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Newsletter February 4, 2014New Beginnings at New HopeVOLUME 2, ISSUE 9

As Sandra told us on Sunday, Jesus, in the Beattitudes, is depicting how a Christian life looks. Living this life holds the promise of heavenly rewards. In this life, you may also find peace, joy and contentment. Jesus talks a lot about peace and joy. But what about contentment?

Paul found contentment in his often chaotic life. In Philippians 4:11-12, he writes: "I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need." What is his secret? Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat, www.spritualityinpractice.com, have three suggestions on how to practice contentment in your daily life:

Want what you have. This is a basic gratitude practice. Don't take your possessions for granted. Every day acknowledge what just one tool or object means to you and how it improves your life. Make a list of other things you are grateful for at the end of the day, and include thanksgiving moments in your prayers.
Don't make comparisons.The Baal Shem Tov, a great Jewish teacher, said, "Compare not yourself with anyone else, lest you spoil God's curriculum." Focus instead on what is unique about you — your God-given talents and gifts. Then whenever you fall into the comparisons trap, say to yourself, "Oh, there I go again, making silly comparisons."
Accept your imperfections and the "lacks" in your life. Nobody is perfect, and few people get everything they want or even all they need. But we have been assured that none of this matters to God. God loves us as we are, faults and shortcomings included.
From the Pastor

It is already February and I still have things to store away from Christmas. The time seems to pass so quickly, we look back and think, what happened to January?

In this second month of 2014, we begin to think of ground hogs and shadows, valentines, candy, and expressions of love, while we anxiously anticipate the coming of Spring with all things new and fresh. In Art’s article on contentment, I think that February is a contentment, a contemplating month. In my column this month I want to focus on joy and happiness, a piggy-back to Art’s article.

A dictionary definition of happiness is "a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience based on good fortune." The definition of the word "rejoice," from which our word "joy" comes, is "to feel great delight, a vivid emotion of pleasure, to welcome or to be glad." Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words “happy” and “happiness” about 30 times, while "joy" and "rejoice" appear over 300 times.

In Genesis 30: 1-13, we read the story of sisters Rachel and Leah who were rivals to be the wife of Jacob. In the story we are told that these two sisters even used their handmaidens to produce more sons for Jacob. Do read verse 13 to see Leah’s "happiness." The word "happy" comes from the Hebrew root word, ashar, and means "to set right or be blessed."

The word "joy" comes from the Greek root word chara and means "to be exceedingly glad." James 1: 2 reads, "Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials." In the next two verses, it is explained with these words, “Knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The deep, abiding joy comes as we persevere through trials, with God’s help and our faith matures and is strengthened.

Happiness tends to be fleeting and depends upon temporal factors like circumstances or other people. Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors such as our faith in the Lord. True joy is everlasting and not dependent upon circumstances. The Bible teaches that happiness is fleeting because it often depends on things outside of ourselves, but true joy is iternal because it is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ.

What does the Bible say regarding joy?
Psalm 4:7 – You have filled my heart with greater joy…God is the source and provider of joy in our lives.
Psalm 92:4 – For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the work of your hands…God’s mighty works can bring us joy.
Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…Joy is one of the evidences of our spiritual conversion in Jesus Christ.
Thessalonians 5:16 – Be joyful always…We are commanded to always be joyful.

As we contemplate the celebration of the Lenten Season, followed by the JOY of Easter morning, let us also be happy with New Beginnings.

Blessings, Sandra

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. New Hope will celebrate Ash Wednesday on March 5th at 6:30 pm. Ash Wednesday emphasizes a dual encounter: we confront our own mortality and confess our sin before God within the community of faith. The form and content of the service focus on the dual themes of sin and death in the light of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ. The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Christian worship. The Imposition of Ashes can be a powerful nonverbal and experiential way of participating in the call to repentance and reconciliation.

Today, as in the past, the heart of Lent is inner penitence and reconciliation with God. Penitential practices encourage inner change. Traditional Lenten practices include: fasting; special commitments; good deeds and almsgiving; prayer and reflection; studying scripture; participation in church worship services, to name a few.
February Calendar

•  Bible Study (day), Wednesday, February 5: 1-2 p.m.
•  Bible Study (night) Thursday, February 6: 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
•  Fellowship Dinner, Sunday, February 9, after church
•  Worship Committee, Sunday, February 9, after fellowship dinner.
•  Gideon Speaker, Sunday, February 23.