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Green Pastures and Still Waters

One of the delights of sermon study is that I always find more truths than I can talk about in a single sermon.  These truths nourish my soul and today I feel compelled to bring up a truth that I don’t plan to concentrate on this Sunday.  Hope.  We cannot live without it.  The opposite of hope is despair.  There are many things that can lead to despair, especially these days!  Personally, I just want so much of this “stuff” to be over.  I sometimes say, “I’m so over this Covid junk.”  But, the rest of the world is sure not “over it.”  If I allow hope to vacillate with the statistics and circumstances, I start leaning toward despair in a hurry.  If I equate hope with wishful thinking by saying things like, “I sure hope we can have church inside soon,” I am tempted to despair with every new Executive Order.  However, biblical hope is not wishful thinking and it is not dependent upon circumstances.  Our hope is rooted in the faithfulness of God.  I like what an author named Newell wrote, “Many people cherish their doubts, even adducing them as proof of their humility, which is sad indeed.”  Another named Deems wrote, “Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts—most people believe their doubts and doubt their beliefs.”  Our God is the God of Hope.  He wants to fill those who believe with joy and peace and abounding hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Him and our hearts immersed in His Word.  He is not the God of despair, and He is not glorified when we live without hope.

Bon Jovi sang it.  The modern poets are often keen observers of things as they are.  “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  As an example of that maxim, consider these words written by Pastor Stuart Briscoe in 1982, “When differences of opinion arise concerning deeply held traditions, reactions are usually quite extreme.  Feelings of anger and resentment, frustration, and bitterness spill over.  Usually, the people involved in the acrimonious dispute become more entrenched in their position and increasingly isolated from those with whom they disagree.”  1982!!!!  Wow, his statement sounds so present.  Whether the issue is our response to Covid-19, racism, the economy, or any number of current hot-buttons, what Briscoe wrote is still true.  You won’t be surprised that the problem goes back even further than 1982.  Our text for Sunday reminds us that the church in Rome was having disputes as well.  In their day the big issues were “meat sourcing” and “holy days.”  Those may not sound like a big deal to you but they were to them.  We have our own big deals today and yet the principles for dealing with them are the same.  The disposition of love that comes as a result of a renewed mind will lead us through the maze of emotions to a place of respect and consideration.  Let’s be a people growing in our discernment about how to deal with disputable matters…with a disposition of love.