Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Thank you for your ongoing interest in and support of New Hope Church. Here are a few updates from the past two months here in Bangor:
Work-Faith Interviews: Over the past four weeks, we have been holding brief “work-faith interviews” during the Sunday services. These interviews give a glimpse of the work God has given to several different members of the congregation, and highlight God’s claim on each of our occupations from Monday through Saturday—no matter what kind of work we do. “Serving God” and enjoying Him is not only about what happens on Sunday or on missions trips; our daily work—whatever our occupation—is claimed by God. The gospel shows us that we no longer have to make ourselves ok or prove ourselves by our work, since we are accepted because of Jesus’ work. That truth frees us from workaholism and perfectionism. And since Jesus is the king of every good work, we are also free to view work as an opportunity to honor Him and participate in His work—not just as a necessary evil. In these past four weeks, we have heard from a mother with the full-time occupation of raising children, a college student settling on a major and working a part-time job, a teacher who works with advanced students, and a chiropractor. Each of them shared with thoughtfulness, honesty and humility—sharing how their identity is not their work, but how their work itself can be seen as serving God, and how their approach to their work is being shaped by the gospel. It’s been such a privilege to hear from each of them!
Cabin Fever and Slot Car Races: Several members worked to host a slot car race and potluck dinner in early March. It was an enjoyable time together as a church family, and also a good opportunity to welcome the guests who attended. One church member had built two slot car race tracks, and nearly thirty contestants competed in the race bracket, which was then followed by a meal. It was a great time to enjoy each other’s company and get to know others who came, in a fun (and competitive!) setting.
Mentoring: Over the past couple months, several members (who have committed to mentor youth or others in the church) have been meeting to brainstorm and grow as mentors. It has been encouraging to see a couple mentoring relationships growing, even though it seems to be a small start. I am realizing that it is helpful to have a structure in place for the mentoring program—but also that simply imposing a structure does not in itself yield growth. But God is at work!
Leadership: Over the next month, we will be praying for God’s call on more individuals who could serve as elders and deacons, and receiving nominations from the congregation. We would be grateful for your prayers for God’s provision and guidance during this time.
As always, if you ever find yourself in the Bangor area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!
Thursday, February 26, 2015
As we study the story of David in 1 Samuel in our sermon series, and find the Bible confusing at times, it’s helpful to remember that God—not humans—is the true Author. He’s bigger than we are! If we could easily wrap our minds around His Word, that would mean that His Word would be smaller than our minds. In reality, He does help us understand His Word, but it’s far bigger than we are—and that means that it will keep on stretching us as we see how much bigger He is than we first thought. C.S. Lewis addresses this well:
“It is the simple religions that are the made-up ones… If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 137, as quoted in http://www.bethinking.org/who-are-you-god/advanced/understanding-the-trinity.htm#_edn12)
Dear Friends and Family,
Thank you for your ongoing interest in and support of New Hope Church. Here are a few updates from the past two months here in Bangor...
Missions: After our leadership team spent time thinking and praying about where God may be leading New Hope to focus in this upcoming year(s), one of the areas that rose to the surface was foreign missions. Long having been recipients of so much prayer and financial support from individuals and congregations (Thank you!), we are now considering ways that we can begin to give more broadly, specifically in the area of foreign missions. We hope that this will develop into meaningful partnerships—not just financially, but also relationally.
Discipleship: Another area of focus in 2015 was discipleship: the need for further growth in depth and maturity of faith. One of New Hope’s particular strengths is how God’s hospitality is expressed through the welcome extended to visitors. However, we have realized that we need to continue to provide opportunities for growth toward maturity—not just entry into the church. We are beginning to take steps to address this growth area (through a mentoring program—explained in more details below—through an element of monthly leadership training at our meetings, and perhaps through content in sermon series’), and we pray that God will be at work to give each member at New Hope an increasing hunger and the tools to grow in their walk with Him.
Mentoring Program: For the past year and a half, the idea of starting a mentoring program (for the youth at New Hope) has been simmering on the back burner. One of the most significant memories of mine from growing up in the church was of the adults who invested in getting to know me, and sharing something of their life and faith. Intergenerational relationships are crucial for discipleship in the church, and a context in which God works powerfully in the lives of both young and old. After thought and prayer—and seeing God’s work in the youth group that was started last year—this seems like the right time to step forward. We will begin by asking specific adults in the congregation to consider being mentors (with the expectations of praying daily for their mentee, touching base weekly at church or by phone, and doing some more significant activity together monthly). After this, we will contact the youths’ parents for permission, and then the youth themselves, distribute “get to know you” questionnaires, and pair mentors and mentees. After a kick-off event, mentors will meet regularly with a member of the leadership team, as a sounding-board for the mentoring relationship and to encourage ongoing growth in the lives of mentors as well. We would appreciate your prayers for God’s guidance and work through this, knowing that “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
I have found it a profound privilege to see the unity, mission-mindedness, wisdom and stewardship so evident in the leadership team here at New Hope--and to be able to work alongside these leaders. We are all grateful for the past and present partnerships New Hope has had as we continue to transition from a church plant to an increasingly self-sustaining congregation. Thank you for your partnership in so many ways.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly should you have any questions, or find yourself in the Bangor area!
In our Lord,
Thursday, February 5, 2015
Whose word will we believe about God, the world, and ourselves--ours or His? Ultimately, we choose to believe either our word or God's Word. One is full of empty promises that can never deliver or bring us home; the other speaks a hard word about our sin but a bigger word about God's grace in Christ. And in this Word is our hope.
"...the Christian is the man [or woman] who no longer seeks his salvation, his deliverance, his justification in himself, but in Jesus Christ alone. He knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel that he is righteous at all. The Christian no longer lives of himself, by his own claims and his own justification, but by God’s claims and God’s justification. He lives wholly by God’s Word pronounced upon him, whether that Word declares him guilty or innocent." (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 22-23)
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Over Thanksgiving, I met my four-month old nephew for the first time. It was a delight: I was able to hold him while he was going to sleep, change his diaper, and the best of all—to make farting noises and watch him crack a big smile each time. (I am convinced that this is one of an uncle’s primary roles—along with roughhousing as nephews grow bigger.)
As I reflected on this time, it was interesting to notice that Paul didn’t have to do anything for me to delight in spending time with him. He couldn’t carry on a conversation, throw a football, or help me brainstorm a sermon idea. And yet I had a great time with him. In fact, pretty much all he could do was smile. But that’s the most rewarding thing to my brother, sister in law, or the rest of his relatives: When we made a silly face or funny noise, seeing him smile was an incomparable delight.
How easily do we forget that God delights in us before we can do anything? He knit us together in our mother’s womb (see Psalm 139:13), and He claims us as His own in Jesus. In Mark 1:11, the Father tells Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” And believing in Jesus, we have been claimed by God as His own beloved sons and daughters—before we have done anything. He delights in us, and He delights to see us simply smiling up at Him in response.
How easy to forget that we are not called to be so different from my nephew. In the busyness of doing things "for God", we often neglect to rest in His delight in us as His son or daughter whom He loves. Yes, Paul will grow up and be able to do more than smile, but one would hope that this mutual delight would remain at the core of his relationship with his parents and others who love him.
“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Belonging to and following Jesus, this promise is ours to claim (see 2 Corinthians 1:20). We are called to grow in using our gifts to serve God and others, but must never forget this core truth that our Father delights in us before we can do anything. And perhaps what He desires from us right now is a simple smile in response to His delight in us.
Dear Friends and Family,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you to each of you for your prayers, encouragement, and support of New Hope in this past year. I am grateful for your partnership in whatever form that takes, and pray that God blesses you as He provides for all your needs in this upcoming year.
A few news items from this past month...
“Fighting Well”: We just finished our study on a biblical approach to conflict (using Peacemaker Ministries’ curriculum, “Resolving Everyday Conflict”). It was a good time as a group, both with the teaching as well as the discussion times, and the subject matter was relevant to everyday situations. It’s often easy to pretend conflict doesn’t happen, or to implicitly assume that following Jesus simply means being “nice”. As a middle child, I gravitate toward the role of peacemaker, but have been learning the importance of actually engaging in healthy conflict and not just seeking surface peace. Conflict is inevitable, and as Christians we have been equipped to handle it well. This study addressed how to navigate conflict—not just avoiding or attacking, but actually engaging in healthy conflict in light of the gospel.
Sermon Series: After an Advent series on what it means to get ready for Christmas (and for Jesus’ return), we will return to the story of David in 1 Samuel. I have found it a privilege (and for some passages, a healthy challenge) to be preaching straight through a book/narrative, as it means engaging with topics that I might naturally shy away from. But the whole of Scripture is God’s Word, and sometimes the most challenging passages give the glimpse into God’s character and work in our lives that we most need.
Building Search: We continue to look for a more permanent worship space, and in early January I will meet with another pastor in the area to discuss a potential location. We appreciate continued prayers for clarity in mission and direction in this upcoming year, and discernment in the building search (that it would be in service of what God wants us to do and where He would have us be). In a recent budget meeting, it was profoundly encouraging to see the unity and shared vision among leadership team members—and the shared desire that the budget reflect the mission God has given New Hope.
Thank you for taking time to read, and for any prayers. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly should you have any questions, or find yourself in the Bangor area.
In our Lord,