Posts Tagged Paul

I decided to make a list: 20 actions to cultivate hope – Mary Hix


Mary HixLast Advent, in the midst of a family crisis, I did not feel hopeful. More like cynical and terrified, actually. But I wanted to find a way to practice or cultivate hope as part of Advent. Is it possible to practice hope when despair seems easier or more realistic?

Turns out there is a good bit of research about the importance of hope. Hope is NOT positive thinking, but changing my mindset was foundational in cultivating hope. Paul claims in Romans 5:4 that hope is the final good that comes from the character that suffering can produce. Huh? Character produces hope?

If character is doing and thinking the right things, even in the midst of terrible circumstances or deep fear, then perhaps undertaking specific actions could foster hope. Maybe this was worth a try.

I came up with a list of items and asked my family to help me stay accountable in practicing hope. I wrote down a list of action steps on the glass of the French door by the breakfast table. We each chose an item every day to practice and agreed to talk about our experiences.

This activity didn’t eliminate my fear, but I did feel hopeful that I was doing something. Maybe I could tweak my feelings. Maybe I could experience Advent in a new way. Maybe I could lighten my darkness. Maybe I could celebrate the coming of the Light of the World with a new appreciation for both light and darkness.

Maybe you can, too.

  1. Read a positive story about someone helping others.
  2. Call a friend who is hopeful or will make you laugh.
  3. Do something kind for a stranger.
  4. Give a compliment to every coworker today.
  5. Think of a different thing you are grateful for at every stoplight or stop sign.
  6. Journal about ways God has helped you in the past.
  7. Reframe one automatic pessimistic thought about a specific situation or person.
  8. Write a positive post card or note to someone.
  9. Reconnect with nature by taking a short walk, watching the clouds, listening to the birds, counting the stars.
  10. Adopt a positive breath prayer in the form of a simple, memorable phrase or sentence, and say it 10 to 20 times throughout the day.
    A few examples:  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.  The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.   Abba, I belong to you.   Holy One, heal me.   I am God’s beloved child.   Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
  11. Decide on one goal for 2020. Write it down and think about action steps for that goal.
  12. Watch a funny cat or dog video on YouTube – really!
  13. Pray a sentence prayer all day for someone else.
  14. Visualize a happy image, place or situation for 30 seconds.
  15. Keep a list of all the positive things that happened today.
  16. Fast from TV, radio, or Internet news.
  17. Make Romans 15:13 your prayer just before sleep.
    May the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in him, so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  18. Engage in conversations about what gives people hope and what practices cultivate hope.
  19. Plant a winter bulb that will bloom inside and watch it grow.
  20. Tell someone a specific prayer need and ask them to pray for you.

A year later, my family crisis has passed. But in a world that seems dangerously out of control, I have other compelling reasons to commit to cultivating hope. Maybe you do, too. After all, as Paul points out in Romans 5:5, “hope does not disappoint.”

May we all find the truth of the power of hope during this Advent and throughout the coming year.



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That We May Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves – Glenn Hinson* – A Prayer

Crescent Hill Baptist Church                                                 September 7, 2008

O God, we know it’s presumptuous to pray.

Yet we must, for you have commanded it, and we can’t face life without it.

We know, too, why you have commanded it.

Not just because we need it, but because you’ve fallen in love with us and can’t   get along without us, Mad Lover that you are.

You put yourself on the spot when you did it, you know, and now here we are, coming just as we are, to put before you our “souls’ sincere desires.”

What is our soul’s sincere desire?

We can’t really put it into words because so many other thoughts have come in

and taken control of our lives, but here are some of the ways we’ve learned to express it:

–We want to do your will, O God, not just our own.

–We want to obey your commandments and instruction rather than go our selfish ways.

–Or, as the Apostle Paul said it, we want to love our neighbors as ourselves,

which sums up the Law in its entirety.

We can’t hear ourselves say those words, though, without recognizing that we have failed to live them and need to ask your forgiveness.  Forgive us, O God,

–When we do not love our neighbors as ourselves.

–When we fail to consider how our desire for comforts and conveniences causes hurt to people in poorer nations.

–When we let the chasm between rich and poor in our nation and between nations grow and grow and grow without protest and effort to change.

–When we let our busyness and distractedness keep us from being “good Samaritans” to people in a ditch by the side of the road.

Your loving kindness and infinite patience alone can assure us that you forgive us, but we know that your grace impels us to renewed resolution to love our neighbors like you love—without partiality and without limit.  And we know that your love alone can transform us and energize us to love our neighbors as we have never loved before.

In humility, then, we gather here in your presence, O God, to plead “that your love may grow more and more in us in understanding and in every sensitivity, so that we may have a sense of things that really matter, in order that we may be pure in heart in the day of Christ and filled with the fruit of righteousness that redounds through Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God” (Phil 1:9-11).

As we bow in the presence of you “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere,” we lift up to you a few of our concerns for neighbors:

–Our beloved neighbors from Myanmar and the families they have had to leave behind.

–Our neighbors of all ages in Crescent Hill Baptist Church who wrestle with life’s vulnerabilities.

–Our neighbors in the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky in their efforts to provide adequate sustenance for the whole body politic in a time of economic        stress.

–Our neighbors in our nation and all the nations of the earth in their earnest  search for justice, freedom, and peace.

–Especially our neighbors everywhere who suffer the ravages of war—the deaths, the famine, the loss of livelihoods and homes, the devastation.

O God, we pray that you will give us

–eyes to see who are our neighbors,

–ears to hear their cries,

–hearts to love them as you love us,

–minds to understand how to put love into action,

–and hands to do what our hearts and minds tell us.

Now we make bold to pray the prayer our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, saying,

“Our Father . . .”

Glenn Hinson spoke at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC in 2002. He is a renowned Biblical scholar and seminary professor. This prayer is used with his permission.


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Be Thankful – FBC – Week Two- Say Something Nice Sunday

Scripture Focus: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” —1 Thessalonians 5:18

I didn’t recognize my friend. He has changed significantly since I last saw him a year ago. I learned that he suffered three light strokes in the past year that have primarily effected his central vision and his mobility. In telling me about his experience only after I inquired about his condition, he said, “I am blessed to work for a company that has continued me on full pay until I reach retirement age later this month. I may be unable to drive my car, but I can still mow my lawn. God is good to me.”

He kept his walking cane beside him. He moved among the crowd slowly but with assurance. He was quieter than I remembered. He added, “I had decided not to talk about this unless someone asked me. Other people have troubles of their own.” He is not bitter nor has he allowed his ordeal to make him angry. The first words he said to me were, “I am blessed.” On the other hand no one would mistake him for a Pollyanna. He takes life as it unfolds. Rather than concentrating on what he has lost, he counts his many blessings. He is thankful for what he can do.

The Apostle Paul reminds us to be thankful in all circumstances not for the circumstances. When we are overcome with our own problems and feel that life has dealt unfairly with us, all we need do to regain our perspective is to take a look around us at the sufferings of others. My friend is thankful for what he is still able to do. He praises God for his goodness to him.

Prayer Focus: Dear God, never let me forget that you are in charge. Let me take a lesson from my friend and praise you in all circumstances. Amen.

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Healthy Disbelief by Dr. Molly Marshall

Healthy Faith includes disbelieving what is not of God. By Molly T. Marshall A rather heated exchange about the atonement theory of a hymn has ensued. Baptists and Presbyterians have weighed in on what the cross of Christ “satisfied,” the nature of divine wrath, and whether singing an objectionable phrase in a hymn constitutes doctrinal confession. (I find it amusing that the Baptist supporters of “In Christ Alone” are demonstrating more Calvinism than the Presbyterians who excluded the hymn.) It is as important to identify the God you do not believe in as it is to confess the One in whom you do believe.

Walter Harrelson, the acclaimed Old Testament scholar, told of learning the Bible at his aunt’s knee — the first critical interpreter he knew. When they encountered the texts in the Hebrew Scriptures that instructed the people of God to decimate the Canaanites, this mountain woman from western North Carolina would gently say: “Now boys, that is not what God is like. Let’s look at some other passages that tell the larger story.” Aunt Zora was teaching healthy disbelief in a God who purportedly inscribed violence. Theologian Christopher Morse calls thoughtful Christians to “faithful disbelief,” which allows one to winnow truth from falsity. In Not Every Spirit: A Dogmatics of Christian Disbelief, he observes the struggle of the German church following 1933. Co-opted by aspirations of national dominance and Aryan supremacy, most of the church abdicated its authentic role and became an instrument of oppression, subservient to the Nazi regime. Thus, Morse writes: “To believe in God is at once to disbelieve what is not of God. Faith in God … is not only believing; it is disbelieving as well.” Over the years my mind has changed on matters of faith. Faithful disbelief has compelled me to challenge imbedded theology and move to a more deliberative theological construction. For example, I no longer believe that God wills everything that occurs. To believe that every occurrence is somehow God’s intent creates insuperable obstacles — both for human free will and for a coherent vision of God.

Freighted arguments to justify God in the face of evil cannot survive the burden of the tragic. I do not believe that patriarchy is God’s intent for human relations or the spiritual leadership of God’s people. To maintain that God privileges men over women requires a hermeneutical bias that is not sustainable as we review the larger witness of the Bible. Further, a growing number of churches testify to the good pastoral work offered by women. I do not believe that Western culture is the only apt vehicle for Christian identity. Exporting culture along with the gospel has affronted other contexts by presuming them to be inferior. In our school’s work in Myanmar, we quickly learn of the commendable aspects of ethnic culture and hear the lament of those who felt disregarded. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit is the least member of the Trinity, nor do I believe that the Spirit is confined to Christian believers or church structures. Certainly followers of Jesus have more intimate relationship with the Spirit of the Risen Christ, but God’s Spirit is at work in creation as well as other ways of faith. Returning to the reason for the kerfuffle over the hymnal, I do not believe that the penal substitutionary view of the atonement gives an adequate interpretation of the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. The idea that forgiveness is only possible after divine wrath has been assuaged is contrary to Paul’s great declaration: “the proof of God’s love is that Christ died for us even while were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8). One reason the church’s conversation about the atonement has continued is because the varied New Testament and historical images can only provisionally illuminate the great work of God through Christ for us. Yet, the church has perceived that some of the theories overly stress certain aspects of the divine character and, therefore, cannot be approved with good conscience. Disbelieving false gods is a faithful practice. It also helps clarify the confession we hold fast. This column originally was posted on Aug. 20, 2013. OPINION – See more at:

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