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Its a Heart Issue

Hello there! My name is Rachel Stevens and I am one of the interns for Berean this summer. I’m mainly working with Suzy with things regarding the children’s program and VBA. This past year I finished my first year at Grace Bible college in Grand Rapids and loved every part of it. This summer I’ve been working a lot, and picking up where I left off with my close friends.

This week I’ve been thinking about various issues regarding our thoughts and how people behave based on what is on our heart. The other day, I was driving home from work and I saw a homeless man begging on the side of the road. He had a sign that wrote, “Psalm 41, God bless”. Shortly after, I got home and decided to look up what Psalm 41 said. Verse one says this. “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delievers him in times of trouble”. As I read this, what came to my mind was, “Wow, who do I think about? Who do I regard?”.

Who is on my mind? Who do I think about everyday? Is it myself, or is it other people? As I thought this over, I came up with exceuses about why I think about myself: “Oh I’m so busy, I work two jobs, I have to squeeze all these things in MY calender, I want to relax, I I I, me me me…..” I realized that each reason was about myself and serving myself instead of others. Do I think I am too busy to help the homeless man on the street? Do I want plenty of sleep and relaxing time that I can’t go volunteer at a homeless shelter?

ITS A HEART ISSUE.

Who do I think about? What is on my mind continually? In Matthew 15: 17-20 Jesus says that what is on your heart is what will come out in the form of actions, attitude and words.

Its a heart issue. What is on your heart?

Realizing once again that I am too selfish, I came up with a list of people that I can think about and pray for on an everyday basis (times when I’m driving, or at work, or exercising etc.). I came up with a list of over 20 different groups of people; God (must be #1), neighbors, bereans, schoolmates, widows, family, the next generation, etc. I AM CLEARLY OUTNUMBERED! There is literally no excuse to think about myself all the time. Instead of thinking about yourself or worrying about your plans, think of ways to encourage others or do something special for someone. Who is on your heart will change your actions, words and motivation.

At GBC this year, I had a professor for theology that talked about having compassion every day. He always said that as a follower of Christ, we need to dig on our own hearts and find the areas where we lack compassion. Compassion and having a heart for people is the key in making a difference in our communities for Christ.

Who do you think about? What is on your heart? Who is on your list of people? Do you have compassion? Are you ACTUALLY going to change or are you telling yourself you will?

 

 

a reminder for a familiar parable

IMG_0577A little while ago, Sam learned about the story of the Good Samaritan at both his pre-school and in Sunday school. He really liked it, so he’s been asking to read the story in his kids’ Bible. We were reading it again the other night
as we were getting ready for bed, and so, as we’re praying in the dark our conversation goes something like this:

Me (praying):…and help us to show love and kindness to people who are hurting and need someone to be kind to them. Amen.

S: Dad, you forgot the important people who walked by.

Me: …oh, okay. And help us also to be kind to the people who don’t show kindness to others. Amen.

S: You forgot the people who were mean, and took all the money.

Me: And help us to be kind to the people who are mean and take all the money.

Now I don’t know if this is something they talked about at his school, or if he was just naming all the characters in the story, but in this brief interaIMG_0578ction he reminded me a fundamental truth about God’s love and grace. It’s for the good guys and the bad guys. The robbers and thieves, the hypocrites and self-important, the wounded and beaten down, the oppressors and the oppressed, the kind and the caring.

Jesus shows love and compassion to a blind man, talks with him, and restores his sight, and then in the very next story, shows love and compassion to Zacchaeus, the wealthy, abusive, swindling tax collector. And he doesn’t demand that Zacchaeus reform his ways, give back all he has stolen before he invites himself into Zacchaeus’ home. It’s right away. (Luke 18.35-19.10).

Father, forgive us for the ways we disregard those with whom we disagree. Remind us that our enemies are not your enemies. May we show love to our neighbors, the hurting and mistreated, the indifferent who just walk by, and bandits who are mean and take all the money.

Following His Footsteps

THE TRAVEL itinerary for day 1 says, “Get some rest on the flight…tomorrow you will be walking where Jesus walked!” Wow! I can hardly wait for the Berean trip to Israel in May 2017. For decades John and I have been looking forward to visiting the Holy Land. We can read and watch documentaries about significant historical events, but being in the locations where they took place always seems to add so much impact. I imagine this will be even more evident when it comes to being in locations where events from scripture unfolded. It sounds like we will probably be able to visit Mt. Carmel where Elijah challenged King Ahab, EinGedi where David fled from Saul, Capernaum where Jesus called His disciples, and cross the Sea of Galilee as the disciples would have done so often. Although the Jordan River probably won’t look much like it did when the Israelite’s priest crossed it with the Ark of God about 3500 years ago (now that it has a dam and other diversions for irrigation), it will still be great to be there and imagine the fear-filled excitement of that massive caravan of Hebrews, as they were finally crossing over to their promised land. There are so many sights with significant history within the small area of Israel that we won’t begin to hit more than a few highlights, but even still, the trip will allow us to walk in the path of so many of God’s people and follow the footsteps of Jesus.

Just thinking about those places fills me with awe, as I consider the powerful work of God, as He has faithfully cared for and worked through His people through history. But even as I consider so many inspirations events of Biblical history, I am reminded of God’s work in the not so distant past and His continual work today. The same mighty God who guided Moses to lead the Hebrews through their long desert journey also guided first century apostles to spread the good news around the Mediterranean and missionaries throughout the generations to take the gospel to distant lands. Our God, who gave Peter and the other disciples the courage to speak the message of Jesus so boldly in Jerusalem, still works in the hearts of pastors, teachers and evangelists worldwide. The Lord who stirred the hearts of His people to give generously to the building (and re-building) of His Temple, stirred hearts of faithful Bereans that stepped out in faith to build our church building years ago and still stirs us to support God’s work here and around the world. Just as the love of God was poured out by Jesus, as He took time for the little children, that same love is still being poured out by people everywhere who sacrifice their time to teach, guide and nurture children. God’s compassion for the sick and needy was poured out by his disciples and is still evident in so many who dedicate their lives to meeting physical needs.

God is still busy and His story continues. He has allowed His people throughout the ages to leave their mark in the world, so that we would have constant reminders of His greatness and be challenged to be part of His work. If you have been guided and encouraged by the footprints of the faithful who have walked ahead of you, it should stir you to leave signs of your faith for those who come behind.

It’s easy to get discouraged when we face challenges and when we see so many examples of people turning their backs to God’s ways, but scripture reminds us that life has never been easy, but God has always been faithful. We don’t need to visit Israel to see the footprints of God’s faithful people, because they can be found everywhere, if we open our eyes to see them. And every day provides us with opportunities to leave our own mark of faith in the world, as we do our best to follow Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave our own story of faith to challenge those who walk this path behind us.

I’m really looking forward to visiting the Promised Land and walking where Jesus walked. I also know I have a chance to walk where Jesus walks every day, because He is alive and at work in you, and wherever you go you are leaving His footprints.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

Suzy Bates

Corporate Worship

Let’s talk a little about corporate worship.

I’ve been teaching an online class for Grace Bible College called Fundamentals of Theology, that covers a lot of introductory theological concepts (most of which our Bible Instruction Course students already have had the chance to learn!). In the first week of the class, we discuss the ways that God reveals Himself to us. There are two major categories of revelation – special and general. Special revelation is the way in which God reveals Himself and is unique to certain people or times: God appearing to Moses in the burning bush, Jesus’ earthly ministry, and Scripture are examples of this. General revelation is the way God makes Himself known to all people – for example, through creation (Psalm 19 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands…”) or through the conscience (Romans 2:14-15 – “…They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness…”).

One of the first assignments students are asked to complete is to give examples from their own experiences of how they have come to know God through both kinds of revelation. Inevitably, when they come to the general revelation example, I will read a paragraph talking about a sunset, or looking up at a clear night sky, holding a newborn baby, or some other example of being awestruck with the grandeur and intricacy of God’s creation.

Now, I certainly agree that these are great places to wonder at the beauty and creativity of our Creator, who has placed His fingerprints on all that we see, and yet still is intimately concerned with the details of our lives. But if we only have eyes to see Him in these situations, our understanding of God, and therefore our worship, will be severely deficient.

In all the papers I’ve graded, I have yet to come across a paragraph explaining how God can be seen on a cold, gray, drizzly, Wednesday afternoon. And yet, if we believe that God is everywhere – that “all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17) – then God is just as present and observable in the dreary days as He is in the sunrises.

Which brings me back to corporate worship. There are some days when we gather to worship that feels to me a lot like an encounter with a sunrise. Maybe it’s my attitude coming in to Sunday, or the song selection, or a passage of Scripture, or the subject of a sermon that God is using to particularly challenge or encourage me, and I walk away more aware of God’s presence and goodness in my life. But then there are other days that just don’t click. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or am still focused on the struggle to get everyone out the door or plans for after church, or the songs/Scripture/sermon weren’t particularly meaningful… it feels more like I’m sitting in rush hour traffic and I’d just like to be home, but I’m still stuck for another 45 minutes (we all have Sundays like that – even pastors).

But God’s presence and goodness is no less real on these mornings than on any other morning. And I’m gathered with a community who worships with me, and maybe even for me when I can’t seem to do it myself. When we gather, we are not a bunch of isolated individuals worshipping or struggling to worship, we are a single Body worshipping together. Some do more, some less, but we do it together. And the regular practice of coming together to worship, even when we don’t feel like it, is a reminder that God is with us in both the glorious and gloomy days. He walks with us, and loves us in the midst of our celebrations and when we are feeling unloveable. He’s not only with us in the sunrises and mountaintops, the newborns and the victories, but in the deserts, in the mist, in the changing of diapers and the loss and failures. And gathering to worship week after week after week can remind us that God desires to know us and be known by us day after day after day, so that we are better equipped to see him and worship Him whatever the circumstances.

What is a place or an activity where you find it difficult to see God’s presence? How might you worship Him there this week?

God Wins

ON A RECENT VISIT to my daughter’s home, five year old Ben announced that he had asked Jesus into his heart at Sunday School. “Now, I’m a REAL Christian.” Wanting to make a memory, as Grandmothers often do, I congratulated him on his wise decision and proceeded to ask him questions. He politely offered a couple short answers and then changed the subject with, “Grandma, do you want to play a game?” Conversation over!

“Sure, I’ll play a game. What do you want to play?”

We went to the kitchen table where Ben began to set out the game pieces; a place for me, his three year old brother, Sam, himself and an extra place. I asked Ben about the extra place. He said, “That’s God’s place.” HMMMM – this is going to be interesting.

We played the game with Ben taking his turn and God’s turn. I was amazed at Sam’s lack of response to Ben getting two turns to his one turn. Usually, this would be cause for comment, to say the least, but nothing was mentioned. The game proceeded; Ben, Sam, Grandma, God; Ben Sam, Grandma, God; etc. The game ended with Ben in first place, Grandma second, Sam third and God last. Usually, the game ends with the winner proclaiming, “I WON!” But, with some concern and question in his voice Ben said, “God lost!?”

With both Ben and Sam silently staring at me, it was clear they expected an explanation. I stuttered out my response, “Ah, hmmm, well guys, I think God always wins.” “Right now, God is just happy that you included him in your game.” “He wants to be included in our lives and you are showing God that he is important to you by having him play the game with you.” “So, God wins!”

Grandma

Ladies Camp 2016

Ladies Camp in Review Phew! What a whirlwind of activity it was! But now all the planning and promotion for Ladies Camp 2016 is over, attendees have returned to their daily lives, and the committee has debriefed. Now what? Based on comments from surveys, here is what our ladies are taking away:

* A vision of how to better minister to our families and church

* The encouragement and challenge to be more purposeful

* Information that was relevant for the start of a new marriage

* A refocus on God and His word

* Friendships with ladies outside the church setting

* Refreshment and a recharge

* Encouragement from believing women

* Some relief from present worries

* Kathy Molenkamp’s teachings and challenge to be more consciously content, along with scriptures we can go back and review

And some specific highlights they mentioned:

* Beautiful surroundings (Once again, we were blessed with beautiful weather, as well)

* 67 women singing in the dining hall before meals

* Nice not to have cell service!

* Kathy Molenkamp – she knows the Bible and she knows us

* Spending time with old friends and meeting new friends

* The music was wonderful

The overwhelmingly positive responses have encouraged the Women’s Ministries committee to move forward with plans for not only another weekend Ladies Camp in two years, but a one-day Ladies Day Camp next spring. Watch for announcements next fall with dates and more detail!

-Liane H.

 

Hello, Ladies Camper!

I trust you have fond memories of Ladies Camp and have been thinking about the things we learned about Conscious Contentment. If you remember, near the end of the weekend I suggested that we all pray for each other. A thoughtful friend suggested that I send out a list of names so that we can do just that. Therefore I’m including first names of all our campers here for you. As the Lord brings them to mind, will you please pray for your sisters in Christ?

Kirsten, Ellen, Suzy, Sheri, Laura, Sharon, Beth, Heidi, Krista, Sheri, Merry, Beth, Margaret, Marcie, Chrisann, Sandie, Tara, Rachel, Liane, Pat, Tami, Ruth, Kellie, Shery, Kim, Angela, Christie, Candace, Bonnie, Julie, Lauren, Becky, Teri, Kris, Gail, Brenda, Heidi, Beth, Carol, Kathy, Megan, Sarah, Faith, Karen, Shelley, Shelley, Patti, Gretchen, Joanne, Vaila, Katie, Heather, Teresa, Jennifer, Lauren, Jo Ann, Tenisha, Karen, Liz, Linnea, Barb, Julie, Sally, Sena, Ursula, Karissa, Melanie.

Thank you again, for coming to Ladies Camp!

-Liane H.

The Great Equalizer – Week 11

From January through Easter we are doing a church-wide study of the Gospel of Mark. Each week we distribute study questions to help lead you into discussions with your family and friends. Below are the questions from week 11.

Click here to listen to the Week 11 sermon from Pastor Jim.

  • Jesus said that anyone who welcomes children in His name also welcomes Him and his Father. What are some practical ways you can welcome children in His name?
  • During Jesus’ time on earth children were not generally regarded very highly but our society generally places a much higher value on children. Do you think Jesus would make such a strong point about the importance of ministering to children today as He did then?
  • Often Jesus suggested that material wealth and a desire fore status and power were hinderances, while having simple faith like a child was the key to following Him. Are there times when you find it especially challenging to live by that kind of simple childlike faith?
  • Why do you think Jesus says it’s so hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God?
  • Jesus uses pretty strong language against someone who causes a child to sin. Does this feel too harsh? Why or why not? Why do you think Jesus takes this issue so seriously?
  • Jesus promises blessing of “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions,” for those who were leaving all to follow him. What do you make of this list?