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Monday, March 21, 2022

Weekly Blog: Hope


Dionne Warwick told us back in the sixties that “what the world needs now is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”  John Lennon followed that up with a popular Beatles song that told us that “all you need is love”. While the sentiments of both songs are profound, I would suggest that love is not ALL we need in these very trying times.

1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, concludes with the following words. “

 And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for us], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love. (The Amplified Translation)

We are certainly living in extraordinary times of many hardships, difficulties, death, and despair. These conditions are causing all sorts of emotions - anger, fear, disbelief and discouragement and even hopelessness.

So - not to minimize even a tiny bit the importance and urgent need for love, sweet love - I suggest that what the world needs now, as well, is hope. We all need to believe that tomorrow will be a better day and that some kind normalcy will soon return.

Romans 8:24 and 25 says “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope at all, for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it”. Our hope is well rooted in certainly and assurance.

Faith and hope work together hand in hand. We can have hope because we have faith in the sure word of God and have conviction that His every word is Yea and Amen  If God says something will happen – it will – His promises are Yea and Amen without possibility of anything interfering with its being fulfilled. His promises will be fulfilled - It is not a matter of if but a matter of when.

Romans 15:13  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

 What the world is sorely lacking right now is hope. People have lost sight of any stability in life that there used to be. People have lost sight of the power of God to fulfill His promises. 

What the world needs now is hope. Make no mistake - Hope is not a lost entity.  Hope is still only a prayer away. A prayer that God will rekindle our faith and hope by the power of His spirit.

 Norman Vincent Peale wrote the following:

Here are some of the truest, most beautiful words ever written: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

Hope is a small word, but it is one of the most powerful. Why? Because in hope lies the power of the human soul to turn to God and live, knowing that His promises are going to come true. “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24).

The key to surviving any challenge or crisis is hope. Hope that God is, right now, working out a solution for you. Hope that the future you place in His hands will be better than the present that you hold in your own. “’For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Practice this hope, even if you have to will yourself to do it. With its power, you will overcome all things. “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

And hope, that strong and confident assurance, rooted in the faithfulness and love of God, that we keep deep down in our hearts gives us strength and perseverance though all circumstances of life. Hope is our private quiet comforter. Without hope we can become complacent and not able to give our best to God and to the people around us.

 

Yes, the past couple of years certainly have been filled with difficult times and change, but remember – ALL things happen for a reason. God does not do things randomly. AND All things happen for good to those who love Him. We may not know why all things are happening and it really doesn’t matter why. But we can use the conditions that we live in now to – increase our faith, show love to all people and find comfort and hope in God’s immeasurable love and faithfulness.

 

“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” – Robert H. Schuller

 

May God bless you.

Rich Leavitt


 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

"Principles All Churches Should Examine and Apply"

I have discovered three principles and three imperatives I believe all churches should examine and apply. The first principle is this: clear, biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality. And the imperative? Think spiritually!

However well-organized our churches become; we must give priority to biblical rather than to secular thinking. In the first-century church, there were no secular organizational structures or church politics. There was no guru of authority or “chairman” of anything. There were no power grabs from control freaks. There were no personal maneuverings, infightings, financial squabbles, or turf protection. Instead, it was a place where a spiritual emphasis took precedence over the world’s way of doing things.

Here’s what this looks like when it’s applied.

Applying Biblical Thinking:

What does this look like when applied today? For starters:

§  Our teaching needs to be biblically based and spiritually inclined.

§  Our Sunday school classes, adult fellowships, and small-group instruction gatherings need to center on the teaching of the Bible and spiritual lessons.

§  Our songs and our hymns should have spiritual content.

§  Our counseling ministry needs to be derived from the Spirit’s revelation in the Scriptures.

§  Our relationships with one another need to have spiritual priorities—intimate fellowship where people can trust one another.

The church ought to be the one place where spiritual thinking overrides everything else—all those battles we fight within the marketplace. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. The church is a spiritual entity.

Where Decisions Begin:

Second, studied, accurate decisions must originate from God’s Word, not human opinions. A true, spiritual mind-set comes from meditation on the Scriptures. So, the imperative would be: stay biblical!

The Word of God ought to be central to every worship service on Sunday. Furthermore, every elders meeting and every staff meeting should have the Scriptures as the basis of the decisions that are made. God’s Word is to be the church’s guide; it shapes our current thinking and future planning by giving us principles we can understand, believe, and apply.

I love the words of A. W. Tozer:

The world is waiting to hear an authentic voice, a voice from God—not an echo of what others are doing and saying, but an authentic voice.

As those in the church who follow Christ as our Head, our words must come from the Living God and not be an echo of human words or works . . . certainly not the words from our culture! As wise and intelligent as human opinions are, the church isn’t guided by the thinking of any fallen human being. (By the way, that includes the pastor!) Christ is the Head. Our thinking is shaped by a study of Scriptures—by God’s thinking. This is about building the church God’s way—and God’s way is found in God’s Word. Nowhere else can we find such an authentic voice.

A church that is working is a church that is growing. I believe that. But be careful of the order of that statement, because a church that is growing is not necessarily a church that is working.

 

What it Takes to Counteract Erosion

The third principle and imperative is this: Wise, essential changes must occur to counteract any sign of erosion. Please notice I did not use the word “easy.” Change is not easy when erosion has occurred—but it is essential. The imperative? Be flexible!

Be ready and willing to make some changes—essential changes—especially if you hope to arrest the slow, silent, subtle slide of erosion. And stand alone through those changes, if necessary. The poet and artist E. E. Cummings wrote:

To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.

As a pastor, you may find yourself standing alone against erosion in your church. If so, I commend you. And believe me, that isn’t an easy place to be. When I realized the erosion that had already begun to occur in our church years ago . . . when I realized how far we had drifted from God’s original, simple plan, I prayed: “Almighty God, give us that original vision again. Give me the courage to lead this flock back to the essentials. Make it happen again!” And He has begun to do so. It’s been marvelous!

But it has not been easy.

What Course Correction Requires

Course correction requires changes. It demands a devotion to the essentials of a church as modeled by the early church. Here they are:

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer (Acts 2:42).

It isn’t enough simply to have the essentials in our churches. We must continually devote ourselves to them. In the original language, that phrase translates a single Greek term that means: “to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of [doing so] despite difficulty.”

Will there be difficulty? Absolutely! Open your New Testament and revisit the early church. Just look at any church! The Adversary will stop at nothing to overcome the work of Christ.

You can count on it.

 

1A.  W. Tozer, Rut, Rot or Revival: The Condition of the Church (Camp Hill, Penn.: Christian Publications, 1992), 178.

1E. E. Cummings, as quoted by Ted Goodman in The Forbes Book of Business Quotations: 10,000 Thoughts on the Business of Life (New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007), 553.


 Reprint: The Pastors Blog - Chuck Swindoll