Am I Listening When God Speaks?

by Deb Seibert 

I like to take notes from sermons then record some of the teaching points in my journal as a reminder. So one day last summer I was recording some of these notes from our pastor’s sermon, “What part of my life shows that I love Jesus?” The corresponding verse was 2 Corinthians 5:14, which tells us the love of Christ controls or compels us—His love fuels our passion and motivates us. I finished my writing that day, asking God to work through me to help others. Then I was on to a day of errands, a long list of things to accomplish.

Prior to leaving, I prayed over the order of my tasks then got in my car to head to Nunda fruit farm. God arranged my schedule to stop there first so my path would cross with a dear young Mennonite mother. She was buying a peck of peaches and apples so I asked her what she planned to do with all the fruit. Her reply was that she has ten children and she was buying the fruit (seconds) merely to eat—they would go through it quickly. I said, “God bless you!” and she replied, “Thank you, we need God’s blessings!” I paid for my peaches, got in my car and headed to Hanover for the rest of my errands.

But as I drove off, I heard God speak, “You have missed the opportunity that I gave you to help others.” Suddenly it dawned on me…why was I just kind to this family—why did I not pay for her fruit? She has ten children! Tears started rolling down my cheeks and I wondered why the thought had not come to me sooner. I had a little money in my wallet but I thought that by the time I turned around and went back she would be gone. NO—no excuses; the Spirit was working on my heart.

Immediately I turned my car around and when I arrived back to the parking lot of Nunda, I was overjoyed to see the dear mother in her car. I felt my heart soften as I heard God say, “Give her the money that is in your wallet—ALL of it!” I approached her car, tapped on the window and said, “This morning I told God I would help someone, and you are the one He chose.”

I handed her the money and she thanked me with a surprised look on her face. But she was not as thankful as I. I got in my car, thanking Him for working through me and not allowing me to miss the opportunity which He had provided to bring Him glory.

Lord, thank you for the great example of Jesus. He always listened to you and did what you commanded, even to the point of giving it all—His very life—for each one of us.


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Life Lessons from a Coconut Custodian

by Carl, the Coconut Custodian

It might be nutty… but hear me out. During my brief time at CABC, I have had the opportunity to observe how people interact around here and we’re not as different as you might think.

 
Coconuts are known for being a bit hard on their exterior…a bit rough around the edges…designed, purposefully, to keep people out. If, in a moment of weakness, you have ever tried to crack into one of us, you will find that it takes a bit of work. We don’t open up without a fight. And, if we do open up, it may get a bit messy.
 
I have found some people are like that too. They may have an outside that tends to keep people at a distance. People may look hard on the outside. From the outside, some people may not look worth the effort.
 
True, it may take some work to get to know them. But outer appearances don’t tell the whole story. It reminds me of something Samuel once said, that “man looks at the outer appearance.” Now, I know he was talking about a good, strong-looking outer appearance but the same can be true about a gruff outer appearance…or a “fine” outer appearance. “I’m fine, you’re fine, she’s fine, we’re all fine!” A “fine” exterior can just as easily hide a broken and searching heart as a strong or gruff exterior. You see, our gaze doesn’t always penetrate the way God’s does. Samuel went on to say that “the Lord looks at the heart.” What we show to the world isn’t all there is to us.
 
That brings me to the second point. You know what else is true about coconuts? Under that rough, hard exterior lies a sweet core. Like the sweetness inside each coconut, every person in the whole world is made in the image of God. What’s more, every Christian carries the spark of the Holy Spirit in them. To love others is to love God. Jesus says that loving each other is the way that the world will know that we are His disciples.
 
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 12:34-35)
 
So the next time you run into someone who is difficult to love, remember your good friend, Carl the Coconut Custodian. We are all worth the effort to love. In fact, the Master commands it.
 
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)
 
I don’t know about you…but I think the best way to honor Christ’s sacrifice at Easter is to do our best to live like Him…to love others in such a way that they don’t see us but see Christ within us.
 
If anyone says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in Him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked. (1 John 2:4-6)

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Change

by Deb Trojak
 
If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)
 
This past fall I was studying 1 & 2 Kings along with the major and minor prophets. These are not the easiest books to read because they chronicle the downward spiral of the nation of Israel and the inevitable judgement that followed. However, as I was reading those books, it became so apparent to me how steadfast God is.
 
In the midst of Israel’s continued fickleness, God was ever-present, compassionate, and He did what He said He was going to do. God doesn’t change.
 
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
 
He is who He has always been and always will be. How comforting is that?!?! As a human, change is inevitable both physically and spiritually. I change all the time. (I can change my mind about 20 times in five seconds…just ask Josh what it’s like when I’m trying to decide what outfit to wear.)
 
As a Christian, it is necessary for me to change. If I am to become more like Christ, I can’t stay the same sinful person that I am. Growth requires change. To top it all off, sometimes life just happens. Circumstances around me are constantly shifting, in spite of my best efforts to keep everything copacetic.
 
Yet through it all, He is faithful. I can rely on the fact that He is never going to be different. God is always going to be a loving Father who is in control regardless of how chaotic my circumstances seem. He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). And I can be assured that He will remain faithful to His promises.

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Where Do You Come From?

by Keith Bortner
 
One of my hobbies involves countless hours of reading about dead people. Death certificates, obituaries, census records, newspaper articles/clippings, old letters from family members. I find them all fascinating. Genealogical research might not be something that everyone is interested in but I love the challenges of finding old documents that map out family connections.
 
Nearly all of my family came to this area of Pennsylvania from Germany in the early to mid 1700s and most were farmers. It’s incredibly interesting to me to see where my family has come from, seeing who has come before, where they lived, what they jobs they did. Who had aging parents or grandparents living with them? If someone had made different choices about where to work or go to church or which farm to purchase many years ago, it’s possible that I wouldn’t be here today!
 
It’s also interesting to see what our spiritual heritage is. Who led you to Christ? Did you come from a family where a relationship with Christ was important? Were parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles involved in shaping your faith? How many Sunday School teachers, pastors, and other church leaders influenced you and who you’ve become today? So many people have come before us in the church, and if someone many years ago had not decided to walk with Christ, would you be where you are, spiritually, today?
 
2 Timothy 1:3-5 reminds us of this. I hope that my children, grandchildren, and maybe great-grandchildren will someday be able to look back on my life and see a life of sincere faith and love. I hope that generations beyond them, even though they won’t have known me, will be glad for a spiritual heritage that we are a part of building today. We have the opportunity today to make a difference in future generations, both in our families and the families around us.
 
Let’s cling to the faith that we have that began 2000 years ago with our Lord and a cross and an empty tomb and continue to keep it alive in our relationships today.
 
I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1:3-5)

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Truth That Sets Us Free

by Barb Schumacher
 
A December 2017 leaflet from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association showed a sign in Oslo, Norway that read “Truth Is Flexible”. The article pointed out that Norway is a “beautiful, friendly and prosperous country”, but has drifted dramatically from its long and rich Christian heritage.
 
So, is truth actually “flexible”? Can we truly define truth for ourselves? Can my truth be different from your truth? And finally, is there such a thing as absolute truth? Dr. James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” has said, “If we don’t believe in absolute truth, then nothing is absolutely true!”
 
In the Bible we read that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1: 17b) and in John 17:17, “Your Word is truth.” John 1:14 states “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us……full of grace and truth.” Then, in John 14:6, Jesus declares, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
 
Jesus = Truth!
 
John 8:31 and 36 further state that “…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free…so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The truth—Jesus Christ—has set us free from the law of sin and death. His sacrifice on the cross has made the way for us to be “free indeed”. Dr. Tony Evans calls that “sho’nuff free”! Which translated means—yes, definitely, really and truly FREE!
 
As we journey through life, we can know the truth that sets us free. His name is Jesus! May we be prepared to share this absolute truth by word and action with a world searching for truth and freedom. And may the Lord bless you as you search and the study the Word (the Truth) every day.
 
Father, we thank you that you sent the Word—Jesus—to earth to show us the way. We are grateful for the truth that sets our spirits free. Continue to help us and strengthen us in the truth as we journey through life. And may we be prepared to share the truth with those you send our way. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Go and Tell

by Herman Crawford
 
For some reason, the article for this Lenten devotion has been harder to write than previous ones. Not sure why…maybe too many other distractions. But as I have read various portions of Scripture dealing with the Easter story, one phrase in Matthew 28 sort of stood out.
 
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you. (Matthew 28:5-7)
 
As I read this, I thought “Great Commission.” Jesus has just risen from the dead and emerged from the tomb. He is no longer there! The first words from the angel at the tomb were, “He is not here; he has risen…go quickly and tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28:6-7) And then Jesus met his disciples in Galilee and told them further down in this chapter, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
 
Are you starting to get the picture? Angels tell the ladies at the tomb to go and tell that Christ is risen. Jesus shows the disciples that he is risen and tells them to go and make disciples. Tell the world that He is risen.
 
Have you done your part? As a disciple of Jesus, have you told “the world” that He has risen and what that has meant for you as a follower? Use this Easter season to recommit to telling the world about the risen Savior.
Father God, give us a bold spirit through your Holy Spirit that we may speak of your risen Son and how that new life in Him has brought new life to us. Bless our Church this Easter season.Give us the boldness to “go”. Amen.

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