A few weeks ago, we were on-site with a mother of four in Kennett. Her house needed a lot of work, so we were back again recently to replace a window. This is the latest of fourteen that we’ve replaced here! The frame still needs to be painted, but it’s already doing a better job than the old one.
The homeowner is a widow, and one of her four children—an adult daughter with lots of medical problems—still lives at home. Surely, these are emotional and financial strains. We’re so glad that this dear woman contacted us and is allowing us to help. Her house is a lot warmer and safer now, and that’s one less thing to worry about—praise God!
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (ESV)
At Good Neighbors, we seek to restore hope by repairing homes. But what does that mean? Hope in what? Hope for what? In the short term, fixing homes for our needy neighbors restores hope in a stable present. If your roof is falling apart, it’s hard to feel secure. It might even be impossible to remain healthy. If we fix your roof, you have one less thing to worry about—one less thing convincing you that your life is, well, hopeless. It might even create a spark of hope for improvement in other areas, like your job or your relationships.
These are good things, but at the root, we seek to restore abiding hope—hope for this life and the next—by pointing homeowners (and the watching world) to Jesus Christ. The hope that is in Jesus is not a guarantee against present hardship, but a promise that he will walk with us in our troubled times. It is a promise that our present afflictions are light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us. But hope in Jesus requires knowing who Jesus is.
And so now we come to Mark 4. I remember the first time I read today’s passage, I thought that Jesus was being kind of harsh with his disciples. Why shouldn’t they be afraid? How were they to know that he would wake up and stop the storm? If I was in a small boat in a raging storm, I would be afraid, too, wouldn’t I? It’s easy for us to miss what the disciples miss; it’s easy for us to forget who Jesus is.
If you revisit the preceding chapters, you’ll see Jesus constantly demonstrating his authority—authority in doctrine, authority over natural forces, and authority over spiritual forces. And if all of the teaching, healing, and demon eviction don’t make things plain enough, in Mark 2, Jesus declares sins forgiven, and proves his authority through another healing miracle. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”, the scribes ask themselves in Mark 2. Who can heal paralytics but God alone? Who can command demons to leave tortured souls but God alone? The answer is no one. If no one but God can do these things, and Jesus does these things, then Jesus is God.
So why did Jesus tie the disciples’ fear to a lack of faith? Because they have already seen his authority over all things. Calming the storm is yet another amazing proof of his identity, but he has shown himself to them constantly in the time leading up to this point, and they have every reason to believe that where God the Son leads them, God the Son is with them. This is the hope that we ultimately desire to see restored to our homeowners. When we trust in Jesus’s work on the cross, and we follow him, we may follow him into toil and struggle and uncertainty. But it is no mere mantra or mere man that we follow, but Jesus, the God-Man, fully man, yes, but also fully God. The storm is never in control in Mark 4, and neither is the toil nor the struggle in our lives. The one who has called us to take up our cross and follow him has promised to be with us always, to the end of the age. He has promised an eternal weight of glory. This is true, lasting hope for today, for tomorrow, and forever.
The roof is one of the most crucial parts of a home. Without a good one, water (and other things!) can get into the rest of the structure and lead to all sorts of other problems.
This past Saturday, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at UD came out and helped remove and replace a roof for a single dad and his kids. The father is trying hard to keep things going after seeing his income reduced by disability, and it turns out that their roof had been installed improperly. There was no way that he could afford to have it replaced on his own.
Nine volunteers from RUF—including campus minister Rev. Nick Owens—came out, had a great time, and managed to get half the roof stripped, dried, and ready for shingles, so the next volunteer group would be able to set about applying them. Praise God that we were able to help this dear family make their house a safer place to live, and please join us in praying that the Lord would continue to meet their needs.
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (ESV)
There are lots of reasons not to do something—some good, others less so. Jesus’s experience here in Mark 3 warns us against one particularly bad one. As in most cases, the Pharisees thought that they were doing the will of God. In an effort to avoid transgressing the Law (in this case the fourth commandment), they built a hedge around it—an “outer wall” so that they would not risk coming close to the “inner wall”. So where the Law says “on [the Sabbath Day] you shall not do any work” (Deuteronomy 5:14), the Pharisees determined that they—and all Israel—should avoid anything remotely resembling the form of work. As our passage shows us, this would have included acts of mercy.
What motivation lay at the heart of the Pharisees’ hedge around the Law? If you could go back and ask one of them, I’m sure they could have recited the Ten Commandments verbatim. God had given Israel these “ten words” flowing directly out of his provision for them: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 5:6). The Pharisees would no doubt tell you that they built hedges to ensure that they—and all Israel—paid proper honor to the Holy One of Israel, who had rescued them from bondage and made them a great nation.
But here in Mark 3, we get a look at the real motivation underlying the Pharisees’ practice: power. Look at verse 2—Jesus has cut in on their authority, both through his teaching and his miraculous works, so they lie in wait for him to slip up—presumably that they might publicly humiliate him for his failure to meet their man-made standards about the Law. Their motive springs not from a desire to honor God, whose power is evident in Jesus’ ministry, but rather from a desire to destroy that ministry.
Jesus next asks them a simple question, forcing the underlying issue: is it lawful to do good or harm on the Sabbath? Their refusal to answer—to acknowledge that a failure to help this man was actually to do him harm—reveals a deeper motive: hardness of heart. They had built a hedge around the Law to exert power over God (look how diligently I keep your commands) and man, and have so hardened their hearts that they only grip their self-deception tighter the more it is exposed.
So what’s the lesson for us? Self-deception is easy. It was easy for the Pharisees, and it’s easy for God’s people today. It’s easy for us to cling tightly to what blessings the Lord has provided out of our own desire for personal security, and call it responsible stewardship—all while our neighbor withers in our midst. It’s easy for us to consider ourselves a Christ-minded people in doctrine while failing to imitate Christ in our communities. May we be honest with ourselves, praying to our Father that his Spirit would work through his Word and expose the idols in our hearts, laying bare our self-deception. And may we never grieve our Lord Jesus with hard hearts that blasphemously pit love for him against love for neighbor.
I received a call from Good Neighbors Senior Project Manager Tom Hilferty yesterday. He wanted to relay a great story of the Lord's gracious provision for one of our homeowners. But it actually starts with a couple that's doing just fine.
This couple—who attend church with Tom—had come to a point where they needed to replace their oil-powered hot water heater. They decided to go with a natural gas model for the replacement, but the particular one that they wanted had to be special-ordered, and it would take some period of time to come in. In the meantime, they needed hot water! The couple decided to purchase an electric model to hold them off until the new one came in.
Flash forward, and Tom gets a call from a homeowner. She had recently found herself in a tough spot. She'd moved to Chadds Ford with her boyfriend, and the two started a business together. After a time, he left, and with all of the business assets in his name, she was left with a mortgage and very little else. She's lost so much, but by God's grace, she still had a roof over her head; one of the things that she didn't have, however, was a working hot water heater.
You can guess how the story ends. The Lord saw this woman made in his image—saw her suffering from a broken relationship in a broken world, with a broken water heater to boot. And out of his abundant mercy, at precisely the right time, he provided what she needed. Why did the couple need a water heater now? Why did they want to switch from oil to gas? Why were they unable to get the model that they wanted right away? There are secondary causes for all of these things, but at the root, the answer to each question is the same: because our sovereign God had purposed to bless this homeowner with something she sorely needed. Please pray for this dear woman as we continue ministering to her. Pray that she would see our work for what it really is—a sign pointing her eyes to the only hope for the poor and rich alike, our Lord Jesus Christ.
On Tuesday, a group of twelve volunteers from Chatham Financial’s Analytics team took time out of their day to come and bless a local widow with some roof work and vine/shrub trimming.
The homeowner has lived here for a long time, having moved here in the sixties not long after she and her husband were wed. Sadly, her husband passed away three years ago after over sixty years of marriage. Thankfully, the Lord has blessed her with a lower-case good neighbor—a fellow who lives nearby and looks in on our homeowner to make sure she’s alright. He’s actually the one that heard about Good Neighbors and pointed her in our direction.
A good bit of the roof was still sound, but there was a portion on one side of the house that had started to leak, so after a prayer from Good Neighbors Executive Director Harold Naylor, the Chatham crew quickly got to work stripping old shingles. Several had already worked with Good Neighbors before, so they had the benefit of prior experience—that helps a lot!
The homeowner was very grateful for the help, and had iced tea and several containers of cookies ready to serve the people who came to serve her. What a blessing it was to be able to minister to this dear woman.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (ESV)
Last week, I asked the question “why did Jesus come?”, which encompasses “why did Jesus heal?”, as well. Mark 1 told us that Jesus was “moved by pity,” but it was not life circumstances alone that concerned him. Imagine how astonishing a scene it must have been for those many gathered around Jesus here at the start of Mark 2. A man is lowered through the roof on his bed, clearly paralyzed, and Jesus’s response must confound everyone. To an observer, this paralytic’s greatest need is the restoration of his body. But to Jesus, who in his spirit perceives the hearts of men, his greatest need is to be reconciled to God in Christ. The crowd sees the implied request--heal me—and yet Jesus does not appear to give what is being asked of him. Or does he?
Verse 5 tells us that “Jesus saw their faith.” Faith in what, or whom? It is obvious on the surface that the paralytic and his friends had some expectation that Jesus could heal, maybe even that he would, but when we consider the larger context of Scripture, the faith of these men comes into clearer focus. As I said last week:
Jesus came to call sinners to repentance from their sins and to faith in himself. Jesus introduced “...a better hope...through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:19).
The faith of these men is the faith that believes that Jesus is the better hope. That in him, and him only will they find forgiveness of sins and draw near to God. So although their obvious reason for coming was a broken body, their primary reason for coming was to draw near to God in Christ.
Jesus heals the broken body, as well, but it isn’t some sort of package deal—it isn’t “well, since you believe, now I’ll heal your body, too.” We do indeed encounter some instances of “your faith has made you well” in the gospels, but not so here. Here, in verses 10 and 11, Jesus heals as a testament to who is—no less than God himself. Verse 7 shows the scribes indignant that Jesus would presume to forgive a man’s sins, and Jesus answers with a visible act that only God could perform.
Why do we fix houses? We fix houses to point to the one who can meet our neighbors’ truest need—that in the love that we show them they would perceive the love of Christ and come to him in repentance and faith. But we also fix houses as a testimony before the watching world—that in his church they would see his authority vindicated by his power to transform wretched sinners into instruments of common grace in the world. May our mission be ever clear, and may God be glorified as we, in his power, carry it out.
Happy Friday! We have a few jobs in flight at the moment, including this great house in Kennett. The homeowner has four children, one of whom is still living there. When she contacted Good Neighbors, there were a number of things that needed attention, both indoors and out, and we've since been working to get them taken care of.
As you can see above, we completely replaced the roof—the family shouldn’t have to worry about that for a long, long time now. The cellar doors in the back were in very bad shape, so they've been replaced with a beautiful new set that should keep unwanted moisture (and critters!) out of the basement:
There are also some windows (and a window air conditioner) that will need some attention before we’re done:
That’s some of what we’ve been up to on the exterior of the home, but we’ve also been busy inside, installing a brand new heater, pvc plumbing, and restoring the flooring, tub, and vanity in the bathroom:
We’re grateful to the Lord for allowing us to serve this sweet lady and her family, and we’re grateful to all of you who help support Good Neighbors—your support, in all forms, helps us restore hope to our neighbors in Kennett and beyond!