A Lesson from Haiti: Perseverance

haiti

Missions Spotlight: Haiti

Under the direction of Lesly Bertrand, our conference supports 24 orphans with shelter, food and an education.  In addition to tending to the children, Pastor Lesly shepherds one of the 25 Haitian churches that share our beliefs.  He also meets with 21 ministers in the region for Bible study and leadership training each month.

 

This past week, some of our beloved family from Ohio came to stay with us.  Among the company, was our adorable 4-year-old niece, Melody.  The thing about Melody is, from 8AM to 9PM, she does not slow down.   From visits to the playground, building box forts, and painting masterpieces, to singing, dancing and acting on the fireplace hearth, Melody is in constant motion.

 

As I am worn out and ready to head to sleep at 7PM, I am reminded of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18.  The disciples come to Jesus and ask him just “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

 

Melody is innocent, she trusts, she is content, and she makes friends at the Chick-Fil-A play-place within a matter of seconds.   Melody and her buddies fly through the play equipment and zip down the slide over and over and over again.  I get tired just watching her through the glass as I shove another french fry into my mouth.  Melody runs with perseverance.  As long as the sun is up, she never stops.  This zeal and energy brings me to 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

 

We are called to be children of God like Melody. We need to be going for his kingdom from sun up to sun down we can’t stop. I think that is what Jesus meant in Matt. 18. Children are fully reliant on their parents for everything. Like children, we need to be fully reliant on our heavenly father. Children trust without reservation. In the same way, we need to trust without reservation. Children are excited about life. Therefore, we need to be excited about this life and the life that we have to look forward to in the kingdom of God. If we can’t accept God in the simple way children accepts their parents, then we can’t live our Christian life the way Jesus wants.

 

Our conference supports 24 children in Haiti just like Melody.  While I have never met them, I can imagine they are full of energy and life.  When hurricane Matthew hit our brethren in Haiti a short time ago, they did not let the hurdles and obstacles of life defeat them as their churches and homes were crushed.  Instead, they had the mentality of a child.  They understood that their Creator provides for them, that He is always worthy of our praise.

 

Today, I am inspired by the orphans in Haiti to play harder.  I am inspired to take each step one at a time, and remember that God sees me through each situation, no matter how big or small.  I am inspired to run the race with perseverance and consistency; not just choose to serve Him or trust Him when it is easy.  I am inspired to live every moment, whether I am alone in my thoughts, or surrounded by friends and family, for the glory and honor of God.

 

If you would like to support an orphan in Haiti with food, shelter, and education or donate towards hurricane relief, please follow this link.  Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection

 

Love,

Josiah & Amber

 

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Have Confidence!

1 Corinthians 15 58

We have come to the end of I Corinthians 15, also known as the Resurrection Chapter. The last few days we’ve had chunkier denser passages but today we end with just one verse:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

Paul has explained a lot in the previous 57 verses, such as:

  1. The resurrection appearances of the Lord to many groups and individuals including Paul himself (3-8)
  2. The absurdity of denying the resurrection if you hold to the faith (12-19)
  3. Jesus being the prototype of those who have fallen asleep in him. Just as Jesus was raised, so too you and I will also at his return (20, 23)
  4. All those “in Christ” can and will share in the victories of Jesus and have life (22)
  5. Our bodies will be raised completely transformed and glorified and we will receive the gift of immortality. Because of this transformation through Jesus we are able to have access to God and entrance into his kingdom (42-50)
  6. At the resurrection event sin and death will finally and completely be defeated and those “in Christ” will experience victory made possible by God in and through Jesus (54-57)

Then Paul concludes, “therefore”. In light of the resurrection and its implications, this is how you you should live. Paul says four things: be steadfast, be immovable, abound in the work of the Lord, and know your work is not in vain in Jesus. I want to take a moment to look at each one briefly.

To be steadfast is to hold onto something tightly and to be without waiver. In light of Jesus’ resurrection, no adversity we face in this life should have the power to keep us from remaining in the faith and and stop us from being obedient. In the same vein, we should be immovable. Our hope and faith in Christ should be immovable with the reality of Jesus rising from the dead and God’s promise to those who are in Christ. The next phrase is a call for action. Because Jesus rose from the dead and is coming back we should strive to work for the Lord. One, because we want to share the good news with all people and disciple them, and two, he will hold us accountable for the works we have done in the body, “for we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (II Cor. 5.10). Lastly, Paul offers encouragement. Being in ministry can be a grind and sometimes you wonder if you’re making a difference at all. Sometimes you won’t see the fruit of your labor and someone else will. But you know who won’t forget or miss all the work you do and the fruit that comes from it? God and Jesus. Because God is faithful and Jesus is returning we can have confidence and assurance that our work is not in vain because even though no one may remember the work we did or see anything come from it, God and Jesus see it. And you will be rewarded as such when Jesus returns and you are given life.

Thank you for reading and live life in light of the resurrection reality.

-Jacob Rohrer

 

(Photo by Alice Railton of Lake Waubee at Camp Mack in Milford, IN)

 

 

Show a Little Love

Hebrews 13

Hebrews 13_1

Hello again everyone!

I get to finish the book of Hebrews today with you, and wow have we covered a lot!  The last chapter is full of little gems like marriage, money, peace, faith, prayer… each are uniquely different, making it hard to write a quick devotional.  So, I’m going to cover the topic that spoke the most to me this week!  You may be drawn to a different aspect of the text, and I encourage you to listen to God’s voice and what He has to tell you versus my own thoughts and ideas.  Hopefully I’ll have something to add though!

I’m going to focus on the relational aspect of this chapter.  Verses 1 and 2 talks about loving others; specifically, strangers.  Now, it may be the “Minnesota-nice” in me, but I seriously love this reminder!  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are rude to others they don’t even know.  Anytime I encounter someone new who is rude, or even just has a scowl on their face, it automatically turns me off from anything they have to say.

We are told to be examples of Christ, and as Christians, we absolutely are whether or not we think so!  If we are outspoken in our faith, if someone knows you go to church on Sundays, or whatever the situation might be, to anyone we interact with, we are examples of Christianity as a whole.  That is a big responsibility!  These verses are great reminders to love one another and to show hospitality to everyone we meet.  Who knows, maybe you’re loving on an angel!

Skipping ahead just a bit to verse 16, we have another reminder in how to act towards others.  We are told to do good and share with them.  Obviously, this is another way in which we can show the love of God and demonstrate Christianity to new believers.  But, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not always in the best mood to share or do good for other people.  And quite frankly, sometimes people don’t deserve it!  But this verse isn’t telling us to do these things for other people alone.  We are told to offer these things as sacrifices to please God.  Depending on the person, sacrifice might be a good word to describe it!  I think it makes it easier to do good and share if I think of doing it for God versus for man.

Looking at the word sacrifice in verse 16 and the verse directly before that, I am reminded at how the Hebrews originally viewed that word.  Remember, they are still learning that sacrifice no longer has to be the shedding of blood!  That must have been a little confusing to go from sacrifice being blood to being worship and sharing!  This is just another way that shows how drastically Jesus can change our lives.  He took the unclean, messy, death and changed it in to praising God and showing love to others!

We are so incredibly lucky to have a Savior that has changed our world for us.  As a show of gratitude, we can focus on loving one another and spreading the same grace we receive from him to others.  In times like this when our world is hurting from the loss of people to things such as mass shootings, plane crashes, abortions, wars, natural disasters, and so many other horrible things in this life, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to show a little love.

Grace be with you all!

-Sarah Blanchard

Wise Words Regarding Sin & Discipline

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 1b

Welcome back friends!

Today we’re talking about sin and discipline.  Very bright and happy topics I know!

To start off let’s take a look at verse 1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”  I want to focus on the sin that so easily entangles.  We are told to throw off everything that hinders us because there is a great cloud of witnesses.  And if we remember from yesterday, we were just reminded that God has a perfect plan for us that will come someday, so this verse is reminding us to keep pushing and running the race until that day.  So why does the author specifically mention sin?  Wouldn’t that be included in the things that hinder us?

Now, obviously I am not the author of this book so truthfully, I don’t know exactly why it was written this way!  However, as I was reading it my eye was drawn specifically to the phrasing of “sin that so easily entangles us”.  I know for me personally at least, you almost forget that sin can creep into our lives SO easily!  People who grow up in the faith tend to recognize (and hopefully avoid) what we term as “big sins”, don’t we?  I’m talking things like sexual immorality, murder, drunkenness, etc… We are quick to recognize those and turn our nose up at them.  But what about things such as lying? Or jealousy, anger, greed, anxiousness and impure thoughts?  Sin is sin no matter what.  When we ignore the “smaller” sins, that’s when they easily entangle us!  The bigger issue is not that we are sinners, because everyone is and everyone has been offered the same grace.  The issue is when we fail to recognize our own sin and shake it off in order to keep running the race.

And now that we’ve covered sin… we get to move on to the discipline.  Yay?

Verse 6 reads “…Because the LORD disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  This is a common message that is still hard for me to grasp at times.  God disciplines, corrects, humbles, however you want to word it, BECAUSE He loves us.  He is working to create a righteous and peaceful life for us (vs. 11).  Verse 8 even says that if we do not undergo discipline, we are not true sons and daughters!

I am not a parent, but I do have the joy of watching a lot of un-biological nieces and nephews, as I refer to them.  I love my kiddos!  Just the other day one of the kids I was watching kept trying to stick his finger in an electrical outlet.  I continued to swat his hand away and tell him no.  Not so surprisingly, he started crying with his head thrown back and huge tears falling from his eyes.  Obviously, my intent was never to upset him, but I also didn’t care!  I wanted to make sure he was safe and understood how dangerous that could be.  I think God works in similar ways.  He knows that our sins in our life are going to lead us to pain and suffering.  When I was watching that little boy, I could not believe how frequently he went back to the same outlet despite my corrections, almost like he didn’t even notice I was steering him away from it!  I wonder what God is thinking when we keep trying to go back to the same thing He knows is going to hurt us not matter how often He corrects us.

God loves us.  He loves us as sinners and disciplines us in order to protect us from ourselves.  He will one day give to us a kingdom that will not be shaken and because of that, we should worship Him with reverence and awe (vs. 28).  In what areas of your life is God correcting you?  Do you even realize it yet?  Although the discipline may be painful now, rejoice in what it will create later!

-Sarah Blanchard

My Highlighter Went a Bit Crazy

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 36

Hello Everyone!

Wow, what a great chapter!  If you’re anything like me you probably highlighted a third of the verses for today!  Because there was so much I really enjoyed about this chapter I wanted to share just a few thoughts for the verses I liked the best.  I strongly encourage you to be an active reader for this chapter… sit down with a highlighter (or hop on your Bible App!) and highlight the verses you feel really speak to you today!

Vs. 4 and 10- I like these verses in combination because one sets up the other.  Verse 4 is explaining yet again that the previous sacrifices could not atone for the sins of the Hebrews or for us for that matter.  Verse 10 is just a great reminder that God sent his Son, and through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been made holy.  The author is again and again trying to drill into the reader’s head that JESUS is the one who saves.  It is JESUS who can atone for the sins of the world, and there is no more need for sacrifices.

Vs 14 and 18 – Again, I think these verses pair together wonderfully!  Sometimes I think the author may be repeating himself one too many times, but then I remember the original purpose for the letter.  These people were being told about a dramatic life style change, the author can’t reiterate enough the new deal!  Jesus made one sacrifice, and because of it there was no more need for them to sacrifice animals anymore.

And from here on is where my highlighter went a bit crazy…

Vs. 22-23 – What powerful language!  We have full assurance that our faith will cleanse us from a guilty conscience and wash us with pure water.  We need to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, because He is faithful!  If you were looking for a faith booster today, this is it friends!  We have a faithful God, and by having faith in Him we know that we can become pure.  What a wonderful reminder of His love and power.

Vs 24-25 – Application verses for the day!  As a body of Christ, we are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, to continue to have fellowship with one another, and to encourage one another as the Day of Jesus’ return draws closer.  It’s almost as if this verse is calling you to attend an amazing COG event like Family Camp or FUEL….    So let’s put these verses in action a bit; How can you spur on a brother or sister towards love and good deeds today?  Are you going to best encourage them through a kind note, through a coffee date, by helping them clear out their garage, doing a Bible study?  There are so many ways we can show God’s love to our Christian family, pick one and try it out this week!

Vs. 26-27 and 31 – These verses are a little hard to swallow.  Deliberately choosing to continue in a path of sin will lead to raging fire that consumes God’s enemies.  I’m not going to sugar coat this at all.  By making a conscious decision to live in sin after knowing truth, you are becoming an enemy of God and should fearfully expect judgement.  Notice how it specifically mentions “after knowing truth”.  Especially for those who grew up in the church like myself, we know truth and we have been taught what sin is.  I fully recognize that this can make daily living more complicated, and according to this verse, more dangerous for our salvation.  As verse 31 states, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”  We should only live in fear of judgement day if we are consciously choosing sin in our life.  I think it is ok to let that fear motivate you sometimes!  If you’re struggling with decisions in your life, maybe you need a little fear to keep yourself in check!

Vs. 36-37 – After those previous verses this verse is a nice reminder as to why we choose righteous living.  It is so that we can receive what has been promised!  I think the author intentionally uses the word ‘persevere’ in this verse because they recognize that it is something we have to work at, and that doesn’t come naturally.  If you read the few verses before this you see that the author is describing suffering, so the language of persevere makes sense here.  Thankfully, we are not suffering in prison as was mentioned, but we certainly have daily sufferings that make it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But if you move on to read verse 37 you see that in just a little while, Jesus will return and he will not delay.  We can handle our present sufferings because we know that someday soon Jesus will return and we will receive that promise!

And finally, Vs. 39 – We belong not to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.  We have a heritage.  We have a family and a foundation.  It’s easy to feel alone at work, school, or maybe even in your own family.  But through Jesus, we have a sense of belonging.  And we are on the winning side!

I think each of these verses could’ve been pulled into a mini sermon today, but I tried to keep it short… I promise!  I hope today some of my thoughts got you reflecting and thinking on God’s word.  I also hope that you found some encouragement in the truth that we hold to, especially if you are in a season of persevering.  I love being a part of this body of Christ, and I hope you feel our history and the fellowship we have!  Life is so much easier when you have people to live it with that can encourage you in your walk of faith.  Today, seek those people out!  Or, be that person to a member who needs some encouragement!

Have a great day brothers and sisters!

Sarah Blanchard

 

Be More Open

Ephesians 1 18-19a

This week I have been talking a lot about all different New Year’s resolutions, that many Christians try to add into their lives every year around this time. Today, our last day is no different. This week I talked about looking for Jesus, and being willing to look silly for him, we looked at the story of Zacchaeus for this teaching. Then we looked at the parable of the talents in Matthew and talked about making good investments, not only with finances but also with the people that we surround ourselves with. We continued throughout the week talking about building our prayer lives, and trying to read our Bibles more. I also talked about striving for fellowship with other believers, and working on having more patience as well. (Let me tell you, patience is definitely one that I need to work on big time, and that is okay.)

The reading today is from Ephesians 1:15-21, & John 11:1-44

Today I am going to talk about something that is built into the rest of these “resolutions” this week. We as believers should be more open. How many times have you felt like you were not being heard, or that you were not hearing from God? How many times have you felt like absolutely nothing is going your way? Have you ever felt completely alone, and confused? God works in mysterious ways sometimes, and I am not always quick to understand what he is doing in my life, and I am sure you are the same. There have been times where I just want to ask God what in the world he is doing, because none of it makes sense to me, at all.

Sometimes I have felt like I was not being heard, or that God was not speaking to me, but I often forget to look in the little things. God gives us comfort when we need it, and he gives us hope and strength, and more often than not, it comes in ways that we would not have ever expected. This fall was one of the most difficult for my family, and I remember there being a few days where I felt lost and confused, worried, anxious and scared for so many things. There was one day in particular where I felt very lonely and forgotten. On that day I walked back to my room at school and on my door was a hot pink and sparkly card that said, “Peace, Love & Glitter.” I opened it and inside were many folded up little notes that had instructions on the outside that said, “Open when you need strength.” “Open when you need peace.” “Open when you need comfort” & me being the impatient person that I am, ( I said that I need to work on that) I opened all of them. Each note contained a Bible verse that had been hand picked by some of the residents in my building and given to me to help me through a tough time. This was God reaching his hand out to me and saying, “Hang on, I’m going to get you through this, I am always here, but I have given you people to lean on also.” Had I been closed off, I would not have been able to see the love and care that God was trying to show me through the people that he intentionally placed in my life.

One more moment I would like to share with you happened yesterday morning. A memory popped up on my facebook, and usually it is a post of pictures that my Grandma tagged me in years ago, but this time it was something that I said a year ago. This is what I said, “It’s always a good day when you get chills all over in the middle of a worship service. It’s like a big hug from God saying, ‘I’ve got you my child, I hear your praises, and I’ll never let you go.'” Again, this was a great reminder of how wonderful our God is, and as soon as I read this post on facebook I remembered the exact service I was at, and a wave of peace washed over me. If I was not open to hearing God in the moments that he makes himself known, in the moments where he is desperately reaching out to me, I may have missed these moments of peace and comfort. These moments that have gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life, and that I will bring with me into the countless storms of this life.

Ephesians 1 talks about Paul’s prayer for the hearts of the Ephesians to be open, that they would appreciate the calling of the Lord, that they would have their inheritance, and understand that power that God has, and they would know the reward for believers. That all sounds pretty awesome to me, God is going to give us rewards for being open to him and his powers. I feel like I have already been rewarded by being able to have a relationship with God, but I know that it will be better someday because the Kingdom of God will be here.

John 11:1-44. These verses are all about the resurrection of Lazarus. This is an important story because we see a blessing where Mary and Martha did not expect one, but because they were open to the power and love that God has and that God had given to his son they were able to receive a tremendous blessing. Their brother Lazarus died of an illness, and they had believed that if Jesus had been there, their brother would not have died. They believed him to already be gone, but because of their intense faith and belief and openness to the power of God and of his son Jesus Christ, their brother was resurrected and they were blessed beyond belief. (I am not saying your loved ones will be brought back to life right now because of your belief) but I am saying that there may be unexpected blessings in the little things, that you would not notice unless you are open minded.

I want to leave you this week with a couple of songs that I think follow this week well, and will support you as you possibly add some or all of these resolutions into your life.

Thank you for reading this week!

“Blessings”- Laura Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ

“Open the Eyes of My Heart” – Michael W. Smith https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vnqb7Vn4AEE

-Thanks, Jana Swanson

Increasing Fellowship with Other Christians

1 Corinth 12 19,20 revised

Has your faith or walk with God ever felt like it has fallen in a rut? Have you ever questioned whether God is listening? Have you ever questioned your faith in general? I will be completely honest; I can say yes to all of these things, but I have moved on from them, and I know God is listening, I am strong in my faith and I feel like my faith is constantly growing. You might ask what got me to this point, and truly it is my fellowship with other Christians. Being surrounded by other people who believe in what I believe and know how to comfort me and support me in my faith is so incredibly important for me, but why does God say fellowship is important, and why should it be added to your list of resolutions?

Todays’ verses are Ephesians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 12:14-31

Ephesians 5:19-21 tells us to share psalms and hymns, sing together and give thanks for everything God has done for us. These verses tell us to worship God together, not only because it will bring joy to God, but because it will bring joy to me and to those believers around us.

1 Corinthians 12:14-31. These verses talk about the body of Christ; we as believers and followers of Christ are the body of Christ and we are all a part of his church. We are all important and we all have a purpose. These verses say that no one part of the body can say that there is no need for another. Each piece has a specific purpose, and this was done intentionally. We are given spiritual gifts from God, and these verses also touch on that. Some people are teachers, some are apostles, some are prophets, some do miracles, some know many languages, some are good at administration and planning. None of these are more important than the other, they are just different and they are necessary for a fully functioning body. This is fellowship. When we spend time with other believers we begin to see their strengths and their gifts, when we spend more time with them, our own faith and relationship with God can be strengthened. When we spend more time with each other we are supported in our faith and our walk. We work as a team in many different aspects, and we know that we are not alone. Fellowship with each other is incredible important.

Now that you know the importance of fellowship and working together, you may be wondering how you can be more intentional in this area of your life. My suggestions are to attend church if you do not already. If you do, see if your church has a weekly bible study or youth group. If they do not have these ministries already, talk to your pastor about how to start one and how to organize one, you may not be the only person interested in creating more fellowship opportunities amongst the people in your community. I truly hope you have a supportive community, and if not I pray that one is given to you soon. Thank you for reading today, and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow.

-Jana Swanson