Hope

Hope for the Church

By Ty Haguewood

I am always blown away as I think about the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. We have an abundance of hope for our lives because the God who saved us is the God of hope. We often talk about the hope that each one of us as in Jesus yet we sometimes belittle the hope that we have as the church. So let me put it this way:

The body of Christ, also known as the church, has a fullness of hope as God has lavished hope on us through the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I want us to take a deeper look at this.

  1. Jesus is the rock and foundation of the church

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ solidified His authority and place as the Victorious King. We as believers must always first remember Jesus as Victor and Savior of our souls. The church is most hopeful and healthy when we have a right view of God and all that He has done, is doing, and will do. The moment the church loses a right view of God is the moment the church slips into a place of hopelessness.

We must remember that sin has lost it’s power, death has lost it’s sting, and Jesus reigns supreme forever. The church is founded and rooted in the God who conquered death.

We have so much to celebrate and hope in.

  1. The Holy Spirit is the power of the church

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:4-8

In Acts 1, Jesus told the disciples to not leave Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. He did not let them go do anything based on their own power, instead, Jesus told them that they were going to receive a great power.

God never calls us to be the savior of humanity nor the King of Kings; God calls us to believe, follow, and be available for Him to use. We, as the church, must never attempt to do the work of God without the power of God. The church is never more crippled than when we try to do God’s work without God’s presence.

We have a power available to us unparalleled to anything else, why would we depend on ourselves if have the Holy Spirit? We must be a people totally dependent and desperate to be used by God and filled with His Spirit.

The church has hope in the reality that God is our power and He will never leave us to our own ability to do His work.

Some Closing Thoughts

I pray that we would spend less time designing programs and events and spend more time on our knees praying for God to move in our community. We have a God that conquered death yet we so often rely on ourselves. Let us be a people on our faces before God asking Him to transform our community.

The church has so much hope, let’s turn to God and trust Him. He will guide us, provide for us, protect us, empower us, and never leave us. Let’s surrender and watch Him transform this city.

 

 

Hope for the Family

By Chad Spriggs

Fill in the blanks. I hope I… I hope we… I hope it… we all have things we hope will work out, get better, or even go away. Our hopes reveal the things we want the most. Hope can be a fickle thing when it’s is found in anything less than Jesus.

One of my hopes is rooted in a deep desire to see families thrive. The single most important relationships we will ever have are formed in the fires of family. We find meaning, purpose, safety, and discipline in the confides of family. We grow up, old, and out with our family. Family shapes our thoughts, propels our efforts, and calls us back to reality. We need family. God’s design from the beginning was family, and it hasn’t changed. The problem for us comes from defining family. The best way to define family is to simply ask…

Who is your family?

How does God want you to love your family?

There are many ways and specific things we can do to love our family, but the only life changing things come from putting our hope, our trust, in Jesus. Here are four important ways we can do that.

Put God First “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5

What does your family see?

Does your family see you argue, debate for the sake of winning, criticize, belittle, or mindlessly disconnected. If so, where is God? If we put God first they will see you praying, reading the Bible, talking about God’s goodness, disciplining in accordance to God’s word, being compassionate, and humbly putting others needs before your own. It’s time our families live according to the Spirit and set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

Live on Mission “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

What does your family do?

Is it hard for your family slow down, reflect on what God is doing, see God at work in and around, or dream about how together you can grow in Christ and share his hope? For the Christian family there is no secular. Our lives should be chapter after chapter of God’s redemption story. Our lives should reflect that we are chosen, priestly, holy, and filled with the mind of Christ.

Fight for Their Lives “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

What does your family fight for?

We can fight to win or we can fight to help. We can tear down or build up. Every act, thought, and word has the power to heal or the power to destroy. The law of Christ commands that we care for others. Caring for others starts with the family, those that are sometimes hardest to care for. Do the burdens of your family annoy you are drive you to prayer?

Trust God Not Your Instincts “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.” Romans 15:13

Where does your family turn?

God’s ways are good, they are perfect. Our ways can be good, but they are flawed. When life gets difficult, when family life is hard, the last thing we need to do is trust in our natural instincts. Put your hope in God’s words, because they are true. Put your hope in the Spirit of God, because He will teach you. Put your hope in the creator God, because despite how we have broken this world through sin, He holds it together. Put your hope in God. He alone brings joy and peace to the family.

There is Hope for your family. That hope is found in loving Jesus and loving others with God’s love. If you want to love your family the way God loves; you will put God first, live on mission, fight for their lives, and trust God not your instinct. I pray that God give you the strength and the will to put your Hope in God. He wants to help you love your family.

 

 

 

 

 

Living Hope

By Ty Haguewood

I hate feeling hopeless. I hate seeing other people feel hopeless.

I recently went on a personal journey to try and understand hope on a deeper level. I wanted to figure out what hope was so I would know where to look. I stumbled upon this passage of scripture and it changed my life. I want to share with you four key lessons that I learned about hope from 1 Peter 1:3-4.

1. Hope comes from God. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”  (verse 3) 

The hope we have now is a result of God’s mercy on us. We as believers need to understand the power of our hope. God caused us to be born again to this living hope because He chose mercy. Our hope was a very costly hope. Our hope was bought because God showed mercy on us by taking the payment for our sin on His Son, Jesus. It was through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we have access to this living hope.

Let me put it this way: we do not possess an accidental hope. We have a hope that God designed for us; our hope is Jesus.

As believers, we must first see His mercy if we want to walk in His hope. We must first see that our hope comes from God.

2. Hope is alive.

“…born again to a living hope” (verse 3) The resurrection of Jesus is the reason for our hope. We hope in the One whom death could not hold. We believe in the One who stripped death of its power. We believe the One who could not be bound to the grave. We believe in Jesus; our living Savior.

You may feel broken.

You may feel hurting.

You may feel lost.

You may feel lonely.

You may feel discouraged.

You may feel heartbroken.

You may feel dead.

We may be surrounded by death but we are secured by the Author of Life This is why our hope is so powerful! Our hope is powerful because our hope is in Jesus. Our hope is living because our God is living.

3. Hope is eternal. 

“…who by God’s power are being guarded through faith” (verse 4) Our hope is alive and guess what? It will always be alive!

Our hope is eternal. The God who purchased our hope is the God who secures our hope for eternity. We never have to worry about losing our hope or going a day without hope. Our God is the faithful guardian of our soul and He promises us hope through Christ Jesus. He promises us a living hope.

We have a hope that generations upon generations have trusted; a hope that has no expiration date.

4. We do not design hope for ourselves.

Can I confess something to you? I struggle with clinging to the hope God has for us. I struggle because I would rather take things into my own hands usually. I see a problem and I try to solve it myself. I feel hopeless so I try to fix it with temporary solutions. Have you ever been there?

Maybe if I try to be more positive.

Maybe if I ignore the bad stuff.

Maybe if I just try harder.

Maybe if I am more motivated.

Maybe if I achieve that goal.

Maybe If I dream bigger.

I always resort to these “Maybe if’s.” They are my sorry attempt to design hope for myself. We exhaust ourselves trying to design hope for ourselves when God never ended for us to do so.

God doesn’t call us to design hope for ourselves; He calls us to discover hope through Him. He designs and we discover!

What does that mean for our lives? It means that we can take a step back and finally breathe. We must simply press into God and allow Him to press hope onto us. We must simply trust and follow.

I pray that you would set your eyes on Jesus, our living hope.

Self-Condemnation

By Ty Haguewood

I do not always feel good enough. In fact, I don’t feel good enough most of the time. I don’t know if you have ever felt that way. If you have felt not good enough or struggled with self-condemnation, I am right here with you.

Over the last few months, I have realized the severity of self-condemnation. Self-condemnation is not a small issue. Self-condemnation shows us a lot about our belief in God. I want to share three faults of self-condemnation.

Self-Condemnation Distorts the Good News of the Gospel

Self-condemnation is an assault on the good news of the Gospel. God has promised to redeem and rescue His people from condemnation. He doesn’t save people so that they would return to condemnation. Self-condemnation leaves the believer in a state of hopelessness that God never intended for believers to stay in.  It takes the good news out of the Gospel and leaves the person hopeless.

Self-Condemnation Belittles the Price Jesus Paid to Forgive Us

Self-condemnation belittles the blood-bought identity that God purchased for us. As believers, we must not forget how costly it was for God to save us from condemnation. Self-condemnation says the payment didn’t clear because I am somehow not good enough. There is no question that we are not good enough. Nowhere in the Gospel does God make any claim giving us credit for being good enough. The good news of the Gospel is that God is good enough and He made a way for us.  The believer who chooses to return to condemnation demeans the cost Jesus paid for them to be rescued from it.

Self-Condemnation is a Sorry Attempt to Take Control from God

Self-condemnation is an attempt for us to become the judge of our souls. We look at God’s promises and tell Him they are not good enough. We start trying to judge if God should or should not love us, as if we have any say in the matter. God loves you regardless of your approval. The perfect God of the universe does not bow to our approval. As believers we must remember who chose to save us. God did not ask our permission to sacrifice His only Son to save us from the condemnation we deserve. He simply asks us to follow Him.

How Can We Fight Against Self-Condemnation?

We can fight against self-condemnation with the promises of God. If you feel like you are not good enough or somehow still condemning yourself, run to the promises of God and believe them. Stop what you are doing, turn off this blog, and immerse yourself in the Word of God.

You are loved.                               

You have been redeemed.

You have been purchased.

You have been pardoned.

You have been given new life.

 

Silver Linings

By Elizabeth Thomas

We’ve all heard the expression, every cloud has a silver lining. It’s a poetic phrase that reminds us to look for the good in the midst of the bad. It helps us remember that even in dark times, there is light coming. It’s a the thing people say that provides a glimmer of hope in troubling times.

In Kid’s Klub this past weekend, we remembered Jesus’ troubling times. We showed the kids a crown of thorns like He wore. They felt a piece of rough wood, like the wood from the Cross. They saw what the nails might have looked like and drank vinegar like He drank. I prayed they would understand what happened. I prayed their hearts would be ready to grasp the significance of what He did. Sometimes I find it difficult to teach about the crucifixion, because it can be hard to explain that what happened was horrific, but God still deemed it necessary. What happened was terrible, but Jesus did it on purpose. It’s hard to show this black, ugly cloud had a silver lining.

I know it was hard for the people who loved Jesus. The disciples, Mary and Martha, all those who followed Him – they couldn’t see the hope in what He did. The Bible says the ones who knew Him watched Him die (Matthew 27:55-56). Those who weren’t there at the crucifixion went into hiding (John 20:19). Their hope was gone. The One who performed miracles, the One who brought the dead to life, the One who spoke of hope and salvation, was dead. The religious leaders had won and those who loved Jesus were heartbroken. It was really over. Can you imagine what those three days felt like, the days Jesus lay in the tomb? I can’t even comprehend the anguish they felt. What a hopeless, terrible time.

But we know, the story isn’t over. Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose three days later, and appeared to many different people. He shared His message of hope and salvation; He encouraged others to do the same. He completed His journey and fulfilled prophecy. His resurrection was the silver lining. His completion of salvation is our silver lining.

I won’t say that I’ve gone through times as troubling as Jesus, but I have had my share of hardships. I have had moments where I feel like all hope is lost. We all have. We have all had moments where we lose our faith. Dark clouds settle in our skies and we can’t see the light. For some, those clouds last for years. For others, it seems that there will never be a silver lining.

I don’t know what you are going through. I don’t know what dark clouds are in your skies. I don’t know if you feel hopeless. But I know that our Savior knows exactly how you feel. He has been where you are. He has experienced trauma, hardship and suffering. He knows the feeling of hopelessness. He knows because He was here. He walked on this Earth, He was tempted and tried. He was beaten and executed. For you.

Easter may be over, but don’t forget Jesus’ sacrifice. When your clouds get dark and gloomy, don’t forget the light. Don’t forget our silver lining, our hope, our salvation. Our Father sent His Son to die for us. When things get hard, don’t lose your faith. He is waiting for you to trust in Him.

Unfolding a Mystery of God

By Karen Polich

How much potential and possibility do we have in our Christian life? It is difficult to fathom how God can live in us and we in Him. The mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27b) Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon series, Fragile Growth, explored this mystery related to living out our full potential. Listen to the podcast here.

Colossians 1:24-29 24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

This speaks to the possibilities in every disciple’s life and helps clarify the potential in a “God transformed” life.

Christ is not diminished in us. It is a challenge to understand. His presence, received through salvation will be something that changes us. His presence released, strengthens us. It is not us, but Christ living in us and loving through us.

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:20

In the Christian life, we have tremendous help through the Holy Spirit. Will we use it? No matter the pressure faced in life, help is at hand. He resides in us. We need to move out of the way and let Him lead.

The power of Christ in our lives communicates something about our potential. We can exchange our strength for His. We often try to get to the point where we can do things on our own, which is impossible. We can’t, but He can. But 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

The prospect of Christ in us reveals the hope of glory. Often we swim in failure. Without hope where would we be? We have hope now and hope in the future. There is more waiting for us beyond today and this life. (Romans 8:11, Psalm 17:15)

How great in the Kingdom, can we be in terms of Kingdom building for the cause of Christ? What is our full potential in Christ? As we grow spiritually in fragile space, know that the Holy Spirit is there to strengthen us as we live a life transformed by God.

 

 

 

 

 

The Coming of Christ

By Kristi Sullins

On that night so long ago the angels were charged with proclaiming the miracle of Christ’s birth. He had finally come, the Messiah sent for all mankind. It was the end of the wait, but for everything else, it was just the beginning.

Christ is the beginning of hope, bringing the possibility of a life more abundant than anything we can think. He is the promise of security in the middle of chaos, and strength to journey through any season of life.

He is the beginning of peace. For those who belong to Christ, we have been promised a peace that passes all understanding. That peace finds its beginning and ending with Jesus.

Christ is the beginning of joy for all those who believe. True joy is found in Him, and cannot be shaken by the things of this world. It is His joy that is our strength and our song. It is a joy that survives the changes and struggles of life because it is founded in the One who loves us.

He is the beginning of love, sent from the Father Himself. Love comes from God. His love for us is unwavering, indescribable and undeserved, and the proof of this love was first found in the manger.

The beginning of hope, peace, joy and love is life changing. For the followers of Christ in the Bible, it was compelling enough for them to change the way they worshiped and believed. They changed tradition, which caused many to be rejected by family and friends. Persecution was real for followers of Christ, but what He brought them was worth any struggle.

Christ and His love were too life changing to ignore.

We have that same new beginning. Christ offers us the same hope, peace, joy and love, based on who He is and not on what we deserve. The promises of Advent don’t have to be packed away with the rest of the Christmas decorations but are meant to encompass our current days. Those who are followers of Christ are called to face the future without fear, and the celebration of Advent is meant to remind us that there is no need to fear because the good news proclaimed by the angel in the book of Luke is still the same.

Are you looking towards the coming year with the anticipation of a fresh start and new beginnings or do you feel anchored in the past with its poor choices and scars?  No matter where you find yourself, it is important to remember that the news of the angel, on that holy night, was a message of good news for all people. Christ, our Messiah, has come to set us free, and to give us a hope and future, our new beginning.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.

The Coming of Hope

By Kristi Sullins

The short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is typically associated with chaotic schedules, increasing debt and exhaustion. Somewhere into the journey of adulthood we lose the wonder of waiting. The anticipation of parties with friends, school being out, and the unknown of Christmas morning is traded for duty, demands and disappointments.

Enter the need for Advent. Advent comes in this in-between time, and it calls us back to the wonder of waiting. We are reminded of more than just the reason for the season, but the reality of the wait.

The first week of Advent is a time to have a renewed focus on the hope given to those who were waiting for more.

More than just sacrifice; more than just slavery; more than just struggle. Isaiah was one prophet God used to give His people hope in the One who would come to them. He tells us in Isaiah 9:6 that God was sending the One who would be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace.

This was God’s promise to His people. It was a promise that would require patience for it would be about 700 years from the time this promise was given to the time it was fulfilled. That time was not filled with peace and joy. It was filled with bondage and the unknown. 400 years of that time was filled with silence from the God who had never left them. Even when they had wandered from Him He had spoken to them through leaders and prophets. Then silence. The silence forced them to hold to the hope given to them through the prophets, and then they waited. Waited through dark years when rulers changed, the law was forgotten, traditions were lost and holding on to hope was a struggle. Still they waited and hoped for the promise of the one who was coming for them. Coming to bring them hope and a future.

What are you hoping for today?  Have you reached a point where you would honestly say you no longer “waste” your time with hope?

I encourage you to start this season of Advent off with a renewed prayer for hope. We no longer have to wait for our Messiah, and His coming offers us hope. Hope in a God who keeps His promises in His own perfect timing. Hope in a God whose plan is perfect. Hope in a God whose love is without measure, and freely offered to all who would seek Him. Hope, not in a world that is constantly shifting, but in a God who sent His Son to be the savior of the world.

Would you take time to reread Isaiah 9:6-7?  What do you hope for?  Are you struggling with the patience it takes to wait for God to fulfill His promises?  Hebrews 6:18-19 reminds us that because of the unfailing character of God we have an anchor for our hope. It is time for Advent, our season of hope.

Stuff, Struggles & God’s Offer

By Karen Polich

You can’t have everything. Seriously, where would you put it? – Steven Wright

Take a good look into your life. Many of us have full closets but empty hearts. Pastor Michael Cook wrapped up his Stuff sermon series with what God says in the midst of our struggles with stuff.

Revelation 3:17-20 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Are we in a place where we have more stuff than ever before but are enjoying less? Homes are three times larger than fifty years ago and lack nothing to fill them. The abundance of stuff can distract our faith. God reminds us we are refined through His fire and clothed through His purification.

God is here, calling us. We tend to focus on the stuff more than Him. He wants to share our lives. The wealth of a Christ follower comes not with stuff, but in Christ. How do we handle our stuff? Over the last few weeks, Pastor Michael Cook has taught us the importance of shifting our focus from stuff to Christ, leading to a truly generous life.

Ready for the next step? Christ whispers into our hearts with endless places to start.

Here are just four possibilities of first steps as we move out of the struggle of stuff.

Edit your life. Start with one area and begin to edit things out. We don’t have to start big. One thing after another, week after week and our lives will be changed.

Begin a gratitude journal. Write down one thing you are grateful for each day. Gratitude trains our heart, combating comparison and the desire for something “better”.

Serve consistently. As God blesses us with stuff, our heart naturally turns inward. Serving others takes our heart back. Serving grows gratitude.

Give faithfully. Don’t wait! It will never get easier to give. Abundance doesn’t lead to giving, intentional generosity does. Whatever you have, be generous now. Developing a spending plan is a great place to start.

Our needs and wants can crossover, but God is ready to do something great in our lives regarding stuff. He stands, He calls, He knocks…

Challenge: Ending the struggle over stuff can begin today. We can choose to seek Christ first, living generously and being who God created each of us to be. Want change in life? Take a new step today.

Listen to Pastor Michael Cook via podcast here. Learn about the Hope Effort at www.afbcHope.com

 

 

Giving Stuff Away – 4 Reflections Concerning Generosity

By Karen Polich

If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life. – Billy Graham

We can do three things with our money. We can spend it, save it or give it away. Pastor Michael Cook continued his Stuff sermon series with a look at what it means to be generous.

Often we want to give. We really do. Our hearts feel the tug to be generous and help others. We’re ready until we encounter the struggle of giving versus ensuring having enough left for what we need.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Pastor Michael Cook shared four reflections concerning generosity.

1. Planting and harvesting. God moves in tangible and intangible ways. The Bible clearly teaches that those who organize their lives around generosity receive God’s blessing.

2. Decision and follow through. Intention is not decision. We can plan how we are going to give all we want but that does not make us generous. Acting on our decision is how we follow through with a real commitment to generosity. It is not how or what we give, it is that we give. Find a systematic approach that serves you well and implement it.

3. Attitude. God loves a cheerful giver. Why? Have we considered that God is a cheerful giver? His extravagance and generosity are beyond measure. Generosity brings more than we can imagine. Living generously pushes out the ungodliness in our lives.

4. Cycle of care. This goes back to wanting to give, but looking at our needs and not seeing enough. God is able. God will always take care of our needs. Do you believe God sees, loves generosity and will provide? YES! The question we must answer is, will we put our trust in Him? We give, God provides.

There is a certain beauty and value that comes with living a generous life.

Is your life being transformed through a heart of generosity?

Challenge: Commit to a yes or no. Be very careful about the lethal word LATER. There is never an easy, convenient time to give so waiting isn’t the answer. If you want to live a life of generosity, you must decide and act.

Project for the week:

1. Give away 7 items each day for the next 7 days. (If that seems too aggressive for you, give away 1 item each day for the next 7 days.)

2. Find one valuable item you own but don’t use. Give it to someone who needs it.

Visit www.AFBCHope.com for more information regarding the Hope Effort. Listen to Pastor Michael Cook via podcast here.