Monthly Archives: July 2013

Pastor’s Corner: Living Life on Purpose

In the last several years I’ve been noticing how completely overloaded people’s schedules are. They work crazy hours; their kids work crazy hours. Their personal calendars are out of control and their family calendars are utterly insane. I’m still trying to figure out how everyone’s not violating physics as they’re getting their children to soccer games, dance lessons, SAT tutors, swim meets, judo classes, choir rehearsals, violin lessons, etc. And, that’s just the low-achieving families! (Kidding!)

I get the sense from conversations I have that most of us have become part of some kind of rapid reaction force, just waiting to face the schedule-tsunami that comes hurtling our way each day — where the daily goal is to SURVIVE! And, perhaps carve out a few minutes for ourselves along the way…

So. Really. Who wants to live this way?

Have you ever noticed that, in all the stories about Jesus, he’s never in a hurry? With all the things he does—preaching, healing, teaching, working miracles—he never seems rushed or stressed out. What does he know that we don’t?

Jesus once told followers to seek first God’s kingdom, and everything else will get pretty much taken care of. Now, this was a fairly radical thing to say to a bunch of poor people who were wondering where their family’s next meal was coming from, but for some reason, they seemed to believe him. So much so, that they followed him wherever he went. Apparently he was on to something!

The apostle Paul was getting at the same thing when he wrote this to the Roman Christians:

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31-32, 37)

So, what would it mean to take Jesus seriously on this one?

What would it mean to live as if God’s kingdom were more central to our lives than all the so-called “important” things that drain the life out of us: all the expectations that come at us from school, work and everywhere else?

Think about it.

Jesus promises that, as you orient your life around God and his priorities, you and your family can actually enjoy a higher quality of life than you would otherwise. That you can do more than just survive life. That you can actually thrive in the tsunami! Sounds crazy, but that’s exactly what Jesus is promising those who take him at his word.

Blessings!

Pastor Richard

Letter to Hope from Pastor Mike

Dear Hope Family,

Twenty years in, I still consider being a pastor at Hope one of the great blessings in my life. There’s no place I’d rather serve, and I hope God will continue to provide me with the energy and health to minister alongside you for years to come.

To foster that kind of longevity, pastors with a call to churches like Hope typically take an extended break (sabbatical) from regular ministry to study and renew every seven years. I’m due for one, so the Church Council has encouraged me to take a sabbatical right after Taste of Hope, from August thru October.

This time around, I’ll do some focused reading, research and perhaps some writing on church and culture issues. I might also study the connection between faith and health, as suddenly that has become a larger issue in my life …

Recently, I was diagnosed with a common heart arrhythmia called persistent atrial fibrillation. In my case, the cause is unknown and doctors tell me that a low-risk cardiac ablation, scheduled for August 1, offers the best chance to restore my heart to normal rhythm. I’m thankful this rather routine procedure exists, and I trust God will use it for good. Already, in the face of this unexpected detour for Sally and me, God has increased our faith, deepened our appreciation for the strong bonds we share with loved ones and inspired us to find a daily pace more suitable for the long run. I’ve also (finally) joined my wife in her lifelong faithful habit of eating healthy and daily exercise.

This upcoming season can be a time of tremendous growth for you, too, as a church. While I’m away from Hope, I strongly encourage you to support fully our entire team of gifted pastors, teachers, staff and leaders. Worship weekly. Take a class. Find places to serve. Love one another. Share your gifts freely. Take care of your temple (body) and build up the body of Christ. We are a Christ-centered and Spirit-led church. It’s never been about a particular program, style or pastor. Hope is built on the solid foundation of Jesus and his love, and the mission our Lord gives us to receive and share that love never changes.

It’s good to be the church, together. Thanks in advance for your prayers. I’ll be praying for you, too.

In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Mike Housholder

P.S.- For the sake of truly taking a break from work, I’ll be unplugging from email and other forms of communication throughout my sabbatical (kind of like going to the far side of the moon!). Please take no offense, then, if you don’t hear from me while I’m gone.

Weekly E-news Message

Happy Friday, Hope!

Growing up, I remember my summer vacations were marked by annual events we did as a family. Year after year, these things were virtually set in stone and I looked forward to them almost more than anything else during the year.

Annual trips to watch the Twins play. Summer weekends at our lake cabin. End of summer family vacations where we would just be together away from all other distractions.

We are approaching one of those markers at Hope. Vacation Bible School kicks off Monday, and this year, we can’t wait to ‘Experience the thrill of Jesus!’

For those of you who have experienced a VBS at Hope, you know what an incredible experience it is. There is nothing like seeing thousands of kids dance, play, sing and soak in the love of Jesus Christ. It is unlike anything else. If you want to get a glimpse of what Heaven must look like, you should come and see the kids in action.

For those of you who have kids (or know people who have kids) and haven’t yet registered, there’s still time. There is one session next week and two sessions the following week.

There truly is no better way to love the kids around you than to point them to Jesus, and VBS is an excellent way to do it.

One of the greatest things about VBS is it isn’t just for the young kids – it’s for us old kids, too! I can’t tell you how many people volunteer to serve at VBS and come out of it praying that the kids had as great of a time as they did. There are countless ways to volunteer during VBS and I strongly encourage you to get involved.

There truly is no party like a Jesus party and we can’t wait for the VBS Jesus party to start so we can ‘Experience the thrill of Jesus’ together.

Buckle up and get ready. It’s going to be an awesome ride!

Pastor Jeremy
Pastor. Little kid trapped in a Big Kid’s body. Excited for VBS.

P.S. Speaking of awesome experiences, this weekend, myself (along with Pastor Pat) we will be continuing our ‘Since You Asked’ series, looking at the question “What does God want from me?” It will be an opportunity to look at the call God has for EACH ONE OF US. You won’t want to miss it. See you at worship! Thanks for being such an incredible church.

Hope Story: Sammy Smith

RPB_7884God called my family to Hope.

I originally resisted the “big church” because my grandparents founded, and I grew up in, a little church in Davenport, IA. That’s what was comfortable to me.

However, with our family, marriage and faith on the rocks, we knew we needed a change, so we decided to give Hope a try.

From the minute we entered Hope that is exactly what we felt…. Hope. Our spirit and faith in love became renewed.

The sermons – every sermon – made us cry. It seemed like the pastors were speaking directly to us and our struggles (I now know this was the Holy Spirit speaking through them to me).

Our story may not be unique, but it speaks to me, and I’ve since felt compelled to share with others. So, let me start from the beginning…

After seven years of marriage, my wife asked for a divorce. We approached this avenue last year and I told her that if she were to ask again, I would not fight her because I wanted her to be happy more than I wanted to be with her. (It is just the way we are with one another.)

I was devastated and broken. Not only from the brokenness of our relationship, but from the brokenness of not being able to care for my family. I had lost my job a couple of months prior and felt like I was letting everyone down. I was not being the man I wanted to be, a man taking care of those he loved.

RPB_7879For a multitude of reasons, my wife decided she had enough. And, I didn’t blame her at all.

Two days after my wife asked for a divorce, I had a dream.

In the dream, we were divorced and eating dinner together, regretting our decision of divorce because we just gave up. Gave up on God. Gave up on our family. Gave up on love.

When I awoke, I stood up. And, for the first time in my life, I decided I was not going to let someone else dictate my life for me.

I was going to fight. My marriage was like my life breath and it was not going to be stripped from me without a fight. I told her about this and told her it was a mistake.

We fought (yelled, screamed, cried and yelled some more). I was finally able to convince her to talk to a pastor at Hope. And we did. We talked to one of the pastors about what was going on – our fears and anger about the current situation.

It opened my eyes.

My wife and I talked and I was given 90 days to show her that I understood what was needed to change within myself, and to build the trust and love within us.

It was a tall order… a miracle was needed.

I prayed that night for strength from God. I needed guidance… and fast.

I signed up for the 33 Series that the pastor we met with suggested I try.

RPB_7751I also felt called by God to purchase a book – Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge. I had heard of this book from Financial Peace University (Dave Ramsey recommends it).

I went and purchased the book and read it in five days. I read it like a textbook – underlining passages, crying over subject matter that spoke to my heart.

This book was the beginning of my road map to becoming a man… a Man of God.

My marriage was saved thanks to the love of Jesus Christ.

In less than three months, my wife and I went from looking for separate places to live, me sleeping on the couch, and trying to figure out how to tell our children about the divorce, to working together on paying off debt so we can buy a house as a family.

RPB_7819I was accepted into a program with the VA (I am a disabled vet) and they will pay for my schooling to obtain my Masters in Mental Health Counseling, so I can work as a counselor in the mental health profession. I believe this is why I lost my job. My heart was not in my previous career. I needed to be able to reach out my hand and help those in need.

Through putting my faith and trust in God, a broken man of 44 years, along with a marriage (and family) on the verge of destruction, were saved.

I am so blessed by my faith, family and our new found life.

 

Weekly E-news Message

Dear Hope-sters,

I love driving through the streets around the Fourth of July and seeing the American flags hanging proudly from houses and front porches. What a wonderful reminder to celebrate our country and the freedom it provides.

Freedom.

Do you ever stop to think about what that word truly means and the light that it brings to our world?

By definition, it is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

All too often, we take for granted the freedoms we have in this life…

  • The freedom to vote for who we want.
  • The freedom to wear what we want.
  • The freedom to say or write what we want.

It is easy to forget that not everyone has this light. Not everyone has these luxuries in life. We are so accustomed to them just being there, that they sometimes no longer feel special — or worse, something we feel entitled to.

Do you ever think about the freedom we have as Christians in America? The freedom to pray, believe and preach what we want, when we want and how we want?

There are still places in this world where people can’t do that. Where there is extreme darkness. Where they are persecuted, punished, or executed for practicing – or simply believing in – Christianity.

Just last week, a Syrian priest was murdered in his monastery, setting an example for Christians in the area. But, here in the USA, where we have every freedom to practice and preach our Christian faith, Christianity is on the decline.

  • People choose not to go to church.
  • People choose not to pray.
  • People choose not to read their bibles.

Is it because we’ve never had to worry about the fear of being caught with a Bible because it’s against the law? That we’ve never attended a worship service in fear of being arrested because it’s illegal to worship?

God promises that in this world we will have darkness, but we shouldn’t fear, because he has overcome this darkness and is our light (John 16:33).

God is our freedom, both in our present world and for all of eternity. Let us remember to give Him thanks and sing his praises for shining his light of freedom each day moving forward, never again taking it for granted.

Blessings,
Gus Gustafson
Chief Ministry Officer & Let Freedom Ring Believer

PS: Join us this weekend to learn more about God overcoming the dark places of our world as Pastor Merv preaches at all services on our next sermon of the Since You Asked series, “Why does my friend have cancer?” Click here to get a sneak peak of what you can expect.