My Eyes have Seen Your Salvation

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Luke 2:28-32

Simeon was waiting for the promised Savior. When Simeon received what he was waiting for, Jesus was perfect in every way. It is why Simeon was able to tell the Lord, “You now dismiss your servant in peace.” Simeon could die in peace because his eyes had seen his salvation.

Imagine Simeon letting the baby wrap his little hand around his finger, the way babies do. That same hand would be pierced by a spike and nailed to a tree. That same precious face would be darkened by fists and bloodied by a crown of thorns. But that act would mean light for a sin-darkened world.

And that means you, dear friend. Jesus was born for you, to die for you, to win forgiveness for you. Like Simeon you can say, “Lord, now dismiss your servant in peace. I have peace—the peace of knowing I have eternal life through you.”

Lord Jesus, when you finally dismiss this servant through death, I know that when I open my eyes again, they will see your face, for you have done what you have promised for me. May I always sing your praises as Simeon did. Amen.

The Washing

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life.
~ Revelation 22:14

In his Civil War book, Glory Road, author Bruce Catton shows us how dirty a human being can get. He recounts an episode in which a soldier leaves a prisoner-of-war camp to rejoin his old unit. His time as a POW had left him filthy beyond description. He asks his comrades to help him get clean. They take him into a river, strip off his clothes and begin to wash and scrub. Only after this continues for a time do the man and his friends realize that he is still wearing an undershirt. The man’s body had become so encrusted that it had been impossible at first to tell the difference between a soiled piece of clothing and his own skin.

The soiling nature of sin does the same thing. From the dark thoughts we allow to fester in our minds to all the deeds of love conveniently left undone, sin does more than leave a dirty streak here and there on our souls. It makes us spiritually filthy beyond description. Left to ourselves, our hearts are so encrusted by sin that it’s impossible for us to see how lost we really are, how deep the pit really is.

That’s where Jesus comes in. We didn’t see how lost we were. But he did. We didn’t see how far we had fallen. But he did. He took us to the river of his grace. He washed us in the waters of baptism. He cleansed us in the blood he shed on Calvary’s cross. Now we stand before him in robes of white. Now, through faith in him, his forgiveness is our personal possession.

There are moments when the same old stench from the same old sinful habits can fill our nostrils with despair. When such a moment comes for you, remember who you are. Remember what Jesus has done. He has gone to the cross to wash you clean. He has risen from death to assure you that not one of your sins remains. Through his eyes your life is fresh and clean and new. Your days as a filthy prisoner are long gone.

Lord Jesus, in those moments when I stumble and the stench of my old sinful habits fills the air, remind me of the washing I have in you. Fill me with your peace. Empower me to get back up and to walk again with you. Amen

Fearing God

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. ~ Psalm 130:3-4

A person once asked: “Can you help me understand what the Bible means when it says we are to “fear” God? Some have said it is just to have an awe of him. I find this understanding inconsistent with Scripture as little as I know. Fear is fear, and isn’t it caused by sin and our sinful desires to turn from God, not some sense of awe of him? Is it a fair comparison to say we fear the wrath of our parents when we have done wrong but this fear is alleviated with the knowledge that they love us and forgive us of our wrongs?”

They asked an excellent question, and we can appreciate their desire to analyze a word that the Bible uses quite often.

The phrase “to fear” has two basic meanings: to “stand in awe of” or “be afraid of”. So, each time that the “fear of the Lord” is mentioned in a Bible passage, the reader needs to take note of the relationship the person or people have with God. Only when that is done will they have a better understanding of how the phrase is being used in that particular passage. It might (and often does) involve being afraid or in terror of, but it might also be emphasizing happily revering or respecting God with awe.

Maybe a word picture or illustration will be helpful:

Do I fear a quickly moving train? To answer that question correctly, I must first analyze my relationship to the train.

If I am trapped on the railroad tracks in front of the train, I “fear it” because its awesome power will crush me!

But if I am comfortably seated in a passenger car being pulled by the powerful engine and it is taking me to a destination I long for, I still “fear” the train, but this time I’m respecting and being in awe of its brute force. I can delight in its awesome strength for my benefit!

God, the all-powerful creator of the universe, does not change and is always worthy of “fear.”

For those who feel contempt for their Creator’s loving salvation through Jesus Christ his son–if they only knew what their eternal future holds for them–they would be terrified!

For those brought to trust the gracious promise of salvation in Christ through the Holy Spirit–the “fear of the Lord” holds no terror–they are filled with awe (as expressed in today’s verse) at such a loving, powerful, forgiving God!

Dear Heavenly Father, from everlasting to everlasting your love is with those who fear you. We are in awe of your power and righteousness, and we are comforted by our salvation through Jesus Christ. Amen

Jesus is the Son of God

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 1:1-4

Who is Jesus Christ? That’s a fair question to ask this time of year, isn’t it? After all, Christmas is the most popular holiday of the year. People from all over the world celebrate it, and, whether they recognize it or not, Jesus Christ is the very reason for and cause of the celebration! So who is this world-famous baby lying so meekly and mildly in the manger of Bethlehem? Who is Jesus Christ?

Depending on whom you ask, you might hear a few different answers to that question. “Jesus Christ was a great prophet, the greatest to ever live!” “Jesus Christ was a great pioneer, a visionary who started one of the most popular religions in the world!” “Jesus Christ was a great hero who gave up his life for a noble cause!”

But all those descriptions fall short, because none of them give Jesus Christ credit for who he truly is. The apostle Paul’s description of Jesus Christ, however, does not fall short. His description here in Romans chapter one is both true and beautiful. Jesus Christ is true man, “a descendant of David,” Paul says. But Paul also confesses the truth that Jesus Christ is the very “Son of God”. It was this Jesus, the one true God made flesh, who willingly gave up his life in order to pay for the sins of the world with his blood.

But how do we know this for certain? How do we know that this man who died on a cross just thirty-three years after his birth wasn’t just some great prophet, some great pioneer, some great hero who gave up his life for a noble cause? How do we know that this man was also the one true God whose death truly forgave all of our sins?

Paul’s answer is simple. We know because this man who died did not stay dead. Rather, he “was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.”

This Jesus is the one whom the wisemen sought and worshiped when he was a baby: “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2b) On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

So who is this world-famous baby lying so meekly and mildly in the manger of Bethlehem? Who is Jesus Christ? The complete answer does not lie in his manger, for his manger was only the beginning. The answer truly lies in his empty tomb. Jesus Christ is the one true God who willingly became true man and then lived, died, and rose to save us from our sins.

May this beautiful truth resound throughout 2023!

Lord Jesus Christ, by your resurrection from death, you have proven yourself to be the one true God who has forgiven all our sins. May the beautiful truth of your resurrection remain in our hearts and minds this year and forever. Amen.

Children’s Christmas Program ~ Jan. 4th at 6:30 PM

Living Hope’s & OPL’s Children’s Christmas Program

January 4th at 6:30 pm (postponed from an earlier date)

Please join us for a festive, heart-warming evening! 

Jesus is the reason for the season!

Christmas and New Year’s schedule at Living Hope:

  • Dec. 24th: Christmas Eve Service at 7:00 PM
  • Dec. 25th Christmas Day Service at 10:00 AM
  • Jan. 1st New Year’s Day Service at 10:00 AM

New Year Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,
The year stretches ahead of us like a field of freshly fallen snow. Lead our steps as we travel forward, and help us make decisions that are pleasing to you. Give us opportunities to be kind and thoughtful to others. Help us to be generous with our time and the blessings you have given us. Keep us safe in your care, and keep our eyes focused on Jesus, our Savior, in whose name we pray, Amen.

Please join us Sunday morning at 10:00
for the first Worship Service of the year!

God will rejoice over you with singing

On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
~ Zephaniah 3:16–17

There are some Christmas hymns that everyone seems to knows. That’s especially true this time of year. Can you complete the following lyrics? “Silent night…” (pause) “Holy night”. Here’s another: “Away in the…” (pause) “manger”. One of the reasons many people know these songs is that we love to sing them.

What if I told you that there is a song that the Lord our God loves to sing?

Zephaniah told us that when God looks at mankind, he often sees us fearful. What is it that is making you afraid? Is it fears about your financial future? Are you frightened by the state of our world or country? What about death? Does the thought of dying scare you? Maybe what scares you is that you’re wrestling with some sin. You know that God sees that sin every time you commit it, and that thought scares you.

When we come to our Heavenly Father with our fears, God quiets those fears. Zephaniah told us that when God quiets our fears with his love, it makes him so happy that he himself bursts out in joyful song.

If you think Christmas and the beloved hymns made you happy, think about how happy it made our Heavenly Father when his only Son came to earth. Through faith in him, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection took away everything we fear:

  • You fear your financial future? In the future, you will live in Jesus Christ’s very own mansion.
  • You fear for the state of our world? Jesus Christ is going to make a new heavens and a new earth.
  • You fear death? Consider Jesus’ empty tomb. You are going to be raised, just like Jesus.
  • You fear your sin? Jesus paid it all. In your baptism, you were washed clean. When God looks at you, he sees the perfection and holiness of Jesus Christ. You have nothing to fear! Absolutely nothing.

That all is “good news of great joy” that the angels sang about on that first Christmas Eve. We hear that good news, and it quiets us…it calms our fears. We rejoice in Zephaniah’s promise: “The LORD your God is with you.” That is what Immanuel means, “God with us.” We sing that this time of year too. “Oh come, oh Come, Emmanuel.” When God hears that song, when he sees that his grace has calmed our fearful hearts, he sings for joy too!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for calming our fears. Fill our hearts with the joy of our salvation. We will sing your praises, now and forever. Amen.

Join us for New Year’s Day Service, Sunday, Jan 1, 2023 at 10:00 AM

God and sinners reconciled!

Please join us on Christmas Eve at 7:00, and Christmas Morning at 10:00, as we praise the newborn King!

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King:
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come, offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”

~ Charles Wesley (1739)

The Lord is with you

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” ~ Luke 1:26-28

At the time of the first Christmas, Mary, the mother of Jesus, got a wonderful kind of greeting. An angel from God came to her with a special message: “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” This message must have taken this young woman by surprise. She did not think she was anything special (Luke 2:48). But the angel had some special good news for her: “The Lord is with you.”

The Lord knew everything about this young woman. God knew her life plans, her hopes and dreams. Most importantly he loved Mary deeply. As God was about to enact the culmination of his plan of salvation for the world he loved, he chose Mary, a virgin, to be a special part of that plan. God chose her to give birth to his Son, our Savior, Jesus.

The Lord is with us, just as he was with Mary. Take comfort in knowing that the Lord is with you! He stands by your side when you feel all alone. He forgives you even when you struggle to forgive yourself. He strengthens you through his gospel when you are feeling weak. He is the Light you long for as you walk in a world of darkness. The Lord is with you and always will be.

Lord God, you are with me. Remind me of your loving and abiding presence this Christmas. Amen.