Hope Notes 07/29/2020

August 5, 2020

Dear Friends of Hope  ~ 
     Back when we first found out we had to stop meeting in person at church, I remember thinking to myself, “It seems wrong to just ignore the current situation; guess I should write a few openings addressing it.”  HA!! I thought we were just going to have a short time of ‘not normal’ and then I could safely return to my usual variety of random topics.  Little did any of us know back then that we were actually in this for the long haul.  I gave up trying to write about it because it seemed too depressing to keep focusing on the world’s sad state of affairs.  However, now that we’ve been living with Covid and all that it entails, I think it’s time for a little Pandemic Pep Talk. I rarely address this topic because I don’t like all the division and opinions that are revealed as people feel compelled to comment.  Nor do I appreciate the overt or subtle suggestions as to how we ‘should’ be acting. But since it truly does seem we are in it for longer than any of us would wish, I will make an exception to my own ‘rule’ in the hope that perhaps something would resonate with even one person!
     I really think we all need to stop holding our collective breath waiting for this to ‘go away’.  I can tell you from experience that acceptance of an unwanted situation is key.  When my back gave up and changed my life in ways I didn’t want,  I wasted three years fighting against it, refusing to accept it, and struggling with a sense of loss and unfairness.  I just kept waiting for it to go away so that I could return to normal.  But one day, the words of Paul in 2Corinthians 12:9-10 leapt off the pages of my Bible and convicted me. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  Catch that? We don’t have to be strong and carry on.  We can be weak and let God carry on. That’s when His power shines brightest.  I’ll admit I don’t always ‘delight’ in hardships, but I know that God will carry me through in His strength.
    Bear in mind that acceptance is not apathy.  It doesn’t mean we don’t care about what’s going on.  It is not giving up.  Giving up holds no promise.  We can accept our situation knowing the character of our God; we know our hope in Him is firm and His purposes are always good.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  Acceptance means we are trusting God with everything; when we do, we have his peace. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)  This line of thinking applies to ALL difficulties in life, not just the current pandemic.  And although this is one great big overarching trail that affects every single one of us, God is using it in each of our lives individually to help us grow in whatever areas we need to.
     So ready to start with a little accepting instead of rejecting? Maybe a little growth in certain areas?  I know it’s hard, but let’s begin by focusing on all that we have gained over the past months and be thankful.  “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 NLT) Church is pretty much up and running for the most part, praise God!  We can go just about anywhere we choose, albeit with some restrictions.  Beaches, boardwalks, outdoor dining, shopping……yep we can do all that. Hey we can even buy toilet paper now!  How about all the time we get to spend with family?  Many of us have experienced a return to the simpler things, finding joy in taking walks, riding bikes, playing games with our loved ones.  I am so thankful this wasn’t all going on in the dead of winter when we would be less able to go outside!  In the great outdoors God nourishes our souls with his loving presence through the beauty of His creation.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1) 
     I know I’m painting a somewhat rosy picture, and yes I’m fully aware of the inconveniences, the restrictions, the job losses, the financial burdens, and certainly the heartache of those affected by the disease itself.  I know that I maintain a somewhat Pollyanna view of life but that’s okay with me.   We can rail and fight and lament over Covid, or we can move towards some sort of acceptance and surrender to the fact that our God is still in control and still on His Throne. “The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them.” (Psalm 11:4)  I believe He is asking us to trust Him with these most difficult days (months!) and to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Him as we ‘count our blessings’ and continue to put our lives in His hands. Let’s all make a pact to exhale and trust the One who gives us that very breath!

He is Our King,
8:30am & 10:00am
(Via Facebook & YouTube)
GoZone at 8:30am & Church Service at 10:00am

Holding A Friend Up (Exodus 17:8-16)
We found out this year in a unique way how just gathering regularly as a church has an impact on how we are able to handle the burdens of life. While there are many different explanations and viewpoints, we know that heavy times can wear us out and that having others to bear the weight with us is essential. In this story, we see Moses having to bear a weight that is exhausting and unsustainable.  God uses two others to help him in this role.  And the amazing part is that God is actually the One doing the work anyway.  As a church, we want to be people who hold up one another when God’s path for our lives gets overwhelming and exhausting. So let’s allow this story to remind us of how God invites us to do exactly that.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.
We are excited to announce that we officially have a new youth pastor – our own Dan Lein! Our business meeting with Hope partners on July 26th resulted in a unanimous vote to install Dan in this role immediately, and we are blessed to have him leading our teens. Please pray with us that the Lord will make Dan’s ministry powerfully fruitful, and let’s do all we can to support Hope Youth.

For the month of July, we averaged $9090 per week, bringing our annual average to $9413.  That means that through July, we are slightly above our annual giving target of $9400.  This remains great news and displays God’s goodness through the faithfulness of our Hope family in sacrificing and giving. Please join us in praying that we will be able to stay on target (and even exceed it) through the rest of 2020.

MARRIAGE NIGHT: Friday, September 18th from 7:00 – 10:00 pm
Living in the age of covid has many of us spending more time with our spouses than ever, but are you struggling to feel like your marriage is any better because of it? Does date night seem like a thing of the past? Are you feeling socially distant from the one person you aren’t staying six feet away from? If you need help bridging the gap, re-igniting the spark, or just want a quality night together, sign-up for our Marriage Night! We’ll be hosting a one-night broadcast event right here at Hope designed to encourage husbands and wives with a refreshing vision for God-honoring relationships. Laugh and learn together as we hear from marriage experts and discover how to cultivate a healthy marriage on a lasting biblical foundation. Join us Friday, September 18th from 7:00-10:00 pm by registering hereCost to attend is $15.00 per person; make sure to register yourself and your spouse separately by August 30th. Open to anyone who is married or engaged!  

We know that the current circumstances surrounding covid have left many of us without work. Here’s one resource you might find helpful. To view a current list of job openings in Gloucester County, click here

Be sure to follow @hcf_hopeyouth on Instagram and/or facebook.com/hcfhopeyouth to participate in Bible reading programs and catch all announcements for future events!
Who Are We Going to Be? August 4th 7:30 – 9
Hope’s Young Adults has been around for 9 years now. As the current crop of Young Adults, what do you want this group to be? What should our purpose and focus be? This is your group. If you’ve ever had a thought or idea on something to add or change, this is your week. 

We are excited to reopen HopeKids! Ministries at our 8:30 and 10:00 services. 
For more detailed information, please visit our Post Quarantine Protocol Sheet.

VBS ONLINE: August 10th – 14th
We may not be able to meet in person this year, but that won’t stop our elementary students from learning how “Jesus Power Pulls Us Through!” on the Rocky Railway!  During the week we’ll be posting a different video each day for our students to watch and learn some powerful biblical truths. During that same week, our WonderZone kids will also be provided with videos and activities each day that go along with what they are learning. You’ll want to follow Facebook to find new things to watch and do with your 2-5 year olds so they, too, can have the VBS experience this summer!

Small Groups and HopeKids! Hangout are taking a break for the remainder of the summer, but we hope you can join us for VBS!