Where is the Hope?

SONY DSCRomans 5:5

When one becomes weary of evil acts that he or she can do nothing to stop… the next logical emotion for one to experience  is despair.    But as a believer in Jesus we need to remember that we have been given hope… a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)   The response of hope is a step away from a secular mindset during a time of crisis.  Moderns might be able to curb their anger and put it to constructive use.  They definitely have turned out with compassionate service.  But hope?  It is a commodity that is hard to come by in times like these.

In Romans Chapter 5 Paul writes of a hope that “…does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Hope in times of terror is not a natural thing… it is a supernatural thing!  And our hearts, infused by the Holy Spirit, are the ONLY means by which we can experience it.

But what is it we are hoping for?

1.  The end of evil forever.

There is lots of Scripture on this… but one will suffice.  2 Peter 3:7 -“…by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Several pastors from the Boston area posted blogs about the attack on their city.  One resonated with me.  Adam Mabry, the pastor of Alethea Church wrote an article called “A Pastor’s Perspective on the Attacks on My City.”  This is an excerpt:

“So what are we to make of it all? What are we to think when tragedy mingles with beauty? …When blood spills with    tears? [He then invites us to look to Jesus on the cross. And says:]  He, shining like the sun, brought grace and truth, kindness and undeserved mercy. And… He also experienced the deepest and darkest violence humanity has ever accomplished. … There, tragedy mingled with beauty, pain accompanied grace, and the blood of God himself spilt along with his tears. The gospel shows us that, in Christ, darkness, selfishness, terror, sin, and depravity can be and will be once and finally overcome. That’s the hope—the only hope—for the deepest why of pain.”

Evil will be overcome one day.  And I would not want to be one of the Boston bombers standing before God unrepentant on judgment day.   Believer, it is okay to desire to see justice, but don’t ring your hands if things move too slowly.  Don’t worry that there may be others involved that seem to get away Scott Free.  God has better surveillance than all of the Boston PD.  God sees.  God knows.  And He will judge.

2.  There is also hope for today.

Sometimes we despair because we think of those that lost loved ones and those that lost limbs.  We secretly think:  I’m glad it wasn’t me or my loved ones… and then we feel guilty for thinking that.  But we can’t escape it.  How would I cope if I had been standing there on Marathon day?

Here is where hope really should kick in.  We need to trust that God can use any tragedy to his glory.  No matter what evil men plot… God can turn it around.  God is still causing all things to work together for the good of those called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)  We either believe this or not!  Randy Alcorn voiced it this way:  “Evils, whether moral or natural, will not have the final say.  God will replace both with everlasting good.”

You might ask yourself:  “What can I offer to people today through these tragedies?”  Offer hope… real, lasting and living  hope.

One event that happened in the week following the marathon that did not get a lot of coverage (for obvious reasons) was the death of Sportscaster, Pat Summerall.  On the CBS evening news they ran a short piece on him and in it mentioned his faith.  That reminded me of an article in my files from Sports Spectrum magazine.

“For 45 years, Pat Summerall’s voice and face spelled football. He anchored CBS and FOX’s NFL telecasts (often alongside pat summerallJohn Madden) and broadcast 16 Super Bowls (and served as a CBS Radio analyst or pregame reporter for 10 more). This is the part of Pat Summerall’s story that most people know. In the Christian sports magazine Sports Spectrum, reporter Art Stricklin tells the rest of Pat’s story:

Pat was an only child whose parents divorced before he was born, leaving him feeling empty and alone. He became an alcoholic, living from drink to drink as his body broke down. During the 1994 Masters tournament—[Summerall also did voiceover work for high-profile golf tournaments]—he faced up: “I’d been getting sick a lot, throwing up blood—and I got sick again at 4 a.m. I looked in the mirror, saw what a terrible sight I was, and said to myself, This isn’t how I want to live.

Pat spent 33 days in the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California. This helped alleviate his alcohol problems but didn’t address his spiritual vacuum. Then he bumped into [Tom Landry, his old football coach from his days as a star kicker]. [Landry] explained about [Pat’s] spiritual need and connected him with Dallas Cowboy‘s chaplain John Weber. Pat’s life was transformed, and he was baptized at age 69.

Art Stricklin closes his article with a few words chaplain John Weber offered to sum up Summerall’s journey: “[Pat] was once the life of every party with a drink in his hand. Now he gets his power from another source.”

We hold on to the hope that can change the destiny of our neighbors, family and friends.  Don’t give in to the despair around you.  Offer hope.

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Down With the Old Man, Up With the New

Beginning today I am starting a series on my favorite chapter in the Bible.  It is… a drum roll please… Colossians, Chapter 3.  Find that surprising?  I love this chapter because I believe it to be one of the most beautiful pictures of Christian growth and maturity in the Bible.  It begins like this:

 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

This is a passage about what happens to a believer post baptistm.  Why do I say that?  Well, verse one says:  you have been raised with Christ.  The word in Greek for raised here is the same one Paul uses in Chapter 2, verse 12:  “…having been buried with him in baptistm and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”  This relationship of being raised out of the baptismal… and being spiritually raised with Jesus at His resurrection… is carried into Chapter 3, Verse 1.  Hence, my favorite chapter in the Bible is all about what it means to live for Christ – after you’ve taken that step of obedience in your discipleship called baptism.  An article in Sports Spectrum years ago tells what a difference baptism plays in the life of a believer.

“Pat Summerall, the well known sports announcer, overcame alcoholism and became a
follower of Christ in his late sixties. He said this about water baptism:  “I went down in the water, and when I came up it was like a 40-pound weight had been lifted from me. I have a happier life, a healthy life, and a more positive feeling about life than ever before.”

About prayer meetings and Bible studies Summerall comments: “It’s like an alcoholic looking for a drink. If he wants it bad enough, he can find it—no matter what. I’m like that when it comes to finding prayer services and Bible studies. No matter where I am working, I know that they’re out there and I can find them.”  (Art Stricklin Sports  Spectrum (Nov/Dec 2001), p. 27)

I like the connection made in this article… between how excited he felt coming out of those baptismal waters and the desire to scope out Bible Study and prayer services where ever he was working.

Becoming a believer in Christ, one undergoes not just an outward washing… but an inward heart transplant (Hebrews 8:10).  Our hearts are no longer chasing after the fame, wealth and comforts that this world can give us… but are after the affections of a living Christ seated at the right hand of God.

One final word about the word, raisedIn the Greek it is in the Aorist tense indicating that our co-resurrection with Jesus is a past completed action.  The moment we were raised with him… our hearts were his.

I still remember the evening of my baptism.  I wasn’t sure it was going to “take.”  For years I had faced the invitation portion of the church service with dread.  I felt an urge to do something, but wouldn’t do anything about it.  I wondered if now, after I had taken the plunge (literally as well as figuratively) I would still have that same feeling.  After my baptism, I changed my clothes and joined the congregation mid-sermon.  When the time came for the invitation… all I felt was… peace.  My heart was truly His!