Monday, July 29, 2013

Testing for Gossip

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"

"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before telling me anything I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say. That's why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "Actually I just heard about it and..."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"

"No, on the contrary."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, but you're not certain it's true. You may still pass the test though, because there's one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend gong to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?"

~Source: Unknown

Monday, July 22, 2013

Part 4: Without God’s Love, Do We Have Jesus?

Chapter 13 of the apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, known widely as “The Love Chapter,” has given many generations an amazing description of what God’s love is really like, in deeply poetic, yet eminently practical terms.

The prologue to this famous chapter is also a beautifully and dramatically written expression, concerning the infinite value of God’s people, doing all that they do from a white hot core of true agape love.

This highly valued divine attribute is shown in extremely stark contrast, when compared by the apostle Paul, to any spiritual or religious activities, which could be and many times are, practiced without God’s love!

In the bright light of this Scriptural contrast, a deep impression is made on anyone who wants to make sure they are lined up with God’s will and showing the reality of Jesus in all they do!

Reading this section of Scripture reminds us of Paul’s concerns expressed earlier (1Corinthians 3) for the Corinthians, that they not go off track, seeking after things that look spiritual, but in the end become what he had already termed “wood, hay, and stubble” in his epistle.

Here in chapter 13, the great apostle reminds them and us, that things which look “spiritual” to the immature in the faith, are not of the Holy Spirit unless they are truly imbued completely with and saturated in the love of God!

The breadth of variety in the spiritual experiences which the apostle lists in these texts may be nothing more than his reflection on the current practices of the churches in the middle of the first century AD.

If so, they still offer to churches and to individual believers enough of a diversity, to be seen as applicable in many times and places that the Body of Christ is still active and flourishing.

Under the plenary inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes with tremendous insight and possibly prophetic foresight, looking through that darkened glass he mentions later in this same chapter, to see the excesses and the lack of love which has so sadly characterized many different denominations, churches, and Christians through the ages:

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers (to directly communicate the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). 3 Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.

Paul touches on several seemingly successful and properly focused avenues which any believer or gathering of disciples could go down, and be absolutely convinced they are most certainly following God’s will.

Unfortunately for any of them, and  for any of us who find ourselves caught in traps of this nature, these things can continue on and actually appear to the participants to be filled with power and life, yet still become nearly completely devoid of God’s agape love!

The gifts of the Spirit (or what looks like them) can be manifested, but if not in combination with love, they have no greater value than any other noises.

Prophetic insight and proclamation without love, the supernatural ability to discern even God’s deep mysteries, knowledge (whether spiritually or intellectually based) to give the greatest of teachings, and incredible faith that looks exactly like Jesus described it to be,  but when exercised or expressed with increasing lack of love, leaves that minister or church body to be considered as a useless nobody  or nothing in God’s sight.

This is especially true if they have a high opinion of themselves as somebody!

Paul has already focused his spiritual laser light onto this pride issue with the Corinthians, and has already made clear to them and to us that there is no substitute for God’s true agape love:

1 CORINTHIANS 8:1 Now about food offered to idols: of course we know that all of us possess knowledge [concerning these matters. Yet mere] knowledge causes people to be puffed up (to bear themselves loftily and be proud), but love (affection and goodwill and benevolence) edifies and builds up and encourages one to grow [to his full stature].

If anyone imagines that he has come to know and understand much [of divine things, without love], he does not yet perceive and recognize  and understand as strongly and clearly, nor has he become as intimately acquainted with anything as he ought or as is necessary.

But if one loves God truly [with affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, and grateful recognition of His blessing], he is known by God [recognized as worthy of His intimacy and love, and he is owned by Him].

Any church, congregation or leadership, can come to think that their generosity is a sure sign of their own goodness, and is worthy enough to recommend them for eternal rewards. The Bible clearly says in this powerful passage that even this is insufficient without love, and will not gain them heaven.

A martyr’s death was especially considered by the early church as the highest point of obedience and a sure sign of God’ eternal favor,  yet the apostle Paul says clearly to all of us that it must also be combined with and motivated by God’s love or that person will also fall short of the glory of God as well.

These Scriptures are not deriding, devaluing, nor denigrating any of these practices. They are of immeasurable value – when intimately bound together with, and then expressed fully in Jesus’ great love.

We are being called to be like Jesus as unique individuals, with our own unique mix of gifts and callings.

We are to grow in these gifts, becoming the special unique minister that fulfills God’s plan for each of us in this earth.

Love must be highest thing we learn and most noticeable quality we possess, as we walk through this life.

We are to become more like Jesus in all ways, yet certainly learning to love more and more as He did, above all else!

Neil Uniacke
Executive Director

Monday, July 15, 2013


This month I am sharing a reading on change with you. As a Christian man, husband, father, and  therapist, I have experienced change in many ways. I have also been an agent of change in people's lives. Change is not easy; in fact, some people would rather not  change, even though they know it will probably be good for them. It seems that many times we would rather not change, because what we're experiencing now, even though it may not be healthy, is still familiar. New ideas and ways of living are often scary!

 This reading is taken from a devotional book written by Charles Ringma, entitled: Dare to Journey With Henri Nouwen.

CREATING OPEN SPACES: Making Room for Purposeful Change

Isaiah 30:18 - "The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Change happens to all of us.  Much of it happens slowly and almost imperceptibly. We are molded by our environment and influenced by our friends. As our society changes its values, we slowly change with it. Physically, too, we change with age.

But we can also be proactive. Change can come because we are dreaming new dreams, making new plans, and actively pursuing new options.

For such changes to be productive, “the first thing we need is an open receptive place where something can happen to us,” says Nouwen. Change arising out of reactions will hardly be helpful, and change to quickly fill the empty places in our lives will hardly be satisfying. Moreover, change made on the run is seldom purposeful.

The powerful possibilities of change first require the quiet reality of solitude. Change first needs stillness, not further activity. And rather than rushing headlong, we first need to create space for ourselves.

The space for thankful reflection on what has been or the space of forgiveness for what should have been needs to be created. And, more particularly, the empty space harboring the fears of loss of significance, position, and power, needs to be embraced as the hopeful place, the place of new beginnings. For the empty place can bring forth new dreams, and out of seeing new possibilities, purposeful change can come.

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Power of Listening

     As a counselor, I think a lot about the power of listening. Listening is such a powerful tool and an important key to good communication. I can think of times when I was going through something and all I wanted is for the other person to listen. So often, we begin to jump in with suggestions and advice when the best thing we could do at that time is to have a powerful presence simply by listening. I am reminded about this is a devotional in my Bible which I will share with you:

Lend Me an Ear
~Susan Lenzkes
     Ears are busy these days. A listening, caring, available ear is increasingly difficult to find. Many seem permanently encased in the headphones of their own private interests. Others are busy vying for equal time with other parts of the body--such as an eye on the clock or a nose to the grindstone.
     Even a free ear isn't necessarily free just to listen. When people come to us with their troubles, many of us discover we have a birth defect; our earbone is connected to our mouthbone. When patience, understanding and encouragement are most needed, we give advice, platitudes and "My experience can top that" stories.
     The burdened who come to us needing to unburden are looking for an earbone connected to a heartbone.
     It's good to remember that "listen" and "silent" are made of the same six letters.
Lend every man thy ear, but few thy voice. Shakespeare
Submitted by: Ann L. Gantt, Ph.D., LCSW
New Hope Counselor

Monday, July 1, 2013

Home Sick

Have you ever been away from home and missed it so much you became "home sick" for the familiar? One of my sister's and my oldest niece are on a road trip in the Midwest for two weeks. Looking at the pictures my niece has been posting on her Facebook page has made me "homesick" for the Midwest and where I grew up in Nebraska.

Beautiful Nebraska
By Jim Fras & Guy Gage Miller
Beautiful Nebraska, peaceful prairie land,
Laced with many rivers and the hills of sand:
Dark green valley's cradled in the earth,
Rain and sunshine bring abundant birth.
Beautiful Nebraska, as you look around,
You will find a rainbow reaching to the ground:
All these wonders by the Master's hand:
Beautiful Nebraska land.
Seeing the pictures of the landscape, places where we had visited when I was growing up have made me long to see friends that live there. Isn't that how we should be in our relationship with God in longing for the familiar love and comfort that only He can provide? God has created such a beautiful world for us to live yet the majesty of Heaven is unfathomable and we long to see what beauty awaits us when we are in His presence!
In Revelation 4, John shares a glimpse of what heaven will be like. John's descriptions are ones that we can't even begin to comprehend. So soak in the beauty of our surroundings and long for the beauty that lies ahead of us in Heaven as we travel our journey here on earth.
Elaine Campbell, MA