Before You Ask

Mark Office

Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

Isaiah 65:24 (NLT)
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do she died, leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator) and no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “And it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed.
As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

”All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.”

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, “And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?”

As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen”? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home; anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.

From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys; eyes sparkled as I pulled them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas — that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the ….. could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out — yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle! I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.

Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted.

Looking up at me, she asked: “Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five months before — in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year old to bring it “that afternoon.”

~By Helen Roseveare~

Helen Roseveare is a medical missionary and author from England who served for years in the former Belgian Congo.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

 

Thankful For The Power of Prayer

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James 5:16 (NLT) 

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

This past week I have been blessed by all of the phone calls, emails, text messages, and comments on Facebook from everyone concerned about my health.  While I was unnecessarily scared by the original diagnosis, it appears I have a disc problem in my spine that has caused me all the pain in my legs for the past several weeks.  While a disc problem is nothing to be happy about it is certainly better than the original prognosis.  However, all of the prayers, outpouring of love and concern got me thinking about the power of prayer.  It reminded me of one of the great stories of answered prayer in Church history.  One of the earliest and the most outstanding intellectuals, leaders and defenders of the Christian faith was Augustine, the fourth century writer of the “Confessions of Saint Augustine,” one of the most famous tell-all autobiographies written. Young Augustine was a hedonist, a philosopher, an agnostic, and a rebel, but his mother Monica was a godly, persistent, and resourceful woman. Augustine often laughed at her mother’s pious ways, mocked her faith, and deliberately defied her continual pleading for him to repent of his pagan lifestyle, to convert to Christ, and to live an exemplary life. When Augustine wanted to leave the shores of Carthage, North Africa, for the bright lights of Rome, his mother feared the worst for her son, dreaded the outcome of his leaving, and often fled to the church for solace, prayer, and advice. In her despair, she would often weep uncontrollably for her son. One day a minister noticed her painful cries, and asked her why she was so bitter. She told him of his wayward son, but the bishop assured her with these words: “Go in peace; as you live, it cannot be that the son of these tears should perish.” Augustine avoided his mother as much as possible and ignored her warnings time and again, but he could not escape her continuous prayers. Monica painstakingly prayed, wept, and looked for her son for 30 years until Augustine surrendered his life to Christ.  James was right when he said, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  Thanks for the prayers and please keep them coming.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

No More Excuses

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Philippians 1:1 (NLT) 

This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons.

Greetings In The Name Of The Lord:

Here at New Life we talk a lot about church as family.  Recently I began to ponder the question, “If church is family, and we love God and each other, why wouldn’t we come to church on a regular basis?”  Now I realize that today “regular” has taken on a new meaning in church circles.  Years ago regular meant every Sunday morning, plus Sunday and Wednesday evenings.  However today it has become every third Sunday.  But again I ask the question why wouldn’t you want to be at church at the very least every Sunday morning?  As I was thinking about this I came across this humorous, and at the same time sad piece called, “No Excuse Sunday.” Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.” Murine will be available for those with tired eyes… from watching television too late on Saturday night. We will have steel helmets for those who say, “The roof would cave in if I ever came to church.” Blankets will be provided for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who think the church is too hot. We will have hearing aids for those who say, “The pastor speaks too softly,” and cotton for those who say I preach too loudly. Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present. For those who wish to spend time with family on Sunday we assure you that your Father will be in attendance. There will be T.V. dinners for those who cannot go to church and cook dinner also. One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature. Finally, the sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who have never seen the church without them.”  Perhaps it is time we reexamine our priorities.  The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Heb. 10:25, NLT).  Church let’s stop making excuses and make our family time together the most important and exciting part of our week.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Carrying One Another’s Burdens

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Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

 Galatians 6:2-3 (NLT) 

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

One of the five W’s that we live by here at New Life is the word Welcome.  We want everyone, whether they are first time guests or long time members of the family to feel welcomed and loved.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith In Community, said, “The Christian, however, must bear the burden of a brother. He must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated. The burden of men was so heavy for God Himself that He had to endure the Cross. God verily bore the burden of men in the body of Jesus Christ. But He bore them as a mother carries her child, as a shepherd enfolds the lost lamb that has been found. God took men upon Himself and they weighted Him to the ground, but God remained with them and they with God. In bearing with men God maintained fellowship with them. It was the law of Christ that was fulfilled in the Cross. And Christians must share in this law.”  Sometimes the burden we must bear is the other person’s worries or concerns, but sometimes the burden we must bear is the people themselves.  In a recent encounter at the grocery store I ran across an acquaintance I had not seen in a while, and when I asked how things were going he unloaded for what seemed like an eternity.  My choice was to lend a caring ear, stare off into space ignoring him, or politely brush him off.  The choice I made was to intently listen and offer some comfort.  While nothing I could have said was going to change his situation, the fact that I was willing to listen hopefully made him feel as though someone cared.  Are you willing to carry one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ?  Blessings

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Metamorphosis Not Resolution

Indians Game

Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

Romans 12:2 (NLT) 

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

 Many people around the country, and possibly the world, made what is referred to as a “New Years Resolution.”  It is a decision to change something about ourselves in the coming year.  It might be to eat better, lose weight, get more exercise, or a score of other promises.  However, most people will be disappointed when weeks or months from now that resolution will fall by the wayside and we will feel like a miserable failure.  What we all misunderstand is that we don’t have the power or resolve within ourselves to change anything.  Even those with incredible will power only have the strength within themselves change minimally.  Jesus said it best when he stated, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NLT).  The reality is we are not able to make real, lasting change without God’s help.  The kind of change we really need is what the Bible calls transformation.  This word comes from the Greek word metamorphousthe, which is a compounds word of meta (which means change) and morpho (which means to give shape or form).  In other words, transformation means to change who we are and not just something we do.  Notice something that Paul says in Romans 12:2, “but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  He doesn’t say change yourself, he says let God change you.  The only way we can achieve real and lasting change is for us to allow God to change us.  Are you willing this year to let God transform you into a new person?

In Christ,

Pastor Mark 

Perspective For Holiday Blues

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Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Most people are of the opinion that depression is very prominent in during the Christmas season.  However, a recent study that I read tells a different story.  It stated, “Contrary to popular belief, December actually has the fewest suicide attempts of any month of the year. The facts, while seemingly encouraging, may be more complicated, however.  While it’s true that suicide attempts tend to drop off just before and during the holidays, there is a significant uptick in suicide rates following Christmas—a 40 percent uptick, according to one large Danish study. Christmas itself seems to have a protective effect with regard to certain types of psychopathology, say researchers, but there is a significant rebound effect immediately following the holiday” (http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays).  Perhaps depression is a problem, whether it is before, during, or after the holidays because we are focused on the wrong things?  We all have, it seems, an idealized notion of how the Christmas season should go.  This became an issue for me this year.  On Christmas Eve I began to think about what Christmas was like as a child.  Most of my memories focused on my family and the things that we did together in the celebration of Christmas.  My thoughts went back to attending Midnight services at church and then coming home Mom would make breakfast for everyone.  Then we would all go to bed and wake up in the morning and open presents, followed by a huge Christmas dinner.  Pondering these memories I came to the realization that those days are gone forever.  The reason for this is that both my parents, and now two of my siblings have passed away.  The more I pondered these memories the more depressed I became.  However, on Christmas morning I woke up to the smells of an amazing Christmas dinner that Tina had been up working on for hours. Shortly afterward we opened presents and ate an amazing meal together.  It was then that the Lord helped me to realize that I am not less blessed today then I was then, it’s just that my blessings have changed.  God has replaced my immediate family with a wonderful wife, two amazing children, good friends, and an awesome church family.  How could I ask for any more?  Our circumstances may change, but are reason to be thankful never does!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

For Always

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Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them (Luke 2:6-7, NLT).

In 1994 two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on Biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage.

It was nearing the holiday season for the orphans to hear for the first time the traditional Christmas story. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where Jesus was born and placed in the manger.

Throughout the story, the children, according to one of the Americans, “sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.”

As a follow-up activity to the story, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manager. Each child was also given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins which the children tore into strips the paper and carefully laid them in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel from a thrown away nightgown were used for the baby’s blanket. From pieces of tan felt a doll-like baby was made.

As they made their way around the room to observe the children this is what one of the Americans noted, “All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project.

As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see, not one but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.”

The observer goes on to note that Misha very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger. “Then Misha,” it is noted, “started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no momma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay.

Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. 

So I asked Jesus, “If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told me, “If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me. So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him – for always.”

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him – FOR ALWAYS!” Merry Christmas!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark