A Hope and A Future

 Two psychologists were conducting experiments on a lab mouse to gauge behavior using a Skinner box. This is a device that B.F. Skinner devised to train mice using behavioral modification techniques. Certain behaviors were rewarded and others punished in an effort to train the subject to perform certain tasks.
  The lab mouse performed beautifully until the doctors began introducing mixed stimuli and related it to the same behavior. The mouse performed a task and received a food pellet, but later performed the same task and was punished with an electric shock.
  Within a short period of time, the mouse was so confused that he went to the corner of the box and remained motionless. The psychologists concluded that the mouse had lost hope, frozen in fear, and would have died had they not rescued him from his misery.
  These last several weeks we’ve been looking at the prophet Jeremiah and the message he had for God’s people. The people lost the temple, their home, way of life, and all hope with the Babylonian captivity. They were going to go through some experiences that would create misery for them, yet God urged them to make the most of their captivity. God had not forgotten them, and there was a larger purpose for their exile.
  Our church has experienced many exciting events recently. These last several weeks, in particular, have seen a dozen persons join our church, including numerous baptisms. There will be more of these to come!
   We’ve been acknowledged for our payday loan debt relief effort. In a week or two, the News-Leader will carry a story about our partnership with the Chin Church. For these and other reasons, it’s an exciting time to be part of UHBC.
  While all these developments are unfolding, we are also dealing with financial issues. We made reductions in our operating budget to bring our spending more in line with our giving. It is a difficult process but the staff and church leadership is doing its best to work within these ministry limitations.
   There is a scripture on the wall in the church office from Jeremiah 29:11. It reads, ” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
    I see this verse almost every day. The context of it was a letter given to people who had no visible reason to be hopeful, yet it was an assurance of God’s presence and purpose for their lives.
   We are in a much better situation than Jeremiah’s audience, yet these words have meaning for us as well. They were intended for the faith community rather than one individual. The primary reason for the people going through hardship was to bring them back to God. They had gotten confident in their own abilities; content with going through the motions of religious service.
    St. Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
    It’s a terrible thing to feel like that lab mouse, curled up in a corner, hopeless and fearful of our next move. Fortunately, we don’t have to live that way. God has been faithful, and given UHBC “a hope and a future” too. God knows that the future will be; we of course cannot. But, we can determine to move forward in faith, knowing that our hope is rooted in Christ.
   I’m grateful to be on this spiritual journey with you, and remain open to whatever future God has for me and this church in the days to come. Let’s continue to seek “the mind of Christ” as we embrace our future with confidence.
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