Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Someone really smart once said, “You must stand for something or you will fall for anything.” How important is it that we be established and strong in our faith.

If there ever was a time when God’s people should be plugged in and growing in our faith, it is now! However, throughout history, God’s people have always been challenged. But, we face a great challenge in 2009. Who is going to come to my rescue? Who will bail me out? What about me? All around us we see friends and family that are hurting. We see people who are suffering, hurting, and feeling all alone.

Unemployment – Down Sizing – Foreclosures – Taxes – Cost of Living – Divorce / Separation – Drugs Alcohol Abuse – Cancer – Brokenhearted – Alone – Depression – Corruption – Death

We must become determined to put our trust in God as we journey through life in 2009. As I talk with people from day to day I am often asked the question: “What do I do”? I wish I had the answers. This one thing I do know. We can put our faith and trust in God. In Isaiah it says…
Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.

I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters and great trouble,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
You will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
You will not be burned up;
The flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior
Isaiah 43:1-3 NLT

God has a stimulus package for us. He said in Isaiah 41, “Do not be afraid, I am here to help you.” I am convinced that God is the only one who can rescue us from our troubles. One day at a time we must learn to put our trust and confidence in Him. I want to encourage you today to get into God’s Word. Establish and build your faith. Work on it! Determine a time for you to be alone with God. Personal quiet time. We can’t face the challenges of life alone. The battles that we fight are too big for us. We need the Lord.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.
Be careful! Watch out for the attacks from the Devil, your great enemy.
He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.
Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith.
1 Peter 5:6-9a

Larry Evans

Pastoral Care Pastor

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Watty Watson - Operations Pastor

There Are Still Good People

Savannah, my daughter and I took a hunting trip up to the Panhandle of Texas. The trip was great and getting to spend time with my daughter was priceless. We talked about everything - even the birds and the bees. I figured I should talk to her about all that stuff before her friends do. I have taken each of my kids on an adventure like this and it has been awesome!

Let me tell you the story:

The last morning of our hunt we left Pampa at about 4:30 a.m. to light snow showers. By the time we got to the hunting blind, it was 5:30 a.m. and the snow was starting to stick on everything. It was still too dark to hunt so Savannah and I cuddled up for warmth and we dozed off for about 30 minutes. When we woke up, about 5 inches of snow was on the ground! We had a nice hunt and then we had to walk about a quarter of a mile in the cold.

When we reached the truck and started it I noticed the steering wheel would barely turn. After a bit, I was finally able to turn the wheel but I was scared because I also discovered that the defroster was not working! So I started driving very slowly because I could not see anything. Once I got on to the main road to town, my temperature gauge starting acting up, hitting the red line and then backing off the red line the five miles to town. I looked at my daughter and said, “pray”. A trip to town that should have taken five minutes turned into about a 40 minute trip. Once we got to the town of Fort Elliot (pop. 100) we pulled up to the only store and gas station in town. I did not know what to do but ask for help. Only two guys were there and one the guys said he could help but it would be about two hours! Four hours later he comes back with a part to fix my Dodge. However, when he went to the parts store in the big town of Wheeler (pop. 500) he could not believe the part was available! We left the store and went to his shop (which was actually just a barn) and he fixed my truck. I then asked how much and he just showed me the receipt for the part and would not take any money. I tried to give him an extra hundred but he just refused to take my money. “Wow!” my 11-year-old daughter said.

Now we had to go back and get our deer. The store manager refused to let us go back out in our 2-wheel drive truck. He told his wife to cover the register and took us in his big 4-wheel drive truck. There was no way we would have made it through the snow drifts four and five feet high in my truck. But in his truck we ran right through them! When we finally got back to the store I pulled out my wallet to pay him and he wouldn’t take a dime. My daughter was again shocked. We finally got everything together to get back on the road and we talked about how there was still good people and how God provided for us.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Helen Hartzo - Early Childhood Director

The Uncomfortable Zone

One thing is for certain - life always has a way of changing... family, friends, church and jobs. Lately in my life, I have been experiencing a lot of changes. Kids growing up and moving out of the house (empty nesters as some would say). A spouse, relative or friend loses their job and has to start over again. A new president. Uncertainty in a lot of ways as to what the future holds. We all experience change on a daily basis. The question is, how will we handle those changes? Will we try to stay in our comfort zone where we feel snug and secure or, will we be open to venture out into that UNCOMFORTABLE ZONE, “go where no man has gone before” to what God has for us and trust Him to lead and guide our paths.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Change can bring excitement and apprehension. As the next few months unfold at Hope during this transition phase (sometimes uncomfortable zone) with the building, we as individuals have to be open to what God wants to do here and how He wants to use each of us. It isn’t just about “me” but about people’s lives being changed.

I have heard several well–known speakers say (paraphrased) “if you want to go where you have never gone before, you have to do what you have never done before.” The UNCOMFORTABLE ZONE. We can’t expect change to happen if we don’t change. If I want to draw closer to Him, I have to spend more time with Him. If I want to learn more of His Word, I have to spend more time reading His Word. If I want to have more faith, more faith comes by hearing His Word.
My prayer for our church family is that we will be open to the changes (those UNCOMFORTABLE ZONES) that God has for us in our personal lives as well as for the individual areas of ministry one is involved in (or maybe to get involved in) and let God use us how He wants to. Be open and sensitive to His will…His purpose! He wants to use YOU in a greater way than ever before!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Launa Vaughn - Communications Director

I categorize my life with doors. There are certain doors in my life that just don’t need to be opened, places I don’t need to go. Right now I’ve got one that’s wide open and I can’t seem to shut it. Its like a dam, you’ve got a small amount of water coming through and you can handle it. Maybe plug it up, but then a crack starts and more water comes through and before you know it the dam has been demolished and there’s a flood.

My doors are like that. The one that I can’t seem to shut right now is the door to chocolate and desserts. Usually I don’t eat sweets, but if I’ve indulged a couple of times, I start to crave them. Then I’m looking to satisfy that craving. I scrounge the Early Childhood area for treats. I eat my kid’s ice cream out of the freezer (and add nuts and chocolate syrup too, yum).

So, I’m in the process of trying to shut it, but it’s difficult. I fail sometimes but I can’t give up! We all have doors that we allow to be opened, even if ever so slightly. We always know better, but the temptation can seem too hard to resist.

Whatever your door is I know that God will help you shut it, no matter how difficult. His Word says so!

Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Philippians 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mark Lunsford - Executive Pastor


This morning as I am sitting in my office, there is a construction worker pounding on my window and using a loud saw trying to dislodge it from its current location. The window is being replaced to match our new church addition. Of course, since I am trying to write, this has me very distracted. Why is it that when I am trying to focus and accomplish a goal, distractions always come up? I don’t know, but it seems to happen a lot in life. Distractions can keep us from accomplishing the very things that we have talked about as being priorities. Goals that we have talked about or dreams that we have envisioned get pushed aside many times because distractions cause us to lose focus.

I’ve found that this can also happen in our spiritual lives. In Luke 10, we read about Mary and Martha. They were sisters who had invited Jesus and his disciples into their home. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to what he said. “But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:40-42 NLT)

Sometimes we forget how important it is to simply sit as His feet and listen. With all that has to be done it’s easy to lose focus on why we’re even doing it in the first place! The things that Martha was doing were good and necessary, but they were causing her to be distracted and even made her miss out on hearing from her guest, the reason for the dinner in the first place! Recently I have felt that God has been saying that same thing to me; that the things I’m doing FOR Him are hindering my relationship WITH Him. It’s hard for me to slow down long enough to just sit at Jesus’ feet. But I know that when I do, I am able to hear Him more clearly. The apostle Paul said it well in Philippians 3:13-14, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

“God, help me this week to remember that without your help, I can do nothing. And help me not to be so distracted by everything going on, that I forget to spend time with you. Help me to listen and hear what you’re saying to me so that everything I do glorifies you. In Jesus name, amen.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Scott Berkey - Children's Pastor

I was driving home from church the other day when my wife and I got to experience something pretty cool. Madeline, our 4 year old, loves music (she is always saying “turn it up daddy”) and she is starting to learn how to listen to the words of the songs that are on. She likes to sing along (remembering as many of the words to the song that her 4 year old mind can). We were listening to a song from the Passion CD “God of this City.

The song was “Hosanna”, and I was almost brought to tears listening to my baby girl sing “ Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest”. I am pretty sure that she didn’t know what exactly she was singing, all she knew was that she was singing a praise song to her really big God. I went back and listened to the song one more time a little later, one of the verses jumped out at me. It said “I see a generation, rising up to take their place with selfless faith”. I couldn’t help but think of my little girls and all the children of Hope Fellowship rising up to take their place and do great things for the Kingdom of God.

Sarah and I are so blessed to be a part of the family of Hope Fellowship. Please join us and our entire kid’s ministry team as we pray for and raise up a “generation” that will soon “take their place” to do incredible things for God!

Scott Berkey
Children's Pastor

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Aubrey McGowan - Worship Pastor/Student Ministries Pastor

Stamps are interesting things:

1. The price of a first class stamp keeps going up… never down. Bummer.

2. $0.42 is still a pretty good deal for sending a birthday card from Texas all the way to Maine.
3. $0.42 is a rip off for sending my water bill from my house to city hall.
4. Although, it’s not such a rip off if I leave it in my car with good intentions of taking it to a convenient payment location, but forget until the bill is past due. At that point, I am charged a $10 late fee and in the end $10.00 is less than $0.42.
5. The cool commemorative stamps cost the same as the generic ones.
6. You can buy the generic ones in many places.
7. You can buy the commemorative ones if you feel like standing in line at the post office for three days.
Or you can get them online, but then you’ll have to pay postage to get them delivered… seems to defeat the purpose a little.
You don’t have to lick them anymore. No more awful stamp-adhesive taste.
On the other hand you don’t have the grace period once afforded to stamp lickers during which one could remove the stamp without wasting your 42 cents. So, make sure you get it perfectly aligned the first time!

We spend so much of our lives focusing on initiatives, goals, processes, strategies, and to do lists. It’s true that there are many great things that get accomplished when we are laser focused, but we often forget about something that is equally as important… our imagination. When is the last time you let your imagination run wild? I know. You say, “That’s just kids’ stuff.” Right? Wrong! Your mind, your imagination, and your creativity are all gifts from God. These form the foundation for many of the great things that initiatives, goals, processes, and initiatives accomplish. Don’t let them go to waste because you are too caught up in everything pressing on you right now. If you are in a place of imagination atrophy, I have a recommendation; an experiment of sorts. It may seem a little counter intuitive, but here ya go! Take a moment right now and plan out a few minutes in the next day or so specifically set aside to let your mind wander. Maybe you will think about something more important than stamps or maybe you won’t. It’s not “what” you are thinking about that matters, but rather “that” you are thinking. Don’t let your imagination go to waste. Use it and see what great things God may spark in you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Larry Hopkins - Counseling Pastor

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on Hope’s website. I may have been a little harsh on what the definition of a blog was, sorry Aaron. Part of the definition was that it is self promoting. Well, I must apologize because I am about to do that very thing in this blog.

Starting February 10th Hope will be offering five classes generally called Life Classes. Individually these classes are called:
  1. Discovery – Discovery is a four week class on the foundational doctrines of the Bible. Faith, baptisms, and spiritual gifts to name a few.
  2. Divorce Care – Divorce Care is a 13 week course for those who have experienced or are experiencing the trauma of divorce. It is to help those regain hope and healing.
  3. Financial Peace University – FPU is a 13 week action packed course that will help you manage your money better, eliminate debt, and build wealth biblically.
  4. The Life and Teachings of Christ – This is a 13 week study of the life and teachings of Christ based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The content of this course will focus on ways for students to apply the principals of Christ to their own lives.
  5. Experiencing Spiritual Maturity and Freedom – Now here is where I get self promoting. The goal of experiencing spiritual maturity and freedom is to help us to grow and walk daily in the freedom Jesus promised through knowing the truth. Spiritual maturity is a life time process. This class will help you get started on that journey. Spiritual freedom on the other hand can be obtained in a relatively short time. Jesus said the spirit of the Lord is upon Him to proclaim freedom to the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. (Luke 4:18). Each one of these classes is to help us grow in maturity and gain our freedom from the bondage the world and the devil have put on us.

I read this story and thought it could fit some of us. “A general of the Persian Army always gave his condemned prisoners a choice, the firing squad or the black door. Most chose the firing squad. The prisoners were never told what was on the other side of the door. Few ever chose the unknown of the black door. When asked what was on the other side of the black door the general answered, “Freedom, and I’ve known only a few men brave enough to take it.” It seems like so many are willing to settle for where we are at instead of stepping out in faith choosing the freedom general Jesus has to offer…….Blog on fellow blogger.

Larry Hopkins
Counseling Pastor

Monday, January 12, 2009

Larry Evans - Pastoral Care Pastor

What a change! I am enjoying Hope Fellowship. I’m the “other” Pastor Larry, the Pastoral Care Pastor. I am doing what I love. I believe that pastoral care ministry is where the “rubber meets the road” in ministry. It is really where people are. I have been at home (I mean at Hope) for about six months. I’ve learned to love this place so much. It’s changing. Every week we change on the outside and on the inside.

I have learned that in this life there is one thing that is consistent: CHANGE. Every day we change. Paul wrote that from glory to glory He is changing me, into His likeness and image to perfect me. I’m kind of new to all this technology and stuff. I mean, a year ago I had no idea what a blog was, and now… I’m writing one. I am changing.

Change is often not easy though. Sometimes change is difficult and causes us to move out of our “comfort zones”. My son, Justin, wrote and recorded a song about our comfort zones. The song declares, “Lord, make my comfort zone uncomfortable.”

God brings about change in two ways: (1) He changes circumstances in our life, and (2) He changes me.
In Jeremiah 18, the Word says: “The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there. So I did as he told me and found the potter working on his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again. Then the Lord gave this message: O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Jeremiah 18:1-6

When God changes me, he sometimes has to squash me in order to make me right. Have you ever been squashed? It doesn’t feel good. It hurts! Who likes to be squashed? Not me. It really is important to realize that God isn’t mad at me when I get squashed. I have always been hard headed and stubborn. I get used to doing something a certain way and it is hard for me to change. I get familiar with the road I’m going down and I don’t want to go another way. God has to squash me sometimes to change me. The process of change is painful at times. God has to squash me to make me over again. God wants to make me better. Do you feel like you have been squashed? From one lump of clay to another, I want to encourage you to stay on the wheel. God is up to something good. It is only as we remain still can God re-make us. Remember Jeremiah 18, “As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”

I love you all very much.

Larry Evans

Pastoral Care Pastor

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Launa Vaughn - Communications Director

I will never... that's a phrase I try not to say. Not that I haven't always felt that way about the phrase. My first memory of using it was "I will never marry a man in the military." (I don't know why I felt that way, I was young and stupid.) I was a sophomore at Macon College when I made that firm decision. Two years later I started dating a young military officer. Eight months later I was married... 

My second memory of using 'the phrase' was around the same time. "I will never live in the north." (It was just too cold up there for a Georgia girl.) One year after I was married, we moved to our first duty station, Fort Drum, New York. It was 20 minutes from the Canadian border. 

I really think when we use the phrase "I will never..." it's kind of like daring God, don't you think? We say, "I will never..." and He just kind of chuckles and thinks, watch this! I try really hard not to use that type of language any longer. Even my children realize the dangers. 

I wish I could say moving to New York was my last "I will never..." but it wasn't. I'm a pretty slow learner. I do know when life takes me in a direction I didn't want or plan, that I have a couple of scriptures I always go to. Words He's given me to reinforce the fact that regardless of what life has thrown my way, God's with me. 

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:8-9 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

So, regardless of whether we dare God, or life just takes us on an unexpected road in our life journey... He's always with us.

Launa Vaughn
Communications Director