White Water Rafting

We had an awesome time on our rafting trip last Saturday! The Rise class here at the Chapel went to Ohiopyle, PA and spent the day on the Youghiogeny River. The Yough, as it is called has three different sections that you can raft on. The Lower, Middle and Upper. We did the Lower section which is intermediate in intensity (class 3/4 rapids). The water level was elevated by several feet over the average height for this time of year. This was great news for us because it increased the speed of the water and intensity of the rapids.

This created a perfect environment for us because we had to really work together and trust one another. We had two rafts of 8 people each plus two guides. Typically the guides go in kayaks but due to the water level state law required that a guide be in each raft. The guide for my group, Thomas was a lot of fun. There are typically two types of guides, those who are like; "better safe than sorry" and those who are more; "that looks treacherous, let's go over there!" He was definitely the latter! Although, he did take all the necessary precautions. 

At the very end of our run there was a large rock that was in the middle of the river. We tried to maneuver to the right side but the current pushed us directly into it. This isn't a big deal, it's a part of rafting, however we got stuck up against the side of this one. If you've ever been white water rafting you know that this situation can be potentially dangerous. the force of the river kept us from simply pushing off of the rock even though we tried. The guide even jumped out onto the rock and pushed against our raft but it wasn't budging. The upstream side of the raft started filling with water, which means the whole raft is about to flip over, emptying its contents (us) into the river. At this point the other group passed by us in their raft and their guide said to them; "hey look, your friends are about to get wet." Our guide shouted to us; "everyone move to this corner now!" So we all piled into the back corner of the raft as quickly as possible. Shifting the weight like that allowed us to push away from the rock and head downstream again. We all cheered as we quickly got back into our positions and started rowing again.  

After the excitement subsided, Thomas, our guide said; "you guys did awesome!! you stayed calm and did exactly what I told you to do without hesitating" He continued; "three more seconds and we would all be swimming right now." That was really encouraging to us. Afterwards, we talked about it. Someone in the group made the observation that faith is a lot like that. Sometimes life feels like that being pinned against that rock with water pounding against you, it's; powerful, treacherous, and relentless. Decisions have to be made, sometimes quickly with lasting consequences. Thankfully, we have a trustworthy voice to listen to to keep us from being shipwrecked. Jesus Christ is that voice in the midst of potential disaster telling our hearts; "Peace, be still". Without that, panic would overtake our lives and we would make poor decisions. Yes, sometimes we will feel overwhelmed by our circumstances but it is precisely in these moments that we must remind ourselves of what is true. Whenever the challenges of life are too great for us we must not give in to the pressure we must trust, obey and anticipate resurrection. Faith is not just something to be learned but to be practiced when it matters most. All in all we had a fantastic trip! 

-Pastor Josh                       

Equality and the Gospel

I wanted to share some highlights from a discussion we had in the RISE class on Sunday morning. We were studying Jesus' parable of the Workers in the Vineyard found in Matthew 20:1-16. As many of you are familiar with Jesus tells the story of a landowner who goes out early in the morning seeking workers for his vineyard. He hires several workers who agree on the wage of 1 denarius for a day's work. This was a common and fair wage. Then as they progresses the landowner continues to add workers to the project, some begin at noon, some begin 3 o'clock and the last crew begins working at 5 o'clock (an hour before the workday ends).

When the time comes for the workers to be paid each of them are paid the same amount, 1 denarius. Immediately, the workers who began early in the morning became enraged that they received the same amount as those who only worked for an hour, even though that's the wage they agreed on. That's not fair!! they said. This is a rather familiar phrase in our culture today, isn't it? Everyone, it seems is appealing to this concept of fairness. It begs several questions; "what is fairness and justice?" Who gets to decide what is fair? Does justice only deal with the distribution of wealth? 

In verse 15 we read the landowner's response; "Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?" What is Jesus getting at in this parable? What are the spiritual implications?

Does God's gracious generosity to others cause us to be angry? If it does we need to be reminded that we are also saved on the merits of Jesus Christ alone. Romans 3:27a states; "Where then is boasting? It is excluded..." We are all saved by grace through faith alone.  We deserve nothing good from a holy God but in Christ we have been freely given all things! how great is our God!!

-Pastor Josh      

Blown Away

As I’m sitting here thinking about our services this morning, I’m blown away. Blown away by God. Blown away by His love for me. Blown away by His faithfulness and provisions.  Blown away by the blessings of having the most amazing woman I know as my wife and having 2 (and soon to be 3) amazing kids who already show a heart for Jesus. Blown away by having a great church family and getting to do what I love.

Blown away…

But what is hitting me now more than anything is how awesome it has been working with the kids who are leading worship for our Family Fun Fest events.
It’s been great seeing how they have grown in the last few weeks… how comfortable they are becoming… how much fun they are having praising Jesus.
And as I'm realizing that the choir season is coming up way too soon, and that I really do need to listen to that huge stack of music next to me... What I really want to do is just keep worshipping with these young hearts.
At some point I’ll post my own testimony about how worship ministry connected me into church and, more importantly, connected me to Christ.

Lord Jesus, I pray that these young hearts will connect to You… that Your love will overwhelm them… that they will see You as the only source of truth in this world. Help me to lead and guide them. I thank You for the gifts You have given these youth and that they are using them for Your glory. I thank You for the blessing that they are to our church and community. Thank You, Jesus.

-Pastor Matt

Use Your Walks to Think About God

I enjoy walking, and especially with my two dogs. Lulu and Mable, I call them. I occasionally call them “Lulu Sue” and “Mable Sue”. Sue is my wife’s middle name and I remind her that the dogs were named after her, which she should consider an honor. She isn’t so sure.

It had been a long day of working on a sermon. Several reference books were laid out, having been used earlier in the day. The dogs sensed that the time had come for their walk. Excitedly they jumped up and ran to the basket where I keep their leashes – even if I had not planned to walk them, it was now an inevitability. So off we went, down the shady lane on this sunny, late afternoon. If we made it a short walk, we would be home in time for supper. If it went a little too long – well, microwaves are very good at warming up food.

I made a few observations on the walk.

I watched a bee gathering pollen. It extracted the pollen, then buzzed around to another plant, pollinating it. So much of our food is the result of busy bees, working at pollination. This is a wonderful aspect of nature (I use “wonderful” in its true sense: giving an aura of wonder). The sight reminded me of God’s discourse with Joh, where in Chapter 39 of Job one after another of the intricacies of nature are presented as evidence that God knows what He is doing. Job is simply to trust. All of creation, from the largest galaxy to the fine detail in the root system of plants, speaks of an infinitely intelligent and wise Creator.

We continued our walk down the shady path and soon turned a corner where two boys were playing a game of one-on-one basketball in the driveway of a home. I would guess the boys to be fourteen or fifteen, just at the age when boyhood is being left behind and manhood is beckoning. I watched as they dribbled the ball, made moves to drive to the basket and took outside shots. It put me in mind of Psalm 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The human body is a real masterpiece, isn’t it? All the parts work together to make a person. The eyes see, the legs and arms move, all the while the brain coordinates everything, even keeping the internal organs – lungs, heart and all the other parts – working as they should. Who could ever really believe that such a masterpiece as the human body is a random, accidental act of nature? No, we are created by an awesome and loving God. How genuinely wise and good is God!

We were now turning the same corner as earlier, but this time headed back home. A car approached, so I reined the dogs over to the side. Since they have been trained this way, they obediently walked over to where they were safely off the road. As they sat there, waiting for the car to pass, I spoke softly and affirmingly to them, letting them know that their obedience had earned my pleasure. What they don’t seem to realize is that their obedience also earned their safety. As I expressed my pleasure of their obedience to them, the look on their faces was one of trust and love toward me. Nothing seems to please them more than to please me, their Master. And when they please me, I desire to bestow greater love upon them. Obedience and love go together in our relationship with Christ, our Master. When we obey God, it pleases Him – and it brings a benefit to us. And then, God is more inclined to bestow His love upon us than before. And where does that leave us? With an attitude and face that express trust and love for God.

I suggest that for real peace of mind, you use your walks to think about God.

Thoughts on Cancer

I have been cancer free for over twenty years now. And for this, I am extremely grateful. When I first heard the words, “You have cancer”, it was shocking. Surgery followed and annual checkups now occur. My specialist now practices in Cincinnati and it was just a week ago that I was examined by him. On the drive home from Cincinnati, I had a few thoughts on being a cancer patient. First, if you ever hear the words “You have cancer”, do not panic. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God is still God, and He is in charge of your life. Plus, the medical field has made so many advances in recent years in treating all types of diseases, including cancer, that there is no cause to panic. By the way, medicine and medical treatment is not prohibited in scripture. Quite to the contrary, one of the New Testament writers was Luke, a physician and companion of the Apostle Paul. It is apparent that Paul needed the assistance that Luke, as a physician, could provide (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Thus, and this is important, God uses Paul’s infirmity as cause for Luke’s development as a Christian, researcher and author. God can use whatever infirmity you may have. He has permitted it. He can also cure it or lead you to a treatment center where relief may be found. If you do hear those frightening words, “You have cancer”, you will probably ask, “Why?” You may never know why. Don’t panic. Accept it, but fight it. Cancer is an enemy, just like other illnesses and, of course, death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Use prayer and medical treatment. Medicine is a gift from God, as are physicians. Take this gift and use it. Secondly, keep a positive attitude. John Haggai, a Christian motivational speaker and former pastor, has written “Today’s attitude is tomorrow’s reality.” Don’t let illness of any kind cause your faith to waver. Be in prayer. Ask God for healing but also ask God to use your illness to encourage others. “Lord, don’t let this illness be wasted. Use it to inspire others through my attitude.” Lastly, count each day a blessing. Jesus himself told us to pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Every day God gives you on earth is a blessing, a gift. Use each day wisely. Tell the people you love that you do love them. Pet on your bird, dog or cat. Plant some flowers. In winter, make a snowman. On Sunday, attend church. Nourish your faith and deepen your walk with God. There will come a day for all of us, cancer patients and non-cancer patients, that it will be our last on earth. Do not waste the days God gives you. Use them beneficially. For Christ and His Church, Pastor Joel