We are currently reading through the book of Esther in our Digging Deeper Bible Study. If you have not read this book yet, I suggest you do so, it’s an easy read and a great story. Last evening we read through chapter 4 when Esther learns about the plot to kill all the Jewish people in Persia. She is faced with a very tough decision, stay silent and watch her people die, or go before the king, uninvited, and risk being put to death. Essentially, she had to choose her faith or her life. Her cousin spoke these very wise words to her, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
These words are a great reminder for us as well when we are faced with hardship in our own life. As God builds our lives to become more of what He wants them to be, we will face difficulties and negative situations that can make it seem like He isn’t in control or He has abandoned us. But we have seen that God is at work in our lives even in those difficulties. Indeed, God uses difficult situations as building blocks to build us up into the place where He wants us to be so that we can fulfill His plans. God won’t force you to make the right choice, but when the time comes, He will give us the ability, by His grace and His Spirit, to make the right choice.
The past three and a half months have been difficult for a lot of us in the world. Whether you have been unemployed, working from home while trying to home-school, or working on the front-lines, everyone has had a new routine to learn and been made to adjust. I will admit that I have let the difficulty drag me down more than I would like. There has been one thing that has helped bring me joy and see the positive side of all this time at home: Harvey.
It has been a lot of fun literally watching my son grow before my eyes. When this started in March, I had a little 10 month-old baby who was not yet crawling and eating primarily bottles throughout the day. I now have a 13 month-old toddler who is on the verge of walking and is already eating me out of house and home. R. H. and I have gotten to watch him learn to crawl, get his first tooth, learn to climb the stairs on his own, grow into his personality (he’s a trouble-maker like his dad), and so much more; a lot of “firsts” that we may have missed. What a blessing it has been! Besides just making my mommy-heart glow, it has reminded me to be thankful for each day, because it is a day that the Lord has made.
Because Harvey was born early, he will have some “catching-up” to do for the first two to three years of his life. This means that R. H. and I work on some basic fine motor and gross motor skills with him repeatedly. Whether it be mushing mashed potatoes between our hands, rolling a ball back and forth, or playing pat-a-cake, we try many things to get to the same end goal; helping him clap his hands together on his own. This might seem like such a simple thing, but it is actually something that needs to be taught.
I realized the other day that this translates so well to our spiritual lives. The habits and practices we form as Christians are things we have to learn and practice again and again. We learn to pray, we read our Bibles, and go to church with one end goal in mind; strengthening our relationship with Christ. In the same way that Harvey will always have things to learn and will be growing for years to come, we will always have things to learn about our faith and will keep growing in that faith for years and years.
Last evening, we had our first in-person youth gathering since March 15. This meeting looked A LOT different than our normal high school gatherings, but it was so refreshing for my heart. As we start having youth gatherings at the church again, we will have to face a new normal. This will take some getting used to, but it will be worth it to be together again.
I have spent the last three months praying for our youth and their families, but seeing some of our youth again reminded me how important Christian fellowship is. We were created as social beings, so being away from our fellow Christian friends has been hard for me. I can only imagine it has been harder for our youth, as they are even more social. As we roll out more in-person youth gatherings, I will make sure to send out information, so stay tuned for that.
A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of Confirming 23 eighth grade students in the shelter house at the church. This service was not what we had planned it to be when we started out this year, but it turned out so beautifully. Each student read their favorite Bible verse, we took communion together, each student was given a wooden cross from their parents, and everyone signed the roll book. Some parts of this service were new and some were familiar to past Confirmation services.
I feel like we can all learn something from this Confirmation experience. Things ended in a very strange and new way, from sharing faith expression projects via Zoom to having three socially distanced Confirmation services, but it all ended so beautifully, and better than we could have expected.
This translates to our personal lives so well! How many times have we made a plan, just to have it upended? Then, when all seems lost, things come to completion better than we could have planned or predicted ourselves. This has happened to me on multiple occasions. God often has a better plan in mind for us, and we can get too caught up in our plan to see it. I know circumstances were a little different this time, but the lesson is still the same. God has a plan, and we need to trust the HIS plan is better than ours.
So as another Confirmation year comes to an end, join me in praying for these 23 amazing students. Pray that they will seek out God’s plan for their life. Pray that they will spread the love of Jesus in this dark world. Pray that they will continue to grow and build a stronger relationship with our Lord.
If you have been on social media at all today, you have probably seen an image similar to the one above, a black square. I know for myself, it has been such a simple, yet very powerful reminder of what our country is living through right now. The world is broken-hearted for our persecuted brothers and sisters. The world is asking for love and equality. The world wants healing.
As someone who cannot relate to what this kind of persecution feels like, it has been jolting to have my eyes opened to reality so drastically and brutally. It has not been a pleasant experience, but one that is necessary. It can be far too easy to fall into the familiar comfortability that my skin color offers me. Shame on me for that. What this past week has reminded me of is that as a follower of Christ, we are called to love. Not just to love the people that love us or the people we go to church with, but we are called to love ALL people!
We have been given some wonderful accounts of Christ’s love in the Gospels, and if you read some of these encounters of His love, you will find Jesus loving the ones considered “less” by society. He often went out of His way to share His love or a story about loving those considered less. I am so sad that we live in a world where there are still people who are considered less, but that is our sad reality. It is our calling to live a life mirroring Christ’s and show His love to them and for them.
R. H. and I have been dreaming about the next time we can go on a vacation because, like most of you, we are not sure if our family vacation will happen this year. We are craving an ocean breeze and waves lapping at our feet. While dreaming about a vacation, we spent some time reminiscing about past vacations and time spent at the beach. This conversation really got my thinking deep thoughts about the ocean. While in this conversation, I turned to R. H. and said “I think I understand the term ‘Fear the Lord’ a little better now, if I think about the ocean.”
I have a deep fascination for the ocean, but being in the ocean makes me very nervous. I love watching the National Geographic shows about the coral reefs and other ocean life. I could sit and stare at the ocean for hours. I respect how important it is for our world and how it responds to our dry-land world. Even with all the resources on this planet, there is still so much for us to learn and discover about the ocean. However, you’ll be very lucky to actually see me in the ocean. I have a very deep respect for all the creatures that call the ocean their home, and I don’t need to get up close to let them know; I can do that from the beach!
I don’t think I would describe my feeling toward the ocean as feelings of fear, at least not in the typical definition, but that’s exactly what it is. I have a fear of the ocean, but I am not afraid of it. I know that seems like an oxymoron, but this is what helped me understand what it means to fear the Lord.
I have a deep respect for God and all that He does for me and the world around me. The Bible is full of amazing God stories for us to study and learn from. I love hearing stories from people about how they are able to see God in their lives. I could very easily sit in worship for hours, just soaking in God’s presence. With all the resources we have to learn and grow in our relationships with God, there is always more to learn. We can fear the Lord and not be afraid of the Lord.
This week, I want to challenge you to think about what it means to fear the Lord, while you too might be dreaming about your next family vacation.
Last night during our Digging Deeper Bible study, we listened to the song “Oceans” by Hillsong United and looked at scripture referenced in the song. This song took us to Matthew 14 when Jesus walked on water and called Peter to climb out of the boat and join him. In this story, Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and instead focuses on the waves around him. In doing this, he starts to sink into the water. As he cries out for help, Jesus immediately reaches out and grabs him.
I love the imagery in this, of Jesus ready and waiting to swoop in and rescue Peter as he asks for help. It reminds me of a line from the song that reads, “Your grace abounds in deepest waters, Your sovereign hand will be my guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.” What powerful words and a great reminder this is! I think we have all felt this feeling of sinking at some point in our life and the following feeling of relief as we call out for help and are then reminded that Jesus is with us and will not let us drown.
Even though we find ourselves in this scary ocean of a pandemic right now, we need to remember to keep our eyes focused on God instead of the waves that crash around us. Please pray with me this week for those who may be focusing more on the waves rather than asking God for help.
These verses have been on repeat in my head today. What wise words from the book of Proverbs!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.
I want to encourage you all this week to remember these words. Let us continually put our trust in the Lord.
I have been spending the day working on things for our graduating high school seniors. Their senior year was probably nothing like they expected, and their graduation will be different than any other graduation ceremony there has ever been. However, it will be a year to remember.
During this time of self quarantine, as we celebrated Harvey’s first Easter and get ready for his first birthday, I have learned that we don’t have to miss out on celebrations right now, we just have to change our expectations and preconceived notions. It will be tough for our senior class and their families right now, so please join me in praying for them this week. Also, celebrate with them and congratulate them for all the hard work they have put into completing not only this school year, but also the years preceding.
Congratulations to the graduating class of 2020!
We have had a lot of extra time with Harvey because of this quarantine, and it has been such a blessing. We have been able to watch our precious boy grow and learn so much over this past month. He is now army-crawling, he’s gotten his first tooth, he loves playing with and “reading” books, and he absolutely loves “helping” mommy work on the computer.
(Harvey says hi: jkjk kokjkujkikh hhb c xtvvb 7bbbjtcaZA)
While this time “self-quarantining” has not always been easy or fun, we try to remind ourselves of the blessings we have and have been able to witness during this time. I want to encourage you this week to be mindful of the blessings all around you, especially when you feel yourself getting a little cabin fever.
Last night during our online Digging Deeper, Shelby and I asked the youth what things they were doing to keep busy right now. We had a few students say that they were spending more time in their Bibles and trying to learn more about who God is and strengthen their relationship with him. I was taken aback but also so inspired by this. What a great use of this extra time! (We have some absolutely amazing youth at our church!)
That got me thinking about some of my favorite scripture and the things I have learned about God over the years. I looked at Psalm 46 and was blown away, once again, at the power of our God.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude
4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
6 The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
7 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
8 Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
We have probably all heard parts of this before, especially verse 10, but I feel that this whole Psalm is so applicable to our lives today. We can take refuge in the Lord while the world around us is in chaos. The Lord will give us strength in times of trouble. All we have to do is be still and trust in God.
A few weeks ago, I went on the medical mission trip to Honduras. As always, it was an incredibly moving experience. On this trip, what really stood out to me was the Hondurans’ passionate love for God. We attended a worship service with our sister church in El Ovido and it was unlike any kind of worship I have ever seen. There was lots of loud music, dancing, and yelling praises to God. Everyone in that church, whether they were a child, teenager, or adult, was singing praises to our God with everything they had. They showed the same passion in their love for us. This was only the third time I had met these people, yet they showed me the love of a close friend. I sat next to a teenage girl during the service and she spent that time trying to teach me the Spanish song lyrics and show me the dance moves. Rather than both of us keeping to ourselves, she reached out to make me feel like a part of the church instead of just a bystander.
This experience reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew:
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3-4.
I find that it’s easy to keep our faith to ourselves and be reserved in the way that we worship. However, Jesus calls us to have a passionate love for him that resembles that of a child. We are called to be joyous and loud about the good news of our salvation found in Jesus. We are called to be fierce in the way that we love others. Jesus calls us to step out of our comfort zone in the way that we love him and our neighbors.
I challenge all of us to step out of our comfort zone especially when so many people are feeling isolated and hopeless in the face of a pandemic. This could be reaching out to a school friend you don’t frequently talk to or posting encouraging scripture on social media. Let’s all take a small step towards child-like faith and see where it takes us.
If you’ve ever been on a mission trip (especially one of the high school mission trips), you understand the feeling of getting away from your world. We leave behind our busy lives at home and center ourselves to serve. Honduras is always an escape for me. We spend 6 days in the heat and humidity thousands of miles from home serving our Lord by providing medicine and care to the people of Honduras. This year was especially fun because my fiancé tagged along and experienced an annual favorite trip of mine.
While in Honduras, it’s easy to forget about my worries and stresses back home in Ohio. This year, our morning devotions centered around a book by Henri Nouwen called Marking All Things New. We talked about giving up our worries and setting your heart on God. For me, it’s very difficult not to worry. I am constantly stressed about my performance at work, concerned about the health of my family and friends, and worried about not waking up on time (anyone else set 4 different alarms in the morning just in case?). Why do my worries seem to disappear when I’m in Honduras?
Like I said before, Honduras is an escape for me, and it allows me to focus completely on God and serving others for Him. We spend the week in community together, building relationships within our team and growing close to the Honduran people. God is always on our minds because we can clearly see His works in the lives of others through their attitude and responses. Back at home, we have many distractions from God like school, work, media, and the list goes on and on! Instead of focusing on many things, we must relocate the center of our attention to the one necessary thing: God. “Do not worry,” Jesus says in Matthew 6:33.
“Set your hearts on his kingdom first. . . and all these other things will be given you as well.”
We are in a world full of worry right now, but we are not alone in this pandemic. We have the Lord and we have each other. We must focus our hearts on Jesus and have confidence in the Lord’s ability to take care of our worries. I want to encourage you to set aside time for God during this time of quarantine. Take a few minutes in the morning to be alone with God. Open your ears, your heart, and your mind and just listen to what He has to say and let Him take your worries away.
I can’t wait to share Honduras stories and photos with you all!
A prayer for our quarantine:
Lord, we thank you for the wisdom you have bestowed on those in power. Thank you for their swift action in doing everything they can for us. We pray that this time indoors will continue to help flatten the curve. Please help everybody understand the significance of what we are doing
We thank you for all the men and women who are working on the front lines in the hospitals, for nurses, doctors, janitors, and everyone else doing all they can to help those who are sick and prevent others from getting sick. Lord, we pray for your hand of protection on them as they are risking their health to help those who need it.
We thank you, Lord for everyone working in the grocery stores and distribution centers, doing all they can to make sure everyone has the food and the supplies they need to make it through this time at home. Thank you for their hard work, their patience with everybody shopping, and their willingness to do this job during this difficult time.
Lord, please help us use this extra time at home wisely, making fun family memories and strengthening our relationships with you. And help us remember to seek you when this gets tough, to have a conversation with you, to spend time in your word, or to worship you with our voices.
We pray all these things in your loving name, Amen.
I’m praying for all of you as well!
We are not often given the privilege of knowing that we are living through a major historical event. What our world is currently experiencing is something that we will talk about with our children and grandchildren for years to come. We will get asked questions like, “What do you remember about the pandemic of 2020?” or “What did you do all day while everyone had to stay home?” This is completely new territory for our world, which is history in the making.
And as we face this historic event, we have a choice to make. How do we want to remember this time? As a time of frustration and fear? Or as a gift of time with our families?
I want to encourage you all to keep a memento of your thoughts, fears, joys, and even prayers during this time together. Whether it be a family journal, silly pictures, or recording some of your family time together, these are moments you are going to want to remember after we are through this.
Join me in praying for this situation, for all the people impacted, and for the health and safety of our neighbors.
The youth committee spent yesterday evening discussing how we should move forward with youth ministry during this time. We made the very difficult decision to suspend all youth group activities until the end of March when we will then reassess. This was not an easy decision as we all believe that in scary and uncertain times the youth need each other more than ever, but we realized this is a very different situation. We are exploring ways for the youth to stay connected through social media and other platforms.
We have a parent’s Facebook group and a youth group Instagram page. For the Facebook group, search “Liberty Presbyterian- Youth Parents Group”. We can be found on Instagram at @LibertyYouth. We will be posting reminders, encouragements, and games. We are also looking into ways for Conformation and Bible studies to meet in a remote capacity. More information on that will follow.
We will continue to support and pray for our youth and their families in this crazy time. Even though the doors may be closed right now, Christ’s love for us can’t be quarantined.
Thank you and please feel free to reach out with any questions.
Elder Mike Kivett
and the Youth Ministry Team
This past Sunday in Confirmation class, we began looking at the vows of membership that the students will soon take. Our goal with these classes is to help the students get a better understanding of what they’re going to be saying or agreeing to on Confirmation Sunday. So we looked at just the first two vows this week, and we’ll study the second two next week. For those who may need a reminder, the first two vows are, “Who is your Lord and Savior?” and “Do you trust in Him?”
These classes are some of my favorite to teach. Not only is it great to watch “the light bulb turn on” as they start to make the connections of what they’re learning to their personal lives, but I also welcome the great reminder for my own relationship with Jesus.
After helping the kids figure out what these vows mean, through fun activities and personal stories and examples, we ask them to rewrite them in their own words. It always makes me smile to hear how each student makes these vows personal to themselves. Some of the rewrites include things like, “Is Jesus Christ at the center of your life?” and “Will on you lean on the Lord at all times?” I always walk away from this class asking myself those same questions. I challenge you this week to think about these questions as well; who is at the center of your life and will you lean on Him this week?
I love it when I can see God’s hand at work; when there is absolutely no doubt that God has a plan that is coming to pass. I had the privilege of seeing God at work while planning this summer’s mission trip.
I had been working on something for about five months when I got a phone call telling me that it was not going to work out. I was so worried that I was going to have to cancel the trip all together this summer. How was I going to find a place for a large group to go with such short notice, and during the week that we needed it to be? It seemed absolutely impossible to me. But I made the decision to step away from it for a few days and just pray. My panic and frustration were not going to be helpful. So I gave it the weekend and prayed.
When I got back into the office I started making some phone calls, trying to find a destination for our trip. After just three phone calls, I found a ministry that was actually excited about our group size and the dates we wanted. Before I said goodbye, the voice on the other end of the line told me that our group would be a huge answer to their prayers. I couldn’t believe it! Not only was God answering my prayers, but he was going to use this situation to answer another prayer as well.
In less than one week from receiving the bad news about the plans I had made, God showed me that He had a plan for us, and we had a new trip planned. Remember, I had been working on something for five months, but God did that same work in six days!
So, our youth group will be going to Louisville, KY this summer to work with Crossroads Missions. There is no doubt in my mind or heart that God has great plans for us this summer, and I can’t wait to see how He is going to use this great group of kids!
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, an incredibly special day as it is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation as we begin our journey to the cross with Jesus. This 40-day journey (plus six Sundays) is our special countdown to Easter. There is already Easter candy in the grocery stores. Are you counting down yet?
“Fasting” usually is a big part of Lent. You’ve probably been asked: What are you giving up for Lent this year? I know I have. This is not a fun discussion topic nor is it exciting to think about: what am I going to deprive myself of for the next 40 days? Tanya suggested that I give up video games. NOPE. I have given up video games before and it was not fun. I could give up something that is bad for me to begin with, like soda, sweets, fast-food, or (gasp) Taco Bell. How noble, righteous, and sacrificial of me, right?
We are really good at finding loopholes in our “fasting” and making our “fasting” all about us.
If Lent was originally meant to mirror Christ’s time spent in the desert for 40 days, Christ did other things besides fast: Christ followed the Spirit, Christ struggled with and overcame temptations, and Christ quoted scripture. Simply by fasting from a thing, we’re creating more temptation in our lives; but what about the other two? What if we created more opportunities for the Holy Spirit to lead us or created more opportunities to immerse ourselves in scripture? Lent should be an opportunity to open ourselves to God, the Holy Spirit, and to God’s word.
If we paired our fasting with a spiritual discipline, like committing to a forty-day devotional, journaling prayers, intentionally lifting up those around us, or seeking time for prayerful listening and we truly, deeply prioritized these things, I think our fasting would become that much easier because we will be letting God fill our lives in the space of the thing we’re giving up. Lent isn’t just about giving something up, it’s about giving in to God so that God can make us new creations through the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
So as Lent begins, I challenge you to change your mindset:
“What will I give up for Lent this year?”
“What will I add into my daily routine to strengthen my relationship with Christ this year?”
R. H. Karn
I got some bad news last week that just made me want to crawl in bed and forget that the world outside my room even existed. I had a moment of not knowing how to move forward, where to start rebuilding, or even how to feel. After spending some time processing, being angry, and yes, also crying, I got out a few words of a prayer. “Jesus, help me figure this out.” That’s all I could think to say, but it was enough in that moment. God knew how I was feeling and what was going on, and He already had a plan for me.
After spending the weekend in a constant attitude of prayer, but also trying not to panic too much about what to do, I started feeling more at peace and knew that God was answering my prayer; He was helping me. Just today, I got some very good news, about my bad news. (Are you following me?) Good news is uplifting, encouraging, makes you feel like someone is looking out for you, and is freeing.
If good news in our day-to-day lives feels like this, imagine how much more the Good News that is Jesus can feel to a world in darkness. This is why Jesus calls us to be the ones to spread this Good News, to share it to the ends of the world.
Think about a time that you have received good, great or amazing news. Thank God for the way that it made you feel and use that feeling as an encouragement to share Christ’s Good News with other people in your life.
This coming Sunday is our annual Youth Sunday service. The youth will be leading the congregation in worship through prayer, music, and even preaching.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love these services. It is such a blessing to be able to hear the heart our youth have for Jesus. Whether they are saying the Lord’s prayer, reading scripture, or sharing the morning announcements, their love for Jesus shines through them.
I also love seeing how our church family cares for these kids! Liberty is so great at lifting up our youth and giving them the love and encouragement they need to feel confident in the task of leading a service. Please join us this Sunday to lift up our youth!