Friday, July 18, 2014

July Update from New Hope

Thank you for your continued support of the work at New Hope here in Bangor, Maine. We see God at work, and trust that He is Lord of this congregation and this city!

A few updates from the past couple months…

We are currently in a sermon series entitled “Are You Crazy Busy?” in which we are seeking to grow in a Scriptural perspective on rest, work, and what is of eternal value—all in light of the gospel. So far we've addressed the gospel and rest, a biblical perspective on work, Christian "ambition", and worry. 

Over the past couple months, we have been re-working the mid-week men’s and women’s Bible studies, and in late June started a mixed (men’s, women’s, and youth) Bible/topical study. We hope to give couples and families the opportunity to study and grow together, with multiple generations present and a setting where friends and neighbors can also feel welcome—allowing for both discipleship and evangelism. I meet with a leadership team each week prior to the study, to brainstorm, plan, and pray together. One or two of those on the leadership team will be leading each session (sessions running for about two months before we shift to a different topic), but with the support of the whole team. This should allow for both growth opportunities for current and future leaders, as well as shared responsibility that will hopefully allow leadership to lead directly at times, and at other times simply attend as participants. Our first study met on June 26th, and there was a good turn-out. For the first two-month session we are going through sections of Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics—addressing spiritual disciplines and growth towards maturity in Christ. Please pray for the leadership team members to continue to grow, and for those participating in the study.

God has persistently been reminding me and others at New Hope of the centrality and importance of prayer. Two years ago, following the CRC prayer summit, a prayer team was formed at New Hope and has been meeting weekly since then. It’s wonderful to see the faithfulness of these members, their hearts for God, and their prayer that is saturated with worship. In addition, this past winter I was able to attend a seven-week prayer training (addressing repentance and spiritual/emotional/physical healing from a strongly Scriptural perspective) and shared the materials with our prayer ministry team leader, and a few members were also able to attend a weekend “retreat” led by a local congregation that focused on prayer and repentance. We are hoping to continue to encourage and equip members these areas—and are looking to find and train prayer partners who would be available to pray with individuals after the Sunday service. Please pray that God would give New Hope an increasing hunger to seek Him in prayer—recognizing prayer as communion with God and as an arena for spiritual warfare. God works powerfully in response to His people’s prayers!

We have seen God working in response to our prayers in many ways. One individual in particular comes to mind, although there have been numerous other ways that God has worked through the prayer team. We had been praying for one member’s mother for some time; she was diagnosed with cancer, and we began praying not only for her physical health but for her salvation. And God powerfully answered those prayers as He worked through those who spoke to her about Jesus. I could see a change in her: Where before she had seemed to only express faith on a surface level, she now began to actually want to hear Scripture, expressed genuine joy and hope in Jesus, and began to open up to her daughter and others in a new way. She died this past week, but God had answered our prayers for healing on the most profound level: healing in her relationship with Him and with others. It’s amazing to see God’s work even in the lives of those who are near the end of their lives. Please pray for His continued regenerating work in the lives of other spouses, parents, children, and friends.
On another note, God has given us growth on two levels over this past year: New families have been coming to New Hope, and we also have four babies expected (two already born, two on their way) in the span of five months!

New Hope has also been partnering with other churches in Bangor, and it’s encouraging to see the united witness to Christ that can result. As one example, members at New Hope co-sponsor the “Gen Rev (General Revelation) Outdoor Club” with others at a local conservative Anglican church, planning hikes and outings that provide the opportunity for time together and the opportunity to invite those who don’t yet know Christ.

My tennis coaching season ended well; the boys’ team made it into the post-season but lost in the first round. However, it was a good time to begin to build bridges in the area, and God also provided opportunities during the season to share my faith with players and parents. We just started a middle school summer tennis camp, and I look forward to continuing coaching tennis each spring and soccer each fall.

Once again, thank you for your partnership in the gospel. We appreciate ongoing prayers for protection for our leadership, spiritual protection and restoration where needed for marriages, and an ever-increasing hunger for God and recognition of our dependence on Him. He is Lord of the Church and King of this world.