These past 18 months seem like a blur. I would never have dreamed that we would experience all that we did when our world stopped. I remember having such an eerie feeling as stores and restaurants closed, non essential workers were sent home, activities stopped, and so much was canceled. The news reports of the sick and dying were unbelievable. We didn’t know what to believe. As the weeks turned into months and then a year, I wondered if we would ever return to normal. Yet, through it all, there was still hope!
Hope that our precautionary actions would help slow the spread of the virus.
Hope that our families and friends would remain healthy.
Hope that it would soon be all over. Hope that a vaccine would be developed.
Hope that God would see us through.
Well, even though this ordeal is not over, some of our hopes have been realized. Though we may never agree on policies, procedures, and outcomes, I hope we can all agree that God has seen us through thus far and will see us through what is to come. We still have hope!
God did provide for our congregation. We only had to cancel one Sunday serve because we were able to stay connected via the internet. We returned to in-person services earlier than most because we had our pavilion allowing us to meet outside. We were able to move inside while practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
God continues to provide. Our in-person attendance has fluctuated between 75% and 85% of what we were pre-Covid and our online attendance has been tracking an average of 110 weekly. So, all in all, we are reaching more people now than before Covid.
We have also been able to stay financially stable. Monthly giving remained strong allowing us to meet our expenses and more. Even though we have had to put in new furnaces and are resurfacing the parking lot, we have still been able to meet those increased budget needs. We have also been able to meet our mission’s budget and to give over and above to help meet some of the unexpected needs of our missions, both locally and abroad.
Covid continues to affect us. The threat is not over, but we can still hold on to the hope that God is near and He will see us through it.
Thank you for all that you have done. Keep the hope! The threat of this virus is still very much real, and it is not over. So let’s continue our efforts and follow God’s lead to help those around us.
I reiterate Paul’s sentiments from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We have a hope that will endure in a God who is faithful!
I’M BLESSED, SO I BLESS
This year we will be hosting events to reach our community’s needs through our Mission Advance efforts with the theme, “I’m Blessed, so I Bless!” Our challenge is rooted in the last portion of Matthew 10:8, where Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” In this passage, he talks to his 12 Apostles and prepares them to go out evangelizing without him. He gave them detailed instructions on what to do and what not to do. He also told them what to take and what not to take with them. He told them these things so they could see how God would provide for them. Then he blessed them with the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those with leprosy. Wow! Now that is a gift! But these gifts came with responsibilities – they couldn’t just keep them for themselves – they had to use them for God’s glory and the people’s good.
I think the word “freely” is important to this passage. They didn’t pay anything for this gift – it was free! So, they could only give it freely. That means they couldn’t charge for the healings or require the people to do anything to get it. It was given free and was to be given free.
I think this passage has much for us to consider. What has God given to you freely. Are you giving it freely to others for His glory and their good?
We have to all agree that we each have been blessed and not all in the same ways. So with what God has blessed us, we need to bless others with it, thus, I’m blessed, so I bless!
Look and see God’s blessings to you and bless someone else in turn! Look for the ways you can bless! They are there! God has put them there. More information will be announced about upcoming projects and activities at a later date...
These past weeks, we have been preparing for Easter. The events and services have been planned; the church has been decorated; and we have journeyed with Jesus these past 40-days to prepare us spiritually. Are we ready for Easter? It’s here!
Easter is a celebration for the Christian. We celebrate it as a church and as families, but do we celebrate it as an individual?
The earliest recorded celebrations of Easter occurred in the 2nd century A.D. This was within the first one hundred years of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. By this time, the followers of Jesus had been scattered throughout the Roman world after the destruction of Jerusalem. It wasn’t until the Roman Emperor Constantine was convert to Christianity that the church began to organize and officially celebrate Easter. In 325 A.D., Constantine called the bishops from across church to gather in Nicaea, an ancient city what is now Greece. It was at this convention that the date of Easter was set to be the first full moon after the spring equinox. Thus, the date of Easter fluctuates between March 22 and April 25th under our modern calendar. This also follows the Jewish calendar for Passover. It is believed that Easter has been celebrated on the same date for over 1700 years. Though scholars believed that Jesus’ resurrection happened sometime between the years of 26 A.D and 36 A.D, many hold to the year 33 A.D. The truth will never be known, but the fact that it is still celebrated is remarkable.
If you are like my family, Easter was the day that everyone went to church and gathered for a family dinner afterwards. We also celebrated with new Easter clothing, egg coloring and hunting, and of course, candy! We celebrated Easter both as a holiday and a holy day.
What should Easter be? Well, simply put, a celebration – a time to rejoice in our salvation that Jesus bought with his life. It is time to celebrate as an individual, a family and as His church. It is the single most important day in history and all of eternity. Without Easter, we would have nothing to celebrate.
Easter is much more than a family dinner, but reason for a family to gather and celebrate together. Easter is more than just a special service in the wee hours of the morning. Easter is more than just one day a year, it is a life to live! Let’s live it!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my crazy crew. Even though 2020 was a challenging year for everyone I can say I have felt truly blessed! As we enter this new year with possible fear and trepidation of the unknown, let us not forget that we are not alone. I have to say there are things that have come up in my little family that cause me to get worked up and stressed. I have a hard time leaving my burdens at the altar. I have a tendency to pray, leave them, then pick them right back up and try and solve the problems on my own. This only causes more stress and anxiety. If this year has taught me anything it is that life is too short and has too much stress and anxiety, so I need to seek help from God, family and friends. Then be willing to accept the help when it is given. I am so thankful and blessed God placed Advance Community Christian Church in our lives to help me remember that I can get through whatever life has with the support and strength of God and those He allows to be in our life to help. May 2021 bring you much Happiness and Many Blessings. Love from the Wagners.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. “ Philippians 4:13
What a year it has been! It has been a rough one, but God has seen us through and we have to remember that He will continue to see us through. Jesus gives us a hope for the future…a hope in our eternity that gives us strength in our temporary. Thank you for walking with us this year and let’s continue to walk this road into 2021 together. Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve with you here at Advance Community Christian Church. We wish you the merriest of Christmases and a joyous New Year!
2020 is a year that will long be remembered. The Covid 19 Pandemic is still leaving its mark on our lives and will leave a permanent impression. However, how it was handled by our government is small in importance as to how it was handled by our faith.
Yes, we feared for ourselves, our loved ones and even the public. We have seen and taken unbelievable measures to avoid infection. And the reality is, we are still facing it head on. How has your faith endured? Intact? Or shaken?
I pray that our faith has been strengthen. I hope that what we felt in March is different than what we feel today. God has seen us through and is still seeing us through. Yes, our efforts did slow the virus, but as we have returned to a “new” normal, the rate of infection has increased, but successful treatment has also increased. Yes, there is still a danger and we need to be cautious and that may mean more effort, but I hope we can face the future with a stronger faith in God’s presence with us during it all.
I have a hard time thinking that God caused this all to happen, but I understand that He is using it to get our attention and to even grow our faith in him. In I Peter 1:6-8 we read “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even through refined fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."
As we approach the holidays, it may not seem as happy considering what we are enduring, but we can find joy in his faithfulness. He will see us through it and will save us. That is what Jesus’ birth began, Easter paid and His return promises. We can find the joy of Christmas – be reminded that is where our salvation began.
Matthew 24:13-but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved
Let us celebrate his birth because of the salvation He brought! We will be saved!
Those rascally rabbits! These past couple of years, my garden was overtaken by rabbits. This spring I counted 4 sets of adult rabbits hanging out in my yard. After planting my garden, they made a quick meal of my broccoli plants and my bean shoots. Frustrated, I ordered fencing, and luckily for me, amazon shipped it within a day or so. I put up the fence and showed those rabbits who was boss. I felt a feeling of victory and replanted my crops. The fence worked for the most part. The adult rabbits didn’t breach the barrier, but one day I noticed movement inside the enclosure and much to my chagrin, a baby rabbit sat there munching on my beans. He sat there with such confidence. Well, just like Farmer MacGregor, I chased that varmint around until finally he got under the fence and quickly ran under the deck. As I discovered, those 8 rabbits had multiplied to a number I have been unable to count. Yet, instead of giving in or giving up, I fortified my fence even more and soon was finally able to reap a harvest. Several of the rabbits have now moved on, but there is still that one, whom I’ve named Peter. He taunts me on a daily basis. I have vowed that next year I will be even more prepared to fight the good fight and win!
The Apostle Paul encourages us to prepare for battle against the schemes of the Devil by taking every precaution to protect and defend ourselves. In Ephesians 6:11 he writes– “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” In order to win the battle and defeat the Devil, we have to be prepared with a power greater than ourselves - HIS Armor. God is offering us victory, however we still have to put on the full armor and fight. We cannot stand and we will not win without HIM! Read the rest of this passage in Ephesians 6 and see how God can prepare us. He’s offering us everything we will need to fight and win.
Too bad there are not any passages of scriptures that tell you how to rid your garden of rabbits.
STEVE’S DESK - BACK TO SCHOOL – WE HOPE?
I remember when I was in elementary school I was always eager to return to school in the fall, but as I grew older, I began dreading going back, especially when school began opening before Labor Day. Summer vacation really did get shorter. When I went to college, I was never ready to go back. It would take several weeks to get back into the routine. Then, after graduation, the long summer breaks became a thing of my past and year-round work became reality. Ugh! Adulthood brings a lot of change.
This Covid 19 pandemic has also brought many changes, especially to our education system. Sadly, things still could change again. I’m confident that the kids will adapt to whatever evolves and teachers will too, but it won’t be without some pains. A new normal is being created and we just have to hold on and have faith that God will see us through it. We have an opportunity to teach some very important lesson to our children. They need to know that though things change around them – God never changes! AND He never breaks his promises!
Hebrews 13:8 says, “ Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We need to remember that He is still there and will always be there. Regardless of how much things change around us, he does not and will not. In this passage, Paul is referencing Deuteronomy 31:6 where God is telling Moses, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” This is the same message and the same words that God uses to encouraged Joshua as he was about to lead the people into the Promised Land in the book of Joshua. Incidentally, God repeats these same words, “Be strong and courageous…” five times in the entire book with four times in the first chapter. It is an important lesson is God repeats it. Both Joshua and Moses were facing big things and we are too. Today, God is encouraging us to keep our faith so others can keep theirs. We need to be mindful that our faith in these uncertain times can help others too.
Be strong and courageous! Change is inevitable but God is constant and never changes! Let us to look to the future with the certainty of our faith. Regardless of what happens – God will deliver us. Join us
Who would have ever imagined what we have experienced over these past few months in response to the threat of Covid 19? For a few weeks, the world stood still. Though I do not believe God caused this to happen, I know He is using it to get our attention.
With so much change, it is a wonder if things will ever get back to ‘normal’ or will we find a new normal. It will definitely be a time to remember, but will it be a time to learn?
We have experienced the full gamut of emotions and I hope we have seen a growth in our faith through it all. This time of quarantine has given us time to focus and maybe refocus on the important things around us. We’ve had a break from our hectic schedules. We’ve had more time at home with families. We’ve eaten more at home that we have for years. We’ve saved money on gas for our vehicles. Yes, we have been limited and gone without. Some have suffered financially and were furloughed and even lost their jobs. We have experienced shortages of food and higher prices and probably will for a time to come. Some have even lost their lives and the lives of loved ones. These times have been both good and bad. So, what have we learned?
Have we learned that God is still there? Have we learned that the church is more than just a building to go to for a moment in time to meet? Have we felt the longing to be together as a church family? I hope so, I have.
I pray, as we reopen and transition to a new normal, our lives will be more thankful, grateful, and blessed as we go forward with a renewed faith and peace in God. Maybe what we have learned through this is… He is still there and that we are still His Church beyond our building and beyond any services, we are His people.
Our perseverance through it all is possible because of our faith in God and in His promise to come – Heaven!
I can’t wait until we can all be together again at the same time and place, but until then, let’s continue to join in His Spirit and His work. Reach out to someone you haven’t seen for a while – a card – a call – a random act of kindness. Be the church we are: HIS!
We are not sure what will happen in the days to come. We have made many plans and activities for the next two months in this newsletter, but we understand that some of our plans may not be possible. We will let you know of any changes or cancelations. God will lead us!
Have you ever been on a boat in the midst of a storm? Many years ago, I was taking a large car ferry from Maine to Nova Scotia, Canada. It was a cloudy, raining September morning when we drove into the belly of the ship with all of the other cars, buses, and trucks. At that time, it was the biggest ship that I had ever been on before. The crossing was to take 3-4 hours and we were told to expect stormy seas. We found our way to the seating areas on the ship and took seats near the window. Well, as the ship departed and we got out to sea, the storm’s intensity grew and the wind and the waves beat against the ship. The ship began to move a little more than I liked, which made walking difficult and comical. I did manage to make my way outside to the deck just to see what it was like, but I didn’t stay long. It was a little scary. I was fortunate that I did not get sick as others were, but that was quite a storm we endured in making that crossing. I was glad when we arrived at our destination.
Since that time, I have been on other ships and seas and I’m happy to say….I haven’t experienced another storm like that one, at least on a ship.
These past few days, we may feel like we are on a ship being tossed by the sea; The waves of the Coronavirus; the waves of the stock market; the waves of childcare with school shut down; the waves of shortages of food and supplies; and the waves of fear are beating against our boat. It doesn’t take very long before we feel our faith being tossed and turned as well.
I am reminded of the story of another boat being tossed by the waves as found in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus and the apostles boarded a small boat and “a furious squall came up and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” Can you just imagine it? Wouldn’t you be more than just a little concerned for your life? Sure, you would and so were they. In the midst of their worry and fear they looked to Jesus who was fast asleep. Really, Jesus was asleep!
In their fear, they woke Jesus and asked… “Don’t you care if we drown?”
Of course, you know that Jesus gets up – rebukes the storm and it stops! He then turns to his apostles and says… “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? Some translations record Jesus’ words as “You of little faith.”
Today, as we sit at home and ponder all that is going on in our world that we don’t comprehend, we are all feeling the effects of the turbulent waters beating against our boats. Do we have enough faith? I hope so, because we know that we are not alone. The all powerful Jesus is right by our side. Find the peace to hold on in the midst of this storm by calling out to the one who will either to stop it or deliver us through it! Hold on! He is near!
From Steve’s Desk
2020! It seems so odd to write, doesn’t it? I read a FACEBOOK post on January 1st that indicated that the first mistake we would make in the new year would be writing the wrong year. It does take time to get used to. I am not sure it was my first mistake of the year.
This new year has led me to think about 20/20 vision. 20/20, indicates perfect vision, or that’s what we may think. I did some research and found that 20/20 is not perfect vision, but it is the average vision. This measurement was developed by Dutch eye doctor named Herman Snelling in 1834. It is a comparison of a measurement. It measures your sight to what the average person sees at a distance of 20 feet. At 20/10, you see things at 20 feet that the average person can only see at 10 feet. So, you have better vision than the average. 20/40 then means that you must be twice as close to see what the average person sees at 20 feet. Thus, you have poorer vision. Confused? Well, let’s just say that nobody has perfect vision.
This has set me thinking about what God sees. We know that God is ALL-SEEING! On the back of the US dollar bill is the image of a pyramid that is crowned by an eye, the All-seeing Eye of God’s Providence. Can we understand all that God sees? Is God’s eyesight 20/20? Well, I don’t think so, because He cannot be compared to the “average” person because He is above mankind. He can’t be measured by our vision, we need to be measured by His.
Should we be concerned about what He is seeing? I hope so. I remember a song I was taught as toddler entitled; “O’ Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” There were several verses that each includes a different part of our body but gives the same caution: we need to be careful because God is looking down from above. It is an important message for us to learn and not just at young ages. We need to be reminded that He can see all that we do and all that we are, in our hearts and minds as well.
I mentioned earlier that God cannot be measured by us, but we by Him. Our actions and our thoughts need to be corrected to the way He sees things. He will show us and correct our vison. Let’s focus on our vision becoming like what God’s sees!
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…”Eph. 1:18
Wow! Where did this year go? It seems like we just got started and before we know it…it will all be over. I’ve heard it said, that the older you get, the faster the years go and I believe it! A busy and hectic schedule adds to life’s speed. I find that the more I have to do, the faster time goes by. Then I seem to be living from event to event and not able to enjoy what is happening and then it over and on to the next thing. Oh, I’d rather be busy than bored, but some days, give me the chance to get bored. Do you ever feel that way?
Now that October is over, we all know what is coming… the holidays. Are you ready for them? There is a lot to get done in a short amount of time. Maybe we should have started earlier? Soon we may be faced with the reality of what is going to get done and what is not. These are not always easy decisions to make, but we have to get control. Right?
Is prioritizing the answer? Making a list of what is most important could help? But, what is most important? We all have things. We all have important things, but we also all have things that we don’t have to do. Such a dilemma we are in! This is only the struggle of our schedules. Our lives are filled with other struggles too!
The Apostle Paul was in the midst of a struggle in his letter to the church at Rome. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15 Paul’s confession is a heart-felt examination of his life and actions. He admits that sin often plays a part in what he does. We too could make the same confession. Paul is talking about more than just his schedule, but I think we can agree that our culture tempts us in so many ways and it becomes almost impossible not to fall prey to its enticements and busyness that we fail. Priorities are a great place to start in getting control and direction, but the success is found in working TOGETHER! TOGETHER? With whom? Your spouse? Your parents? Your siblings? Your children? Your best friends? Your village? Yes…all of those are by God’s design to be our support and encouragement, but HE is to be our strength and guide. He has given us help, and promised to help. He’s given His Word, His Spirit, and His Church to lead you.
Paul reveals this in that same passage… “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Jesus is our answer too! Knowing what to do, and what not to do will take a lot of prayer and evaluations by asking…What does God want for me? For us? For my family? It isn’t that all your activities be evolved around the church, but all your activities glorify Him where ever you go and whatever you do! As the holidays approach – may we strive to get control over our time and self so that we can enjoy our freedom, the most important gift given to us on that first Christmas.
Thank you so much for all you did for this year’s Mission Advance Won’t You Be My Neighbor Project. We were able to reach out to our neighbors both near and far in several ways this year. Thank you for the many needed items collected for the WAM After school Program and Operation Christmas Shoe Box. Thank you for your efforts moving furniture, cleaning, and yard work. It was all appreciated and well received. Thank you also for feeding the road construction crew and our farmers. The meals were very much appreciated by those served. Also thank you for letting God challenge you to be the neighbor Jesus called us to be!
Won’t You Be MY Neighbor Work Day to be held
We will have a couple of other follow-up projects to help a few more of our neighbors in the Advance community over the next couple of months. We will be announcing work days to complete these projects. Our first work day will be, September 14th from 9:00 am to 12noon
Project #1 – Power Washing and Gutter Cleaning
Project #2 – TBA
If you can help with these projects, please sign up in the foyer beginning September 8th.
Looking at our world today, does Easter still have the same meaning today as it once did? I remember back to a time when schools dismissed on Good Friday and all normal activities ceased for that one weekend as we focused on Easter. The American observance of Easter may have begun in the church, but it has moved far from its religious beginning.
I remember that Easter was a time when everyone went home for family dinners and to attend church together. We always had ham, chicken and noodles and all the other fixings. At my home church, we’d begin the day at Sonrise service at 6:00 am and end with our worship service that pulled out all the stops with music specials from adults and kids, and of course, a big cantata by the choir and end with the minister’s sermon. It was always a long service, but it was Easter and because it was Easter; the pews would be packed. Easter was the culmination of hours of work and preparation all with the purpose of celebration.
We also marked Easter with new clothes and baskets of candy when we got home from church, followed by the family dinner, which was often at my house. From my perspective back then, Easter was an exciting and anticipated time in our year.
Is Easter still the same today? Well, we still do a lot of the same things at home and at church, but I think that in our culture Easter no longer has importance. Good Friday is not a day off for most. We see many more activities going on in spite of it being Easter weekend. I even saw that one community was having their Easter Egg Hunt on the first weekend of April and not Easter weekend? I know it is often hard to keep up with when Easter is different each year because of its annual shifting of dates, but should it be more than it is becoming?
We are not biblically instructed to celebrate Easter as a church or as a family on any particular day, but we are called to remember Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection through communion as often as we meet. I think that there is something to keeping traditions, but they must be a celebration of the message of Easter – that has never changed and is still the same.
Easter is worthy of our celebration as a church and as a family. We need to make sure that it remains important in our families and as the Body of Christ.
I grew up in a very small town named Blanford, Indiana and went to a church much like Advance. I always referred to it as… “the little brick church in the cornfield” because that is where it was located. In the middle of a cornfield in the middle of nowhere. I cherish my memories and the people from that place and time. I am truly thankful and grateful for those who played their role in becoming who I am today.
One couple, Chet and Jeannette, are two that I will forever hold dear because they showed me the way to live my faith. During my Jr. High years, they not only lead me in youth group, but they also welcomed me into their home and into their family. I now have 40 years of memories of them at every stage of my life - the big events and the small ones as well. A few months ago, I was so thankful to introduce my grandson, Spencer to them. It was a special time.
They walked this life in obedient love of Jesus and following the will of God wherever it led and in whatever way He called them to help whomever He brought their way. They gave so much to the children and the families of the church.
They taught me how to live my faith, beyond my belief, in action. When I first entered Youth ministry, they became my example. - I wanted to do for others, what they did for me.
They also brought me into their family. I became their son, brother, cousin, uncle and friend to each generation that has come. This family has not only grown in numbers, but continued to grow in faithful service to God all because of the faith that was nurtured and exampled by Chet and Jeanette. If my count is right, their family includes 4 ministers, besides me, and many other dedicated servants to God.
I don’t want to project their perfection or sainthood, but they were wonderful examples of Jesus. What God did through them is just amazing. It is the same that he can do through our lives as well. God has used Chet and Jeannette to not only grow in their faith, but also to grow their faith of all those around them.
Today, as I write this, I mourn the passing of Chet as he passed into glory on January 22nd. He was 93 years old. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, 4 children, 11 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren. His legacy of faith goes beyond his family to all of us he touched by His witness. His witness will last beyond his years on this earth.
Well done, Chet! Thank you for sharing your faith and time with me. I rejoice in your eternal reward!
It is truly a wonderful time of the year not just because of His birth, but because of His death and His resurrection. He gave us a gift of life through His death which gives the reason to rejoice and celebrate. That is the most wonderful thing ever!
Thank you for the privilege of serving God with you. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
I think that it is the change of seasons that makes Indiana such a great place to live. We get the full experience of each season from the coldest of nights to the hottest of days, and the most pleasant and beautiful in between. Some years that we feel the extremes of 105* F, and some years, the frigid -40*F wind-chill. That is 145-degree range. We get it all and how lucky we are. If you only experienced the extremes, living would be unbearable. Have you heard of Death Valley or Siberia? We couldn’t do it, but it is the weather in between that makes life bearable even in Indiana. Though we can go from hot to cold and wet to dry in a day’s time, we still spend most days in decent and enjoyable weather. If it weren’t for the extremes in weather, maybe we wouldn’t enjoy and long for the good weather in between. There is reason in it, I think. As I am writing this, through the window I see the bluest of skies, the red and golden hues of the quickly changing leaves and a covering of frost covering the car. God said in Ecclesiastes1:1-3, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build…” Just as there is a time for everything,God has a reason for everything.
Our lives are affected by the weather of a different kind in our struggles, hardship, difficulties, temptations of sin. God has given us the power to endure this life as we wait for Christ’s return so that we can survive the lowest of valleys and rejoice at the highest of mountains and dwell at all points in between. It is the highest of highs and the lowest of lows that we can find the strength of our faith to keep us longing for Heaven to come. God can transform us in each hardship and guide us through each difficult path. He is always there showing us the way to Him.
I don’t think God causes the hardships, but I do think He uses them to keep us on the right path. If your path is rough, hold on and keep going. He is there. If your path is easy, give praise, but be cautious, it is in these times that we can forget how we got there and where we are going. Let God use the extremes of this life to prepare us for what remains ahead here and there!
Are you on the right path?
As children, we may have been taught the pledge to the Bible. “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word. A lamp into my feet and the light into my path. Its words will I hide in my heart that that I may not sin against God.”
This is an adaptation of the scripture found in Psalm 119, “105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,”
Are we walking in the light and following its path for us?
There is a television commercial for a certain investment company that involves a green path that appears before one of their investors to show them the way to retirement, or the financial goal they have set. The investor only need to follow the green path. Is that all we have to do… Follow the path before us as found in God’s word? Well, it is, but it may not be as easily done as the TV commercial depicts the path to retirement. Oh, we may all get there, but it is not assured as an easy trip.
What path are we on? The one leading to our eternal reward? Well, as you know there is only one way to get there and sadly it will be down the path less traveled. Scriptures indicate that there are more people moving away from Heaven than moving toward it. Why would this be? Well, God’s word does point out several do’s and don’ts for us to follow. It is not only our guide and comfort for our journey, it is also our correction for our direction and behaviors. Jesus is the only way there, but there is also a way we are to live while on that path. If we are not, then we are not going to through the gate that leads there. Jesus said, “Wide is the road that leads to destruction and narrow the gate that leads to Heaven and few will find it.”
We need to be diligent students of God’s word. Not so much trying to understand all of the whys and why nots, but to understand that God knows what is best and He has put before us the best route to take that will in the end not only lead to where we want, but also aid us in dealing with the difficulties in our journey getting there.
2 Timothy 3:15b-17 says, “…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Jesus is the way and His word is our lamp to lead us on our journey. Are you on the right path? Open His word and you will know.
Summer 2018 may have been an ordinary summer, as far as summers go; but that is different for each of us. I hope that each of us enjoyed at least parts of it. For me, the first month or so went fast and then we were at August, which seemed to go so slowly. I know that the children will say that summer was way too short. Well, regardless, it was truly one filled with extremes: cool and hot; wet then dry, then wet again; and for most, busy all the time. Well, whatever it was, it’s now over.
Summer is now what was and fall is now what is. So, as you look to today, tomorrow and the weeks ahead, what will it bring? What we expect or not expect? Just as we fill our summers with activities to build memories, I hope that this fall we will also plan to build memories. I also hope that we will plan to build and grow our relationship with Jesus. As we readjust to schedules and those things we have to do, let us also choose to do those things we should do – plan time for yourself in God’s Word and time with Him in prayer and meditation; - plan time for your children, family and spouses to learn from God’s Word and to worship. Now is the best time to get into a Sunday School class, a Bible study, or a small group. And of course, with youth groups starting soon for all ages of children and youth, this is the time.
A relationship with Jesus is just that, a relationship. In order to have a growing, healthy relationship with Jesus we have to prepare ourselves and put ourselves in the right places that will foster our faith, our children’s faith and our family’s faith.
Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”.
Seek time with Him and then we will be filled to overflowing! Be where you need to be – with Him come what may.
This past weekend, I witnessed a true blessing. As communion was being past, one of newest sisters in Christ was about to take communion for the very first time. I watched her as she anticipated the moment. She quickly reached into the basket to get one of the communion packages (this was our outdoor service, so we were using the disposable packets) With hesitation she looked around at everyone as if she had done something wrong as she clutched the package in her hand tightly. She, like all of us, struggled to open the packet, but soon she managed just as the communion scripture was being read… “This is my body, take it and eat. Do this in remembrance of me.” She did as we did. She then placed the cup in her hand and brought it close to her lips as the scripture was read… “This is my blood, take it and drink. Do this in remembrance of me.” After she drank she got the biggest grin on her face. She had just passed into a moment of communion with God and with us, as a church.
What a wonderful moment it was for her, and for me. Truthfully speaking, that is the same way that we should come to the Lord’s table each week. Not as a habit or a have to, but as a want to and a can’t wait to. It is a special time – we do need to cherish it and not forsake it.
In a few weeks, Danny Pierce will be delivering a message in my absence on communion. It is something that is important. Christ did call us to remember and partake, but it is also a wonderful time that we get to have each week with Him and with each other. Look forward to it!
If you are away from church this summer, plan on taking communion, either by attending another church wherever you are, or plan ahead and take the emblems with you or go to the grocery store. The effort taken will make it special for you and your family. You really don’t have to go to much trouble, pause and communion with Him where you are… alone or together with friends, family, or church – spend communion with HIM! It is special.
“Be strong and courageous!” That is sometimes a challenge, especially in the midst of a struggle or in the face of fear of the unknown. This phrase is used 11 times in God’s Word: 8 times God is saying to 3 different people: Moses, Joshua and Hezekiah; and 3 times Moses is repeating it to Joshua and Caleb. Each time it is used just before battle. I believe that God is still saying it to us to prepare us for battle against this world, against Satan.
There are several scriptures that I have memorized and this is one of them. Why? Because it works! It’s not through the power of positive thinking that inspires me, even though thinking positively does help, but the power of this scripture to me is because of the one speaking it. It appears 4 times in the span of the first chapter in the book of Joshua. In verses 6, 7, 9 and 18 God speaks directly to Joshua as he succeeds Moses as leader over Israel after the death of Moses. Remember that Joshua and Caleb were the only adults who survived God’s punishment of the Israelites during their wandering in the desert because they remained faithful to God and believed that God would deliver them victory over the enemies in the promised land. They were the last of a generation who lived under slavery in Egypt and witnessed all of the miraculous ways God had led them and provided for them. They also witnessed God’s wrath on them over Israel’s unfaithfulness. Joshua’s faith saved him and God rewarded him and called him to lead the people into the promised land.
In this first chapter, Joshua is showing some reticence to the position, so God gives him an amazing pep talk in this first chapter of Joshua that is contingent upon these words….” Be strong and courageous!” God tells Joshua…”Be strong and courageous for I will lead you; Be strong and very courageous in following Moses’ instructions; Be strong and courageous and do not be afraid for I am with you; Be strong and courageous and I will give you victory!” Then, when Joshua takes his lead, what happens? Everything that God had promised – the people followed him and God gave them victories over every enemy. Some of the victories were easily won and others were hard fought, but in every one God gave them victory and was always with them, just as He promised.
So, can we find application for these words of God? They were not only spoken to Joshua, Moses and Heziaciah, but to each of us as well. Each day in whatever we face – the good, the bad and the ugly – we can stand firm in courage in our faith in a faithful God.
Be strong and courageous God says unto you!
I don’t know if I am ever going to warm up. It has been a long cold winter, hasn’t it? We’ve had the sunshine, but the temps just haven’t climbed very quickly yet, but surely in April we will see a change, I hope.
Hope is what we hold on to for what is to come. Sometimes I think we see hope as only the possibility of what is to come, not the assurance of what is to come, there is a difference. Warmer temperatures will come, it is assured if the Lord tarries, spring will give way to summer and the heat of July will come. So, my hope of warmer temperatures is assured, so something that I hold on to today with full knowledge that it will warm up. The only one that would change that it God himself, so unless Christ returns in the next few weeks, we can have confidence that temperatures will grow warmer.
Isn’t that the same confidence our hope needs about what is waiting for us in Heaven? We should put our hope in knowing that He is coming back for us without any question or doubt. Sometime the problem with our faith is the same problem we have enduring winter. We become too complacent because spring seems too far in coming.
In Hebrews 11:1 we read… Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. A hope that should be complete trust. We know that the blessed hope of God is a promise. And Titus 2:13 says… while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Let us keep the faith in the hope that is to come, not what may come, but what will! That’s Jesus’ promise.
As many of you know, Lisa and I have taken many trips to Haiti over the past 20 plus years. Haiti has been a huge part of our lives and service to God and His people. There is also a personal attachment for us in Haiti.
On my very first trip in 1995, I met a young teenage boy named St. Vertie. He was about 15 years old at the time and had been a part of the mission’s nutrition and school program for many years. He was sponsored by a family from Cayuga, so I had known about him before my trip. At our first meeting, he and I immediately bonded in what has become a father/son relationship. And several years later, when he first met Lisa, she became his mother.
On my first trip, he became our personal interpreter even though he was limited in his English, but we did our best. I felt such trust in him and a deep sincerity in his love for Jesus. On that trip, he took me to meet his mother, whom he cared for because she was ill. He had several brothers and a sister who were older and a few who were younger. I learned later that his father had abandoned his family many times and would show up from time to time and then disappear again. In time, it was known that his father had created a new life with a new family.
This family had struggled greatly to make ends meet, but thanks to the mission, they received the needed help and Jesus. Incidentally, St. Vertie’s mother was the first person baptized by the missionaries when they first came to their city. Sadly, their hardship grew greater and the younger children were placed in the mission’s orphanage because the mother could not provide for them. St. Vertie was the only child to remain at home and he cared for his mother and was ever so devoted. He not only remained devoted to his family, but also to his schooling, and to his God.
Lisa and I grew closer to St. Vertie, especially so, when he married his wife Elda and had their first child, Davidson. We were so fortunate to have been there on the day Davidson was born in the year 2000. St. Vertie continued his education beyond high school by attending a trade school and studying to be a Pharmacy Technician. He completed his studies and was blessed to find work within the missions newly establish pharmacy.
Through his studies, he remained faithful to God and his church and even was elected to the position of deacon, which comes with a lot of leadership. St. Vertie became more and more involved in the church and even began filling in the pulpit when the church was without a minister. Well, it wasn’t long until the people elected St. Vertie to be their Minister full time.
He is a great Pastor and a very powerful preacher, even though I don’t understand what he is saying, I can see his passion for God and see the spirit working through him. He is now the longest serving Pastor that his church has ever had and has such a wonderful ministry for Christ. When we returned last May, it was so wonderful to get to worship with him and his family again.
Our Haitian family has grown to include another boy, Dale Steve, who was born in 2011 when we were in Haiti. We were on leave from Haiti and Lisa had told Elda not to have her baby until we returned as a joke, well, we arrived mid-morning and that afternoon Dale Steve was born. Again, we got to hold that precious child on his birth day, just like his brother born 11 years earlier. So, we have two grandsons in Haiti!
Davidson, our oldest grandson, is in his final semester of high school and is taking an English proficiency test on Saturday, February 24th to see if he can be accepted into a U.S. college or university. If all goes well, and within God’s will, Davidson will graduate in June and come to live with us to attend IVY Tech to study nursing in January. There are still so many hoops to jump through, but if it is God’s will.
Truthfully, I had my doubts whether it could come to be, but how can I limit God. It is dependent upon Davidson’s performance, the U.S. government’s approval, the college acceptance and Lisa and I’s finances. It may seem beyond us, but it is not beyond Him. It is dependent upon HIM!
God has given us this amazing love for this family and from this family that has now spanned 23 years. What remains beyond the struggles and hardships; What remains beyond this world is HIS Love. If it doesn’t come to be, there will be disappointment, but there will always be love.
I ask for your prayers in seeking God’s will for Davidson. I also ask for prayers for his family as they wait and then deal with the possible separation from each other during this education. It will not be easy. I ask that you pray for God’s provision to meet the needs for this.
Our hope is that Davidson will get his undergraduate in nursing then seek what comes after that so that he can return to Haiti and serve God and his people.
Do you remember your first love? Whether it was a boyfriend or a girlfriend or even a pet, you will probably not forget the first time you felt love for someone outside of your family. Love is a gift and God is the giver of that gift. He created us for love – with the need to be loved and with the ability to give love. Why? There are many reasons why God gifted us with love. He wanted us to connect with each other in friendship, families and in marriage. He also wanted us to know His love for us and give Him our love. You’ve heard the phrase, “Love makes the world go round.” Love, as God intended it, is crucial to our lives, we can’t live without it because we were created for it.
I Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Love is the greatest and it was love that lead God to give Jesus, his only son, to save us. It was also the reason Jesus gave his life for us. What great love God has for us. The love that God has shown to us was expressed in action. No one and nobody has ever given us so much love and sacrificed so much because of it. What then should be our response to Him?
Love! Because God loved and continues to love us, we then should return love to Him.
How do we express our love for God and to God? Praise? Yes! Acceptance? Yes! Obedience? Yes! Action? Yes! Our love for God can and should be expressed to Him in every way and anyway we can as our love leads. Jesus stated how our love for him can be shown: feed my sheep in John 21:17; obey my commands in John 14:15; and love God and your neighbor in Mark 12:33.
When we love someone, we show them. We eagerly want do what we can for them to show this love to make them happy. Receiving and accepting God’s love for us should result then in our giving our love to Him in action - praise, obedience and action. I John 3:18 says, “ Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Have your accepted and received His love for you? If so, freely give it back!
As we enter December, we all have plans and busy schedules that will leave us in a blur. As we celebrate as a church and as families, let us not forget the reason we celebrate Jesus’ birth.
That reason has been simply stated “Jesus was born to die.” Though this is truth, it is harsh. We tend to celebrate Christmas and the birth this small precious child who was born on a silent night in that little town of Bethlehem. We keep this death, burial and resurrection relegated to our Easter Celebrations.
Christmas is a time to celebrate, but only because of Easter. Let us view Christmas from the perspective of the Resurrection. Then, we truly have reason to celebrate more than just a baby born, or even more, a man put to death, but because of the love shown, grace given and eternal life offered.
Jesus was born as a baby. He grew to a man who became the way for our redemption with God, but as a sacrifice of great price. At Christmas, we received a gift – a gift of life – ours – an eternal life because of that baby who became a man who paid our price. What a great gift!
Merry Christmas and God Bless you all!