trees yellow leaves and sky

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).

We were made for eternity.

Created in the image of God, our spiritual grandparents, Adam and Eve, were designed for life eternal. They were never meant to die, but to live forever in the garden, their God-ordained Paradise. We know how their story ends. Tempted by a seductive serpent, the couple took a bite of forbidden fruit, and with it they tasted death for the very first time.

But, God had a plan. Through the death of Jesus, God’s only Son, the Serpent and sin would be crushed. Paradise would not only be reimagined, but it would be realized by everyone accepting of the promise.

Solomon shared that, “…He (God) has also set eternity in the human heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV). There is a part of each of us that is meant to live forever. Jesus died to make this a reality. Let’s live it!

Trading Post

cross on hill at sunset

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

Trading is part of the human experience. From an early age, we learn the art of the deal. Trades occur daily across elementary school lunch tables where bags of potato chips are exchanged for chocolate chip cookies. Playgrounds become swap meets with the currency of toys and baseball cards. As adults, we trade-in cars, and we trade-out furniture. Then, of course, there’s the stock market and day trading.

The Apostle Paul speaks of a trade that took place some two-thousand years ago at the trading post of the cross, where Jesus endured the consequences of our sin so that we could receive the undeserved reward of salvation. Theologians throughout history have referred to this pivotal event as “The Great Exchange”.

Just imagine, Jesus, the personification of holiness and perfection, becoming sin incarnate on the cross. Within his flesh, Jesus possessed the sins of the world and literally carried them all to the grave. Because of this single act, each of us is declared righteous and holy regardless of the wrongs we have done. Our sin has been washed in the blood of Christ, buried in a borrowed tomb, and we are given the prize of Heaven.

There will always be trades that are made. None, however, will match the one Jesus made for mankind at the cross. Through this exchange, we are declared forgiven and free.

Favorite Verses – Proverbs 3:5-6

bible heart

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).

Contemporary science teaches that the human heart is made-up of muscular tissue. Like other muscles of the body, the cardiac (heart) muscle stretches and contracts, reacts to outside stimuli, and can be exercised. Throughout much of history the heart has been further portrayed as the center of human emotion. Love and passion, therefore, are said to spring forth from the well that is the heart.

The author of the third chapter of Proverbs, most likely Solomon, tells us to trust in God with all our heart. Such trust is faith, which the Bible defines as “…confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV). As we confidently trust in God and his promises, we have hope and assurance, not in what we can see, but in the divine mysteries of our LORD expressed most accurately through Christ.

The Christian cannot rely on his own limited understanding concerning the character and promises of God. God, however, reveals himself to us through Scripture. The Holy Spirit informs, enlightens, and makes our paths straight.

Favorite Verses – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

bible on desk“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV).

There’s an old adage that says, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” (author unknown). The inverse of this statement, then, might be “The road to Heaven is paved with sorrows and troubles.” The passage above, from Paul’s second letter to the Church at Corinth, would seem to support such a statement concerning the connection between Earthly sorrows and Heavenly rewards.

For Paul and other Christians, “…light and momentary troubles…” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV) could mean a variety of things. Certainly, the Christian must navigate the day-to-day struggles that all people deal with. But, the Christian must also face persecutions of all kinds. Throughout the ages, Christians around the world have paid the ultimate price for their faith, giving up their temporal lives for their eternal destiny.

Don’t misunderstand. The Christian doesn’t gain Heaven because he has lived a good life or even because he has faced a valiant death. Our salvation is entirely based upon Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Still, the Christian life is one marked by trouble.

I want to leave you today with two verses that speak to the issue of Earthly sorrows and Heavenly rewards. Jesus told his disciples, “ ‘…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ ”(John 16:33, NIV). Paul shared a similar sentiment when he stated, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NIV). We live, and we die, in Christ. Glory awaits.

Favorite Verses – 1 Peter 3:18

bible blue“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18, NIV).

Suffering is often synonymous with sacrifice. The sacrificial systems of the Old Testament involved the slaughter of animals as a way of atonement for the sins of the people. The offering-up of one’s livestock was not only emotionally burdensome, but a financial sacrifice. The limitation to these sacrifices was that they had to be repeated time and again, because people continued to sin.

The author of Hebrews makes a statement similar to that found in the verse above, that “…Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many…” (Hebrews 9:28, NIV). “Many” doesn’t imply that Jesus’ sacrifice atoned for the sins of some, or even most, people. Rather, “many” means that Jesus’ death paid for the sins of all people. Further, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a “…once for all…” sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27, NIV). It doesn’t need to be repeated again and again.

Jesus died, “…the righteous for the unrighteous…” (1 Peter 3:18, NIV), so that we as sinners would live eternally. We are declared just and stand redeemed before him. What great news this is for each of us!

Favorite Verses – Micah 6:8

favorite verses micah 6

“ ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ ” (Micah 6:8, NIV).

God spoke to his chosen people of Israel through a series of prophets. Micah is often referred to as one of the twelve minor prophets, not because he is any less important than the major prophets, but because his writing is less voluminous and intended for a more specific audience. God used Micah to command the Israelites to do three things: “ ‘…To act justly…’ ”, “ ‘…to love mercy…’ ”, and “ ‘…to walk humbly…’ ” (Micah 6:8, NIV), and he expects the same from us.

God knows that, when we practice justice and mercy and walk in humility, we model God’s very own heart as we live with one another before a world that is watching. Like the often rebellious Israelites, we, by nature, are not always just, merciful, or humble. Still, God equips us to be more like him, and he forgives us when we fail.

In fact, Jesus lived, in complete obedience, to each of the Heavenly Father’s righteous commands and died to free us from our sinful disobedience. He satisfied justice for us, taking our sins to the cross. Time and again, Jesus chose mercy in dealing with humanity. And Jesus was the ultimate example of humility, becoming like us in order to save us (Philippians 2:5-8).

So, “ ‘…act justly…’ ”, “ ‘…love mercy…’ ”, and “ ‘…walk humbly…’ ” (Micah 6:8, NIV), and live into the heart and character of God.

Favorite Verses – John 1:1

favorite verses john 1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NIV).

Echoing the words found in the Genesis Creation account, the Gospel writer John declares that Jesus was present “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1, NIV). Long before the man, Jesus, took his first steps upon the planet, he existed. In fact, Jesus’ existence is eternal. He is, “ ‘…the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End’ ” (Revelation 22:13, NIV).

Still, Jesus did not view his deity as some sort of divinely appointed privilege, nor did he employ it in the form of a holy power trip. Instead, Jesus lowered his standing and took on the bodily form of a man (Philippians 2:6-7).

John uses the name, “the Word”, to describe Jesus and his mission. Truly, Jesus is the incarnation of God’s announcement of grace to mankind. Jesus is mercy personified.

Two-thousand years ago, our Heavenly Father took the great message of his love for us and placed it in a manger. Jesus, “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14), lived a perfect existence as a man and died upon a cross to take away our sins. God’s “Word” for us today is that we are forgiven and free.