Timeline—Part 1 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

God Doesn’t Give Bad Directions
by: Michelle Lemley, Nursery Coordinator

My husband loves to tell the story of getting directions from a friend in college. She told him to go to her hometown, and turn left at the Sheetz. The only problem was, her hometown had four Sheetz stations. Not to mention the fact that she hadn’t told him which direction to enter town from, so “turn left” became problematic, especially after trying and failing at several intersections. When my husband finally gave up and called the friend’s father to ask for clarification, her dad apparently laughed and said, “Oh no, never take directions from her.  I’ll come find you and lead you in.”

Giving directions can be hard. You have to think of everything from someone else’s point of view; someone who hasn’t been to that place and isn’t familiar with the landmarks—someone who may be scared and lost. And as humans, we make mistakes. Lots of them. So, it’s not surprising that sometimes we give bad directions. We can’t always imagine what the other person will need or how to guide them. 

On Sunday, Pastor Tim introduced a new sermon series by starting from the beginning—as in, Genesis. And in his introduction to Genesis 1, he discussed the importance of our belief in God. Without this belief, we are alone in the universe. There is no objective right and wrong. Every decision or moral question is left up to the individual who may have a different viewpoint and therefore may make mistakes. There is no purpose or hope. Everything is left up to fate.

But because we believe in God, we have someone to pray to, and we can have faith that those prayers are being heard. Because we believe, we know that God is there to tell us right from wrong, and He has given us directions in the form of His Word. Because we believe that we were made in His image, we know that He has given us an innate sense of right and wrong. Because we are connected to Him in this way, we have the opportunity to learn the purpose He has for us, and to make a true impact on the world.  

With God giving us directions, we will reach our destination as He has designed, and if we ever get lost and have trouble following these directions, all we have to do is call upon Him and ask for help, and our faith ensures that He will be there to show us the way.

Living out the Message:

Coming soon

Baptism Sunday—June 6 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Because of Who He Is
by: Andrew Archer

When I think about worship, questions comes to mind: why do we worship? What drives our worship? Or better yet, what is our worship defined by? Oftentimes, our worship is defined by our situation. To help explain what I mean, think about it in regard to sports. 

When your favorite sports team is doing well, the coach is making good decisions, players are executing, and they are winning; it’s effortless to sing their praise. Week in and week out, it’s natural to sing praises after wins. But as soon as things go astray—when the coach starts making decisions you don’t agree with, when the players aren’t playing well, as soon as the losses start—the praise stops.

Unfortunately, I think we do the same thing with God. When our situation is good—when we are happy with it and things are going well for us— it’s effortless to praise Him. However, when things become difficult—when we are in a valley and we feel like He is far away—we tend to stop singing. But the incredible thing about God is that, even when our situation changes, He never does. He stays the same no matter what. 

Psalm 100 says this:
Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God.
He made us, and we are his—
his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and bless his name.
For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever;
his faithfulness, through all generations.

We should not let our worship be defined by our situation, whether good or bad. Our worship should be defined by who God is. He is good. His faithful love endures forever. He never changes. He is faithful to all generations. He is the same God in the valley that He was on the mountaintop. 

I know that some of us are doing really well and that’s awesome. Praise God for that! However, some of us are not, and I’m sorry that things are difficult for you right now. But my encouragement to you, no matter your situation, is this: stop. Let’s stop defining our worship by our circumstances, our surroundings, our situation and let’s begin defining our worship by who our God is. 

When we sing, let’s sing joyfully for who He is. Because He is good. He is faithful. His love endures forever. He is the Creator. He is the Lord of Lords. He is the King of Kings. He is the One who gave it all by sending His son to bring us from death into new and abundant life. He is worthy of our praise whether we are on the mountaintop or in the valley.

Living out the Message:

By Michelle Lemley, Nursery Coordinator

While driving around the parking lot at Target, my six year old son asked about the parking spaces up front. He asked, “Mommy, why are those blue pictures on the ground?” He was referring to the handicapped-accessible spots, which began a discussion about saving those spaces for people with special needs. We talked about taking care of those who need help, and how God wants us to always be looking for ways to help others.

Our bedtime devotional that evening was from 2 Samuel, and featured David and Mephibosheth. (By the way, if you ever need a laugh, ask a kid to try to pronounce “Meh-fib-o-sheth” really fast.) In this passage, David was thinking about his friend Jonathan, wishing that he could do something for his friend’s family. David found Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, who was “lame in both feet” (2 Samuel 9:3).  David made sure that Mephibosheth received his inheritance from his grandfather King Saul, and told him, “I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.” (2 Samuel 9:7)

Isn’t it beautiful the way God works to bring these experiences together to remind us of His expectations for us? David helped Mephibosheth because of his relationship with Jonathan, much as God has blessed us because of His covenant with His Son, Jesus. It is through a relationship with Jesus that we are able to receive our royal inheritance in Heaven. And so it follows that we are called to care for those in need because of our relationship with Jesus. As we see in Jeremiah 22:16:

“He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord.”

To know Him, to truly seek to emulate the time of Jesus on Earth, is to care for others. I would like to think that I am always seeking opportunities to serve others, but in truth I often avoid situations that might be difficult or uncomfortable in favor of something more convenient. And when I do something to help, am I doing it to honor God, or in deference to all that He has done for me? Not always.  Many times I find myself looking for “atta-boys” from those around me, watching to see who will acknowledge my good works.

This week, join me in seeking to be more like David, to serve others and especially those in need. And not because of Earthly rewards, or even for the opportunity to receive Heavenly rewards, but because we have a relationship with Jesus and love Him, and want to pass that love on to those whom He has called His brothers (Matthew 25:40).

Relationship Goals—Part 4 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Love on Display
by: Andrew Archer

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.1 John 4:7-11

When it comes to love, God wants us to have a clear understanding as to just how great His love is. He wants us to know that His love for us is unconditional—it knows no bounds. We have done nothing to earn or deserve it. God doesn’t love us because we first loved Him; He first loved us and He put His love on display for us in His Son Jesus. 

As Tim shared Sunday, Jesus loved unconditionally. He loved people regardless of who they were. Regardless of their gender, race, social status, wealth, and more. He loved people regardless of how they treated Him. Even as he was being crucified, He cried out “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  And most importantly, He loved people regardless of the cost. Jesus told His best friends that “No one has greater love than this: to lay his life down for his friends.” Then Jesus put His money where His mouth was and took upon the wrath of God not only on behalf of His friends, but His enemies as well. That is true unconditional love.

If we are ones who know this unconditional love of God, then we ought to love one another. John makes it plain that because God is love, if we aren’t showing love to others, then we don’t know God. The crazy thing is, God still loves us even when we don’t love others. That’s what His love is—love without conditions. 

So this week let’s focus on two things:
• Spend time with the God who knows you fully and yet loves you unconditionally 
• Spend time loving others with the same love that God has for you

Getting this right is more important than any other Relationship Goal we have talked about in this series. As Peter says in 1 Peter 4:18:
Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 

Living out the Message:

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?
By Barb Barnhart, Preschool Coordinator

“When challenged, the committed heart will search for a solution. The undecided heart searches for an escape.”  –Andy Andrews, The Young Traveler’s Gift

I have often thought that I love unconditionally. The people I touch base with throughout the day can see the smile on my face of acceptance and caring. Yet, I realize that most of these people are not ones with whom I have developed a deep relationship. The deep relationships in our lives cause our unconditional love to waver. We can have conflict within our family circle or with coworkers. Living out this unconditional love with those closest to us takes commitment and make no mistake—this is hard work! 

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Prepare yourselves. Unconditional love can bring about a broken heart.  

What becomes of the broken hearted? Daily, each person has a decision to make on how to love. Will I love even though it may bring me pain or heartache? God has given us the solution. David wrote in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”

As those who have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, we have an advocate. Jesus understands our broken heart. His heart was broken for us as He took on our sins at the cross. He is near as we love others, loving through us. Likewise, as our love is shunned or spurned, Jesus is saving our crushed spirit, encouraging us to continue on.  

Love unconditionally! You are not loving on your own. You are being obedient to the One who is love.  

“We love because He first loved us.” –1 John 4:19

Relationship Goals—Part 3 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Imago Dei
by: Andrew Archer

This Sunday, Pastor Tim continued our series, Relationship Goals, where we are looking at different qualities or characteristics that will greatly improve our relationships if we truly live them out. Tim shared that one of our goals should be to always be kind. We can think of kindness as treating others as kin or family. For most of us, this can be very difficult. We often struggle with kindness. We don’t view others this way and then we treat them accordingly. 

One of the reasons we struggle with being kind toward others is because we label them. It’s human nature to categorize things; it helps us better understand the world in which we live. And most of the time, it’s beneficial for us and doesn’t hurt anyone else. However, when it comes to labeling people, it can often lead us to see them as less human. When we label someone as “homeless,” “conservative,” “liberal,” or worst of all, a “Pitt fan,” we are unable to see them for who they actually are and begin to see them as an “it.” We strip them of their humanity.

So, how should we label or view people? Well, I think we can find the answer to that question in the beginning. When God created the first humans, he said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” All people (yes, even Pitt fans) are made in the image of God. This means that all people are in this sense the same. We have something—the most important thing—in common. And that thing, the fact that God chose to make us in His image, shows the immense worth each person has in spite of any other category we might want to put them in. 

I understand the hesitation to show kindness toward someone in which you have labeled as something different than yourself is part of our nature. However, when we realize that all people are, first and foremost, image bearers of our Heavenly Father, that should radically change the way in which we see them and treat them. It should create in us a heart that looks to treat everyone with kindness. 

If we say we love God yet we don’t show kindness to those who bear his image, we are hypocrites. One of the best ways to show our love for God is by showing kindness to the people He created. I encourage you to actively look at everyone you encounter, not as whatever label you might normally give them, but as the imago deithe image of God.

Living out the Message:

Dude. Just be Kind. 
By Michelle Lemley, Nursery Coordinator

I am blessed to have two boys, ages 10 and 6. And they are “all boy,” as my mother says. They wrestle and throw and play rough, but they can also be cuddly and gentle and loving. They live life to the fullest, and everything is big and wild, including their emotions. One of the most challenging things that I have encountered as a parent is teaching them how to interact with others. I often find myself trying to stop an argument by saying, “Dude. Just… be kind.” Part of our nightly prayers is always, “Help us to be kind and patient to everyone we meet, to forgive others and ourselves when we make mistakes, and to treat others the way we want to be treated.” Oftentimes, while saying these words, I find myself thinking that these concepts are not isolated to 10 and 6 year old boys. I think about ways that I’ve not treated others with kindness and patience throughout my own day.

Kindness can have many aspects, and can mean different things to different people. Pastor Tim suggested four words that can help us to remember ways to express kindness in our day-to-day lives. It helps that they all start with the same letter!

• Gentleness
• Goodness
• Generosity
• Graciousness

Throughout the day on Sunday, after hearing these words, the boys and I had many opportunities to discuss them. When I heard them speaking to each other harshly, I said, “Remember that Pastor Tim said we should treat each other with gentleness! That doesn’t just mean don’t punch each other, but to use kind words and voices. That’s part of being kind!”

A more complicated aspect came about when we saw someone asking for money. I gave them a dollar or two and the boys asked why I didn’t give more. It would have been more generous to give them all of the money in my wallet! I thought a lot about that and remembered that another thing Pastor Tim mentioned was to give with wisdom and discernment. It’s not always best to give everything you have at once, when those resources may be better spent in other ways.  

Kindness is being present and observant and being willing to help those in need. Sometimes that means money, sometimes a smile or compliment, and sometimes that means a larger investment of our time. I think that the bottom line is that kindness is caring; thinking of others and their needs, and doing our best to help when we can. So, join me this week in making it a goal to always be kind.

Relationship Goals—Part 2 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Game Changer
by: Andrew Archer

I’m a huge sports fan. Basketball and football are my two favorites. In sports, there is a term that refers only to those who make a great impact on their game—game changer. Merriam Webster defines “game changer” as a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way. 

Steph Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors, is perhaps the biggest game changer in all of recent sports history. Steph is the greatest shooter of all time—and it isn’t close. He does things that none of the other great shooters before him could dream of doing. He has broken many records, won MVPs and scoring titles, and led his team to championships. He not only significantly changes any individual game that he is in, he has completely changed the game of basketball. 

Before Steph Curry, the game of basketball was played much differently. Teams were focused on playing through their big men down low, allowing their athletes to drive to the basket, and getting open jump shots to the one or two guys on their team who can shoot. You had players who could often excel at only one of those things. However, since Steph Curry has changed the game, almost every player on the court can shoot. They have to in order to keep up. This trend is going to continue, and it’s all thanks to Steph Curry. 

I think we all have the opportunity to be game changers. Not in basketball, but in life. So often when someone is wronged, what follows is a downward spiral that lacks forgiveness and is full of bitterness. All of this eventually leads to more pain and brokenness. Life doesn’t have to be like that. Our relationships don’t have to be like that. In Romans 12, Paul advises us to stop living this way, to change the game. He says: 

If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But

If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
For in so doing
you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. 

We have the opportunity to change the game in our relationships by doing what Paul says. Conquer evil with good. We do that by choosing forgiveness and not taking vengeance into our own hands. We understand that, because God is sovereign and just, we can let go of the bitterness that is only hurting us. Let’s change the game with forgiveness.

Living out the Message:

Forgiveness Tickets
By Barb Barnhart, Preschool Coordinator

“Tickets! Get your forgiveness tickets here! I only have so many and give them out sparingly.”

We live in a society that keeps track of the times one is forgiven. “Here is your ticket that states you have been forgiven.” The one forgiven doesn’t necessarily keep track of their forgiveness tickets but those that dole out forgiveness often keep track of the tickets given away.

As believers, we have a different standard by which we live. In Colossians 3:12-13, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” Often, we look at the lists in scripture and find ourselves checking off the characteristics we do well. I find myself checking off each attribute. I can do that—check!

“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion (check), kindness (check), humility (check), gentleness (check), and patience (I taught kindergarten—of course, check!), 

Then Paul moves onto the next verse, and suddenly the check marks are more difficult to make.

Accepting one another (maybe I can do a half of a check) and forgiving one another (this one gets me every time)….

Forgiveness is hard to do! We are able to come up with so many reasons not to forgive. We can add reason after reason as to why not to forgive, but we must come back to the reality that we forgive because we are recipients of God’s forgiveness.

The next problem with forgiveness is seen in Matthew 18:21-22, as Peter asks the question, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times? ‘I tell you, not as many as seven,’ Jesus said to him, ‘but seventy times seven.’” I can see Peter thinking that he was a top notch “forgiver.” He was willing to forgive a person seven times. Jesus’ reply must have knocked the wind out of Peter—seventy times seven.  

As believers, we are to never stop forgiving. This task is humanly impossible. How are we to do this? The apostles show us the way in Luke 17:5, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’” Here is our answer! Not only are we freely forgiven by the Lord, He gives us the faith that is needed to forgive.

“Forgiveness is the best thing and the right thing to do!” So, put away your forgiveness tickets and little forgiveness tally notebooks and FORGIVE!

Relationship Goals—Part 1 [Devotional]

Going Deeper with the Message:

Living Water
by: Andrew Archer

This Sunday, Pastor Josh kicked off our new series Relationship Goals, where we are looking at different qualities or characteristics that will greatly improve our relationships if we truly live them out. Being that it was Mother’s Day, it was fitting that the characteristic Josh looked at was selflessness. His encouragement was to focus on yourself less so that you can focus on others more.

He shared three things that selfless people do.

Selfless People…
• Put others first and sacrificially meet their needs
• Do not seek credit for putting others first
• Fill their cup to empty it for others

That last point, “selfless people fill their cup to empty it for others,” really struck me. At face value it seems contradictory. If you’re selfless, you wouldn’t focus on filling up your own cup, right? The catch is that the only way we can pour out for others is if we are filled ourselves. The tension revolves around why we are filling our cup. Is it for ourselves? Or is it so that we might be able to bless others? Selfless people fill their cup to empty it for others. 

Hopefully, we strive to be those people, but I want to go a step further and ask a slightly different question: What is in the well you are filling your cup with? I think another reason why we focus on ourselves more and others less is because the ‘wells’ we go to don’t really fill us up. Not only should we be filling our cup for others, but we should think about what sources we are going to in order to get filled up. Think about it like a car. Cars need gasoline to run properly. I’m no mechanic, but my guess is, if you put some Coke into your gas tank, you’re not making it very far. 

In John 4:13-14 Jesus said this when talking to a woman that was drawing water from a well: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.” Jesus is the source of living water. He is a well that will never run dry. He is the living water that can quench the thirst of your soul. In the same way that a car needs gasoline to run properly, we need to be filled up with the living water that only Jesus offers. Drink from the well that is Christ’s living water and allow your cup to overflow with Him.

Living out the Message:

The Least of These
By Michelle Lemley, Nursery Coordinator

My official title at Chestnut Ridge Church is Nursery Coordinator. I love snuggling the babies of our church, and while it feels like it’s been forever since they’ve been in our arms, I know that this job holds a special place in my heart. There is something so fulfilling about working for those who need you for everything. Don’t get me wrong, it can be really hard work as well. A screaming baby who can’t tell you what is wrong is enough to drive even the most seasoned nanny running for the hills—or at least a 5-minute bathroom break. But we forgive them and keep coming back, knowing that they need our love and care at those hard times more than ever.

The selfless care that comes from any childcare provider is literally life-giving. A baby is so helpless, and we serve them with no expectation of getting anything back from them, except maybe the occasional happy smile or giggle. And this is exactly what Jesus called us to do. To give selflessly, with no intention of benefitting from the gift. To put others first and sacrificially meet their needs.

Our Ridge Kids volunteers are some of the most selfless people I know. They sacrifice their time, and sometimes their eardrums, to care for the little ones of our church. They do not seek recognition or monetary gain. They serve our kids because they understand that selflessly taking care of the least of us is the most noble work we can do here on earth. And it benefits their parents too, giving them time to really focus on the worship experience being provided and earning a well-deserved respite from the sometimes all-consuming work of caring for kids. 

This week, I encourage you to seek a way to serve others in this way. Find someone who cannot reciprocate your act of kindness—leave an anonymous gift for someone that you know could use it, do something special for a child or elderly person that they cannot do for themselves. As we empty ourselves by giving and doing selfless work, we take on God’s mission for us. As we deny ourselves and sacrificially care for those who need our help, we follow the work of Jesus on earth.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:23-24