Based in Madison, Ala., Hope Church comprises a group of people who have come together to follow Jesus Christ. The church teaches and communicates the message of the gospel to people in the Greater Madison/Huntsville, Ala. Hope Church is a part of the Evangelical Free Church of America and shares their doctrinal statement. The church operates through the children's, men's, women's, youth's and community group's ministries.
The Church - More Than an Individual
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, - Ephesians 2:17-19(ESV)
One of the things that I love about traveling is experiencing different cultures. When we are put into a situation where things are unfamiliar we are forced to look at the world in different and new ways. All of us in the last couple weeks have been forced into a new culture...whether we like it or not. Now we are forced to think about things differently. Everything from our interactions to our purchases to our travel has changed.
What will continue to be affected is the church. With the current health restrictions in place we can't meet as we once did, but that doesn't make us less the church. This circumstance presents us with an excellent opportunity to think about what the church is and what her mission is. So I'm going to lean into this idea for a few weeks by starting a brief series entitled: 'The Church: More than. . .'
Five Choices in Chaotic Times
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:15–17 (ESV)
Fear is cruel master. It grips and paralyzes us. It causes us to act irrationally. It isolates and imprisons us, but these words from Paul are words of gospel freedom. We know what family we are a part and we are assured of our relationship to God. That reality provides a bedrock for us to move through a fearful world. Especially in light of current uncertainty we need to understand and trust these truths.
This week I want to address it directly as we consider this moment. Here's what is going to happen. We are monitoring the situation and have been listening to local authorities.
We are planning on meeting at 10:30 am for worship together.
We will be suspending our normal greeting time and not take communion on our normal end-of-the-month schedule for now.
If you are sick or have a compromised immune system we ask you to stay home.
If you are in a vulnerable state due to pre-exisiting conditions or age, we are encouraging you to stay home.
We will work hard to make sure all of the service is streamed starting at 10:30 so all can connect. We will work to post the service online as soon as possible afterward.
We will be considering other Hope activities on a case-by-case basis such as youth or community groups. We will communicate about those soon. Watch the FB group for the most immediate info.
We have limited info on non-Hope activities (outreaches), but anticipate most will be postponed or cancelled. We will let you know when we know.
The Fall of a King
And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king." - 1 Samuel 15:22-23 (ESV)
1 Samuel 15 is a difficult passage. It's not difficult because of manuscript/translation issues or even really the interpretation. Those things are fairly clear and straight forward. It's difficult because of what it says. People have looked at this text and walked away from the faith because of it. In the opening of the chapter God commands Saul to do something that many find questionable. Take a look at the opening verses. No doubt these are thorny issues to talk about and they directly connect to who God is and what he does.
I actually think there is an issue in the text that is even more difficult to deal with because it's not a theoretical, theological distance but an individual personal struggle that exposes us to the core. Saul is a very religious person. He has no problem with the rites and rituals. The problem for Saul and for us is do those rites and rituals go beyond sights and scents? Do they mean anything to us at a heart level? In other words does our religion change the way to live? When Samuel shows up after the battle with the Ammorites he confronts Saul's religion and ours. How will he respond? How will we respond? Take a few minutes and read through 1 Samuel 13-15 as we explore the fall of the first king of Israel, in our search for a real King.
The Prophet's Farewell
If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king. - 1 Samuel 12:14-15 (ESV)
In the closing words of the Dr. Seuss' classic Oh, the Places You'll Go, he points the reader into the future with this very suessical farewell. 'You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.' Turning the pages of life can be exciting and scary. They come with opportunities, challenges, and choices.
In the upcoming chapter of 1 Samuel 12 a page is turned. The prophet-judge Samuel has presided over a peaceful transition of power from himself to the newly chosen king of Israel, Saul. As he leaves he points the nation both backward and forward. He wants to remind them of who and whose they are. He gives them a choice and direction. What will they do? What will their newly crowned king do?
Take some time to read his farewell speech, or maybe use a Bible app and listen to this appeal to the nation to seek God. Hear the prophet's heart for the people.
The Unlikely King
Then Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. He brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its clans, and the clan of the Matrites was taken by lot; and Saul the son of Kish was taken by lot. But when they sought him, he could not be found. - 1 Samuel 10:20-21 (ESV)
'Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it!' This phrase is a haunting truth that often what we want isn't what we need. Ever been there? Your heart longs for something, but when it arrives it's disappointing. Even worse it not only does not satisfy the desire, but it only multiplies the problems of life.
This week, we are introduced to the first king of Israel - Saul. He is the king the people ask for. He is literally 'head and shoulders above' everyone. From the outside he is a king just like the other nations, but he is also deeply flawed. I think in many ways he is more of a judgment on the people and their desires than a solution to their fears.
Take a few minutes to read through 1 Samuel 8-11. It's a story with twists and turns. It's filled with the miraculous and ridiculous. We will take some time this Sunday to re-tell it as we try to understand what God's purposes and plans are in the middle of it.
Blessing or Judgment
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” - 1 Samuel 8:4–5 (ESV)
Have every really wanted something so bad that you begged God for it? Did God answer your prayer? When you received it did it turn out like you planned?
When we ask God for things we want Him to answer our prayers by granting our wishes. When He doesn't we can become disappointed and doubt, but have you ever considered that God giving you something could not be his blessing but actually his judgment? It's a reversal of how we usually think. Getting what we want has to be blessing. Right?
In 1 Samuel 8, Samuel is old, and the people are without a king. They are still doubting God and their solution,' give us a king!' If we only had a king then things would be better. We would be safe, protected, and whole. The only problem is their desire and dependance on a king means they have forgotten who is the true King.
Take a few minutes to read through 1 Samuel 8 to get the context of the narrative. Come ready to consider what you are asking God for and plan to bring a friend with you to church.