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Hope

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In 1979, Norman Cousins, the editor-in-chief of the Saturday Review for more than three decades, was given the tough news, “You have six months to live.”  The doctors said he had a 1-in-500 chance of recovery.  What happened?  He beat the odds and lived another 20 years! 

Norman revealed how he did it in his bestselling book, Anatomy of an Illness.  While the doctors administered medicine, Cousins decided to fight his illness with his attitude.  He employed a simple strategy . . . laughter.

Here’s how he did it.  Cousins told his friends to call him every time they heard or did something funny.  He watched comedies and listened to stand-up comedians.  And, in his spare time he also pranked the hospital staff.

But, there was one nurse who never smiled or laughed.  In fact, she made him feel guilty every time he hit the call button. 

During one of her rounds, she handed him a specimen cup and asked for a sample.  Instead of urinating in it, Cousins poured his apple juice in the cup. When she came to collect the specimen cup, the nurse held it up to the light and said, “We’re a little cloudy today, aren’t we?”

Cousins said, “Yup, I guess I better run it through again” and gulped down the “sample.”

Later, he explained the prank to the nurse.  It worked.  She laughed!

Cousins didn’t just beat the odds.  What was it?  How did he do it?  Friend, it was hope.  Hope is a powerful word. 

Here’s what 1 Peter 1:3-6 says, “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. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 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. 

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Hope is medicine for the trial, the test, and the struggle.  I pray you will experience a good measure of hope as you endure and stand in Him!

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The Wave

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This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a pastor-friend’s church in the Kansas City area.  He was on vacation with his family and asked me to step in and preach.  It’s actually become a bit of a routine.  This is the third or fourth time I’ve had the honor of speaking at his church . . . in July.

Over time I’ve become familiar with their church family.  Their story is familiar.  They were a church plant that needed a home.  The church immediately grew and they acquired a building that needed some “love” and set out to make it their home.  The changes were significant.  But, the most important step they took was to intentionally create a healthy, vibrant culture. 

Of course, I’m an outsider looking in, but at first glance, I’d give them a “5” in the category “Are we welcoming and inviting?”  Is this a complete picture?  No, it is a snapshot.   My friend’s church culture could be described in one word – community.  Their community is “gracious and hospitable; demonstrating genuine warmth.” 

Every church has a culture.  Culture is defined by all things combined.  It’s more than a mission statement, strategy, or a vision statement.

On the drive home from KC, I pondered these questions:

  • What is our present culture at Fellowship?
  • What does our culture say to the outsider, the casual observer, or the first-time guest?
  • Walking into our lobby, what are some quick observations they would say about what’s important to us?

A healthy church culture is the fertile soil where God plants His Gospel movement.

There’s a Gospel movement at Fellowship Bible.  It’s created by God and His Spirit.  No man can own it, claim it, or take credit for it.

Rick Warren calls it “the wave” – there’s a ground-swell, it rises up gaining momentum and speed.  Warren makes two points:  1) you cannot create, manipulate, or manufacture “the wave” – it is created by God and God alone, and he then points to the obvious, 2) you can’t surf on the backside of a wave. Think about that for a moment.

However, you can anticipate it. Catch it. Ride it.  Our anticipation of God’s wave at Fellowship has several implications:

  • Our attitude must be an attitude of prayer – “God, what do You want?”
  • We must pray in anticipation of a supernatural “wave” of God – “God, we are waiting for You.”
  • We must be structured and staffed to adapt to “the wave” – “God, we are ready.”
  • Our first response must always be to give all credit and praise to God. – “God, we will give You all the glory!”

Are we ready?

Here’s a song, titled SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD, that expresses it well:

Spirit of the Living God
Spirit of the Living God
We wanna know You more and more
We're hanging on every word

Spirit of the Living God
Spirit of the Living God
Come now and breathe upon our hearts
Come now and have your way

'Cause when you speak, when you move
When you do what only you can do
It changes us, it changes
What we see and what we seek

When you come in the room
When you do what only you can do
It changes us, it changes
What we see and what we seek
You're changing everything

Spirit of the Living God
Spirit of the Living God
Come now…

Words by Meredith Andrews

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