude through the trials of life, but hope in Jesus changes our eternity! Through faith in Jesus, may we live in the hope (confident expectation) of our eternity in heaven!


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My Redeemer Lives!

Many years ago there lived a man who was richly blessed by God. His name was Job. You can read about him in the book of Job found in the Old Testament. As you read through that book, you will see both how God richly blessed Job, as well as the many hardships Job experienced in his life. Yet, in a time where those hardships were especially severe, Job made an amazing confession of faith. He said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).

That great confession of faith made by Job has since been turned into an Easter hymn. This Easter season many Christians will get the chance to sing Job’s confession, “I know that my Redeemer lives!”

As you sing those words, do you know what they mean? Do you know what it means to redeem something? The word “redeem” means “to buy back.” In redemption, a price is paid, or an exchange is made. Outside the context of church, we likely use the word “redeem” most often at a store; i.e. we redeem a coupon. The coupon is given in exchange for what it is worth.

In a similar way, there is always an exchange made with redemption. In Old Testament times, God had set up a law regarding redemption. One place where you can read about that is in Leviticus 25:47-55.

In God’s Old Testament economy, the redeemer was normally a close relative. This close relative had obligations to his family. If your family member became destitute and sold the family property in order to survive, you were supposed to buy it back to keep it in the family. If he sold himself into slavery, you were supposed to redeem him. You were supposed to pay the price so that he would not have to serve as a slave. In a way you could say that the redeemer’s responsibility was to “square things” for the one who could not accomplish that for himself.

A good Old Testament example of this redeemer can be found in the book of Ruth. As you read through that book, pay attention to the actions of a man named Boaz.

In the end, though, the greatest example of a redeemer is the one we sing about in the hymn, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Jesus came to this world to be my redeemer. As he died on the cross, he paid the price for my sins. He exchanged his life for mine. Yet, as Job confessed years earlier, “My Redeemer Lives!” Jesus did not stay dead. On the third day he rose again, and he promises me that I will, too. Therefore, I can join Job in saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).


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Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. ~ 1 Timothy 1:15