What is the source of your hope? And where is it aimed? It is easy to place our hope in things way out there in the future - when we finally write the Great American Novel, when all our kids are finally happy and settled, when we finally have enough money (or win the lottery!), when we can finally retire, or when we finally get our lives together. Hope becomes more like wishful thinking.
Whenever I think about hope now, I always hear Bruce Bickel's voice in my head. A couple of years ago in a sermon, he proclaimed, "Hope is the confident expectation of future good!" At the time, I was going through a rough situation. As I listened, I realized I was wishfully longing for all the imaginary possible scenarios that could solve the problem. Meanwhile, my hope was not in the one place it needed to be: the Lord-specifically in the goodness of the Lord.
Corrie Ten Boom once said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." What do we know about the Lord? He is good. He is kind. He is able. He is Alpha and Omega, so He knows how all the past and all the future come together in His timing and His purpose. He demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son to die for us.
When we focus on the Lord, the question transforms from "What is our hope" to "Who is our hope?"
This week as we continue our Renewal series, we are looking at the theme of Hope. The three examples in the study guide are King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23), Paul and Silas in Acts 16, and William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. Each of these situations looked hopeless from the outside. Josiah was the son of one of the worst kings in history. Could the people of Judah be rescued from the debauchery and idolatry of their day? Josiah found his hope in the Lord and in the scriptures, and the country was transformed.
Paul and Silas trusted the Lord to guide their journey, which led them to the city of Philippi. God worked powerfully to establish a church there, but Paul and Silas were soon arrested and thrown in jail. They were filled with such hope even in prison that they poured out songs of worship. Beyond their wildest expectations, the Lord sent an earthquake which broke open the prison gates. Through this experience, even the jailer and his household believed in this powerful God!
William Booth was born in the heart of the Industrial Revolution in England. His early life in poverty prepared him well for the calling God had for him: the poorest streets of London. He tells of hearing the Lord ask, "Where is there so great a need for your labors?" In this hopeless situation, his hope came from the Lord, and he saw thousands of lives transformed. His legacy extends today to some of the most needy in our society.
Who is your hope today? As the psalmist writes in Psalm 130, "Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption." May you be filled with His hope today!
As part of our ongoing effort to communicate and implement our new MLEPC vision, Pastor Steve has put together a set of
Frequently Asked Questions we have heard from you. Here are the first three questions:
Why does the church exist?
The church exists to bring glory to God (primarily through worship), and to fulfill the Great Commission (to make disciples). The other activities of the church are important, but secondary to those two foundational markers of the church.
Does the church exist to serve itself?
No, the church does not exist to serve itself. When churches serve themselves, they commit what is called heteropraxis, a close cousin to heterodoxy (heresy). It is not right practice for churches to serve themselves, because when they do, they disobey the words and modeling actions of Christ, the Head of the Church. The church exists to serve the world, so that through its service to the world, it might build relationships, and through the building of relationships, might proclaim the saving gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This reality was modeled by Christ through His own actions, and through His statement in Matthew 20:28: "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
When we say "the church," what or who are we referring to?
In this context, "the church" refers to us, MLEPC, as a local church-a local expression of the worldwide, universal Church of Jesus Christ. The church is comprised of servant-leaders and members, as well as those who believe in Jesus Christ but have not yet formalized their membership. The Greek word for "church" in the New Testament is "ecclesia", which means those sent out.