O Christmas Tree

by Chris Abbey

Ask my husband. I have literally hundreds of Christmas ornaments on my tree each year. I have been collecting ornaments since I was 17. I have ornaments from my travels to Europe, Asia, Canada and Central America, and many states in the US. My friends and family know I collect, so they bring me ornaments from their travels. I have handmade ornaments for my mom, children, grandchildren and friends that I cherish.

It’s not just enjoying my finished Christmas tree that brings me joy, but the act itself of decorating it. The memories of my past come to life when I open those ornament boxes. When I select an ornament, I remember back to where I was, or I think of who gave it to me and my heart smiles just a little. Some of them are so fragile, and some have scents; and the look, feel and smell take me back, so many years. Usually, I cry at least once or twice at the memories some of my ornaments bring. I love those memories of family and friends.

As treasured as my ornaments are to me, we are so much more a treasure to God. The beauty of my tree cannot begin to compare to the beauty all around us. There is so much that’s not good these days. We hear of evil on the news,
we see greed all around us, and injustice where we most expect justice to rule. What can we do to keep from drowning? We must take the time to find those “God Sightings”. If we don’t, we can lose sight of all the glory of God’s creation, and fall into total despair. We must Choose Joy!

Each one of us is like one of those ornaments, a treasure, a beautiful creation, most precious to God. He handmade us. He dreamed of us. He created the earth for us. From the majesty of the mountain ranges, to the fierceness of the ocean. From the quiet of the woods, to the vastness of farm fields. From the mysteries of stars in the heavens, to the heat and brilliance of the sun. I like the simplicity and celebration of the old hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth”. Google the words and think of the blessings all around us. Such a simple, sweet song.

Scripture: Read Genesis 1-31. It’s about the creation of everything, and it ends with “…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

I read recently, where a little boy was looking at the sky and stars with his dad and he asked, “If the wrong side of Heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side look like?” Just imagine!


Body of Christ

by Judy Bakk

Could you imagine if your whole body was an eye ? You could not walk or talk . Or an ear? How would you see and walk and talk? Think about what you would be missing out on! I use to think that as being a part of the Body of Christ we all had to be alike in all ways! I was so wrong! Just like our physical body has many members and each on has a specific
purpose so do we as the body of Christ! Even Jesus’s disciples were hand picked by God each one different for the furtherance of the gospel. Each one had a specific purpose that God wanted them to do. God has specific purposes for you and I as well. Each one of us make up the body. I can not be you and you can not be me but we can work as one to glorify God! So next time you begin to wonder why he or she does not think exactly like I do know that God has placed them here to balance us out and complete the body so that we can glorify God and grow and build the body up in love. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35.) The way we love demonstrates who we are.

“Body of Christ” refers to all individuals who heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13); are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the
Spirit (Ephesians 2:22); and are joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is
working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part
suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)


The Idea of Community

by Bethanie Freeman

Community is not a word that I often think about. I live in an area on the outskirts of Hanover that isn’t really a neighborhood. We wave to some of the neighbors but know very few names. This isn’t new to us; in fact, it has been the case since we were married. It had never crossed my mind that
community was overly important. I was content to live with my family, a few friends from church, and colleagues that I chat with in the hallway at school. It wasn’t until I went on my first trip to the Dominican Republic that the idea of community started to creep into my mind.

While on the trip, I began to notice things that I had never seen before. On our first day of food distribution, I saw neighbors who truly were looking out for neighbors. They made sure to let us know if someone wasn’t home and why, so that we could leave food for them. It was interesting to me…a glimpse into Philippians 2:3-4, which states, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” They wanted the friends in their community to have a meal for their family. Could they have simply ignored that need? Of course, but they live in such close community with one another that I don’t believe that option would’ve crossed their mind.

During a clothing distribution, I saw people, all of whom were in great need of clothing items. They did not push, grab, or fight to get items. They did not argue. They did not complain at what was available or offered. They simply waited together. They showed items to others and helped choose sizes to meet the needs of each person. Even, when we ran out of items for the teen boys, they did not become disrespectful or belligerent. They simply said thanks for the shirt or the socks, and went out on their way, genuinely pleased that others were able to receive much-needed items. (Don’t worry, when we returned in July, we packed up special bags for these young men filled with items to remind them that they were not forgotten and that God saw their needs). Such a picture of Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

Upon my return home in both March and July, I stayed in daily contact with many of my new friends living in the DR. I could tell you countless stories that I heard, but one of these really stuck out to me. My new friend, whom I met in July, lives in Villa Mella with his parents, sister, and nephew. A horrible work accident has left his father unable to work his regular job, and now this young man is the primary provider for his family. While working with him to create a more stable financial plan for his life, he shared with me that he was unable to pay the rent or purchase food for his family. I was so frustrated, because we had been working on this concept of meeting basic needs. He very calmly explained that his Godmother was extremely ill and needed medical care. I explained that I understood his wish to help her, but that it was more important for him to feed his family of five and not be kicked out of his rented home. Without a second thought, he explained that with God as the center of your life, you place these needs into his hands and in doing so, you are able to care for the needs of others without fear. I can honestly say that never in my life have I chosen to meet the needs of
someone else at the risk of my family missing a meal or missing a mortgage payment. How simply he imitated the words founds in Acts 4:32, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

I have one final example to share from my Haitian brothers and sisters that are serving the Lord so faithfully in community in the Dominican Republic. Another young man shared with me that he wanted to begin working with an organization in the US. This group had decided, on what appeared to be a whim to me, that they wanted to offer some support to the poorest of Haitian communities in the DR. This young man had literally no spare moments to his day, as he typically works a 75-hour week while attending several courses to train as an electrician. The organization had no plan, no money, and no concept of how this was going to work. Their work had primarily been with immigrants within the US. So again, in my “great wisdom,” I advised against joining this new group. I had spoken with the head of the organization, searched their financials, found google reviews and did my due diligence to make an informed decision. I was shocked that he did not agree with my sound logic. Instead, he reminded me that it is the job of those who love God to come alongside people in their community, to walk with them in hard times, provide for their needs, and to encourage them with the Word. He assured me that if he was faithful to this calling, God would prove faithful to him by providing the time and resources, regardless of what my research had shown. Their first outreach was in a community that he described as far worse than any of the areas we are taken to serve in. He gathered a group of 30 friends and people within his community to celebrate the start of a new school year with clothing, school supplies, and haircuts. To this day, I do not know how he stretched the tiny amount of physical donations and money to supply these needs for over 200 children. What I do know is that his faith was strengthened, the faith of his community was strengthened, and my very weak faith was strengthened, as I saw God meet impossible needs in impossible circumstances. It didn’t matter that those serving had little to offer and that they also were living poverty. Instead, they remembered the words of 1 Corinthians 12:26-27, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” They chose to follow the call of decreasing the suffering of others by serving them in the name of Christ Jesus.

So, as we look at community in this new year in our Sunday services, my thoughts go in numerous directions. Can I honor Christ in the way my Haitian family does? Am I willing to sacrifice my comforts to support my communities? I pray that God uses me this year, uses each of you this year, uses CABC this year to build a better community of people that love and obey God and seek to share His salvation with others so they can be in community as well.


Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:22-36

Jesus Walks on the Water
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.


Children of Light

by Barb Schumacher

Ephesians 5:8-21

It always amazes me (and it shouldn’t) when Pastor Josh’s sermon is reflected in our discussion at adult Sunday school (School of Christian Living) or when what we share at KidzLife on Wednesday evening lines up with one of my small group studies.

Recently, during one of our KidzLife meetings, we were discussing Jesus’ charge to us as believers to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16. As God’s Garage became completely dark and quiet, we realized the impact of light, as each child took turns turning on a small flashlight. What a difference light makes in the darkness…..even a small light!

In the same way, Ephesians 5:8-21 was the text for a recent discussion in my ladies’ Bible study group where the apostle Paul tells the believers in Ephesus (and all believers) that “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” The questions that beg to be asked are “How do we live as children of light when we see so much darkness in the world today?” and “Exactly what does it look like to live as children of light?” First of all, I believe it isn’t living in a bubble and avoiding the world at all costs. It also isn’t staying super busy and ignoring those in our community, our
neighbors and our friends. And it definitely isn’t pointing our finger at those living in darkness and having no love and compassion for them.

Instead, the Holy Scripture from Ephesians 5: 8-21 goes on to tell us how we are to live:

  • First, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit – daily dying to self and allowing the Spirit control.
  • We are then filled with His goodness, His righteousness and His truth.
  • We are to be careful how we live.
  • We are to sing and make music in your heart to the Lord! (Singing hymns in the car counts!)
  • We are to give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • And we are to make the most of every opportunity. An interruption could be a God appointment!
  • And finally, we are to be humble and submissive out of reverence for Christ.

All of that sounds like a tall order…and it is! It goes completely against our human nature, which is why we need the Holy Spirit to “fall afresh on us” each day. He will empower us to be His light in this dark world.

May the Lord, through His Holy Spirit, help us to shine His light into the darkness so that others will see the True Light, glorify God and live for Him.

Heavenly Father, fill me anew today with Your Holy Spirit. Help me to make the most of every opportunity to live as a child of Your light so that others may be drawn to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Go Tell It On The Mountains

by Laura Courtney

This past summer, my husband and I decided to celebrate our ten year anniversary hiking a couple 14,000 ft mountains in Colorado. We spent several months planning and preparing for such an adventure – and by preparing I mean months of running on a treadmill to help with cardio endurance as well as altitude.

Once we finally got out there, our first mountain on the hiking itinerary was a loop of four “14ers” called Decalibron – Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Cameron and Mt. Bross. Now, if you’re like me, you would think this would be a pretty isolated adventure. Well, like me, you’d be wrong. We began hiking a little before 5:00am and the parking lot was already full. As we began climbing we were able to keep to ourselves for the most part, but as we started the steeper ascents up each mountain we started passing more and more people (both those hiking up and those already hiking down).

Throughout the rest of the morning, we passed (and were passed) by many hikers. It seemed almost ridiculous how many people were on this mountain. Finally, as we reached the summit of #3, Mt. Cameron, and started onto our last summit, we came into a stride another woman. Naturally, for some of that time we were close enough, and breathing more
evenly enough, that we could have a small conversation. And one part of that conversation I have thought about quite often since. It was nothing profound, she simply gave a comment about how beautiful the wild flowers and weeds were that grew on top of the mountains. I had the quick thought in my mind to say, “Yes they are. Isn’t it amazing to see how God has made such beauty even all the way up here?!” But I didn’t. I thought it might be awkward to say that…Then I thought about how maybe I should still say it…Then I thought I really, probably should say it…Then I thought about how much time had passed since the comment that now it’s too late to say anything at all because it would be so delayed, and awkward, and…. So I didn’t. And I have been so annoyed at myself ever since.

That whole afternoon I kept thinking of 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Always. Be. Prepared.

Who would have thought I would have had an opportunity to speak the name of God to someone else on top of a
mountain? Clearly I didn’t. And clearly I wasn’t as prepared as I thought for that trip. Two days later we had traveled to our second location to hike, Mt. Elbert. It is the tallest mountain in the Rocky Mountains and second tallest in the continental United States. If that first mountain was busy, I figured this one would be too. So I prepared myself. I prayed for courage to just speak God’s name if the opportunity presented itself again. (I didn’t want to preach a sermon or anything, I just wanted to speak if I had the chance to redeem myself a little from that first encounter.) But I didn’t. Mt. Elbert was much less populated hiking up and we only passed one person throughout our entire ascent.

So, I’m still waiting. I still think about this encounter a lot and would like to think I am more prepared and more readily looking for the opportunities God has for me in the future. Currently my husband and I are planning another Colorado trip this June to hike two more mountains. We’ve already started preparing – both physically and spiritually. I just want to encourage you as well that if you think there is no opportunity to speak the name of Jesus where you are, don’t worry… God has a habit of putting people around you in even the most remote of places to share His hope and good news (read Acts 8:26-40 if you don’t believe me). God can use us wherever we are, we just have to be willing to listen and obey. Take the time, meanwhile, to make sure you are prepared for those encounters too.