Week 24 June 10 - 16, 2018

If there is one thing our parched world thirsts for the most, it is hope.

As prominent pastor Johnny Hunt once said, “We can live 40 days without food, 4 days without water, and 4 minutes without oxygen, but I have found it is impossible to live four seconds without hope.”

We need hope because sin has introduced pain, disease, death, and separation into our lives at every corner. The harsh reality of our universe is that we are left searching for the tiniest ray of light as we are pulled further and further by the undertow into a massive sea of darkness.

This is why the Scriptures call all Christians to bear the hallmark of hope as we reflect our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

A hallmark is simply a distinctive feature that personifies someone’s true purpose and plan. As believers, we are called to carry the hallmark of hope because our purpose is to represent Christ as the light of the world, and our plan is to share the gospel of salvation and shine Christ’s light in the direction of those who are still wallowing underneath the waves.

Paul reminds us of our calling to bear the hallmark of hope in Romans 15:13 when he states, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Therefore, if we are called to abound in reflecting the hallmark of hope as we serve the God of hope, what specific places must we find our hope in? A closer look at Scripture reveals five primary areas where we can find a true and lasting hope, including God’s… (1) unwavering truth, (2) abiding presence, (3) transforming power, (4) steadfast love, and (5) eternal plan.

First, we can abound in the hope of God’s unwavering truth. The Bible continues to be the definitive source of separating fact from fiction, and that is why so many biblical writers repeat phrases like, “I hope in your word” (Psalm 119:81, 114) or “…in his word I hope” (Psalm 130:5). Before Paul commissions believers to abound in hope in Romans 15:13, a few words earlier in verse 4 he also reminds everyone that God gave us His Word so that “through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Second, we can abound in the hope of God’s abiding presence. The greatest gift that God could ever give us is more of Himself. He is the source of all life, joy, and pleasure (Psalm 16:11), and we are called throughout the Bible to hope in His presence and not just His blessings (Psalm 39:7, Psalm 42:11, Lamentations 3:24).

Third, we can abound in the hope of God’s transforming power. This power can bring true and lasting change to both our situation (Psalm 34:17-18, Psalm 146:5, Hebrews 13:6) and to our soul (Galatians 5:5, 1 Peter 1:3, 1 John 3:2-3). We know we don’t have the power within to completely transform ourselves, so we need to have hope that our transformation source comes from above.

Fourth, we can abound in the hope of God’s steadfast love. His love is a sacrificial commitment to our greatest good for His greatest glory. God searches the entire earth for those who will find hope in His unsurpassed love for them (Psalm 33:18-22, Psalm 147:11, Lamentations 3:21-23), and we can rejoice that this love gives us a reason to hope in all things connected to it (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

Fifth and finally, we can abound in the hope of God’s eternal plan. This plan includes hoping in God’s promise of eternal redemption from sin (Psalm 130:7, Proverbs 23:18, Acts 26:6-8, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, Titus 1:1-2) and eternal rewards for obedience (1 Corinthians 2:9, Ephesians 1:18, 1 Timothy 6:17).

So, as we consider these five primary areas of hope we must remember that our calling to abound in hope is not only a command that comes from God, but it is always a true reality that is deeply rooted in God. And, as Paul proclaims in Romans 5:5, we can rest assured in this calling because “…hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

The Hallmark of Hope

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Shaped by Our Self-Control

Although all fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 represent key components of Christian living, self-control is the linchpin that holds all the other fruits together. As Proverbs 25:28 states, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” This doesn’t mean that we can live the Christian life in our own strength and wisdom, but it does mean that through intentional planning and fervent prayer we need to make conscious decisions each day to glorify God with the resources He has given us to serve Him and build His kingdom.

A Few Words on Worship

The shortest chapter in Scripture is Psalm 117, and not only is this psalm found in the very center of the Bible, it also makes the theme of worshipping God the very center of our focus. As the psalmist writes, “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!” These few words remind us that God is set apart by His steadfast love and unwavering faithfulness to His people, and our only appropriate response is to worship Him with words of praise.

The Gentle Tone of Grace

The Apostle Paul’s missionary efforts to build the church was founded on preaching and teaching a gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). But, if grace was the language that Paul taught, gentleness was the tone in which he taught it. As Paul reminded his new converts in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, “…we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” This passage is a reminder to all Christians that we are called to be people of both grace and truth. This means that what we have to say to others should never overrule the importance of how we chose to say it.

Week 25 Readings:  June 17 – 23

-Day One:  Proverbs 29-31; 1 Thessalonians 4

-Day Two:  Song of Solomon 1-3; Psalm 72; 1 Thessalonians 5

-Day Three:  Song of Solomon 4-6; 2 Thessalonians 1

-Day Four:  Song of Solomon 7-8; Psalm 127; 2 Thessalonians 2

-Day Five:  1 Kings 5; 2 Chronicles 2; 2 Thessalonians 3   


Tips to Keep You on Track

          Our reading plan this week will lead us through The Song of Solomon (otherwise known as The Song of Songs). This is one of the most mysterious books of the Bible, and as a result it often elicits a wide variety of interpretations. First and foremost, it is a book of beautiful poetry that captures the sensual love between a young male shepherd (V 1:7) and his shepherdess wife (V 1:8). However, beyond this basic framework of a couple’s romantic pursuit of one another, many scholars in church history have disagreed about the main purpose and theme of the book. So, since there is no consensus on the book’s central purpose, perhaps it is best to focus on the theme of marriage as you read through it. This is because seeing God’s purpose for the covenant relationship of marriage will help us put all the other interpretations in their proper place. Focusing on marriage will not only help us to understand the proper framework for expressing sexual intimacy, it will also show us how the gift of marriage points us to the ultimate relationship that Christ desires to have with us as His Church (Ephesians 5:32).