"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
It has been such an incredible joy to see the Body of Christ at work in the last couple of weeks. We have worshipped together, wept together, laughed together, painted together, and sorted through rummage sale donations together.
At our session prayer meeting Tuesday night, I asked the elders to share specific instances where they saw God at work in our congregation during this difficult season. They all wondered where even to start - there were so many! Pastor Steve reminded us of James Ombiri's comment that we may have learned faith from them, but they have learned love from us. Karin Smith remembered thinking that there might only be 30 people at our Monday evening prayer service last week but being shocked when about 200 of you came. We reflected on how the children and youth responded with stories of how Josh had touched their lives. We remembered the Hromokos who were faithful in both a wedding and a funeral - and are here today helping with the rummage sale. We shared our gratitude for how each moment seemed to unify us more as the Body of Christ.
It is in the midst of the hard times that our faith is pushed to the limit. Peter writes, "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed," (1 Peter 1:6-7).
We can already see how God has been using these hard times to build the faith of our congregation and to help us grow in unity and compassion. God has been glorified in the way you each have responded - yes, even when the response has been anger or doubt or questioning. Our laments have been directed to God, and it is precisely there, where we pour our hearts out at the foot of the cross, that we find the healing we all need.
In all my years traveling overseas, I came to the conclusion that faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised to grow stronger. And faith gets exercised by having to use it. We Americans don't need to use it all that often - or at least don't think we do. We turn on a light switch and the light bulb works. We run out of food and we go to the grocery store. In Africa, when you need light, you pray that there will be light when you turn on the switch (if there even is a switch). When you need food, you pray that God will provide it. Each time the Lord provides daily bread, that is another moment for faith to grow stronger.
I do not relish the hard times like we experienced last week, but still I am grateful for them. We needed the Lord's help and strength, wisdom and kindness. And He provided in miraculous ways, thanks be to God. As a result, our faith grew and grew quickly.
This Sunday, we will be looking into the famous Hebrews 11 "Hall of Faith" - the chapter dedicated to all the heroes of the faith who trusted the Lord even in the face of impossible circumstances. We will especially focus on Abraham, the man who "believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness." May we all have the faith like Father Abraham!
Please do drop by the church Rummage sale on Saturday, whether to volunteer or just to shop. You really won't believe how much has been donated. Both the MacDonald Room and Fellowship Hall are full! Thank you so much for your kind generosity. The proceeds will go directly to helping the Kenya mission, and what better way is there to honor Josh's memory?
I will be attending the EPC General Assembly in Memphis next week. I would appreciate your prayers, especially since I have been asked to chair a committee. Pray also for Pastor Steve, Pastor Linda, Ashley Gardner, and the rest of the team as they prepare for Vacation Bible School June 25-29. And pray for all the young souls coming to VBS, that the Lord would soften their hearts and touch their lives in a powerful way.