Living with Christian Hope

sunrise

What is hope?

We all have hopes of different sorts. In the past we may have talked about the hope of a new job, a life partner, or an amazing gift for our birthday. In recent times, hope has become more focused, consider the basics of our health, our livelihood, and, in some cases, survival.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” Hope is an expectation. It is a desire. It is a longing and yearning that something would become a reality. By definition, hope has two basic parts:

  • The longing that exists within us
  • The object, or goal, toward which our longing is directed

Some of us, when we talk about hope, put the emphasis mostly on the first part of that: we emphasize the longing that exists within us. We have hope – a sort of vague, fuzzy longing – that things would be better, but the object – or goal – of our hope is sometimes undefined or unclear.

When we come to the Bible, the essence of hope is something more focused and clear. In Jesus’ walk along the Emmaus road with the disciples who did not recognize Him, this topic of hope surfaces multiple times. Look at the words spoken by those men walking the road with Jesus:

The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. (Luke 24:20-21)

Christian hope is a desire – a longing – that is firmly fixed on Jesus as the object of our hope. Christian hope is, essentially, the longing that what Jesus promised – and what we see in Scripture – about life with God and His kingdom is ultimately true. Christian hope has a fixed object – Jesus’ life and teaching – and builds upon that.

Consider with me how the Apostle Paul writes about hope in Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Let me highlight just a few basic things that Paul is saying here in Romans about hope:

  • Hope begins from our ‘justification of faith’ (vs 1): this is the justification before God – being put right in standing before God – that comes to us by Jesus going to the Cross and returning to life in victory over sin, death, and evil in the Resurrection. Hope is based on that historical event.
  • Hope stands in the state of grace (vs 2): God sees us through Jesus Christ and not through our sins and wrongs. Grace means that we receive something from God we do not deserve: mercy in place of judgment; kindness instead of wrath; hope instead of despair.
  • Hope lives with perseverance (vss 3-4): Hope believes that God is at work in the midst of our sufferings and trials, doing something in us. Hope believes that God is making us people of character through our difficulties until we see Him face to face.
  • Hope looks toward ultimate glory of God (vss 1 & 5): Hope anticipates both God’s glory fully revealed at the end of human history and God’s glory revealed to us individually at the end of our physical lives because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Christian hope says there will come a day when God will make all things right and new at the end of human history in the new heaven and new earth. Hope is the longing for this reality ever before us

Some might say that Christianity is just wishful thinking. Frederick Buechner offers this unique reframing of that accusation:

Christianity is mainly wishful thinking…

Dreams are wishful thinking. Children playing at being grown-ups is wishful thinking. Interplanetary travel is wishful thinking.

Sometimes wishing is the wings the truth comes true on.

Sometimes the truth is what sets us wishing for it. [1]

We may respond to those who accuse Christian hope of being “wishful thinking” that perhaps the wishful thinking could be called faith. And perhaps faith is a way to access a reality that is there. And perhaps the reason we dream about such a thing being true is that the truth has birthed such a dream within us in the first place.

Christian hope is, essentially, the longing that what Jesus promised – and what we see in Scripture – about life and eternity is ultimately true. Christian hope flows out of Jesus’ resurrection from death after the Cross. It reshapes the way we view our failings, our sufferings, and the end of our lives. It also reshapes the way we view our world.

Jesus’ resurrection allows us to live with hope that there is meaning in our lives and meaning beyond our lives. When we live with hope, we have meaning both for now and for our future.  With the Apostle Paul, we can say,

and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)


[1] Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers , 1973), 96.

Living an Eternal Kind of Life

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)

John the Apostle tells us in his first letter to early Christians that God has given us eternal life through Jesus Christ. What is this eternal life? Well, it is clear from various places in Scripture that there is both a certain quality and a certain quantity to this eternal life.

The Quality of Eternal Life

Eternal life is not just about the length of our lives, such as being extended to eternal days, but also about a different quality of life. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The kingdom of God sort of life starts now through faith in Jesus Christ. We are plunged into a life enriched by God’s presence and relationship with Him. We do not wait for eternal life to begin when we die, but we enter into a new quality of life with God now. We pass from death to life, from darkness to light, from imprisonment to freedom now in Jesus Christ.

The Quantity of Eternal Life (5:12; John 3:16; 5:24)

At the same time as eternal life does begin now, it also has impact on our days beyond our physical death. We see this when read the well-known verses from John’s Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This relates to now and to what we would term eternity. Death is not the end for us who have faith in Jesus Christ. It moves on into the future for endless days with God. As Jesus says elsewhere, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

Jesus is the bringer of eternal life. It is a life marked by divine quality and divine quantity.

Living the Creed: Connecting Life and Faith in the Apostles’ Creed – a new series at Eastbrook Church

This coming Sunday at Eastbrook Church we begin a new preaching series entitled “Living the Creed: Connecting Life and Faith in the Apostles’ Creed.” This series walks through the Apostles Creed as a basic summary of our faith but also as a way to live our faith out with God in the world. Each weekend of this series will explore the biblical and theological roots of the Apostles Creed, while also providing specific spiritual practices and approaches to living out what we know as we ‘proclaim and embody’ the Creed in our daily lives.

Join us each weekend of this series in-person or via Eastbrook at Home.

Here are the weekly topics for this fifteen-part series:

June 5 [Pentecost] – I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth”

June 12 – “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord”

June 19 – “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary”

June 26 – “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was crucified”

July 3 – “He died and was buried; he descended to hell/the dead”

July 10 – “The third day he rose again from the dead”

July 17 – “He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty”

July 24 – “From there he will come to judge the living and the dead”

July 31 – “I believe in the Holy Spirit”

August 7 – “The holy Christian/catholic church, the communion of saints”

August 14 – “The forgiveness of sins”

August 21 – “The resurrection of the body”

August 28 – “And the life everlasting”

September 4 – “Amen”

His Healing by Faith

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our Advent journey and our preaching series entitled “‘Tis the Reason.” This third week of the series, Will Branch preached on two stories of healing by Jesus en route to Jerusalem in Matthew 17:14-20 and 20:29-34. Will really made me think about whether my faith is substantial or more like sand.

This message is part of the seventh part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” and “Who Do You Say I Am?”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

The Faith Problem – Matthew 17:14-20

  • The Father and Son: I want to believe
  • The Disciples: I thought I believed
  • The teachers of the law: I won’t believe
  • The Healer: No one believesThe Faith Solution – Matthew 20:29-34

Two Blind Men – Matthew 20:29-34

  • They heard so the cried
  • They met a mountain so the cried louder
  • They saw because they believed

The Faith Calling – James 5:13-16, 2 Chron 7:14; Luke 18:6-8

  • Have you Heard? Then cry
  • Is there a mountain? Then Cry Louder

Soul Food: Feeding the 4,000

This past weekend at Eastbrook, as we continued our preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?”, I walked us through the account of Jesus feeding the 4,000 in Matthew 15:29-39. This story echoes another we have already looked at in the feeding of the 5,000. While I do dig into the actual account, one of the questions I try to answer is: why are there two miraculous feeding stories in the gospels?

This message is part of the sixth part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’” (Matthew 15:32)

Jesus’ Amazing Healing (Matthew 15:29-31)

Great crowds with great needs

Great healings and great praise

Jesus’ Compassionate Heart (Matthew 15:32-33)

“I have compassion for these people …”

Jesus’ Abundant Feeding of a Great Crowd (Matthew 15:34-39)

Recognizing the needs of the crowd and limited provision

Jesus’ action: take – give thanks – break – give 

The miraculous provision for the crowd 

Why Are There Two Miraculous Feedings?

Reemphasizing the power and compassion of Jesus 

Emphasizing how Jesus’ ministry begins with the Jews but also reaches the Gentiles.

Seeing Jesus Again

His compassion moves Him

His miracles touch real needs: healing and feeding

His work for the Jew first, but also for the nations


Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 15:36
  • Pray and reflect on Jesus’ phrase in 15:32, “I have compassion for these people.” Ask God to show you His compassion for you. Ask God to show you His compassion for others. If the Lord brings someone specifically to mind, pray for them. If the Lord brings to mind a tangible way you can minister to them, do it.
  • Journal, draw, paint, or ink this story or some aspect of it as a way of reflecting on who Jesus is and how you most need to meet with Him.
  • Consider reading Christopher J. H. Wright’s book, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission or Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, which depicts the spiritual life through Jesus’ fourfold action in this story (taken – blessed – broken – given).