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A Living Hope

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

When we look at the world around us, it seems like it is spinning out of control. The 24-hour news cycle is a constant message of doom and gloom. Media alerts on our phones continually inundate us with the reality that we live in a dark and fallen culture. Murders, suicides, corruption and hate are the daily headlines. Many ask themselves “why are these things are taking place?”, but few are willing to accept the answer because it is controversial and divisive. 

We have stripped the Word of God from his rightful place in our lives. We have slowly drifted from a God centered society where school prayer was encouraged and the Creator was exalted, to a form of secular relativism where truth is determined by our own personal, subjective feelings. We are continually being inundated with the lie that life has no absolute meaning, no true purpose. Our children are indoctrinated in the public schooling system from a young age that they are simply an evolutionary accident that is here today and gone tomorrow. And the reality is, we have created a culture that is hopelessly lost and desperately looking for answers. However, those of us who have a personal relationship with Jesus know the solution to this dilemma. Hope is found in Christ alone!

Critics of the Christian Faith will immediately say, “How can Christ be the answer for the world today?” He was crucified over 2000 years ago. “How could He possibly be the answer to the world’s problems”. This kind of talk may sound impressive, but it leaves out one important historical fact: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is any one fact of history, which convinces us that there is a God, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is any one fact of history, which convinces us that there is hope, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People speak about the great events of world history, but there is no greater event than this – the mighty resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Why do we say, “There is hope”? – We say that there is hope because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Death could not hold our Savior. He broke the power of death and gave us a living hope. 

But to know and enjoy this hope, we must come to God on His terms. First and foremost, we must understand our spiritual condition apart from Christ. All have been born into this world spiritually dead in our sins and separated from God (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 3:23). The Bible tells us that there are none righteous, no not one (Psalm 14:1-7). And in God’s courtroom we all stand guilty and deserve to be sentenced to death (Romans 6:23). But glory to God, He made a way for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be brought back to life! While we were justly sitting on a spiritual death row, God demonstrated His love for us by sending His perfect Son to die in our place, taking all of our sin and all of our punishment for that sin on the cross of Calvary (Romans 5:8). On that cross, Jesus endured the agonies of hell in our place so that we could be forgiven and reconciled back to God. And then after three days He rose from the dead forever defeating death for all who would place their faith in Him alone. He died to give us life. He rose to secure our hope. 

Do You Have the Living Hope?

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The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)

Fall is here and you can feel the briskness in the air! The days are slowly getting shorter, the leaves on the trees have begun to change from their deep green to the beautiful golds and reds. The tree squirrels seeing the shifting of the seasons work diligently to fill their storehouses for the coming winter months. For some, the new season brings the joy of life as children and grandchildren are born. But for others, it’s a time of grief as loved ones are lost. One thing for certain, all things change. 

We change so easily that we must exert great effort to keep from changing, we try and hide our signs of aging and go to great lengths to maintain our physical health and mental acuity. But no matter how diligently we try to fight against time, we ultimately are only here for a little while to laugh and weep and work and play, and then we are gone. Yes, this is a melancholy thought at best. But you see, God has placed within each and every one of us a longing for something more, a thirst for the eternal. He has created each and every one of us with a void within our hearts that can only be filled by the One who is incapable of change. 

We see our imperfections and wish that we could change them. But with God, He is who He is, always and effortlessly, and everything that He does is consistent with His perfect unchanging nature. He is absolute holiness, love, wisdom, mercy and grace. But He is also unchanging in His justice and wrath against sin. His perfection is such that He cannot diminish or grow, and there is absolutely no variation in His character. The self-existing I AM is incapable of change, for if He did change, He would cease to be God (Mal. 3:6).

But the question must be asked, can we really know what God is like? Jesus declared “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7). You see, the eternal righteousness of the Godhead was revealed to us through the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. When God humbled Himself by becoming a man, He showed us the fullness of His divine love, mercy and grace. He demonstrated the depths of God’s unchanging love by dying in our place on that cross. And as our High Priest, He is praying us into heaven and interceding on our behalf before the Father (Heb. 7:25). You see, His love for us is just as strong today as it was 2000 years ago, and His arms are still held out wide to all who will come. 

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28). Friend, there is only one sure and solid foundation. There is only One who can fill the void within the human heart because we were created by Him and for Him. His name is Jesus Christ and He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

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A Tale of Two Men

Once upon a time, there were two men who lived in a land far away. These men were very much alike. They had similar backgrounds, similar interests, similar lifestyles and though there is no way to know for certain, they very well may have been close friends. But what’s fascinating is that one fateful day, these two men found themselves in the exact same situation, the exact same set of circumstances. But, in one decisive moment, their destinies went in complete opposite directions. In one instant, these two who were once so alike, so similar in so many ways, were now polar opposites, as different as darkness is from light.

The story of these two men is found in the Bible. There isn’t that much written about them, but what is written about them tells us a lot about something that is vital to every one of us, and that is our eternal destiny. And when I say eternal destiny, I simply mean where we ultimately end up after we die. For these two men, that end was now staring them both in the face. They didn’t have years, months or days before they met their fate, but a few short hours.

We meet them in the 23rd chapter of Luke. Two men, one was on the right and the other was on the left of Jesus. Their situation is identical. Both are guilty criminals given the death sentence. Both are there, suffering the pain of crucifixion. They are both hanging there, slowly dying a horrific death right next to Jesus. And as they press against their nail pierced feet pulling themselves upward in agony to fill their collapsing lungs with air, breath after excruciating breath, it doesn’t stop them from hurling insults at him, saying the same things Jesus’ enemies are saying.

But as we continue reading through Luke’s historical account of that day, something interesting happens. At some point in time, things begin to change. The two men that were so similar now seem to see things differently. Something happens in the heart of one of them. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, he begins to observe things as they are. He rightly sees his spiritual bankruptcy and recognizes that all that he is receiving is due payment for his crimes. He starts to view himself for who he really is, a wretched, wicked sinner who is in desperate need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Think about this, moments earlier this man could not care less about the identity of Jesus Christ. But then he has a 180-degree change of mind. Instead of mocking Jesus like the man next to him, he begins crying out to Him for mercy, for pity! Moments earlier, this man likely thought that Jesus was a nobody. But then through the power of God moving in his heart, his eyes are opened to see Jesus with clarity, as the true King and Son of God. Think about these two criminals. They both were guilty and deserving of death; not only death on a cross, but eternal death in hell. But only one of them recognizes the need for Jesus’ mercy. Understanding that what is happening to him is just, he then cries out for Jesus’ amazing Grace.

And what is Jesus’ response? He says to him: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Not tomorrow, not a few months, not several years, but TODAY. Friend, this is true for all who put their faith in Jesus Christ, for all who understand their dire condition and need for God’s mercy. Now, did this man get to heaven because he was good or because he religious? No. Did he get to heaven because he went to church, or because he was baptized? Absolutely not! What was it that saved him? He understood that he didn’t deserve heaven. He clearly recognized his sinful, wretched condition and that he deserved an eternal death sentence. You see, God in His infinite grace, sovereignly and instantly opened this man’s eyes to see his need for a Savior, and then granted him faith to believe in Jesus.  

And in those moments as he hung there next to the Lord of Glory, this low down, dirty rotten criminal put his faith in the Savior. He trusted in Christ’s righteousness, not his own and He surrendered his life to Him as his Lord. And when Jesus saw this man’s faith, He confirmed and comforted him by giving this assurance. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Friend, the words Christ spoke on that cross are as powerful today as they were then. The message remains the same. The question is, like this thief, do you recognize your need? If your life was demanded of you today, do you know your eternal destiny? Have you surrendered your life to Christ? If not, what are you waiting for?

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Where has Your Mind Been Lately?

Colossians 3:1-3, Written by Pastor Eddie Arnold Pastor at Pathway Christian Church of Harlan  “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3)”.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! These are the wonderful words that are heralded during our Easter celebrations; that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and has risen from the grave. But as soon as Easter passes, in many cases, so does the celebration of His resurrection until the next Easter season. But this should not be! You see, as believers, this marvelous truth should be held close to our hearts daily because it’s the heart of the Gospel message, that through the power of His resurrection we too have been brought back from the dead. Our old lives that were once dominated by sin and the world were put to death on the cross with Him. And when Jesus came back to life, you and I were raised up with Him to the newness of life (Rom. 6:6, 7; Eph. 2:6). Through His resurrection, we were given a new nature; one that desires what He desires and loves what He loves. His resources have become our resources. Beloved, this is the power and the mystery of the Gospel. We are no longer slaves to who we used to be but have been given everything we need to live a life pleasing to Him; to serve and honor Jesus Christ in all that we say and do! 

Now, here in chapter 3, Paul gives us a command. He says, since you have been raised with Christ then seek Him with all of your being. In other words, We are to have our hearts and minds steadfastly and intently focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, where knowing Him is our greatest desire, pleasing Him is at the core of our commitments, becoming like Him is at the heart of our ambitions, and bringing glory to His name is our deepest and most consuming passion of our lives. This is a command and call of every Christian. These are the churches marching orders. Set your minds on things that are above and quite worrying about all the chaos that’s going on around you because this world is no longer your home. 

It’s unfortunate, but I believe Satan and the world system has done a pretty good job of distracting us from what is really important. But this should not be the case for believers, because we have a living hope, and we are citizens of a different country, a heavenly one.  You see, it’s the trials of life that reveal what we are really trusting in and in what we truly love. During this past month when eating out was not an option and going to the movies or sports venues was off the radar, what has dominated your thoughts and actions? Has your heart been lifted heavenward where Christ is seated, or have you been consumed with the things that are going on around you? Have you been spending time with the Lord in His Word, meditating and memorizing it and drawing near to Him in prayer? Or has your downtime been filled with sitting on the couch watching NETFLIX? Has your mind been devoted to things that have eternal value, or have you allowed the world system to shape you? Understand, to grow in your walk with the Lord, you must continually put off the world, and then put on Jesus Christ where He is your highest love and greatest desire. We must seek first His Kingdom and righteousness. 

Beloved, the things of this world are fleeting. They are here today and gone tomorrow. The question that we all need to answer is, what am I living for? The world, or for Christ? Understand, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ! We would like to invite you to come and join us this Sunday at 10am as we worship the Lord through His Word. Due to the COVID-19, social distancing will be adhered to, face masks/coverings are highly recommended for all in attendance and other controls have been put in place to ensure a safe church environment.