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Connections

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Jumping for Jesus

Chandler Lauer 

Three-two-one-three-two-one flat flat Jackson pole vaults into the sky clearing 12ft. He would move up a height and attempt to clear 12.6ft Three-two-one-three-two-one flat, flat heading straight to the cross bar, he had failed. Jackson became very discouraged, but he got back up and would try again. Many times in our spiritual walk of life we can feel this way. When we get discouraged it can be easy to lay down and to give up or to not push through. The Bible tells us otherwise,

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9 Brothers and sisters stay on the right path, I know it may get tough sometimes and so does Jesus. He knows everything, and he too has gone through terrible suffering. Take heart in knowing that he cares very much for you, he died on the cross and three days later he arose again. There is great treasure awaiting you in Heaven, continue to walk boldly and jump for the skies and never give up.

 

JUNE 18 CONNECTION

Where Shall I Go?

Ivan Yoder

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Maybe you have heard the advertisement from Southwest Airline that highlights their “Wanna Get Away” fares and have felt the urge to just go somewhere, anywhere other than here. Often the stresses and challenges of our lives stir within us a desire to escape, to distance ourselves from the things that weigh heavy on us. Maybe a challenging relationship or unexpected life event cause us to long for a place of peace. Perhaps we long for a simpler life and remember a time when things were refreshing instead of burdensome. We long to get away, back to the beach, back to the mountains, to the cabin. Perhaps David, when he wrote these words, was in an isolated place, he was reflecting on the goodness and Greatness of God, how much God knew about him. He then moved on to the thought that God was everywhere. Now it’s good to know that God is everywhere even in the isolated places, even wilderness. But in our longing to “get away” we sometimes forget that God is also in the midst of our chaos?  God longs to bring us peace in every place, in every situation, especially those that seem impossible.  God wants to be our “go to” our refuge first and foremost. Today, while it may seem easier to just get away, please remember, God is just as much where you are now as he is in the quiet places.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, that no matter where I am or where I go, you will always be there and you will never leave or forsake me.

JUNE 5 CONNECTION     

Stress Relief

Ivan Yoder

 

I don’t know about you but sometimes for me it seems like life can be barely under control. More recently many have expressed the sentiment that the forced slow down has had some positive benefits. We have had more time to connect with family and savor the smaller details and blessings that we have often overlooked. Many have also expressed that they would prefer to not go back to “normal”.   

     

The reality however is that most of us will need to be just as intentional about not going back to the hectic pace as we were choosing to distance ourselves because of Covid-19. It will be very easy for many to allow the stress that often comes along with the “busyness” to creep back into our lives. This verse in Colossians has been on my mind recently. It’s one thing to think of Jesus being an active part of creation but scripture also informs us that he also is currently active in his creation, continuing to give direction to all aspects of this world. When stress rises, when uncertainty for the future looms, when stress rises. We have a Savior who invites us to rest in him.

MAY 28 CONNECTION

Rainy Morning

Ivan Yoder

 

We often have mixed emotions about rainy mornings. We can be frustrated because plans may have to change or enjoy the “break” for a moment and anticipate what the moisture may bring. On this drizzly morning I invite you to meditate on this passage from Isaiah 55.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

 The promises of this passage reassure us that although we may not understand completely the things happening in our lives, we know a God who does. This loving God who wants to invest in our lives. He desires to bring life and provision into our lives. He knows what we need and when we need it. He speaks his word to bring that life into our hearts. I invite you to allow the Word of God to breathe life into your heart and soul today. Be bold enough to expect and anticipate that life to come, in the same way the mother Killdeer expects life to come in these vulnerable eggs even on this rainy morning.

MAY 27 CONNECTION

 

MAY 21 CONNECTION

 

Saturated Christians

Ivan Yoder

This post that Pam brought to my attentions this morning caused me to think. A quote from the late Elisabeth Elliot, former wife of the Jim Elliot who was killed trying to reach a people group in Ecuador.

"A Christian who is saturated with the Word," my father wrote, "is likely to have a calm, wholesome outlook on life; to be kept steady in the path of God's will in either joy or sorrow, wealth or poverty; he is likely to be a pleasant companion, not voluble in aimless talk; and he will not be overly disturbed by world conditions."                                                 (The Shaping of a Christian Family, p.56) Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

 

It is understandable for all of us to be focused on the world circumstances. As Christians we have a great opportunity to be a stabilizing presence in an uncertain world. This quote is a reminder to all Christ followers that this stability originates from being immersed in the Word of God. To be saturated so that we can’t absorb any more until some is released to others. A challenge to me and to you to find our fullness not in the latest news, advice, or recommendations but in the Word of God.

 

MAY 20 CONNECTION

 

MAY 14 CONNECTION

SHEPHERDS

Ivan Yoder

I write today for the most part to men, not to be partial, but because God has laid this on my heart today. We live in a day when messages are confusing, diverse and conflicting. For men especially, it seems as though everyone has an opinion about what manhood should be. I would simply remind you of the character of David, the shepherd king. Most often when we think of what a shepherd is, we picture a calm scene, with a gentle shepherd caring for a lamb. This is a very accurate picture, but David describes himself in another way in 1 Samuel. A shepherd can and must be both nurturer, and protector/defender. There are times when godly men are called to gentleness and to fierceness. What the world needs is not just soft men, but men who pursue godliness, with determination and boldness. Men who stand between danger and the ones that God has called them to protect. Men who care for their families and others who God has placed in their lives. Men who are constantly vigilant so that no harm physically, emotionally, and spiritually is able to enter into their realm of responsibility without a battle.

 

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:34-36)

In my message last week, I sought to highlight how Jesus elevated the role of women and protected them from cultural discrimination. Jesus has revealed himself in both gentleness and fierceness in the gospels. In a sense he demonstrates to all men a “call to arms”.  A challenge to not sit on the sidelines in the great battle for the kingdom. The battle, that begins at home. Will you stand as a shepherd?

A shepherd’s work, requires both the gentle arms of a man and fierceness toward the wolves in our midst. It’s bloody, messy, manly work. Tim Bayly

This may be a little easier for us in central PA to relate to but still carries the same message

and it is a Ram truck commercial so, just saying… 

MAY 13 CONNECTION

 

MAY 12 CONNECTION

 

Unexpected Things

Pam Yoder

 

Just when we think things are moving along as they should be something unexpected comes up.  

 

I have been enjoying the Hostas that are growing in my yard this spring.  I watched as the “bullets” pushed through the soil and the leaves slowly unrolled and the plant grew to 12 plus inches tall in what seemed to be a short period of time.  The warming of the soil and longer hours of daylight were indicators to the plants that it was time to grow.  Then, an unexpected thing happened.  Temperatures dropped to the high 20’s overnight, we had a frost and then…….snow!  How unexpected is that in May?!?  Weren’t we all surprised by it?  The affect this had on the Hosta’s was significant.  They drooped in what appeared to be sadness.  Stems bent, leaves laying heavy on the ground.  Lifeless.  The thing about this is that there is still life in the root systems of these plants.  The damaged foliage will eventually be replaced with new foliage.  How resilient!  Made by our Creator to withstand the unexpected.

 

Isn’t that how life is?  Full of the unexpected.  The late spring frosts of our lives may seem to be too difficult to recover from when we are experiencing them but God has made us in such a way that, with Him, we can overcome life’s unexpected frosts and grow anew.   Isn’t it reassuring that our God is not a God of randomness?  He is unchanging, all knowing and aware of ALL things.   Even the painful and the unexpected.

 

I sure am grateful for this unchanging God.  The one thing in life that is constant, immovable and unshakeable.

 

When I can’t seem to make sense of the things happening in life I try to remember this passage of scripture.  It came up again in my quiet time this morning.

 

Isaiah 55:8-9

 

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

 

https://locustgrovemc.mymailsrvr.com/api/mail/v1/users/pam@locustgrovemc.org/messages/SU5CT1g=.19233/attachments/2?wsid=e689dba23e964272a7ad65dfd5949c0a-f73d9903dda14d24a3d4c953c12985b8&csrf=0be1f1dfa95f42c090aa29998e3ba6c3

 

 

MAY 6 CONNECTION

 

MAY 5 CONNECTION

Boundary Stones

Ivan Yoder

 

Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors. Proverbs 22:28

 

Recently, in my early morning reading I read this passage in Proverbs. At first glance this seems like very good advice. Its about fairness and respect. If you own property then it is likely you have some idea where the boundary is. It marks the line between what is yours and what isn’t. The property line determines what is your responsibility and also where you have the right to determine, at least in part, what happens within that area. If someone encroaches onto that area we feel as if we are being taken advantage of unless they have been given permission. We rightly feel as if we have the authority to determine what is best for what is contained within those borders. In order to move a boundary, you would need to move whatever is used as a corner marker. If someone would move a corner that would cause you to lose property you would rightly feel as if something has been stolen.

I give you several thoughts to consider. Why does it seem easier to move the boundaries that God has put in place than it does to move real estate property lines? A quick glance at our world reveals what seems to be continually shifting lines between right and wrong. Does God feel cheated or as if something is being taken? What areas have we taken over that is really God’s authority and responsibility to govern? The temptation is always to look outward, to focus on what we don’t agree with in the world, but let’s not forget to look at home. Have I personally blurred the lines that God has put in place detailed in scriptures and in doing so moved those ancient boundary stones that God has placed?

May the Lord give us a love for His Word and His boundary stones along with a resolve to abide by them even when others seek to move them.

 

APRIL 30 CONNECTION

Longing

Ivan Yoder

I have been privileged over the years to experience many sunrises. I have experienced them from many different perspectives and locations. From mountain top to valley bottom, eastern hardwood forest to western mountains, from sea level to above tree line. Some sunrises are spectacular and some are subdued, some seem to come slowly and some burst with color in a rush. There is one simple common denominator in almost every case, a sense of longing for the light. Every sunrise brings a promise of another day, but I wonder sometimes, do I long for God in a similar way? Do I anxiously wait for him to bring light into my situation? Do I long for the warmth of his presence? Many times, in my rush and busyness I’m more concerned with just getting on with my day.

                        I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, 

 

           

 

            I put my hope. I wait for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning. 

 

                                                         Psalm 130:5-6

These verses have always challenged me. Do I truly long for God? Do I desire for him to show up in a real way, for his presence to overwhelm me as the dawn overwhelms the night? Do I seek him and need him daily regardless if I am in trouble or if life is good? Do I wait for him with the same eagerness and confidence as I do that the sun’s rising? Our world has promoted the thought that many things can take the place of this longing for God. We can easily fill our lives with activities, things and even relationships that can and do replace our sense that we need God. We can quickly replace the deep desire to experience God with brief experiences that fade as quickly as a sunrise. Scripture gives us ample evidence that God desires for an intimate relationship with us as his children, the choice however, rests with us. Do I long for his for his presence as a watchman waits for the dawn?

APRIL 29 CONNECTION

 

APRIL 24 CONNECTION

Max Peachey

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

 This is a great phrase that I have heard in church and also in my family. There have been times in my past when life was difficult and this was hard to say, but I still knew that it was true in my heart. My challenge to you is to read the Word of God daily, pray with an open heart and say: God is good, all the time!All the time, God is good. When you go to bed say it! And when you wake up again.

Mark 12:30

 "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength."

APRIL 23 CONNECTION

The God Who Stays

Ivan Yoder

The recent song the “The God Who Stays” by Matthew West is a wonderful reminder and connects well with this story I was recently reminded of. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPwd_TQpsHY

A father takes his son into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.

He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm.

The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man!

Finally, after a horrific night, the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm. https://www.godupdates.com/10-modern-day-parables/

 Many times, we feel alone and unprepared to face the unknown challenges that lie ahead. Sometimes, I just need a brief reminder that God is not only with us now, but knows the future as well.

 

                                                   Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
                             Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
                                    I will strengthen you and help you.
                       I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

 

                                                                                 Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

 

         

 

                                                   

 

 

APRIL 22 CONNECTION

 

Hi Kids, If you are looking for some fun, mid-week Bible activities, please check out the following website for some free printable activities!

https://www.childrensbulletins.com/covid19-childrens-activities-for-churches

 APRIL 21 CONNECTION

PRUNINGS

              Pam Yoder             

There is something so refreshing about a walk in spring. There are signs of new life starting to emerge from an earth that has been in a deep slumber for several months. It’s a time of year anticipated by many, a changing of the seasons that may seem as though  took a long time to get here.  Winter is beautiful in it’s own right but spring.  Spring brings on an abundance of colors bursting from a landscape that has produced hues of greys and browns during winter’s grip and seems void of new life.  Early spring flowers like Colts Foot start to make an appearance in roadside ditches. Daffodils and Grape Hyacinths show up in flower beds, Trailing Arbutus and Spring Beauties start to emerge from a sleepy forest floor, the signs of change we have been looking forward to! But then……..unexpectedly……….we may experience a taste of winter again.  Almost as though it’s not willing to loosen its grip quite yet.

This weekend the north woods of Pennsylvania experienced a “last blast” of winter.  A sappling bender of a snow if you will.  Branches of the white pine trees hung heavy under the burden of the 7 inches of wet snow that had fallen.  New buds on low growing bushes poked through the snow with determination. A clashing of the seasons. The snow was so beautiful, it made everything look clean and fresh, however the product of the weight of this snow was a natural pruning of many white pines.  There were small ones totally uprooted as a result of the heavy snow, some giants lost branches that couldn’t hold up the the weight, yet other branches clung to the trunk of the tree and were flexible and healthy enough to stay attached and as a result, will be the “fruit” bearing branches of the tree.  The forest was riddled with the results of this natural pruning.  As I thought about this I was reminded of the prunings that sometimes happen in our own lives. Pruning, by one definition, is to trim by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfuless and growth.  In the pruning season of our life  some things God may choose to totally remove and some just cut back so it can produce more.  I am in a pruning season right now,  maybe you are to.  As we navigate through new territory in our culture and many of us are quaranteened, I invite you to consider the areas we and/or our families have invested time and energy in that have been taken away.   Let’s pause and evaluate if perhaps some of those things are actively being “pruned”  with the sole purpose of  our health and His glory. What may be the areas that God may be pruning in your life? 

Routine prunings have to happen to achieve health, growth and to produce fruit.   I can’t imaging what a pruning for a plant or tree feels like but I do know that personal prunings don’t always feel the best.  In John chapter 15:1-8  Jesus outlines the purpose of prunings.  “I am the TRUE grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers.  Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples.  This brings great glory to my Father”. 

Our prunings are performed by the Master Gardner himself.  They are for our good and His glory.

APRIL 20 CONNECTION

Who I am, and I AM, YHWH. Elohim

By Juanita Byler

We remain in a very trying time. For some, time seems to be standing still. For others, life goes on as “normal” as they continue to work but things are not “normal”. It can feel chaotic or be fearful, but let us not forget to whom we belong. Psalms 139 is a beautiful picture of the timelessness of God and His mind and eyes are ever on each of us.

If you are like me, I struggle to see that the God of creation, the God of the Universe would pay me much mind or attention. My mind would tell me that of the 7.8 billion people currently on earth (www.worldometers.info/world-population/), that maybe He really doesn’t “see me”. He certainly sees ALL of us, but does He see “me”, my individuality, my likes, my dislikes, my desires, my joys, my fears, my sorrows, and my tears? Does He see and care deeply for each idea and event that takes up space in my heart and soul?  Does he see and care deeply for the secrets that seem to plague me from my past? Does He still care about the “skeletons in my closet” as we call them?  When I cry by myself because I do not want anyone to see, does He see? If He sees, is He moved to tears as well for my pain? 

Moses asked the same question of God. Well, maybe not quite like I asked it but still the same question. “Do you really know me?” But “God, I am not… but what if… what will people think? What if they don’t believe me?” (Exodus 3-4). Moses eyes were upon himself and what the people might think, NOT on who God was/is. God’s first response to Moses was,” tell them “I AM” sent you. That is all the information you will need, “I AM”. “I AM- I am that I am, I am who He is, I am He who exists”, the timelessness of Me, My ever present existence is all you need. I AM and will be all you need.” Now “Go”.”

In Psalms 139 I am struck by the greatness and majesty of this “God who sees”. The great “I AM”.  It appears that He sees each of us individually even from the foundation of the world! And in all that, my skeletons do not scare Him and my pain does not make Him turn away.  He knew about them before I did.  He created me for a purpose.  He created you for a purpose.  He wants us to be all that He has created us to be: our talents, our short-falls, and our sins that He covered on Calvary.  His Beauty on me, on you.

And yet, verse17-18,”How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they would outnumber the sand.”

How often have we/I tried every excuse with God? “But…look what I did…look where I am…I don’t have…I am not them…I can’t do that…they are better at it than I…”

The Christ/God of the Bible is the One who said, “before Abraham, I AM”. “Before the day was, I AM”. He is the “I AM”. “The First and Last, Beginning and the End.” Before we were, He was. “I AM the God of compassion, the God of mercy, the God of Love, I AM.

What we need today is a fresh vision of the Deity of Christ. He is God and man who came here to earth, who died, and who now sits beside the Father in heaven. He knows all things, looks into the heart and mind of man and lays all things bare, even our inner secrets. He loves me and still believes “in me”, in His perfect plan for me.

Nicodemus, the woman at the well, Mary the prostitute, Simon the leper, the woman with bleeding who was isolated and alone, Ruth and Naomi, David the sinner, the Centurion, Peter the denier, Thomas the doubter, Saul the murder; He still is the God who sees. https://youtu.be/sz81dIfwf4Y.

He gives identity and worth to each of us.

He is “I AM”. He is what you need today. Do you need mercy, compassion, tears, joy, love or forgiveness? Do you deeply desire a husband or a friend?  He is the God who meets us right where we are and feels our deepest need. Talk to Him today. Release the “stuff” that holds on to you. He is the God who sees.

Inner healing starts at the cross, and continues as we come to know this God of the Universe, the God that sees.

Prayer:

Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalms 139:23-24.AMP), In Christ’s name I pray. AMEN, and AMEN. (“so be it”)

He says, “Go” I AM will be with you. Don’t doubt, just believe”.

 

 

APRIL 17 CONNECTION

 

Thoughts

from Mike Hartzler

The other night we were watching Jesus on the history channel. When a man with leprosy approached Jesus. (Mark 1:40-45) His face had lesions all over it. The crowd gasped and drew back when they saw him. He begged to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean” he said to Jesus.

I’ve keep thinking about that man this week. Everyone is “socially distancing” right now. When you go to stores now there are glass partitions between the check out person and the customer along with signs to warn you to stay 6 feet apart from others. That would be nothing compared to the life this man would have known. He couldn’t be with his family for fear of infecting them. People would point and gasp at his appearance. No one wanted to get close to him for fear of becoming like him.

Yet here he stood before Jesus, the most powerful man to ever set foot on earth. Jesus had the power to raise the dead back to life!

The tv showed Jesus walk up to him, putting both of his hands on this man’s scarred face. “I am willing, be healed”. The actor portraying Jesus did a good job of showing the compassion Jesus showed to this man.

It’s only though the life of Jesus do we see that blend of power and compassion. He didn’t need to touch him to heal him, but he did. He made the most of every opportunity before him, to show his love and kindness to others. To me it’s a challenging reminder. It’s not just what I’m doing that’s important, but how I do it.

APRIL 16 CONNECTION

Contentment

Ivan Yoder


Every time I see this image or one similar, I wonder, is it worth it? Is it really that much better? The saying “the grass is always greener” immediately comes to mind. We as people, by nature, want things to be better, easier, more stable. One of the most difficult things for us is often contentment. Currently it is very tempting to dwell on what has been taken away, what has been lost. We long for things to return to “normal” as if there is such a thing. I admit that contentment is sometimes a difficult thing for me. Certainly, God has made us with a desire to improve our circumstances and situations. The challenge is that sometimes that desire begins to consume every aspect of life. I was reminded recently of what precedes the often-quoted Philippians 4:13.

       I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Phil. 4:10-12

 

Paul first expresses his thankfulness that the Church at Philippi were concerned and willing to assist him. The main point of the Phil. 4:13 passage isn’t just I can do anything I want because God will give me strength. The message Paul is communicating is that God’s strength is crucial in all situations. Whatever the circumstance, both good and difficult, he was resting in the power of God. That he was content allowing God to dictate the outcome and the situation. The revealing aspect in his trust in God, is his gratefulness. There is an incredible connection between contentment and thankfulness. For us, a very simple act of faith and trust in God is to express what we are thankful for, to express our gratitude for what our Father God has already blessed us with. My encouragement for you today is to begin a search for contentment by being thankful. Take a moment to express to God and those around you what you are thankful for, and how you have been blessed by them.


         Photo by Josiah Yoder

PSALMS 33:20-22

 WE PUT OUR HOPE IN THE LORD.

   HE IS OUR HELP AND OUR SHIELD.

     IN HIM OUR HEARTS REJOICE,

       FOR WE TRUST IN HIS HOLY NAME.

   LET YOUR UNFAILING LOVE SURROUND US, LORD,

         FOR OUR HOPE IS IN YOU ALONE.

 

GOOD FRIDAY CONNECTION

There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

by Drew Derstein

This past Tuesday night, we had a hard rainstorm. As I walked from the barn to the house in the morning, I could smell the moisture and hear the birds singing to start a new day.  Halfway there I stopped and looked east to see a crease of sunlight working its way through the horizon and cloud line.  I found myself wondering, “Is that the light at the end of the tunnel?”

I have been thinking about how life has changed in the last month.  Things that seemed certain for many are now not so.  Many things we would not have thought twice about now come to our minds, such as, “Should I touch that?” Am I standing too close to that person because they just gave me a strange look?” “When is the best time to hit the store?” I want to stay informed but sometimes find myself overloaded with too much information.  All this produces a sense of anxiousness, uncertainty, gloom and fear.

As I stood there and looked at the sky, I wondered how the followers of Jesus felt as they watched their friend and Savior die on the cross.  Everything they had given up to follow him was now tossed into a sea of anxiety, uncertainty, gloom and fear.  We read in Luke 23:49 “all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and watched these things.” 

Today as we observe Good Friday and remember the death of Jesus, we may be able to understand better that usual what his followers experienced on that day.  The isolation of not being able to see and be with friends and family, the uncertainty of not knowing when it will end, or the worry of not knowing what is next give us an emotional sense of what it could have been like for them.

This would be a depressing way to end this devotional, but we do have the benefit of knowing the whole story.  There was and is light at the end of the tunnel. Today is Friday, but Sunday is a comin’.

HE IS RISEN!

APRIL 9th CONNECTION

The Cup

Ivan Yoder

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matt. 26:27-28

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Matt. 26:42

Today, I am struck by the significance of both of these cup symbolisms and even more so the differences. The first that Christ offered to his disciples (and us) and the second offered to Christ by God the father. The similarities are few, they both represent deep spiritual truths, and both could have been and can be rejected. The cup that Christ was offered included suffering for sure, but included much more than physical suffering. Christ gazed into the depths of God’s wrath against the sin of all of mankind.

There, at Golgotha, our Savior drained God’s cup of burning anger down to the dregs. God poured out his wrath, full strength, undiluted, onto his Son. Paul summarizes the meaning of this great event, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). J. Piper

 Praise the Lord, as believers we will never need to face the wrath of God because Christ has done that once and forever. The cup that we are invited by Christ to share does not exclude us from suffering here on this earth. Jesus told his disciples that they would experience suffering on this earth and sometimes even because of their relationship with him. However, what we celebrate with great joy is Christ’s willingness to take on my/our sin. The cup Christ offers us represents the opportunity to live forgiven and free today and forever. As we enter into the end of this Holy Week, lets not be distracted by are current struggles but continuously fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and remember that it was for his and our joy that he suffered the Cup presented to him.

 

APRIL 8th CONNECTION

 

 

APRIL 7TH CONNECTION

GNATS AND CAMELS

By Pam Yoder

The reading for today is out of Matthew chapters 22 and 23.  The events of these two chapters took place two to three days before Jesus was crucified. These chapters cover a lot of territory and are responses to questions posed to Jesus by the Herodian’s, Sadducees and Pharisees.  Normally these groups would have been bitter enemies however, here were united against Jesus.  

These groups were more focused on the law and trying to trap Jesus with scenarios incorporating intricate parts of the law. Jesus responded to their lines of questioning with questions of his own as well as through parables. Even with this they failed to recognize the Truth that He was the Messiah.  They were so focused on the details of the laws and with catching Jesus in a slip-up that they failed to see the big picture of who He was, what He was offering and what Kingdom He represented.

These two chapters gave me much to ponder in regards to current life as we know it.  Present life is just a snapshot that’s part of a much larger picture. We can focus on all of the things that seem to be occupying our thoughts and minds these days such as washing hands, wearing masks, being quarantined, limiting travel, etc., but miss the bigger picture of what God is doing because our focus is on the snapshot (COVID19). That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be obeying the recommendations our Government has put in place but to recognize that the big picture is one of a dual citizenship and our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven requires our ultimate obedience and commitment to God even in these uncertain times. He is doing something!

Jesus condemned the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees and called them hypocrites because they were so very careful about the details of ceremonial cleanliness(small picture) but had lost perspective on inner purity(big picture).  They would strain a gnat out of their wine because it was considered an unclean insect but would swallow a camel of inconsistencies, and not even notice. Let’s not lose sight of the big picture.

The primary focus of many today is COVID19, which does have a far reaching impact, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture Jesus summarizes in Matthew 23:37. What is the greatest commandment? “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind’.  This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  So let’s continue to do our part in limiting the spread of COVID19 but recognize that it is just a small part of a much bigger picture and do our part in Loving God and our neighbors.  How can we love well in the coming days?  What our savior did for us just a few short days after these two chapters took place was the ultimate expression of Love. We are recipients of such a lavish kind of love!  Let’s allow that love to overflow from us to everyone around us that we have opportunity to share it with. Family, friends, neighbors; share the love!

APRIL 6th CONNECTION

 

Cleaning the Temple

Max Zook

Soon after Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday he went to the temple and created quite a stir by chasing out everyone who were buying or selling there.  Mark, in his Gospel, mentions that this event happened “the next day” after the events of Palm Sunday.

I am thinking a lot about that event today, Monday, the day after Palm Sunday, which happens to be day 22 of the Covid-19 shutdown.  It seems to me that a lot of buying and selling, sports events, practices, traveling, vacations, and other busy activities have been driven out of my temple with this crisis.

Jesus said he was cleaning out the temple to restore it to its original purpose, “To be a house of prayer for all nations.”  Commerce was not supposed to take place in the temple.  Its space was reserved for worship.

Today I am wondering which spaces in our lives are being restored to their original purpose as clutter has been removed.  And with all due respect, much of the clutter is good stuff – meetings, travel, family reunions, visits, and socializing.  But in its absence I am sensing a greater purpose for the space in my life that good things occupy, like being still, taking long walks, being in the mountain, reading books, putting a puzzle together, checking in with people on the telephone, and prayer.  There is that word again… pray. 

God wants my temple to be a place of prayer, of meeting God and of being in His presence.

What have you been discovering in your life now that a lot of clutter and activities have been removed?  Here is a list of possible discoveries.  I invite you to share yours.

  • More time to be family

  • More relaxed pace of life without having to keep up an image of being busy and successful

  • Enjoying being with other family members

  • Discovering an enjoyment in puzzles, card games, and old-fashioned fun

  • Having longer, more relaxed conversations with the neighbors

  • Talking on the phone with people, just to check in or be checked in

  • Relaxed family dinners with no practices or school activities

  • Leisure walks, sometimes even praying while you walk

APRIL 3rd CONNECTION

The Best Part

by Steven Peachey

In Luke 10:38 Jesus stopped at the home of Martha and Mary. Martha welcomed Jesus into her house, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to his words. Here’s where it gets very interesting. Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came to Jesus and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?” 

It sounds like Martha oversaw the house: preparing food, cooking, and keeping order in the house. She was upset at her sister’s inactivity and asked Jesus to force Mary to help her!

But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset over all these things; but there is only one thing worth being concerned about, only one thing!”

“Mary has discovered it and it WILL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY from her!”

Mary discovered the good part. (The best part) That is, to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him!

We can know for certain nothing was more important, nothing more valuable, than listening to Jesus talking to her. If there was any time she wasn’t listening to her sister, surely it was that day, because she was focused on Jesus.

After reading over these verses several times I discovered that Martha chose a good work.  She was the one who welcomed Jesus into the house even though her focus quickly shifted to being distracted by the things she thought were necessary. I think what we can learn from Martha is that she obviously had the gift of serving, but she needed to have her focus tuned in to the Lord as well.

All in all, I think we need to have a Mary heart in a Martha world!!

  Surely our lives today are no different from Martha and Mary’s lives.

I love stories like this, because they help us to see how we too can choose the best part that shall not be taken away from us as we spend time at the feet of Jesus, taking the Bible, reading  it, and learning what Jesus has to say to us.

We live in a world of very real uncertainty, instability, questions, debates, stress, and insecurity. People spend much time seeking to fill the void in all the wrong places! There is no better time to choose the best activity, (the good part that shall not be taken away), which is to sit at the feet of Jesus and to listen to his words, NOW, today.

“Come to Me (Jesus), all who are weary and heavy laden and carry heavy loads. I (Jesus) will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

  

APRIL 2nd CONNECTION   

 

Map or Guide?

Ivan Yoder

Over the last two years I have been blessed to have the opportunity to spend some time in the mountains of central Idaho. Certainly, being in a different environment reminds me of the beauty of God’s creation.  I have had the opportunity to help others experience that beauty by guiding them in a search for elk. It has been an incredible opportunity not only to intimately see and experience a different part of nature, but to get to know some really great people. To be with them as they experience new and exciting things is awesome. If you glance in my office you may have noticed I love maps. Maps are very useful and sometimes crucial tools when it comes to navigating in the wilderness. However, maps have limitations. In order for maps to be most helpful in finding your way forward you must know where you are currently. If you have no idea where you are it is difficult to know if you are even on the correct map. That’s where a guide is even more helpful. One of a guide’s primary responsibilities is to know where they are and even more importantly the way safely home. Christ followers have the blessing of both as we navigate our world. We have the bible as our map. Ps. 119:105 “thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path. What a blessing we have in this country to have so many options at our fingertips. God has his word to not only to help us know where we are but to give guidance as we look forward. God has also given each believer the Holy Spirit as a guide. Jesus promised his disciples before he left this world that he would send the Spirit as a comforter, and to guide us into all truth. We can rest in the assurance that God has not left us alone in this world but has provided “all we need for life and Godliness”. Finally, God invites each believer to step into the role of “guide” at times to mentor others and direct them to Jesus. In reality, to show them the way home. Many times, he gives us opportunities to lead others that are in places we have already been even through. We often hesitate to revisit the challenges of our past, but God desires for us to encourage each other daily. A few questions for today. Who is God asking you to lead or mentor in their faith walk? Who has God placed in your life that you could walk with and encourage? I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to those individuals.

                    

 

APRIL 1st CONNECTION

MARCH 31st CONNECTION 

By Pam Yoder

Peace. It seems so elusive in our world today.  With the frequent updates on the spread of COVID19, the economic impact and the fear and uncertainty it incites, our lives seem to be a far cry from peaceful. How do we find peace in the midst of all of this?  How do we continue to live a peaceful life when we can’t see what’s around the corner?

Uncertainty does not create a sense of peace does it?

In the fall I began looking for a devotional book to use for the upcoming year and was drawn to one with a focus on peace.  Little did I know what the year 2020 would hold but I am reminded often that God did.  He knew what today would hold, and knows what tomorrow will bring, not only for me but for each of you.  He is not surprised by any of the situations we are experiencing. He is aware of the struggles we face. All of the chaos, all of the uncertainties that can overwhelm a person and may even seem to be overwhelming you. If we look to culture, our government officials, the CDC or DOH or even our church to bring a sense of peace to our lives we are looking in the wrong places. The peace that we long for is found in Christ alone.  Does our faith in Christ exempt us from having difficult times?  Jesus tells us in the book of John that we will have many trials and sorrows here on earth but to take heart because He has overcome the world.

Jesus will not abandon us in our struggles related to the current state of our country or any other circumstance we may find ourselves in.

Peace is not circumstantial.  It doesn’t change with what we are experiencing.   A passage of scripture that has been meaningful to me, especially recently, is found in Philippians 4:6-7.  “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done (and what He is going to do). Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  As we pray, about everything, telling God what we need, we should also be thankful as we remember how he has been faithful and has provided for us in the past and expect that our faithful God will continue to do the same even in these uncertain times.

                 This same peace is peace that comes from Jesus’s presence in our lives, not our circumstances, absence of difficulties or our current situation. We can experience this peace as we live life fully relying on Him, leaning on Him and trusting in Him in these changing times.

                 As we go through this week let’s lift up in prayer each other, our leaders and all who are being impacted by COVID19. You are not in this alone, we are walking this journey together.

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all”.

2 Thessalonians 3:16

MARCH 27th DAILY CONNECTION

Why not step out?

By Neil Renno

The waves are crashing around you and someone says to get out of the boat. Are you kidding? I have been looking at the book of Matthew lately. The story in chapter 14 of Jesus walking on the water has always intrigued me. Jesus had just finished feeding the five thousand and there was a lot of extra. Everyone had the bellies full and then Jesus sends his disciples out in a boat on the lake. He wanted time alone. I remember several years ago I had the opportunity to go tuna fishing. We ate a good breakfast and then boarded the boat and proceeded to go out one hundred miles off shore to fish. That was the wrong thing to do, as I got sick. So the disciples are out in their boat with full bellies and rough waters. It was night and they had been up all day with Jesus. The wind was blowing and a storm came up and there they are struggling to row the boat. I am sure there was some grumbling and arguing over who was doing the right thing. That is how we sometimes operate in these situations. I have to wonder if they were thinking, where is Jesus at and what is he doing. Do you feel that way sometimes that here I am struggling in this circumstance and Jesus is nowhere to be seen. All of a sudden they saw a figure walking toward them on the water. Now we tend to give them a bad rap here for not recognizing Jesus immediately. They were probably hungry and physically exhausted by now. When we are in the middle of something that has sapped the life out of us it is hard to see clearly sometimes. If we want to admit it there is usually fear involved in these instances because of the unknown ahead. Jesus saw their fear and spoke to that, “take courage, I am here”. Now remember that the waves are still crashing around them and the boat is still rocking even though Jesus is standing on top of the storm. They were still in the storm. Jesus may show up in our storms but that usually doesn’t calm it right away. Peter wants to know if it is Jesus so he asks a question. Is it you Lord? Jesus says “Yes, come”. He lets him know it is him but he also asks him to do something. A lot of times Jesus will not act until we exhibit our faith in him. We want calm immediately but Jesus wants us to take the first step. Peter steps out of a rocking boat in a storm. I bet that was a sight to see. He faces his fears and the chaos around him and puts total trust in Jesus. He walks and is fine until he remembers the storm that he is in and looks around and starts to feel caught in it even though Jesus is still standing right there. He cries out again to Jesus and Jesus calmly reaches out his hand and helps him in the boat. Jesus wants us to put total faith and trust in him and he helps us back in the boat and then calms the storm. Jesus invites us to come but we need to act before he acts. He is always waiting for us in our storms to take our hands and lead us home, but we need to get out of the boat.

MARCH 26th DAILY CONNECTION

 

Healed for Revelation

Ivan Yoder

This past Sunday I shared a message from John 5:1-9 about the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. This records the story of a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. The beautiful part of this story is how Jesus went out of his way to heal this man. This unnamed man neither asked for, did anything or exhibited any faith, at least that is recorded. I believe what we can see is that he was healed for a purpose that went well beyond displaying the power that Jesus had at his disposal. I mentioned that when Jesus healed this man, he began the process of not just physical healing he also brought wholeness to his life. His physical healing was just the beginning to bring wholeness to his soul and spirit as well. He was also healed for holiness. Jesus met up with him later and instructed him to stop sinning. Sin is what breaks our relationship with God and limits our move toward holiness. However, there is actually a third purpose for this healing that is even more important. This man was healed to reveal Jesus as God. If you follow the story into John 5:17 Jesus said in response to their accusations of his breaking the sabbath: my father is always at work to this very day, and I too am working. The people’s response was immediate because they recognized he was claiming to be God. Jesus was not only displaying that he had access to God’s power but that he was in fact God. Well, you may say, that’s something I know already, but this is a critical point. Jesus could be very powerful but we need more than that. Jesus must be God or everything that we believe and have faith in crumbles. So, here’s my question for myself and you as well. When I/you are touched by Jesus do we keep it to ourselves or is it an opportunity to display and call attention to God’s power and does it reveal Jesus as God?

Many times, I miss the power of God displayed in the everyday. Let me share a short story. Recently we had a noise develop in our car. As much as I tried, I could not identify where it was coming from or what was causing it. So, we prayed that God would fix the car. A week or so later as Pam was driving and suddenly there was a loud noise and then nothing, everything was normal. Now my logical side wants to say, it must have been this or that. But I choose to believe that God fixed our car. I share this story for two simple reasons, to put God’s power display and to demonstrate that because of Christ I know that God has an interest in our lives. I share this to point you to Jesus. I believe our car was fixed not because I am a great prayer person, or because I deserved to be blessed, but so that I could promote God. So, I am.

Questions for the day

How can I daily seek to reveal Jesus for who he truly is?

Is it important for me to be made well for my benefit alone, or can I use it as an opportunity to point the world to Jesus?

 

MARCH 25th CONNECTION

with Kara Kauffman

MARCH 24th CONNECTION

                                                                              

By Pam Yoder

On a recent hike, while practicing social distancing, I came upon a sign that read “Hidden Vista”, which seemed like a curious thing to me.  “What good is a vista if it is hidden”?

I really enjoy hiking and don’t mind putting in a little extra effort doing a steep climb, especially if I know there could be a beautiful vista to be enjoyed once I reach the top.  The challenge is, unless you have a map that has the vista’s marked or you have previously hiked the trail, you have no idea what you will find at the end of the climb. 

It could be that you find yourself in a heavily forested flat once you reach the top, or it could be a bench or a pause in the uphill and you find yourself at the base of yet another steep section of trail to climb or, you find yourself at a breathtaking vista overlooking a valley with mountains in the distance, or perhaps a river valley or a wide expanse of farmland.  A place that is breathtakingly beautiful and serene, a place that has been worth the extra effort put forth to attain.

In most cases you have to want to reach a vista or know that it exist to be able to appreciate or work hard to reach it.   

 

As I think about the current state of our country, the uncertainties, the very different way life is for all of us as a result of it, I wonder, what is the “hidden vista” for us in this time?  This thing that has been so disruptive, that has me going stir crazy, that brings questions to mind such as, “What, no school, no work, social distancing? How can I survive the isolation”?

Right now it doesn’t seem that we are working our way up the climb towards a beautiful view at all or that the end of the climb is even in sight! It seems that we may be in the heavily forested place where there is no breathtaking view to be seen or appreciated or even on the map, or so we think. 

Sometimes God chooses places, just like this, to have us in. This place where He calls us to trust Him to help us navigate through. To allow Him to take the lead as we hike on because He alone knows where the Hidden Vistas are, what the outcome will be, and where the beauty in it is. God alone knows the distance and we will arrive at the vista in His perfect timing.

The challenge for each of us in this is to look, search for, and expect there to be hidden gems in each day instead of just trying to tread water until we come out the other side of this. Search for hidden little vistas.  They can be things as small as early spring flowers blooming, the return of Robin’s to your yard, a 50 degree day, blue sky, spending a little extra time reading to your children, a walk in the woods or maybe things as simple as spring cleaning, writing letters to friends and family or making phone calls and having sweet conversations with people you love.

Maybe the hidden vista is rest, carving out more time to spend in the Word and in stillness before the Lord, in prayer and worship.  Be on the lookout for what the Lord is doing each day. Look for “God moments”, take time to recognize the vista’s He is blessing you with each and every day. Give yourself permission to sit a little longer, hug your babies a little tighter and as many times as you have opportunity to.  Play a game, take a walk, breathe. 

The vistas are there, we just need to be on the lookout for them.

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will REJOICE and be GLAD in it. Psalm 118:24 One of my favorite songs right now is “Way maker”, a good reminder of the sovereignty of the God I serve.

He alone is our Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness.

Here is a link to the song, enjoy!

https://youtu.be/SE_M9noEhNE

 

 

MARCH 23rd CONNECTION 

Is This A Gift?

Max Zook 

Several weeks ago, I preached a sermon, “The Gift of Nothing,” in which we looked at God’s gift of the Sabbath.  “Sabbath” in the book of Genesis meant to cease, stop, rest, and be still.  That is what God chose to do on the seventh day of creation.  Jesus later taught us that the Sabbath was created as a gift for humans, humans were not created to fulfill the structure of the Sabbath for its own sake.

That sermon has come back to haunt me recently.  Churches, schools, businesses closed, and even preachers are restricted from visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons. Our president and governor have ordered many of us to stop, cease, rest, and be still at home.

Sound familiar?

Many of us, not all, have been given a Sabbath order, from, of all people, our governing officials. We certainly must stop doing life the way we were doing it. 

Is this order a gift?  Is it a “Sabbath?”  Can we see it that way?

Is it possible for us to see this time as an opportunity for rest, refreshment, and to pause our lives to realize the concept of “enough?”  What is enough?  The Sabbath enforced the notion that one day in seven, one year in every seven years was for people to depend on God for what they needed to be carried through without depending on their own efforts.

So to truly live in this unusual shut-down of our way of live and experience it as a kind of Sabbath, we must stop thinking about what we would or could be doing, the money we would be making, that value of our stocks if the economy wasn’t depressed, or the education our kids would be getting if the schools were open.  We must rest in what God has and is providing for us.  And find rest in His gift of “enough.”

Let’s look at all the opportunities we now have.  And let’s begin to count the blessings we experience through this imposed “Sabbath.”

-          Time to read books, put puzzles together

-          Clean up the house, finish the projects your started long ago.

-          Work outside around the house, preparing the garden, flower beds

-          Calling or texting friends, neighbors

-          Going for walks in a socially distant kind of way

-          Practicing “living room worship” where worship happens with the family at home

-          Connecting with neighbors by combining your trips to the store or pharmacy

-          And being members of the church of God who cares deeply for each other and become known by our love for neighbors.

Let’s receive, open, value and enjoy this gift of God…. This Sabbath…. The Gift of Nothing!