Our Only Hope

April 10, 2021

“Be glad for all that God is planning for you” ~Romans 12:12

Our only hope refers to the Bible as it pertains to our daily lives. We have no other hope powerful enough to stand against all the challenges and evils of this world. God’s grace and mercy, flowing down from Calvary’s cross washes us whiter than snow and gives us the answers to all the problems we encounter here on earth. 

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10  “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.”

Leaps off the page doesn’t it? “God chose to save us!” What more can we ask for? The next time you open the Bible, take your time without regard to how many chapters or pages you read. Savor God’s Word. Allow His truth to wash over you. Personalize it. For instance, “Christ died for ME!”

We are reminded in Romans 5:4 that when we run into problems and trials, they develop endurance, strength of character and, ultimately, hope. This hope will not lead to disappointment! 

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance” (see also James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

When our lives seem dismal and futile, where do we turn? Where can we find answers? Call the pastor? Perhaps. Call a friend or elder? Of course. But…any answer that is capable of changing our lives and giving us the hope we need is found in the Bible.  

God’s word, given to us by Him to encourage, build-up, strengthen, guide, heal, change and provide light at the end of those dark tunnels, is filled with powerful parables, stories, and sentences designed to rescue us from this dark world and its attacks. 

Sentence after sentence, tucked into the pages of our Bible jump out and grab us with answers directly from the mouth of our Creator. For instance, “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:24) 

Perhaps you’ve been a Christian for several years and still struggle with things and find yourself giving up, feeling discouraged or confused, wondering why your life seems without power or the touch of God. Do you read the Bible? And after reading it, do you believe it? In spite of all the troubles and problems around you, do you really believe God’s word? Sometimes we allow the problems of life to diffuse the power of His word in our lives. 

Just when we think it is all a mess, we find a verse as in Philippians 2:13 that says: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.” This is a fact! God is working in us…”He will never leave or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). Believe it and act on it. 

Almighty God wants to remind us of who we are in Christ; encourage our hearts with His word, show us His will for our lives, reveal the strong foundation on which to build our lives, clarify how to live a Christian life in the midst of our world and fill our hearts with His unshakeable truth.  

1 Thessalonians 5:18  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

What Happens If My Life Falls Apart?

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart” ~Proverbs 3:5

The usual way of things in Christianity is that a person prays to accept Jesus into their lives and He gladly forgives their sins and they begin their new Christian journey by attending a church.

Along the way, as the person reads the Bible, learns to pray, attends Bible studies and experiences the joy of giving to others, a subtle little extra creeps into their lives. This is the doctrine of “if’s”.

  • If you tithe regularly (and give love offerings beyond tithes), God will be very pleased and His pleasure will play out in more money and things for you.
  • If you maintain your faith in God during the most difficult trials, He has wonderful materialistic rewards waiting for you just around the corner. God loves giving His followers lots of worldly things to make them happy.
  • If you check your brain at the door, use your emotions as a guide, and always ask other Christians what they think you should do with your life, God will reward you greatly; Usually with a form of prosperity to show his gratitude.

The list can go on, including many more damaging ideas often perpetuated on people who sincerely wish to not only follow the Lord but use their lives as a source of light in this dark world. The problem with this line of thought is that it is a blend of God’s truth and human error. The results of following this path are always the same: failure and confusion.

God’s rewards are wrapped in His promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal, everlasting life with Him. God DID NOT send Jesus to die on the cross of Calvary so all who believe in Him will not only have everlasting life but lots and lots of wonderful things on earth.

If we believe God’s love will be shown to us through material blessings, job promotions, healthy lives and unlimited happiness, then what happens when our lives fall apart? How can we be at peace with burdensome debt, being passed over for promotion, imprisonment for our faith, disease or death?

Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do and He will show you the right way.”

Proverbs 16:2-3. “All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motives. Commit your activities to the Lord and your plans will be achieved.”

Many people tend to view the Bible and God’s promises through a filter of material possessions and success. Therefore, as we read verses like Proverbs 16:3, we assume God is referring to material prosperity. We get together and agree among ourselves that God has promised success in all our plans. When this does not work out, we are confused and discouraged. Our faith in God is in danger, especially when we see the world or even fellow Christians prospering.

James 1:5. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all.”

James 3:17 “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.”

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our lives on earth will always have challenges and problems. Such is the fabric of our imperfect lives as we await our release from planet earth. However, in the midst of our trials and tribulations, the peace of Jesus Christ is ours if we choose to walk in it. Eternal rest and joy beyond compare await. 

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18  “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth, will be eight u p int he close to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.”

Don’t Look Back!

DOHA, QATAR – OCTOBER 05: Noah Lyles of the United States, gold, and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake of Great Britain, silver, compete in the Men’s 4×100 Metres Relay during day nine of 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at Khalifa International Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

“Forgetting what is behind. . .I press on toward the goal. . .”  Phil 3:13

It was the semi-finals and tension filled the air as Phil prepared to defend his title in the 400 meter sprint. In the beginning, Phil was a short-race sprinter, running the 100 and 200 meter races, placing in the top three consistently. But one year, during practice, one of his friends challenged him to a race in the 400. Of course Phil accepted. To everyone’s surprise, including his, he won. That simple challenge changed his racing future.

         And now, one year later, Phil was running the most important race of his career. If he won, he would advance to the finals. He was ecstatic and ready to run. In preparation for this race, Phil had competed in and placed first in the 200 meter finals earlier in the week. But this was his first 400 semi-finals. He had that special feeling that he would finish well.

         Finely tuned, awaiting the starting gun, Phil shot forth at the sound. Running so far at near full speed is very tricky and physically demanding but his training was paying off, he knew instinctively that he was in the lead. Rounding the final turn Phil was focused on a spot just beyond the finish line, a trick his coach had taught him so he would never slow up before he crossed the line.

         He was closing in, he was actually ahead. His legs were screaming for more oxygen but he couldn’t supply any. It was all guts and heart now. Sheer determination would carry Phil across the finish line in first place. And that’s when the unthinkable happened, one tiny split-second of uncertainty. He glanced to his right to make sure he was ahead. That’s all it took. Looking right caused him to stumble ever-so-slightly. So slightly that no one in the stands could tell, but Phil and the other runners could, as they passed him, taking first and second place. Heart broken, Phil finished third. It was only a hundredth of a second, but third place instead of first. Phil looked back and paid the price. It was heartbreak. God cautions us to forget what is behind.

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:62

I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. Of course, my friends, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.  Philippians 3:12-14

As Christians, we must “forget what is behind,” and put on the armor of God because the enemy of our soul will attack with hundreds of scenarios in which we’ve been badly treated, accused of wrongdoing, or lied about. What shall we do in these cases? Praise God for false accusations and character attacks. If these attacks are false, we will be aligned with our loving Savior who, when falsely accused, did not defend Himself.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. Isaiah 53:7

He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.  

1 Peter 2:23

So, call out to God. Believe in His awesome power to overcome all the weapons of the enemy. Place your life in His hands and trust that He will ultimately deliver you from all sin and destruction because He said so. Remember what He told the thief on the cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

Bunnies and Eggs?

Dean, Cole and Brad were having their weekly meeting at their favorite coffee shop. Brad was the coffee aficionado who seemed able to discern between every coffee variety. He only drank black coffee…very dark! For Dean and Cole, it was part friendship and part lattes. Their idea of good coffee was espresso (any variety), steamed milk and syrup. As to where coffee originated, they hadn’t the slightest idea. This week was the week before Easter Sunday.

Since Brad was an active Christian, Easter was a special time of the year. “Ok, what does Easter mean to you guys?,” he said.

“Bunnies, eggs, and delicious ham dinners,” said Cole.

“Chocolate bunnies, candy eggs, and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy at our house,” Dean said. “As I look back on it, I think the candy part was my folks’ way of getting us to behave during that season. If we misbehaved, not so much candy.”

All three chuckled and got off on an obedience tangent for a minute. “Did either of you go to church or even hear about Jesus and the resurrection when you were kids?” asked Brad.

Both men agreed that church or mention of Jesus’ resurrection was absent from their childhood. “My aunt Ethel was a Christian I think. She always gave us Bible stuff around Easter time. One time she gave all three of us kids Bibles with our names in gold. That was cool!” said Cole. “Now that I mention it, she was always a caring, generous woman. I got into some serious trouble once when I was 17 and she bailed me out and paid my fines. She also got me a job which changed my life. Because of my Aunt Ethel, I own my furniture company. She got me a job with her brother who built furniture. That’s how it all began.”

“No church or Jesus or resurrection in my family either,” said Dean. “But my girlfriend in my senior year was a Christian and her father had a rule that anyone who dated his daughters, he had two, had to attend their church. I figured that was simple enough so every Sunday evening I went to their little church. I think that was an important step in my becoming a Christian later. I got pretty attached to the young pastor. It seemed like he could see inside my mind but he was not judgmental, he was full of love. You know, real love without conditions. Funny how I walked away from my faith over the years.”

Savoring another sip of his coffee, Brad said, “I don’t know if you guys know this or not but I never knew anything about Christ or His resurrection until I was in my twenties. We never went to church or even talked about God. Easter was like you both described, egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and other types of treats. We didn’t go to church first but went to my grandparents or aunt and uncle’s place for a ham dinner with all the trimmings. My grandmother, my aunt and mom all cooked the feast while we played outside. Those are good memories too.”

“That brings up a valid question then, Brad, what’s wrong with keeping those family traditions at Easter. You just admitted those are good memories and we all feel the same way. Why do Christians have to make such a big deal about this?,” said Cole.

“You make a good point, Cole. Actually, we shouldn’t make such a big deal about the normal festivities with candies and special ham dinners. We should realize that they are separate things and keep them separate. If you’re not a Christian, you aren’t interested in hearing about the resurrection of Jesus while you’re expecting family festivities; even though it is the most significant event in all of history. To unbelievers it is boring or intimidating or downright frustrating to be forced to hear about that. 

“I guess what has happened is the church has adopted easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies as prizes and candy eggs as well. It is the church that needs to establish its priorities, not the world. Maybe the church felt like they were being left out or were taking away a treat from their members so they added “Christian” easter egg hunts with candy prizes after a sermon on the resurrection. However,  by combining the two things, the church is diluting the message of His resurrection. How can we spend an hour or more singing and preaching about the risen Lord and then follow that with an easter egg hunt? 

“Let me read from the Book of Matthew guys,” said Brad.

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.”      ~Matthew 28:1-6

We Are Forgiven!

Although believers in Christ have been regenerated, given a fresh start in life, have become new creations, and are totally forgiven of sins, we can still cling to feelings of guilt and failure, as though the blood of Jesus didn’t include some of our sins. How could it have, we think, since we continue to struggle with past sins? My deeds seem as fresh and ugly today as they did when I committed them. If I was forgiven, why do I still struggle with being cleansed? 

We refuse to accept His forgiveness because we still feel so bad. The tragedy however, is not how we feel, but that we deny His cleansing and forgiveness. We cut short His loving and forgiving hand stretched out in love and healing to us. Basically, we are saying something like: “I don’t deserve your forgiveness. My sin was so bad I do not deserve your grace and mercy.” Doesn’t sound so good when you read the words does it? 

I have searched and searched but cannot find a verse that says, “I have forgiven all your sins, except for these…” As our loving Lord and Savior Jesus was breathing his final few breaths he said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Well, except for those guys over there. They knew exactly what they were doing and cannot be forgiven!” Of course He did not say the part in italics. His forgiveness included all sins. Everywhere. For everyone. As we repent and ask forgiveness, Jesus forgives. He washes us clean with His blood that poured down Calvary’s cross and flowed across the centuries to include our sins. 

It’s time to release the baggage of past sins and accept the total forgiveness of Jesus Christ. If we hang on to our guilt, we are calling Him a liar and saying His death on the cross was not good enough. His blood cleanses all mankind of their sins. That is, if we choose to accept His atoning gift. Forget the past. Accept His total forgiveness and walk in your miraculous new life so you can share His love, mercy and peace with everyone.  

Philippians 3:10-14  “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 

 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” 

Luke 9:62   But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”  According to Believer’s Bible Commentary: The expression, fit for the Kingdom, does not refer to salvation but to service in the kingdom after entering it through faith in Jesus Christ. And the NLT Study Bible adds, “The ancient farmer guided a light plow with his left hand and his oxen with the right. Looking away would turn the plow out of its path. For a believer, looking back meant placing earthly concerns ahead of God.” 

1 John 1:8-9  “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 

Romans 8:33-34 “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”

The Lord’s Prayer

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive” Matthew 6:12

We’ve seen it in movies, read it in the Bible as well as other books. And we have recited it from memory over and over again. We’ve learned what has come to be known as The Lord’s Prayer. Reciting these few verses can bring comfort and take away fear. However, reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over can become a meaningless repetition we send up to God hoping He hears and will rescue us from our desperate situation.

Without doubt, the most commonly spoken version of this prayer is as follows:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This model prayer was given by Jesus to his disciples as he taught them how to pray, warning them against uttering vain repetitions, “Don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do.” He then reminds them that, “Your Father in heaven knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him. Pray like this:”

If you are like many people, you may worry about how to pray, what to say because you’ve heard impressive prayers spoken by well known pastors and teachers. Regarding this concern, we simply have to read Romans 8, verses 26-28.

Notice now that Jesus includes forgiveness in His model prayer. Verse 12 says, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Then, immediately following the prayer, He continues in verses 14 and 15, “If you forgive those who sin (modern word for trespasses) against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Is your head spinning? Are you concerned about those who’ve sinned against you that you have not forgiven? Perhaps you’re holding a tiny little grudge. After all, they were completely in the wrong (as we forgive those who sinned against us). How did the Lord answer Peter?

Matthew 18:21 ~”Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

Luke 17:4 ~”If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

Jesus died for our forgiveness. It is essential we extend that forgiveness to any who sin against us. 

Ephesians, Part 5


“The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63

Ephesians Chapter 1

5 God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.

Millions of pages have been written about the “meaning of life,” the “deep secrets of life.” And yet, in two succinct sentences, God’s Word (the Bible) has given us the answer. Well, maybe, we ponder. But it can’t be that simple, can it?

An old story goes like this, “Once upon a time, there was a hiker out to see the wonders of his world. In his adventures he came to the edge of a great crevasse and wanted to see just how deep this mighty gorge was. So he came closer and peeked over. He couldn’t quite see to the bottom. He leaned closer, then closer. “Just one more inch,” he thought and leaned out a bit farther.

He fell!

Miraculously his hand caught a bit of scrub brush growing out of the wall. He was saved. But was he? He was at least ten feet from the top. He called out, “Is anyone up there? Please help me!”

Then a voice said, “This is God. I can help.”

“Oh thank you, God. What shall I do?”

“Let go of the bush.”

“What?”

“Let go of the bush.”

The man thought a few seconds then said, “Is there anyone else up there?”

As desperate as we are to find peace, as obviously broken and confused our lives become, when we call out for help and God says, “Let go of your life and give me control,” we, like the hiker, say, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Deep in our secret-most thoughts, we all know Someone created the world. It’s not possible that billions of years ago two planets collided (without exploding into nothingness), cooled for a few million years and became earth with its perfect, life-sustaining atmosphere. No. It was God.

Romans Chapter 1

19-20 For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.

Funny how we all share a common trait: The stubbornness of giving God, the creator of our world and lover of our souls, control of our lives. I can’t speak for you but before I gave God control, my life wasn’t exactly picture-perfect, humming smoothly along.

He Lives!

“Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” ~ Luke 23:46

He knew before it happened. He and His Father were the only ones who did know. The knowledge brought great agony for Jesus, the perfect man, the Lamb led to slaughter. In the garden before he was arrested, he agonized over his obedience to the horrible, tortuous truth about to unfold. But even more unthinkable to Jesus was his brief separation from The Father…that terrible moment when He would become sin for the whole world. Was there any other way to accomplish what had to be done?

Then He went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” He said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me” (there must have been a long pause as the man Jesus waited for a reply different from what He knew to be God’s will). “Not my will however, but your will be done. Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  (Luke 22:41-44)

And then, in a tumultuous swirl, he was arrested, questioned, horribly beaten, convicted, condemned to death, mocked, hated, spat upon, forced to drag his own cross up crude roads, experienced excruciating pain of nails driven through his hands and feet, abruptly attached to the cross as the taunting continued…and then, amazingly, forgave the very people who did this to Him as life was passing from his body.  

Suddenly God blackened the brightness of the mid-day sun for three hours! At the same time, the huge curtain hanging in the temple was torn in two (from top to bottom) Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father in your hands I place my spirit.” He said this and died. (Luke 22:44-46)

A man named Joseph from Arimathea, who was waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God, arranged to have the body of Jesus removed from the cross, wrapped in linen and placed in a tomb which had been dug out of solid rock and never been used. It was Friday and the Sabbath was about to begin.

“Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James arrived at the tomb of Jesus to apply the spices and perfumes to his body. They found the stone rolled away and did not find the body of Jesus in the tomb. Suddenly, two men in bright shining robes appeared and the women bowed down to the ground.

“Why are you looking among the dead for One who is alive? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while He was in Galilee: The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.”

“Then the women remembered His words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest.” (Luke 24:1-9)

The impossible happened, Jesus was dead and is now alive. Just as the Bible predicted, He was resurrected from the dead. His sacrificial death, the blood of the Lamb of God, provides eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who believe.  

Perhaps you are more hesitant to believe such a story, perhaps you are like the apostle Thomas who proclaimed, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

Now what? What is Jesus doing now, after His majestic resurrection? The answer is found in Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35)