I Believe In Prayer

Praying for Branch County and Beyond

Archive for the month “February, 2014”

Living Hope

1 John 3:1-3

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Our Initiative “Bold Faith III – Living Hope” comes to an end, but living hope does not! We look forward to what God is going to do in us and through us! We look forward to the fulfillment of all the promises we have meditated upon this month. Today’s promise…

 But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:2

 What a great hope this is! Our hope of  truly being like Christ will one day be fulfilled. We will have pure thoughts, pure motives, pure words, and pure actions. How glorious that day will be.

 In the meantime, are you allowing the Lord to purify you? You must commit yourself to a pattern of thinking and living that is godly. Today, choose to stay away from things that cause your thinking patterns to be ungodly.  Even if you are in an environment that is foul, insert into your mind the promises that will help your thoughts, words, and actions to be pure.  A day is coming when everything about you will be pure, as He is pure. We have this living hope.

 The new front loading washing machines have technology in them. It is no longer the simple back and forth motion of the previous generation of washers. The multiple motions are used to more effectively purify, to get the dirt out!  The multiple promises from God combined with a humble repentant heart and applied to our ‘light and momentary troubles’ will stir our minds to produce in us a purity that makes us Christlike. 

 We have this living hope.  It is a sure thing.

 Also, our ‘Living Hope’ gives us strength for the most trying circumstances. The hope found in many of the negro spirituals came from a hope in God that was produced through the pressures of injustice.  He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, Beams Of Heaven, In Bright Mansion’s Above, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and so many more look forward to the surety of the promises of God’s Word. Our hope gives us strength.

 Therefore, hope is not simply a wish… it is a living hope in the living God.

 “…we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”



Know The Hope

Ephesians 1:18

 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…

It is fun to watch the children play soccer during those nice weather months of the year! They kick the ball up and down the field and have such a good time kicking the ball toward the goal. The fans cry out, “Score a goal!” The coach yells, “that way… toward the goal!!” It is a passionate cry out to encourage the players to succeed. And when they succeed there is great joy!

 How do you pray for the followers of Christ that you know? Have you prayed with similar urgency that fans at a soccer game do?

 In Ephesians, Paul is praying this way. Paul is praying a very big and deep prayer for the Ephesian believers, that they may know the hope!  He prays, “I want you to see it! Know the hope to which God as called you! Know your glorious inheritance! Know the great power!”

 This living hope that God has given us is abundantly fruitful. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts. We must overflow with hope! This is what makes Christians different. Christians are hopeful people in a desperate hopeless world.

 Today, set a goal to pray like Paul did.  Let’s pray for the followers of Jesus Christ to know the hope. Let’s ask over and over because we really want the church to succeed. We want to see the spiritually dead raised to new life! We want the spiritually blind to be able to see. We want the spiritually imprisoned to experience the wonderful freedom that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let’s not stop asking God to fill us up to overflowing with the living hope that has the spiritual power “…to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”


A Real-live Living Hope

1 Peter 1:13

Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (Common English Bible)

 Have you ever been in a 4-H club or ever participated in a 4-H county fair? It’s good to see that those fairs and the 4-H movement are still prominent here in our locality, even though many people in our society today do not know what 4-H is, much less take part in it.

 You may remember that the four “h” letters stand for something, namely, head, hands, heart, and health. The four of these essentially embody the make-up of the total person who is living out life constructively and fruitfully, which can be regarded as the goal of 4-H.

 These themes and that concept can be seen in this verse as well, even as Peter crystallizes in these few words a concise formulation and objective of the total Christian life.

 At the center of this verse and at the center of our lives is hope, something Peter defined in the preceding verses, with a connection to that summary in the word “Therefore” at the beginning of this verse. The emphasis here is to join the first twelve verses of this chapter with the last thirteen, communicating the fact of faith that we have been born to a living hope. Therefore, Peter says, hope, and live it out. The word hope is another “h” word, and goes along with the word “heart” from 4-H. Now, certainly, each of these words has a spiritual context, but what they are referring to should not be detached from life in general. In fact, that’s the point of Peter’s letters in the New Testament, as well as the basis of this Bold Faith “Living Hope” emphasis. So, putting that hope into practice is what is called for in our lives, and this verse, in one broad stroke, shows us how. Again, the remaining three “h” words from 4-H—head, hands, and health—are helpful and instructive as we examine this verse.

Peter was clear that our heads need to be in it, as we live out this hope and walk with the Lord. In the CEB translation he says that we need to be “thinking clearly,” which basically means to use your head. Other variations translate this as being sober and disciplining ourselves, all of which involves clear thinking. Obviously there is a mental dynamic to the Christian life, lived out in its totality, and Peter wants us to remember that. It is the learning component and the discipling part of the discipline we need, in all the disciplines of thought and knowledge that inform our faith.

The tie to the hands of 4-H can be seen in the reference to action in this verse. Be ready for action, Peter says, distinctly implying that there is a physical and working dimension in living out the hope we have as Christians. That hope-filled and hopeful life is not just and not only spiritual (heart) and mental (head), but also needs to be physically tangible, expressed perhaps most noticeably in works and deeds that serve others through concrete acts, with our hands, our feet and with every part of being the Body of Christ.

That Christian service relates to the last of the 4-H words, i.e., health. The well-being of the world, one individual at a time, needs to be the goal of every whole and holy Christian living in Christ’s hope, both as an individual and in community. That’s when God’s Kingdom comes, as we say and pray, and that’s when Christ’s grace is revealed in and through us. Peter says as much at the end of this verse, promising that gift of grace to be brought to us when Jesus is revealed. Now, some may think this is just a “pie-in-the-sky” sort of promise, with a grace only to be experienced when Jesus returns. Yet Jesus tells us in his last words of teaching in Matthew 25 that he will be revealed in the “least of these” around us. Surely the grace of God comes to us and to all, mysteriously but mightily, each and every time we reach out, in Christ, to these, the least, who are Jesus revealed in reality. Our response to them—to Jesus—is  the social aspect of our faith put into practice, bringing health and wholeness to the world, as we use our heads mentally and our hands physically to live out the hope in our hearts gracefully, just as a thorough 4-H person might do.

So, as The Message version puts this verse, “roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, [and] be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives.” When that happens, it’s a real-live living hope!


Hope and Restoration

John 21:15-17

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

  Have you ever purchased an old item that you intended to restore? It can be rewarding to take something old and clean it, fix it and restore it to its original condition and purpose.

There are some things to keep in mind whenever you make such a purchase:

• Understand its present condition

• See its potential value, if restored

• Have hope that it can be restored and returned to its original purpose

God has created us in his image, and maybe that is why we sometimes see potential in items that have long ago lost their glitter and function. God knows the full potential of people, and the greatest proof of this is Jesus Christ.  God provided his son, Jesus, as the catalyst to restore us to our original condition with Him.

In today’s passage, Peter is the object of Jesus’ restoration. Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times, and his relationship with Jesus needed repairing.

Hope is also present in today’s passage. Peter’s hope is on display a few verses earlier when he jumps out of the boat and swims to the man who had led them to a miraculous catch of fish. Peter HOPED this man was Jesus, and he made for the shore to find out for sure.

 Jesus’ hope is also on display simply because he is present. God is the “God of hope,” and Jesus is God in the flesh. So there was Jesus, “hope-incarnate,” cooking fish over the coals.

• Jesus knew Peter’s present condition – broken and bewildered.

• Jesus knew Peter’s potential – to become a disciple-maker.

• Jesus embodied the hope which made restoration possible, and he restores Peter with three simple words, ‘Feed my sheep.’

Jesus is able to restore you too.  Come to Him. Understand your value through His eyes. Rush to him and reclaim your purpose of making disciples. Be restored through this Living Hope—Jesus Christ.


The Fruit of Hope

Romans 5:5

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

In working with youth, it’s good to ask the Lord, “What would you have me teach your children this week?” Should it be a message of abstinence, opportunities to allow the Lord to build Godly character, or perhaps that you need to treat your body as a temple of the Lord?

 As a youth pastor, I have in recent months experienced the horror of lost hope.

 There were five funerals in a row for suicide and accidental overdose victims. The first was a 43-year-old nephew.  Then God called me to serve a family that suffered the loss of their mother to suicide, and during the next several weeks there were three more separate incidents in which youth chose a terrible, improper and permanent solution to temporary problems. 

 More than ever, Christians need to be purveyors of hope!

Each life ended way too soon. Each one had families that loved them, each one had a bright future ahead of them, if they could have only taken hold of the Living Hope that Jesus Christ offers. People can make it through anything in this world with hope in Christ.

 All of these families had broken hearts, broken dreams and loss of hope.  However, with seeds of Living Hope that God gave us through His son, Jesus Christ, the gap the world creates with despair can be filled with hope.

 These are extreme cases of losing hope.  Branch County lost more than a dozen lives unnecessarily during the second half of 2013. It is important to allow the Lord to give us the sensitivity that will facilitate healing.

 The “Fruit of Hope” goes much deeper than memorizing verses. It’s how people can choose LIFE over death, it’s what Christ offers us when we keep our eyes on Him and share His message with everyone we can. Hope produces fruit by seeds planted by Christ in our hearts, which multiply when one is led to find the opportunity to be a blessing to others.

 So, in these times of rampant social media and constant impersonal communication, people need to re-discover how to communicate with others, with sensitivity.

 Find ways to help plant seeds of Hope every day. People should stop and listen, truly listen to others, with the heart of Christ. They may do this through social media but will preferably do this person to person. Christians need to help plant seeds of hope. Jesus Christ did not come to build churches, He came to build relationships that would bear fruit and sustain hope.


Hope Tested

2 Corinthians 1:9-11

Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thankson our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

How do we respond when tested beyond all hope? Have you felt unable to go any further? Have you thought death would be a better option? The Apostle Paul did. He and his companions faced “great pressure far beyond our ability to endure.” They “despaired even of life” and in their “hearts felt the sentence of death.”

 Paul shows us how to respond and gain hope.

 Respond with PRAISE to the “God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Cor. 1: 2-4). We are comforted knowing God is with us, able to deliver us from any situation. “The Lord will go before you; the God of Israel will be your rear guard” (Is. 52:12). Throughout scripture God delivers his people time and time again without fail. One example was the great distress of Bethlehem during the nativity. God was not surprised by Herod’s wrath.  He spoke of it 500 years before it happened. We can set our hope on God who will continue to deliver us, his children whom he loves. He is not surprised by anything we face nor incapable of doing anything about it.  Nothing is impossible for God.

 Respond with INNER STRENGTH. “If you are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation… which produces in you patient endurance…” (2 Cor. 1:6).  God is more interested in who we are becoming than what we face. God wants His light to shine out of darkness. “He made his light shine in our hearts” (2 Cor. 4:6) so we can be a light in dark times. We have this great treasure in frail and imperfect bodies “to show this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Then we can say with great hope “We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed: perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9).  When distressed, “it is for your comfort” (2 Cor. 1:6). This all surpassing power is from God. That is why he sent us a great Comforter who will guide us, dwell within us, and give us peace, thus enabling us to face dark times. The hope of God comes more often from within than from without.

 Respond by giving COMFORT to others “through Christ our comfort overflows” (2 Cor. 1:5). If we are suffering, many around us are also suffering.  We help them by facing the same trials and having the comfort of Christ overflow to them. We can only give what we receive. The God of all comfort wants to overflow us with the comfort of Christ and with it, comfort those around us.


What Kind Of Boss Do You Have?

Romans 15:3-4

 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

Doing a great job on something that you have really poured your heart into is one of the best feelings on earth.  Even better than that, though, is when someone whose opinion you really care about notices chat a good job you did and sincerely compliments you on it. On the other hand, if that person insults your work, or simply overlooks it, your day can be ruined.  No matter what you do with your time, having someone in charge letting you know that you are valued can make your work a fulfilling part of your life. If that same person is always putting you down and insulting you, it can make the same job a dreaded nightmare.  

 No matter chat line of work you are in, whether you are still going to school or retired, God has placed you there and he expects you to do a great job. He even made sure to give you instructions and encouragements. Did you read them? Imagine spending every day of your life with God giving you encouragement, telling you that He loves you and wants to help you do a great job. That’s what God wants for you; it’s why He gave you the Bible. He wants you to know that He loves you, and He values your life even more than His own. He wants you to know that because of Jesus, you have eternal life. Reading the Bible can turn a bad day into a good one. Why not take the time to be encouraged for today?


Living Hope

Romans 5:1-5

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 boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 133 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 133 points, you get in.”

 “Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 53 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.” “That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!” “Three points?” he says.  “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.” “Terrific!” says St. Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.” “One point? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.” “Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says. TWO POINTS!!” the man cries, “At this rate the only cay I get into heaven is by the grace of God!” “Come on in!”

 The Apostle Paul joyfully writes to the Romans that grace is the only way to salvation. We have a habit of trying to impress God, by who we are and what we have done. Paul is encouraging the Christians that we should be impressed by who God is and for what He has done.  Praise God that the basis for our Hope doesn’t lie in our own perfection or righteousness. It is a good thing that it doesn’t because we could all be guilty before our Holy God.

 God has been so kind to declare us as righteous through faith.  I know some days we don’t feel so righteous. Righteousness is not in the mind of man, it is in the mind of God. We should rejoice in the fact that we have a peace because of the relationship He is willing to have with us. We should embrace and enjoy it. It wasn’t easy being a Christian in Rome because of the pressures and persecutions. Our hope can be clouded by dark clouds of sufferings, but remember that we have with the Hope that we now have; we can face these sufferings in a different cay. God will not disappoint us, and because of that, our sufferings can even increase our hope. Our Hope is certain because it is grounded upon the reality of the love of God.

M. R.

Test of Hope Sermons from 2-16-14

Jeff Bream – Northview Christian Church



Shane Looper – Lockwood Community Church



Jim Erwin – Bethel-Gilead Community Church


Test Of Hope

Romans 4:18-21

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

A few years ago a major news network from the country of Nicaragua reported on a story that some could call a miracle.

The country was experiencing large amounts of rainfall that was causing deadly mudslides. Frequently, the debris from the slides ended up in overflowing rivers and eventually carried into the Pacific Ocean. During one instance, a lady was caught up in a mudslide and swept into the river. She managed to hang onto a large tree that kept her afloat. She traveled downriver for many days with no food. On the seventh day, the river emptied into the ocean and the ocean current begun to pull her out to sea. Just then she was spotted by a ship and taken aboard. Even though she was exhausted, starved, dehydrated and almost dead, she told reporters, “I never gave up hope. I knew God would save me.”

 Many would say that she survived beyond hope, when in fact she survived because of hope. The lady held on day after day because of the strong faith she had that God would save her. She had no doubts. Her faith gave her the strength she needed to cling to that tree, cling to life. And then on the seventh day God lifted her from an impending watery grave to the safety of dry ground.

 God’s promise to save us is fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ. Trusting in God and placing faith in Jesus saves us from spiritual death, making available eternal life with God. This amazing gift brings great hope and hope provides us daily strength to overcome our struggles and tribulations, until our salvation is made complete.


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