Are You Hopeful or Hopeless?

Are You Hopeful or Hopeless?

Guest blogger: Mark Goodman

In a song from Les Miserables, Fantine mourns her shattered dream.  Weeping, she sings:

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

And later:

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Everyone reading this has lost a dream to the strangling grasp of life.  What dream did you bury?  What dream do you continue to exhume?

On a now-famous day in August of 1963, a man well-familiar with personal pain and shattered dreams stood before a crowd of thousands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared his dream.  Later he still held to that dream as he evidenced in the words from 1967 that we now hear:

If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.  And so today I still have a dream.

This week marks the beginning of the Advent season, a time of expectant waiting.  We imagine what it was like for the Hebrew people awaiting the Messiah’s arrival and we experience our own wait for the Lord’s return.  Today we focus on the Hope of Advent. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so beautifully stated, hope is indeed “that courage to be.”

I want to point you in the right direction in which you can choose to travel and to the journey along which you will discover the sources of Hope from which come strength as you tap into them.

Like the Oz-bound brainless Scarecrow pointing in all directions, shared opinions, spoken philosophies, and a plethora of spiritual teachers will steer you toward a hope found in self-actualization and/or the true fulfillment of your inner being.  For the follower of Christ, however, the only true guidance comes from Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  This Christ spoke all things into being, including the Word of God as found in the New and Old Testaments.  Let us, then, turn to the Old Testament to find the map for our journey toward Hope.

1 Hear my prayer, LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

Psalm 102:1-7
 (1984 NIV)

Withered heart, vanishing days, no appetite for food – the situation appears hopeless.  Yet (oh yes, yet), the afflicted man dares raise his eyes to take in the wider view of life.  There his eyes or, perhaps more so, his spirit found a profoundly delightful focus.  God came near.

25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

Psalm 102:25-28
 (1984 NIV)

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, wrote:
“Hope is hope for infinite Hope.”

Notice the capitalization of the last “H” in the sentence.

To push “shift” as one types that last word’s first letter, is to recognize that hope, in order to last, must claim God as its source, motivation and destination.

In 1626, from the pulpit of the immense and magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the English poet and pastor John Donne proclaimed the following words about death on Christmas Day, of all times.  I am glad he did.

Others die as martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr.  He found Golgotha (where he was crucified) even in Bethlehem where he was born.  For to his tenderness then, even the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as his cross at last.  His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day.  (Hendrix 53)

While I am quite sure that Jesus the newborn child did not formulate thoughts of the cross while still in the manger, I do know that when the soldiers led Him up to Golgotha, it was no surprise to Him.

Ultimately and immediately, you will discover Hope if you will look forward to the Lord’s return and will look backward to see His willingness to die.

Works Cited
Hendrix, John. Celebrate Advent Worship and Learning Resources. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1999.

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Many thanks to guest blogger Mark Goodman. You may visit his blog here. He shared this about himself and his family:

 

I have served in Christian Ministry for over 25 years in Texas and Alaska. Since 2008, I have been living in Anchorage, Alaska and serving as the Senior Pastor of Rabbit Creek Church. As a pastor and teacher, my passion is guiding people and helping them in their journey with Christ. I was raised in Arlington, Texas. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree from Baylor University and my Master’s Degree from George W. Truett Theological Seminary. I earned my Doctor of Ministry degree from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. My wife, Vonda Kay, and I have three children. All of us love Alaska!

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Give It All to Him

2018-9-12So often when we are hurting, we ask Jesus to help us . . . but we cling to some of the painful or ugly pieces. Unforgiveness. Anger. Fear. Hopelessness. Our healing can’t be complete until we give all the pieces to the Healer . . . and trust His way. His plan. His unconditional love.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Isaliah 26:3 NLT

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.
Psalm 18:2 NLT

 

 

Hope

hope, despair road sign illustration designSome would say we live in a hopeless world. In America values and judgments have turned upside down. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Abortion abounds. Marriage has been redefined. The economy is on a roller coaster. Many are unemployed or underemployed. Christians are being accused of hate when they are simply taking a stand to remain faithful to their Savior. Many politicians are ignoring our constitutional rights, flagrantly designing their own “law.” Many churches have compromised in order to not offend. Those who refuse to compromise are called out as hate mongers.

And look around the globe. Terrorism is growing exponentially and becoming even more vicious. Innocent people are being tortured and killed–men, women, and children. Many times the terrorists are targeting Christians. Believers are being imprisoned and tortured because they refuse to deny Christ. Constant upheaval in governments. Most of the world turning on Israel. Earthquakes and other natural disasters grow in intensity and frequency.

Perhaps you are dealing with challenges in your own life. Sickness. Relationship problems. Financial challenges. Other kinds of loss and hurt and need.

As dreadful as they are, these events shouldn’t surprise us. The Bible described just such times in the last days before Jesus’ return.

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times.  For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

“And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.” (Matthew 24:6-7)

“Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)

Here’s the good news. No matter what is happening to us or around us, we can live with hope. And this Easter Sunday reminds us where we can find that hope.

No matter what we see, the Lord is with us.

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. (Psalm 16:8)

He loves us unconditionally and nothing can separate us from that love.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Because of his great love for us, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. When we receive him as Lord and Savior, our sins are forgiven and we have assurance that we will spend eternity in heaven with him! We are just visiting here on earth–heaven is our home. What greater hope could we ever have!

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. (1 Corinthians 15:21-23)

Easter empty tombYes, he died for us. And then on the third day, as prophesied for thousands of year, he arose! The Messiah arose! Our Savior arose! He had fulfilled his mission on earth and now rose triumphant, conquering death for all of us.

So we have the hope that Jesus is with us every moment, helping us through life’s trials and challenges.

We have the hope that nothing can separate us from his love.

We have the hope of eternal life. He loves us so much he died for our sins and three days later arose to life. When we trust him as Lord and Savior, we have his promise of eternal life in heaven.

We also have hope because of his promised return.

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-1-7)

Jesus is coming. And with all the chaos in today’s world . . . that could be soon. Very soon.