STRENGTHENING YOUR FAMILY

  • By Bob Cowles
  • 15 Oct, 2016


What does it take for marriages to be successful today? Families must work together in strengthening family life. Marriages may be made in heaven, as the popular saying goes, but their maintenance occurs in an earthly setting.

 

I.     THE NEED FOR STRENGTHENING FAMILIES

 

Let me share with you a strong biblical case for being a Christian in marriage and family life. I believe it counts to be a Christian in a marriage. What does the Scripture say is the case for an abundant life in a Christian family? The Scripture points out that when a person is a Christian in a family, he shares an abundant life, which offers many benefits.

 

II. WHAT FAMILIES CAN DO TO STRENGTHEN THEIR FAMILY

 

"Will our children have faith?" Or will they, like many of their peers, throw off their religious training the minute they are free from home and parents? Proverbs 19:18 says, "Chasten your son while there is hope." This leaves the impression that there may be a time when a parent can no longer mold the life and soul of his child.

 

Moses said, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them dili­gently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (Deut. 6:4-7).

 

In addition, a New Testament paragraph that offers direction on how to discuss God in the home is found in Ephesians: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruc­tion of the Lord" (6:4).

 

III. WHAT CHURCHES CAN DO TO STRENGTHEN THE FAMILY

 

The Christian life was, for the early Christians, a family matter. The regular worship services were often conducted in the familiar atmosphere of homes. The congregation might have consisted of only a few families. Christians practiced their faith in family units (Rom. 16:5-15). The church pro­vided a support system for struggling families.

 

We all need a group of people who genuinely care and a group of ministers who are called to help families. There's a name for that. We call it the church.

 

What is a Christian family? It is a community of believers where Jesus Christ makes all the difference.


By Bob Cowles 03 Dec, 2016

Exodus 20:12, Colossians 3:18-21

 

In Exodus 20:12 God says, Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you . A nation is without character when it fails to give honor to whom honor is due. And the fifth principle in God's Code of Ethics for building charactering in his people says God thinks honor is due our parents.

 

Principles of Honor

 

Jesus himself lived this way. The very Son of God " went down to Nazareth with [his parents] and was obedient to them " ( Luke 2:51 ). The Son of God honored the position that God had given to his earthly parents.

 

In fact, the Bible says that parents are placed over children by God's design. Romans 1:30 and 2 Timo­thy 3:2 both contain long lists of terrible sins that are an affront to God, and in the midst of both these lists of horrible sins, there is the phrase " disrespect­ful to their parents ." Perhaps seeing how seriously God takes dishonoring parents helps us understand why for centuries the Jews have said the fifth prin­ciple belongs with the first four. To their way of thinking, if parents are by God's ordination his spokesmen for children on earth, then to disrespect parents is to disrespect God.

 

Value Their Advice

One way in which we honor our parents is by valuing their advice. Proverbs 13:1 says, " A wise son heeds his father's instruction. "  God is very clear and complete in his plans for children. For instance, he instructs, " Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord " ( Colossians 3:20 ). And the Living Bible translates Ephesians 6:1 , " Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you ."

 

 

A Word to All: Value Family

The heart of the fifth principle is this: People of character make family a priority. It's a rather som­ber fact of life that neither children nor parents are around for long. Someday those children won't be in your home, and someday those parents will be gone as well. Life is too short and the price is too high to put off the honoring for another day. Value your family and make them a priority.

By Bob Cowles 13 Nov, 2016

Put God First

Mark 12.28-30

 

The first key to building a life of character is this: Put God first! Jesus himself clarified that issue when he said that the most important principle is to love God completely; and secondly, to love our neighbors ( Mark 12:28-30 ).

 

Character begins with God! A life of character must be built on the right foundation, for true char­acter is the result of our beliefs. God, not man, is the changeless center by which right and wrong are determined. People of character realize that the only motiva­tion sufficient to keep us living a life of character is a complete love for and allegiance to a God who values character. They acknowledge that God, not man, is the changeless center by which right and wrong are determined.

 

No Place but First Place

 

The God of the Bible declares that he will not accept any place in your life but first place: You shall have no other gods before me ( Exodus 20:3 ). The first instruction asserts God's claim to be our only legiti­mate foundation.

 

God's instruction to the Israelites to have "no other gods before me" was truly revolutionary in that time (and still is today), for God is not saying other gods should rank behind him in importance. He is not calling for the Israelites to worship him as the dominant god, but as the only one. In fact, God said in Exodus 34:14 , " Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God ."

 

A Test to See Who Is King

 

" How do I put God on that throne ?" Here's my advice: begin by identifying what's in second place . It's just human nature for us to want to give the "right" answer instead of the truthful one when asked what's in first place in our hearts.  So make it easy on yourself. Find out what's in second place in your heart, and closely monitor whatever that is. For most of us, it will probably be a good thing-a career, a family, possessions.

 

After you've identified God's "competition," make conscious decisions to put him first. Again, though, the hard question is "How do I do that?" Try using this acronym to give you a place to start: F-I-R-S-T. Here are five areas in your life to check to see if, when the hard decisions come, you are putting God first.

 

Focus . What is your focus? Do you remember when the disciples went to get Jesus some food in John 4:34 ? They brought it back and said in essence, "Here's your lunch, Lord." And Jesus re­plied, " My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work ." Do you find yourself think­ing about God like that?

 

Income . Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, 24b , " For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. You cannot serve both God and Money ."

 

Relationships . Our relationships with other people tell us much about our love for God. John says, " If anyone says, `I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen " ( 1 John 4:20 ). If we are putting God first, all our relationships will fall into one of two categories: (1) the people we choose to be around because they bring us closer to God; or, (2) the people we choose to be around because we can bring them closer to God.

 

Security . Remember that in Matthew 6 , Jesus said that whether or not we worry is a sign of whether or not we are putting God first. How much do you worry? If you're worried about many things, you're having trouble with the throne room in your heart. Jesus' advice in verse 33 is, " Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness ." Then, when we've put our focus where it belongs, Jesus says God will take care of all the things we worry about. Peter repeats this same idea later when he says, " Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you " ( 1 Peter 5:7 ).

 

Time . Jesus did purposely plan and spend time with his Father. In Mark 1:35 , we read that " very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed ." Why did Jesus do that? Because he was obeying the first principle. It's a principle that's got to be reaffirmed every day. We must wake up every morning praying, "God, help me put you first today." We must go to bed at night and reflect, "Was Jesus my Lord today?" The Today's English Version states Colossians 1:18b like this: " [Christ] was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things ."

 

We must learn to put God first.

By Bob Cowles 05 Nov, 2016

After all the things discussed above have been said — after an individual has a keen desire for an effective prayer life and after one has set aside a time and place for prayer

— many Christians still need teaching as to the very procedure of prayer. How does one pray? By means of an acrostic with the word “pray,” an attempt will be made to answer this practical question.

 

Praise . Allow the first letter of the word to remind you to praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in your prayers.

The very qualities of the divine nature elicit praise and adoration from the Christian. In Psalm 145, David extols the Lord for his goodness and power. “Every day will I bless thee,” he said, “and I will praise thy name for ever and ever” (v.2). The reasons for this attitude are his greatness, mighty acts, great goodness, mercy, etc. You and I worship and pray to the same God David did, and our reverent praise to him must be at least equal to that which he felt and sought to express.

In acknowledging the divine greatness, the one who prays is also acknowledging his own position relative to God.

 

Recognize Your Blessings . The second letter of the word pray should prompt you to recognize your blessings as you speak to God in prayer.

 

            Every good gift of a material nature we enjoy is from God (Jas. 1:17); all spiritual blessings are ours because of the redemption we have received through the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:3). As we pray, we need to be very specific in naming our blessings and acknowledging the love and generosity of God, which sent them to us.

Even in times of loss and pain, when our purpose in prayer is to seek the aid of God, we should preface our requests with thanks and gratitude for the things he has done for us in the past.

 

Acknowledge Needs . The third letter of the word tells you to acknowledge your needs to God in prayer.

Paul reminded his readers that God is able to meet our every requirement through his power and love. “And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). In times of sickness, trouble, or sorrow, cast your burden on the Lord through prayer: “Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

When you need to be strong in the face of temptation, seek the Lord in prayer. This is the counsel of Paul at Ephesians 6:10-11, 18. When you need guidance in making difficult decisions in your life, pray about the matter. “In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:6). When you sin, ask the forgiving God of heaven to pardon you. Pray as David did for the Lord to blot our your transgressions (Psa. 51:1-2), and rise from that prayer in the confidence that he has. God hears the prayers of his children.

 

Yearn for Others . The last letter of the word pray suggests that you express your yearnings for others to the Father in heaven.

The point has been made already that selfishness has no place in effective and meaningful prayer. As you pray, then, think about others and their needs as well as your own. Pray for the lost (Rom. 10:1), and pray for your brothers and sisters who have sinned (Jas. 5:16). The Bible commands us to pray for the leaders of government (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We should pray for elders, preachers, and missionaries. The sick, aged, and poor need our prayers. It is even a good idea to keep a list of specific persons and situations, which you want to pray about regularly.

When these four elements are included in your prayers, you can be sure that they are scriptural and acceptable to the God we worship.

By Bob Cowles 29 Oct, 2016

PRAYER

 

The importance of a daily period of quiet and unhurried devotional time needs to be stressed.

Our Savior taught us to make place for prayer in our lives through his example in the matter. “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). The apostles, whom Jesus taught to pray (cf. Luke 11:1-4), insisted they would not take on so much responsibility in the Jerusalem church that their prayer lives would have to be neglected. “We will continue steadfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

 

 

THE PRIVILEGE of PRAYER

 

Prayer is a unique privilege because it gives one the opportunity to be like Jesus. From the cradle in Bethlehem to the tomb at Jerusalem, his life was punctuated with prayer. He prayed as he performed signs (John 11:41-42), in privacy (Matt. 14:23), on the eve of his death (Matt. 26:36-44), and even on the cross as he was dying (Luke 23:34). He prayed for his friends, family, believers, future followers, and even enemies!

 

During the time of his earthly ministry, his disciples were so impressed by his prayerfulness that they asked to be taught to pray. “And it came to pass, as he was praying in a certain place, that when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Surely we, too, see prayer in the life of our Lord and feel compelled to learn how to pray that we may be more like him.

 

The privilege of prayer is also evident in the fact that it is an effective means of fighting Satan. Satan is our spiritual foe, and we must resist him with all the means available to us. Jesus taught us to pray: “And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13).

 

We should also remember that prayer gives us an opportunity to call upon God. This is not to say that we can be selfish in our prayers. If we pray with wrong motives and try to use God for our self-seeking purposes, our requests will be fruitless (cf. Jas. 4:3). But we would be foolish not to use prayer in the way the Bible encourages us to for the sake of receiving blessings that we need. James chided some first-century Christians by writing: “You have not, because you ask not” (Jas. 4:2b).

 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to call on the Father in heaven as a son would call on his earthly father. “Ask, and it shall be given you ... Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7:7-11).

 

In the brief prayer Jesus taught his disciples (Luke 11:2-4), there are four requests in three verses. And Paul wrote: “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). We struggling Christians are needy people, and prayer is our means of getting the things we need.

 

Finally, prayer is a wonderful privilege because it is the means to close fellowship with God.

When you are not praying regularly, you and God are drifting apart. After a while, he seems very far away. There is only one cure, and that is to get back in regular communication with him through prayer.

By Bob Cowles 22 Oct, 2016

Matthew 5 : " When he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountain­side and sat down. His disciples came to him and he began to teach them saying . . . ."

 

" Blessed are the poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven ." What is there about being poor in spirit which is a virtual equivalent to humble? What elicits this blessing from Jesus? Surely it is because these people can make no claims on their own. These are the people who have nothing to offer, and God's word to them is, " You are blessed ."

 

Humble Yourself before Others

Philippians 2 says,

 

In your relationships with one another,

have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death­ even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

 and gave him the name that is above every name,

 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

 

There are some complicated theological things going on in here. What does it mean that Christ emptied himself (a better translation than " made himself nothing ")? It seems to me that he empties himself of the prerogatives of deity. He gives up the advantages of his divine place, and takes on human likeness, which would have been something of a comedown for a member of the Trinity.  " Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. " What Paul is trying to do here is solve a problem, and we do not find out what the problem is until the end of the epistle. If you look at 4:2 , you find the question: " I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord .”

 

" Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who did not count equality with God as something to be greedily held on to but emptied himself, took on human nature in the form of a servant, and became obedient to death even death on a cross. " If Euodia and Syntyche will live out the values of Jesus in this case, the problem will be solved.

 

The issue here is, "Will we live the story?" And the story is one of humbling ourselves. All of a sudden that beautiful passage just becomes troubling, because Paul actually expects us to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives, which will involve humbling ourselves before one another.

By Bob Cowles 15 Oct, 2016


What does it take for marriages to be successful today? Families must work together in strengthening family life. Marriages may be made in heaven, as the popular saying goes, but their maintenance occurs in an earthly setting.

 

I.     THE NEED FOR STRENGTHENING FAMILIES

 

Let me share with you a strong biblical case for being a Christian in marriage and family life. I believe it counts to be a Christian in a marriage. What does the Scripture say is the case for an abundant life in a Christian family? The Scripture points out that when a person is a Christian in a family, he shares an abundant life, which offers many benefits.

 

II. WHAT FAMILIES CAN DO TO STRENGTHEN THEIR FAMILY

 

"Will our children have faith?" Or will they, like many of their peers, throw off their religious training the minute they are free from home and parents? Proverbs 19:18 says, "Chasten your son while there is hope." This leaves the impression that there may be a time when a parent can no longer mold the life and soul of his child.

 

Moses said, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them dili­gently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (Deut. 6:4-7).

 

In addition, a New Testament paragraph that offers direction on how to discuss God in the home is found in Ephesians: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruc­tion of the Lord" (6:4).

 

III. WHAT CHURCHES CAN DO TO STRENGTHEN THE FAMILY

 

The Christian life was, for the early Christians, a family matter. The regular worship services were often conducted in the familiar atmosphere of homes. The congregation might have consisted of only a few families. Christians practiced their faith in family units (Rom. 16:5-15). The church pro­vided a support system for struggling families.

 

We all need a group of people who genuinely care and a group of ministers who are called to help families. There's a name for that. We call it the church.

 

What is a Christian family? It is a community of believers where Jesus Christ makes all the difference.


By Bob Cowles 08 Oct, 2016

THE SECOND COMING

 

The popularity of "Left Behind" in its book and movie forms demands another look at what the Bible actually teaches about the Lord's second coming. The theology underlying "Left Behind" has been around a long time, expounded by popular evangelists who seek conversion by hysteria and by Hal Lindsey in his book The Late Great Planet Earth.  It lies back of the Y2K hysteria experienced at the approach of A.D. 2000. You may have seen the bumper sticker, " In case of the rapture, this car will be unoccupied ."

 

Jesus was explicit that no one except the Father, not even he or angels, knew when the day of the Son of man would come ( Matt 24:36 ). Jesus in John 14:3 spoke of coming again to take the disciples to himself. James 5:7-8 urges patience: "The coming of the Lord is at hand."

 

Rather than being on a date that could be calculated in advance, it would be " at an hour you do not expect ." Jesus’ illustrations are as the coming of the flood in the days of Noah (Matt 24: 38-39), as the coming of a thief (Matt 24:43), and as the unexpected return of a master who had been on a journey (Matt 24:45-51). The thief image was picked up by Paul (1 Thess 5:2). Paul used the unpredictability of the onset of childbirth for the impossibility of calculating the date of the coming of the Lord (1 Thess 5:3).

 

The number of times in the past that dates have been set for the Lord's coming, only to disappoint the credulous, should be warning enough in showing the unpredictability of such speculation. Date setters, when their date is wrong, only recalculate and set another date.

 

At Jesus’ ascension, the angels promised he would return as he had been seen going into heaven (Acts 1:11). The hope of the return burned brightly in the hearts of early Christians, expressing itself in the prayer Maranatha ("Our Lord come!"; 1 Cor 16:22). Titus 2:13 describes the Christian as awaiting the blessed hope.

By Bob Cowles 08 Oct, 2016

In John 4 Jesus is having this conversation with a Samaritan woman. "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." Okay, she raises a theological issue. Is the proper place of worship Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim? That's a Jew-Samaritan split. Jesus declared, "Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For they are the worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

 

In this theological debate he says, " If I have to choose between Jerusalem or Gerizim, I'll take Jerusalem ." The Jews have it right. The Samaritans have it wrong. But he says the question is quickly becoming passé. Why? Because the center of worship is no longer a place, it is a person. The center of Christian worship is standing right in front of her. And worship from this point for­ward will not be judged in the old ways, it will be judged by what it looks like in the light of Jesus.

 

SEEING THE TRUTH OF JESUS

In John 9 we have a story about Jesus healing a man born blind. Again you have the miracle and then you have lots of talk.

 

Now all this is important because when you come to John 20:30-31 John says he wrote the book "that you might believe." I think John is writing so that people will believe. He's this Son of God.

 

It seems to me a good deal of what John is doing is trying to get us to see things through the eyes of faith. And so in some places what you think you're seeing is not the whole story. What you think you're seeing is the death of the man Jesus but what you're really seeing is God glorifying his Son who, when he's lifted up, will draw all people unto him. 
By Bob Cowles 24 Sep, 2016

In 1979 the President of the United States con­vened the White House Conference on the Family. The purpose of the conference was to do something about the increasing instability of the family and provide some answers to the question, "What is happening to the fam­ily?" Religious leaders, social activists, and political fig­ures were asked to study the family and make recom­mendations for strengthening its structure and influence.

Those who attended quickly discovered that they could not agree on the most basic question: What is a family? Although most of the participants had grown up in families, their experiences had been so different that they could not agree on what families looked like. They agreed that the family is a "good thing," but could agree on little else.

What is a family? Is it that harmonious unit we have seen on the "Waltons," complete with three generations and lots of happiness? Is it also represented by the single parent who tries to combine making a living with the rearing of children? What about the married couple who has chosen to have no children in order to pursue their respective careers? Is it the couple that has chosen to live together without any binding commitments? All of those views of the family were represented at the White House Conference.

We have all heard the prediction that the family will become obsolete and unneeded, but I do not believe this. It may be true that almost half of today’s marriages end in divorce. But 76% of divorced people remarry, half of them within 3 years. The result is that we have "blended families," where the children of two separate marriages live together in one house. Most people do not stop living in a family unit for most of their lives.

Even those who try to live without a traditional family end up in relationships that look very much like a family. The question really is: What kind of family do you want? Are you satisfied with an arrangement whereby two or more people share the same address and go their separate ways? Do you want a family where each person is there only temporarily? Or do you want something more?


If you would like to know more about how to stregthen your family...please come worship with us on Sunday, October 16, 2016 at 10:45 am. We look forword to meeting you and learning about God's Word together.






By Bob Cowles 06 Sep, 2016

Sermon Focus : Peter writes to his readers to remind them of the hope God has given them through the resurrection of Jesus and to take courage from it (3). The living hope is further defined as an inheritance (4). God is using his power to guard Christians until they receive their inheritance (5).

Sermon Function : Christians of every generation can take courage because of this hope.

 

A newspaper did a follow-up story on some of the prisoners of war who had come back to their homes to resume their lives after captivities in North Vietnam, which had ranged from ten months to eight years. It is interesting to learn what happened to them since their return to this country in the spring of 1973. During the years that have passed since that return, what adjustments had been hardest to make? Had their values and life goals changed from what they had been before their experiences as POWs?

 

  The story that impressed me most was that of a colonel in the Air Force (Charlie Plumb). He flew 75 combat missions in Viet Nam. On his 75th he was shot down over Hanoi and spent six years in a prison camp. He spent 2,103 days in an 8' by 8' prison cell with no windows or anything to occupy his mind. He reflected on what had kept him going during that or­deal. He spoke of the solitude and terrible loneliness that he felt. “We were forced to spend so many hours and weeks and months and years with nothing to occupy our minds,” he said. How did he survive it? How did he manage to retain his sanity? He said thoughts of coming home to a good family and his faith in God kept him going while he was in exile in prison­. Thoughts of home and faith in God gave that man something to keep up his hope.   It is the same with the Christian and his thoughts of home.

 

      It is this fixed hope of heaven that has given Christians of every generation the courage they needed to carry on. In the text for today’s lesson, Peter is holding the promise of heaven before the weary eyes of his readers. We would be wise to make sure that thoughts of our heavenly home are in our minds at all times. How beautiful are the thoughts of home and Jesus! How strong they can make us when we are being pressed hard to yield our faith!

 

It is important for us to understand what hope is in the biblical sense of the word. Hope is defined as "desire, with the expectation of getting what is desired." Notice hope is not just desire; it also involves an expectation that you’ll get what you want. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 5:1-2 (NIV): “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” As Christians, we rejoice in hope.

 

There are times that life can become very difficult and we may think that things can’t possibly get any better. But I’m here to share with you this morning that, no matter how bad things get, there is hope in Jesus Christ.

 

Engaging the World with Hope

            The time has never called for more courage, faith, commitment, and hope in the world in which we live than today. The world needs the good news of Jesus Christ. The world is filled with lost people, and our role is taking the good new to them.

In “ Telling the Truth Fredrick Beakner describes a scene that unfolds on any given Sunday, in any given church almost anywhere. “The preacher mounts the steps to the pulpit. He looks out on the congregation and there they are. Everyone has his or her own problems do deal with. Everyone is listening. What will the preacher tell them?”

Brian Wilkerson in a sermon “ What the World Needs Now ” adds these words, “What words from the Bible can speak to us today where we are?” As we contemplate our issues there are others going through the same thing over and over again.

But it extends beyond the walls of our building. There is a crying need for hope, not only among our people, but also for people in the world. They need some expectation and joy in their life. Think about some of the people that you have crossed paths with over the last few weeks. Some have had problems and tragedies to deal with. Some are just about ready to give up hope.

There are people who are facing insurmountable problems and are wondering is there is any hope that can give some meaning or purpose to their life. Can God become more real to them instead of some distant thought? As we look around the world, we see the terrorism that threatens us. We wonder about the safety for ourselves and for our children in the future. We send our children off to school, and we know the drug culture that surrounds them. We are aware of the moral decline of our culture and the violence that is present even in our schools and streets.

We wonder as we open our Bibles and as we assemble on Sunday morning, “Is there a word of hope in a world like ours?”   In answer to the question, we would have to say the word “yes there is a word of hope.” Lewis Smedes saw a billboard that said “ Don’t give up hope .” In a city like L.A. you wonder how many thousands of people are on the brink of giving up hope.

Hope is that word that gives relief, strength, endurance, and courage to go forward. It is not just a word that provides motivation. It is a word that provides healing for the soul and purpose for life. There was some research that was done on 122 cardiac patients. These 122 men had their lives tracked for several years after their heart attack. They were evaluated with the degree of hopefulness that they possessed and the degree of pessimism that they were experiencing. When they examined the 122 men, they found of the 25 most pessimistic 21 died over the next eight years. They found of the 25 most optimistic only 6 of them died over the next eight years. The loss of hope increased their demise 300%. It predicted their deaths more accurately than their medical risks (high blood pressure, damage to the heart, cholesterol level). The state of their mind was a greater predictor of their death risks than their physical symptoms. John Ortburg recently said regarding these statistics, “ It would be better to eat Twinkies and have hope, than to eat broccoli and have despair .”

We all have to agree that hope is a very powerful thing. It can heal the soul. It can motivate a life. There are those who come to a preacher’s office and share their struggles and when they learn there is hope, they are better able to deal with what comes their way. God can be at work in your life. Things can be better than they are now. You need to commit yourself to a process of healing and help. When you let God be at work in your life, things can be different. People will get a lifted spirit, when they realize there is hope.

The early Christians needed hope too. That is a big part of what the first epistle of Peter was all about. Here were Christians about the year 63 A.D. in Asia Minor. They were far from Jerusalem where the church was first born. Christians were surround by a pagan culture and environment. They were removed about 30 years from Jesus’ ascension back to heaven. They were anticipating his return, but they were wondering if they were not in it for the long haul. Here is a group of Christians in the midst of opposition. Jews saw these Christians as heretics. Romans saw them as a threat. Peter writes this letter to scattered, beleaguered believers. They were struggling with their faith. They were experiencing opposition and suffering persecution. They are looking for a hopeful word that can carry them through the difficult times and help them be faithful to God.

As Peter begins to write to them, he begins with these words, “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3).   It is in the midst of this backdrop on a stage that could be filled with hopelessness that Peter begins with optimistic and hopeful words. Peter gives praise to God and he speaks of the mercy of God. Peter talks about a living hope that predominates in life and carries them in a relationship with God. As they first heard those words, they have wondered “praise” and “hope” in a world like ours. How can there be optimism? Has he read the paper lately? Has he seen the news? Has he not seen the insurmountable obstacles that we are all facing? Does he know what I am going through?

People in our world need real hope and that is what Peter is reminding them of. He is not talking about a vague wish or a distant desire. He is not thinking of hope in the sense of wistful, hopeful could it be? It is more than “I wish” or “I long for.” Biblical hope is always an expectation. It carries a sense of certainty. There is a sure thing for us and for our churches and for our community and world. Peter affirms loudly for them a living hope and that hope is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter’s word to them is about future. It is always a discouraging thing when we have lost our hope for the future. Many times we get overwhelmed with the problems of the present and stuck in the problems of the past. When we have lost our hope of the future, we have lost our will to go on and our capacity to see possibilities, to dream new dreams, and to see things on the new horizon. We have a calling to walk into the future with confidence to accomplish things for God that will truly make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.

What is it in the gospel that provides that kind of hopeful outlook on life? It can carry us, heal us, and motivate us. I want to highlight three things from 1 Peter 1 about this living hope.

 

I. The Future Is Bright. (1:1-3)

The first thing I want us to know about Peter’s affirmation is that the future is bright. It is bright because God is offering us new light. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a living hope. He talks about the new birth. One is often amazed as we see a congregation that is made up of people from all stages of life. There are those on the one hand that are at the end of life and there are those on the other hand there are welcoming new life into the world. We all know what happens to a family when a newborn is brought into the world. There is new life and hopefulness for the future. It lifts the spirits of everyone involved because a new birth has occurred. This new birth which comes to us when we become children of God is described in verse 2 when he says, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood…” (1 Peter 1:1-2). This new birth has come about a calling and eternal purpose from God. It was not our initiative. It came through his. It came about because of the sanctifying work of the Spirit to purify us and to cleanse us to a holy life and to a new way of life. We encounter a new way of living that changes us forever. We are obedient to God and submit ourselves to his Son Jesus Christ.

We have been given a confidence that we have been cleansed completely from our sins. Our new birth means new beginnings. It means being cleansed from the past and having a changed life and a transformation for the future. Peter knew what that was like as well as anybody. He had experienced the failures of denying the Christ three times in the critical hours before Jesus’ crucifixion. He has experienced the shame to what followed when Jesus went to the cross. It was only after Jesus had appeared and said, “ Peace be unto you ” and affirmed Peter in John 21 did Peter’s life become transformed. Jesus helped Peter to look into his soul and called him to follow him, to lead his sheep, and to lay down his life for his people just as Jesus as did. Jesus was affirming Peter and he transformed his life. This man who was so impulsive and so unstable becomes this powerful minister who writes this letter of hope to God’s elect in a strange land. They have been begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Peter knew the resurrection power that changed and transformed his life. He knew what Jesus’ coming back from the dead had done and his awareness of his relationship with God. He knew the resurrection power that Paul had described in Philippians 3 when Paul said I want to know Jesus and the power of his resurrection . He later on talked about his desire to participate in that resurrection from the dead but he is speaking of that transforming power of resurrection power that was of Christ and he knows it is not by his effort or his power. It comes only from the operative in his life. It was helping him become more than he is transforming him into the image surrender of his spirit to God’s Spirit.

What a joy it is to know that God can take our sins away as far as the east is from the west. Someone has said that we cannot rewrite history, but we can be released from it. Our message to the world is that God is more interested in their future than he is in their past. We too want to be a fellowship of hope, love, and forgiveness, healing for everything that life can bring against them. With all the guilt and sin, Jesus can cleanse, forgive, and give new beginning. He can help us be born again unto a living hope. He can also give us that changed life.

I wonder sometimes in our churches do we really believe in the power of God to change human lives. Do we really believe that God has the power to make a difference in the communities in which we live? Do we believe in the transforming power of the Gospel? Have you observed in your churches where lives have been touched and changed because there is a fellowship of people there who bear the life of Jesus within themselves? Are people drawn to find healing and hope because they see it in the lives of the people there? It is not by our effort. John Wartburger talks about spiritual transformation. “Significant transformation always involves training and not just trying. It involves both God and us. It is like trying to cross an ocean. Some people day after day try to become spiritually mature. That is like trying to take a rowboat across the ocean. It is exhausting and it is completely unsuccessful. Sometimes there is no power in our lives or power in our churches because we are trying to walk in our own strength and on our own power. It is not going to take us very far. Others have given up and have tried to depend solely on God’s grace. They are like drifters on a raft. They hang on and hope that God gets them there so they just drift aimlessly through life. Wartburger reminds us that neither trying nor drifting are effective in bringing about spiritual transformation. A better image is not the rowboat or the raft. It is the sailboat. If it moves at all is a gift of the wind. We cannot control the wind, but a good sailor knows where the wind is and adjusts the sails accordingly. Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likens to the wind in John 3 , we have a part in discerning the wind and knowing the direction we need to go. We adjust our sails in the direction in order to catch the wind that God provides. If the world is going to be hopeful, it is going to be through the power of Christ through his Holy Spirit working in us to draw people to himself and help people to experience the transformation that only he can give.

The future is bright when it is centered on the good news of the Gospel. He can help us to be born again unto a living hope in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

 

II. The Future Is Also Secure. (1:4-5)

            The future is also secure. In 1 Peter 1:4 Peter talks about, “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, 5) who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”  Peter talks about an inheritance and he says it is reserved for you. It is not going to fade away; it is not going to perish. Paul in Philippians 1 says, “ the God who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion .” If you continue to follow God, he will finish what you have begun. Your future can be secure because of the goodness of God.

 

Peter opens his first letter with these words: “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you …” ( 1 Peter 1:3-4, NIV).

 

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we begin to see that God has something better in mind for each of us. You may get sick and die in this life, but if you’re a faithful child of God, you won’t get sick and die in that life. You may have all sorts of hardships in this life, but you won’t have any of them in the next life. The treasures you cling so tightly to right now may get old and fade and rot away, but in the next life it won’t be that way, because we have hope. Hope that says, no matter what we have in this life, there’s something better that waits for us in the next life. One day you’ll be raised from the dead to live with God forever and ever. And the reason that we can have that hope is because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Peter says that we are kept by the power of God through faith. In Jude 24 “he is able to present us faultless before his throne.”   It is not because of our achievements or our own righteousness, but we are blameless because of his imputed righteousness. Jesus reminds us that as long as we are in his hand no one can snatch us from the Father. We can turn and walk away from him if we choose. As long as we are in Christ (not perfect but faithful) no one can snatch us from the Father’s hand. When there is a sense of security and hopefulness, it presents us with a sense of boldness. We know God will see us through and finish the work he has begun in us. God promises us the future is secure and the promises are bright.

 

III.       The Future Is Already (1:6-9)

 The future is already. As strange as they may sound that is what he says beginning in verse 6. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (7) have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed .” He says this is not a hope that doesn’t take into consideration the realities of life and the obstacles along the way or even the times of suffering that we will face. God is even at work in that Peter says. In verse 8 he says, “ Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, (9) for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”   I highlight that last phrase “ you are receiving the goal of your faith .” The process is already under way. This talk of heaven or hope is not just talk. It is not removed from the present and now. We don’t need hope for the future; we need hope for today to face our challenges. It is a message of good news to the world. This inheritance of which he speaks is not just an inheritance that will be ours, it is an inheritance that we can begin drawing right now. “The sense is that Christians now obtain by faith what they will only fully enter into at the end.” (Achtemeir)

 

What a difference that makes. It would make a difference if you see the financial inheritance you would receive one day. You knew that inheritance would be yours. It would make a difference in the way you would live your life in the present. It make a difference in your life if you knew that inheritance was not just down the road, but that you could begin drawing on it right away. The benefits and blessings of that inheritance become yours now. It would give you boldness as you planned your financial future. It would give you great generosity that you could do more for others. It would give you a great sense of freedom to know that it would be part of your life right now.

So it is with the followers of God. Peter speaks to them in the face of suffering. He says we can have joy. He affirms the power of peace in our lives. He affirms the power of God to carry us in his transforming power. He talks about the wisdom and calling we have received from God. All of that is our inheritance now. It is no wonder that they could be hopeful about the future. There is a sense in which the future is already here.

 

In the words of John the Baptist as he came preparing the way for the Lord said, “ Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand .” Jesus came speaking that same message. The rule and reign of God was breaking into history and changing lives. He came to reverse the work that Satan accomplished in the world. That breaking into the kingdom of God is still actively present in the world and in the people of God as they yield themselves to him.

The kingdom of God is both now and not yet. It is a future reality in its consummation, but it is a present reality in that God is present through his Spirit in ruling and reigning among his people. In that sense the future is already and we can sing the song “Blessed Assurance Jesus Is Mine Oh What A Foretaste of Glory Devine.”   We are not marking time in anticipation of something that cannot be ours until then. It is already breaking into our lives. This is the message of the hopeful.

Peter knew that if his readers could only look beyond the circumstances of the moment to the eternal things of God, they would find the strength to hang on. More than that, he knew that they could find reason to rejoice and sing.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweigh them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). See: 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 8:18.

The trials that come to us during the course of a lifetime are from various sources. There are tragic accidents, lingering illnesses, physical handicaps, business failures, and countless others. God does not allow these things in human experience for the purpose of hurting his creatures; he allows them for the sake of testing our moral and spiritual quality. Every man or woman is regarded as unproved before God, and the trials of life come to put faith to the test. These trials are not evil in themselves, and God is not blameworthy for allowing them. To the contrary, as with the passing of gold through a refiner’s fire, these challenges allow the purity of one’s faith to be made evident. The Christian who is faithful to God through some period of intense testing brings praise, honor, and glory to the Father; the outcome to himself is the salvation of his soul.

One said we need more of a VCR mentality. He explained what a great sports fan he was. When he missed some of his sporting events, he would videotape them. He said that he would rewind to the end of the game so he could see who won. If his team won, he would go back to see the whole game. He said that by knowing the outcome, no matter how bad things seem, he would not have to worry about it because he would already know the end of the story. You know what hope is for us. It is hope that reaches backward from the future and gives us strength today. It fills us with hope because we see it through the eyes of the kingdom of God.

What would it be like if we as a church could have this hope for the future? How would it change our ministry, leaders, teaching, preaching, and planning for the future? How would God use us in powerful ways? How would we engage the world, if we did with more hope and power of God?

 

Application:

I want to move from the realm of the hopeful to the realm of reality. Where are we today? Flavil Yeakley on Church Growth (1980-2000) 13,000 churches. We have been losing ground with respect to the world’s population. Lyle Schaller says to keep up with the population growth the church needs to add 1% per year. Over two decades we need to add 2,862 new churches. We have added 289. We need to plant new churches.

Of the 400,000 churches in the U.S. 62% are declining; 21 % are growing less than the national average; 17% are growing above the national average. Take all the unchurched people in America, they would the 9th most populated nation on the earth. We are part of aging churches. We have planted 289 churches in 20 years. That is a sign that most of our churches are aging churches. Most churches are 40 years old most designed to reach a different generation. Fewer Americans are connecting with our existing churches. People and culture are changing.

What does this have to do with engaging the world with hopefulness? If that hopeful spirit could be in us, and believe that same spirit that began the church could be reproduced again we could begin to show the world there is hope. Get beyond self-preservation and begin to engage the world with hope.

 

Drumbeat of Love by Lloyd Oglebee is a book on the Book of Acts. He did graduate studies in Scotland. He sailed on the Queen Mary from New York to South Hampton. He talked about the Queen Mary, the crew, and recaptured the ship’s history. He compared the ship to the church. Years later the ship was a museum piece. The motor was removed. It had become a hotel. Oglebee said the ship can no longer do what it was designed to do – to sail the high seas. The vessel had become a monument to past glories. “ The greatest ship that had sailed the seas has now become the greatest ship to come and sea .” One woman made a statement that was intended to be a compliment about the church where Oglebee preached, “ I have waited for years to visit this church to see the things that used to happen here .” He said, “ The memorable church that was sent to sea is now the church to come and see .” Oglebee said that churches are not to become museums but become like ships that need to stay at sea .

 

Kingdom Come by John Mark Hicks talked about James Harding and David Lipscomb . From 1888-1910 due to the influence of people like James A. Harding, Nashville went from 5 churches to 50 churches. That is our heritage. We need to plant new churches to reach new people in new places. We need to renew the hopeful spirit of our existing congregations and help them sail the high seas all over again. We need to reach the millions of lost souls. Think beyond your local church with a hopeful spirit.   The kingdom of power is within us. How are we going to plant another 13,000 over the next decades?

If we engage the world as the hopeful, we will have enough confidence in Christ to see what God can do through us to have a profound impact in taking the gospel of Christ to new places and to new people.

 

King George the VI spoke Parliament on New Years Eve in a time when their future was uncertain (he had cancer but did not know it and died the next year). He made this statement, “ I said to the man at the gate of the year give me a life that I might walk safely into the unknown .” I think we long to walk safely unto the unknown. If we engage the world as the hopeful we don’t have to know all or see all or have all the strategies. We need to go out into the world and join God in kingdom business. We need to go forth as the hopeful. God calls us to engage the world with hope. “Go forth to love and serve.”

 

Conclusion

A few years ago the psychology department of Duke University carried on an interesting experiment. They wanted to see how long rats could swim. And so, in one container they placed a rat for which there was no possibility of escape. He swam a few moments and then ducked his head to drown. In the other container they made the hope of escape possible for the rat. The rat swam for several hours before finally drowning. The conclusion of the experiment was just the opposite of our common motto. We usually say, “ As long as there is life, there is hope .” The Duke experiment proved, “ As long as there is hope, there is life .”

 

You see, without Christ, life is a hopeless end. But with him, life is an endless hope. I don’t know all the problems you may have in your life, but I do know the one who has the answers.

 

Jean-Paul Sartre was a famous atheist who died in Paris in 1980. It is said, though, that a little over a month before he died, he would say to himself, "I know I shall die in hope ." Then in sadness, he would add these words: “ But hope needs a foundation .”

 

This morning, our hope as Christians has a foundation – it is built on the trustworthiness of God’s Word. It is built on the love of God that was manifested on the cross. And it is built on the knowledge that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead some 2,000 years ago.

 

There’s not a reason in the world why anyone should go home today without that hope that God provides.      

 

Thoughts of home were what kept an imprisoned man alive and sane during his ordeal of eight years in a prison camp. Thoughts of their heavenly home kept many a Chris­tian of the first century strong in the face of wild animals and cruel men. These same thoughts in your heart will see you through your darkest hours.

The Bible calls us to view life from the end, to take what we might call “the eternal perspective” on things. A woman in great pain endures it triumphantly, for she is looking to the birth of her child. A scientist persists day after day through failed experiments, for he is looking for a cure for leukemia. The Word of God tries to get us to see things this way — pain overshadowed by a great out­come, frustrations erased by a fuller understanding.

In every Christian’s life there will inevitably come times when the Lord’s promise to come again and receive his people unto himself in heaven will have to carry him through some great difficulty. Faith reaches out for strength, and it is hope that gives something to hold on to.

 

Maybe there is someone in the audience whose hope has been damaged? Maybe there is someone who needs to begin his or her life as a Christian?   Be born again unto a living hope.

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