The Weekly Epistle 2/8/23

Hi Living Hope,
Someone put it this way, “Love at first sight is easy to understand.  It’s when 2 people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a miracle.”
 
Well, my wife and I have been looking at each other for 40 years (and add five more years of dating prior to that).  Yeah, that’s a long time. 
 
Know what?  God has been looking at you for years.  He knows the good, the bad, and the ugly. You see, there is nothing you can do to make God love you more.  There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.  He has never stopped loving you.  He never will.  
 
What are some matters you might feel are powerful enough to drive a wedge between you and God?  Paul gives a sample list of things that might be thought to come between us and Christ’s love in Romans 8.  Paul asks the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (8:35).  Then he looks around for an answer.  He mentions seven possibilities.  Seven things he thought of that could come between us and Christ’s love- Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword.  
 
What might you come up with that you feel can separate you from His love?  Whatever you come up with, believer, the answer is nothing! Not failures, problems, conflicts, regrets, losses.  Nothing!  Not even my own inability to love Him as I should.  Our confidence is not in our love for Him, which is so fickle and faltering, but in His love for us.  It is the perseverance of God with the saints.  If our certainty in our walk with the Lord rests in our love for Him, we are all in trouble.  As C.S. Lewis put it, “On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.” 
 
We desperately need to hear these words today.  We are not promised that suffering will never touch us, but that it will never separate us from His love.  There are those times when we are in such pain; times when we are miserable and empty of all energy and desire that all we can do is let God love us. 
 
So, as you begin your day, you can start out with this promise, “God loves me.”  As you go through the day, you can stand on this truth, “God loves me.”  And whatever may come up against me tomorrow or this week, it does not have the power, no matter how powerful it may seem, to cut me off from His love or even interfere with His love in any way.  And not only will I make it through this trial, challenge, misery, nastiness of someone else, God will even turn it into a triumph. 
 
If that is true, then why don’t I more often risk it all for Him?  Why do I hold back?  Why would I?  Why not risk speaking up for Him?  Why not risk complete obedience to Him?  Why not radically live for Him?  Why not go all out in my love for others?  Why not?  I am secure in His love.  
 
Church, nothing can separate you from His love!
 
With love, Pastor Brian

The Weekly Epistle 2/1/23

Hi Living Hope,
God does not forgive excuses!  It is true that there are times when certain situations warrant some explanation for our wrongdoing.  It might be helpful to know the factors at play to clarify what happened, but our tendency often is to turn that explanation into something excusable. 
 
A while back, I came across these explanations for accidents that were submitted to insurance companies.  Here are a few:
I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had the accident.
As I reached an intersection, a hedge sprang up, obscuring my vision.
I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.
The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.
The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.
The indirect cause of this accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.

 
Have any of your confessions to others sounded more like an explanation of what happened rather than ownership of your wrong?  Is your “confession” more about getting the other person to understand or do you really want forgiveness? 
 
Consider the euphemisms we use for our wrong. “I could have been more kind,” is a softer way of saying, “I lost control and took my anger out on you.”  Or, “I misspoke,” rather than say, “I gossiped,” or “I lied.” 
 
I recently read through Psalm 73, which is a Psalm of Asaph.  As Asaph looked around, he was deeply troubled by the wicked getting away with their wickedness and even worse, they were prospering.  Everything seemed to be going in their favor.  It could even appear that they were being blessed.  This made no sense to Asaph.  While being honest with God as to how troubling this was, he didn’t use any of it as an excuse. 
 
Asaph described his perspective as “My feet had almost slipped.”  He confesses that “I envied the arrogant.”  He describes his thought process as “senseless and ignorant” (verse 22).  Asaph knew that his perspective was off and limited by what his eyes could see.  Asaph knew that the struggle within needed an adjustment.  He needed to get his eyes off of people and find his strength in the Lord.  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (verse 26). 
 
What a confession!  No excuses.  He didn’t cry out, “If people didn’t act so wickedly, I wouldn’t act this way.”  Making any excuse for your poor decision?  Justifying a sinful response because of what you have had to go through?  Hiding behind an explanation for your behavior?  Have you added an extenuating circumstance to the end of your confession that probably began with the word, “but,” or the phrase, “I was just…” (tired, hungry, fed-up, so hurt, etc). 
 
What excuse do you need to lay aside?  It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
 
Blessings, Pastor Brian

Looking Forward

Sermon Direction

A Love Song that Hits a Sour Note

Isaiah 5:1-7

Link to This Sunday Worship Service

 

GLO Team

On Friday, February 10th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm, Andy Whitman will be giving a presentation about his missions work in the Dominican Republic.  Pizza will be served.  The snow date for this event will be the next Friday, February 17th.  If possible, please sign up on the sheet in the back of the church so that the Global Missions Team can have an estimate of how much pizza to purchase, but last-minute walk-ins are welcome!  

Discovery Class

A four-week discovery class will begin on March 5th at 9:00 AM held in the fellowship hall. This class is for those who want to learn more about who we are as a church.  If you desire to become a member of the church, this class is required for membership.

March Madness

This is a 3 on 3 co-ed adult, basketball tournament (ages 18 and up) on March 25, 2023. How this will work is that an attender from Living Hope will recruit two other people from outside the church to create a team of three.  Please sign up in the back when you have your team of three.  This event only works if you invite two others and form your team of three.

Cancellation Procedure for Sunday Mornings

In the event of bad weather that would potentially impact services, the following will be taken into consideration: the current weather in Laconia, timing of the weather event, and whether roads, walkways, parking areas will be cleared.  A decision will be made by 7:30 am to cancel one or both of our services.  Living Hope Lakeport will notify of cancellation using the following: WMUR TV*, Church website news feed www.laconiachurch.com, Email (weekly epistle list), and Living Hope Lakeport private and public Facebook pages. *(If 1st service is cancelled, it will say “No Early Services”, if both services cancelled, it will say “No Sunday Services” on WMUR) 

The Weekly Epistle 1/25/23

Hi Church,
It is obvious of my love for basketball.  But what really excites me is when basketball can be used to reach souls for Christ.  That is a part of what Trajectory Rec is all about.  I will let Justin Whitman gives his take on it. 
 
The very last place I would have ever thought or imagined I would be serving Christ would be as a leader of a Monday night men’s basketball program through Trajectory REC here at Living Hope. As a ministry of Living Hope, Trajectory REC seeks to get the Gospel message to the unchurched, non-believing members of our community. You have probably noticed reference to Trajectory REC in the bulletin or even in the Epistle, but you probably don’t know what it is.   Let me break it down a bit.
 
“Trajectory” is a path, progression, or line of development of an object moving under the action of given forces. Like swishing a 3-point shot into a basketball net, the goal of Trajectory REC to set a person’s life trajectory on course with knowing the transformative love of Jesus Christ.
 
R-E-C simply stands for Recreationally Engaging our Community. Everyone speaks the language of fun. Whether it is a toddler asking a parent to play with cars or it is a retired widow playing her weekly game of bingo or bridge, people seek out entertainment. Trajectory R-E-C (or TREC, for short) targets the active (or desiring to be more active) demographic in our community, people who enjoy playing sports, whether they are 18 or 81. A TREC event is designed to foster relationships both within the existing Living Hope community and new relationships with community members of the Lakes Region through creating a welcoming and safe environment for people to grow in their skills and have a fun, recreational experience.
 
The mission statement of Trajectory REC is simply, “To bring the unchurched, non-believing community member into the path of the transformative power of the Gospel through exposure to Christ’s message during recreational activities.”
 
At TREC, we strive to become a place where people feel they are welcomed and belong. This is primarily accomplished through our main event on Mondays as we gather to play basketball. This means we must have an efficient and effective hospitality system in place that is welcoming, informative, casual, and inviting. For many of our community members who come to play basketball on Monday nights, this is perhaps the only time they willingly step onto our church campus.
 
Many people believe that TREC is only Monday night men’s basketball. It is not. We would love to expand to a co-ed Volleyball night, bowling nights, hiking groups, and many other activities. However, we lack a key resource: You.
 
One of the challenges I have encountered in developing the TREC team is this prevailing notion that a person needs to possess athletic skill and capability to play sports or be fit. I want you to get that out of your head. If anyone came out on a Monday night to see me play, they would learn quickly I am a far cry from the skill talent of Larry Bird or Lebron James. Anything TREC does is not about the recreational activity, but the people coming out to the events we hold.
 
In short: “It’s not about the sport; it is about the soul.” If you have a passion to see the lost come to know Christ and have a secondary passion for something fun and recreational, lets marry these two things together, and claim these souls for Christ’s glory!
 
One way you can get involved in the near-future is by volunteering at what we are calling “March Madness.” This is a 3 on 3 co-ed adult, basketball tournament coming up on March 25, 2023. The idea around this event is for a Living Hope attender to develop a team of two to three other players who are unchurched. There will be some skills competition thrown into the tournament itself. We need Living Hope folks to sign up to create a team. We also need others to serve in various support roles. We will be unpacking more of the details over the next several weeks.
 
As you prayerfully consider partnering with TREC, remember: It is not about the sport; it is about the soul.
 
Thanks, Justin, for your faithfulness to this ministry!  Blessings, Pastor Brian

Looking Forward

Sermon Direction

Don’t Forget Today

Isaiah 2

Link to This Sunday Worship Service

 

Trajectory Rec:

Trajectory Rec will be taking a break starting December 26th through January 23rd.

Living Hope Kids Sledding Party:

All are invited to go sledding at the Gilford Sledding Hill on January 28th from 1-3pm! Hot chocolate, cider, and snacks will be provided. Bring your own sled!   We will provide directions at a later date.

GLO Team

On Friday, February 10th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm, Andy Whitman will be giving a presentation about his missions work in the Dominican Republic.  Pizza will be served.  The snow date for this event will be the next Friday, February 17th.  If possible, please sign up on the sheet in the back of the church so that the Global Missions Team can have an estimate of how much pizza to purchase, but last-minute walk-ins are welcome!  

Cancellation Procedure for Sunday Mornings

In the event of bad weather that would potentially impact services, the following will be taken into consideration: the current weather in Laconia, timing of the weather event, and whether roads, walkways, parking areas will be cleared.  A decision will be made by 7:30 am to cancel one or both of our services.  Living Hope Lakeport will notify of cancellation using the following: WMUR TV*, Church website news feed www.laconiachurch.com, Email (weekly epistle list), and Living Hope Lakeport private and public Facebook pages. *(If 1st service is cancelled, it will say “No Early Services”, if both services cancelled, it will say “No Sunday Services” on WMUR) 

The Weekly Epistle 1/18/23

Greetings, Living Hope!

Over the course of twenty years, I have ministered in the Pacific Rim, Northeast Pennsylvania, and New England. I have heard pastors talk about the importance of banding together in all three regions. However, I have only seen one region do it.

There’s something special about New England. I have never been able to put my finger on it, but many pastors in the region seem to have an innate concern for the ministries of other pastors. Maybe we need to band together to survive. Maybe the harsh realities of ministering in a notoriously unchurched region force us to work together. Or maybe the chosen of New England are not as frozen as we have been led to believe. Whatever the reason, New England pastors band together.

Last week I attended the EFCA (New England District Association) pastor’s prayer retreat at Camp Spofford. For several years, it has been NEDA’s practice to gather pastors in January to begin the year in prayer, express dependence on God, and ask him for wisdom and strength for the year of ministry ahead. During our twenty-four hours of devotion, my fellow pastors and I were encouraged through God’s Word, worshiped in song, and prayed in small and large groups. The focus for this year’s prayer retreat came from Acts 6:4 “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” Not only did we focus our time on prayer and the Word, but we also set the stage for an entire year of renewed focus on the ministry of Acts 6:4.

Living Hope, this time of focused pastoral prayer for our region is just one of the reasons why Pastor Brian, the elders, and myself were so passionate about joining the Evangelical Free Church of America. Maybe it’s just a matter of survival. Maybe not. Regardless, we, the pastors and churches of New England, are better off together than we are apart.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dan

Looking Forward

Sermon Direction

The Problem with Religion

Isaiah 1:10-20

Link to This Sunday Worship Service

 

Communion Sunday

This Sunday January 21st we will have communion at both the 9:00 and 10:45 services

“Essentials for Spiritual Growth”

Just a reminder that the men’s study led by pastor Brian begins this Saturday January 21st from 8-9A.M. in the fellowship hall.

Trajectory Rec:

Trajectory Rec will be taking a break starting December 26th through January 23rd.

Living Hope Kids Sledding Party:

All are invited to go sledding at the Gilford Sledding Hill on January 28th from 1-3pm! Hot chocolate, cider, and snacks will be provided. Bring your own sled!   We will provide directions at a later date.

Cancellation Procedure for Sunday Mornings

In the event of bad weather that would potentially impact services, the following will be taken into consideration: the current weather in Laconia, timing of the weather event, and whether roads, walkways, parking areas will be cleared.  A decision will be made by 7:30 am to cancel one or both of our services.  Living Hope Lakeport will notify of cancellation using the following: WMUR TV*, Church website news feed www.laconiachurch.com, Email (weekly epistle list), and Living Hope Lakeport private and public Facebook pages. *(If 1st service is cancelled, it will say “No Early Services”, if both services cancelled, it will say “No Sunday Services” on WMUR) 

Looking Forward to February

On Friday, February 10th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm, Andy Whitman will be giving a presentation about his missions work in the Dominican Republic.  Pizza will be served.  The snow date for this event will be the next Friday, February 17th.  If possible, please sign up on the sheet in the back of the church so that the Global Missions Team can have an estimate of how much pizza to purchase, but last minute walk-ins are welcome!  

The Weekly Epistle 1/11/23

Hi Living Hope,

It was a beautiful moment in the life of our church! This past Sunday filled my heart with such joy and gladness as we shared together in the goodness of God. As close to 190 of us mingled, ate, and worshipped together! It was a highlight for us as a church as we wait in anticipation of what God is going to do in us and through us at Living Hope Lakeport.

“Pastor, can’t we meet in one service every week?” I expected to hear that question, and in fact, did hear it several times. I do get the sentiment. And perhaps there may be reason to do this again. But what about doing one service every week?

Allow me to share the rationale with you around the two-service format that we instituted in April 2018. At that time, it was on a 9-month trial basis and then after that period of time, it was determined there was reasonable justification for staying with the two services.

But this is the “why” behind two services. In line with our mission to make disciples, we want to provide more opportunities for people to engage in the life of our church and come under the hearing of God’s Word. The more choices for a worship service the more likely people will say, “Yes,” to one of them. It increases people’s options. Most people will be able to attend in a weekend as some will catch one of the two services rather than skip church entirely. Church growth stats show that adding a second service should increase attendance by 15% in a period of 4-6 months. We did see that growth back in 2018.

It is about making disciples, not merely growing in attendance. Our desire is to create more space to reach people for Christ. Adding a second service is for people who are not here presently! While we enjoy being together in one service, two services create space for others in our community to join us.

It is an important reminder that when a church is around 70% full, it is full. To put ourselves in the shoes of a newcomer, it is challenging to walk into a church service for the first time. Then to enter a room full of people, leaves that newcomer feeling rather conspicuous. Then if that newcomer has difficulty finding a seat and if that seat is in the front row or in the middle section of an aisle, it can be rather awkward and even painful. They may not return.

This past Sunday, I was told, a newcomer walked in late to the worship service. The greeter warmly welcomed this newcomer and encouraged her to stay, but the comment was made, “I don’t like crowds, I will come back next week.” I hope she returns.

“But pastor, you wouldn’t have to preach twice on Sundays. That must be exhausting.” I appreciate that concern, but honestly, preaching a sermon once for me is like that big Thanksgiving dinner that takes hours to prepare and is gone in 30 minutes (even faster in the Green family growing up). I love feeding the flock twice with what I have prepared.

One last benefit for the two-service format, though this one isn’t always realized. It does allow for volunteers (kids program, nursery) to serve in one service and attend the other. Attend one/serve one!

What thrills me is that behind your question is your desire to be with God’s people. It excites me that you long to be with all your brothers and sisters at Living Hope! We do have something good here and my prayer is that we can share this with more and more people in 2023.

All to God’s glory, Pastor Brian

Looking Forward

Sermon Direction

The People Who Know Their God

Isaiah 1:1-9

Link to This Sunday Worship Service

 

Mark Your Calendars:

“Essentials for Spiritual Growth”

Last chance to sign up for the men’s study led by pastor Brian. It begins Saturday January 21st from 8-9A.M. in the fellowship hall. Please sign up at the ministry counter.

Trajectory Rec:

Trajectory Rec will be taking a break starting December 26th through January 23rd.

Living Hope Kids Sledding Party:

All are invited to go sledding at the Gilford Sledding Hill on January 28th from 1-3pm! Hot chocolate, cider, and snacks will be provided. Bring your own sled!   We will provide directions at a later date.

Cancellation Procedure for Sunday Mornings

In the event of bad weather that would potentially impact services, the following will be taken into consideration: the current weather in Laconia, timing of the weather event, and whether roads, walkways, parking areas will be cleared.  A decision will be made by 7:30 am to cancel one or both of our services.  Living Hope Lakeport will notify of cancellation using the following: WMUR TV*, Church website news feed www.laconiachurch.com, Email (weekly epistle list), and Living Hope Lakeport private and public Facebook pages. *(If 1st service is cancelled, it will say “No Early Services”, if both services cancelled, it will say “No Sunday Services” on WMUR) 

Looking Forward to February

On Friday, February 10th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm, Andy Whitman will be giving a presentation about his missions work in the Dominican Republic.  Pizza will be served.  The snow date for this event will be the next Friday, February 17th.  If possible, please sign up on the sheet in the back of the church so that the Global Missions Team can have an estimate of how much pizza to purchase, but last minute walk-ins are welcome!