Monday, April 30, 2012

Some Keys to Unlock Bible Truth!

One of the greatest elements of truly being Jesus' disciple is to know how to properly read, spiritually digest, and accurately apply God's word, the Bible. Jesus gave us a major key to open the Scriptures:

John 5:37 And the Father Who sent Me has Himself testified concerning Me. Not one of you has ever given ear to his voice or seen His form (His face--what He is like). [You have always been deaf to His voice and blind to the vision of Him.]

38 And you have not His word (His thought) living in your hearts, because you do not believe and adhere to and trust in and rely on Him Whom He has sent. [That is why you do not keep His message in you, because you do not believe in the One Whom He has sent.]

39 You search and investigate and pore over the Scriptures diligently, because you suppose and trust that you have eternal life through them. And these [very Scriptures] testify about Me!

40 And still you are not willing [but refuse] to come to Me, so that you might have life.

Jesus wanted His discipels to see His word only through Himself, the eternal Word of God, personally and relationally by His lifegiving Spirit! Head knowledge of the Scriptures is not what God desires, but true heart knowledge of the Author through reading and meditating on the content of His eternal word is what He has for us. Just before the above text in John 5, Jesus had already shared the vital nature of seeing Him in His fullness and hearing Him in the substance of His word, the Bible:

23 So that all men may give honor (reverence, homage) to the Son just as they give honor to the Father. [In fact] whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, Who has sent Him.

24 I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the person whose ears are open to My words [who listens to My message] and believes and trusts in and clings to and relies on Him Who sent Me has (possesses now) eternal life. And he does not come into judgment [does not incur sentence of judgment, will not come under condemnation], but he has already passed over out of death into life.

This is such a vital point for us to realize, then internalize, and then practice! Seeing Jesus in His word is the starting point of developing our relationship with Him, as well as gaining greater knowledge of Him. These together become true revelation knowledge and wisdom over time. This combination of relationship and knowledge never stands against deep study of the Bible, but flows with it, as Paul reminds us in his 2nd letter to Timothy:

3:12 Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand].

13 But wicked men and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and leading astray others and being deceived and led astray themselves.

14 But as for you, continue to hold to the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced, knowing from whom you learned [them].

15 And how from your childhood you have had a knowledge of and been acquainted with the sacred Writings, which are able to instruct you and give you the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Christ Jesus [through the leaning of the entire human personality on God in Christ Jesus in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness].

16 Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose, and action),

17 So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

4:1 I CHARGE [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by (in the light of) His coming and His kingdom:

2 Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching.

3 For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold.

4 And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions.

3 As for you, be calm and cool and steady, accept and suffer unflinchingly every hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fully perform all the duties of your ministry.

Timothy's development spiritually as a disciple and as a minister of the Lord, always involved growth in knowing and living God's word. Paul recognized the depth and pervasiveness of deception that already flourished in his day, even as the true believers and churches were being persecuted. The apostle described persecution and deception as environmental factors believers must be prepared to face, by being strong in the word of God.

Paul also commended Timothy for the layers and levels of understanding he had gained in his own growth through childhood into his adult years, learning all the Scriptures leading to salvation in Jesus. His proclamation that the Bible is God-breathed and totally sufficient in every matter pertaining to life and godliness, rings down through the ages.

The great apostle went on to challenge Timothy and all who would lead the flock of God, to become fully equipped and truly proficient in handling God's word in every situation. Paul's challenge to Timothy did not stop with him fully knowing the Scriptures, but he went further to charge him (and us) in the presence of our heavenly Father and His Son, to preach, to correct, to encourage and to warn, with all the patience of a true spiritual parent.

This charge was made by Paul, who knew fully that the people would rather hear errors, things pleasing to their sin natures, and man-made fables! Timothy and all of us who sense God's calling to ministry must heed this charge, not be intimidated or deceived, but be willing to teach in spite of resistance, and to preach even to the most hostile audience, if led by the Holy Spirit!

We must ever be students of God's word, the Bible, willing when it is convenient and when it is quite inconvenient, to speak of, teach, and even preach if called to do by our Lord to do so!

Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, April 23, 2012

When Believers Disagree, God Has a Higher Way!

When believers disagree and argue over issues about the way things are done in our churches, we can get caught up in looking at these practices from the wrong perspective. Sadly, somehow our personal points of view usually become based on what we want to see happen, which may or may not be what our Lord wants.

We can come up with practical or spiritual justifications for what we want or why we want it that way, but many times our ideas of correctness correspond with our own personal desires, and we become emotionally bound to our own concept of what we think is "right."

These battles can be around how to express our faith, whether in an older traditional way, or a way that fits with the younger people or new believers who are more connected to the current culture.

They can be about who is going to lead the church.  A particular leader may represent the ways things have always been done (and considered unchangeable). Others may feel that things should be done in a different way, even if some of the more traditional ways still hold true.

Many times when either way wins, God's fullest will and greatest desire may be compromised.

The New Testament wonderfully gives great wisdom on resolving these matters. Jesus Himself commended a greater unified wisdom of both the Old and New Testaments.

Jesus foresaw that this wise combination would be personified by learned scribes who received further living revelation.  Newer revelations would not contradict, but instead progressively build on the original understandings they had prior to the coming of Jesus and the fullness of the Holy Spirit!

Jesus told the apostles and us of His greater way in Matthew 13:52:

Therefore every teacher and interpreter of the Sacred Writings who has been instructed about and trained for the kingdom of heaven and has become a disciple is like a householder who brings forth out of his storehouse treasure that is new and [treasure that is] old [the fresh as well as the familiar].

Wise people do not focus on the ancient traditions alone, nor on any new revelations exclusively.  These faithful servants have learned by God's gracious training and many years of dying to self daily (or more often as needed) to see and value both.

They value the strong and stable taproot of our faith as well as the new growth and beautiful fruit of living in the eternal now. Both are part of a true heart possessing on and into those things yet to come, both in this life and into the forever beyond. This eternal perspective is always present oriented in the newness of life, yet infused with a love and respect for those who have gone before us.

They, who have lived in their generations as faithful witness to the Light they had, knew the deep truth we always need to recall: All who overcame do so because the Blood of our Lamb of God, and the word of our testimony (prophetically enlightened by the Holy Spirit, really as another testimony of Jesus).

By God's grace, these elements of true faith will lead us to love not our earthly human life existences, even to the point of being willing to persevere to the point of death for Jesus' sake!

Having this eternal viewpoint is a work of the Holy Spirit within us, which leads us evermore toward and into His glorious heights. It also enables us to be used in our time here on the earth, both as individuals and corporately as the Body of Christ, His church, fulfilling our destinies given by Paul in Ephesians 3:21:

To Him (our Heavenly Father) be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout ALL generations forever and ever.
Amen (so be it).

Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sitting on the Bench

It is softball season again. As a senior, this will be my daughter's last year to play on her high school team. Now, Megan is not one of those naturally gifted athletes but she is still a pretty good softball player. She worked extremely hard off season in the hopes that she could land the starting catcher position on the team. She received much encouragement from her coaches and from some of the things that were said to her she thought she would start the first game of the season. However, the start went to the athletically talented sophomore catcher and Megan found herself sitting on the bench.

Obviously, this was extremely disappointing and Megan was crushed. She held herself together for the game, yelled encouragement to her teammates and congratulated them when they did well. After the game, she left quickly so she could be alone with her churning emotions. She talked her situation over with friends and family and ultimately came to this realization: She had done everything she could possibly do to earn the starting catcher position. The final decision was not up to her but her coaches and that was out of her control. The only thing that was in her control was how she handled the situation. She could be bitter and angry and sulk or she could continue to work hard, think positively and look for ways that she could be an asset to the team.

This is such a parallel to real life. Many times, we work so hard to earn something. It might be a good grade, new job, or someone's approval. If we don't get it does this mean we are a failure? Absolutely not! The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:23,24 that "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."  When we try our best we must remember that we are not doing it for ourselves or for someone else but for God. We do not need to earn God's approval. That is the wonderful thing about God's salvation. There is nothing we need to do, except believe and accept it. Ephesians 2:8 says "for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."

I am happy to say that Megan made the right choice. She chose to keep a positive outlook and support the team the best way that she could, even if it meant sitting on the bench. In her case, some unfortunate things happened to the other catcher and Megan has been doing most of the catching for the games. Thankfully, because she had continued to work hard to improve her skills she was ready when she was needed to take the catcher responsibilities. I think this is a good lesson for all of us. While we are sitting on the bench are we preparing our minds and bodies to be ready when the Lord asks us to answer a call that he gives to us.

Mary Lehman

Monday, April 9, 2012


On March 30, 2012 millions of people bought lottery tickets in the hopes of winning part of the $640 million dollar jackpot. The hope for quick money is appealing to many of us.

A customer came into the store the same day of the drawing and tried to convince me to buy a lottery ticket. This customer felt like their life would be so much better if they knew they were set financially for life because of winning the lottery. I was asked repeatedly if I believed that being set financially for life would indeed help me to be less concerned. Wouldn't I be happier if I knew I never needed to worry about money?

My continued response was to disagree with the logic that was presented to me. As I thought about what God's Word says about money and how I am to live as a follower of Christ, I knew that with or without money, I can be content each day of my life.

Money will never lead to contentment in my life. Neither will things or people. The only thing that will fill that empty spot in my life is a growing relationship with the God of the universe. Blaise Pascal said, "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the creator, made known through Jesus."

My life has times of ease, and times of real trials. Knowing that God walks through each situation with me gives me the strength I need. Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

So, while being set financially for life is appealing to many, I would rather live life in a state of contentment whether I have a little or a lot. I believe at the end of the day, a life lived with contentment will always be the more joyful and happier life.

Deb Riddell
Thrift Store Manager

Monday, April 2, 2012


This morning I needed to go to the doctor...again. It was scary. You see, two years ago I was diagnosed with a rare cancer. I spent 2010 in medical treatment. Last Spring, I had to have some plastic surgery. After that last surgery I finally felt relief. I thought, "It's over...I can get on with my life." Until...last week I developed some pain and tenderness. But my return to Johns Hopkins was not so bad. In hindsight, it was a good visit. The worst part was waiting for it to come. Your mind can play tricks on you...blow things out of proportion. In psychological terms that's called catastrophizing.

Many of us catastrophize. The fear of the novocaine shot at the dentist, the nervousness before a public speech, negative thoughts about an experience we had or will have with someone important to us...all of these things can get bigger and bigger and somehow more powerful and suffocating if we don't "check" them.

Often, if we simply push through the negative thought or emotion, we come out on the other side wondering why we had gotten so worked up in the first place. Sometimes we need to force ourselves to have a new perspective. For instance, if we look at the tough conversation we need to have with our employer as an opportunity for healthy change instead of conflict, we will go into it with a more positive attitude. We won't want to avoid it, but instead we'll welcome it.

Catastrophizing can become a habit if we're not careful. The best way to combat that negative kind of habit is to  meditate on the truth. The truth is: Bad things happen. The truth also is: Good things happen. The truth is: God can take the bad things and bring them out like gold. The truth is: We will experience suffering in this world, but our suffering can draw us close to our Savior. The truth is: God is sovereign, protective and loving. The truth is: You are special to Him and He will be with you through every step of your life's journey.

My trip to Johns Hopkins was a lot less serious than my catrastrophizing thoughts were. So, today I know that my worrying accomplished nothing for me except maybe some increased blood pressure and anxiety...things I would like to do without. I'm going to think on this the next time my mind tries to create worst-case scenarios.

Shannon Shertzer, MS, NCC
Professional Counselor