Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Growing in Jesus' Love -- Together! - Part 2

Part 2: Wanting this world less - frees us to love more

Our Lord’s beloved apostle, John, deals directly and concisely with some of humanity’s most difficult impediments to truly loving God in his first epistle to the churches. These barriers and fallacies ultimately cut off our intimacy with Jesus and our empowerment from Him, diminishing any ability to truly love others with His amazing love.

In just 3 verses, John focuses with laser like precision on our relationship to the world system that surrounds and influences all of us. Guided by the Holy Spirit in his writing, and by the wisdom gained through decades of walking out his own faith journey while leading many others also, he is able to pinpoint the main connection of this world to our own shortcomings.

These weaknesses are inherent in our fallen condition, distorted and damaged faculties that cause us to be attracted to the wrong things, succumb to their allurements, and make bad choices, based on our own internal desires, focusing on whatever we can get out of this fallen global system for ourselves:

1 JOHN 2:15 Do not love or cherish the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.  

16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. 

17 And this world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God carries out His purposes and abides forever.

John defines our real problem immediately, by juxtaposing our loving and cherishing this world with authentically loving our heavenly Father.

The amazing thing about his presentation of this specific contrast, is that he purposely uses the special Greek word agape in a way not typical of its regular use in the New Testament.

Agape usually denotes either God’s self-sacrificing love for us, or our willing, Spirit-empowered love given freely for others.

John tells us in these texts, that we can actually agapao this world system, which indicates much more than mere affection or attraction. Various translators use terms such as to cherish, or consider as precious, or give our hearts to, as phrases to help us understand the depth and intensity of this kind of distorted love for the world.

Simply put, John is saying do not surrender yourselves, in a kind of worship of the world or even of the things that are in it!

This is a re-phrasing of Jesus’ own words to all His followers that “you cannot serve both God and mammon (unrighteous gaining of riches as your god).” 

John describes our cosmos world system in terms of human faculties shared by each person, which have been twisted away from beholding and desiring all that the living God is and does, to seek after selfish pleasure, purely human potential and position, or personal power.

This incredibly complex interactive matrix of many millions of individuals living by and for their own ends for generations, creates the composite corporate reality of our societies and cultures developing over centuries outside of purposeful and intentional involvement with God.

The sad and painful result of this corporate reality is a multiplicity of deep and dark spiritual cesspools, filled with deceit and false glamour to entice and entrap each of us.

When John states that these things do not come from the Father, the beloved apostle draws a bright line between any desires we may consider entertaining, which misuse these God given faculties for our own purposes in pursuing what the world has to offer us, instead of being used for their true purpose: glorifying our Father and passionately wanting fellowship with Him through Jesus our Lord.

The strong warning concluding this section of Scripture that all of these lesser forbidden things of the world and of our own sin natures will pass away and disappear, also reminds us not to become caught up in the fleeting and fatuous flirtations offered to us constantly by the world. Unfortunately, we are trained by many ungodly experiences to instantaneously welcome these temptations with our self-oriented senses.

Our battle is won as we turn quickly away from self-fulfillment, not permitting any of these darts of the enemy to pull us aside, even for a moment, from the true course that the Lord has laid out for each of us.

These darts can also become lodged in our hearts, sitting like selfish time bombs triggered and ready to bring destruction at some later point, if we don’t throw them off complete, to continue our faith race, with eyes focused again only on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3).

When we turn away unto our Lord Jesus, we may consider His exalted majesty, His manifold perfections, and His infinite power. All of these attributes, and many more, are worthy of our meditations.

The Bible points us specifically to that special resting place, about which mature members of the Body of Christ can confirm and testify, where our thoughts of Jesus find great fulfillment, by affirming the love that is resident in and through Him for all people.

When we are reaffirmed in this truth, we are also specifically receiving again and again from the Spirit of God, the needed message that His love is in the here and now for each of us, even as we are learning how to love others first in the here and now!

All this also reminds us that we are made and then adopted by our eternal God, to live forever with Him in His love and grace. This bedrock fact re-energizes our willingness to do His will.

When we love imbued with our faith, and in the full knowledge of His love, obedience is never a matter of fearful submission, fawning pretension, nor of self-energized procurement of our salvation.

Our acceptance of the Father’s will is exactly the same as Jesus displayed in all that He did, based solely in the true knowledge that God is Love personified and epitomized (1John 4:8), and His greatest purposes are to use us as His choice vessels to live in and show forth His love to so many others that we come in contact with every single day!

When we choose daily to abide in Him, we are abiding primarily in the very love with which He first loved us (1John 4:19), flowing into us as peace and joy, and flowing through us over time as more faithfulness, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self control in loving others (Galatians 5:22-24) in the Spirit, serving and considering them as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:2-10).

It is this special kind of God’s loving kindness that rises up with faith in our hearts, to overpower the sin nature remaining within each of us, and to overcome the world’s influences and infections all around us!

--Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I've been thinking about forgiveness. As I work with individuals, couples and families, I find that one of the most powerful actions a person can engage in is forgiveness. It can also be one of the most difficult things to do in relationships, especially where one has experienced deep hurt. Following are some key concepts about forgiveness that I share with clients in the counseling setting:

 What is forgiveness? It is defined as the willingness to let go of self-harming or ineffective forms of anger, choosing instead to turn over ultimate resolution of the wrong to God.

What forgiveness is not:

û  Letting go of healthy forms of anger.

û  Allowing family members to continue to disrespect your needs and boundaries.

û  Lying down and becoming a human doormat.

û  Telling your family member the past is no longer significant and everything's fine now.

û  Pretending to go back to normal relations as if nothing happened.

û  Denying that you may still have to live with pain caused by the wrongful deed.

Forgiveness does not always eliminate all your pain nor does it mean that you will never feel emotions such as anger, grief or disappointment associated with the wrong that was done against you.

Forgiveness does mean:

ü  You will let go of the demand for repayment, particularly as you have exhausted all reasonable attempts at restitution or restoration.

ü  You will free yourself to focus on rewarding relationships and pursuits.

ü  You will choose to give up any obsessions regarding your family member, instead that you have better things to give your attention to.

ü  You will be willing to refrain from ongoing temptations to insult your family member or exact revenge in some way.

ü  You will let go of any illusions that you might somehow control your family member's  life.

ü  You will not spend significant amounts of energy attempting to prove that you were right and your family member was wrong.

ü  You will be forward looking about life, realizing that new opportunities await you.

ü  You will give yourself permission to make life choices that will lead to contentment and peace.

Forgiveness takes time. It is more a prolonged struggle than an easily made choice. Forgiveness is a series of choices made by aggrieved former or current marriage partners in the face of daily life events that remind them of their past relationship.

Forgiveness often occurs in small increments and sporadic setbacks are typical, especially in situations where the violation of trust and partnership is particularly deep and hurtful.

Remember the words of the Lord's prayer: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."

Submitted by Tom Horst, Marriage and Family Therapist
New Hope Community Life Ministry

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thank God for Mother

Yesterday, as we celebrated Mother's Day, I thought about my own mother who is now in heaven with the Lord. But, I also thought about all godly mothers like her. I want to share this poem. Let's be thankful for our mothers--not just on Mother's Day--but every day.

Thank God for Mother's Love
There is no love, like a mother's love,
no stronger bond on earth...
like the precious bond that comes from God,
to a mother, when she gives birth.
A mother's love is forever strong,
never changing for all time...
and when her children need her most,
a mother's love will shine.
God bless these special mothers,
God bless them every one...
for all the tears and heartache,
and for the special work they've done.
When her days on earth are over,
a mother's love lives on...
through many generations,
with God's blessings on each one.
Be thankful for our mothers,
for they love with a higher love...
from the power God has given,
and the strength from up above.
Ann Gantt, Ph.D., LCSW
New Hope Counselor

Monday, May 6, 2013

Be Still...

As the weather becomes warmer we have different responsibilities: yard work, gardens, flower beds, outdoor activities, etc. We become so caught up with the frenzy of activity that we often forget to just "Be Still" and listen to God and appreciate the beauty around us. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to "Be still, and know that I am God" and in Psalm 37:7 we are reminded to "wait patiently for Him".

How many times have we said "I can't wait for..." and when the day comes we never have enough time or we complain about what needed to be done so we could enjoy the day? Perhaps that only happens to me. Spring is amazing with all of the newness of life unfolding, blossoms on the trees and flowers blooming; however, how often do we really STOP and notice? Are we too busy with our life that we forget to "stop and smell the roses"?

We need to be refreshed just like the seasons. Jesus even needed time to get away from the crowds to just "Be Still" and reflect and talk to God. I have a picture of a solitary tree that has "Be Still..." in  my office. It is a simple reminder to me to take the time I need to refresh and be healthy and whole in Christ!

Elaine Campbell, MA