Mishawn Gudipati • September 09, 2021
Many of you may personally know, and others may have personally observed while in the park this summer, my intense dislike of bees. Don’t get me wrong I value the purpose of bees on this earth, the role they play in pollinating, or their importance in the food chain, but I do not value their presence in my hair, or when they encircle my person, or their insistent desire to share my meal when I'm eating outside. I am the one who disregards all logic as my brain shuts down to flee any situation where I am anticipating their insistent presence and potential threat. Fear colors my judgment in those moments and it recently drove me to attempt to get out of a moving vehicle that I was driving in reverse! Not logical, not my finest moment, and truly embarrassing.
A few Sundays back we looked at Genesis 12, in all of its entirety, while in the park. We see “The Call of Abram” as God invites him to pick up everything and head on to a place he did not know. In addition to the invitation was the promise that not only would God bless Abram, but would use Abram to bless those around him. I would venture to say, without personally knowing Abram, that this was a significant and life-changing event. I would also like to assume that he was most likely never the same after encountering God’s invitation and promise, but as we head farther down into the chapter we see famine and uncertainty throw a curveball into Abram’s faith journey.
Stress from the external pressures (severe famine) and anticipation of the unknown (would he be killed because of his beautiful wife?!?) seem to have impaired Abram’s memory of God’s invitation and promise. I think all of us can relate to Abram in his experience of fear. That is what fear does. It neurologically inhibits our brain’s ability to act rationally and moves us into survival mode. No amount of reason or logic will be accepted by any human when their brain switches gears into this mode. This is where faith comes in. Faith is the act of trusting God. I believe true trust leads us to true rest and true peace. It says, “God I believe you are able, reliable, do what you say, and are strong enough.” It’s out of this place of trust, dependence, and connection that our brains learn to overcome the experience of fear and all its related associates (doubt, anxiety, insecurity, etc.). It moves us into a place of declaring, believing, and remembering. How do we practically apply this as we navigate our own faith journeys? Practically speaking, full-body worship is our strongest method as followers of Jesus. It not only provides the oxygen and movement to get blood flow back to our brain, but it also throws in the element of recounting and reminding ourselves of who God is and who we are in His care. At times it might seem like succumbing to fear is a failure and highlights our lack of faith or worth in living out God’s call on our lives, but we can see from Abram’s story that that doesn’t line up with God’s heart towards us. Abram made many mistakes in his humanness and he still made it into the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) and was even known for his faith; mistakes and all!
Where are the places in your life presently where stress from external pressures or the anticipation of the unknown are impairing your ability to receive the invitation of God for your life and the promises He has for you? Are there any places where you feel you’ve failed in your trust of God or don’t trust His heart and intentions? Take some time this week to sing, dance, pace, shout over those places, believing, declaring, and agreeing with all that God has said, remembering what He has done, and looking to the one who can move mountains and raise the dead.
Lastly, we weren’t meant to walk this journey alone, who is someone you can invite into this space to pray and believe with you?
Learning to keep walking in faith with you,
Sam Snyder • August 31, 2021
"I hope so!" How many times do we say that in a day? We all have hopes and expectations for every day and for the future. Sometimes what we hope for lets us down or disappoints us. There are things that we look forward to that just aren't as good as we remembered or as cool as what we hoped for. Some of those for me are the Little Debbie oatmeal cookies; I always think that they're going to taste good (like I remember them) and I'm always disappointed because they're nothing like I remember. That's disappointing.
There are also things that we look forward to that we can think will make us happy, but then when those things come we can find ourselves unfulfilled and looking forward to the next thing. Right now there are situations in the world that feel hopeless: Covid and Afghanistan come to mind right away. Personally, you may be facing sickness, loss of loved ones, work, or financial difficulties. We can despair if we are in those hopeless situations or when dwell on hopeless situations that others are in or that are happening around the world. We can despair and stop waiting/hoping for God to move when things we've put our hope in have let us down. How can we have hope in a hopeless world?
Our Missional Community gathering last Wednesday was an "UP" night and Joel broke us up into 1 Spanish and 3 English groups while the youth broke out to have their Youth group time. Each of our groups had a different Psalm to meditate on and ours was Psalm 130. It was a great discussion with new and old friends and I was left thinking about what we long for. The Psalmist said that he waited for God "more than the watchman waits for the morning," which pretty much sums up what hope feels like. That's a lot of waiting expectantly! He concludes by saying that his hope and trust is in God.
We had an interesting observation on the similarity in Hebrew between the ideas of waiting and hope, which means to wait with expectation...almost like a server looks attentively towards those they are serving...which we call "waiting on tables." Anyway, in Spanish "wait" is "espera" and "hope" is "esperanza" while desperate or hopelessness are "desesperado" and "desesperacion." All having to do with that the connection between waiting and hope. Proverbs 13:12 makes this connection well when it says: "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
As I went to bed that night thinking about these connections I had all of these different passages coming to mind that talk about hope and the uniqueness of the Christian hope from the many other hopes of this world. Our hope is in Jesus and what He has done, is doing, and will do!
Hebrews 6:19 says that "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain..." We can anchor the hope of our very soul in the very center of the presence of God; the Holy of Holies!
Hebrews 10:23-25 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
+ We had this as a theme verse last year and it will be true every year until Jesus returns! We're called to hold firmly to our hope, the one we've put our hope in, and to those other hopeful believers whom we are sharing life with to live out this "blessed hope."
Romans 5:5 tells us that this "...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."
There are many things in life that are disappointing and can be despairing, but when our hope is in God all day long (Psalm 25:5) we will not be put to shame and we will not be disappointed! Putting our eyes on Jesus and making Him the SOURCE and the OBJECT of our Hope will give us stability in a shaken world of hopelessness and despair. WE need this Hope and the world needs us to have this hope to share with them now more than ever before in our lives. Here are three opportunities to be filled with hope and to share hope with others:
1. This Saturday, September 4th, we will be gathering at the State Capitol Grounds for a time of Celebrating the Nations. This will be a powerful, hope-filled, and Spirit-filled time together that would be a great place to go if you or people you know are in the midst of hopelessness...Pray about who to invite who has not found the hope that we have in Jesus! Matthew 12:21 promises that JESUS is the one in whom the nations can place their hope!
2. It is the Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with Hope! It's in the presence of God together with the people of God that we are filled with faith and hope to live for God's purposes together. I want to invite you to join us on Saturday, September 11th for the Holy Spirit Weekend as we not only learn more about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does, but press into the presence of God to be filled with the presence, peace, and power of God that fills us with the love of God.
3. This Fall through Spring we will be exploring the book of Hebrews on Sundays and in it we will find reasons for our faith and hope as we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and discover more ancient reasons for our faith and hope together. I'm excited to journey together through this powerful letter that is one of my favorite books of the Bible!
I HOPE to see you soon!
Jonas Cortes • August 20, 2021
Whenever I read in Hebrews that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, it inevitably comes to mind that old argument I have heard before which says: That the God of the Old Testament is far from us, authoritative and “mean” while the God seen in the New Testament is all-loving and merciful and near us. Is this assumption true? Not at all.
The more we explore the book of Genesis, the easier it becomes to see that the loving and merciful God that longs for close communication with all humanity has been there all along. We tend to believe that Adam was the last person to have direct communion with God and after the fall, God disconnected the line until Jesus came, but we see God after the fall approaching Cain even in the midst of his rebellion.
As a kid, hearing Bible stories on Sunday school, I always assumed that when Noah came out of the ark, God made a covenant only with him, but we can read in Genesis 9:1 “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them…” also on verse 8 “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him…” God’s intention was to continue in direct contact with everyone after the flood and one way or another, that connection got lost once again.
When God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, He wanted a nation of priests where everyone could approach His presence and speak to Him directly. Instead, in Exodus 20 when the people of Israel heard God’s voice for themselves, they trembled in fear and said to Moses “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
A relationship with God is unlike any other relationship. There is something so majestic and glorious about Him that people tremble in fear. Maybe it is the awareness of being in the presence of the one who sees it all, and knows every intention of our hearts. The temptation of establishing separation between God and us is constant.
Throughout the Bible we see this pattern that can be reflected in us today. It is a tendency to compartmentalize our relationship with God into small bite sizes we can handle, keeping the relationship formal, non-intrusive or confined to the church building or the Sunday Service time. Maybe we are limiting the relationship by seeking for others to represent us before God, maybe a pastor, an elder, a group leader, a parent or just that other Christian that’s been at it for longer than me.
God has not changed. His invitation for you is personal and intimate. Yes, he indeed calls us to relationship and communion with one another where He brings His blessing as we dwell in unity with believers. Even so, let us remember that He calls you and me to pursue Him for ourselves. Hebrews 4:16 invites us: “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.”
You do not need a representative to go to God on your behalf. Jesus has already opened the way through His sacrifice so that you may enter God’s presence not with shame, guilt, or duty but with confidence in the relationship God desires for you to have with Himself. He longs to directly commune with you and give you grace, mercy, and every spiritual blessing. Let us talk with Him.