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The constant theme of this website is HOPE. The hope that I write about is not just wishful thinking, that might or might not be fulfilled. The hope I write about is what I call faith-based hope. That is, hope that is in accordance with God’s will. I believe that if what I am hoping for is in accordance with God’s will, then that hope will be fulfilled – in God’s time and God’s way. Which means that before I get my hopes up about something, I need to discern if that is God’s will.
I’m writing this on the day after Christmas. I am reminded that on the first Christmas, when Jesus was born, the angels announced the birth of Jesus by singing about peace on earth. I believe this announcement was in response to people who were in fact seeking peace in the world, and certainly in their own lives. I believe that total and eternal peace is still one of the hopes that we all have. I believe that in God’s time and God’s way, that hope will be fulfilled, and even though it might not look like it right now, God has been and is continuing to fulfill that hope. I don’t know exactly what that peace will look like, but I have seen and experienced peace in various degrees and forms in my life of 74 years so far. Total and lasting peace is not here yet, but God is working, through human beings, to fulfill that hope for peace. Besides peace, there are other things in life that we can and do hope for. Here are a few things I hope for.
In my part of the world, it’s winter. I really don’t like winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. And chances are, it will snow. I don’t like any of that. I like it when it’s warm, bright, and sunny. That’s what I hope for. However, over the years I’ve come to accept the reality that my hopes in that area are more like wishful thinking. That’s because having the kind of weather I hope for is not always in accordance with God’s will. I don’t believe God decides that “tomorrow I’m going to send a snowstorm into a particular part of the world”. I believe that part of God’s creation of the universe included self-sustaining weather patterns, which are “tweaked” by God from time to time. So while I do hope for the kind of weather I like, I don’t expect that my hope will always be fulfilled. Because it’s not a faith-based hope. It’s mostly just wishful thinking.
On the other hand, I do have what I believe is really a hope (not wishful thinking) concerning the weather. That is, that there will be an end to winter. Right now that’s what I’m hoping for. I know that hope will be fulfilled. I don’t know exactly when, except that it will probably be by early April. I know this because that’s been the pattern I’ve experienced all my life. Also, There are signs that tell me God’s will concerning weather is working. For example, one sign was that just a few days ago, December 21, was the official first day of winter. Now you might think I would not be too happy about that. But I took that as a day to be joyful, because it meant that it was the shortest day of the year. And for the next six months, everyday would be just a little bit brighter.
Another weather related is that in about five weeks, on February 2, it will be Ground Hog Day. It’s not really a holiday, but it is one of my favorite days of the year. If you don’t know what Ground Hog Day is, you can look it up on Wikipedia. But briefly, it’s the day when, in a town called Punxutawney, Pennsylvania, they wake up a ground hog (named Punxutawney Phil) from his hibernation and somehow he predicts if spring is coming early (like in a week or two) or if there will be six more weeks of winter. I used to get upset if the prediction was for six more weeks of winter, but I have come to accept that no matter what the prediction, the good news is that sooner or later, spring will arrive and the days will be getting longer, brighter, and warmer. Of course, the ground hog isn’t really predicting that. It’s all part of God’s will concerning how the natural universe works. That’s why it’s a valid hope that will be fulfilled, which makes me happy.
It’s one thing to know that certain hopes will be fulfilled at some unknown time in the future (eternal peace) and hopes which are routinely fulfilled, based on experience (weather patterns). Then there is another very personal category of hope. My friend and partner in ministry, Patty Perez, gave me a Christmas card with the word HOPE on the front of it. We are always reminding each other that God is using us to spread faith-based hope and good news through our Ray of Hope Ministries, which includes this web-site. Inside the card Patty wrote a note about praying that I will see and hear all that God has in store for us in our lives and ministry in the new year. That’s what she hopes for me. I pray and hope the same for her. We both know that our prayers and hopes for discernment of God’s will for us will be fulfilled. We know that because we have sincerely worked at discerning and following God’s will over the past few years. Since then, we have believed that therefore, God would fulfill our hopes with regard to our ministry. And we have experienced fulfillment of those hopes. We are always engaging in that process – discern God’s will, agree to act in accordance with God’s will, and then, faithfully applying God’s grace, just do it. Knowing that every step of the way, God is with us.
There is no question about it. Our experience has been that if we follow that process, our hopes are fulfilled. Our hopes for getting the work of our ministry done are always fulfilled, if we follow that procedure. But I have hopes beyond getting the work done. My ultimate hope is about the results of the work we do. For example, does anything we produce on our web-sites make a difference to anyone? Is what we have faithfully written making a positive difference in anyone’s life? Actually, that’s the same question I often raised during my career as a local church pastor. As a pastor, it was easier to answer that question. Sometimes people would make a special point of telling me that I had done something that was helpful to them. Other times I might hear a positive response a few weeks or month later. In fact, a few weeks ago my wife, Joan, heard an expression of appreciation from a church member for something she and I had done about ten years ago. But the reality is that I probably won’t know all the good that I have accomplished in this world in the way of following God’s direction as a pastor, until I get to heaven. I believe that also applies to the ministry that God has given Patty and me, and specifically this web-site. Yes, we have received some positive comments from our readers. But we believe that in the end, our purpose is to follow that procedure, Discern, agree to act, then do it. Then, who gives attention to what we have produced and what people do with or as a result of it, is between God and the people.
Patty and I hope that God will continue to use us in various ways to spread a message of hope in a world that too often seems to be hopeless, good news where there seems to be nothing but bad news. Our hope is that God will use what we produce, to develop and fulfill faith-based hopes around the world, toward the ultmate end that the kingdom of God will be fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven, under God’s direction. Our hope is that God will help you experience a year of hope and good news, and will use you to share that with others in the world. We believe God will fulfill those hopes, in God’s time and God’s way.
Grace and peace, Ray Gough
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty Perez and Ray Gough