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!
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
Throughout the first chapter of Mark, we see first John, and then Jesus, meeting the needs of the people. And every step of the way, Jesus and John point to deeper spiritual realities and needs: John’s water baptism points to one “who will baptize [them] with the Holy Spirit” (v.8); Simon, Andrew, James, and John are tending to the business of fishing, but Jesus calls them to leave their work and follow him. As the chapter progresses, the practical and spiritual natures of Jesus’ ministry become entwined as he drives out unclean spirits and demons so powerful that they can convulse their hosts.
Why did Jesus come? In verse 15, he begins his public ministry with this proclamation: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” In John 3:16, he tells Nicodemus that God sent him “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 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).
As we come to the end of the chapter, beginning in verse 40, we read of Jesus healing a leper. This man would have been physically separated from his people, including his family, because under the law of Moses, his disease rendered him unclean, and therefore unfit to bring his worship to the Lord; and on top of that, anyone who came into physical contact with him would also be considered unclean for a time. This man’s leprosy alienated him from his people, and more significantly, it kept him from drawing near to God in temple worship.
And here we see Jesus granting what he asks. He heals the man of his leprosy, and instructs him to go and be cleansed according to the law of Moses. Why? The immediate context tells us that Jesus was “moved with pity.” But the larger context of the chapter, and indeed of the entire Biblical narrative, tells us more. The unclean spirit in verse 24 calls Jesus “the Holy One of God.” Peter will later confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. In John 8, Jesus identifies himself by the name God gave Moses to tell the Israelites when they asked who had sent him. Jesus is God—the Word made flesh. Moved by pity, Jesus heals this leper of his physical condition, but in so doing, he testifies both to the man’s greatest spiritual need and its fulfillment: the Christ, the Savior—Jesus himself. Jesus’ call to the people of Galilee, to his fisherman-disciples, to the unclean and demon-possessed, to the lepers, and to us, is the same: repent, and believe in the Gospel. Believe in Jesus, because in him there is life—because in him, in the Son, we can at last draw near to God.
In this picture you see Tom Hilferty, Senior Project Manager, and a happy Mercedes-Benz salesman standing in front of our new repair van. This van was purchased through a grant from a local foundation who gives to non-profits to build greater capacity. We need this new capacity since the number of repairs has doubled in the last five or six years. In 2016 inquires came in at a higher rate than ever before, giving us a growing backlog of repairs to be done.
This van has a high-efficiency diesel engine and it has the "high top" design that allows Tom and other Project Managers to stand up in it without having to crouch down. The greater height permits more shelves for all of the parts and tools we need to perform the repairs. All in all, this is a good long-term investment.
It is the first week of the year and we are so grateful for the way that God has blessed Good Neighbors through many generous donors, especially in the month of December.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Good Neighbors, which started in 1992 when Jay Malthaner and group of handy men from his weekly Bible study decided to do repairs for local residents who could not afford necessary work to keep their homes "warmer, safer, drier and healthier". The rest, as they say, is history.
Good Neighbors has big plans for this year:
Winter is an incredibly hard time for people who have inadequate or broken heaters. Just yesterday, we heard from a family whose heater went out and they are using space heaters for the whole house. This is neither safe nor efficient.
If you are willing and able to support heater repair and replacement, please click here to give on-line or to send a check. We are grateful for all gifts, large or small. They all add up to restoring hope by repairing homes.
Thank you and Happy New Year!
by Harold Naylor, Executive Director
A balmy Saturday morning greeted about 7 volunteers to Sharon's home in Newark. This home is the first Delaware project since the Board voted to expand into New Castle County this fall. Last year, Good Neighbors completed 150 projects, or 3 each week, in Chester County.
The volunteers plus the Good Neighbors' staff held hands in a circle with the home owner to dedicate the day to God and these repairs to Sharon so that she can live "warmer, safer, drier and healthier".
Immediately, the team fanned out to remove drafty windows, repair a leaky roof, and extracted a sliding glass door that would not open, but it let rain water in.
Some volunteers were new; some skilled and others less so, but they worked together as if they were old friends. While the outside work was progressing, Sharon was inside cooking up chili, cornbread and pasta for a sumptuous lunch. While she was cooking, Sharon shared her story which included broken relationships with financial calamity. There is always the "story inside the story" when a homeowner needs our help.
Throughout the day, Sharon would walk around and marvel and exclaim, "No one has ever done anything like this for me; I was beginning to lose hope in the human race."
Good Neighbors helps to restore hope by repairing homes. We do this through partners who want to give their time, talent and treasure and to do their part in improving people's lives.
We have another project coming up in a few weeks and we hope to be able to do even more homes in New Castle County next your.
For now, though, we are grateful to be willing and able hands for our Master.
by Harold Naylor, Executive Director
A few weeks ago I was approached by a Good Neighbors friend and donor who asked, "How do I make a gift to the ministry by giving stock?" I knew we had a procedure (see below), but I realized that it had not been well communicated.
Giving the gift of appreciated stock is a great way of blessing our home repair work while giving you, the donor, a wonderful and impactful gift. If your stock has a basis of $500, but has appreciated to $1,000, you will owe capital gains tax on the $500 increase in value. In contrast, if you gift the stock to Good Neighbors (or any other non-profit), the entire amount of $1,000 is a deductible gift.
The detailed procedure is as simple as giving your broker the DTC number (0226) and our account number (AAU030528) and having them transfer the shares that you desire to give.
Thank you in advance for your generosity in helping us restore hope by repairing homes. Our work is especially critical these days as the weather gets colder and home heating is critical. God bless you and please call us if we can help you with other support ideas.
Harold Naylor, Executive Director
This is a picture of the first gift that I have received for Good Neighbors since I became the new Executive Director only four weeks ago. I was honored to receive this generous gift from one of the many local churches who support the work we do in the community.
First Baptist Church of Kennett Square held their Vacation Bible School this week. The leaders chose our ministry to be the recipient of the students' contributions which they earned by doing chores around their houses. This week we were blessed with the hard work and dedication of 42 children who want to serve.
Similarly, we held our annual summer Youth Camp last week where 42 high school students plus another thirty adults performed major repairs to three homes. These students gave the gifts of time and talent to low-income home owners in Southern Chester County. Not only do these youth give their gifts, they do it with the joy that comes when we are doing the Lord's will, helping the widows, orphans and others in need.
I am so grateful to God for bringing me to this great organization that plows vast Kingdom resources into rebuilding homes and restoring hope to people who may have given up. It has been said that Good Neighbors Home Repair Ministry creates a win-win-win: the home owners with a repaired home, the volunteers who give back to the less fortunate, and the ministry itself as we are able to mobilize others and do even more repairs year after year.
Lastly, I challenged the VBS boys and girls to join other teens in a few years to help repair homes in their neighborhoods. That's a good message for each of us, too. What have we been given that can be used to provide relief to one of our neighbors? Whether you do it through Good Neighbors Home Repair or on your own, you are giving a cup of cool water to person who is thirsty.
Because of folks like you, there is a $3 of impact for every dollar that is contributed. This leverage occurs because of volunteers and many other donations.
Thank you for your prayers and other support.
Repairing Homes and Restoring Hope in Delaware
God has enabled Good Neighbors to bless families in southern Chester County for twenty four years. We have great people and processes and we have a desire to help eliminate substandard housing in neighboring New Castle County.
To this end and to enlist advice and support, the board and staff are hosting an Information Night on Thursday October 13. We are inviting anyone with interest to come and hear about our early plans as we expand into northern New Castle County. For more information and to reserve a space, please contact the Good Neighbors office at 610-444-1860 or email us at info@GoodNeighborsHomeRepair.org.