GUEST BLOGGER: Gentleness through the Spirit

It may be a day late, but I can promise you it’s worth the wait! Our guest blogger this month is my current roommate and longtime camp friend Megan! She’s pretty darn amazing. I hope her words touch your heart and encourage you! -Sarah

Our theme at Camp Pioneer this summer was life through the spirit. Living by the Spirit helps us to live out the fruits of the spirit, which Paul talks about in Galatians 5:22-23.

Galatians 5:16-18:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  

Before talking about what the Spirit brings, Paul wants the Galatians to know that the Spirit is contrary to the flesh. Our sinful nature brings us back to the desires of our flesh, but this is not of the Spirit. The Spirit works inside us, helping us to be Christ centered and use our fruits to serve others. One fruit we use to serve others is gentleness.  

The definition of gentleness is intentional mildness. This is what all of the fruits of the Spirit are about, isn’t it? Being intentional in thought and action. It is often difficult for us to be gentle in our everyday hectic, yet mundane lives. In Scripture we see so many examples in which God uses gentleness. We see God showing His people gentleness as they stray away from Him. We also see God’s gentleness when He sends His only son to die for us so that we may be free. In the beginning of Creation we see God being gentle with His new creation. He forms Adam and Eve, creating them so that they were not just good, but very good. And then they stray from God, as they eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. The guilt and fear from this causes them to stray further and hide from God. God is angry, but He is still gentle with Adam and Eve. Although He already knows what has happened, He calls to them and asks for their side. He pursues them despite their faults, and then still takes care of them by clothing them after they have run away (Genesis 3:21).

Despite the fact that we often distance ourselves from God, He is always pursuing us in His great love and gentleness. God was intentional in every one of these situation where He showed grace. We should follow this example and by being intentional to use gentleness with others in our daily lives.

Titus 3:1-2:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

Let the Spirit guide you to gentleness.
Megan Avey

Find our guest blogger on the internet:
instagram: @meganavey
snapchat: @meganavey

But Why?

Have you ever been with a kid who asks a lot of questions? The kind of kid who asks a question, is unsatisfied with the answer, and then asks “But Why?”. The conversation could look something like this:

Kid: Why is the sky blue?
Adult: Because God made it that way?
Kid: But why?
Adult: Well, because God likes the color blue.
Kid: But why is the grass green then?
Adult:  God likes the color green too.
Kid: But why?
Adult: Because He is God and He can like whatever He wants.
Kid: But why?
Adult: Just because.
Kid: Because why?
Adult:…

Obviously, that’s not how they all end up going, but more than likely the ‘adult person’ gives up or runs out of answers. This sometimes ends up with an angered or frustrated adult. In an effort to not become frustrated, it takes a lot of patience and an air of gentleness.

1Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

So we may not get questioned by children about the source of our joy as Christians, but it can be a question asked of us by those we surround ourselves with. Much like it says in first Peter, we need to be careful how we answer this question.

It’s easy to answer this question when we feel hopeful. “I feel this way because my hope is in Jesus, my joy is in Jesus.” Hope and Joy are not something that we create. They are something that is created in and through us by the work of the Holy Spirit. Much like gentleness. The gentleness which we need to use when we are communicating our hope to others.

It’s not something to throw in their faces or to necessarily brag about, but in a respectful manner, with a gentle approach we can answer them with more than a “just because”. Why? It’s because we know the answer. We know exactly where it comes from.

Our hope comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth.

Until next time,
Sarah

You Are Faithful

Faithfulness.

 

This word has meant more to me this summer than I think I realize. If you have ever spent more than a couple days working at a camp, it comes as no surprise when you hear story after story of things not going as planned. Daily plot twists ought to be expected, yet I am always caught off guard when things do not go according to whatever was planned.

This summer was not at all what I expected. That’s not to say it has not been good, but it’s been far harder, far more straining, far more difficult than any summer prior. There are many reasons for this, some my fault, other reasons are circumstances outside of my control. But needless to say, one thing has always remained…God has always been faithful to meet me wherever I am. Whether I am curled in a ball sobbing my eyes out because of a mental breakdown or laughing with fellow chiefs as we link arms and serve at camp, never once has God left my side.

I am learning that He is always faithful. I am learning in the moments where I believe life is falling apart, He is simply rearranging my life puzzle to fit His plan for me. I am learning when expectations fall short, God does not love me less or leave me hanging…He is still there. His faithfulness is not contingent on my ability to perform in life. I am learning to live out of God’s faithfulness because that is where the most peace comes from.

This is another short post, but I hope and pray wherever you find yourself today, that you see God’s faithfulness to you.

Love you friends,

Christi

Taste and See

It’s been a crazy, crazy summer. So once again this post is going up later than usual, but I hope it’s worth it :). 

We’ve been looking at goodness this month and there have been so many good moments at camp… And also too many bad moments. But the number one thing that keeps running through my head comes from Psalm 34:

Taste and see that the Lord is good

When the summer gets rolling full speed and time escapes me everyday, I usually hit the snooze button in the morning and spend less time with Jesus. At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but then days go by and seeing the goodness of God dwindles a little more each day. Now, that doesn’t mean he isn’t any less good, it simply means I am making an idol out of my desire for sleep and putting it above my need to taste and see how good God is. 

This post is short because my off period is short, but I hope you take time to truly taste and see how good God is. Dive into His word. Start in one of the Gospels and look to see who Jesus is and what he has done. As you look for God’s goodness, you end up seeing it all around, even when life doesn’t look good. 

Love you friends! 

Christi

GUEST BLOGGER: OMG

I’m very pleased to introduce you to our next guest blogger. It’s my brother Ben! Ben is an incredible young man, and has always been one of my favorite humans on the planet. Yes, I’m totally biased. I am excited for you to read his post! – Sarah

If you were to listen to a conversation between two people, I would bet that it wouldn’t take too long for you to hear the phrase “Oh my God!” used in some form — whether it be “Oh my God”, “Oh my gosh”, “Oh my goodness”, or just plain old “OMG”.  This is one of the most frequently used phrases in our vernacular, and, in my opinion, one of the most interesting.

To further explain why this phrase interests me so, let’s examine one particular form: “Oh my goodness”.  Many people use this form so that they don’t use God’s name in a negative way, in order to abide by the law God put forth in the Second Commandment.  While this is admirable, I don’t think that using this form completely succeeds in keeping the Second Commandment.  Sure, ‘goodness’ is not the Lord’s name.  However, ‘goodness’ is God embodied in a single word.  God is goodness, and goodness is God.  Substituting ‘goodness’ for ‘God’ changes nothing, because there is nothing in this universe that better exemplifies ‘goodness’ than God.

Words and the way that we use them have always been interesting to me.  I’ve found that most of the time, we don’t fully understand everything that we say.  Sure, we know definitions and things like that, but, when we look closer, our words can mean a lot more than we think.  So next time when you’re shocked or surprised by something, think about what words you use to express it.  Goodness may seem worldly, but it’s actually not.  It’s the perfect embodiment of our Savior in just one word.

Until next time,
Ben

Find our guest blogger on the internet:
instagram: @benjamakosy
snapchat: @benjaminstephen
twitter: @benstemak

When Bad is Actually Good

Hey friends!

First of all, SO sorry this post is a couple days late. As you know, both Sarah and I work at summer camps and the past few weeks I had no real access to a computer with working wifi and my time has been incredibly limited. So, here is my post, late on a Saturday evening.

This past week I drove a little over 200 miles from one camp in WV to serve at my churches missions week back in PA. This is my second time helping at mission week and I knew from previous years that this week is quite possibly the hardest week of the summer…but this week was so much harder than I ever expected. Yet, in the bad times, ultimately it was all so, so good.

Brief explanation of mission week…we take our youth group to a camp that runs a day camp through an organization in a close by city. The kids who come to this camp come from incredibly hard backgrounds and their family life is usually messed up in ways most of us may never understand. Our youth become the kids counselors for about four hours during the day for a day camp program where we teach them about Jesus, play games, have free time, and simply invest time and love into the kiddos. Once the kids leave, we continue the week with a regular summer camp for our youth. I hope that made sense.

Camp life is beyond exhausting on every level. This past week was my fifth week working in a camp environment and it was the absolute hardest seven days of my life. But they were also some of the best. I’m beginning to see that the bad times in life are actually really good. Between putting out fire after fire, solving conflicts, leading discussion groups when my cup is on E, and fighting alongside the highs and lows of camp life with youth and leaders, I could easily say this was at times a bad week. But it was actually one of the best weeks because I was stretched into a place of utter dependence on God and relied on prayer to make it through each day.

I wish I had a more lengthly post to tease this out more, but alas, it’ll have to wait until next post. For now, know that your bad days are actually good because God works all things for our good.

~Christi

Badness Levels

The opposite of good is bad, so does that make the opposite of goodness, badness? When I think of the word ‘badness’ I think of the scene in Lilo & Stitch where Lilo pulls out the piece of paper and draws a scale of Stitch’s badness level. Let’s just say it’s not very good.

So I started thinking. What if that’s how God measured our sins? He pulled out His big red pen and filled in a diagram that would display how full of sin we are. That wouldn’t be very good either. But when God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, that level went way down. It became nonexistent. Our badness levels became full blown goodness levels.

Now that’s not to say we’re by any means perfect. In fact we’re far from it. We sin, and constantly fall short of the glory God has intended for us. But we are so richly blessed in the fact that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8b God knows we are imperfect. He knows we fail. He knows all of our sins and shortcomings, yet he still loves us. He still chooses to forgive us. Even at those times when we think there’s no hope left for us. God still loves us, and will continue to forgive us.

Until next time,
Sarah

P.S. Sorry this is short, summer season means camp season which means a lot less time spent sitting behind a computer!

 

The Kindness of God

Currently I am sitting on my day off in a nice air conditioned room…at Toyota. Not starbucks, somewhere fun, or with food…nope, for the last 5 or so hours, I have been sitting waiting for my car to be fixed and wondering how on earth I am going to afford life. I am so tempted to say God is not kind right now, to be anxious about big unknowns, wanting food cause I am hangry, and wishing I could be anywhere else doing anything else. But I also sit here reminded of the many names of God, specifically ‘Jehovah Jireh,’ meaning God provides, and am convicted that even when life seems unkind, God’s kindness does not change. In fact, His kindness far surpasses my limited knowledge of the word.

I had the thoughts about the kindness of God going through my mind for a couple weeks now and have been challenging myself to see the kindness of God in the midst of some really hard trials, especially in this specific moment. At first it was incredible hard and it still is hard most days, but the more I prayed asking Jesus to show me Himself, the more I saw his kindness in life and also to me.

As I began praying to see Jesus more, I started realizing He was talking to me throughout my entire day and I was missing it because I was too focused on what is falling apart. I then started remembering different verses talking about just how kind God is…

Ephesians 2:6-7

And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 This was the first verse that came to my mind and it’s one that has carried me through a lot recently. The absolute kindest thing God could ever do is adopt me into His family and call me His daughter, especially when all I have done is curse His name and lived following the prince of the sons of disobedience. Yet, because of the vast kindness in God’s character and love beyond all measures, He chose to make a way for me to no longer be a daughter of disobedience.

When I think about how I was adopted out of complete rebellion and scooped up into the arms of loving kindness, I am spurred on to love deeper, speak more kindly, and let my actions reflect those of my Savior.

Life right now seems unkind and even unfair, but when I dwell more on what God has done for me in His kindness, the less tempted I am see my circumstances as an indicator of God’s kindness toward me. So, sure, life has thrown more curve balls at me the last 4 months and I feel like I am drowning under piles of trials and hardship, but regardless of how I feel or what life looks like, God’s kindness remains constant and abundant.

My challenge to you is the same one I have had for myself, dwell on God’s kindness, not how kind you think life is treating you. Dwell on who you are in Christ, not what your circumstance says you are. Dwell on living out of God’s kindness to you and then pour it onto others.

Love you friends,

Christi

An Act Of Kindness

When it came time to talk about kindness, the song “An Act of Kindness” by Bastille kept playing over and over in my head (see the end of this post for a link to the song). According to Dan, the lead singer of the band, “[“An Act of Kindness” is] about a kind of Good Samaritan narrative in the context of everything that’s happening at the moment in the world and being in a sea where everyone keeps their heads down, so in their life, just one small act of kindness can completely transform a day, or a situation, or a week, and can follow you all the time and that you can feel kind of worthy or unworthy of that.”

It’s so true, isn’t it? The world we live in is one where more often than not we bury our heads in the sand and try and pretend the things happening around us in the world, just aren’t happening. However, when someone goes out of their way in an act of genuine kindness, it changes your world. Even if just for a moment.

I’ve heard from so many people about the amazing feeling they get after being kind to others. I can even tell you from a firsthand point of view that it does feel pretty good. However when you’re on the other side of it, sometimes it can be confusing. If we don’t have an immediate #PayItForward mentality, we can begin to feel like we didn’t deserve it.  Why would someone go so far out of their way for me?  And that’s just the beginning of those thoughts that begin to circle our minds.

But who is to say that we don’t deserve these things? The only person telling us we don’t deserve them is ourselves (well, obviously under the influence of the devil himself). So why do we think so little of ourselves? Why don’t we realize how much effort God put into creating us just the way we are? And you know what else? He loves us this way. Sure, we can be a disappointment, but it doesn’t change how much He loves us.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

God created us and has plans for us. I know that He wouldn’t mind if we appreciated an act of kindness shown to us. Or if we paid it forward along the way.

Until next time,
Sarah

An Act of Kindness – Bastille

GUEST BLOGGER: What a Millennial wants, What a Millennial needs.

Hi everyone I’m excited to kick-off our ‘Boys of Summer’ miniseries by introducing Hunter! Hunter is a fellow Houghton alumni (he just graduated WOO CONGRATS!) and I’m so happy he was willing to hop on board this month as our guest. He’s amazing and HILARIOUS. Also, if you ever wanted to follow someone on twitter, Hunter is the man to follow. I hope you are blessed by what he has to share, as I am blessed to know him! – Sarah

What a Millennial wants, What a Millennial needs

Lots of current blogs claim to have “cracked the code” on getting millennials through their church doors. Millennials are tired of religion. They want an authentic spiritual relationship.
This generation wants relevant music and display so they are assured that the Church is
keeping up with the times.
They want to radically live out their faith, and that means going global with missions.
Some of these quotes may be true for some millennials, and most millennials can get behind the sentiment. However, these quotes sound more like products of “The Jesus Movement”, a revival in the 70’s that revolutionized the church. The movement was a reaction against the formal and dead appearance of the church of their parents and grandparents; a longing to present the gospel as being relevant to present times and cultural progress.
One cannot ignore the many positive impacts of this movement, bringing thousands to the faith and breaking down prior cultural barriers. However, each generation carries with it a different need, and I believe that this generation’s need is quite different than that of the generation of the Jesus Movement.
Millennials, inside and outside the church, crave authenticity. We hate posers. We value when people embrace their identity and wear it confidently on their sleeve. In large numbers, millennials simply want a return to true religion. A religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
Yes, millennials want religion. We want what those in countless ages past had and we want to share in the ancient Christian narrative. And that is what Christianity is; it’s ancient. Tradition plays a role for all (Protestants and Catholics) connecting us to the long lineage of the gospel and reminding us that we are not alone in time. The church does not need to be dressed up as something that it isn’t. We are a incense-swinging, hymn-singing, scripture-chanting, robe-wearing, bread-breaking, creed-speaking, ancient religion, and we shouldn’t shy away from that. Embrace it and wear it confidently. This is why millennials are flocking to more traditional denominations in droves. We should look other-worldly, because we are. Outsiders don’t want “seeker-friendly”. If church looks the same as anywhere else, what’s the point of even going?
The millennial generation also despises hypocrisy. We say we love one another and we don’t truly bear with and take care of each other. We say we withhold judgment but we set double standards and rank sins and sinners. We say we take care of the poor and needy, but we don’t really unless it’s really convenient or it includes a vacation to a place with different looking people with whom we can take insta selfies #missions. Millennials want a religion that fosters genuine kindness and love for others. We want to take passages, such as “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back”, seriously. Kindness toward our local communities that is motivated out of genuine love (not conversion) is a lost art for us. The homeless, the orphans, the widows, those in trouble; we drive past them like the priest and Levite who passed by the maimed man on the side of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
What millennials envision for the church is an authentic church, driven by Spirit-given kindness to serve those in need, including those in need in our own backyard. Our cravings for rich doctrine will drive us deeper in scripture, cultivating a deep love for humanity. I, for one, believe that God is going to use this generation in amazing ways to reignite passion for the ancient Christian gospel.

-Hunter

Find our guest blogger on the internet:
instagram: @hunuh17
twitter: @hunuh17