Plans are underway for a spring feast mini-celebration. We will have the Passover/Communion service on Friday evening, April 15th; sabbath services on Saturday, April 16th; and services for the First Day of Unleavened Bread on Sunday, April 17th, at the Best Western Expo Conference Center, Washington, MO.
☐ Book as early as possible. It is better to cancel a reservation late than try to reserve when it’s too late!
☐ Book before the cut-off date: 3-15-2022
☐ Block Dates- 4-15-2022 to 4-17-2022
☐ Check-in time is strictly 3 pm. Early check-ins will not be accommodated, so plan accordingly.
☐ There are two ways to make your reservations:
Make your reservations online to help us keep track of our guest list. Dates must be within the block dates. Any rooms that do not appear on the booking page may indicate that room type is sold out. If Group block is made for multiple days and you only want one, change dates at top of the page of Best Western Plus URl site. (Must use Google search engine. For the URL link.) Access the reservations at: https://www.bestwestern.com/en_US/book/hotel-rooms.26174.html?groupId=Y97MP9S9
Make reservation by phone- Call direct 636-390-8877 and mention the date and group name, Church of God Faith Fellowship, or planning to attend the Holy Day weekend to get the $99/night rate. A front desk agent will be glad to assist you.
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18 Things We Can Learn from a Dog
1. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
2. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
3. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
4. When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.
5. Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
6. Take naps, and stretch before rising.
7. Run, romp, and play daily.
8. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
9. Be loyal.
10. Never pretend to be something you're not.
11. If what you want is buried, dig until you find it.
12. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle him or her gently.
13. Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
14. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
15. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
16. When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
17. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
18. No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout... run right back and make friends.
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Just saying . . .
Hungry crows have ravenous appetites.
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Reach Out and Touch Someone
by Cynthia Saladin
One of the things we’ve re-learned through this pandemic is just how very important it is to stay in touch with one another. Ma Bell’s slogan rings more true today than it did 40 years ago!! Reach out and touch someone! We need the encouragement, the support, the opportunity to share our thoughts to shrink them from mountains back into molehills. We need the iron sharpening iron. We need to see the delight on someone’s face when they see us. We need each other! Solomon knew what he was talking about when he said a cord of three strands is not easily broken.
Around the start of each new year (man’s calendar), there’s a big push to make new resolutions - to read the Bible in a year, to lose weight, to start a new job, to learn a new skill. While you’re taking stock of where you are and where you want to be this time next year, make it a goal to reach out and touch someone - to exhort and encourage them. Tell someone just how very much they mean to you and what a difference they’ve made in your life. Find meaningful ways to impact the lives of the people around you.
A great place to start is with your prayer life - because you can’t give what you don’t have. Read the verses which speak of God’s love for you and just how precious you are to Him. Then share that love with the people around you - and all the more as we see the Day approaching.
Important Dates for 2022
Friday, April 15th - Passover service after sunset
Sabbath, April 16th - Passover Day
Sunday, April 17th - First Day of Unleavened Bread
Sabbath, April 23rd - Last Day of Unleavened Bread
Sunday, June 5th - Pentecost
Wednesday, September 28th - Trumpets
Friday, October 7th - Atonement
Wednesday, October 12 - Tuesday, October 18th -
Feast of Tabernacles
Wednesday, October 19th - Last Great Day
Cliff Notes on the Book of Job
The following was written by Patricia Manning for the teen/young adult sabbath class last year.
The book of Job is a book that addresses how to handle suffering.
Job was a righteous and blameless servant of God.
God allowed Job to suffer for reasons unknown to Job.
Job’s three friends, BEZ (Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar), tell Job he must have done something wrong. That is why he is suffering. God says they are not correct. Job 42:7
Job tells God, I didn’t do anything wrong. He is correct.
Then Job says, AND THAT’S NOT FAIR. Here is Job’s mistake.
When Elihu answers Job, he is angry because “Job justified himself more than God” Job 32:2. Elihu says “Do you think your righteousness is more than God’s?” Job 35:2. God never says Elihu is wrong.
When God answers Job, His answer is in essence, I am very much greater than you are. TRUST ME.
Here is our answer to how to handle suffering. If we are appointed to suffer, then we suffer and praise God anyway. We must trust that God knows what He is doing. (Genesis 50:20, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28)
…This in no way means that we shouldn’t try to address and fix or prevent problems in our lives. That is a different (and equally interesting) topic.
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Missing the Fellowship by Cynthia Saladin
It seems like I’m always playing catch-up these days. There’s too much to do on my plate, so the things that can be pushed off are left until later. So it was that I found myself this week putting together my feast scrapbook from last fall’s feast. It’s a daunting task the way I do it, so it takes a long time to get it all organized and done. But I decided to devote one day to get it done. It was nearly 9:30 (almost bedtime) before I finished, but I did finish. It was bittersweet going through the photos, my notes from the sermons and studies, and just remembering. I had to stop for a while at one point, overcome with sadness. I was describing the tornado which went through, the incredible lightning storm over Table Rock Lake, the parting of the clouds at the campground in Lebanon, and the destruction of the Woodard home. I commented on the void that we all felt when the Woodards left the Feast early.
I had commented to Mom that I had never remembered so many people leaving the Feast early. This year was particularly remarkable because of that. That’s when I had to take a few minutes before I could continue. I was so struck by the void we all feel when someone is missing from our fellowship. Our church family is so close knit because of the ties of Jesus Christ which “bind our hearts in Christian love.” When someone leaves early, the Feast just isn’t the same. At the time, I thought about the parallel between people going home early from the Feast and people in our church family dying. But I didn’t really expect to be feeling the same way again so soon.
We are all going to feel the void of Paul not being with us as we tabernacle in this life - just as we feel the void left by Dan Wrigley and the many others who have been part of our fellowship and who are now waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. The void we feel is tangible and, at times, overwhelming. But we all take comfort in the knowledge that Paul and Dan had an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. We know we’re going to see them again, with no more aches and no more pains.
What is left to those of us still here is the reminder to run the race set out before us. We need to finish strong. We need to set our minds to seek the Lord with all of our hearts and not become distracted by anything around us. Our lives are temporary; we’re tabernacling here. We can’t put off our relationship with God until tomorrow. Now is the time. Today, if you hear His voice, seek Him with all of your heart. Your future depends on it.
Wagging Tales, Barking, and Excitement
by Cynthia Saladin
Jonathan walked in the door tonight after a long week at college. The first thing he said was, “What did you do to this dog?” Pepper was so excited to see him. I blamed it on Pepper getting a bath this afternoon, but in actuality, that’s how Pepper acts most of the time when some of his people come home.
I couldn’t help thinking about what a great thing it is to have a dog be so excited to see you. Pepper wasn’t looking for treats or back scratching or for Jonathan to throw the b-a-l-l, he just was simply glad to see Jonathan. Bouncing, jumping, racing back and forth, barking - he was excited!
I kinda understand that feeling better these days. We’ve had a rough winter. Illness and weather caused church services to be canceled too many weeks in a row! And I’ve missed our church family. Much like Pepper acted towards Jonathan, I am simply glad to see everyone, glad to be worshiping God together again.
I suspect that Pepper has been feeling a bit low these past couple of weeks. He keeps looking for Ebony. I said her name the other day when we were out for a walk, and he went straight to the van. He knew the last place she was. I imagine that having some of his people home again tonight made him feel like all was well or at least better.
I think that’s where we as a church family are too. We are missing Paul so much. But we are also dealing with other deaths, health issues, relationship problems, economic concerns, world conditions, a godless society all around us. Stress, trouble, discouragement, worry. So when we all gather together again, just being together provides some much-needed comfort.
There’s a very cool verse in 1 Samuel 23:16. David knows that Saul is coming to kill him. Here’s Jonathan’s response: And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. Here’s the king coming to take David’s life and the king’s son comes to David to strengthen him, but not just to encourage him and build him up. Jonathan strengthened David in his trust in and reliance on God. I like that! And I like applying that to our current situation. We’re always going to have trouble, and more and more as the return of Christ approaches. So let’s take a page out of Jonathan’s book; let’s strengthen one another’s hand in the Lord. Let’s encourage one another.
A great way to do that is to text one another during the week, to pray for each other, to keep in contact throughout the week, and be genuinely glad to see one another each sabbath. I think Jonathan was genuinely touched by how excited Pepper was to see him. And I very much appreciated God having an object lesson for me to see as we start another Sabbath.
Busier Than Seventeen Things
by Cynthia Saladin
I absolutely love spring! I love the new green grass sprouting, the budding trees, the daffodils, the bright skies, the return of warmer temperatures - and the anticipation of God’s spring holy days. With the warmer temperatures, it’s almost as if I throw off the sluggishness of winter and assume that mantle of getting stuff done. And are there things to do!! I have more to do than you can shake a stick at!! Or as I have always told my kids, I have seventeen thousand, five hundred, and forty-six things to do today. At least that’s how it feels! There’s garden to prep, seeds to get started inside, Passover cleaning to do, and all the regular stuff: laundry, cleaning, meals, bills, etc ad nauseam. This year is particularly busy - we’ve all the planning for two graduations and a wedding. I think I may have added a few more items to my list of 17,546 things to do!
I’m very glad to throw off the doldrums of winter. I’m especially glad this spring to not be fighting cataracts. I’m sure some of my reinvigoration comes from being able to see! I’m rejoicing and some of that joyfulness might as well be channeled into productivity! 😁 But I’ve already caught myself a couple of times!! Because I’m ready to get to work, I can sometimes get distracted by a new project that sounds like something that would be a really good idea - but in reality, doesn’t really need to be done, especially right now, and especially because there’s so much on my list that needs to be done. I do not need another project.
It also occurred to me that the busyness is a dangerous place to be coming up to Passover. This is a time when I’m not just supposed to clean the physical leavening out of my life. I’m supposed to be examining myself. I’m supposed to be evaluating what in my life is making me productive for my Lord and what is just busy work, just a distraction. How can I examine myself if I’m too busy?
Then Ron pointed out another thing that I need to be doing: preparing for the Feast of Weeks. What? Really? That’s June! I have so many other fires to put out before I get to that one. But truly, we’re supposed to count the days, all forty-nine of them, leading up to Pentecost. I can’t allow myself to become so distracted that I miss even the first few because I’m so busy with the Days of Unleavened Bread.
It’s the intentional part of our walk with our Lord that Diane emphasized at Echo Bluff in 2018. If we’re not intentional about doing something, there’s a good chance it won’t be done - or at least, it won’t be done as well as we could have done it.
So make a plan. Set your mind, as Keith said, on the things of God. Enjoy the spring. Examine yourself. Prepare for the Passover. Soak in the delightful warmth of new life - both around you and in you. Thank God for His manifold blessings. And don’t forget to think about the start of the count to Pentecost. As you start to focus on God’s holy days, things start to come into perspective and focus, a plan emerges to glorify Him.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (A psalm of Moses, Psalm 90:12) This whole psalm is incredible! God is our dwelling place. He sees all of our iniquities. He sets the number of our days. He’s the one who establishes the work of our hands. And all of the seventeen thousand things I have to do, they don’t mean much if I’m not focused on doing them within God’s will and guidance, and for His glory - because I have a relationship with Him through my Savior, Jesus Christ.
O Thou Who Changeth Not
by Cynthia Saladin
Every year, the spring holy days bring another lesson. As I’m cleaning each room for Passover, I mentally review the lessons which seem to be emphasized for me in previous years. One year, I was struck by the Life that is only found in Jesus Christ as I observed the evidence of new life all around - lambs and calves on the hillsides and the abundance of fragrant spring blossoms. One year it was the futility of getting of the leavening and dirt out! The spiritual reality is that I can’t clean myself up; Jesus is the One who makes me clean.
One year my lesson was about the leavening brought into my life by other people; the spiritual application is the necessity of being watchful of what you allow into your life due to the influence of those closest to you.
Another year, the lesson was a very vivid reminder of how easily sin can creep in unawares - finding out later that something has leavening in it that you would never have imagined!! Seems like I had to experience that lesson a couple of times. 😮
I remember distinctly the year that the lesson was about keeping my eyes focused on Jesus Christ - not allowing any distractions, especially doctrinal distractions about Passover, the calendar, etc, to take my eyes off Jesus.
One year the lesson was about the power and incredible gift of forgiveness and reconciliation. That one is still fantastically sweet!
But this year, the lesson was about change and decay. As I was cleaning the house, I was struck at how much repair needs to be done. We need a new roof. We have not one, not two, but four separate propane leaks to the furnace that have to be repaired before we can use the furnace again. And the first 80+ degree day revealed that we need to repair the a/c in the van. Decay is all around.
Closely associated with decay is death. We’re going to be missing Paul until the resurrection. Even the death of a family pet (like Ebony) is hard. Grief is a close companion.
And change?! Wow! Talk about change! My life is changing! In 2003 I asked for prayers for the next nine months and then the next 18 years. Those 18 years have flown! Jennifer’s graduating. Jonathan’s graduating. Christopher and Alyssa just got married. Jonathan and Amanda will soon be married. Things they be a-changin’. And that’s just personally. Things are insidiously, irrevocably changing in our world. ‘Nuff said.
I was feeling the change and decay deep in my soul and wondering why this was the lesson I’m taking away this year from the spring feast. Not surprising to those of you who know how much I think in music, the phrase “change and decay” rattled around in my mind for a few days before I suddenly found myself singing, “Change and decay in all around I see.” That led to me thinking about how Romans 8:21 speaks of creation and “its bondage to decay.”
Eventually the rest of the song broke through. “Change and decay in all around I see. Oh Thou Who changeth not, abide with me.” Ah! There’s the lesson that had been at the edge of my consciousness. It’s a lesson that we all know. But this year it was so emphasized in my life. Change and decay is part and parcel of this human existence. We are irrevocably subjected to futility, unless we have the hope we find in Christ, specifically in Christ abiding in us. That’s why we eat unleavened bread. That’s the power of symbolically taking Jesus in daily! What we subsist on must be the living Bread of Jesus Christ!!
It’s not enough to just know about Jesus being Savior. It’s not enough to read His Word. I have to completely invite Jesus into my life, ever increasingly, all the more to abide with and in me, to be wholly devoted to Him in all things.
As I was mentally reviewing the spring holy days, it occurred to me that Eliana’s baptism was the highlight! Of course it was! It was part of the whole lesson this year for me: an example of change and decay symbolically being swallowed up in victory because Eliana is now a new creature in Christ.
Romans 8:21 led to 2 Cor. 4:16-18: 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
“Change and decay in all around I see; O, Thou Who changeth not, abide with me.” In a year that is bringing so much change and decay, I must have really needed the reminder that Jesus, the One Who never changes, is my reality.
What lesson did you learn this spring holy day season?
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Commence - ment
by Cynthia Saladin
I was privileged to deliver the welcome speech to our 2022 homeschool graduating class this past Sunday, and although I was talking about their graduation from high school and commencement into whatever comes next, it occurred to me that God gives us similar times to stop and think about what we’ve accomplished and where we’re going next.
Commencement is an interesting word. Too many people think that it is the closing ceremony at the end of graduation. But it’s not. Ment is “the act of;” so commencement is “the act of commencing, or beginning.” Having rescued us from slavery to sin and redeemed us by the blood of the Lamb, our Heavenly Father expects us now to walk worthy of the calling we have received. He expects us to seek Him diligently that He may be found by us. And as we hit these milestones in our Christian walk [the sabbath, Passover, and Holy Days], we stop, consider where we’ve been and what comes next, and then start again with renewed dedication and devotion to God. We have, in a sense, a commencement.
In the middle of these holy days is a very special holy day that sometimes creeps up on us, catching us unawares because it’s only one day, because we’re so busy with life, and perhaps because we haven’t made a special effort to count. That’s unfortunate because this Feast which is rapidly approaching is also called the Feast of Firstfruits. We, the Church, the Bride of Christ, those who will be in the first resurrection, are the firstfruits. This holy day is all about God’s plan for us.
As you read the commencement remarks that I made, think about them in terms of where you are this Pentecost, what you’ve done and what God has done to bring you to this point, then focus your attention on your goal and commence again to reach it.
Welcome to the commencement ceremony for the graduating class of 2022. We are sincerely glad you all came to join us in celebrating this milestone.
Well done, Graduates. Well done.
You have persevered along with your parents through years of education, attempting subjects you eventually came to love and discovering others you would rather never visit again. You explored and developed God-given talents, and you have made your parents, family, and friends very proud of you - in the right way. So well done, Graduates.
But this is not where your life ends. On the contrary, you are stepping today through a portal from being a high school student into having graduated from high school, ready to embrace whatever comes next. You’re making plans, but if we revisit this conversation in five years, many of you will have found that life took some turns you didn’t see coming. As I was contemplating this and thinking about commencement today, I thought of how grateful I am that God gives us object lessons to help grow us toward His kingdom. Consider three parallels between today’s graduation and the return of Jesus. These three are probably not the only analogies, of course.
First, you don’t know exactly what the future holds - either in the next five years or as Jesus sets up His kingdom. So it’s important to keep your eyes set on the goal. For the immediate future, it might be college or a job; for the ultimate future, it’s dwelling with God forever.
Secondly, what you’ve done over the past several years greatly impacts what will happen next, what you will be doing. If you were diligent to study and learn, you will be well-prepared for college. If you wasted your time, that’s time you can never get back. Similarly, your devotion to seeking God and His will in your life will have huge ramifications in His kingdom and the place that He is preparing for you.
And thirdly, you have been seeking to please your earthly parent, to come to this day when you have finished the course set before you and to hear, “Well done, son or daughter.” That feels pretty good, doesn’t it! Think of how wonderful it will be to hear that from your Heavenly Parent!! For each of you, you have come from a family whose relationship with God is of paramount importance. Hold on to that as you step into this next phase of your life. For there is coming another portal that each of us will step through, sooner or later. As for me, I long to hear, “Well done, daughter.”
Today we celebrate your graduation from high school and your commencement into what comes next. Congratulations to each of you, and as you go forward, go with God.
And similarly, to each of you, brothers and sisters in Christ, my spiritual family, stop and enjoy Pentecost as a commencement ceremony of sorts and then, going forward, go with God.
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Charles H. Spurgeon
May 2, 2022
He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Galatians 6:8
Sowing looks like a losing business, for we put good corn into the ground never to see it any more. Sowing to the Spirit seems a very fanciful, dreamy business; for we deny ourselves, and apparently get nothing for it. Yet if we sow to the Spirit by studying to live unto God, seeking to obey the will of God, and laying ourselves out to promote His honor, we shall not sow in vain. Life shall be our reward, even everlasting life. This we enjoy here as we enter into the knowledge of God, communion with God, and enjoyment
of God. This life flows on like an ever-deepening, ever-widening river, till it bears us to the ocean of infinite felicity, where the life of God is ours for ever and ever.
Let us not this day sow to our flesh, for the harvest will be corruption, since flesh always tends that way; but with holy self-conquest let us live for the highest, purest, and most spiritual ends, seeking to honor our most holy Lord by obeying His most gracious Spirit. What a harvest will that be when we reap life everlasting! What sheaves of endless bliss will be reaped! What a festival will that harvest be! Lord, make us such reapers, for thy Son's sake.
***Diane forwarded this daily devotional from Blue Letter Bible. I thought it was timely for Pentecost.
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The Value of Life
by Jim O’Brien
My grandparents were literate people but I doubt they ever heard the word euthanasia. Maybe I’m wrong. They may have euthanized a cow or sheep. But they would have referred to euthanizing a human being by another word: murder.
They would be shocked that the state of Oregon grants assisted suicide requests to residents 18 or older.
Let’s hope America doesn’t follow the example of Belgium, the pioneer in euthanasia. The first year it was legalized, 2003, there 235 euthanized deaths. By 2012 the figure had grown to 1,432 per year.
In the Netherlands, euthanasia is legal for children over the age of 12—with parental consent—and for infants!
Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family once observed that America will see the time when children will pressure parents to be euthanized. Elderly people will become a financial burden on the family and children will urge them to do it for the grandchildren who need money for college.
It seems little more than a historical footnote that families in the past were expected to sacrifice to send one child to college. We’ve reached a time when everyone is entitled to college but not entitled to life.
In Belgium proponents argue that since euthanasia is available for adults it is unfair to deny it to children. John Harris, a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester says, “It’s unfair to provide euthanasia differentially to some citizens and not to others (children) if the need is equal.”
Let’s welcome children to the new world where they have the same right to die as adults do. What an exciting prospect!
Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, a pediatric oncologist says child euthanasia is already happening informally. The current practice makes it happen “in dark and questionable ways.” Apparently legalization will make the murder of children a bright and acceptable event. Various states in our country are considering following the Belgian model.
The Declaration of Independence “declares” that all men have a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Brave men sacrificed their lives to achieve these virtues. Now we allow ourselves to be persuaded that these values are no longer valid.
Juxtapose the above with a statement by Isaiah the Prophet. He was inspired by God to write about a time in the future when the life of a man would become valuable. “I will make a man more precious than fine gold,” (Isaiah 13:12) It’s ironic that God values the life of man more than man does. The time will come when the highest and best creation of God’s work will be appreciated. The life of a man will be as valuable to man as it is to God.
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G.K. Chesterton is known for once saying: “When men stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.”
The Diving Board of Life
by Cynthia Saladin
The first summer I lifeguarded, I enjoyed it. I liked knowing that I was keeping the swimmers safe. And I only had to go in for one save that summer, so it was all good.
The next summer, I taught swimming lessons before the pool opened to the public in the afternoon for general swimming. Teaching swimming lessons was amazing! How much fun is it to take a child who won’t even put their face in the water and turn them into a fish!! On the last day of lessons, after only three weeks, teachers would take their swimmers to the deep end and let them jump off the diving board. When I was teaching the littlest swimmers, I was always treading water just below the board in order to catch them and get them started on their way to the side.
Some of those kids were tiny! What would possess them to climb up on the diving board, creep out to the end, and then jump into my arms?! After only three weeks of lessons?! They trusted me. They not only were willing to do what I asked; they believed I would keep them safe when they did it.
It’s no wonder Jesus said that we have to become like little children if we want to enter the kingdom of God! (Matthew 18:3) To obey - even when you’re scared - and to trust that God’s got you!! That’s the very definition of faith.
I was replaying that video in my head this morning - thinking about the faith of a little child, evaluating my faith. The scripture (1 Corinthians 13:12) popped into my head: we see through a glass darkly. We don’t know what’s coming. We don’t even fully understand what’s happening right now. We almost certainly don’t comprehend everything that has happened last week, last month, last year.
We don’t know why certain things have happened - health issues, relationship conflicts, natural disasters (called acts of God by the insurance companies), accidents, etc. We may find ourselves asking God why - not in the wrong way. We just want to know what it is that we’re supposed to be learning from whatever difficulty we’re walking through. It’s an expression of faith and trust - asking why - because it demonstrates
that we know God has allowed that circumstance to occur in our life.
But what if that’s not the best response? What if the best response is, “Thank You, Father, for loving me”? What if, like that scared little swimmer who creeps to the end of the diving board, we simply trust that God loves us enough to jump off into His waiting arms - trusting that He loves us enough to give us His very best, having the faith to believe that we don’t know what miracles He’s performing behind the scenes? What if the thing that we label Disaster is actually the event which draws us closer to Him? What if we are blessed to see God’s hand at work in our life because of where He has asked us to go?
It’s the craziest thing! Sometimes a child will be so afraid to climb up on the board. They have to have another teacher walk them out to the end of the board. I even had one little one who had to be lowered into the arms of her teacher, who was treading water below the board. Some of those kids are scared to death. But when they do it once, that’s all they want to do - over and over again. They get to the side of the pool, run to the diving board, and eagerly wait for their turn to go again.
Thinking of their enthusiasm brings tears to my eyes. What if, in addition, to being obedient and trusting God, what if we were jumping up and down in eager anticipation for whatever is next in God’s plan? It’s gonna be good - even if it doesn’t look good right now - because God loves us. He wants us in His kingdom with Him. And He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32) He’s already given us the most precious gift of all!!
So as the swimming lesson session of life winds down, how are you walking to the deep end and the diving board? Are you obedient? Are you trusting? Are you thankful? And are you joyful? Just something to think about.
Doing What You Love
by Cynthia Saladin
Solomon states that there’s nothing better than to find satisfaction in your work (Ecclesiastes 3:13). Have you experienced that feeling - loving what you do so much that, if you were independently wealthy, they wouldn’t even have to pay you to do it? It doesn’t get any better than that, does it? To work productively at something that brings you a great deal of satisfaction, something you are good at - and then they actually pay you to do it - that’s what we would all hope to achieve.
First, you have to know what you are good at - your talents and abilities. You have to accurately figure out where you would have to have more training and what you are capable in currently.
Secondly, you have to figure out what you’re interested in doing. It doesn’t matter how much money they pay you, if you hate doing the job, there’s not enough money to make you feel satisfaction at the end of the day.
Thirdly, you have to figure out what job (and company) fits your values. If you value God and family, you’re not going to be working in a godless career far from home.
And finally, you have to match a potential career with your personality type. Someone who is extremely compassionate could not work in hospice. It would be too emotionally taxing to be sustained. If you like to have everything scheduled and set, you will have a tough time being on call and not knowing when you have to do your job.
All of the above is what you gain when you take the Career Direct assessment and follow up with a consultation. Ron and I love this! For every client, it is a pleasure to be able to help them see their God-given design and start the process of figuring out their perfect fit in the career world.
Since our fellowship has invested in this project, don’t forget to look for people who could benefit from Career Direct. What a blessing to have a tool at our fingertips that could help someone find that job that they absolutely love, using their unique design as God intended!
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Lessons from the Garden
by Cynthia Saladin
Every time I watch the news or read a news article, I’m dismayed at world conditions. Some of it makes me angry. Some of it makes me sick. Some of it makes me feel very discouraged. Most of it just makes me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head, hoping it was just a bad dream and that it will all go away. Those feelings weigh me down and make me feel less like accomplishing anything. Of course, one solution is to just not look at the news, but that doesn’t make all of the evilness, insanity, and godlessness disappear; it just makes me less informed.
I was thinking about toil and trouble as I was picking blueberries and blackberries and watering the garden.
My garden is not producing like I would have liked or expected. I got it planted later than I wanted to because it was so wet so late. Then the deer very happily ate the cucumbers, beans, cantaloupe, strawberry leaves, and tomatoes when they first came up!!! Seriously!! Ron and I have taken some measures to discourage the deer. But the result of their nightly smorgasbord munching has set my garden back enormously. Then the extreme heat, the myriad of bugs, and dry conditions haven’t helped.
Nevertheless, the blueberries are trying. The early variety was nice and plump. The variety which ripens in July are not nearly so large and juicy. Nevertheless, they are plentiful. As I was picking blueberries this morning, I was struck by the realization that regardless of the difficulties and obstacles the plants face, they are still trying to produce fruit. Well, some of them are. The blueberries and blackberries are trying. On the other hand, the tomatoes have lots of blooms. The plants look dark green and healthy, but have very little fruit. The difficulties they experienced have resulted in limited production. I’ve weeded. I’ve mulched. I’m watering. Still on 35 plants I have five little tomatoes set on. I’m not happy.
Do you think God feels like that toward us? Jesus told us that in this life we would have trouble. We should expect difficulties and obstacles. So then, what do we do? Do we hunker down and just wait for the return of Jesus? Or like I said, go back to bed and pull the covers over my head, hoping it will all go away? Or do we tighten our belt, adjust our hat, straighten our shoulders, and resolve to produce fruit for the Master regardless of the difficulties and obstacles?
I know some people who exhibit peace, calm, and pleasantness regardless of the problems they are experiencing. To look at them, you’d never know that life has thrown them a nasty curveball in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line. And we’re not just talking about limited tomato production! These folks are struggling with severe issues.
I suspect that, for these folks, the peace they exude is not just a facade, but is very real evidence of their faith in the Master, in His provision, His sovereignty, and His goodness. Their peace is faith in action; it’s producing fruit for the Kingdom.
There are things we can do to help a garden be productive in the midst of a hot, dry summer. Of course, water is essential. But, in the end, God gives the increase. And that’s the key to my own emotional malaise, isn’t it? My loving Heavenly Father is still in control; He’s sovereign. He knows what I need to shape me into a useful tool for now and for in the kingdom. I need to take my eyes off this world and keep them firmly fixed on Jesus Christ.
And who knows, with all of those blooms, maybe I’ll have lots of tomatoes before the summer is over.
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"There is unwavering peace today when an uncertain tomorrow is trusted to an unchanging God."
- Ann Voskamp
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When the wheel was invented it caused a revolution.
The (Non) Essential Church
by Ron Saladin
Some things demand and get our immediate attention. Something flies into an eye, and we decide to take care of that problem right now. Or if something chokes off our breathing, we drop whatever we’re doing to deal with that issue as a top priority.
Other things of great importance do not demand or get such intense attention. Dealing with a bad habit such as smoking can be put off for many years. Someone once close to me told me he did not feel like smoking cigarettes was hurting him. Eventually though, he came to regret the habit as emphysema came to rob him of breath, being active, and life itself prematurely. The time to deal with the developing problem was ignored because it could be ignored as it seemed inconsequential in day to day living. But time passes and unchangeable consequences accumulate.
Similar laws operate at the spiritual level. Starting the day with a bad attitude and being rude to others will often bring a pretty quick backlash from a spouse or other family members, co-workers, or a boss. Confrontations and the possibility of losing friends or a job might result in modifications of such behavior much sooner than later. Likewise, pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Puffed up people, especially Christians it seems to me, often experience deflation fairly quickly. Perhaps it’s just because of how the world operates. Or maybe God keeps a needle handy.
Other bad choices or behaviors may have spiritual effects which do not manifest until the unchangeable future. The consequences accumulate unperceived over long periods of time until the final recognition of permanent loss.
Barna published a 2020 study on the decline in weekly church attendance. It showed a long-term trend from 2009 of 48% of U.S. adults attending services to 29% in 2020.
Of course drop-offs in church attendance are nothing new. Written in the first century of the church, Hebrews 10:25 warns Christians against the forsaking of assembling together. Almost from the very inception of the church some 2000 years ago, some saw the church as non-essential, optional, not worth the trouble, something which was ignored because it could be ignored. Week after week of abandoning the church did not seem to matter.
Jesus said He would build His church. Much effort, toil, and suffering was involved in the doing so in the years following Pentecost described in Acts 2. The church is an imperfect association of people that God works through. The Bible describes the church with such metaphors as the body of Christ, His future bride, a building He is constructing. Can a real Christian ignore something so intimate to Christ, something He has and is putting so much effort into, and come away in the end unaffected?
I don’t think so, but obviously many people see it differently. They put out the effort to get to work 5-6 days a week, but they seem to feel church is too much effort, optional, non-essential. Just not that important. Sounds a bit harsh when expressed like that, but that’s the reality of the actions. And if that perceived reality is true, what a horrible waste of time, energy, and loss of sleeping in the church has been for those who make the effort to attend.
So, are there any consequences? I’ll discuss one that I think is easy to miss but builds into eternal consequences as life goes by.
Sanctification is a process, an ongoing lifelong growth of being formed into the image of Christ. It is a work of the Holy Spirit in us, combined with the reception of God’s Word into our consciousness and hopefully resulting in a willing spirit learning to do everything God’s way, a metamorphosis training program.
In any true church of God, the Holy Spirit is present. Things should happen and proceed according to the plans of God and with His direction. People are being shaped in a process overseen by God for a purpose. The people are there in obedience to God’s command to assemble and the reward is in the training. The sanctification training is preparation for active participation in the future eternal kingdom of God. Jesus told the disciples they would sit upon thrones and judge Israel (Matthew 19:28). Paul the Apostle said the saints shall judge the world and angels (I Corinthians 6:2-3). Kings and priests are destined to reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10) and Jesus said the overcomers who keep His works unto the end will receive power over the nations (Revelation 2:26). How are we prepared for that destiny? A little at a time, almost imperceptibly, under the careful guidance of the Holy Spirit by overcoming the desire to sleep in and actually being where the works of Jesus are proclaimed and taught.
Will God do the same thing with a person staying home listening to a CD, etc? He could, but will He reward a person who has the option to be obedient and assemble but decides to ignore what Jesus has built in the church?
Some disciplines simply require your presence. For example, doctors can spend 3-7 years training under the supervision of other accredited, experienced physicians. Interns cannot effectively learn their calling sitting at home watching videos.
The children of God have a calling far exceeding the medical field. Our calling is of the highest order and eternal. The training is now, life is the internship, and key aspects of the training occur when assembled in church on the days God has ordained. Much of what we know about Jesus is recorded from what He said and did on Sabbaths and Holy Days. Ignoring these things simply because we can may result in a loss of our potential as our training may have gaps that God feels no obligation to fill in. Those gaps may very well have a bearing on where we end up in the Kingdom of God, the responsibilities we are entrusted with. Justification is in Jesus Christ alone, but sanctification only flourishes in conjunction with obedience.
The non-essential church is actually a critical essential part, by design, of becoming what we hope to be as the eternal children of God.
We ignore it because we can to our own detriment.
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Faith's Checkbook - Blue Letter Bible (blueletterbible.org)
Charles H. Spurgeon
July 17, 2022
Valiant for Truth
The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.
"The Lord is a man of war, Jehovah is his name." Those who enlist under His banner shall have a Commander who will train them for the conflict, and give them both vigor and valor. The times of which Daniel wrote were of the very worst kind, and then it was promised that the people of God would come out in their best colors: they would be strong and stout to confront the powerful adversary.
Oh, that we may know our God; His power, His faithfulness, His immutable love, and so may be ready to risk everything in His behalf. He is One whose character excites our enthusiasm, and makes us willing to live and to die for Him. Oh, that we may know our God by familiar fellowship with Him; for then we shall become like Him, and shall be prepared to stand up for truth and righteousness. He who comes forth fresh from beholding the face of God will never fear the face of man. If we dwell with Him, we shall catch the heroic spirit, and to us a world of enemies will be but as the drop of a bucket. A countless array of men, or even of devils, will seem as little to us as the nations are to God, and He counts them only as grasshoppers. Oh, to be valiant for truth in this day of falsehood.
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Harvest Season - Lessons From the Garden
by Cynthia Saladin
Gardening is hard work! Don’t laugh at me. I’m serious! I’m not talking about tilling the ground, pulling weeds, watering, planting, keeping the critters out (repeat as needed); I’m talking about the harvest! We don’t often think of the harvest as hard work. We think about the joy of going out to the garden and picking a ripe tomato, sauntering back inside to prepare a BLT. But what if it’s not just one tomato? What if it’s 6 bushels of tomatoes and today’s already Thursday and you’ve already canned 50 quarts and you’re only halfway done? (This happened this week to someone I know!) Or how about cucumbers by the 5-gallon pail? Or gallons and gallons of grapes?
I’m not complaining.
I’m feeling so incredibly blessed at the abundance of produce from the garden. Many days I go outside and pick what is ripe and then come inside and work until dark getting it processed and preserved. Harvest season is hard work!
Two things occurred to me as I was thinking about that this week. First, as we (as a society) get further and further from an agrarian lifestyle, we can very easily miss some of the object lessons in the Bible because so many of them are based on farming or animal husbandry or both. That’s a shame! The words of life are becoming more and more of a mystery to us (as a people) as we get farther and farther from the land.
Secondly, harvesting is hard work. And as I experience that in my garden, I’m wondering if I somehow missed the object lesson: preaching the gospel, letting our lights shine to those around us, exhorting, encouraging, planting seeds - it’s hard work. Do we really understand the dedication that God is asking of us as ambassadors of Christ? Are we content to stroll out to the garden (spiritually speaking) and pick a solitary tomato? Don’t we understand how much time, effort, blood and tears goes into this?
But here’s the really cool part of it: harvest season is the highlight of the whole year. It’s the time when we see the blessings of God. The joy and satisfaction we feel from slicing into a ripe watermelon which cracks before the knife can cut all the way through! That’s the joy and contentment we should feel from working in God’s harvest field. And that spiritual harvest is a lot more meaningful than gallons of green beans or tomatoes or grapes.
A Mountain Choir
Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.
So sweet are the comforts of the Lord, that not only the saints themselves may sing of them, but even the Heavens and the earth may take up the song. It takes something to make a mountain sing; and yet the prophet summons quite a choir of them. Lebanon, and Sirion, and the high hills of Bashan and Moab, He would set them all singing because of Jehovah's grace to His own Zion. May we not also make mountains of difficulty, and trial, and mystery, and labor become occasions for praise unto our God? "Break forth into singing, O mountains!"
This word of promise, that our God will have mercy upon His afflicted, has a whole peal of bells connected with it. Hear their music - "Sing!" "Be joyful!" "Break forth into singing." The Lord would have His people happy because of His unfailing love. He would not have us sad and doubtful; He claims from us the worship of believing hearts. He cannot fail us: why should we sigh or sulk as if He would do so? Oh for a well-tuned harp! Oh for voices like those of the cherubim before the throne!
~Faith's Checkbook; Charles H. Spurgeon; email@example.com; July 7, 2022
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"A two-year-old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it.” - Jerry Seinfeld
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It’s Time For the Feast!! by Cynthia Saladin
There’s a smell of Feast in the air! There’s excited conversations about Feast at church. We’re hearing messages about the upcoming holy days, especially the Feast of Tabernacles. I’m making lists and making plans - phone calls about travel and meals and baptisms. A couple of us are getting ready to do the Psalms of Ascents as we lead up to Tabernacles. And we’re telling the old stories - Feast funnies from previous years about “Going to the Feast!” and melting cutting boards and topless blenders. The garden is winding down. The grape harvest is in. The beans are about done. The tomatoes - well, I’ll be canning them until we get a freeze. But the harvest is about done for the year. And that’s as it should be because Exodus 23:16 says, You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor.
That phrase “your labor” gave me pause. When I think back over the last year, I know that I have accomplished a lot; the garden has been fruitful this summer. I am productive in the place where God has placed me. And that’s good. I’m supposed to thrive when God puts me to work. But I think the physical is an object lesson for the spiritual. So I started evaluating my productivity over the past year in a spiritual sense. Am I growing as a child of God? What spiritual fruit has been produced in me?
I have to tell you, I had a pretty sobering reality check when I read Exodus 23:16 again a couple of weeks ago. What offering am I bringing before my Savior, my King, my Sovereign of the fruit of my labor? What is worthy to be brought before Him, a sample of my time as His servant?
We love the Feast of Tabernacles. It’s the highlight of the whole year. We love fellowshipping with people who love God. We love singing songs of praise in a room full of enthusiastic feast-goers. We love the time away from our daily lives and worries. We love the celebrating. But we also need to evaluate the growth from last Feast to this one. Are we growing closer to God? Are we allowing God to transform us into the image of His Son? What are we bringing from the fruit of our labor to offer before Him?
God will not accept anything less than our complete, total devotion to Him - a living sacrifice in His service. How are you doing with that?
We’re Almost Home by Cynthia Saladin
One of the best parts of the Feast of Tabernacles for me is worshipping God in song with hundreds of people. The uniting of voices in praise to our Great God fills me with joy. Close on the heels of that is finding a new song that I absolutely fall in love with. Karl Wilson introduced me (all of us) to “Almost Home.”
Don’t drop a single anchor, we’re almost home
Through ev’ry toil and danger, we’re almost home
How many pilgrim saints have before us gone?
No stopping now, we’re almost home.
That promised land is callin’, we’re almost home
And not a tear shall fall then, we’re almost home
Make ready now your souls for that Kingdom come
No turning back, we’re almost home. (Chorus)
This journey ours together, we’re almost home
Unto that great forever, we’re almost home
What song anew we’ll sing ‘round that happy throne
Come faint of heart, we’re almost home. (Chorus)
This life is just a vapor, we’re almost home
That sun is settin’ yonder, we’re almost home
Take courage. for this darkness shall break to dawn
Oh, lift your eyes, we’re almost home. (Chorus)
(Chorus) Almost home, we’re almost home
So press on toward that blessed shore
Oh, praise the Lord, we’re almost home.
As we’re driving home from the Feast, we talk about the messages we heard, the activities we enjoyed, the blessings of God. But eventually, we turn our thoughts towards what has to be done as we pick up the threads of our life again. And sometimes, the post-Feast blues set in. We hate to leave the Feast. We hate to go back to the work we know is waiting for us - not necessarily because the work is so terrible! It’s just such a contrast from being surrounded by so many people praising God together!
But as we near the end of the trip back home, we’re tired of being in the car. We’re ready to be home. We’re ready to pick up the cat and cuddle her and pet the exuberant dogs whose tails seem like they just might wag right off because they’re going so hard. And we know that our home is where God has placed us for a time - to occupy until Jesus’ return.
The parallel between traveling home from the Feast and journeying towards our Kingdom home is poignant - to say the least. At the Feast this year, we received the news that our friend and brother Tom Potts didn’t have to go home after the Feast. His race is run. No more post-Feast blues. And he feels good - finally again.
But the rest of us are going to need that encouragement to keep going. There are still a few more miles to travel before we’re home. We can’t stop. We can’t drop an anchor. We can’t turn back. We must strive for the kingdom, fight the good fight, finish well. We must not be faint of heart, but we must, rather, lift our eyes to the Author and Finisher of our faith to captain us as we keep going.
We’re almost home, children. We’re almost home, brothers and sisters. There will be new songs to sing. The danger and toil and tears will be past. Take courage, y’all. Strive to finish well. The darkness will soon be past. Stay the course. We’re almost home.
Always First in Fellowship by Charles H. Spurgeon
firstname.lastname@example.org October 7, 2022
He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
Where He appointed to meet His disciples, there He would be in due time. Jesus keeps His tryst. If He promises to meet us at the mercy-seat, or in public worship, or in the ordinances, we may depend upon it that He will be there. We may wickedly stay away from the appointed meeting-place, but He never does. He says, "Where two or three are met together in my name, there am I"; he says not "There will I be," but, "I am there already."
Jesus is always first in fellowship: "He goeth before you." His heart is with His people, His delight is in them, He is never slow to meet them. In all fellowship, He goeth before us.
But he reveals Himself to those who come after Him: "There shall ye see him." Joyful sight! We care not to see the greatest of mere men, but to see HIM is to be filled with joy and peace. And we shall see Him, for He promises to come to those who believe in Him, and to manifest Himself to them. Rest assured that it will be so, for He does everything according to His word of promise: "As he said unto you." Catch at those last words, and be assured that to the end He will do for you "as he said unto you."
You don't need a parachute to go skydiving;
you need a parachute to go skydiving twice.
"It is only the fear of God that can deliver us from the fear of man.”
The only cleric to sigh the Declaration of Independence.
by Cynthia Saladin
Change is SO hard. We are willing to endure the imperfections of the present because we fear the unknown that change will bring. Oh we sing “Change my heart, O God, make it ever new; change my heart, O God, may I be like You.” But we hope that the change is painless and swift and immediately brings us pleasure - or that we won’t really have to change too much. We like our ruts.
But the problem is that we must be changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, if we are going to be part of the family of God, the Bride of Christ, a kingdom of priests forever - whichever type you want to consider. We, in our present condition, are clay that must be molded, shaped, and changed into a usable vessel, completely willing and available to be used by our Master. We, however, would rather that God be available to us - providing protection, provision, direction, and grace. And truly our loving Heavenly Father does do all of these things, but we’d like all of these things without the change that must accompany His love and power.
Too often we conduct ourselves as baby Christians, still wanting (or demanding) God’s blessings like a nursing baby demands his mother’s breast when he wants it. God does love us, but He wants us to grow out of this stage of demanding His provision as if our prayers were a grocery list that He must supply upon command.
Rather, consider Psalm 131
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
We must grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father so that we are no longer a baby Christian, but a weaned child. We must move from demanding God’s grace in our prayers, to realizing His mercy is always there. We calm and quiet ourselves, trusting and hoping in Him beyond the vanishing point, from this time forth and forevermore.
It’s the evidence of the growth in our relationship with our Heavenly Father that we are not fearful of the change that is occurring, whether it’s around us in society, our personal sphere, or within our own hearts and minds. We calm and quiet our souls, trusting God to be God. That’s my job: to let Him be God.
I appreciate that God gives us analogies to help us understand what our Biblical covenant looks like in practical terms. [The covenant, “I will be their God, and they will be my people,” is found throughout the Bible: Exodus 6:7; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 30:22; Ezekiel 36:28; Hosea 2:23; Zechariah 8:8; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 8:10; Revelation 21:3] One of the simplest analogies is a shepherd with his sheep. Just as the shepherd cares for his sheep, so my Shepherd cares and provides for, and protects me. My job is to be a sheep in His pasture - not demanding provision and direction, but trusting that I’m secure in His care - no matter what. If I’m afraid, I just need to run to Him - to get closer to Him.
And the closer I get to Him, the more I seek His face, the more I am changed into His likeness. The change isn’t scary; it’s a part of getting closer to my Shepherd - which is where I feel safe.
If the world around you looks scary, if change is looming in your life, consider your position as a lamb in the care of your Shepherd or a weaned child safe in the care of your loving Parent. And be still.