Monday, February 27, 2012

Discerning Deception When Dealing With Danger

We all really live in a world full of many kinds of dangers!

Sadly, many people respond to these dangers with either a strongly paranoid reaction; a fear-based overemphasis that exaggerates danger well beyond the reality we actually face at any given time, or choose to live in some level of denial, which underestimates danger to the point of almost a complete lack of sensibility to it at all.

Both the selective diminution and the unwarranted expansion of danger in our own minds are actually grounded in the same root: we are allowing ourselves to be deceived about the true and real nature of the dangerous things that surround us.

Blowing up the potential for danger is permitting our fears to overtake and even destroy us: both those fears placed on or in us by others, as well as those welling up from within, caused by past experiences which may have no bearing on the current situation we find ourselves in! We can eventually give way to the multitude of these fears, so that they rise up and take us over, causing us to move into emotional overraction to perceived dangers that may not even exist at all.

Giving in like this will eventually erode away our ability to ever feel safe and to have normal relationships. These internal fears are very similar to the emotional trap of jealousy, in that we feel and think we see exaggerated and mistaken signs around us, from which we draw faulty conclusions about the things or people we become overly focused on. The conclusions we draw compel us to create special conditions for our own safety and security, and then to put our increasingly unrealistic conditions on others in an attempt to control the external circumstances. We can ultimately withdraw as completely as possible into our own self-created and maintained safe havens, not trusting nor free from the anxiety we have created within ourselves.

Denying the reality of danger is also based in deceptions which foster a thrill-seeking, risk-taking immaturity, supposing ourselves to be invincible and invulnerable through a self-centered sensational misunderstanding of the limits of individuality and freedom. We can also employ the blindfold of denial, as we are sliding further and further into a deep, guilt-driven, unconscious desire to push ourselves toward the negative outcomes and consequences of our overly risky actions. This negative downslide will eventually bring us to severely hurt ourselves and anyone around us who really cares for us. The deeper the denial, the greater the willingness to take risks and/or the more likely the most severe consequences will result in the end!

The only effective remedy is TRUTH! This antidote is not the kind of truth which simply understands the factual and rational reality surrounding all of us. Although having a greater realistic understanding is a huge component in breaking the power of the deceptions which have taken hold within us, an even more powerful TRUTH is needed to fully break down the strongholds of fear and of selfish immature miscalculation.

We are compelled to move beyond this somewhat passive sensing; this important, yet only partial, degree of head knowledge about what is actually going on currently in our own surrounding environment. Although this level of knowing what is factually possible, or what could potentially happen to any of us based solely on human knowledge, is a substantial step forward toward wisdom, it is not sufficient for freedom and wholeness. If this level of TRUTH were enough, parents, family, and friends would have already been able to argue and convince the people we love into a more rational mindset.

Powerful, pro-active TRUTH that brings the necessary full life transformation is found most specifically in the Person of Jesus Himself! Operating through His written Word, the Bible, and by His Presence here in the earth today, the Holy Spirit, He is the antidote to all deception. This is TRUE no matter whether it is internalized from outside spiritual and natural influences into a person's thinking processes, or deeply held personal beliefs that have arisen out of wounds, neglect, control, or long ago intrusions and disasters that may have come into the life of the person living under these deceptions.

Jesus the TRUTH brings to bear His infinite power and revelation needed to set every person free at every level, if they are willing first to intellectually receive His heavenly compassion for them, and then relationally into their deepest innermost beings. When the door of our heart opens to the Light of the world, our focus becomes clear, and our entire innermost beings are scoured of all deception and cleansed to receive the TRUTH that makes us fully free indeed, able to live above deception in this life and able to walk in TRUTH, through the real dangers of this world, into His infinite peace beyond!

~Neil Uniacke, MC

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bible Quizzing

During the winter months my life is filled with Bible quizzing. Bible quizzing is organized by the Atlantic Coast Mennonite Conference and is one of the best activities that I have ever been involved in. Young people between the ages of 13 and 20 study a book or section of the Bible over an 8-week period. The material they are learning is divided into 8 sections and each quizzer learns an average of 100 new verses a week. This year we are quizzing on the Gospel of John. There are 44 teams divided into two leagues. Quizzes are held Sunday evenings and each team quizzes every team in their league 1 time during the 8-week regular season. The season ends with two tournaments. The first one is an all day quiz fest between the 44 teams in both leagues and the second one is a weekend quizzing bash which includes the 44 teams along with additional teams from Ohio and Virginia.

I have been a coach for over 10 years and nothing warms my heart more than to see so many young people learning God's Word. I love the energy that youth bring to anything and Bible quizzing is no exception. But truthfully, I also love this program for what it does for me. As a coach, I write hundreds of questions to help my quizzers study the material. In the end, I often know the material as well as, if not better than, my quizzers. I have found this to be a great Bible study for myself. I often struggle with keeping up with my devotions and Bible reading during the year, but during the quizzing season I immerse myself in the Bible. The Gospel of John is one of the most wonderful books of the Bible. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this book inside and out. Did you know that the soldier whose ear Peter cut off was a relative of one of the high priest's servants who challenged Peter saying, "Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove?" It was after Peter denied it that the rooster crowed. Or that the man who had been blind from birth and whom Jesus healed by making mud from saliva and putting it on his eyes, was actually a very feisty man and stood up to the Pharisees who eventually threw him out of the synagogue for telling them that Jesus was from God?

If you ever get a chance to attend one of these quizzing events I recommend you take it. You can read more about this program and see the quizzing schedule at For now, I will leave you with some of my favorite verses from the Gospel of John. These are the words of Jesus:

  • If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ~ 8:31,32
  • I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ~ 10:11
  • I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. ~12:46
  • It is finished. ~19:30
Mary Lehman

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Community Closet

Since I started working at The Community Closet, I have had the opportunity to build many relationships and hear many stories. I recently heard another great story from one of our customers.

*Hannah* shared that through a Beth Moore "Breaking Free" Bible study, God convicted her of how she spent money. She knew she needed to change some habits and felt God leading her to shop at thrift and consignment stores. She has been amazed at the beautiful clothing and other items she has been able to find at thrift stores and cannot believe that someone got "rid" of her new treasures. Hannah is giving God the glory for the "new" clothing and other items she can purchase at a fraction of the regular retail price.

We are thrilled that so many find good values while shopping at The Community Closet Thrift Store. The proceeds from the store continue to help many in our neighborhood who use the food bank, fuel fund, and many other local agencies.

Have you shopped or donated lately? Maybe you are looking for a way to volunteer. Stop in and see what treasures you might find as you shop or let us know that you can volunteer. We love to get to know new friends and build relationships.

Deb Riddell
Community Closet Manager

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

His Kingdom Come

My pastor mentioned in his sermon this past weekend that Jesus taught us to pray for "His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10, italics added). For those of us who are believers that certainly is a prayer request we want answered ASAP.

Imagine the changes to society if Jesus was in power. Visualize His Kingdom as the reigning government. Envision His will accomplished in every courthouse. Picture His authority being honored and revered by all citizens. Corruption...gone. Injustice...obliterated. Honesty...praised. Virtue...extoled. That's the kind of community I want to live in.

And yet it seems as if it's an impossibility for that kind of kingdom to exist this side of heaven. I know from first-hand experience and through the stories I hear every day in my counseling office that suffering, injustice and pain are the societal norm. People hurt each other every day. Bosses abuse their employees. Government officials exploit resources for personal gain. Why would Jesus have us pray for His Kingdom to come if it wasn't possible for him to answer it? Do we need to settle for the wait of heaven?

I personally believe that He is quite desirous to answer our prayer request. And I think as we humbly surrender our will to His, He answers the prayer by placing His Kingdom into our hearts. As His Kingdom resides in us through His Spirit, He shapes us and transforms our characters. If that happens to me and to you and our churches, then His Kingdom will come culturally as well. As His Spirit  spreads from person to person, communities are changed. And so we say, "Yes, Lord Jesus, let your Kingdom come!"

~Shannon Shertzer, MS, NCC