Happy end-of-summer to you! I am writing to you from the epicenter of what everyone has decided to call a heat dome this year. It has been hot in Texas this summer - really hot - but we made it through! It is actually quite funny to witness the aftermath. Most of our area got a glorious rain shower earlier this week, breaking that oppressive heat pattern, and now everyone is smiling, everywhere you go. The positive and optimistic people are relieved and whistling, and even the perennially grumpy people are just a little less grumpy because it is only a normal 97 degrees instead of 107.
There is something so powerful about HOPE.
When we keep it close, we are filled with God's peace and power.
When we lose sight of it, we are severely weakened.
A fun part of aging is watching the different generations react to one another. Of course, every generation thinks it is infinitely superior to everyone who has come before. In this thinking, the actions and reactions to everything the last generation did are spectacular to watch. You guys think dressing in suits and ties and dresses and listening to orchestra music at your cocktail parties is great? Well, watch us - we're going to burn it all down and wear bell bottoms and have Woodstock. Then a few years later the next generation thinks all of that seems so ridiculous, so they're going to wear button downs and polo shirts and listen to new wave. Until the next generation thinks all of that is terrible and invents grunge. And that just brings us to the ‘90s!
The underlying theme to all of this action and reaction is the nagging suspicion that we're not doing this right. Every generation intuitively understands that there must be more to life than any of us are seeing and experiencing.
The word that is often used to describe the people who go against the grain and start new trends is counterculture. The Oxford Dictionary defines this as a way of life and set of attitudes opposed to or at variance with the prevailing social norm. The present time is an amazing opportunity for a strong countercultural wave to sweep through, and to wash away the oppressive hopelessness that has saturated society.
We don’t just need a change in music and fashion: the very heart of our culture needs an infusion of hope to counter the crippling epidemic of anger and anxiety. These maladies are influenced by a lucrative business model wherein sensational news stories lead to more clicks and more revenue. I heard someone say the other day that if everyone on earth would simply obey the Ten Commandments, just about every news site in the world would run out of things to say overnight. This is true! As it is, we hear all day, every day about murder, theft, corruption, idolatry and adultery, coupled with a strong dose of envy and jealousy and discontentment. We hear about every terrible thing that every person, institution, and government agency has done, or even that someone just accuses them of doing, and that’s just in the last 24 hours. When you hear that day after day and year after year, you begin to internalize this distrust and disgust, and quite naturally, you begin to be very cynical, even jaded. It translates into the idea that no one is trustworthy, not even one.
Our anger and anxiety are also spiritual in nature, as we are influenced by the lack of faith all around us. No one can long stand with one foot on the dock and one foot on the untethered boat; this amounts to having a form of godliness, but denying its power. But too many Christians are letting the skepticism and cynicism of the world around them inform their decisions and actions. I have noticed so many people say things that begin with, “I know what the Bible says, but…”, and then fill in the blank with a reason they cannot possibly really believe or act on what the Bible says.
I know what the Bible says, but…
-I will not forgive him for what he did.
-I cannot believe that God is my provider.
-If God was really good, ______ would not be happening.
and so on. Too many Christians have mistakenly gone with the flow of our culture, trying to put hope and faith in things that could never bear it - people, places, and things - and then fall off the dock when the inevitable let down comes. Too many Christians have believed the lie that because those people and things can't be trusted, nothing at all can be trusted. The whole point of our faith is that there is ONLY ONE Who can be trusted to never leave, forsake, or fail.
Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the firstborn of all creation, the foundation of all through Whom all things were made. He is the way, and the truth, and the life. He is the healer of the broken, the lifter of our heads, and the fairest of ten thousand. He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He is the Lion and the Lamb, He is the light in the darkness, He is the Good Shepherd who leads us to green pastures and still waters. He is the very gate we can enter through to peace and rest. He is righteous and good, and His mercies endure forever.
Jesus is the One to Whom the great cloud of witnesses from every era and land shouts praises. He is the One Who has inspired countless songs, poems, books, and lives - He is the faithful and true friend of sinners! He is true and lasting love, He is the strong bedrock of our faith. He is the great God of Hope, Who will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!
If we could face each day with all of these truths about Jesus impacting our actions and reactions, the world would quickly become a different place. In this age of unbelief and hopelessness, a refreshing countercultural wave of hope could quickly change the atmosphere. Case in point - in the couple of days I have been writing this, a wildfire has started in our town, which is not to be unexpected in a piney woods after a long, dry summer. Last night, it went from 100 acres to a few thousand in a matter of hours. Strangely, weather related stories are a hot topic right now, so our little town’s plight was on the front page of a London paper by morning. The comment section was just what you would expect - full of people saying ridiculously depressing, uninformed, and unhelpful things. In the meantime, some incredibly brave and hopeful men and women have spent over 24 hours now risking their own lives to do all they can to put that fire out, and will keep going until the job is done.
This is a beautiful picture of people refusing to go with the flow, and letting their hope impact a dire situation. There is something so powerful and revolutionary about hope! When we lose sight of it, we are severely weakened, but when we keep it close, we are filled with God's peace and power. I pray that the hope of Christ fills your heart and life today, and spills over onto everyone you meet.
If you’d like to spend some more time reading and thinking about the power of hope in our Christian communities, please check out my new book, available now -
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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