Saturday, January 31, 2009


Good Lord,
May your strength fill me with passion and conviction to serve you, to proclaim your name, to drop all else and run into your arms, filled with love and gratitude for all you do, for all you have done, for all you will do. May this life I live be one testament to your goodness and glory. May I set myself aside so that I glorify you and your good works. Thank you for everything, for the life within me and the life that awaits me; may I see your hand working in each step I take today.

Friday, January 30, 2009



It’s time for the Souper Bowl of Caring! We’re going to do it a little differently this year—the food will be taken directly to the Chattanooga Rescue Mission on February 14 (what better way to celebrate love?), while the money will go to the Food Bank. Food will be collected from Feb. 1-8. Money will be collected this Sunday.

Calling all young adults (21-40)! If you’re interested, or know anyone who would be interested, in taking part in a young adults group, we’re having a kick-off Super Bowl party at Keith & Rachel’s house. We plan to meet weekly, usually on Saturdays. Activities will include Bible Study, local events (concerts, bowling, etc.), outdoors stuff (hiking, rafting, etc.), and whatever else the Spirit might lead us towards!

This Sunday there will be a new Adult Sunday School class offered in the small classroom off the McMillan Building. The focus will be on what God is doing in our lives, here and now. Join us from 9:30-10:15.

Swing by my office to meet Calvin, Hobbes & Suzie, New Hope’s new resident theologians.

Pray for…

Mike Bryant


'Leave People Better than you found them'

Stories behind Dr. Seuss stories

She spent 13 years working with rice to help the hungry

Yes, looking at this makes you less healthy

The end of solitude--a great read

Church History Quiz (Answer Below)

Q: When was the first protest against the exploitations of the Indians in the New World?

Text for Sunday, February 1

Jonah 3

Conversion of Nineveh

3The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ 5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

A Reading from the Confessions


The Authority of the Scriptures

As we believe and confess the Scriptures of God sufficient to instruct and make perfect the man of God, so do we affirm and avow their authority to be from God, and not to depend on men or angels. We affirm, therefore, that those who say the Scriptures have no other authority save that which they have received from the Kirk are blasphemous against God and injurious to the true Kirk, which always hears and obeys the voice of her own Spouse and Pastor, but takes not upon her to be mistress over the same.

The Monastic Moment (From The Monastic Way)
January 30
A Sufi tells of the old, old woman who was on pilgrimage to the shrine at the top of the mountain at the height of the monsoon season. ‘You will never be able to climb that mountain in weather like this,’ the innkeeper said on a dark, wet night. ‘Oh, my friend,’ the old woman said, ‘that will be no problem at all. My heart has been there all my life. Now it is simply a matter of taking my body there as well.’ It is time now in religious history to form for pilgrimage; to ignore the storms around us and to press on, press on, press on to where our hearts await our bodies this very day. (Joan Chittister OSB)

Church History Answer

A: 1511. The Dominican Antonio Montesinos preached a sermon in Santo Domingo. The dispute eventually reached the courts in Spain. He was protesting the system of encomienda, in which groups of natives were ‘entrusted’ to a settler who was free to work them in trade for the settler’s ‘guidance’. The settlers were supposed to civilize them and teach them Christian doctrine, but the reality was worse than slavery, for the settlers had no investment in them and therefore no concern for their well-being.
(Answer taken from Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity , Volume I, pg. 382)


You know my thoughts. This terrifies me sometimes, but I believe that you are a God of endless compassion and grace, and I believe that you know my longing to be faithful. I feel like Paul, wanting to serve you but constantly diverted by my own sin. Loving and Gracious God, remind me of my redemption. Help me remember the precious blood of Jesus Christ that lingers still, after all these years, washing away the blemishes I am working so hard to create. Show me your mercy, grace and glory, so that I might look through the cross and see the empty tomb, the risen Christ, and have hope for myself, hope for all of humanity, for I recognize your power and love and know that you are calling, you continue to call, each one of us to bow before your holy and powerful throne so that we might worship, for we have been created to worship you, our King.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

From Bert Piatt

An Old Farmer's Advice:
* Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled.

* It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

* When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

* The best sermons are lived, not preached.

* Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

* Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

* If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.

* Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God

Living Water

Millions die each year. What are we prepared to do about it? How are we going to pray about it? What are the words we will use to speak up about it? How can we join in what God is doing in the world around us?


Holy and precious Lord,
Teach me to love you and your creation more deeply. I have grown up with a love for you in my heart, and yet I so often fail at allowing that to transform my life. May I recognize your Spirit at work within me, and may I pause to allow myself to hear your voice booming throughout my soul, throughout my life. May the beauty of your creation open my eyes to see the wonder of your amazing love. May the light of the sunrise be enough to guide my way. May your precious love illumine my path, guide my feet, and catch me when I fall, and may I see your hand at work in all I do. Praise you, forever and ever.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Dear God,
Surround me with your grace. Surround me with your love and mercy. Not simply so that I am aware of it throughout my day, but so that when I fall, it will be into your arms. I seem incapable of taking two steps forward without at least one step to the side, and I live my life perched precariously on the edge of the narrow road you call us to walk upon. Guide my feet, and soften my falls, so that I will always be surrounded by you, supported by you, strengthened by you, and ready to move forward for you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Move Me

Gracious Lord,
Move me. Move me from the place I stand to a place where I can kneel, where I will be freed to run and worship, to praise and sing. I am so restrained by the stubbornness, by the brokenness, that I cling to old routines, old habits, old ways, and refuse to listen to your voice singing of a new creation. Move me and help me see your ways, your love, your grace, mercy and peace.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Gracious, Loving and Merciful God,
Thank you for my slow creep from the covers of bed. You have given me rest and now you send me forward, into this beautiful world, refreshed and ready to serve you. Now I merely to set aside my sinful and selfish ways and allow your desire to fill me, your vision to guide me, and your love to support me. I only need to lay down my old habits, my brokenness and my laziness, and allow myself to be caught up in a passionate embrace of this world and all you are doing in it. I merely need life in you to be the center of my desire.
These are big things that I ask of you, our big God. Work in my heart, mind and soul, so that day by day I draw closer to you, so that my will is turned over to you, and I acquire the patience to allow you to work day by day rather than all at once. The Ark wasn't built in a day; you didn't even create the entire world in a day. Surely my soul will take more than a day to be completely turned over to you.
I love you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Hope E-News


Interested in going roller skating? The youth will be going roller skating on January 25 at Hamilton Skate Place from 2-5. RSVP, please.

It’s time for the Souper Bowl of Caring! We’re going to do it a little differently this year—the food will be taken directly to the Chattanooga Rescue Mission on February 14 (what better way to celebrate love?), while the money will go to the Food Bank. Food will be collected from Feb. 1-8.

Calling all young adults (21-40)! If you’re interested, or know anyone who would be interested, in taking part in a young adults group, we’re having a kick-off Super Bowl party at Keith & Rachel’s house. We plan to meet weekly, usually on Saturdays. Activities will include Bible Study, local events (concerts, bowling, etc.), outdoors stuff (hiking, rafting, etc.), and whatever else the Spirit might lead us towards!

The John Knox Center has a staff position opening for an Interim Program Director if you’re interested.

Pray for…

Mike Bryant

What to pray for a new president


Obama's speech

World Reaction to Obama

Faith leaders call on Obama

Muslim Reaction to Obama

The Greatest Social Need

Church History Quiz
(Answer Below)

Q: Who were the flagellants?

Text for Sunday, January 25

Jonah 2

2Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2saying, ‘I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4Then I said, “I am driven away from your sight;
how* shall I look again upon your holy temple?” 5The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O Lord my God. 7As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty. 9But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’ 10Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.

A Reading from the Confessions

The Larger Catechism 7.290

Q. 180. What is it to pray in the name of Christ?

A. To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake: not by bare mentioning of his name; but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation.

The Monastic Moment (From the Monastic Way)

Learning to surrender has its own cheap counterfeits. Passivity it is not, nor is it clenched-teeth conformity. Authentic self-gift requires freedom’s consent and leads to growth in freedom. Strain is its antithesis. When individuals try too hard, when they attempt to do more than they can, they become exhausted, anxious, or chronically irritated. What should free them enslaves them. Formation becomes deforming. (Mari Beha OSC)

Church History Answer

A: They first appeared in 1260, but it was the 14th Century that saw their numbers swell. It became a popular craze to whip oneself in penance for sin. Thousands of Christians from all walks of life lashed themselves until they drew blood. The movement had rigid and ritualistic discipline, and those who wished to join did so for 33.5 days. After this period, they were committed to whipping themselves every year on Good Friday. They soon began to speak of their ritual as a ‘second baptism’ and the movement was eventually abandoned.

(Answer taken from Justo Gonzalez's The Story of Christianity, Volume I, pg. 360.)


Everlasting God--
Be the rock of my life. Remind me of my salvation in you. In Christ I am baptized, and only in Christ do I find peace. You are the Lord of all, and that means every moment of my life should be placed before your holy throne. May I remember that I am strongest in you, I am wisest when silent, and I am only worthy because I have been covered in the grace of Jesus Christ. Help me remember that I am worthy only because of you, and will be so forevermore.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Morning

Great Lord--
As the morning fog covers the dim landscape, some dense cloud drifts upon my heart as well. My mind is filled with thoughts of you, and yet it seems that so often I cannot find them. I cannot direct my feet to discover my efforts to serve you, and I become lost within the fog, dashing wildly to try and find my way and only running farther from your will for my life. Teach me to be patient, to sit and wait, to discern your will. Teach me to hope for new days, new efforts, new life in you, rather than despair where things have gone poorly. Teach me your truth, that I may not be led astray by things in this world that resemble you, for you alone are God, and I desire nothing more than to bow before your glorious throne.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


It is so easy to become wrapped up in myself. I am so focused on getting the things done that I need to finish. Open my eyes so that I may see the world around me through your vision. May I understand the hurt and the pain, the joys and the celebrations that are going on around me. May I not stare inwardly, but rather focus outward and see again, for the first time, the wonder of our life together. May I truly understand the beauty of the vocation you have called me to perform for your glory. May I reach out in sympathy to those in pain, the hurt and the broken, so they may see a glimpse of your love. May I allow my heart to be moved in order to be renewed in you. May I love freely, speak with love, and give selflessly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Gracious Lord,
As this new day dawns, bringing with it a new beginning for our country, may you remind us that you are the God of new beginnings. Speak to us in your soft voice, create in us once more the ability and wisdom to love and serve you. May we seize our own opportunity to bow before your holy throne and lift your name on high.
As the motorcade brings the new president forward, may we lift his name up to you, O Holy One. May he be protected and strengthened, so that he grasps this opportunity to seize you, this chance to serve you, and he does not fall prey to the temptations of power and privilege. May Barack Obama be your servant--may he serve you in serving others. Grant him wisdom and humility to go forward boldly when he can, to admit with humility when he is wrong, and to seek out peace and grace in all his days.
May we do the same.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Great Lord--
Praise you for the gift of today. Today we celebrate the gifts and dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He gave his life in working towards the future, in speaking his dreams, in hoping for a brighter tomorrow. He sought to live out your will for the equality of all people.
Grant me the same vision you gave him. Empower me to live boldly, to step forward in faith, to speak my mind about the people you are calling us to be today, here and now. Put your words upon my lips so that when I speak, I may speak boldly about you. Pour your Spirit into my heart so that my thoughts and dreams may draw me closer to you, nearer to your vision, closer to your Kingdom. Replace my selfishness and greed with selflessness and generosity, so that I might give to others just as I have been given to. May I have courage and strength to be a humble disciple of Jesus Christ, a follower of our Crucified and Risen Lord.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Hope E-News


Interested in going ice skating? The youth will be going ice skating on January 25 at Hamilton Skate Place from 2-5. RSVP, please.

It’s time for the Souper Bowl of Caring! We’re going to do it a little differently this year—the food will be taken directly to the Chattanooga Rescue Mission on February 14 (what better way to celebrate love?), while the money will go to the Food Bank. Food will be collected from Feb. 1-8.

There will be a women’s Bible study on Thursday, January 22, at 7 PM at the church.

Calling all young adults (21-40)! If you’re interested, or know anyone who would be interested, in taking part in a young adults group, we’re having a kick-off Super Bowl party at Keith & Rachel’s house. We plan to meet weekly, usually on Saturdays. Activities will include Bible Study, local events (concerts, bowling, etc.), outdoors stuff (hiking, rafting, etc.), and whatever else the Spirit might lead us towards!

Pray for…

Mike Bryant
President-Elect Obama as he transitions to power.


Did you know Martin Van Buren was the first president not born a British subject? Other inauguration info here.

An atheist’s take on Christianity in Africa.

Want to smell like Burger King? Dreams become reality.

They have encroached on the project…

Church History Quiz (Answer Below)

Q: Why was the Bible translated to English?

Text for Sunday, January 18

Jonah 1

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, ‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.’
The sailors said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’ ‘I am a Hebrew,’ he replied. ‘I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.
Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quieten down for us?’ For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.’ Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’ So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

A Reading from the Confessions


Q. 57. What comfort does “the resurrection of the body” give you?
A. That after this life my soul shall be immediately taken up to Christ, its Head, and that this flesh of mine, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and be conformed to the glorious body of Christ.

Q. 58. What comfort does the article concerning “the life everlasting” give you?
A. That, since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall possess, after this life, perfect blessedness, which no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, and thereby praise God forever.

The Monastic Moment (from The Monastic Way.)

January 15
We see that we cannot partake deeply of the life of God unless we change profoundly. It is therefore essential that we should go to God in order that he should transform and change us, and that is why, to begin with, we should ask for a conversion.
Conversion in Latin means a turn, a change in the direction of things… Conversion means that instead of spending our lives in looking in all directions, we should follow one direction only. It is turning away from a great many things which we value solely because they were pleasant or expedient for us. The first impact of conversion is to modify our sense of values. God being at the center of all, everything acquires a new position and a new depth. All that is God’s, all that belongs to him, is positive and real. (Anthony Bloom)

Church History Answer

A: It was the followers of John Wycliffe that made this a reality. He argues that while Scripture is the possession of the church, the church is the body, and therefore the Bible should be in the hands of all the members of the church in their own language. His followers were called Lollards, which was derived from a word meaning ‘mumblers’. They were convinced the Bible belonged to the people and should be returned to them.

(Answer taken from Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity, Volume I, pg. 346-8)



Rock of Ages--
Comfort me. Wrap your arms around me as I struggle forward, trying to hear your voice in the crowd. Console me with your endless love, surround me with your gentle peace. Quiet my mind so that I might focus upon the sparks of grace that are so present around me. Still my thoughts so I will cease my struggling against your Lordship. Calm this world, so that we all might be held in a moment and recognize you as the God of time and space, the ruler of each and every life, the love that cannot be denied. Be here, Lord, in such palpable ways that my one and only desire is to burst forth from this place filled with songs and joy at the reality of your presence and desire to be known and know us.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I went to see this movie last weekend when I was in Nashville. I don't go to the movies often (I think the only movies I saw in the theater last year were The Dark Knight, James Bond and The Four Christmases). We went to see Gran Torino but it was sold out, so we ended up watching Benjamin Button. First off, it was long. It's almost three hours, and it doesn't feel like a minute under four. It's the story of a man's life, and while they could have done some editing to shorten it up, they were reaching for epic status. It reminded me quite a bit of Forrest Gump, both in length and in style. Except I liked Forrest Gump better.

The proximity of death seems to be the prevailing theme in this movie. From Benjamin's birth, when he is almost thrown into a canal, to Hurricane Katrina, beating on the windows of the hospital room from which the story is told, death is never far from the movie's conscious. Perhaps this is part of why I kept the movie at an emotional distance; it made me uncomfortable and forced me to think about my own mortality, my own aging, and the death that awaits us all, even one who grows younger as he ages.

This movie is a cry to all of us to pay attention to the relationships that surround us. So often they are fleeting, and if we wait to invest ourselves in them they will be gone. Benjamin grows up in a nursing home setting, so he is aware from a young age that friends are not always with us for long. Often they are gone before we know it.

And yet Benjamin Button is, at heart, a selfish movie. Benjamin seeks out exhilaration, at times preying on others to satisfy his emotional (and physical) needs. He seems to care little about how his actions affect others. While one can read a selfless personality into him, ultimately I think that is creating something that is not there. He gives to many, and yet the desire to take is always there.

It is a fascinating study in our human natures, how we view aging and youth and the importance of recognizing pivotal moments in our lives. It's worth seeing, but I wouldn't start it after 8:00 PM!

Thursday Morning

Eternal God--
Open my eyes in the world today. May the spectrum of beauty sweep before me and leave me in awe of the beauty of your creation. May I be filled with joy at the thought of your nearness as I go about my business today. May my thoughts center upon you and your mission in this world.
Lord you were so involved with the life of the Hebrew people. Your hand moved in their lives and they found water in the desert, freedom from slavery, a path through the sea. Help me see how you move in my life today. Grant me the vision to see and understand how you are still present today, still moving and working so that I might draw closer to you. Give me the wisdom to see where you are and the courage to proclaim that truth to those unable to see.
We are responsible for one another. May I have the ability to reach out to my brothers and sisters and offer them a tender word of grace and a simple act of love.

Romans 4:1-12

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”

9Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.


These passages are tough. Paul packs so much thought into each sentence; he writes with an intense urgency, considering each word critical to his mission. If we all wrote this way it would be difficult to understand our notes and emails. But there is much we have to learn from Paul. He presses on for Christ; each word and passage contains some deep longing for others to see the world as he does: through the lens of Jesus Christ. Paul is begging the Romans to set down their other worldviews and pick up the Christian one, for he is certain that once they do they will have the same passion and conviction for Christ that he does. Perhaps if we all felt such urgency there would be more Christian witness in the world.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Precious Lord-
It's cold outside. The chill sneaks under my jacket, through my sweater and burrows its way into my body, reminding me of my vulnerability to the elements. I shudder as I wrap my coat tighter and seek the warmth and protection of the indoors.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this body, and for protecting it from the elements. While I am a sinner, you have died for me. You came to earth in Jesus Christ and lived, breathed and died for us. You rose from the dead, for us. You protect us from sin and death, the very things we seem to be capable of claiming as our own.
Thank you, Lord, for the ability to keep warm. So many are deprived of such a basic necessity. Give me the knowledge of their presence and the courage to witness boldly to you by serving them in love.
Open my eyes so that I may see the world as you do.
Open my arms so that I may serve as Christ does.
Open my heart so I may love with the freedom you do.
Open my live so you may guide it.

Romans 3:21-31

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

What is Paul saying? 1) We are sinners. All of us. 2) By grace we are saved through faith. God is not waiting on us to pull ourselves out of the mess we have created. Rather God has chosen to come to us in a radical, unexpected, undeserved act of grace and love. God knows us, our failures and successes, our pride and our guilt, and comes to us in Christ. What greater gift could possibly be given than communion with the Creator despite our own sin? What act of love could be stronger than death on a cross for the sake of the very ones holding the nails? What promise could be better than eternal fellowship through the grace of Christ? We are a blessed people--may we go forth in celebration of these gifts!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


What does ministry mean? It certainly doesn't have to take place inside the walls of a church. It doesn't require a degree from a certain institution, or even permission from a governing body. I believe it requires a certain passion for God and an unyielding desire to seek out ways to join in what God is doing in the world. We each have a ministry. In the workplace, in the school, in our homes, we each minister to one another as we share the love of God. The idea of the priesthood of all believers is a powerful thing, and if we each sought, with all of our energy, to serve the Lord in every time and place I do believe that God will continue to do powerful and miraculous things through our own humble efforts.

Back to Work

Focus my heart. Turn my words of stone, my inflexible way of being, into a beautiful new way of being, so that I might be transformed by your Spirit and speak as one saved from his own sin. Turn my rigid life into a new dance of grace, one that reaches beyond my comfortable life into a new place and visions new ways of being your child. Turn my sinful thoughts into dreams about how I might be still and feel your presence near me. Turn my focus, my eyes and my vision, towards you, so that my dreams might stretch along your vision and imagine all that you are doing in this world. Give me the strength and wisdom to turn my life over into your loving, precious, and gracious hands.

Romans 3:9-20

What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. 12All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” 13“Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” 14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16ruin and misery are in their paths, 17and the way of peace they have not known.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.


In other words, we're all in the same boat. And trying our best to sink it!! Paul isn't trying to cheer everyone up here--he's trying to emphasize our common need. None of us is in a position to say whether or not we need to be saved; we are all, each and every one, in dire need of a Savior.
The law demands a lot of us, and we have failed the law, and in doing so we have failed God. For this reason it might have been easier for God to cast us aside out of pain and disappointment, but our sin provides the opportunity for God to show exactly how strong God's love is. Thanks be to God!


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Early Edition of New Hope E-News


Due to the deluge, our Habitat for Humanity this Saturday is canceled. Make plans for working on February 7. Please contact Dorothy Piatt for more information.

$.02/meal due this Sunday!

Blood Drive will be Wednesday, January 14, from 5-8. There is a sign-up sheet in the narthex, but please come and bleed even if you haven’t signed up!

Rev. Don Kaller will be preaching this Sunday!

Pray for…

Peace in the Middle East


From Client to Social Worker

A great story about cheering for the opponent.

Napping: Not just for students.

Good news for anyone in love.

We Play Green: “…the power we have to reverse the environmental crisis”

The road to peace in Guatemala.

Church History Quiz (Answer Below)

Q: Has the pope always lived in Rome?

Text for Sunday, January 11

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

John 20:24-29

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

A Reading from the Confessions


Q. 76. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace,1 wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God,2 whereby out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger,3 but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins,4 and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent,5 he so grieves for, and hates his sins,6 as that he turns from them all to God,7 purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.8

The Monastic Moment
(from The Monastic Way.)

January 8
In order to pray more and better we must often do less, let go of more things, give up numerous good intentions, and be content to yield to the inner pressure of the Spirit the moment it bubbles up in us and tries to win us over and take us in tow. Ultimately all our attempts at prayer and all our methods must come to a dead end and wither away in order that the Spirit of Jesus may facilitate and validate his own prayer in our heart.

Church History Answer

A: No. From 1309-1377 Avignon, France served as the seat of the papacy. The conflict between Rome and France had grown to such a point that Pope Boniface VIII was prepared to excommunicate the French King in 1300 when a small French army kidnapped the Pope and humiliated him by forcing him to sit backwards on a horse and parade him through town. After several other events the pro-French party succeeded in having Clement V elected Pope in 1305, who did not visit Rome once during his pontificate. He moved to Avignon in 1309 and his successor had a great palace built there.
(Answer taken from Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity, Volume I, pg. 329-334)

Thursday Morning

Gracious Lord,
May your peace prevail. In Gaza and Israel war has broken out. Rockets, Bombs, Mortars and Bullets pierce the once-still air, cutting through the tension and exploding in the homes and hearts of the residents. Each side throws blame as well as rockets, and yet as each life is lost there is something that can never be recovered. May your peace prevail. I know that you are already present there; rule over that place, rest on the hearts and minds of individuals and governments, and speak peace to them. May they know your goodness and grace. May they be at peace, Lord, with you in their hearts.

Romans 3:1-8

**I'll be at a conference until Tuesday. Have a blessed weekend!

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, “So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.” 5But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), “Let us do evil so that good may come”? Their condemnation is deserved!

God is faithful. God is just. The list of the attributes of God is longer than all of human history, for in truth we can never describe God with our human words. But we can witness to God. We can point to God, so that through our actions people see the faithfulness of God. In this passage Paul is responding to objections against his argument; he is trying to be faithful in the face of opposition. May we have the courage of Paul to remain faithful, in the midst of challenges, and always point to God Almighty.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Dear Lord,
Thank you for rain. You send rain to parch our thirsty souls. You send down the waters of baptism so that we might not dry up, but rather will have life, and have it abundantly. The waters soak us to the core, filling up those empty spots that cause us sorrow and grief. The waters change us, transform us, wash us clean so that we might start again in you. We see the waters, we know the waters, and while we fear our abilities to swim in them, we trust and love you for them. Teach us to swim, to bathe and play in them, to treasure the moments we have with you. Teach us to be holy as you are holy, to see this world as you do, through the lens of Christ Jesus our Lord. You are an awesome God, and the living waters, those waters that fill us forever, sustain us day by day, and amaze us with each breath.

Romans 2:17-29

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 25Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

When I was in college, I always told people I was a Christian, but in reality my faith was like a nice sweater--I would put it on once a month or so, but most of the time I kept it in the closet where it didn't affect my life. I didn't go to church very often or remove the dust from my Bible. There was no integrity between what I did and what I said. My heart was not offered to God, but rather to myself, selfishly. While I now attend church regularly (some might be a little upset if I didn't!), I still struggle with matching my words to my actions. Faith is about what we do, who we love and who we serve. We need to continue to evaluate our lives to be sure Christ is who we love first, who we serve first, and that love is what we do.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Napping. Good for the soul?

Naps enhanced recall of words after a 7 h and 20 min retention interval relative to both caffeine and placebo. Caffeine significantly impaired motor learning compared to placebo and naps. Napping produced robust perceptual learning compared with placebo; however, naps and caffeine were not significantly different. These findings provide evidence of the limited benefits of caffeine for memory improvement compared with napping.
(From Science Direct)

So naps are better for us than caffeine. I'm not that surprised. We are constantly struggling to come up with new and improved ways to live faster, with more and more packed into every hour. What if we simply stopped for a little while? This study shows that naps have more benefits than we could imagine. That's great if we could all stop and nap at work, but for those of us who don't have a cot and a pillow in our offices, perhaps we could realize that there is benefit in stopping, for whatever length of time, taking a deep breath and handing control over to God. If we could collect ourselves and allow ourselves to be led, perhaps we would find energies we didn't know we have, for in allowing God to lead we find our purpose, to glorify God, rather than trying to desperately rush to get things done to move onto the next task. Peace in God is preferable to frenzy for the sake of busy-ness.


Dear Lord,
In these precious moments before the sunrise, remind me of the peace and order of your creation. I cling to the darkness, the chaos and disorder that was present before you spoke over the waters. In some ways it is as though I am still waiting for creation, for I am unable to understand how you have transformed me through the blood of Christ. I am still clinging to petty things, like greed and selfishness, when you have given such richer things for us to enjoy. Give me the strength and the courage to accept your love and to go through this day remembering your eternal and spotless love, love that ordered this world and claimed me as your own. To all whom I meet, may I offer a reflection of your love, your goodness and your mercy. May I who has been forgiven freely offer forgiveness and love to others, doing all things in your holy name.

Romans 2:12-16

All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

I love the language of having writing on one's heart. We spend so much time talking and thinking about our faith, but Christ urged us, time and time again, to be sure that we lead with our hearts. If our thoughts and actions do not originate in a love that seeks to imitate the love of Christ, then we need to examine our motivations. We are called to be a people who love first, who love until it hurts, who love even when the world has turned its back. It doesn't mean that it is easy to love, or that by loving we will not be subject to pains and difficulties, but it does mean that if we love we will be showing little glimpses of God's eternal kingdom to everyone.


Monday, January 5, 2009

The Truth Hurts

I received this in an email today.


The preacher's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day, she asked him why.

'Well, Honey,' he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages.

'I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon.'

'How come He doesn't answer it?' she asked.


Everlasting Lord,
You alone know the answer to the mysteries of the worlds you have created. Across the sky you have written tales of beauty and power, and yet I cannot read them. In the grass you have woven a story of love and joy, but I do not know how to translate it. In my heart you have installed a song of joy, but I often do not bother to hear it. Fill me with your presence, make me so aware of your Spirit within me, around me, that I better realize that while I may never understand, I am called to stand in awe and humble adoration at all that you have done, all you have promised, and all you are. From the crow of the rooster in the morning, to the last rays of the sun in the evening, to the gentle presence of the stars at night, may I see the world around me as a testimonial to your grace and goodness; your presence with us. Thank you.

Romans 2:1-11

2Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality.

Are we patiently doing good? I will confess my desire for world peace, and yet nothing I ever do will achieve that grand and lofty goal. But I can contribute to it, step by loving step, offering my self and my actions to a more peaceful world. We have the option of growing frustrated with the rising level of violence around the world and screaming about it or noticing ways we can make minor differences, in the greater world and here at home. We work towards peace when we give our time, our efforts and our money to those who are in need, those who suffer, mourn and grieve. We work towards peace when we take a deep breath and react calmly. We work towards peace when we speak of the peace that passes all understanding, the peace of Christ the Lord.