Restoration & Repentance                                       
We Hope
Do you remember when you were a child and you were asked to wait for something?  We had to look at concealed birthday and Christmas presents and wait for days to open them.  We had to wait the unbearable hour after you ate before you could swim.  We had to wait for the first and last days of school. Sometimes, we just had to wait until we were older.  All of which could have been relabeled as torture.  Do you remember?

Have you ever snuck an early peek at a gift only to find out that it ruined the moment of reveal?  No one could have convinced me when I was a child that anticipation was half of the gift!  However, now as an adult, I really believe it is.  It can be fun to linger with excitement over something yet to come.  Take away the anticipation and all you are left with is a killjoy.

We can fast forward childhood impatience to see that we haven’t changed much.  We don’t like to wait at red lights.  We don’t like to wait for our slow-moving children to get their jammies on.  We don’t like to wait on hold after speaking to an automated voice.  Once I decided to do my first ever inductive Bible study. I was so excited as I waded through this previously developed strategy. I learned that it could take around a year to finish some books of the Bible.  Guess what I did?  I chose to study the book of 3 John because it was only a page long.  I wanted to get through it fast so I could get a good feel for all the steps- I just couldn’t wait!  Oh wow, the list of human impatience goes on and on and on, doesn’t it?

There is a problem with this mentality because it can rob us from the joy of anticipation.  If we are not thinking forward to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has called us heavenward (Philippians 3:14), then why do we do what we do?  As a Christian, we wait in anticipation for the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We get up and carry our cross daily because we have the hope of Jesus returning!  We go to church and get involved because we have this hope!  We teach our children their whole life through because we have this hope!  We read our bibles, attend bible studies, and pray because we have this hope!  We do not get too wrapped up in the difficulties of a day because this is not our home; we know this because we have this hope.  I could go on, but you get the picture. 

Let’s back up and take a look at where this all started.  Genesis 2:22-23, “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold the man has become like the one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever,’ therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken….” 

We were once spiritually close to God.  The way God intended it to be was disrupted by the sin of disobedience when Eve and Adam ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Our eyes were opened to the difference between the two so boundaries were put in place and God started His plan of salvation to bring us back to him full circle.  This is the big picture of life, that God is working to bring us back in a right relationship with Him again. He has promised that the fruition of His plan not only will come but already is.  The joy of this absolute promise is that we wait with anticipation for the day where we are no longer harassed on this earth but are peacefully and joyfully restored to Him!

Revelation 2:7b, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God.”  We can only be victorious thorough our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the victor. Jesus is God’s plan to restore us back to Him.  There is no other way to eat from the Tree of Life! Once fully restored by Jesus in heaven, we will have no more bad days, no more sin, no more struggles, but we will be with Jesus, who is our reward eternal.

This is the most exciting thing we could ever learn; we should hope for this!  We should think of it daily.  There is a purpose greater than ourselves wrapped up in the promise of this gift!  So, lean in to God in Bible study and prayer.  Don’t miss it.  Don’t miss the joy of anticipation in our daily life.  In the end, it will all be worth it.

Andrea Simmons
Revelation 2:7b
 “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God.” 
Free Things
When I was graduating from high school I received a postcard in the mail letting me know I could go downtown to one of the furniture stores and receive a free cedar chest. It was more like a small jewelry box, but whatever, they said it was free. I’m sure it was a small price to for them to pay because they knew if they could get me in the store for the first time that I just might be back to buy the more expensive furniture now that I had arrived into adulthood. They were willing to take the risk on me either way. I never did get that thing.

In some business classes I took I learned that when a company gives away something free, it’s really not free. There are costs in gathering and purchasing the materials. There are costs in manufacturing. Then there are costs in storing and shipping the item. It is free to the end person, but in all reality that item most definitely was not free because it cost someone something to make it.

The greatest free gift to all mankind is the gift of salvation from our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. But, it is only free to us; it was not free to Him. 1 Timothy 2:6a, “Who gave himself as a ransom for all…” To save us, he gave his life and died.

1 Timothy 2 “Who desire all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God desires for all of his creation to come to him and know the loving truth of his Son. In this, he planned a way for us to know him through his Word and by sending his Son to earth to live among us. In this, he also took the risk that, just like I never got my free gift of the cedar chest, some of us may never come to know his Son and plan of salvation in our lives. Some of us may never be restored to him from being born into sin.

The furniture company gave the cedar chest, hoping that I would exchange the free chest for the purchase of something with a far greater value for their own personal gain, but not God even though he counts us as very valuable to him. He had in mind to exchange his Sons life for ours so instead of our doomed position we would be given joyful living and the promise of greater things to come. We would be restored to him. While we, in our sin, were not worthy of his love, he gave it anyway so that we could learn to live- really live! Along with the free gift of Salvation that came at a great price, we also receive true life. It’s a win-win for us!

Dear God, thank you for counting the cost of our salvation and loving us enough to take the risk. Thank you for making yourself personal and real to us through your Son. And, thank you reaching down to us who live in mud and mire and rescuing us. You are a good, good Father who gives good gifts. Teach us to be open to you who sent your Son to die in our place so we may live. Help us to live a life worthy of the gift you have given to us. Keep us close to you and in your protection from our original captor. Praise your holy name! Amen.

By Andrea Simmons 2.9.16
1 Timothy 2:6a 
“Who gave himself as a ransom for all…” 
Dress for Success
My husband seems to think that every woman should have at least one simple black dress in her wardrobe for a variety of occasions.  I think I need many outfits to cover a variety of occasions.   For instance, I would probably not wear the same outfit to a wedding that I wore to a funeral.   And, I would not wear the same outfit to get married in that I would wear to speak in front of people.  Nonetheless, we all agree that for special occasions we need appropriate clothes that are not Saturday-morning-at-home kind of clothes.  No doubt, each occasion would be a special one worthy of celebrating and wrapping ourselves in nice clothes.
On the flip side, when we are feeling depressed, how do we dress?  Yeah, that's an ugly picture isn't it?  Not only do we not want to get gussied up in our best but we tend to stay under our normal level of hygiene and personal appearance.  Yoga pants and a ponytail will do the trick- or better yet, pajamas will suit the day.  Our feelings definitely come across in the way we present ourselves!

This is exactly where we find ourselves sometimes.  This is where the Israelites found themselves in the book if Isaiah.  They had spirits of heaviness and it came across in how they looked outwardly, probably wearing dirt colored sackcloth to show how their spirits were burdened with their present situation. They were lost without God.  Begging, they asked for Him to remember their history together and come back for them.  Their own sins against God led them to oppression.  They mourned.  They grieved.  They cried out to God.

And He heard them.

He had a plan for them all along.  The plan included restoring them to Himself and giving them a garment or praise to wrap around themselves for the sake of celebrating rather than living with a spirit of heaviness.  What blessings He had in store for them that they did get to experience. 

The garment of praise could be a veil or mantle according to the Hebrew word ma'ateh.  This is the only time the particular word was used in the Bible.  It could have referred to something worn for those being honored in a parade, which was a very public place.  Just imagine a man high on a horse with a garment of celebratory colors and people all around on the sides of the road giving him loud honor.

Spiritually, the garment of praise means our heavy heartedness that makes us weak will disappear and we will have reason to praise Him who lavishes us with good gifts.  This is a great transformation.  The weights of our hearts like boulders that are hard to move will turn into helium balloons.  We will trade in sackcloth for silk.  He will bring us out of the dirt colored pit into rainbows of praise.  Wrapped around us will be a garment of praise.
How do we get this promise?

Isaiah 59:20 says, "'And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,' declares the LORD."  We need to turn away from those things in our life that we know hurt God (and hurt us and others, too).  Simply, we come to Him, ask forgiveness, and stop doing those things that cause hurt.  This is a small trade for the great big good things He gives in return. 

What is it today that you need to turn away from?  Ask God to show you and then turn it over to Him in prayer.  Ask Him to remove it from you, and then thank Him for His promise, becuase He has a plan for you, too.  Get ready to dress for success!

Thank you, Jesus!  Amen.


Isaiah 61:3
 "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."