Friday, December 21, 2012

Eternal Thoughts Flowing from Christmas

The prophetic voice of Isaiah and his recurring theme of redemption through the Messiah yet to come (hundreds of years later) is startlingly specific and powerfully sweeping in scope. With a precise focus on the area of Galilee, looking toward Nazareth and Capernaum yet to be, Isaiah pinpoints the exact location of the childhood home and initial ministry of Jesus. He prophesies a fabulous destiny greater than can be humanly imagined: a great Light shines through a Child, a Son Who will be called Mighty God and Father of Eternity among many other titles, and Who will rule the entire world bringing peace and justice with righteousness FOREVER:

ISAIAH 9:1b In the former time [the Lord] brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time He will make it glorious, by the way of the Sea [of Galilee, the land] beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light; those who dwelt in the land of intense darkness and the shadow of death, upon them has the Light shined. 3 You [O Lord] have multiplied the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before You like the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil [of battle]. 6 For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace. 7. Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from the [latter] time forth, even forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

The apostle Paul picks up Isaiah’s theme of Jesus as the Source of true spiritual light, with a statement of breathtaking depth, from the moment of God’s speaking into being the creation of the universe by His Word, all the way to His shining Presence in the hearts of every follower. Jesus Himself is the Light Who illuminates us with the true knowledge of God’s glory and majesty. He alone manifests this enlightenment revelation through His very Person and especially by the Light of His Face. We can each experience face to Face blessing and illumination from Jesus, as we choose to gaze intently at Him, moving toward Him beyond our current circumstances(Hebrews 12:1-3), with a willingness to surrender all that distracts us from appreciating Him alone as the One and Only Pearl of great Price (Matthew 13:45-46).

Many of us have had a true initial encounter with Jesus, and we have had further glimpses of Him, but can become falsely contented with less than He desires to have with each of us. Jesus is always and forever calling us to come up higher, go on further, and to enter into deeper relationship with Him. He wants to shine His light in greater measure, so that the darkness of the world around us, and the weakness of ourselves and all other human beings is not what we are depending on.

Instead, we are called to carry this ineffable light of Jesus within our very normal, weak human vessels, recognizing that we are not worthy in ourselves to be examples by our own virtue, nor oracles or flowing fountains of life by our own knowledge. Rather, we are compelled by Jesus’ love flowing into us, to open our mouths and allow our countenances and deeds to show His Presence within each of us (2 Corinthians 5:14-21) to everyone we encounter:  

2 CORINTHIANS 4:6 For God Who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts so as [to beam forth] the Light for the illumination of the knowledge of the majesty and glory of God [as it is manifest in the Person and is revealed] in the face of Jesus Christ (the Messiah). 7 However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in [frail, human] vessels of earth that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves.

We are called to be active participants in this divine process of our own redemption, by actively pursuing a greater and more encompassing relationship with Jesus, grabbing hold of everything He has offered us to complete each of our unique destinies! James, Jesus’ apostolic brother, echoes Paul’s call to us to join with all mature followers of Jesus, (James 1:22-25) by becoming doers of His word, not just those who hear it.

The core of our pursuit of Jesus is to become more deeply connected to Jesus by actually coming to really know Him, not just about Him. This true knowledge leads us to embracing Jesus in His sufferings, by communing with Him in our own difficulties (Isaiah 53), which will result in our sharing in the glory of His resurrection life!

When we taste of these powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:4-5), we are enabled to let go of the past, in effect to forget the pains and pleasures that we leave behind, in order to give ourselves to focus and lean forward and take hold of the newness of life, living in and being led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14-17), actually becoming the children of God in reality (1John 3:1-3). This is the goal and upward call of Jesus for every one of us who have named Him as our Lord and Savior:

PHILIPPIANS 3:10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] 12 Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. 13 I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.

Even as we engage ourselves fully into developing our relationship with Jesus, this is only an entrance into His sovereign rule and reign over us, in which we learn to give up control willingly. We recognize, as John the Baptist did (John 3:26-31), that we must decrease until it is no longer us living for ourselves, so that Jesus may increase in us and out from us.

We have no resources in ourselves to do this, but we walk our lives out by the one true faith generated within us for us, and then received from us by Jesus Himself. Our trust in Jesus is not a blind faith, but a faith renewed by continual experience of His faithful loving Presence with us, picking us up and holding us close as we need it, if we are willing to pull ourselves away from the false and powerless loves of the world (1John 2:15-17) to run to Him!

Jesus showed us His great love by calling us His friends (John 15:9-15) and then laying down His life for us. This demonstration of Jesus’ love was the foundation for the constant flow of His love and care and concern for each of us right now, available to us if we want Him more than everything else:

GALATIANS 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by the faith in and of (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Angels Unaware

Sometimes you hear a story that just makes you feel good and you realize there are still people in this world who are reaching out and touching the lives of others who are in unfortunate circumstances. These people are not doing it for prestige or honor but because they have the love of God in their hearts. I like to refer to these people as "angels unaware" because most of the  world has no idea what they are doing. I recently found out about some of these "angels" in my own backyard.

A couple of miles from where I live, there is a group of ramshackle buildings that most of us locals just refer to as "the dump." The place has no running water or electric. Trash surrounds the property and although there is a "house" among the junk, it really isn't what any of us would refer to as one. It just looks like a couple of boards were thrown together and a tin roof was tossed on top. For years we would see a man in and about the rubble or pushing his bicycle along the road. He would stop and pick up more trash and take it back to his "home." I am ashamed to say that most of us just ignored him and never really bothered to talk with him or ask him if he needed anything.

A few years ago, the man disappeared and the only reminder of him was the dilapidated buildings that continued to stand out as an eyesore to the community. As far as I knew, no one bothered to ask what had become of the man and even worse, no one seemed to care.

This summer, an out-of-town acquaintance of ours passed by the abandoned, neglected property and asked us about it. We decided to do a little research and see if we could find out what had happened to the man who had occupied the premises. We eventually found someone who told us this story:

Several years ago, the man became physically unable to get around on his bike as he had done for most of his life and became confined to his house. However, a local couple was concerned when they no longer saw him pushing his rusty bike around the neighborhood and checked up on him. Thus began years of "angelizing." These people began to buy him groceries and would deliver them to his house weekly. As it became apparent that he would not be able to continue to live in his humble dwelling, they began to look into a nursing home for him. They found one for him and did all the necessary paperwork to have him admitted. They packed him up and moved him and to this day they continue to monitor his wellbeing. According to the person who told us the story, the biggest adjustment for the man, was learning how to use a regular toilet because he had only ever used a five-gallon bucket for his toiletry needs.

I was touched by this story, but a little embarrassed that I too lived in this neighborhood and didn't even care enough to inquire about the man. I may not be able to do anything of this magnitude but I am determined to be on the lookout for situations where I can be an "angel unaware." How about you?

Mary Lehman

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

God's Love Letter to Us

My husband and I had a long distance dating relationship. Since this was before email and cell phones we wrote letters to each other several times a week. I waited with anticipation for those letters and read them with joy and excitement. I grew anxious if it went too many days and I did not receive a letter. I still have those love letters and they are very dear to me.

God also wrote us a love letter. His love letter to us is the Bible. God spoke through kings, prophets and priests for a long time. But then, God's words stopped coming to His chosen people that He loved dearly. I wonder what the people thought during this time of silence? Did they wonder if they were no longer favored and loved? Had they angered God? Why did He not speak? How long can I wait to hear from my God again?

And then--the angel came. The angel came to ordinary people like you and me and he spoke words from God. How much wonder do you think these ordinary people felt when they realized that the God of Heaven had broken His silence and spoken to them? What did Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph think? How much wonder did they feel as they thought through what had been spoken to them? The Savior was coming!!! God still loves us and did not forget us! And then the shepherds heard an angel. Have you ever really considered what the shepherds thought as that night unfolded before them?

To many of us, the Christmas story is so familiar that we fail to see the wonder of it all. As we journey through these next weeks of Advent I challenge you to again see the wonder of the greatest gift that we have been given. As you read the familiar story again, take time to think about how each person really felt as they realized that God had broken His silence of several hundred years. Take time to reflect that God never stopped loving and He did not forget even though He was silent. Take time to consider the wonder each ordinary person must have felt as they lived through the story. And, as you reflect and again experience the wonder of it all, may you remember how deeply loved you are by God. Share that love and wonder with others this Advent season.

May each of you experience an Advent season full of wonder and love.

Deb Riddell
Closet Manager

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Holidays

     The Holidays are fast approaching us and for some people it is a time to gather with family and friends; but for others it is a time of great sadness. I was reminded of this on Saturday when I led a "Surviving the Holidays" which is a part of GriefShare at my church. GriefShare is designed for those who have a loved one who has died regardless of if it was recently or several years ago. There are a lot of people who are hurting around the holidays and I encourage all of us to do our part to show Christ's love during these times as well as all year long.

     We all grieve about loss, whether it is through death, loss of a job, financial problems, or a natural disaster, and during these difficult times we cry out to God in despair. We feel lonely and abandoned even in a crowded room. So, as you are preparing for your Holiday festivities this year think about your neighbors who may be going through a difficult time. Reach out to them by inviting them for a meal or taking a meal to them. Perhaps they need groceries, clothing, shelter, or just someone to listen.

     Be the "light" for someone during this Holiday season!

Elaine Campbell, MA
New Hope Counselor

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Amazing Models for the Local Church

We have all been placed where we are, and also exactly when each one of us is going to be living right here. These divinely sovereign decisions are for many purposes that go beyond our full comprehension, but ultimately they are for God’s supreme purpose of bringing as many of His eternal children to Himself:  
ACTS 17:26 And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined [their] allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation (their settlements, lands, and abodes), 27 So that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us.
God loves all those that are His followers in any given region, as the New Testament letters to believers in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and other places clearly show us. We are also called to spiritually recognize and relate to our true brothers and sisters, who all live around us right in our area. This love and concern for them is regardless of our affiliations, or our differing minor doctrines which should not affect our mutual living relationship with our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit Who indwells all true believers:
“In the essential, necessary things of our common faith, UNITY; in the non-essential, doubtful things, LIBERTY; and in ALL things, CHARITY!”
 - Rupertus Meldenius  
Jesus showed His disciples how to live in His divine love and truth, during His three years of ministry on this earth. These men and women continued to learn how to live and give to one another, as the Holy Spirit used them to found that first living community of God’s Kingdom in Jerusalem. All of this literally began within ten days after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension back into heaven, as our heavenly Father and He empowered and emboldened them, to proclaim the Gospel good news through their words and by their actions:
ACTS 2:42 They steadfastly persevered, devoting themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles, to the breaking of bread [including the Lord’s Supper] and prayers.43 And a sense of awe (reverential fear) came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were performed through the apostles (the special messengers).44 And all who believed (who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united and [together] they had everything in common;45 And they sold their possessions (both their landed property and their movable goods) and distributed the price among all, according as any had need.46 And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord’s Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts,        47 Constantly praising God and being in favor and goodwill with all the people; and the Lord kept adding [to their number] daily those who were being saved [from spiritual death].
This first Church at Jerusalem was learning to live together in the fullness of God’s love, to become a model for all followers of Jesus for all time. The Church at Antioch continued to live out this model of love, and became the spiritual home of Jewish and Gentile believers, living in the love of Jesus together for the first time:
ACTS 11: 19 Meanwhile those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen had traveled as far away as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, without delivering the message [concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God] to anyone except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on returning to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, proclaiming [to them] the good news (the Gospel) about the Lord Jesus. 21 And the presence of the Lord was with them with power, so that a great number [learned] to believe (to adhere to and trust in and rely on the Lord) and turned and surrendered themselves to Him. 22 The rumors of this came to the ears of the church (assembly) in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what grace (favor) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of joy; and he continuously exhorted (warned, urged, and encouraged) them all to cleave unto and remain faithful to and devoted to the Lord with [resolute and steady] purpose of heart.  24 For he was a good man [good in himself and also at once for the good and the advantage of other people], full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit and full of faith (of his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation). And a large company was added to the Lord. 25 [Barnabas] went on to Tarsus to hunt for Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him back to Antioch. For a whole year they assembled together with and were guests of the church and instructed a large number of people; and in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. 27 And during these days prophets (inspired teachers and interpreters of the divine will and purpose) came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and prophesied through the [Holy] Spirit that a great and severe famine would come upon the whole world. And this did occur during the reign of Claudius. 29 So the disciples resolved to send relief, each according to his individual ability [in proportion as he had prospered], to the brethren who lived in Judea. 30 And so they did, sending [their contributions] to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
The followers of Jesus in Antioch came from many differing backgrounds, and yet were molded together by God to become a home base for development of powerful, diverse, gifted leadership, and for outreach to all peoples across the whole earth:
ACTS 12: 25 And Barnabas and Saul came back from Jerusalem when they had completed their mission, bringing with them John whose surname was Mark.                                                            ACTS 13:1 NOW IN the church (assembly) at Antioch there were prophets (inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God) and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger [Black], Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. 3 Then after fasting and praying, they put their hands on them and sent them away. 4 So then, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from [that port] they sailed away to Cyprus.
Every area has the potential to learn how to live the holy way that Jesus has called us to. Each of us has this same call in this generation. We must never be content with how things have been, or as they are now. Instead, we must surrender ourselves in our weakness or in our perceived strengths, to be led further and deeper by the Holy Spirit, both in giving ourselves to love each other, and in obeying God’s greater call on our lives. Jesus is walking today among the lampstands of areas and regions, as He does in every generation, past, present, and until He comes again, calling His people to rise up beyond our own limitations, to become His servant leaders reaching out to our communities, and to go wherever He leads us:
PHILIPPIANS 3:12 Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.13 I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.
EPHESIANS 3:17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,18 That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!20 Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]21 To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it).
~Neil Uniacke, Executive Director

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Power of God to Deliver and the Power of a Thankful Heart to Remember

I'm thinking about Thanksgiving today; this Thursday we'll be celebrating all the goodness of God in the past year, and not only in the past year, but in all of our lives. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 103, where the psalmist David writes (sings out): "Praise the Lord, oh my soul and all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Then David enumerates the many benefits the Lord showers upon him. There are times when I am down, discouraged, anxious perhaps, and then I think of this psalm, and I begin to thank God for all his goodness and benefits to me, and my heart begins to fill with joy and praise, and my spirit is lifted to a higher place.
I came across a story many years ago, which illustrates the redeeming power of God in a time when all seemed lost. This story tells the power of God to deliver and the power of a thankful heart to remember God's goodness. This story is taken from Captain Eddie Rickenbacker's biography: 
It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.

Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean...For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long.

But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry," that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, "read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off."

Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking..."Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food...if I could catch it."

And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it.

And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a manna in the wilderness.

Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, praise his holy name! A thankful heart is a powerful antidote to discouragement, worry, fear, and anxiety. Let God live in your thankful heart this season.

Submitted by Tom Horst, MA, Marriage and Family Therapist

Monday, November 12, 2012

Truth That Transcends Our Feelings

     Recently, I was listening to a message in which the minister stated "feelings are real, but not truth".  That really struck me as I work with clients and their feelings on a daily basis (not to mention my own feelings as well). The minister went on to say that "[God's] truth transcends feelings."

     This is not to say that we should ignore our feelings. They do serve a purpose. Feelings help us to be aware of what's going on inside of us. Acknowledging them and being honest about them are important steps toward healing. But, we don't have to stop there. Feelings are not the end all, be all.

     Healing continues and manifests as we replace our negative feelings with the truth of God's Word. All of His rich promises are more powerful than even the strongest feeling that we may be experiencing.

     In closing, mediate on and remember what He says in 2 Corinthians 1:20 (New International Version):

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Ann L. Gantt, Ph.D., LCSW
New Hope Counselor

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bruised Fruit

A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night's dinner. In their rush, with tickets and briefcases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples.  Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly-missed boarding.

ALL BUT ONE!!! He paused, took a deep breath, got in touch with his feelings, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned.

He told his buddies to go on without him, waved good-bye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor.

He was glad he did. The 16-year-old girl was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her; no one stopping and no one to care for her plight.

The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped organize her display. As he did this, he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in another basket.

When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, 'Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did. Are you okay?' She nodded through her tears, He continued on with, 'I hope we didn't spoil your day too badly.'

As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, 'Mister, ' He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, 'Are you Jesus?'

He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered. Then slowly he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul: 'Are you Jesus?' Do people mistake you for Jesus? That's our destiny, is it not? To be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the difference as we live and interact with a world that is blind to His love, life and grace.

If we claim to know Him, we should live, walk and act as He would. Knowing Him is more than simply quoting Scripture and going to church.  It's actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day.

You are the apple of His eye even though we, too, have been bruised by a fall. He stopped what He was doing and picked you and me up on a hill called Calvary and paid in full for our damaged fruit.

~Anonymous inspirational story

Monday, October 22, 2012

We Are So Thankful For Your Faithfulness

Some words from Paul to the believers in Philippi:

I know how to be abased and live humbly in difficult circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having enough to spare or going without and being in want. I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me. I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me.

But it was right and commendable and noble of you to contribute for my needs and to share my difficulties with me. And you Philippians yourselves well know that in the early days of the Gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no assembly entered into partnership with me and opened up an account in giving and receiving except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me contributions for my needs, not only once but a second time.

Not that I seek or am eager for your gift, but I do seek and am eager for the fruit which increases to your credit: the harvest of blessing that is accumulating to your account. But I have your full payment and more; I have everything I need and am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent me. They are the fragrant odor of an offering and sacrifice which God welcomes and in which He delights.

 And my God will liberally supply; fill to the full your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever, through the endless eternities of the eternities. Amen!

We at New Hope trust our God to fill to the full every need we have as well, but we are so grateful to every one of you for your faithful support of this ministry!

This fall season has brought us God’s blessings through your bountiful harvest, first in participating as riders and as givers in the Dream Ride Lancaster, and as those who will be joining us this week at our annual New Hope Banquet. We are very much looking forward to sharing this time of fellowship together in Jesus, and in sharing the good things He is doing by His Spirit through all of us.

We are also very grateful for our many wonderful Closet volunteers who give of their time and their effort regularly to support so much ministry right here in the Southern End of Lancaster County, far beyond what New Hope can do by itself. Our time of sharing together at the Christmas Breakfast is also just around the corner in early December!

A new opportunity for others to become part of the New Hope family, in loving and helping our neighbors locally, is on the horizon as well. We are partnering with other non-profit organizations and the Lancaster County Community Foundation in the upcoming Extraordinary Give Day, on November 30th.  This is an online giving event which allows us to literally tell the world who we are and what we are doing to benefit our community.

By going to the ExtraGive.Org website and making an online donation, people from our area and beyond will become partners with us, in bearing fruit and bringing in the harvest of blessing also: all of this to lovingly help our neighbors, to give the glory to God, and to magnify the Name of our Lord Jesus!
Neil Uniacke
Executive Director


Monday, October 15, 2012


     I’ve been taking my turn writing this blog for almost two years now and I often mention my family in my postings. However, I don’t think that I have ever written about my grandchildren.  We have two granddaughters and are expecting another grandchild later this month.  So, today, I am writing about them.  This is not a spiritual blog, but just a “fun” blog because grandchildren are fun!
     We’ve all seen the bumper sticker, “Ask me about my grandchildren!”  I used to read those words and kind of roll my eyes in disgust.  Everyone says that grand parenting is great but could it really be THAT great? The answer is YES!

     Here is an example of what grand parenting does to you.  Last month was the annual Solanco Fair.  To the locals in and around Quarryville this is a huge event. While I do enjoy a fair, it is not high on my priority list and when someone asked me if I was going to the parade on Wednesday evening I replied that I didn’t plan to go.  I didn’t have a big desire to fight the traffic and noise to see something that wasn’t that special to me.  Fast forward to a few days later when I received this phone call from my 3-year old granddaughter, Alexis.
Alexis: “Granmaw!  Do you want to go to Sanco prade with me?

Suddenly there was nothing I wanted to do more!
Me: “I would love to go to the parade with you. Are your mommy and daddy coming too?”

Alexis: “Weell, Mommy is gowing out to eat with frens but Daddy can come.  Can Lydia (her 1-year old sister) come too?”
 Me: “Of course Lydia can come. Make sure you bring a basket for candy.”

Alexis: “Weell, it’s upstairs. I’ll get it.”
Me: “What about one for Lydia?”

Alexis: “Weell, she doesn’t have a baskit. (long pause) She can share mine.”
Me: “That’s really nice of you. I’m so glad you asked me! I can’t wait to see the parade with you!”

Alexis: “Okay! Bye!”
Me: “Bye!”

     Probably now some of you that don’t have grandchildren are rolling your eyes.  What is it about grandchildren that just melts our hearts and causes us to drop almost anything to spend time with them?  I have often pondered this question.  I can honestly say that I loved raising my children and I truly enjoyed each stage of their lives. I didn’t wish for them to grow up faster or want them to hurry up and move on from a phase that they were in. I tried to live in the moment and just enjoy each and every stage. 
     So the big question really is: Do I love grand parenting more than I loved parenting?  Honestly, I’m not sure if that is a fair comparison but I can definitely say I love it differently than parenting.  Here are just a few things that make grand parenting special:

·         When they cry because they don’t want to leave Grandma’s house.

·         When they call you on the phone and ask, “When are you coming to my house?”

·         When they go directly to the cupboard where you keep the snacks and point.

·         When they want to go home with you.

·         When they look and act just like their daddy did when he was a child.

·         When they cry and throw a tantrum and you realize that you really don’t have to deal with it J
     I think this last point is the icing on the cake for grandparents. We get to enjoy everything fun about the child but don’t have to discipline them. We are there to love them and pamper them. Of course, we don’t let them get away with murder, but for the most part the serious corrections are left up to the parents. The bottom line is that being a grandparent is a lot less stressful than being a parent. I think that is why we enjoy it so much.  

     Proverbs 17:6 says that “grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged.” Well, if having grandchildren makes one “aged” it is worth it.
Mary Lehman



Monday, October 8, 2012

The Community Closet Thrift Store

The Community Closet Thrift Store is a fun, unique store to shop in right in the middle of Quarryville. Our customers come from Quarryville, but also from Oxford, the Baltimore area, Delta, Gap, and many more communities. Why do our customers come from near and far to shop at The Community Closet?

Some people enjoy "thrifting" and the hunt for unique and interesting items that they can purchase at a fraction of the cost. New items are priced and put on the floor every day and some of our customers do shop daily to see what is new. Some customers like to find name brands at a bargain price as they find creative ways to outfit themselves or their entire family. Some customers are looking for inexpensive ways to purchase items for a first kitchen or apartment. And, some are looking for those retro finds that often appear in thrift stores.

There is a common perception that those who shop in thrift stores do so because they cannot afford to shop elsewhere. This may be the case for some people, but many more customers shop in thrift stores because they enjoy the hunt for a special find at a great price. We have customers who "thrift" as a hobby.

Also, many of our customers shop at The Community Closet because they love where their money ends up. We support New Hope Community Life Ministry where healing happens through Christian counseling. The New Hope counselors see about 30 clients each week. No one is turned away because they cannot pay for their services, so funds from The Community Closet help make up the short fall that clients cannot pay. This amounts to about 50% of the fees that clients are not able to afford.

We also donate to other local agencies like Solanco Neighborhood Ministries which includes the food bank and the fuel fund, Solid Rock Youth Ministries, Camp Andrews, House on the Rock and others. When our customers are paying for their purchases, they can see how much we have given to help our neighbors in the southern end of the county.

So, thank you for shopping and thank you also for donating those items that you no longer need. We appreciate our customers in the store, and we also appreciate those who bring their items to our back door for us to sort and eventually place out for sale. No thrift store can survive without donations.

Deb Riddell
Closet Manager

Monday, October 1, 2012

Who Jesus Really Is!

A small fraction of the educated population think that Jesus never actually existed, although the great majority of historians and archeologists have no such doubts, objectively researching into the preponderance of archeological evidence and extra-Biblical secular writings of that ancient period, which heavily corroborate and buttress the basic historical reality of the Gospel accounts and other New Testament references.

 Others consider Jesus to be an iterant preacher, well within the  mainstream proto-Rabbinical schools of thought and general discussion of the Jewish culture of that early first century age, Who may have been killed for some involvement in stirring up the population, as He followed along after the already well established tradition of John the Baptist.

Still more recognize Jesus as an amazing teacher and philosopher Who was able to synergize the highest aspirations and greatest thoughts of the Jewish theologians and the Greek thinkers, distilling them into simple expressions which illuminate and inspire people of every culture and religion to this day, with a depth of reflection and insight that is transcendent and applicable to every age of human development and in every situation.

Another view is that of Jesus the prophet and miracle worker, coming to Israel as the capstone of a long line of prophetic voices calling God’s ancient chosen people back to fidelity and holiness before Him, and to a rejection of the other predominant doctrinal and dogmatic schools of that first century timeframe. His power and persuasive speaking abilities threatened the religious status quo to such a degree that He had to be eliminated, by the collusion of the secular authorities of that time and place, both Roman (Pontius Pilate) and semi-Jewish (Herod Anitpas), supposedly to keep the peace of the nation, as spoken of by the chief priest, Caiaphas.

There are many more who have come to recognize and confess that Jesus is their Savior and the Redeemer of the whole world, Who was born of a virgin, lived in perfect righteousness, Who taught a fullness of truth that both summed up and superseded the writings of the Scriptures and the Rabbinical schools of interpretation. Jesus, Who was tried, tortured, tormented, and crucified for the sins of the world as the spotless sacrificial Lamb of God, fulfilled and completed the sacrificial system practiced by the Priesthood of Israel.

Most of these also believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the morning after the Passover Sabbath day, ascended into heavenly realms, and will come again physically and literally at the consummation of this age. They see Jesus as the only Way to the Father, and the only One Who every knee in the physical and spiritual universe will bow to, by Whose Name we must be saved!

Beyond the arguments that Jesus never existed, each of these other understandings of Jesus has an increasing degree of validity. Those that have come into the full knowledge of Jesus as the world’s only Savior have begun an eternal journey of great discovery about this Person we call the Son of God.

Even so, in the faith life and daily experience of many of Jesus’ followers, there still seems to be a lack of full acknowledgement in thinking of and relating to Jesus for many. This lack of focus surrounds the truest and deepest overarching focus of the whole Bible concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Many do not seem to comprehend and appreciate that every thought, word, and deed of this God-Man (the absolutely unique Theanthropos), every title, every prophecy, every story, every revelation about Him is simply an element of the greatest and fullest truth of all: His full and complete Divinity or Deity!

It is in understanding, meditating upon, and being inspired by this main Truth of the Scriptures that we can be transported to heights in our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual connection or communion with Jesus, more deeply relating to Him in a greater way than ever before. This personal journey mirrors the development of each apostolic writer, as they moved from unbelief into an ever more complete revelation and personal surrender to Jesus, as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God the Son, the Eternal Word!  

As we study the Bible with a desire to know more about what it means that Jesus is truly and fully GOD, we will find ourselves joining with the company of believing theologians who have given their earthly existence to know and share this understanding with everyone to bless and lift them to the same heavenly heights. When our understanding of Jesus increases, our trust and faith in Him increases and His blessings are able to pour into our lives more readily and completely!
Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thinking Again About Pornography

I've been thinking again about pornography. I say again, because I wrote on this blog a year ago about the dangers of porn. I still believe as I did then, that pornography is an insidious evil, a trap that people get caught in, and the more they struggle to escape this deceitful web, the more entrapped they become.

The reason I'm writing about this again, is because of a link that I believe can be drawn from porn use to childhood sexual abuse. In my conversations with men who have been involved as perpetrators of sexual abuse toward children and adolescents, I have noticed that in most cases, the men who have abused have previously been involved in pornography. Why might this be the case? I believe that men who view pornography become addicted, and as that addiction escalates, it becomes more and more difficult for the sexual addict to limit the acting out of their addiction strictly to the virtual. When I speak of "virtual," I mean those images one views on the internet, or on the TV screen. What one indulges in virtually eventually will be acted out in real life. Hence, I believe that men who are addicted to porn, will eventually cross the line into real life violations.

Men who abuse their children and other family members fact the very real possibility of legal consequences, such as being separated from their children, and possibly probation and/or prison sentences, not to mention the painful emotional consequences of adult children who later break off communication with their parents over such violations.

I realize that what I am writing sounds dire indeed, but if you are reading this and you are addicted to pornography, please know that what you may believe is personal and private now, may very likely express itself in a more public and painful way in the future. If you are a sexual addict, there is help available. Please don't wait until you have violated trust and boundaries in your family to seek resolution.

Tom Horst, MA
Marriage and Family Therapist

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Believing IN Jesus Becomes Living FOR Jesus One Day at a Time!

Jesus clearly proclaimed to each of us who believe in Him, that the narrow path to eternal life is walked out one day at a time!

He also told us very specifically what should happen each day as we follow Him, in the Gospel of Luke:

9:23 Jesus said to all, If any person wants to come after Me, let them deny themselves [disown, forget, lose sight of self and their own interests, refuse and give up self] and take up their cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].
24 Whoever would preserve this life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses this life for My sake, they will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death].
25 For what does it profit a person, if they gain the whole world and ruins or forfeits (loses) themselves?

Jesus did not give us this instruction as an option, but as a command to be obeyed by all His followers, not just certain special people. Most of us have read this or heard this many times over. The fact that we are called to actually do it is where we become challenged, because deep in our hearts we know that on our own we really can't!

As the apostle Paul says at the end of Romans 7, when faced with a similar challenge himself:

24 O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death?
25 O thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord!

Although impossible for any of us in our own strength, God has given all His children purchased by Jesus' own blood, His Holy Spirit with infinite power, to live within us and strengthen us to live out all that Jesus had commanded us to do!

We can be trained by God's Spirit to die daily (decision by decision) to our selfishness or cowardice or need to control or whatever currently influences us to miss the mark, and then to receive and walk in what our Father is showing us to do. How much we actually walk, by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit in this way, has profound influence on every aspect of life and fruitfulness for each of us.

This level of surrender is impossible by ourselves, but we must always keep in mind the fact that we can do all things only through Him Who strengthens us! Jesus referred to this kind of surrender in His parable of the Pearl of great price. Only those strengthened to become fully willing to sell everything would be the ones who could pay for this wondrous Pearl, Who is Jesus Himself.

This kind of strengthening comes to us in the process of amazing synergy between the humbled and surrendering believer and the Lord Himself, outlined very specifically for us by James, the brother of Jesus in chapter 4 of his letter to the churches:

6 He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).

7 So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.

8 Come (draw) close to God and He will come (draw) close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery].

9 [As you draw near to God] be deeply penitent and grieve, even weep [over your disloyalty]. Let your laughter be turned to grief and your mirth to dejection and heartfelt shame [for your sins].

10 Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant].

Jesus Himself confirms His receptivity to this kind of humble heart surrender in His parable of the Publican and Pharisee in Luke 18:

9 He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [that they were upright and in right standing with God] and scorned and made nothing of all the rest of men:

10 Two men went up into the temple [enclosure] to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11 The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself: God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men--extortioners (robbers), swindlers [unrighteous in heart and life], adulterers--or even like this tax collector here.

12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain.

13 But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am!

14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified (forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God), rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

The importance and outcome of constant surrender of self and everything else in our lives, is underlined emphatically by Jesus in several serious statements recorded for us in Luke 14:

25 Now huge crowds were going along with [Jesus], and He turned and said to them,

26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters--[yes] and even his own life also--he cannot be My disciple.

27 Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.

28 For which of you, wishing to build a farm building, does not first sit down and calculate the cost [to see] whether he has sufficient means to finish it?

29 Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to complete [the building], all who see it will begin to mock and jeer at him,

30 Saying, This man began to build and was not able (worth enough)  to finish.

31 Or what king, going out to engage in conflict with another king, will not first sit down and consider and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand [men] to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?

32 And if he cannot [do so], when the other king is still a great way off, he sends an envoy and asks the terms of peace.

33 So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has cannot be My disciple.

34 Salt is good [an excellent thing], but if salt has lost its strength and has become saltless (insipid, flat), how shall its saltness be restored?

35 It is fit neither for the land nor for the manure heap; men throw it away. He who has ears to hear, let him listen and consider and comprehend by hearing!

It is our daily surrender of our entire being, body, soul, and spirit, to God's perfect will for our lives that changes outcomes now, and will most certainly affect the ultimate, everlasting outcome of our future!

~Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Labor of Love

   Every year my family has a pizza party that is typically held over the Labor Day weekend. We start the preparations months in advance as we buy items needed while they are on sale. As the time gets closer we begin to consider whom to invite and how many. This is a very tedious and thought out process.  A list is created and then gets gleaned over until it is at a manageable amount of people.

   Several weeks before the "big day" there are pizza crusts that are prepared and frozen. The day before the event we do the last minute shopping for the perishable items that can't be purchased any sooner. We lovingly call this part the "shopping and chopping" as we prepare the toppings for the pizzas. This is  a very long day and it takes many hands to make the work go quickly and smoothly.

    The quality time spent with our nieces and nephew passing down a tradition that was started over twenty years ago is priceless. Our labor of love for family and friends is enjoyed in a few hours and our guests can hardly wait for the next "unique" pizza to get out of the oven to be tasted. We make pizza with unique toppings along with the standards. Our guests often question our "taste" but usually love the pizzas with toppings are not "standard" to the norm for the east coast.

    As Christians we should be willing to offer our "labor of love" to all people. How often do we feel that we could never talk to someone because of how they look, dress, or talk? Jesus' labor of love was to share God's word and works with ALL people, not just the ones the disciples felt were worthy.

    Have you helped someone in need, fed them or clothed them as Jesus tells us to in Matthew 25:35 & 36? The disciples question Jesus about when they saw him in need and he replies that when they "have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Mathew 2:40b KJV.  All of our works should be our "labor of love" to our fellow man.

     As we celebrate Labor Day may we remember God's labor of love for us. What greater gift than to give us eternal life through His Son!

     Have a Safe, Healthy, & Happy Labor Day weekend!

Elaine Campbell, MA
New Hope Counselor

                                           Elaine's unique shrimp & sauerkraut pizza!