Your Voice: Spirit of hopefulness means being realistic but not overwhelmed

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Your Voice: Spirit of hopefulness means being realistic but not overwhelmed

By Jeff Iorg
The Gateway

The longer you lead, the more susceptible you may be to discouragement, cynicism and bitterness. Losing in the ministry battle hurts. It’s hard when evil prevails.

No matter how hard we preach, teach and counsel — some people still make horrible choices that destroy relationships, families and churches.

Jeff Iorg

No matter how much we strategize, sinful people sometimes
undermine our best efforts.

Political systems, governing authorities and corporate practices can all conspire against spiritual progress. When these forces align, it’s tough to keep going.

Maintain faith

When a ministry organization loses money or people or influence because of unjust practices, it’s easy to just give up. Why try when the deck seems stacked against us?

To press on, we must maintain faith in God’s promises and strive for the best, believing God’s ways produce positive results.

The only problem is, sometimes they don’t — in the short run.

That admission may be shocking. As a hopeful Christian leader, you might expect me to claim otherwise.

The fact is God’s people are sometimes thwarted, not just in their lifetimes but for several generations (remember 400 years of slavery in Egypt?).

Spiritual forces, evil people and imperfect institutions conspire to produce this grim reality.

Hope is lost when we focus too much on present realities. God promises to make all things right at the end — at the end of time, not at the end our project, ministry career or lifetime. Justice is coming.

Maintain hope

God’s ways will prevail. God’s work will be established. Righteousness will reign. Every unfair outcome will be reversed. Every persecuted Christian will be justified.

But when?

When Jesus returns all things will be made right. Not before, not necessarily in your lifetime and certainly not on your timetable.

Part of your leadership challenge is maintaining hope.

Being hopeful isn’t the same as practicing a high level of spiritual denial. Hope takes the pain and problems of our world seriously, admitting the worst of them.

Hope also admits, in the short run, God’s people will be abused and His work stymied. Hope begins with honesty about life as it is, not as we wish it would be.

Hope, however, is not overwhelmed by these immediate realities.

Hope results from a fixation on the future — not the future new year, but the future return of Jesus Christ.

So, start 2024 with hope — not an emotional high, but true hope for better times fixed on the only source or real hope.

Fix your hope on Jesus, His supervision of your present circumstances, and your confidence in His sure return.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was originally published by The Gateway.

Guardians of the truth

By Mark Snowden
Cincinnati Area Baptist Association

Each of us are to be guardians of gospel truth. The Apostle Peter said, “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).

When it comes to debunking myths, a personal peeve of mine is seeing Christians posting and reposting things on social media platforms that I think hurt a Christian’s credibility.

When my dad was alive and just getting into Facebook, he shared something posted by someone else that I knew to be false, but sounded good.

I alerted my dad and remember how it actually hurt his feelings to think a skilled Christian doctor could ever be the source of something that wasn’t just false, but a lie.

It’s one thing to post it, but once discovered, I think we have a responsibility to right click and delete the post.

A good Proverb to guide us says, “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out” (Prov. 10:9 ESV).

Well, bless my soul!

By Karen Moore

Could you be more intentional about those things that effect your beliefs?

If you want to step into 2024 with a faith-building checklist, here are a few ideas that may just bless your soul.

Consider some of these:

  • Start every morning with God. Take time to chat, one on one.
  • Ask God to help you change your negative habits and attitudes.
  • Keep a journal to note one thing you do each day to please God and make your soul happy.
  • Begin a daily Bible reading plan.
  • Pray. And then pray again.
  • Read a daily devotional book or a devotional blog.
  • Seek opportunities to share your faith at home, at work or anywhere you happen to be.
  • Be intentional about giving God credit for good things that happen in your life.
  • Thank God for showing up just for you.
  • Hand your worries to God.
  • Step aside from the news and those things that dampen your spirit.
  • Seek out a faith partner, someone you can pray with and learn from.
  • Go to church because you really want to be there.
  • Practice loving people who are different from you.
  • Let your light shine.
  • Be grateful.
  • Ask others to pray for you.
  • Know God is with you in every circumstance.
  • When you fall down, ask forgiveness, and get up and start again.
  • Most of all, remember that God knew you even before you were born, and He’s been loving you ever since.
  • Let this be the year you truly say, “All is well with my soul!”

The goal of preaching isn’t to get people to like the preacher, but to love the Savior.


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A motto I’ve always heard in congregational churches is that we can “disagree without being disagreeable.” This is a worthy attitude, and very scriptural.

The Apostle Paul said, “love does not insist on its own way” (1 Cor. 13:5), and exhorted Christians to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

Michael J. Brooks, pastor
Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster

At times God would show me the next step to take without revealing the complete plan. Yet, to be honest, periods occurred where I wanted to see the entire picture before I took the “now” step I knew God was calling me to take. A pastor once stated: “One of the greatest things God will ever ask you to do is the last thing He asked you to do.”

Whatever step God is prodding you to take, make sure you take it. Obedience to God’s now step will always lead to God’s next step.

O’Shea Lowery
Entrusted Hope Ministries

Adoption has taught Chance and Brittany McConnell, who adopted two girls, much about God’s love and the security believers experience in Christ. “So personally, it’s taught me just about the Lord’s kindness and love, things He didn’t have to do. And then certainly, you know, as you think about the gospel and being adopted and what Christ has done for us, how he took us out of the situation and brought us into a much, obviously, a completely different situation: from death to life.”

“It was hard. But what I found through those terrible seasons, where you’re suffering or after you’re suffering, is that God is close,” said singer-songwriter Mike Janzen. “That’s such a remarkable thing that the Good Shepherd takes care of you … and somehow makes His love and care known to you in those hard seasons.”

“When I was leaving that theater, I was so angry,” said David Slusher, a Missouri pastor who recently helped launch a Christ-centered coffee brand — Christ Coffee — focused on raising awareness and funds for the fight against human trafficking, the focus of the movie “Sound of Freedom.” “I don’t want to have this emotional anger; I want to have a righteous anger. I don’t want to just be mad about something. I want to do something about this!”

“At our concerts we want people to know that there is a sense of hope and future in knowing Christ. Our desire is that God would allow us to take the gifts that He has given us and convey a message that gives people a glimpse of who He is and how wonderful it is to know Him,” said  Russ Lee, lead singer of NewSong.  “At the end of the day, our goal is that we don’t get in the way of the message.”

“God is gracious, and He will be gracious until the very end. We shouldn’t fear death because it’s just the reality of losing what we can’t keep anyway. Do you really want to keep this body?” said Jared Wilson, assistant professor of pastoral ministry at Midwestern Seminary.

“If I hadn’t gone through that desert, I wouldn’t have understood that I had a pastoral calling,” said Jose Arzate, lead pastor at The Bridge Church, Richardson, Texas, on battling through life’s disappointments and dashed dreams.

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