Bummer Lambs

by Pat Bentzel
 
Ever since Pastor Todd did several sermons about Psalm 23 last year, I have started to read more about sheep and how the shepherd cares for them. The analogies of how sheep are cared for by the shepherd has given me a better understanding of what my Lord wants me to know and do. I really enjoyed the story of a bummer lamb from author Sheila Walsh in her book, Loved Back To Life:
 
Every once in a while, an ewe will give birth to a lamb and reject it. There are many reasons she may do this. If the lamb is returned to the ewe, the mother may even kick the poor animal away. Once an ewe rejects one of her lambs, she will never change her mind. These little lambs will hang their heads so low that it looks like something is wrong with its neck. Their spirit is broken. These lambs are called “bummer lambs.” Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die, rejected and alone.
 
So, do you know what the shepherd does? He takes that rejected little one into his home, hand-feeds it and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up with blankets and hold it to his chest so the bummer can hear his heartbeat. Once the lamb is strong enough, the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock.
 
But that sheep never forgets how the shepherd cared for him when his mother rejected him. When the shepherd calls for the flock, guess who runs to him first? That is right, the bummer sheep. He knows his voice intimately. It is not that the bummer lamb is loved more, it just knows intimately the one who loves it. It’s not that it is loved more, it just believes it because it has experienced that love one on one.
 
So many of us are bummer lambs, rejected and broken. But He is the good Shepherd. He cares for our every need and holds us close to His heart so we can hear His heart beat. We may be broken but we are deeply loved by the Shepherd.
 
Our good shepherd is always working in my life and loving me!
 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

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A Refuge

by Vicki Becker
 
When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)
 
God has led our daughter, Sara, to have an active faith. Not too far from her home in New York City, she is volunteering for an organization that works with immigrants. She accompanies them to court where they try to get a court date in order to stay in this country permanently. She doesn’t know how they came to be here: work visa, tourist or illegally. She just knows they want to call America their home.
 
If you walk a few blocks from Sara’s apartment, you can look out in the harbor and see the Statue of Liberty – there, welcoming all who want to come. I look and see our Father saying, “Come.” We are reminded that all are foreigners in this land but He continues to welcome us in. He doesn’t care who we are, what we’ve done, or where we’ve been. He stands with open arms, wanting to love and care for us. We just have to come.
 
Like Jesus, her work and her joy is to be a friendly face. To show them that someone cares. To extend a hand of comfort and a heart of encouragement.
 
Father, in these troubled times, let us stand with open arms and welcome in those who are foreigners (by culture, race or land). Let us help them know someone cares, that we are a refuge from the storm. Amen.

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Holding Steady

by Christina Hice
 
2019 was a challenging and change-filled year for our family. High school graduation for one, college graduation for another, second-guessing choices, new starts, old frustrations, job searches, health concerns, heart concerns.More often than not, when someone asked, “How are you?” my reply was, “Holding steady.”
 
I think of that and wonder if I should have been more positive. Maybe. But the truth is that our year was filled with unrelenting, unyielding, and unmoving situations, and only the passing of time affected them.
 
Did my reply of “holding steady” indicate a lack of faith in God’s faithful provision, care and unceasing love for us? Did it reflect a lack of appreciation for all the good and positive moments in the year? Were my words reflective of a negative heart attitude?
 
And yet, what really fit, when asked how I was doing, was that I was holding steady. It was (and still is) an honest reply. As I continue to think about this, and pray about it, I understand that there is an underlying strength that is in my reply. And it is not my strength.
 
My stress, worries and fears might have been in my mind, but my “holding steady” was (and is) a profession of faith and a verbal confession of steadfastness from my heart. But not in myself, not in my circumstances, and certainly not in my ability to affect a thing.
 
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
 
He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. (Psalm 112:7)
 
My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. (Psalm 108:1)
 
I think it is okay to hold steady, if we are holding steady to the One who never changes, who loves us more than we will ever truly understand, and whose faithfulness is great… Immanuel, God with us.
 
Lord, help us to see not what our circumstances may be, but that You are with us through them. Please restore our hope when things seem hopeless and secret your joy in our hearts, that we may continue to step forward in faith, to attend to the tasks that you bring us each day. Amen.

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The Beginning and the End

by Pastor Todd Witmer
 
Lori and I find ourselves in a chapter of life where beginnings and endings are intersecting. Within the past twelve months, we witnessed the beginning of life for two granddaughters. During this same time, my mother has continued in the physical and mental decline that takes her closer to the end of her days. From this unique vantage point, I have noticed a few things.
 
Waiting holds a prominent place in the experience of both beginning and end. The last few weeks and days prior to birth are often filled with an anxious anticipation. So much has been prepared—clothing,
furniture, work and home schedule changes. Now, the family waits for things to get started. When will this baby arrive? Waiting is a reality for the end of life as well. Tasks that can be performed quickly and independently become few and far between. Less mobility results in an increase of times when one must simply wait.
 
A second factor common to both beginning and end could be summed up in the phrase “hard work required.” As it is often remarked, there is a reason the birth process is called “labor.” Mothers know there are feelings of relief and joy with the beginning of this new life, coupled with the feeling of being run over by a truck (a first-hand report I heard during the past year). Hard work continues at home, as feeding, sleeping, and changing schedules may overlap and mix together in the first few weeks. Conversely, approaching the end of life demands hard work of a different form. Formerly simple tasks can take on a level of complexity that results in fatigue. It takes hard work to remain positive and keep trying when the activities that were taken for granted are now challenges nearly beyond ability.
 
He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.’ (Revelation 21:6)
 
The above verse from John’s vision in Revelation reminds me that God is Lord of both beginning and end. Just as He will bring this world to an end and establish a new heaven and earth, so, also, He is present with us throughout the span of our lives. I can trust that He will bring to completion all of the loose ends of this world, including those in my life.
 
Will you trust Him with your beginning, end, and everything in between?

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Joy In Unity

by Mark Schumacher

We consider the United States Constitution to be the foundational document of our democracy. The fact that it exists is a great example of unity, teamwork and agreement on a key belief at that time in history—willingness to sacrifice and fight for freedom. Thirteen separate states sent 39 delegates to create this historic document in September 1787 and upon completion, the voters in those different states ratified our constitution in 1789. That this was accomplished is an amazing feat.

All people found common ground as they worked together through countless debates, discussions and compromises. In the end, the result was something from which all citizens benefited—including the many generations that followed. Writing to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wanted to stress the importance of spiritual unity and working together for the cause of Christ.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Philippians 2: 1-3)

As I think of the many ways we serve together here at CABC, we too experience that chance to come together for a greater purpose—thanking God for what He has done for each of us and honoring Him by allowing His will to be done through us. He has brought our many varied gifts together and through much prayer and the direction of the Holy Spirit, He will combine those gifts in ways that will benefit His kingdom. As we combine and share together the different passions, viewpoints, talents and perspectives our Body possesses, we can allow ourselves to be used for the purposes our Lord has ordained as most vital.

The writers, participants and creators of the United States Constitution experienced a time of coming together for a cause greater than themselves. In our time on this earth and at CABC during these days, we have the opportunity to share the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, with those who need to know of his gift of everlasting life.

We recognize, at this Easter season, the incredible gift Jesus has given mankind through his love, sacrifice, suffering and resurrection. May we show our gratitude and honor Him by coming together, esteeming others better than ourselves, and laboring together for His kingdom work.

Dear Lord, help me to celebrate the gift of eternity with you by allowing you to direct my path. I thank you for my brothers and sisters here at CABC and I pray you will use us in ministry together—joyful ministry that will impact our local community and in the places where you will lead us. Amen.


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What’s In My Cup?

by Pat Bentzel
 

I love this analogy!

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.

Why did you spill the coffee?

“Because someone bumped into me!!!”

Wrong answer.

You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup.

Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea.

Whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out.

Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which WILL happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled.

So we have to ask ourselves… “what’s in my cup?”

When life gets tough, what spills over?

Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility?

Anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions?

Life provides the cup, YOU choose how to fill it.

Today let’s work towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation and kindness, gentleness and love for others.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)


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