Who Is My Neighbor? (Workcamp 2017 Part 3)

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This week we bring you part 3, the final of “Who Is My Neighbor” from the Senior High Workcamp participants who went to Crossville, TN this year to share the love of Christ.  Here are more testimonies from the youth:

“This week my neighbor told us that she had been in a really dark place for months after her husband died. She said that she had been praying for light and that then we showed up. I just thought this was an awesome God moment since the theme for the week was “Light It Up”.”

“My neighbor cried when we left claiming that we are God’s little angels and the only thing missing were the wings. We impacted her on a new level.”

“When Danen Kane talked about his friend struggling and sang the song he wrote for her.”

“I saw the light of Christ this week in the joy of our neighbors when they saw we had finished work on their house.”

“I saw the light of Christ in all of the girls and their willingness to get to know each other and be open!”

”I found the light of Christ when I was talking to the neighbor. She was just so thankful and I just knew that Christ had a great plan for me and that I had really found him.” - Sydney Garrells

“I saw the light of Christ in my neighbor. She provided us with food even though she did not have a lot of money. She also willingly shared her story with us and was the best neighbor I ever had in my past 5 years.”

“I saw God this week in my injury. Out of all the possible injuries that could have occurred, a cleanly broken left pinkie toe is the least painful. I am thankful that I was not more seriously injured. Also, I thank you Lord for keeping me as safe as you did.”

“I saw the light of Christ in many places this week. First of all, I saw it in the faces of many of my peers. So many of the youth were simply on fire for God. One specific peer stuck by me all week and taught me what it meant to follow Christ wholeheartedly. She has such a big heart and loves every single person so dearly. This week Tasha showed me unending friendship and compassion. Tasha showed me what a Godly woman is and how exactly she should act. Tasha showed me what determination meant in all that she did and said. Tasha became a forever friend in simply a week and I’m so glad God blessed me with such a great companion.”

Love Your Neighbor (1 John 5.6-15; 4.16-21)

As we talked about in Tuesday's podcast, John's first letter is an incredibly rich appeal to the churches who received John's letter. As we consider how to better love our neighbor this week, I want to jump to the end of the chapter that comes right before the text we talked about Sunday (1 John 5.6-15):

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 4:16b–21 (NIV)

John reminds us that our claim about loving God first begins in the action of loving our neighbor. In fact, he says that you can't have one without the other. Understandably, this is a hard thing to do – almost impossible. But John reminds us at the beginning of this passage that "we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment." In a world where fear is used on a regular basis to prompt us to not love our neighbors, John reminds us that in this world we take on the fear-dispelling nature of Jesus – a nature that is centered, grounded, and continually revolves around a love that operates out of identity with the other ('in the flesh' or incarnation, John would say)  instead of fear of the other. May God fill us with that kind of love today and in these days ahead.

Deeper Dive Podcast (1 John 5.6-15)

Randy, Debbie, and Isaac talk about the first century gnostics challenge to the churches John was caring for along with how we think about "in" and "out" in Christianity.

Listen in your device's podcast app – Apple version here and Android version here or use the desktop-only player below.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.


About the Authors
Randy and Debbie Reese are Co-Directing Pastors at Calvary UMC
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Teach Us to Pray (1 John 5.6-15)

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The last part of our text for this week says:

“13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

When we pull this section out of John’s flow of thought in his letter, we might be tempted to make broader generalizations about God’s will (and what’s in and what’s out of God’s will and what we ask for in alignment with that will). But John doesn’t leave it that open-ended. He goes on to say:

“16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. (I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.) 18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.”

I put parentheses around the last half of v 16 and v17 because they really function as a footnote for John - something that needs to be noted but is not the main point of his thought flow – so for now, let’s set those verses aside and look at the whole thing again:

“13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. 18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.”

Part of our prayer life, according to John, is the assurance that sin does not have power over us and that God’s will for us is to have lives where the marring and scaring effects of sin become less and less as we approach God more and more. God’s will centers around our confident/assured approach to connecting with the One who continually offers renewal, grace, and peace as he calls and receives us back to himself again and again and again and again…

As you pray today, rest in the knowledge that sin does not have final power over us. Know that God’s desire is to pour a life that is eternally new into your spirit each and every day.

______________

About the Author

Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (1 John 5:6-15)

This week we'll be exploring 1 John 5:6-15).  

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here

A Light to My Path (1 John 5.6-15)

Our text for the following week is 1 John 5.6-15:

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Question for Reflection

In a world that is placing less and less emphasis on the validity of testimony, why do you think the Apostle John leans heavily on testimony in this section of his letter?

Who Is My Neighbor (Workcamp 2017 Part 2)

This week we bring you part 2 of “Who Is My Neighbor” from the Senior High Workcamp participants who went to Crossville, TN this year to share the love of Christ.  Here are more testimonies from the youth.

“This week the songs during program spoke to me in a different way. Also, the people I met showed me that I need to work harder to be a strong Christian.” - Spencer Hopt

“I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people. I feel like Christ really moved through the people and everybody on my crew was very social. I have always felt a little disconnected, but now I finally feel like I am connected :) I was really blessed with a great crew and workcamp.”

“I saw God this week in my neighbor. She went through a lot in only the one week we were there but her faith was steadfast.  However, when I truly saw the light of Christ, we were going around the circle talking about each other. I really needed to hear what she said to me and it really touched me. Her faith and her words really inspired me and were exactly what I needed this week.”

“I experienced God’s presence in our evening programs and our Calvary devos. When we would worship God with songs I could relate to a lot of lyrics and I felt as if the Lord was speaking to me and comforting me. At one of the programs we had a candle and we would light it for a prayer to symbolize God has been through the same thing and He will be with us through it all. That touched me because I realized that our God has lived out a tough life on earth and He can relate to us. He knows how tough things can be and He will never leave us alone in these situations. I also saw God in my neighbor because she and her nurse were always so kind to my crew and at the end of the week she would participate in devos and she shared what she had learned about God in her life, which was amazing.” - Tasha Schuckman

“I saw the light when all the hard work felt like no big deal because we were doing it for a good cause and we had a big support system for us. Everyone was so welcoming and accepting all week.”

“I could see the light of Christ through my neighbor. She was the sweetest person and her love for her family, us and God was so strong. She showed me how to love like God.” - Maddie Zook


Deeper Dive Podcast (Romans 9.1-5)

Randy, Debbie, and Isaac explore other passages in Scripture where things don't always turn out as expected and talk a little more about the Paul's desire for Israel in Romans 9.

Listen in your device's podcast app – Apple version here and Android version here or use the desktop-only player below.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.


About the Authors
Randy and Debbie Reese are Co-Directing Pastors at Calvary UMC
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Teach Us to Pray (Romans 9.1-5)

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How do we pray for those who have not seen what we’ve seen, tasted what we’ve tasted, or experienced what we’ve experienced? While Paul might not give us a specific form to pray in this week’s text, he does give us an example of the kind of attitude, posture, or mindset to pray from – a posture that mirrors Chirst’s willingness to give up everything he had for others, in order for others to come close to God. Paul talks about this mindset in his letter to the Philippians church:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
 (Philippians 2.5-11)

As you pray today, position yourself in that mindset/attitude of Jesus and be alert to how that mindset shapes your prayer for others.

_______

About the Author

Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (Romans 9:1-5)

This week we'll be exploring Romans 9:1-5.  

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen.

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here

A Light to My Path (Romans 9:1-5)

Our text for the coming week is Romans 9:1-5:

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!  Amen.

Question for Reflection:

Paul wishes that he could give up everything that is dear to him to bring his brothers and sisters who haven't experienced the fullness of Christ to that fullness. At what times have you felt that way about others?

Who Is My Neighbor? (Workcamp 2017 Part 1)

Our Senior High Youth recently experienced their annual Workcamp, this year going to Crossville, Tennessee.  Because this is always a powerful time for our youth, we wanted you to get it first hand from the youth.  Here is what some of them wrote about their experience at Workcamp as they reached out to those in Crossville.  You’ll want to know that as they talk about their ‘neighbors’ they are referring to the residents of the homes on which they worked.  Some of these are signed and some are anonymous.

“I saw the light of Christ this week in my neighbors. At the beginning of the week, they were sort of quiet and they just let us work without really talking to us. During the week, they started to open up to us and started to tell us about their lives, the house, etc. On Thursday especially we talked for over an hour and I feel like they all saw Christ through us which felt amazing.”

Lexi Showalter   “Michael encouraged me to be very honest/personal during the devotionals. I helped lead, and I was very nervous about doing so. But once I had shared, quite a few people came up to me or wrote in a care card to me that they appreciated me speaking out. There seemed to be a lot of people feeling how I felt, understood what I was talking about, or they just thanked me for bringing the matter to light. (pun intended being that the workcamp theme was light it up). PS, I don’t have a spiritual high this year, but instead a goal. For my last year,  I’m going to make a difference at Calvary. I’m going to be the servant leader who goes out and includes EVERYONE!”

“I saw the light of Christ in many ways this week. The passion and enthusiasm and uplifting spirit of everyone. The love of my crew and leaders and how they loved our neighbor. I also saw the light of Christ in the program and especially the worship songs. The light of Christ was also shown in the ways we were providing and the impact seen from my neighbor Charlie.”

Sydney Beggs  “I saw the light of Christ in my neighbor this week. From the very first day she welcomed our crew with open arms and showed us real southern hospitality. She was constantly telling us how grateful she was to us and even bought us all lunch one day to show her gratitude. She also inspired me with her never-ending faith. She had gone through so many trials in her 88 years of life, yet she still trusted in God and his plan for her. Overall her love and her faith in God shined a bright light in my life and for that I am forever grateful to her.”

To be continued in next week’s Who Is My Neighbor?


About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC

Deeper Dive Podcast (Psalm 86.1-13 part 2)

Randy, Debbie, and Isaac talk about a variety of topics related to Psalm 86. Paul's letters to the Corinthian Church and the question of God's role in temptation make their way into the conversation as well.

Listen in your device's podcast app – Apple version here and Android version here or use the desktop-only player below.


Questions or discussion? Click here to comment.


About the Authors
Randy and Debbie Reese are Co-Directing Pastors at Calvary UMC
Isaac Gaff is the Managing Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Calvary UMC

Sunday Worship (Psalm 86:1-13 Part 2)

This week we'll be exploring Psalm 86:1-13 again. 

“Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.”

Each Sunday you can find the live stream here or watch the archive here.