This time of the year we are reminded to be generous and give. We buy gifts for the people we care about and many people give to the needy or to charities that help the poor & needy. This generosity is nice, but it should be how we think and behave all year long.
In 2009 I saw a dramatic increase in the number of people looking for financial assistance. At NewPointe Community Church we have a Helps ministry that gives financial assistance to people in need and do home improvements & repairs. We have a good system in place to determine financial need and to help them work on improving their situation.
Everyone requesting help must fill out an application that includes their financial information. They are required to listen to a CD about money and return the notes filled in. They are also required to attend two services at NewPointe. They also are briefly interviewed to clear up any questions about their situation.
Once they have done those things we will give assistance at a limited amount. If someone needs additional help, they are required to meet with a mentor one-on-one to develop a plan of action and a budget. This system has worked very well.
Many of the organizations in Tuscarawas and Holmes County refer people to us for help. For NewPointe to continue this ministry to people in need, people need to be generous the entire year. We have become a beckon of light to people needing help. Many of these folks have met or are still meeting with a mentor and are now attending NewPointe.
The vision for the Helps ministry is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. This starts by meeting some basic needs, encouraging them and having them come to church. We want to help them take their next step, whatever that might be.
I am anticipating the needs to continue to rise in 2010 and would love to help more people take a step closer to Christ. Consider giving regularly, it is making a huge impact in many families. Here are some stats:
If you would like to help by giving financially to this ministry, you can write Helps Fund on your check when you give at NewPointe or you can come to a First Wednesday Service and put money in the Black collection Box. All funds collected at the First Wednesday services goes directly to help people in need.
If you would like to volunteer to help on home improvement projects you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you are considering your giving for 2010, please consider the Helps fund at NewPointe.
I started reading the book of Isaiah on Monday. In the first chapter there were a few verses that really jumped out at me. They are so simple and yet give us great direction and purpose in life. It starts at the end of verse 16 with a simple “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!”. Sometimes when I am counseling someone or listening to someone I just want to say Stop doing wrong, learn to do right and send them on their way.
Is there anything you need to stop doing, because it is wrong? What are you doing to learn to do right? Do you know what is right and what is wrong?
It goes on to say this, “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” There, in a simple sentence is a great way to approach life. read that over several times and ask yourself how you can put that into practice over the next week. If you are already doing this, it should be an encouragement to keep doing right, seeking justice, encouraging people, defending and pleading the case of the widows, single moms, elderly, disabled and children that need help.
Sometimes it is very difficult to stop doing wrong, it may be comfortable, enjoyable and thrilling. However, there are always consequences to our actions. God created us to know the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but God rewards those that do right. Listen to verse 19 – “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Are you willing and obedient or resisting and rebelling? Is God calling you to do something, go somewhere, help someone, give something, give up something? Take a moment right now and ask God where you need to be willing and obedient.
One of my favorite songs on my iPod is Boston by Augustana. It came out in the summer of 2007. Here are some of the lyrics:
You don’t know me and you don’t even care
You don’t know me and you don’t wear my chains
I think I’ll go to Boston
I’ll think I’ll start a new life
I think I’ll start it over
Where no one knows my name
I think that I’m just tired
I think I need a new town
To leave this all behind
Cause you don’t know me and you don’t even care
You don’t know me and you don’t wear my chains
No one knows my name
If you listen carefully you can hear the pain. We all crave to be known, for people to know our name and to be accepted and loved. When that is missing in our lives we want to disappear, because we already feel invisible. Many people are feeling this way. Feeling lost, hurt, broken like no one cares. Even the smallest thing can convey to a person that they matter, that they are worth noticing.
If you are feeling like no one cares, it sounds intriguing to go to a new city and start over, however all of your baggage goes with you. It won’t be long until some of the same old patterns start popping up again. That is why it is so important to work through your conflicts, your hurts, your hangups and your bad habits.
This song is also a reminder to all of us to pay attention to the people around us. Are you interested enough in the people you meet to remember their names. Calling someone by name is huge. We all love to hear our own names. This is an area I can certainly work on. I have my good days and my bad days. Mostly we struggle with peoples names, because we are not really listening to the people we meet and really don’t care. We are usually too busy to take the time to get to know someone. When you get to know them, you remember their names.
This week try to call more people by name. Reach out and do something kind for someone. Make an investment in the life of someone you may not have noticed before. Maybe its the quiet guy at work or the elderly lady in your neighborhood.
Also don’t run from your baggage, face it and deal with it. Get involved in a small group, take the initiative to get connected with other people. Just like “Cheers” used to say on TV – We all want to go where everyone knows your name. Find a church that you feel is accepting and inviting. The really cool thing is that God knows each of our names, he never forgets.
How well do you understand people? Why do people do the things they do? To understand people we must first realize that everyone is at a different place in life. Everyone has unique experiences, personality and abilities. God created each of us uniquely. That is why sometimes it is difficult to understand others, especially if they think, act and believe differently than we do.
To understand someone you first must be willing to listen to them and get to know them. It takes time to get to know someone, we can sometimes jump to conclusions about people based on a brief encounter with them. That is a dangerous thing to do. We can write someone off or judge someone before we begin to understand them.
I heard this story about a man and his three children. They were riding on the subway and the kids were being unruly. They were out of their seats, loud and pretty annoying. The father sat in his seat, just starring out the window. The people around the man and kids looked at each other with that look of annoyance. Finally one man decided to approach the father. He said “excuse me sir, but could you please manage your kids, they are out of control”. The man turned to him and said “I am so sorry, they just lost their mother. We are on our way home from the hospital. I guess they don’t know how to handle this and I don’t either.”
Immediately every one’s attitude changed. They now understood what was happening and it changed how they viewed the man, and the children. How often do we do that? We get irritated with someone and don’t know what they are going through. We get angry at the guy that cuts us off, but don’t know what is going on in his life. We get irritated at the co-worker that is late to work, but don’t know what she is going through at home. We don’t know the life the other person has lived, the hardships they have experienced, the grief they have been through, the pain they are in right now.
Remember that we all have different backgrounds, families, experiences and personalities. All of those things affect how we act, what we say and how we live. We all have lies we believe that influence the things we do. Once we understand that in others we can be more effective in helping them.
When we seek to understand people, it is much easier to be patient, forgiving and kind. Once you understand the person better then you can begin to speak truth to them in a loving way.
Over the past month I have been challenged in multiple ways to examine what I really care about. It started when I heard this quote: “If you don’t know you can’t care”. How true is that? You are not going to care about something you don’t know about. You are not going to care about someone you don’t know.
So I started asking myself, what do you really care about? What do I think about all the time? What do you talk about? Where do I spend most of my free time? What do I make time for? Where do I spend my money?
It is very easy to live in our own little world and not care about anything outside of that. If we ignore the things around us like poverty, divorce, abuse, addictions, hunger and homelessness it does not just go away.
This weekend I went to our Free Methodist Annual conference. One of the reports was on how the Free Methodist church can reach out and make a difference with the poor, hurting and disenfranchised people around us. We heard many stories about efforts to make a difference. Food pantries, homeless shelters, food delivery, church in a local park in a poor neighborhood. It was exciting to hear that, yet I thought we can do more, I can do more. God has been working on my heart, breaking my heart for people in poverty, people struggling with addictions, people experiencing divorce and separation, families being torn apart. Those invisible people that are feeling abandoned and alone, hurting and hopeless.
I want my church, NewPointe, to be known as the church that cares, that takes the time to listen, that takes the time to invest in one person and one family at a time. Together we can impact our community in a profound and real way. It will take a new way of thinking and a new way of leading. I am praying and asking God to direct me in how we can make a bigger, longer lasting impact in peoples lives. Helping people become healthy, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. What do you care about? Who do you care about? What breaks your heart?
I finished a good book this morning called UnChristian by David Kinnaman. The chapter that really jumped out at me was entitled judgemental.
The definition the author gives for judgemental is “To be judgemental is to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded and marginalized. Some part of their potential to be Christ followers is snuffed out. Being judgemental is fueled by self-righteousness, the misguided inner motivation to make our own life look better by comparing it to the lives of others.”
He says that 87 percent of young outsiders think that judgemental, accurately describes present-day Christians. They believe we are more interested in proving we are right than that God is right. This perception of Christians has kept many people away from a relationship with Jesus Christ. That attitude pushes people away from God and His purpose for their lives.
It is very easy to be judgmental if we lose our passion for outsiders. Instead of looking at them with love and compassion we judge the way they act, talk, look and dress. The Bible makes it clear that God, not humans, should judge. He calls us to love people, accept people, build relationships and friendships with people.
So how do we avoid being judgemental. It starts by listening. Listen to understand, not be understood. We often judge because we don’t understand. Don’t label people or put them in a certain box, because of how they look, act or behave. Don’t pretend to have all the answers and to know it all. That is always a turn off.
Try to put yourself in their place, empathy helps you to love instead of judge. It also helps to be real and not pretend that you have it all together. To really care about people and be their friend, even if they don’t come to church or believe like you do. Friendship should be real and based on a genuine interest in the person.
This week I met with a young lady that was new to being a Christian. She had many questions, because she was not raised in a Christian home. As I answered some of her questions she shared some of her struggles with me. She thought that becoming a Christian meant she had to be perfect. She told me later in our conversation that she was watching how I would react to her struggles. She said she did not feel like I was judging her, which helped her to draw closer to God.
I have to remind myself often that it is not my job to change or judge people. That’s God’s job. It is my job to love them and to point them to the love of Jesus. He is the one that will bring change in their lives. I know that, because that what Jesus did in my life. He changed me over time into a new person. You see, the opposite of judgementalism is love.
So how do you perceive single parents, divorced people, gays and lesbians, people with tattoos, people that smoke, your neighbors, your pastor? Philip Yancey said “the opposite of sin is not virtue; it is grace”. Are you extending grace to people the way God extended grace to you? I hope this week we can all look at people through the eyes of Jesus, and love them like He does.
I am on the board of the Greater Dover/New Philadelphia Food Pantry. The Food Pantry started this year by combining some existing church food pantries into one. The neat thing was how many local churches joined in this effort. We now have over 20 churches that are supporting this pantry in some way. Some provide volunteers, some provide food items and many give financially. The need for an organized local food pantry is greater than most people realize. There are many people in our community that have a very hard time getting enough food for their families. I have met single parents, grandparents and people that have lost their jobs recently. All are grateful for a local pantry to get emergency food items.
Over the past few months we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking help. I have noticed this at the Church as well. The Pantry had been housed in the Salvation Army Church in Dover. They had been running a food pantry, and agreed to allow the new pantry to use their facility and roll their pantry into the new one. The Salvation Army has moved into a new building and had offered space there, but we needed a larger area to grow and serve more people. I want to thank the Salvation Army of Dover for their generosity and help in getting this pantry going.
This past week we moved into the old Buehler’s building in Dover. The Church of the Harvest owns the building and was not using the back part. It has a loading dock and ample space to store food. Many volunteers worked hard to get the space ready for Friday’s distribution. The Church of the Harvest graciously has allowed us to move into this space. We are paying for the extra utilities and for the improvements and repairs, but no monthly rent.
The best way to support the pantry is by giving money or volunteering your time. They are able to buy large volumes of food from the Akron Food Bank for penny’s on the dollar. We recommend instead of bringing in food items, that people donate money.
Every Friday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm we distribute food. We are expanding that to Thursday evenings in 2009 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. My wife Vikki and I went and helped serve on Friday. It was NewPointe Community Church’s turn to provide volunteers. I took some pictures to give you an idea of how the operation works. We served 150 families in two hours. People can only come once per month right now, so that translates into nearly 600 families a month that are being served food through the Greater Dover/New Philadelphia Food Pantry.
Whose lives are different because of your church? I asked myself that question today, and I could think of dozens of individuals, families and organizations that have been touched by my church. It is so exciting to be a part of a church that is thinking about how to reach out and really make a difference in peoples lives. Not just talking about it, but putting it into action.
We are in the middle of something called the BIG GIVE, where we gave out grants of $400.00 to small groups to do community outreach projects. Over 60 small groups participated and well over $30,000 was handed out. Some groups helped families in need pay bills, others helped local organizations like the homeless shelter and Harbor House with improvements and food. Others did home improvement projects for families and individuals and still others handed out gas cards to people in need. There are many other projects as well, each touching people in different ways.
We also are working with local organizations to do home improvements for elderly, disabled and handicapped people in our communities. These projects are ongoing throughout the year,and we hope to complete over 20 such projects this year.
In July, we are doing a food drive for four local food pantries. Our goal is to fill 1,500 boxes with food and bless those pantries, by filling their shelves for a month. We will end that with a serving Sunday in which we will serve our local communities instead of having a church service. Hundreds of people will go out and serve that morning, instead of sitting in church.
Later this year we are hoping to do a coat and shoes drive to supply needy families and children with coats and shoes.
That is just a taste of what has been and will be happening at NewPointe Community Church. I know there are many people that call NewPointe their home church that do random acts of kindness on a regular basis. I hope this becomes the DNA of NewPointe attendees, too serve others and impact people up close. I have heard many stories of people reaching out and helping people. Calling someone that is going through a hard time and offering to pray for them or bring a meal. Giving someone a gift anonymously. Writing a note of encouragement. Helping a neighbor with outside clean up. Helping people move. Volunteering to help local non profit groups. Visiting elderly in nursing homes and hospitals.
The local church should be the most generous, outward focused organization around. The local church is what should bring hope to the communities it is in. The local church should be the first place people think of when it comes to helping people in need. The local church should be actively working with other community organizations to make a difference and help them reach their goals. The local church should be reaching out to the business community to partner with them and serve them. Local churches should be working together to help those in need.
I am seeing some evidence of these things happening. 8-10 local churches have come together to run a food pantry for the Dover/New Philadelphia area. Local churches are working together on projects like Habitat for Humanity and to raise awareness for foster care and adoption.
Jesus said that we should be salt and light. Salt preserves and enhances and light helps people to see clearly. Is the church doing that? Are we adding value to our community? Are we helping people to see God clearly? Are we being real and relevant to the world around us? Do we really care about lost people? Hurting people? Poor people?
I read this Scripture today and it made me think about compassion:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16.
People are not impressed by a churches attendance, staff, growth or buildings. Jesus says there is one force in this dark world that can shed light in a dark world. That force is the local church, the people.
What impresses or impacts people is feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, doing house repairs, helping someone move, visiting someone in the nursing home, helping people in financial trouble, reaching out to those that are hurting and blessing the life of someone else. That gets peoples attention.
The early church in Acts 2, attracted some of the most undesirable, helpless people. They eventually overpowered the world and are still growing today.
So, how brightly is your light shining? How brightly is our churches light shining? Are you involved in activities that will cause someone to say what a good God there is? Maybe your wattage is dim – 25 watts instead of 100 watts.
I am talking about acts of compassion. Many of us like to think we are compassionate, but thinking and doing are two different things. Here are three reasons to engage in acts of compassion:
1. When you let your light shine to others, it will change you.
Think about that. What causes authentic joy in most people? Is it having more money, eating chocolate, nice clothes? Think about this; if you would do something that is pleasurable for you personally like going shopping or tinkering in your workshop and then do something for someone else like rake your elderly neighbors yard or help build a ramp for a handicapped person, what brings more joy. For most people it when we help someone in need.
When people focus on others they are happy, when people focus on themselves they get depressed. I spoke with a guy last week and he shared that the most meaningful time in his life was when he went on a short-term mission trip with his church. That was when he felt most alive and full of joy.
2. You change the world one person at a time.
How can you touch the life of someone? It may be your neighbor, it may be a family you know is in need. There are a lot of people in this world that have next to nothing. Here is a challenge for you. Take one meal and eat only rice. As you eat the rice think about the many people that only have rice to eat every meal. Maybe you can donate food to one of the local food pantries. I am involved with the Greater Dover/NewPhila food pantry at the Dover Salvation Army. We are supplying food to people every Friday. There are food pantries in Uhrichsville, Newcomerstown and Millersburg. Everyone can start right now by doing acts of compassion for one person this week.
I remember some of the people we helped on our huricane Katrina relief trips. I saw the smiles on their faces and the tears in their eyes. That is helping one person at a time.
3. It does something to the heart of God, it blesses God!
Jesus said whatever you did for the least of these you did for me. God loves it when we give and show compassion to other people.
Have you turned any heads lately by simply giving without expecting anything in return. Many people start out with good intentions, but then get busy and preoccupied and forget about all those people out there. We can forget we are in the people saving business. God wants people that are willing to go into the life saving business. He wants churches that are outward focused and shining brightly in their communities and around the world.
I so glad I am part of a church that is reaching out and shining brightly. Every person that calls NewPointe their home church can make a difference in someones life. Think about how you can show compassion to those around you. Be watching for opportunities to help reach out to the world through NewPointe or your own church.