Hope Notes 9/8/16 – Pastor Letter Edition!

September 8, 2016

Hi Hopers!

This is Pastor Mark filling in for Lois.  I can’t do all the organized stuff that she always does, but I’ll try to hit the highlights on what’s happening at Hope.


Right from the start let me mention this: aren’t we really blessed to have Lois do this each week?  Not only does she keep tons of info in front of us for when we need it, but she also has a gift for sharing a devotional each week to open the newsletter that challenges and inspires us all.  I am thankful that God uses her (and all the rest of our volunteers who serve!) each week in such a powerful way.  It shows how amazing our God is to use each one of us in our uniqueness.


As we kick off the fall, I wanted to just share one thought with you before we discuss all the happenings at Hope.  Fall can be a return toBUSY.  Schedules get filled up and parents do all they can to get their kids to the events and activities that they enjoy. Our families have schedules and responsibilities that keep us running.  Because of that, we start looking for any way to alleviate the pressure on our lives and to find some down time for ourselves and our family.  Soon enough, the thought occurs to us that we can just cross Sunday mornings off the list (or youth group, or young adults, or men’s breakfast, or God’s Girls, or Wednesday nights….. you get the picture).  That will give us a little more time.


Let me encourage you to not fall for this TRAP. There may be many things that can and should be crossed off your list, but gathering with your church family cannot be one of them.  This isn’t my idea, it is God’s design.  Hebrews tells us to make sure we don’t neglect the gathering together – meaning those times where we deliberately come together as a church family to worship, serve, and learn.  All of those times I listed above fall into this category.  But it isn’t just a command (“come to church”); there is a reason.  Somehow God enables us to ‘exhort’ each other in this gathering.  That sort of means that we encourage each other, but it means more than that too.  Exhorting is when we fill each other’s souls up for the callings God has on our lives.  It means we remind one another about what matters and what doesn’t, about why we choose to live by God’s Word and for Jesus. We shake off all the junk the world throws at us every day, and we open our hearts to how God would direct us right now.  Of course, you can sit on a mountain alone or in your living room alone and talk to God.  You can worship and learn alone.  But coming to church regularly is God’s chosen way to do something nothing else can do.  So if you believe God knows best, make those times non-negotiable and join your church family.  You’ll get spiritually refueled, but you’ll also be used by God in ways you haven’t even imagined.


This Sunday is our Teen Service, so come out and witness again that God can and will use our young people to minister to us.  I know they will appreciate the support, and you’ll be filled up and blessed as they serve us.  Youth Group also starts this Sunday night (6:30 – 8:30 pm at church) so make sure your teen (6th-12th grades) is there.  For my family, youth group has been one of those non-negotiables and I am thankful for the impact it has had on each of my kids.


September is Small Group kickoff month, so I’m asking everyone to find a small group. Small groups are another way we ‘gather’ and I think I’ve seen more dramatic spiritual progress come from small groups than anywhere else.  God powerfully uses the connections, the prayer time, the sharing of burdens and the opportunity to care for one another.  I don’t want anyone to miss out on this experience, so we’re doing all we can to get everyone into a group.


If you’ve done small groups at Hope before, be our ambassadors and include some others who need your experience and invitation to help them over the hump.  We’re averaging almost 50 people more per Sunday than last year, so we have some work to do to get everyone into a group.  If you’ve never done small groups with us before, there is a yellow sheet that describes our Study Sheet Groups, and you can see myself or Damon Briggs (one of our elders) if you need any help.  We’re also hoping to put out a few signups on our Small Group Bulletin Board in the long hall for our newly formed Topical Groups”.  These groups will run on a study with a teacher and the days, times, and locations will be listed.  We’ll do everything we can to make it simple to get into a small group, but we need your help.  Let’s make this a year to remember in small groups.


Our Workshop Wednesdays started last night, and I want to invite you to be a part of one of them. Steve Jones is teaching on for those who are new to Hope or who would like to know more about the church (what we believe, how we’re setup, etc). Dave Hallahan is teaching a group based on the book “More Than Just “The Talk”, which discusses how to teach our kids God’s design for sex and sexuality.  Chick Dougherty is teaching on Excellence from a book by Eugene Peterson and will talk about living at our best and pressing towards the calling(s) God has placed on our lives.  And I’m teaching a group called “High Anxiety” which probably needs no further description.  Whether you’ve signed up or not, and no matter your circumstance, you are welcome to join any group on any week.  We’re running these workshops for four weeks only during the month of September, so don’t miss out.


I’d also like to highlight a ministry at our church that I feel like we under-use.  We have a prayer team that receives requests each week and has covenanted together to pray for these requests.  If you have a need, just fill out a prayer slip in the lobby and drop it into the slot.  You’ll have dozens of people praying for your need!
On the flip side, you’re welcome to pray with us.  You can be a part of our prayer team that gets those emails and prays for those requests. If you’re interested, just drop your name and email into the slot for requests or see Bill Berry with your info.  Also, you can join us for prayer in my office at 8:30 each Sunday to pray for the service and the people and for God’s power.  Or you can stop in for our prayer huddle in the Youth Room at 8:40 each Sunday. This is specifically meant to be a preparation time for those serving each Sunday.  If prayer actually is what the Bible tells us – a conversation with Almighty God – and He actually hears and answers us, then I can’t think of any better way to get ready for a Sunday than to pray together!


And I have a special note on prayer to pass on as well.  Our country could use a lot of prayer, and one of our own is inviting anyone interested to The “Decision America Tour Rally” led by Franklin Graham, will in Trenton, NJ on September 14 at 12 P.M.  If you are interested in attending this event please contact “Hap” Cunningham for more information, (856-468-5959 or hcunn4@yahoo.com).  Whether you may be going or not going to this event, please remember to keep this event in your prayers.


One last thought before I close.  Every week, dozens of you serve at Hope.  I want you to remember that you are being used by God to do more than you know. We get to see some of the results right away, when a person lights up with a smile or someone asks us to pray for them.   But I am convinced that most of the payoff will only be seen in heaven.  And I really believe that what we find out there will make us glad for every moment we served Jesus in our church.  Don’t for a minute think that you are not making a difference.  And don’t walk away from the service God has called you to.  If you’re serving, do it like you’re serving Jesus Himself.  And if you’re not serving, start now.  We have lots of places to help, so let God lead you to just the right one(s).


It is a privilege to serve Jesus with you and I’m grateful that we get to build the kingdom of God together.  See you all on Sunday (Lord willing)

Pastor Mark