Risk Is Right – Day 15

“It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20-21

Matt and I recently did a devotional together called “Risk is Right” by John Piper.   The book ends with these words:

“This is the promise that empowers us to take risks for the sake of Christ. It is not the impulse of heroism, or the lust for adventure, or the courage of self-reliance, or the need to earn God’s favor. It is the simple trust in Christ – that in him God will do everything necessary so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. Every good poised to bless us, and every evil arrayed against us, will in the end help us boast only in the cross, magnify Christ, and glorify our Creator. Faith in these promises frees us to risk and to find in our own experience that it is better to lose our life than to waste it.  

“Therefore, it is right to risk for the cause of Christ. It is right to engage the enemy and say, “May the Lord do what seems good to him.” It is right to serve the people of God, and say, “If I perish, I perish!” It is right to stand before the fiery furnace of affliction and refuse to bow down to the gods of this world. At the end of every other road – secure and risk free- we will put or face in our hands and say, “I’ve wasted it!” But at the end of the road of risk, taken in reliance on the blood-bought promises of God, there will be fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore.”

We felt led to share the things we learned with the A2J class so we asked God to show us how to bring this to life for the A2J’ers. The same Sunday we were going to teach the A2J’ers, Jeannette Kessler shared about how God had laid on her heart for her to spend one full day in the home of a family living in a batey in the Dominican Republic. One of the many things I gleamed from her sharing, was that she couldn’t imagine why God had called her to be the first person to do that and how the man of the family she with could not imagine why God had picked his family. It was a perfect example to share with the kids in A2J how God asked both of them to take a risk, and to step out of their comfort zone for His name’s sake.

So in the second service with the A2J’ers, I shared the story of Queen Esther and then Jeanette’s story.   As I was explaining all of this, God showed me why God chose Esther, and why God chose Jeannette and why He chose that particular DR family. It was because they would say, “YES!”.   They were willing to take a risk and not stay in the comforts of their own lives, but step out because God asked them to.

As we reflect during this Season of Lent on all Jesus did for us and continues to do for us, it doesn’t seem right that He would give us a choice, but He does. He does give us a choice on how we respond to His calling. What will you say the next time Jesus asks you to take a risk for His Kingdom?

Prayer: Precious Heavenly Father, Thank you for this day. Please show me what you have for me this day and every day. Help me to say, “Yes” to you, when you call on me. Help me to respond to your perfect love for me with a resounding “Yes!” Help me to hear your voice as you call me to risk something for your Kingdom. I love that you call me and equip me all at the same time.   I love that I don’t have to be afraid to step out in trust and belief in You, because even if I fail You will use it for Your glory and my good. You are so awesome Lord! In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
 
– Aimee Moul

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Don’t You Have An Old Man Living In Your Little House? – Day 14

2 Corinthians 16-17 – Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 

My childhood home was a very small farm that had been built in the mid 1800’s. There were various animal shelters and several outbuildings including a summer kitchen, smokehouse and servant’s quarters. It is still strange to me that we lived on such meager means in a home that previously had servants. When my parents purchased the home, they contracted with the previous owner to allow one of their former employees to live out his remaining years in the servant’s quarters. We had always referred to his home as “the little house”. I now understand that those were odd circumstances, but I remember being confused when my fellow kindergartners insisted that they didn’t have an old man living in their little house. I had wrongly assumed everyone did.

We knew him only as Mr. Sidney, never knowing his first name or much about his life and family. He was an elderly Philippine man, very slim with care-worn features and a stature bent crooked from years of challenging farm labor. He was nearly blind and his hearing was failing. He had great difficulty with walking and moved slow and cautiously, shuffling his feet and planting his wooden cane ahead of each step. His Philippine accent was strong and a gentle kindness saturated every word.

The little house wasn’t equipped with plumbing or electric heat. Mr. Sidney used a chamber pot and a wood stove. My elder brothers would assist in maintaining the fire in the stove in the colder months, but Mr. Sidney did all he could to retain his independence. My parents were not nurturing toward him, doing only what was necessary to honor the contract. Mr. Sidney didn’t join us for meals and wasn’t offered the convenience of an indoor bath. He ate plain bread and raw vegetables from the garden. Any family and friends had passed or moved on. When offered something he was humble and gracious. He had no income, only change that he’d harbored from past wages. He would give me nickels for retrieving something from the garden or making a successful tricycle ride across the front porch. He called me Miracle or his Precious Angel. I clung to those words of endearment, never hearing them elsewhere. There was little affection in our home and even less extended to Mr. Sidney.

Today, it is hard for me to imagine anyone living in such conditions, especially for more than 20 years as he unexpectedly lived into his 100’s. Still, Mr. Sidney never complained nor asked for better. Instead he had a warmth and genuine love that were beyond explanation. Clearly there was something in Mr. Sidney that defied his natural surroundings and filled him with hope and contentment. In the years that we were honored to know him, his benevolence toward us only grew stronger while his physical being became increasingly frail. At 5 years old I couldn’t know how Mr. Sidney knew God, but I could sense Christ in him. The Bible kept under his bed tells me the story now.

Mr. Sidney has come to mind many times recently. I catch myself complaining about pain, limitations, and the material things I don’t possess. I crave Mr. Sidney’s heart. I have so much more, yet I’m still prone to discouragement. I’m gratefully amazed at how God can use odd circumstances from so long ago to speak to me vividly in my walk today. I see how contentment comes from daily renewal. I also carry the hope of seeing Mr. Sidney again in his heavenly mansion instead of a cold little house.

Prayer: Father God, I surrender my heart to Your inner renewal every day. I step out in faith to grow beyond my worldly tendency for discontent and hold to Your promise to complete a work in me.

 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 
– Melissa Myers

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Practicing Patience and Contentment in the Workplace – Day 13

I recently went through an experience at work that required me to practice patience. And we’re not talking about waiting 2 days for Amazon Prime. This was weeks which turned into months, and some periods toward the end that created some deep concern and worry.

The head of another department in my company sought me out for a new position, one for which I was uniquely qualified. I excitedly went through a process to interview for and learn more about the job and was ready for an offer to come my way at any moment. Only, that’s not the way the process unfolded. Little did I know the company was about to make some significant structural changes and had other plans for me. It seemed that I would likely have a choice to make between the two jobs, but would have to wait a while for the opportunity.

Confused and frustrated I leaned on family and friends to help me process the situation. I had been looking forward to this new position and now had to wait an unknown length of time and was receiving little to no communication from those in charge. But I just wanted to know the outcome. After all, we live in a time where it is the norm to expect immediate results – high download speeds, on-demand entertainment, and the like. In the words of a 3-year-old (or in my case, a 37-year-old): “I want it, and I want it NOW”

I had been coming to the Lord with my concern throughout the process, but it was time to get serious. This is not my plan, it’s His. This is not on my timeline, it’s on His. He is in control and we need to remember that in the moments where impatience gets the best of us. Romans 12:12 tells us “Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.” Amen! I decided to leave it in His hands and have joy in what I had hoped for the outcome.

After the long wait, I had that opportunity to choose my next path. The choice was an easy one as I knew where God wanted me – but here is where contentment comes in. Some of the details of the new job were not what I had expected, and I was disappointed at first. Yet just two days after I accepted the position, I sat in Sunday service where Pastor Bob told us that we should be counting our blessings instead of airing our complaints. Wow – talk about telling me what I need to hear at exactly the right time!

In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing – Phillippians 2:14

If we trust in the Lord and let him carry our worries, we can be patient and content in our circumstances.

Prayer: Heavenly father, I thank you guiding my life and ask that you would keep me humble and gracious in all things. Please give me strength to be patient and wait on your perfect timing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
– Mike Enslen

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My Father Knows Best – Day 12

James 1:2 – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The last several months have allowed me to work (more than I have in some time) on that command. I guess that may be the case for most of us. It is not one of my top 3 skills that I want to practice. While I have become accustomed to change – at work, in our family and even in our country – a situation that takes over a major portion of my thinking activity outside of work is rare for me. And right now that situation involves my aging parents and the need to decide on the best living arrangement for them. It is here that the perspectives of my parents and me are vastly different.

My prayers have led to surprises…not necessarily happy ones. Instead, I have been faced with confrontation, with feeling unappreciated, and have even been seen as the enemy. So, my patience and trust in God has been tested when my prayers haven’t been answered, or, haven’t been answered in a way that I thought would be best. Have I had some frustrating words with God? Absolutely! Am I learning joy in trials? Not quite yet! Is patience being produced through the testing of my faith? Well, there are some small buds. Can I trust God in all this? Because of my history of life under His wing – yes, I can.

I know God loves my parents as much as I do….and so much more. It has been said that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. We are all on our own journey of learning to trust God with our difficult circumstances and truly understanding that He knows best.

I look to this season, before we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, and am reminded of His willingness to suffer, taking on my sins and shortcomings onto Himself on the cross. I can live as Paul shares in Roman 8:18 “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” And Jesus said in John 8 “I am the Light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of Life.” It is He who lights our path, in His time, not ours. I am praying that I will remember that as I trust, wait and walk through each day in His light, love and presence.

Prayer: Dear Lord, may I take your promises to heart, believing and learning through your Word and presence in my heart and life. I trust you in the challenges I will face today and in the years to come. Be the light to my path and the comfort to my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
– Mark Schumacher

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DR 18 – Day 2 & 3

It has been a whirlwind couple of days. Since I last wrote we have attended two worship services, packed hundreds of food bags, presented the message that “God Created Light” in our school, joined in two different parades, and had conversations with many, many brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a lot of good that can be said about the last two days, but I will just hit some highlights.
 
Yesterday was mostly spent in worship. We began our morning joining the small church of Las Cejas. This church is the witness of Jesus in a Batey (village) that desperately needs hope. Despite having very little, all involved had a deep love for their Savior and God. Pastor Gusmane was able to bring God’s word during the service in their own language of Creole. Despite not always knowing what was being said in word or song, it was clear they all had an excited hope that was contagious.
 
Last night we went to a truly unique service. (It is a service cherished by our returning team members, but definitely a first for me.) Our gracious host, Elza’s church was celebrating the conclusion of their yearly 40 days of prayer and teaching to prepare for God’s direction for the church in the coming year. We arrived in time to join the large parade that weaved all around the streets surrounding their church. Imagine being led through the streets by an 18-wheel trailer full of people and musical instruments worshiping God at a volume that no one could miss. Behind that were a lot of people of all ages joining in the song and dance as they went through their community. I have been told that they were doing this for 1-2 hours before we joined in for the last 30 minutes before the parade led us to the church. From there they took the service inside and continued with song, dance, prayer, and praise to God. I understood even less of this service than in Las Cejas, but it was clear here that they were committed as well.
 
Today our main task was to present the beginning of our Gospel message for the week at our school at Batey 35. CABC and many others have had a long-standing relationship with this school and it was such a joy to get to see it firsthand. We began at the beginning, in that God created light and created us. With the help of our great team of translators, we were able to lay the groundwork for Wednesday’s lesson on how we broke that light and connection to God and what Jesus did to restore it. Please pray for that important lesson to come in two days. After a downpour of water that necessitated our bus to help take some of the students home, we were blessed to be involved in an impromptu worship service on the bus. As a part of our lesson the students learned and sang “This Little Light of Mine” in Spanish. So, naturally the bus ride was a loud chorus of students singing that song and others along the way.
 
The time in worship yesterday, combined with the events of today is what I really want to share with you. After most of the students got off the bus we continued singing many song with our team of translators. Some in Spanish, some in English, and at times in both. It was through all these moments of worship that we all saw something profound. Mike Enslen said during this evening’s devotions that there is more that we have in common than we think. We didn’t always understand each other, but we were very aware that we are connected as brothers and sisters through Jesus.
 
The problems of the Dominican may not be the same as in our context in the United States. We are going to continue reaching out to some of those needs in the coming days. However the biggest problem is the same as anywhere else in our world; there are people who don’t know love of God. No program, no government, no person will be able to completely end the problems our world faces today. However, we do know and believe in the One who will one day return to make all things new. Again from our devos tonight, Mike reminded us we are one team. Not just the 8 of us on the DR mission team, not just those at CABC in the USA, but all of us as a body of Christ together in this world. There is much that divides us, but we are not and should not be alone. As I worship and serve Christ here this week my prayer is for you, my brother or sister reading this, as you serve alongside us where He has placed you this week.
 
Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)
“If you have nay encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
For tonight,
-Pastor Josh
 
 

(I will be updating tomorrow, provided the Wi-Fi holds up.)


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Somebody Testify! – Day 11

Growing up in a conservative Baptist church, I can remember a particular elder in my church who always wore a smile on his face and had positive, encouraging words to share. I knew to be prepared if our paths crossed, as he would come right up to me and ask, “What have you learned about Jesus, and what can you share?”

I have to admit, that was challenging for me as a young person. But as the years roll by, as I learn more of God and I see Him in action, I am more aware to thank Him and make it known to others. We are called to testify of the goodness of our Lord.

This has been a reoccurring theme to me lately. Worshiping God in church, we have sang the song “Chain Breaker” (by Zach Williams). The words in the chorus say:

“If you believe it,

If you receive it,

If you can feel it

Somebody testify!

God is writing a story for each one of our lives. We all have so much to thank Him for and share with others. Psalm 66:16 says, “Come and hear all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for my soul.”

Recently at church, we had young people give testimonies as they were baptized. Jeanette Kessler also shared her heartfelt thanks to God, testifying to the opportunity He gave her to observe and work with the family in the DR.

When we hear these testimonies from others, it has an effect on us. It encourages us. It helps our faith to grow stronger. It spreads the Good News of Jesus. It helps people relate to the gospel. It brings glory to God!

I can remember a few years back, Rocky Leib brought a stone to our Sunday School class for an object lesson. The stone just sat there. We read the story of Jesus riding the colt into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion. The crowds were joyfuly praising God, but the Pharisees were offended and told Jesus to rebuke his disciples. Jesus responded by saying, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

After this, Jesus took the place of each one of us as he hung on the cross for our sins. But he was resurrected to his Father in heaven. God has done so much in each one of our lives. Don’t lose the opportunity – SOMEBODY TESTIFY!
 
– Deb Seibert

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