“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)
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:
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)