A Transforming Hope

Beyond the countless palm trees and green fields, amongst the sounds of jeepneys and motorbikes, there are lives marked by heartbreak and lost hope.

Many of the people I’ll meet over the next few days have heard the voice of poverty saying, you are worthless. You don’t matter. Your situation is settled and unchangeable. Things will never get better.

I’m in the Philippines with a handful of others, once again seeing the work of Compassion, releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Thankfully there is a hope more powerful than the lies of poverty and I’ll be hearing about how that hope has invaded their lives, bringing transformation and the promise of a very different future to the one they were facing.

As I sit in a sparse hotel room with its peeling wallpaper, looking out the window at a Philippines flag fluttering proudly atop a tall flag pole, my mind goes back to another moment, thousands of kilometres and many years from here.

I remember gazing out an aeroplane window as we gathered speed and eventually took to the skies above Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. It was April 2008 and we had to leave hurriedly as riots took over the city.

It was the time of the Global Financial Crisis, resulting in the Global Food Crisis. Parents had no way to feed their families and in their frustration took to the streets.

“We’re safe.” I thought to myself as the buildings below grew smaller, while at the same time wondering about the millions left behind. That’s when I knew that I had to be a voice for those who have no voice.

If I were a better man I might be helping those in poverty in other ways, but I know that stories are powerful and so I will tell the stories of those I meet. I’ll tell their stories, hoping to connect the need of these incredible children and families with those who have the capacity to share a voice of hope.

In the coming days, I’ll share some stories of courage amidst hardship with you. I hope and pray that you’ll have the courage to respond by reaching across the oceans to let a child know that there is a hope more powerful than poverty.



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A Different Hope

What are you hoping for? What are your big hopes?

I find hope to be a very interesting idea. It’s about looking forward to good things or better times even though we don’t yet see any evidence of the object of our hope. Sometimes we can be in a dark place but hope says there’s something better on the way.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
– Desmond Tutu

Most of the time when we talk about hope it really is a desire or wish for something to happen. That desire can be stronger at some times more than others and there can be a higher possibility of that desire being fulfilled at times, but it’s still looking ahead with a desire that may or may not come to pass.

When we say, “I hope this year is better than last year”, we’re stating a desire for something good but we have no way of knowing if that will be the case. Maybe the year will be worse.

If someone says, “I hope I won’t lose my job.” It’s possibly because they see that things are tough and their job isn’t certain. They have a desire that their job will continue but we’re not sure.

There are a lot of desires that we express in terms of hope.

“I hope the weather stays nice this afternoon.”

“I hope the economy improves soon.”

“I hope the West Coast Eagles can win the premiership this year.”

There is a different kind of hope.

The kind of hope that we find in the Bible is different. When we put our hope in God we are certain of the outcome. It’s not about wishing for something that may or may not happen. God has provided certainty through the gift of his son Jesus.

Biblical hope is not a mere desire for something good to happen. It is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Biblical hope has moral certainty in it. When the word says, “Hope in God!” it does not mean, “Cross your fingers.” It means, to use the words of William Carey, ‘Expect great things from God.”
– John Piper

The Bible tells us that we are born again to a hope that is alive. The hope that we as followers of Jesus have is the hope of eternal life together with our saviour. It’s a hope that keeps us alive, supports us, motivates us and drives us forward.
 
It’s a hope that invigorates and spurs our souls to action, to patience, to perseverance to the end.
 
But there’s more to it. It’s a hope that comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and it comes with an inheritance. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
– 1 Peter 1:3-9

This kind of hope doesn’t ignore our dark days or the difficulties we face, instead it looks them in the face and says that all those trials cannot compare to what is ahead of us. That’s real hope.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peter talks in the Bible about the various trials that test the genuineness of our faith. He talks about our faith being precious but says that it will be tested.
 
There’s a rejoicing that comes despite circumstances because we have this living hope. It’s more than a desire for things to be different. It’s more than hoping that better times are around the corner. It’s a confidence and an expectation that there’s something better waiting for us.
 
This kind of living hope works in us despite our surroundings, trials and circumstances.
 
The passage from Peter wraps up saying, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
 
So right in the middle of testing and trials, this living hope, grounded in Jesus Christ, his work on the cross and resurrection, lets us rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
 
This living hope bubbles up and overflows because we are certain of the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
 
This kind of Biblical hope is so different to the kind of hope the world offers.

If your hopes have been dashed again and again, can I encourage you to cling to a different kind of hope … a living hope.



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Is Happiness Our Only Hope?

It’s over. 2016 is gone and 2017 has arrived.

Over the last few days there’s every chance you’ve been exchanging the customary greeting of “Happy New Year” with anyone who happens to cross your path. Even while you’ve been trying to grab a bargain at all the post-Christmas sales you’ve probably had complete strangers not only hurriedly scanning your discounted items from the other side of the counter, but wishing you happiness for the next twelve months.

We wish each other happiness as we draw a line under the year that has gone and look forward to the fresh beginnings of a new year. We want the next year to be better than the last.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how tough 2016 was personally. I’ve heard many despair at happenings around the world with everything from terrorist attacks to natural disasters, political instability, inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the heartbreaking situation in Syria. Others have spoken of the many great lives we’ve lost during the past twelve months. It’s no wonder we want a little bit of happiness in the new year.

But is happiness what it’s really all about?

Of course I want to wish you a happy new year but I don’t want it to end there. I want more for you than happiness as you launch into 2017.

Happiness comes and goes and we all know that you’re not going to sail through 2017 with a smile on your face the whole time. There will be struggles and disappointments. I’m not wishing you difficulties but I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that each year will bring a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes there’ll also be extreme highs and devastating lows. With that in mind my wish for you goes deeper.

I wish you joy for 2017.

Joy is different than happiness. It’s more. It’s not so dependent on circumstances. There’s a strength in joy that goes beyond the happy times. It’s a confidence that no matter we’re facing, we can go on.

I wish love for you in 2017.

Love means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. We’ve all been let down, even by those closest to us. That’s not the kind of love I’m talking about. The kind of love I wish for you in 2017 is a deep, abiding love that never changes, leaves or disappoints. That’s the kind of love we need during the tough days in 2017.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I wish grace for you in 2017.

What is grace? It’s been describes as undeserved favour but there’s more to it than that.

Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.

God’s grace was God’s acting in Paul to make Paul work hard. So when Paul says, “Work out your salvation,” he adds, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us. – John Piper

And more than wishing … I pray these things for you in 2017

I could pray for a happy year for you. I could pray that whatever you do, all runs smoothly. A great job, a close family, healing from illness are all wonderful things that I want for you, but more than that, I pray that 2017 will be a year that draws you closer to the one who created you. I really can’t go past this prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesian church.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

Wow. Being filled with all the fullness of God? That sure beats ‘Happy New Year’.

There are many other things I could wish for you in 2017 like hope, peace, strength and wisdom but I’d be interested to know what you’d like to wish for others as we begin a new year. Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.



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Poverty Doesn’t Define Micole

Wall Art

Micole was born into poverty but the poverty he faces every day no longer defines him.

Over the last few days I’ve heard incredible stories of transformation as I’ve been part of a group visiting the work of Compassion in Manila, Philippines. I’ve had the privilege of traveling here with some former colleagues from 98five. They’re taking the opportunity to tell Perth listeners about the people we’re meeting and the life change we’ve seen.

I had the honour of meeting Micole when I visited a church in Manila which partners with Compassion. He’s now 19 yet despite being registered in a Compassion project from the age of 7, Micole openly admits that he made a number of bad life choices. He says he was smoking, drinking, fighting and choosing the wrong friends. That was all before he turned 16. He described himself as being trouble for his parents and his siblings described him as a ‘black sheep’.

At the age of 16, the things Micole had been learning at the local church began to become real to him and he started to understand the help he was receiving thanks to his Compassion sponsor.

I see the goodness of the Lord in my life. I grow spiritually and because of that I read the word of God, I pray to him every day, I confess my sin and he forgives me. Now I commit myself to God I spend more time with him and I see that he change my life. Before I have a messy life because of the sin that I have but God fixed everything. He directs me in the paths of righteousness and now I have a ministry in our church which is teaching and music. We teach children in outreach and Sunday School extension in music. Sometimes I am the song leader in praise and worship team in our Sunday service.

Micole says that he is so glad and blessed that he came to know God in his life. He thanks God that he used the church and Compassion to help him change and submit his life to him and he is happy to serve Jesus.

God will never leave me, I just call his name whenever I am afraid and broken he is always there for me to make me happy, cheer me, hug and protect me. He is faithful and loving. Thank you Christ Jesus for changing my life and now in all I do I honour you.



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Better Than Happy

More Than Happy

Is ‘happy’ really the best we’ve got?

Over the last few days there’s every chance you’ve been exchanging the customary greeting of “Happy New Year” with anyone who happens to cross your path. Even while you’ve been trying to grab a bargain at all the post-Christmas sales you’ve probably had complete strangers not only hurriedly scanning your discounted items from the other side of the counter, but wishing you happiness for the next twelve months. But is happiness what it’s really all about?

Of course I want to wish you a happy new year but I don’t want it to end there.

I want more for you than happiness as you launch into 2016.

Happiness comes and goes and we all know that you’re not going to sail through 2016 with a smile on your face the whole time. There will be struggles and disappointments. I’m not wishing you difficulties but I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that each year will bring a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes there’ll also be extreme highs and devastating lows. With that in mind my wish for you goes deeper.

I wish you joy for 2016.

Joy is different than happiness. It’s more. It’s not so dependent on circumstances. There’s a strength in joy that goes beyond the happy times. It’s a confidence that no matter we’re facing, we can go on.

I wish love for you in 2016.

Love means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. We’ve all been let down, even by those closest to us. That’s not the kind of love I’m talking about. The kind of love I wish for you in 2016 is a deep, abiding love that never changes, leaves or disappoints. That’s the kind of love we need during the tough days in 2016.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I wish grace for you in 2016.

What is grace? It’s been describes as undeserved favour but there’s more to it than that.

Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.

God’s grace was God’s acting in Paul to make Paul work hard. So when Paul says, “Work out your salvation,” he adds, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us. – John Piper

There are many other things I could wish for you in 2016 like hope, peace, strength and wisdom but I’d be interested to know what you’d like to wish for others as we begin a new year. Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

(This post was first published on the 1st of January 2014.)



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