I’m so glad you’re joining us during this Lenten Season for these short and poignant readings. Lent has always been a time when the Church has prepared its heart for Easter. So let this Lent be a time when we do the same.

Each day you’ll receive (or access on our church’s website) a short reading. The scriptures come from the lections (Church scriptures arranged according to the Church calendar). The reflections come from a number of people in the life of our church. Each reading attempts to reflect on the Word of God from a place of missions. Simply put, these are men and women, boys, girls, teens, who have had experiences in sharing the Good News of Jesus in our community and (quite literally) around the globe. We have done this to remind us that God has a heart for this world and we are the hands and feet of Jesus sharing His love to those around us.

As you access the devotions you’ll notice there are a number that I’ve written as well. Given the fact all the contributors are writing from a place missions, I’m taking the lens of where we are with God in a more general sense. I hope the balance is helpful. Besides, the bottom-line in our life with God and our neighbor is balance. We love others (mission) out of a deep love we receive from the Lord.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Tim


Week 2 – March 24

Name and Age: Michele Byington, 43

Missional experience: two trips to Dominican Republic, Taste of the Nation Orlando chair 2010 and 2011.

Scripture
I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you--
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

--Psalm 121


The missional journey…
Nerves, stress, fear--leaving behind those you love to love those you’ve never met. Obedience to the call to do God’s work in the mission field, begins with anticipation as expectations are unclear. Doubt enters and your abilities to be worthy or capable to carry out the tasks ahead. As your walls wear down your self –reliance and control, you focus clearly on none other than our Holy Father. By His greatness you are overwhelmed. You have worshipped Him by your actions, you answered His call and He alone places purpose in your activities. He blesses you, your actions and your relationship with Him.
His greatness created all things (In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth Genesis 1:1) and now you feel His presence in a tangible way guiding you, protecting you (The Lord watches over you--Psalm 121:5). He strengthens you (So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand Isaiah 41:10). His love shines through you (In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven Matthew 5:16). You keep the presence of the Holy Spirit with you forever and know God loves you (….If God is for us, who can be against us?.......For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31, 38-39).

 

Week 2 – March 23

Name and age: Ruthie Wiewiora, Age 58

Missional experience: Full time with Campus Crusade for Christ since 1976; 16 of those years served in Poland (1980-1996)

Scripture:
The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

--Psalm 121:7-8


Ziutka was a young, plainclothes, undercover nun. I was an undercover Protestant missionary posing as a student. It was autumn 1981 in Poland. Solidarity, the trade union, was holding non-violent strikes to bring worldwide attention to unethical practices in the Communist government-controlled factories, steel mills and shipyards.

The question in the country that fall was: When would the Russians march into Poland to put a stop to the union’s challenge to the Communist party’s power?
If the Soviet army invaded Poland, the populace would rise up and there would be a bloodbath.

If a crackdown came, Ziutka, as part of the Roman Catholic Church, and I, part of an international Christian organization, could find ourselves in peril. However, we both had callings from the Lord. Ziutka’s order worked with poor orphans. I was called to share the gospel with college students. God has a heart for the poor and orphaned, and God has a desire for people to come to know Him. People are lonely and hurting without parents and without The Parent.

Lack of freedom, chaos, or an invading army was not conducive to either of our ministries. But we were not going to let fear control or stop us.
Psalm 121:7,8 states that “the Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever” (NASB).

What could two young women in their 20s do? Ziutka and I met each week for fellowship over tea and chocolate, and for prayer. I didn’t know much Polish and Ziutka didn’t know much English. But both of us had the love of Jesus in our hearts and we trusted Him. We encouraged each other and we prayed together.
As you see and hear reports about protests in countries around the world, pray for the Christians who live there. Pray they would continue in their ministry to orphans and boldly share the truth that salvation is found in Christ alone. He is Savior and Lord. Pray for freedom of religion in all countries. Pray for peace, but not with strict government controls.

On December 13, 1981, the Polish army took complete control in Poland. There was not a bloodbath, since Poles would not attack their own sons. However, freedoms were greatly limited for a time.

History says that a strong U.S. President, a Polish pope, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner helped cause Poland, and the rest of Eastern Europe, to gain independence.
Perhaps God’s people praying--including a nun and a missionary--had something to do with it, too.

Do you wonder if your prayers have results? Thirty years after Ziutka and I began to pray, the nuns’ orphanage and preschool on the outskirts of Warsaw helps hundreds of children and teens. Warsaw International Church, a Protestant English-speaking church, provides Christmas presents each year for those orphans. Rich and I are founding members of that church.

In May, I will visit some of the people I discipled years ago, who are spiritual leaders in Poland today. And I will go visit a special friend, Sister Ziutka.

Prayer:
Lord, help Christians today in countries where there is upheaval to trust You and to obey Your call. Help me here to do Your will. Protect us from evil. Amen.

 

Week 2 – March 22

Name and Age: Lauren Ferguson, age 24

Missional experience: Bangalore, India

Scripture:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you--
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

--Psalm 121


I had the opportunity to travel to Bangalore, India, two years ago and experienced God moving in radical ways half-way across the world. The majority of our time in India was spent praying for this hurting nation, where only a little over 2% of the 1.1 billion population are Christian. It was during these prayer times where God’s presence was overwhelming and very tangible. God longs to see this nation restored and He is breathing in the lives of the small children with whom my team stayed. There is no doubt that God is raising up a generation of warriors to bring Jesus to the lost of this nation.

The theme that kept replaying in my mind was how small we are compared to how big He is. The Jesus I call on to lead me each day is the same Jesus the children in India call on to lead them. The Holy Spirit that lives and breathes in me is the same Holy Spirit that is moving and prompting a revelation in the hearts of many in India. God is God no matter where He is or where we are. Amen!

Bangalore is approximately 10 ½ hours ahead of Oviedo, Florida. This means that as you prepare for bed and turn in for the night, our brothers and sisters in India are waking to a brand new day. As God tucks us in at night, He awakens the other side of the world. “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Our God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is watching over His creation every hour of every day. He is always there, “both now and forevermore.”

Challenge:
As you rest your head on your pillow this evening, pray for our brothers and sisters who are waking up around the world. Pray that God gives His children the strength they need to bring glory to His name.

 

Week 2 – March 21

Name and Age: Taylor Fohr, age 14

Missional experience: The mission experience described in this devotional: driving down the street. (Otherwise, I've done Converge, Celebrate Jesus, Community Launch days with the church, HOPE, etc.)

Scripture:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you--
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

--Psalm 121

 

Every time we do something, every time we help someone, it’s an act of faith.

Actively having faith means uncertainty, because it’s putting our reliance on God, not ourselves.

And sometimes, we get kind of afraid of uncertainty. Uncertainty isn’t comfortable. We’re always relying on ourselves, always planning out our moves before we make them...we don’t always like that uncertainty that comes with faith.

So sometimes, we just back down to avoid it. We become afraid that we’re going to fail. A major way we back down because we’re afraid of failure is when God is telling us to help people out. We see a need, we feel like God wants us to help someone, but so many times we don’t because we don’t know HOW to.

This kind of situation has happened to me so many times, and you’ve probably had a similar experience. I saw a man sitting on the side of the road. His appearance was the image so many of us think of when we think of a stereotypical homeless man. Beard, tattered hair, soft eyes, a backpack. I kept having this strong sense of God telling me to do something to help him. Sure. But what? As we sat at that red light, I sat there and wondered what to do to help him. Of course I didn’t want to stop the car, get out, and walk over if I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do or say- I was afraid of failure, of uncertainty. Ultimately, of faith. A minute later, the light turned green, and we moved on.

This is an example of how sometimes, we’re afraid to step out in faith because we don’t really know what’s going on, what we’re supposed to do, what’s going to happen, etc.

But we so often forget what God has said. Over and over and over again, Psalm 121 assures us...

“My help comes from the Lord.” (v. 2)

“He will not let your foot slip.” (v. 3)

“He who watches over you will not slumber.” (v.3)

“The Lord watches over you.” (v. 5)

“He will watch over your life.” (v. 7)

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (v. 8)

God is with us, he’s promised to be constantly watching over us, and he’s promised to not let our foot slip. Step out in faith, and don’t be afraid of what you don’t know, because God is with you. He knows what he’s doing.

 

Prayer:
Thank you for who you are, Father. Please help us remember and live in the powerful fact that you’re with us. God, we ask that you’d give us the strength to step out in faith and trust in you. Even when we’re uncertain in what you’re doing or what we’re supposed to do, we can be certain in the fact that you’re with us, and you won’t let us fall. Teach us not to fear failure in the world’s eyes, but to fear failure in your eyes. You’re awesome, God. We love you.

 

Week 1 – March 19

Pastor Tim

Scripture:

Many are the sorrows of the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.

Psalm 32:10 (New American Standard Bible)

 

According to the Old Testament, the “wicked” are those who have rejected trust in the Lord. In other words, they know they can trust in the Lord but have chosen to refuse His Lordship and have moved in the direction of life lived with no reference point to God. Another way to put this would be to say that the person has closed/shut God out of his/her life. Now hold onto that working definition. You see, when we push God out of our lives we also cut ourselves out of the good/Godly results of having God in our lives. There’s a cost. Now let me take a minor tangent. I’m not suggesting (in the least) that when we are open to life with God the future becomes easy and material goods and vocational successes follow. What I am saying is that we miss out on God’s longing to handle us with care.

Do you see the word ‘lovingkindness?’ That particular word describes the posture of the Lord towards those who have placed their trust in Him. He will handle them with care, tenderness, mercy… i.e. lovingkindness. It’d be akin to when I go to the grocery store and buy a dozen eggs. Once they are in my possession and I’ve purchased them I make sure they are handled with care all the way home to the fridge. Now it doesn’t mean I’m going to drive home on a completely smooth road or that the risk of them falling completely goes away; however, it does mean that I’m going to do my level best to handle them carefully. I’m going to have lovingkindness toward those little white and fragile spheres of nutrition.

In the midst of the countless dozens of fragile lives that are out there in this world, where are you putting your trust? Whose care are you living in? It’s an all-important question because last I checked Humpty Dumpty didn’t fare too well when he fell off the wall. Not even the king’s men could put him back together. But in the hands of the Creator of all things… even us cracked eggs can find tenderness and love.

Prayer: “Lord, I want to live within your lovingkindness. Help me trust in You. Amen.”

 
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