Monday, June 24, 2013

Growing in Jesus' Love - Together! - Part 3

Growing by God's Grace into Greater Love - Part 3

To truly love as Jesus loves is a lifelong process. We know from the beginning of our walk with God that we should love as Jesus does, yet we also know soon enough that we are not capable of sustaining that level of selflessness for very long.

Although graciously given nuggets and moments where we are used by the Lord, to show His love to others in very special ways, we also find ourselves falling far short many times as well, blowing opportunities left and right.

In the face of this ongoing reality, we can choose to fall away from Jesus in frustration over our failure, blaming Him for making the journey so difficult for us, or blaming others for being so unlovable.

Or we can recognize and receive the ever present love and forgiveness Jesus freely offers us every time we fail, and walk on with Him, learning to love through the valleys of our lives, as well as on the mountaintops with Him!

Once we have settled the issue that Jesus is always for us, and never against us, we can reconnect with Him and allow Him to guide us and enable us to love better another day.

This journey is greatly helped if we incorporate the wisdom of those who have walked it before us, especially the anointed, inspired words of Jesus’ closest friends preserved supernaturally for us in the Bible.

One of these friends was Peter the apostle, who begins his second letter to the churches by stating that he is writing to those who have the same kind of faith as he has.

Just a brief overview of Peter’s experience with God, shows us that he has the unique experience of publicly denying Jesus as He was being falsely tried and convicted, as well as being rebuked by the Father (Luke 9:33-35), Jesus (on multiple occasions: Matthew 16:21-23, Luke 22:31-33, Mark 14:37-38, John 18:10-11), the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:9-16), and the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2:11-15). 

These difficulties Peter went through were far greater and more embarrassing then almost anything we could ever experience, yet he did indeed have the kind of faith in, and love for Jesus, to keep himself focused and moving forward no matter what!

Peter’s second letter goes on to give us a detailed map of the faith journey we would do well to heed, because it will lead us to become more and more consistent in loving like Jesus:

2 PETER 1:4 By means of (God’s power and glory, and our full personal knowledge of Him in Jesus), He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature. 5 For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence), 6 And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness, 7 And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love. 8 As these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).

This very fallible human and yet, great apostolic writer grounds our spiritual growth completely in the sovereign work of God, even as we can see that the Lord has also given us sunshine, the atmosphere, rain, and mineral filled soil to root our plants into, in the natural realm.

It is God that has shown us His power and His glory, and revealed to our hearts Who Jesus really is, as the true foundation of all His promises to us.

These are corporate promises to all believers, as well as individual promises to each follower of Jesus, revealed in His word and underscored by the Holy Spirit’s promptings within our spirits, which as David wrote to us, were beyond our capacity to calculate or even beyond any attempt to enumerate! (Psalm 139:17-18)

The reverence and awe that Peter shows for God’s promises, come from his own experience of seeing the Law of Moses and the Prophetic writings come to life before his eyes in the divine Person of Jesus, Who walked into His life and totally transformed it!

His exhortations concerning these promises are also because he himself had been plucked out of the slime of our natural human existence, to become someone transported into the highest and most powerful interactions any human has had with the God of the entire universe.

Peter is not focused in these verses, on those historic experiences with God, but instead on his own internal transformation. He has seen himself escape from his own corruption, rottenness, covetousness, lust, and greed, to become a sharer, a partaker in something greater than being a close friend to Jesus and a pre-eminent apostle of the living God.

Peter exults only in one greater fact:

He who was the loud denier of Jesus, with cursing and cowardice in the very moments Jesus was being terribly treated, and a hard-headed lout, worthy in himself only of being rebuked at every turn, was now beginning to understand and communicate to all of us that he, and we are meant to share in the very divine nature with our Father, our Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit forever and ever!!!

This highest goal of the redemption offered to us in Jesus our Lord, is the incredible outcome of focusing our full faith and giving our all, walking closer and closer to Jesus each and every day of the lives that we have been offered here on the earth.

It is the surrender of our selves fully into this faith walk with Jesus that will bring forth the virtues listed here by the apostle. Each step adds new depths to each virtue, as they accumulate and accrue throughout the entirety of our lifelong journey.

Although each virtue is sacred and precious in itself, they are each facets of the total of Christlike godliness that finds its greatest expression in the increasing development of brotherly affection into agape love.

God’s love is the ultimate expression of God’s Presence within us that most powerfully shows Jesus to the world around us.

God’s love is not an individual element that flows out of us by itself, but is the effluence, the effulgence of all the other attributes or qualities which Peter is encouraging each of us to grow into.

It is the composite, interdependent, ever expanding reality of all these qualities that brings us out of our idleness, and into a true and tangible fruitfulness for God in all we think, feel, say, and do.

Living and loving in this greater capacity, leads us into an ever deeper cycle of knowing and growing closer to Jesus in greater measure, both more completely and more intimately, which also leads us into knowing and loving many others more completely and more intimately.

Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, June 17, 2013

Seven Years

Next month it will be seven years since I started working at New Hope.  I’m going to reminisce a little bit about how this job came to me during a difficult and sad time in my life.  At the time, I did not think the timing was right, but as I look back now I realize God’s timing was perfect.

After many years of poor health as a result of a debilitating stroke, my mother died on July 1, 2006. I had left the workforce several years earlier and had focused a lot of my energy on supporting my parents through their struggles with Mom’s medical issues. Mom spent the last 15 months of her life in a nursing home and I would make the 45 minute trip to visit her two or three times a week.  When we knew that Mom only had a few weeks to live, my siblings and I made sure that one of us was with her 24 hours a day.  At the time of her death, we were all tired and emotionally drained and I remember thinking that I needed a few months to recharge my batteries.  I was looking forward to spending the rest of the summer with my family and catching up on things around the house that had been neglected way too long. I thought that when September rolled around, I would begin the search for a part-time job.

Due to scheduling conflicts we had a week between my mother’s death and her funeral. It was a time of restlessness and I had a hard time concentrating on anything.  I usually barely glance at our local Advertiser but for some reason that Monday I picked the paper up and browsed through it page by page. I came upon an ad that said a part-time secretary was needed for New Hope Community Life Ministry in Quarryville, PA. I had never heard of it and thought it was probably a church in need of a secretary. It sounded like the type of job I would enjoy, but did I really want to pursue a job right then before my mother was even buried?  I didn’t think so and tried to put it out of my mind. The next day was July 4th and since we really weren’t doing anything I had plenty of time to think. The ad kept surfacing in my mind. Finally, I sat down at the computer and typed up a resume and faxed it to the number listed on the paper. I felt a sense of relief and figured that I would probably never hear anything, but at least I had gotten it off my mind.
To my astonishment, the next day I received a phone call from a Ginger Holler. She said she was the executive director of New Hope and had received my resume and would like to set up an interview with me. Would I be able to come in tomorrow? It’s good she couldn’t see me through the phone because I am pretty sure my mouth was hanging open in surprise. After explaining to her that my mother’s funeral was later that week, we pushed the interview off until the following Tuesday.

A few days after the interview, Ginger offered me the job and I accepted it. By that time, I was aware that it was not a church but a counseling ministry that I would be working for.  I definitely had some reservations and still thought that the timing could have been a lot better.  However, within a few months I was realizing what a blessing this job was and I am thankful that God nudged me to send my resume in and that I did not ignore His gentle persistence.
I have met many people here in this little town of Quarryville during the past seven years. Some have been clients, some have been co-workers , some have been counselors, some have been board members, some have been volunteers at the thrift store, and some have been people that I have met in various places of business here in Quarryville, such as Burger King, Subway, Rite Aid and the bank.  Some people are here for a few months or years and then move on to another job or opportunity or in the case of clients who have received the benefits of counseling, they leave with new hope and determination for their future life.  To many of these people I am just a familiar face or an acquaintance. To some, I am a friend.  In either case, I hope that I have been a presence that people appreciate and feel comfortable with.  I hope that through me, some have seen God’s love. 

I have learned through the years that people and opportunities come and go, but it is how we make the most of the opportunities and relationships that we are given that leave a lasting impression.  I am so thankful for all the people that I have learned to know through my job here at New Hope and even though I have been sad to see some move on to other opportunities and places, I treasure the time spent with them and I truly hope that they remember me as someone who they were glad to cross paths with. I pray that I will continue to be a friend and encourager to those that I interact with here in this little town of Quarryville.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.  ~ Colossians 3:17
~ Mary Lehman, Secretary

Monday, June 10, 2013


I am thankful to still have my dad around as we celebrate Father's Day this week. I have learned many things from my dad that have definitely shaped my life.

My dad loves sports so I grew up knowing Tom Landry (with his overcoat and hat), Roger Stauback, the Orioles and the Baltimore Colts. I remember watching the Super Bowl back when it first started.

My dad loves to stop at diner's when we go on a road trip. I love to walk into a diner and try to figure out how good the food will be. My dad and I look no further than the dessert case. If it is full of fresh homemade desserts, we know we will get a good meal. And, we will save room for that homemade dessert.

My dad has always been an avid reader. He would have his stack of books next to him as he settled down to read. In that stack were the Reader's Digest and his Bible. What a privilege to observe my dad reading his Bible on a regular basis. I also always have a stack of books, and my stack also includes my Bible.

No father is perfect. My dad provided for us and I always knew that he loved me. However, he did not demonstrate that love much and was not one to tell us that he loved us. I do know that he prays for me frequently. And, when he was younger he never minded picking me up when I got stranded, no matter how far he had to drive.

When we think about God as our Father, we often think about our earthly Father and want to give God some of those same qualities. We study our fathers unconsciously and often believe God will be like that. However, as I look into God's word, I learn what God as my Father is really like. He is unchanging, He knows all, is over all, has perfect love, is full of grace and mercy. These are some of God's qualities and characteristics.

So, where will I learn about God and what He is really like? Will I just look at my father and other dads that I know? Or, will I study God's Word and learn to know the God of the Bible, the God who is my eternal Father and loves me perfectly?

Deb Riddell
Closet Manager

Monday, June 3, 2013

When We're Hard on Ourselves

I've returned to New Hope after a nine month leave-of-absence. I'm glad to be back. I've learned a few things that I think will be helpful to my clients. That's the sweetness of redemption...God can take the troubles of our lives and use them to teach us and then bless others.

The leave-of-absence was difficult for me. Health problems, financial stress, relational conflict and family drama were the norm. I struggled with some burnout symptoms that shocked me...I didn't feel like myself.

Like a lot of people, I'm hard on myself. As the quote says, "We are our own worst critic." When we look into our true feelings and thoughts, we recognize some pretty ugly stuff. Stuff that creates turmoil both inwardly and outwardly. And because I've learned the skills of a counselor, it's pretty easy to self-analyze to a fault.

But there are times when analyzing and critiquing must stop. When we use "should" and "shouldn't" too much. When we think we're at fault or responsible for other people's issues. When we're too perfectionistic or obsessive about our looks or reputations.

I know the analysis and criticism needs to stop when I hear God gently whisper to my soul, "Shannon, rest. Be still. Just sit here with me and relax for a bit." He says it to me when I'm fretting about my imperfections. Or when I'm listing my mistakes. Self-condemnation is a troubling habit for many of us.

I'm blessed to know that the Lord says, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2). It is freeing to rest in His truths; to know the unconditional love He has lavished on us. To remember that no matter what the flaw or sin, He doesn't condemn me. I need not condemn myself either.

~Shannon Shertzer, MS, NCC