Aug 13, 2020

Time For A Break

I had a good run and now I need to take a break. 

I started writing this blog in February 2009 at the prompting of my web guru Joy Brown who told me that she set up a blog and that I should probably start writing. 

I never thought when I started that I would go this long. Eleven years to be exact. But each and every week I found something to write about as a way to bring HOPE into this otherwise hope depleted world. 

After eleven years it's time for this blog to take a break.  

My life is currently very busy and I needed to take the pressure of writing a weekly blog off my shoulders. 

So, thank you for visiting this blog and taking time to read and give feedback. As fellow members of the Body of Christ, I hope your experience on this site has been helpful and encouraging. 

Feel free to drop me an email at:

I sincerely care about you and your entire family, and I want to be here to support you and bring you hope. That's why our River of Hope Ministries key verse is: "That You May Know the Hope of His Calling" (Ephesians 1:15-23). 

 -Pastor Tommy O River of Hope Ministries

Aug 6, 2020

What is the Gospel?

By Dr. Harry Ironside (1876 - 1951)

"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1st Corinthians 15:1-4).

It might seem almost a work of supererogation to answer a question like this. We hear the word, "Gospel" used so many times. People talk of this and of that as being "as true as the Gospel," and I often wonder what they really mean by it.

First I should like to indicate what it is not.

Not The Bible

In the first place, the Gospel is not the Bible. Often when I inquire, "What do you think the Gospel is?" people reply, "Why, it is the Bible, and the Bible is the Word of God." Undoubtedly the Bible is the Word of God, but there is a great deal in that Book that is not Gospel.

"The wicked shall be turned into Hell with all the nations that forget God." That is in the Bible, and it is terribly true; but it is not Gospel.

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." That is in the Bible, but it is not the Gospel.

Our English word, "gospel" just means the "good spell," and the word "spell," is the old Anglo-Saxon word for, "tidings", the good tidings, the good news. The original word translated. "Gospel," which we have taken over into the English with little alteration is the word, "evangel," and it has the same meaning, the good news. The Gospel is God's good news for sinners. The Bible contains the Gospel, but there is a great deal in the Bible which is not Gospel.

Not The Commandments

The Gospel is not just any message from God telling man how he should behave. "What is the Gospel?" I asked a man this question some time ago, and he answered, "Why I should say it is the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, and I think if a man lives up to them he is all right." Well, I fancy he would be; but did you ever know anybody who lived up to them? The Sermon on the Mount demands a righteousness which no unregenerate man has been able to produce. The law is not the Gospel; it is the very antitheses of the Gospel. In fact, the law was given by God to show men their need of the Gospel .

"The law," says the Apostle Paul, speaking as a Jewish convert, "was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. But after that Christ is come we are no longer under the schoolmaster."

Not Repentance

The Gospel is not a call to repentance, or to amendment of our ways, to make restitution for past sins, or to promise to do better in the future. These things are proper in their place, but they do not constitute the Gospel; for the Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed, it is good news to be believed. Do not make the mistake then of thinking that the Gospel is a call to duty or a call to reformation, a call to better your condition, to behave yourself in a more perfect way than you have been doing in the past.

Not Giving Up The World

Nor is the Gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your sins, that you break off bad habits, and try to cultivate good ones. You may do all these things, and yet never believe the Gospel and consequently never be saved at all.

THERE ARE SEVEN DESIGNATIONS OF THE GOSPEL in the New Testament, but over and above all these, let me draw your attention to the fact that when this blessed message is mentioned, it is invariably accompanied by the definite article. Over and over and over again in the New Testament we read of the Gospel. It is the Gospel not a Gospel. People tell us there are a great many different Gospels; but there is only ONE. When certain teachers came to the Galatians and tried to turn them away from the simplicity that was in Christ Jesus by teaching "another Gospel, "the apostle said that it was a different gospel, but not another; for there is none other than the Gospel. It is downright exclusive; it is God's revelation to sinful man.

Not Comparative Religion

The scholars of this world talk of the Science of Comparative Religions, and it is very popular now-a-days to say, "We cannot any longer go to heathen nations and preach to them as in the days gone by, because we are learning that their religions are just as good as ours, and the thing to do now is to share with them, to study the different religions, take the good out of them all, and in this way lead the world into a sense of brotherhood and unity."

So in our great universities and colleges men study this Science of Comparative Religions, and they compare all these different religious systems one with another. There is a Science of Comparative Religions, but the Gospel is not one of them. All the different religions in the world may well be studied comparatively, for at rock bottom they are all alike; they all set men at trying to earn his own salvation. They may be called by different names, and the things that men are called to do maybe different in each case, but they all set men trying to save their own souls and earn their way into the favor of God. In this they stand in vivid contrast with the Gospel, for the Gospel is that glorious message that tells us what God has done for us in order that guilty sinners maybe saved.


1. The Gospel Of The Kingdom,

and when I use that term I am not thinking particularly of any dispensational application, but of this blessed truth that it is only through believing the Gospel that men are born into the Kingdom of God; We sing: "A ruler once came to Jesus by night, To ask Him the way of salvation and light; The Master made answer in words true and plain, 'ye must be born again.' " But neither Nicodemus , nor you, nor I, could ever bring this about ourselves. We had nothing to with our first birth, and can have nothing to do with our second birth. It must be the work of God, and it is wrought through the Gospel. That is why the Gospel is called the Gospel of the Kingdom, for, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3,7). "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. . . And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:23-25. Every where that Paul and his companion apostles went they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and they showed that the only way to get into that Kingdom was by a second birth, and that the only way whereby the second birth could be brought about was through believing the Gospel. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom. It also called

2. The Gospel Of God,

because God is the source of it, and it is altogether of Himself. No man ever thought of a Gospel like this. The very fact that all the religions of the world set man to try to work for his own salvation indicates the fact that no man would ever have dreamed of such a Gospel as that which is revealed in this Book. It came from the heart of God; it was God who "so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He first loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9,10). And because it is the Gospel of God, God is very jealous of it. He wants it kept pure. He does not want it mixed with any of man's theories or laws; He does not want it mixed up with religious ordinances or anything of that kind. The Gospel is God's own pure message to sinful man. God grant that you and I may receive it as in very truth the Gospel of God. And then it is called

3. The Gospel Of His Son

Not merely because the Son went everywhere preaching the Gospel, but because He is the theme of it. "When it pleased God," says the apostle, "who called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among the nations; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (Gal. 1:15,16). "We preach Christ crucified . . . the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:23,24). No man preaches the Gospel who is not exalting the Lord Jesus. It is God's wonderful message about His Son. How often I have gone to meetings where they told me I would hear the Gospel, and instead of that I have heard some bewildered preacher talk to a bewildered audience about everything and anything, but the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel has to do with nothing else but Christ. It is the Gospel of God's Son. And so, linked with this it is called

4. The Gospel Of Christ

The Apostle Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost of the risen Savior, says, "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." And He speaks of Him as the anointed One, exalted at God's right hand. The Gospel is the Gospel of the Risen Christ. There would be no Gospel for sinners if Christ had not been raised. So the apostle says, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). A great New York preacher, great in his impertinence, at least, said some years ago, preaching a so-called Easter sermon, "The body of Jesus still sleeps in a Syrian tomb, but His soul goes marching on.: That is not the Gospel of Christ. We are not preaching the Gospel of a dead Christ, but of a living Christ who sits exalted at the Father's right hand, and is living to save all who put their trust in Him. That is why those of us who really know the Gospel never have any crucifixes around our churches or in our homes. The crucifix represents a dead Christ hanging languid on a cross of shame. But we are not pointing men to a dead Christ; we are preaching a living Christ. He lives exalted at God's right had, and He "saves to the uttermost all who come to God by Him." The Gospel is also called

5. The Gospel Of The Grace Of God,

because it leaves no room whatever for human merit. It just brushes away all man's pretension to any goodness, to any desert excepting judgment. It is the Gospel of grace, and grace is God's free unmerited favor to those who have merited the very opposite. It is as opposite to works as oil is to water." If by grace," says the Spirit of God, "then it is no more works. . . but if it be of works, then is it no more grace" (Rom.11:6). People say, :But you must have both." I have heard it put like this: there was a boatman and two theologians in a boat, and one was arguing that salvation was by faith and the other by works. The boatman listened, and then said, "Let me tell you how it looks to me. Suppose I call this oar Faith and this one Works. If I pull on this one, the boat goes around; if I pull on this other one, it goes around the other way, but if I pull on both oars, I get you across the river." I have heard many preachers use that illustration to prove that we are saved by faith and works. That might do if we were going to Heaven in a rowboat, but we are not. We are carried on the shoulders of the Shepherd, who came seeking lost sheep When He finds them He carries them home on His shoulders. But there are some other names used. It is called

6. The Gospel Of The Glory Of God

I love that name. It is the Gospel of the Glory of God because it comes from the place where our Lord Jesus has entered. The veil has been rent, and now the glory shines out; and whenever this Gospel is proclaimed, it tells of a way into the glory for sinful man, a way to come before the Mercy Seat purged from every stain. It is the Gospel of the Glory of God, because, until Christ had entered into the Glory, it could not be preached in its fullness, but, after the glory received Him, then the message went out to a lost world.

It is also called...

7. The Everlasting Gospel

because it will never be superseded by another. No other ever went before it, and no other shall ever come after it. One of the professors of the University of Chicago wrote a book a few years ago in which he tried to point out that some of these days Jesus would be superseded by a greater teacher; then He and the Gospel that He taught would have to give way to a message which would be more suited to the intelligence of the cultivated men of the later centuries. No, no, were it possible for this world to go on a million years, it would never need any other Gospel than this preached by the Apostle Paul and confirmed with signs following; the Gospel which, throughout the centuries has been saving guilty sinners.


What then is the content of this Gospel? We are told right here, "I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." There is such a thing as merely believing with the intelligence and crediting some doctrine with the mind when the heart has not been reached. But wherever men believe this Gospel in real faith, they are saved through the message. What is it that brings this wonderful result? It is a simple story, and yet how rich, how full. "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received." I think his heart must have been stirred as he wrote those words, for he went back in memory to nearly thirty years before, and thought of that day when hurrying down the Damascus turnpike, with his heart filled with hatred toward the Lord Jesus Christ and His people, he was thrown to the ground, and a light shone, and he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And he cried, "Who art thou Lord?" And the voice said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." And that day Saul learned the Gospel; he learned that He who died on the Cross had been raised from the dead, and that He was living in the Glory. At that moment his soul was saved, and Saul of Tarsus was changed to Paul the Apostle. And now he says, "I am going to tell you what I have received; it is a real thing with me, and I know it will work the same wonderful change in you. If you will believe it. "First of all, "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." Then, "that He was buried." Then, "that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."

The Gospel was no new thing in God's mind. It had been predicted throughout the Old Testament times. Every time the coming Savior was mentioned, there was proclamation of the Gospel. It began in Eden when the Lord said, "The seed of the woman shall bruise thy head." It was typified in every sacrifice that was offered. It was portrayed in the wonderful Tabernacle, and later in the Temple. We have it in the proclamation of Isaiah, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him: and with His stripes we are healed." It was preached by Jeremiah when he said, "This is His Name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness" (Jer.23:6). It was declared by Zechariah when he exclaimed, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones: (Zech.13:7) All through those Old Testament dispensations, the Gospel was predicted, and when Jesus came, the Gospel came with Him. When He died, when He was buried, and when He rose again, the Gospel could be fully told out to a poor lost world. Observe, it says, "that Christ died for our sins." No man preaches the Gospel, no matter what nice things he may say about Jesus, if he leaves out His vicarious death on Calvary's cross.


I was preaching in a church in Virginia, and a minister prayed, "Lord, grant Thy blessing as the Word is preached tonight. May it be the means of causing people to fall in love with the Christ-life, that they may begin to live the Christ-life." I felt like saying, "Brother, sit down; don't insult God like that;" but then I felt I had to be courteous, and I knew that my turn would come, when I could get up and give them the truth. The Gospel is not asking men to live the Christ-life. If your salvation depends upon your doing that, your are just as good as checked for Hell, for you never can live it in yourself. It is utterly impossible. But the very first message of the Gospel is the story of the vicarious atonement of Christ. He did not come to tell men how to live in order that they might save themselves; He did not come to save men by living His beautiful life. That, apart from His death, would never have saved one poor sinner. He came to die; He "was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death." Christ Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. When He instituted the Lord's Supper He said, "Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me. . . This cup is the new covenant in My Blood" (1 Cor. 11:24,25) There is no Gospel if the vicarious death of Jesus is left out, and there is no other way whereby you can be saved than through the death of the blessed spotless Son of God.

Someone says, "But I do not understand it." That is a terrible confession to make, for "If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (2 Cor. 4:3). If you do not see that there is no other way of salvation for you, save through the death of the Lord Jesus, then that just tells the sad story that you are among the lost. You are not merely in danger of being lost in the Day of Judgment; but you are lost now. But, thank God, "the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," and seeking the lost He went to the cross. "None of the ransomed ever know How deep were the waters crossed; Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through, Ere He found the sheep that was lost."


HE HAD TO DIE, to go down into the dark waters of death, that you might be saved. Can you think of any ingratitude more base than that of a man or woman who passes by the life offered by the Savior who died on the Cross for them? Jesus died for you, and can it be that you have never even trusted Him, never even come to Him and told Him you were a poor, lost, ruined, guilty sinner; but since He died for you, you would take Him as your Savior? HIS DEATH WAS REAL. He was buried three days in the tomb. He died, He was buried, and that was God's witness that it was not a merely pretended death, but He, the Lord of life, had to go down into death. He was held by the bars of death for those three days and nights, until God's appointed time had come. Then, "Death could not keep its prey, He tore the bars away." And so the third point of the Gospel is this, "He was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures. "That is the Gospel, and nothing can be added to that. Some people say, "Well, but must I repent?" Yes, you may well repent, but that is not the Gospel. "Must I not be baptized?" If you are a Christian, you ought to be baptized, but baptism is not the Gospel. Paul said, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel" (1 Cor. !:17) He did baptize people, but he did not consider that was the Gospel, and the Gospel was the great message that he was sent to carry to the world. This is all there is to it. "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."


Look at the result of believing the Gospel. Go back to verse two, "By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." That is, if you believe the Gospel, you are saved; if you believe that Christ died for your sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again, God says you are saved. Do you believe it? No man ever believed that except by the Holy Ghost. It is the Spirit of God that overcomes the natural unbelief of the human heart and enables a man to put his trust in that message. And this is not mere intellectual credence, but it is that one comes to the place where he is ready to stake his whole eternity on the fact that Christ died, and was buried, and rose again. When Jesus said, "IT IS FINISHED" the work of salvation was completed. A dear saint was dying, and looking up he said, "It is finished; on that I can cast my eternity." Upon a life I did not live, Upon a death I did not die; Another's life, another's death, Is take my whole eternity." Can you say that, and say it in faith?


What about the man who does not believe the Gospel? The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15,16). He that believeth not shall be devoted to judgment, condemned, lost. So you see, God has shut us up to the Gospel. Have you believed it? Have you put your trust in it; is it the confidence of your soul? Or have you been trusting in something else? If you have been resting in anything short of the Christ who died, who was buried, who rose again, I plead with you, turn from every other fancied refuge, and flee to Christ today. Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.

"O, do not let the word depart, And close thine eyes against the light; Poor sinner, harden not thy heart, Be saved, O tonight."

[Dr. Harry Ironside (1876-1951), a godly Fundamentalist author and teacher for many years, served as pastor of Chicago's Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948]

Jul 30, 2020

Light Dawns in the Darkness…


It was a cool September morning this past Friday; the twenty ninth of the month, to be exact… and I was driving to work at 6:50 in the morning and I thought to myself; “When did it get to be so dark out? How did I not see the cloud of darkness coming?"

“Just last week at this exact time it was sunny!”; I reason with myself…pondering a bit more I asked; “Or was it just this past Monday?”

When did it get to be so dark at 6:50 in the morning? How had the summer skies given way to the impending darkness that would be my normality for the next five or six months? 

Gone were the morning drive times filled with sunshine and bright skies.

Gone were the sunny mornings that greeted me and made my drive from my home in St. Paul to my office in Minneapolis.

Really; “When did it get to be so dark out? When did this darkness creep up and slowly descend upon me? How had I not seen it coming?"

Recently, I realized that another cloud of darkness came upon me as well.  At first glance it seemed that it had come with the same sudden and unforeseen entrance as the shifting of the time for sunrise had been this past week.

It came up slowly, almost methodically and even when it was fully encapsulating me I didn’t see at; not at first anyway.

In fact, it wasn’t until my wife Cathy brought it to my attention that I, too, saw that a cloud of darkness had settled over my life and pondered; “When did it get to be so dark out?” When did this darkness creep up and slowly descend upon me? How had I not seen it coming?

But as I have looked back over the previous months I realized that the signs had been there all along; in fact, others also saw them and some had asked Cathy what was going on with me…

I had been persistently sad, anxious, and feeling "empty". I felt hopeless, pessimistic, guilty, worthless, helpless… and times I was irritable.

Some days I had difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. I was restless and instead of working less, I pressed in and doubled up my efforts, and worked more! Even that I was blind to, as most workaholics are…

At a couple of times, I dodged thoughts of suicide; which were easily dismissed as I thought about my family and didn’t want to inflict pain upon them; so I pushed the thoughts away.

At times I had a loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including spending time with my wife. I had decreased energy, fatigue, felt slowed down. I struggled with both a low appetite and other times overeating and weight gain.

At times I had insomnia and frequently woke up early in the morning and then couldn’t get back to sleep.

The worst part for me is that nothing seemed to really satisfy my soul; I couldn’t “hear” God speaking to me. I am a follower of Jesus Christ; a Christian. And one of my daily rituals is spending time reading the Bible, and for two solid months the words were dead to me; no revelation or life.

During this time, attending church was merely a religious activity that I did each week as I desperately longed for a real encounter with the living God.

Worship was dry and even the distant memories of times of refreshing added to my sadness as I remembered them and compared them to my present “reality”.

Yes, I was grateful for times spent with my wife and family and friends; but deep in my soul my heart was dying for life!
When did it get to be so dark in my life? How had the “sunny days” given way to the impending darkness that would be my normality for the next few months? 

It wasn’t something I planned or wanted (or as I soon discovered) was able to talk myself out of. And because I don’t struggle with depression, I didn’t realize what was happening.

Yes, I have highs and lows, but not depression. In fact, this, to my knowledge, was only the second time in my life that I was in a cloud of darkness called “depression”.

It had enveloped me and became a “second skin” that I was aware of, but not cognitive to the point where I did anything more that try to shake it off. I thought that I was just having a “bad day” …

I was deep in a darkness that had so become my normality, that even the reality of all that was good in my life still didn’t shake my sadness.

Telling myself to work harder and longer didn’t help either because anxiety and depression is just plain rotten and its effects tore apart my very soul! 

As I looked back over several months, I concluded that I had some unresolved pain or trauma or issues that I had not dealt with and my body, soul, mind, and spirit were crying out for me to pay attention; something was wrong!

And I needed to be OK with not being able to pull it all together and charge ahead. I needed to be OK with letting others know that I wasn’t “fine” and that I needed their help.

I will admit that it can seem to be so embarrassing to say “HELP, I NEED CARE!”  But we all do, you know.  Burnout is serious. Depression is serious. Not being able to get free is serious. Being so deep in it that I was blind to the cloud is serious!

It’s hard for me to take off the mask and admit that I am hurting; especially when I wasn’t aware that I had been running on auto pilot and was very low on fuel.

I came to realize that it is God’s desire to point this out to me (and to others who love me and whom He will also use to revive my soul). Restoring me takes first place on His agenda; He really wants me to be whole.  

I needed to be OK with stepping out of the traffic and taking a long, loving look at God and to be still, knowing that He is God (see Psalm 46:10)

I needed God to remind me that I was a part of something bigger than me; I am a member of the Body of Christ. He had others who needed me to get healthy, but not me trying to figure out how to do it or putting on a mask of appearing to be healthy.

I needed to just be who I was at that movement; someone who was hurting and be OK with that. NO MASKS!  Most of all, forgive myself for mistakes of the past.  God has never cut me off from His love.  I needed to take it!  I AM LOVED!

I am happy to write that in time, worship and revelation in His Word returned to me. My heart knows God wants to fill the broken places with His Spirit! Bible reading and church are life giving once again! And songs of worship once again greeted me as I awakened each day new day.

I wish that I could write this today and share with you that everything is OK; but it is not…my metaphorical batteries still need recharging (or replacing) and my fuel tanks are still low.

I am realizing that I still can be set off and become discharged very easily…I still need rest and recuperation throughout my day, evening, and (especially) throughout the night.

But I am aware and I do feel and I am starting to see light breaking into my life replacing the cloud that has been my “reality.

And I need to still be OK with the process of God to bring complete healing to me. But that His job and I need to be good with letting Him do it as He sees fit; after all, it is not only His job; it is all about Him and His namesake.

Dear reader, I am not sure where you are at today or why you chose to read this longer than usual blog. I didn’t write it to draw attention to myself or to come across as one who had any real answers. I simply wrote to make some sense of my life as my distorted mind tries to play games with me.
But if you, too, are struggling with depression, I do feel great compassion and concern for you, because you too need rest and recuperation.

Is God’s voice pretty silent right now?  I imagine it is for you (and in some areas, it still is for me). In that place it’s hard to hear encouragement and I understand.

My exhortation is that you simply let God come and rescue you. Let Him take you to where you need to go.

Let God be the One who removes the darkness and brings light back to your shattered world.

Let God bring the healing and relief that you so desperately long for. Hope is not beyond your reach; but let Him do the work.

Your part is to simply cooperate with what He tells you to do; He is asking you to trust Him.

So, let go my soul and trust in Him; the wind and waves still know His Name

If you find yourself today in a similar state of mind and you are trying to push through in your own strength, my exhortation to you is to STOP…and REST!

Jesus longs for you to call out to Him today.

He is waiting for you to respond to His mercy and grace that has already been extended to you through Jesus Christ. And you can; today. And it can make all the difference in the world as you look for hope in your present world. Let Him bring you REST.

Need further help? Someone is waiting to talk with you. Call either: 1-888-NEED HIM or 1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426).

"Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous." (Psalm 112:4 ESV)

      Pastor Tommy Oestreich 
© 2017 River of Hope Ministries. All Rights Reserved                                 

Jul 23, 2020

A Billion Dollar Headache

It was 1980 something and my paternal grandfather was in a hospital, fighting the terminal cancer that would eventually take his life.

Growing up I never knew or even met him because he had been estranged from my dad and our family and had only recently reconciled due to my mom’s intervention and pleas for reconciliation on the previous New Year’s Day.

In an attempt to work on the relationship, my mom went to visit him in the hospital and he (somewhat roughly) blurted out to her;
“Hey, what do you know about this faith healing stuff?”

Apparently, a nurse had been witnessing to him about how the Lord can heal and still does miracles today.

My mom, led by the Holy Spirit, responded to his sharp tone by saying;
“More important than your healing you need to know where you will spend eternity. Either way you will get a new body.”

My mom then shared with my grandfather God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. My grandfather, that day, chose to place his complete trust in the completed work of Jesus and received him as his Lord and Savior.

He died one week later.

I thought of him when I was recently reading Isaiah 53 verses 5 and 6 which says: 
V5 But He [Jesus] was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
V6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord [
has caused to land on Him] has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

So often we as Christians will quote that passage when someone needs a healing; especially the part that says; “by His stripes we are healed”

The focus being that if you are sick, you can claim this passage that because of what Jesus did, you can be healed.

And I would say that is true.

However, Isaiah isn’t telling us this just so that I can get my headache healed (or cancer, etc.…) No, it is much bigger than that.

What Jesus did through His death, burial, and resurrection was so much greater than just provide healing for my headache.

In other words, His provision is so much greater than just a physical healing. He provided the only way to fill the great gap between my sin and holiness. That is the main point of the passage.

I had a sin issue and Jesus died to pay for it with His life!

Isaiah is telling us that what we are healed of is our sin problem. After all, if I die from whatever is “killing” me, I will get a new body…

Isaiah is also telling us that what Jesus went through is so much greater than just death.

What was heaped upon this Jesus (who knew no sin) was ALL of the sin and accompanying punishment that was required to pay for the sin.

Look at verse 5 again.
V5 But He [Jesus] was wounded [pierced throughfor our transgressions
·        that’s means my rebellion, sin, transgression, trespasses

He was [crushed] bruised for our iniquities;
·        that means my perversity, fault, iniquity, mischief, my sin.

The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes [
blows that cut in] we are healed.

Verse 6 says that the Lord [has caused to land on Him] has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

The depth on both sides is so much greater than we may ever fully grasp: My problem and His provision. My need and His grace. Eternity was hanging in the balance.

It is as though Jesus was willing to pay over a billion dollars to pay for my sins; which provided healing for my sin issue.

Paul wrote to the Galatian church;
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)  that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

Which can also be appropriated towards other healing that I need.

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jul 16, 2020

Fixing A Crooked Beam

I was up at our family cabin recently and as I looked up at the open beams on the ceiling, an old conversation from twenty years earlier came back to haunt me.

“You know, I don’t think that I ever forgave you for that crooked beam.”

The year was 2000 and I was up at the family cabin sitting at the dining room table eating lunch with my (now departed) father-in-law. We had gone to the cabin to install some trim on some doors and a stained-glass window that I had recently created and installed.

I looked up from my lunch that I had been enjoying to ask what he said to me.

And his statement seemed out of character for this man who was known for his kindness and the gracious way that he treated people. He certainly was not known for holding a grudge or holding back forgiveness.

“What did you say?”; I asked him now that he had my full attention.

 “I said I don’t think that I ever forgave you for that crooked beam.” He said as he pointed up to the open rafters on the North side of the ceiling.

He saw my puzzled look and continued with his razzing; “When you were installing that beam, I had commented that you were about to install the beam on the wrong side of the line. Now, as I look up, I see that the beam is installed crooked. And, I was making a comment that I don’t think that I ever forgave you for that crooked beam.”  

I struggled for words to correct him but I knew that he was right. He had said it but my youthful pride had prevented me from admitting that I was wrong or at least from stopping to look at what he was talking about prior to nailing the beam in place.

After all, I was working construction and helped him to build this cabin. I was the professional. I was doing this for a living five to six days a week.

He, on the other hand, had only learned what he knew about construction from his father who was a carpenter and had come from a long line of Norwegian wood workers, carpenters, and ship builders.

Oh, and anything else he learned as he studied structural engineering.

And all of the construction projects that he had done over the years; including a large two-story addition on their home long before I came into the picture.

My pride had prevented me from learning from someone, who didn’t work occupationally in construction, but who had noticed that I was about to do something wrong.

Now I sat, looking up at the ceiling as I pondered what it would take to correct the situation. I see it each and every time I go to the cabin.

First of all, I would need to take off the whole roof system; which included shingles, ice-and-water shield (which would be glued to the roof), plywood, polystyrene, and one-inch roof boards in order for me to remove and replace the beam in its proper place.

And that would be just to replace the beam.

In order to get my father-in-law’s forgiveness, I would need to exhume the coffin and then raise him from the dead, drive him to the cabin eighty miles away and then, after showing him the beam, ask for his forgiveness.

The truth is I was able to have a conversation with him to understand that he was simply razzing me for not listening to him. He let me know that he didn’t hold it against me. 

But what if I hadn’t been able to hear his “aught” against me and asked for his forgiveness? What if he had taken it to his grave when he died seven years later never sharing with me that he had something between us?

More than a crooked beam, unforgiveness will haunt both sides for the rest of your life. And that is no way to live.

Jesus said;
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Jul 9, 2020

Swimsuit Ready RE-ISSUED


Swimsuit season is in full swing. It is the time when we brave the elements (and the stares) and go swimming. But something is wrong; simply put you are not ready to show yourself at the beach. What happened?

You spent all last winter putting on extra pounds (to keep warm during the cold winter). Not feeling confident enough to pull on a swimsuit; your plan was to get to the gym and work out so that when swimsuit season was here, you would be fit and ripped and toned; or at least fit into a swimsuit that didn’t look like it was formerly used as a circus tent!

You knew that a bit of exercise would help you tone and lose excess weight, and also feel better about yourself.  So you rose (with the best of intentions)and set your goal; “Gotta work off that holiday weight!!!!”

And suddenly, June was here and you knew that swimsuit season was very close; I guess that the “All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet” was much closer!

And now you find yourself facing the hot summer months of July and August wishing that you had heeded the warning last spring and that you had taken the time to prepare when you had the opportunity. Now you look for ways to keep yourself hidden simply because you are not “swimsuit ready”.

It may be a bad transition, but in a similar way in God’s Word (the Bible) we are exhorted to take time to get ourselves ready so that when we are needed we will be ready. Did you catch what I said? Let me put it another way (using the Apostle Paul’s word. He said; “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV)

He also challenged us to "Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth." (2 Timothy 2:15 Amplified Bible) 

The writer of Psalm 119 put it this way; “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)

Take time today to “exercise” your will by spending time reading the Bible to get yourself ready for where life will take you next. Don’t be caught off guard; the next season will soon be upon each of us. Will you be ready?

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11 NKJV)