We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 21st) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
A Spiritual House
Pastor Mike Halstead – 1/21/18
In the second week of our series entitled “A Spiritual House,” we take a look at the story of Nehemiah, a man who saw the need for the wall of Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and took personal responsibility in gathering together the people to make it happen.
The task of building and strengthening the kingdom of God has been given to us by our Creator. He has graciously allowed us to take part in the glorious mission of spreading the gospel to the world and bringing together the church in way that shines the light of God to those still outside its walls.
- Nehemiah’s first task is to inspect just how much damage has been done to the walls of his city. When we set forth to accomplish our mission, what are some ways we prepare to do so?
- When Nehemiah goes the Jewish people and explains to them the task that is before them, how does he convince them that this is something that needs to be done?
- How do we “strengthen [our] hands for the good work” (vs. 18) that we need to do?
- Nehemiah then encounters people who oppose the work that he intends to do. What kind of opposition might we face in our mission to spread the gospel?
- 6 says: “And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” Why is this verse significant?
- How do the Jews respond to the threat of opposition and violence from those who don’t want their work to continue?
- Sometimes we consider the mission of spreading the gospel to the entire world a massive undertaking, one that might be impossible to fully accomplish. What does verse 14 tell us about how we should approach our mission?
- In chapter 3, we see that the people of Jerusalem took personal responsibility for portions of the wall that were near to their homes. What lesson can we take from this?
- Nehemiah’s specific task was to lead people in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls, something near and dear to his heart. What is your specific task?
- It is important to recognize, as the Jews did, that our work will not always be easy, nor will it always feel like we can accomplish the task set before us. What are some ways to get through those times?
If we are to see the mission of the church to be accomplished, it has to become personal. We need to see that we are not just trying to do “good,” but to bring the peace, love, and grace of God to those closest to us. We should start to see that our mission to the world doesn’t just include third-world countries across oceans, but that it should start in the communities in which we live!
Pray for clarity and discernment as to who you can reach in the church’s mission to spread the gospel. Pray for unity amongst the church as a whole and see the urgency in the needs that must be addressed. Thank God that he has given us the opportunity to be a part of His plan, and for a way to actively show our gratitude for the grace He has given us.
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 14th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
A Spiritual House
Pastor Mike Halstead – 1/14/17
This week, we began a new sermon series entitled “A Spiritual House,” in which we are examining what “church” is truly supposed to be.
In our first passage, we will look at what Peter says about what it means to be a spiritual house and who God’s people have been called to be.
- Based on this passage, what is a “spiritual house?”
- In the first verse, Peter mentions things that cause dissension between people in the church. Have you ever experienced something like this? What was the result of that strife?
- This entire passage focuses on the spiritual aspect of what it means to be a Christian, and the importance of God’s people, rather than the buildings, titles, and services we use. What is the danger of viewing the church as a physical place?
Peter’s words would have pleased Jesus. He, too, was concerned with the goings on of not just His followers, but also with the actual workings of the temple and made efforts to right the wrongs that were being committed in the courts of the House of God.
- How does this image of a violent, passionate Jesus clash with the popular image of Jesus we have today?
- How does the scene in this passage relate to having a pure and spiritual house of God?
- If Jesus were to attend a church service this Sunday, how do you think he would react?
- How can the church become a more spiritual house in 2018?
- How about your own house?
- Pastor Mike talked about the misconception that we have sometimes that church is supposed to be a boring event. Do you agree? How do we make church less boring? How does this relate to the idea of a “spiritual house?”
Pray for guidance in how to build yourself, your family, and the church into a spiritual house. One that seeks to build each other up and spread the message of God’s kingdom to those who’ve yet to hear it.
Today’s post is for those who feel tired, beaten down, and overwhelmed. Sabbath has been woven into the fabric of creation; God knew that we would need rest from our labor to keep us healthy. Learning more about Sabbath has changed my life, and I believe that it can change yours as well! I highly recommend reading the two books that influenced this post, “The Sabbath” by Abraham Joshua Heschel, and “Sacred Rhythms” by Ruth Haley Barton. Both are available in our Harvest bookstore on Sunday mornings.
“Better one handful of quietness than two handfuls of toil.” Ecclesiastes 4:6
We are all familiar with the days of creation found in Genesis. In this first account, we see creation poetically patterned into days where God makes the entire universe in which we live. At the end of the account, we reach the seventh, final day, and the Bible tells us “God finished His work” and “rested from the work.” Wait, God finished working on the seventh day? I thought he took a day off? What did God finish on this seventh day, what did he create?
The ancient rabbi’s taught that there was an act of creation on the seventh day. After six days of creation there was still something that was lacking in the universe, and that was Menuha (the Jewish word for “rest”). The Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, in his book “The Sabbath” explains that menuha is so much more than the cessation from labor, toil, or activity – and that the universe would be incomplete without menuha. Here is how Heschel describes menuha:
“To the biblical mind menuha is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony. The word with which Job described the state after life he was longing for is derived from the same root as menuha. It is the state wherein man lies still, wherein the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest. It is the state in which there is no strife and no fighting, no fear and no distrust. The essence of good life is menuha. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters” (the waters of menuhot). In later times menuha became a synonym for the life in the world to come, for eternal life.”
In a previous post, “Living a Life of Worship” we talked about how learning to live a life of worship begins with time. Entering into menuha on the Sabbath is where we enter into God’s time. Heschel describes the world as existing in a tension between space and time. Space, is our realm where we create and we possess. In space, we build and we do. Time, is God’s realm, for not a single one of us can possess time. In time, exists eternity and the world of eternal life to which we look to in the future.
We control space. Within space, we create and we build. We do. We shape the world into what we would have it be. In Genesis, God commanded humanity to “fill the earth” – to build up civilization within the realm of space. The goal of space is to have, to do, to create. We spend most of our lives caught up in space. God knew this when he created the universe, which is why he wove menuha into the pattern of creation so that we would not forget to leave our space behind to seek out God in time.
When we observe Sabbath, when we enter into God’s menuha (his eternity of time) we set aside our “doing” in the realm of space in favor of simply being. This is the meaning of Sabbath. When we observe the Sabbath we are set free from the dreaded “to-do list” that constantly hovers over us, and instead get to live in a time as if the cares and burdens of our world have already fallen away and we are already living in the eternity of the world to come. The goal of time is not to have, but to be.
“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”
Maybe you have felt as I have, that there is always something to do and there is never enough time in which to accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished. Perhaps your chest will begin to feel tight, like mine does when I become overwhelmed by “doing.” Like me, maybe you will begin to lose sight of God’s eternal time and menuha. Don’t waste your life in “space” pursuing temporary life and neglecting the pursuit of eternal life and time!
The Sabbath is what sets us free from having to do, anything! It is not simply something else to do, another righteous task that we have to commit. The bible tells us not to grow weary of doing good, and the way that we keep from becoming weary is by entering into menuha – on a regular basis. Menuha can’t be sprinkled around or squeezed in “when I have time” – because let’s be honest, there is never enough time. We need to be intentional about drawing a hard line between our space (our work) and our time (our rest). I hope this is making sense.
The Sabbath is not another thing to “do”, as if it existed in the realm of space – it is instead something for us to look forward to! It is the climax of our week. Heschel says that the Sabbath is not a date, it is an atmosphere.
“The Sabbath is no time for personal anxiety or care, for any activity that might dampen the spirit of joy. The Sabbath is no time to remember sins, to confess, to repent or even to pray for relief or anything we might need. It is a day for praise, not a day for petitions…
[The Sabbath] is a profound conscious harmony of man and the world, a sympathy for all things and a participation in the spirit that unites what is below and what is above. All that is divine in the world is brought into union with God. This is Sabbath, and the true happiness of the universe.”
Sabbath is something that we need, and God knows it. Otherwise, we risk becoming slaves to our work, and we become caught up in the rush and we never slow down. I heard someone say recently, that God rarely speaks at the rate we are running. The Sabbath is about slowing down, and matching our pace with God. It is about letting go of everything temporary in this world that demands our attention and our time and instead giving our bodies and spirit a day to bask in the eternity of God’s time. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
Here is how Ruth Haley Barton describes her experience with the practice of Sabbath keeping:
“The truth is, Sabbath keeping is a discipline that will mess with you, because once you move beyond just thinking about it and actually begin to practice it, the goodness of it will capture you, body, soul and spirit. You will long to wake up to a day that stretches out in front of you with nothing in it but rest and delight. You will long for a simple way to turn your heart toward God in worship without much effort. You will long for a space in time when the pace is slow and family and friends linger with one another, savoring one another’s presence because no one has anywhere else to go.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m busy. I’m so busy that there are days when I don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to do much of anything for anybody. There are days when I don’t have time to “waste” on my three year old daughter who just wants to sit with me, or read a book. Weeks can go by without spending time with friends or family. It is rare anymore that I can even remember a day where I felt “bored” because there was “nothing to do.” I am such a do-er. Resting is not my strong suit, I like to accomplish things and be productive! Yet, God is calling me to put down my work and enter into his rest. Maybe he is calling you into menuha as well – and perhaps you have been too busy to notice.
The question remains, how do we understand Christian Sabbath? In Jewish observance, on the Sabbath there is no work for an entire day, time is sanctified, and family gather together. For a Jew, observing Sabbath was part of keeping the law of Moses. We may not be bound by law to observe Sabbath, or to enter into menuha, but it is still a beneficial practice. As for incorporating Sabbath into your life, I have some suggestions.
First, find a day or a window of time in a day (it really doesn’t have to be the whole day) where you can devote time to entering into God’s rest. Use the following “litmus” test to determine if what you are doing during your Sabbath is true to its purpose. If an activity falls into one of these categories, its Sabbath honoring!
Faith based. The Sabbath is a holy time of entering into God’s rest. It needs to be centered/focused on God.
Family focused. Sabbath is a time for family to be infused with God’s goodness and presence together.
Friendship. The Sabbath is communal. It is not the same as spending time alone in silence or solitude to recharge. It is about entering into eternity with God, and with others. It is about living as if we are already enjoying eternity.
Freedom from “have to.” In God’s time, we leave behind our space. We don’t do anything because it has to be done, we do because we want to.
Fun. The Sabbath is not a somber duty; it is a day of celebration and joy! It’s a time to play games and have fun.
I challenge you to find time, as a family, to participate in Sabbath rest. If you’re having trouble finding a time slot try drawing out your weekly schedule by day and time. Color in the blocks of time that are already committed to things that cannot be changed (like your work schedule). Next, color in the times where you’re involved in church related activities, like your small group or attending on Sunday mornings. If there is any other things you do on a regular basis, fill those in as well. Then visually look for the gaps. For my family, that gap was Saturday morning. That is our time of Sabbath. We do whatever we want to do, together, on that day (as long as it isn’t a “have to”). Sometimes that means sleeping in, having a late breakfast, and then going on a drive or a hike. Other times, it involves going to the park or visiting with friends. Anything that is Sabbath honoring. Give it a try. See how you feel. Find freedom in “rest” and let your “have to’s” wait for a little while. Enjoy it. Find your stride again.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His most Holy Spirit continue to call you into the eternity of his time and give you rest. Remember, that our control over space is only temporary. Let us not get so caught up in “doing” that we forget to simply “be” in the presence of God. Amen.
 “First account”? In Genesis, there are two creation stories – have you noticed? The first is in 1:1-2:3, the second is in 2:4-25. The order of creation differs slightly in each account. Additionally, in the first account God creates all of humanity; in the second, He creates one man and one woman (Adam and Eve).
 Gen. 2:2
 Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951) p.23
 Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 10
 Heschel, The Sabbath, p. 30-32
 Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2006) p. 133
We seek to encourage our church in reading, studying, and living out Scripture in our daily lives. This study guide is designed to correspond to Sunday’s sermon (January 7th) [Listen Here]. Read through this lesson on your own or with a small group.
The story of God’s people -the one that began with Adam & Eve and will continue even after Jesus returns- is not a straight line. It has its ups and downs, times of doubt and declination and times of prosperity and blessing.
In the sermon, “Momentum,” we will take a look at some biblical examples of how clinging to the past can be a detriment, and how we can use that same past as a stepping stone to a brighter future.
Let’s begin with the nation of Israel, newly-freed from the Egyptian bondage.
- Knowing what you know about the future of the Israelites, how do you react to their complaints?
- In the first passage, Egyptian soldiers are hot on the trail of Israel. For us, the time that comes immediately after breaking a sinful habit or making the decision to leave a bad personal situation can be both liberating and dangerous. How do we combat the temptation to fall back into our old ways?
- Compare and contrast the two options the Israelites give themselves in Exodus 14: serving Egypt vs. dying in the desert. What are the pros and cons of each?
- In Exodus 16, the Israelites have on what we call “rose-colored glasses” when they are looking at the past: all they are remembering are the good things they had, not the horrible situation they were in. Why is this so easy to do?
Philemon (Yep, the whole thing)
- Paul wrote to Philemon attempting to convince him to forgive the crimes of his slave Onesimus. Indeed, he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a friend and brother in Christ! Why would this be a difficult thing to do?
- Why is it so hard to forget the sins of those who’ve wronged us?
- In what way can refusal to forgive others hurt ourselves?
Our past can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is all-too-easy to get trapped in our nostalgia and have a skewed version of what really happened. However, the past can also be useful to see where we’ve come from and the progress we’ve made in our faith. We can point to times when dealing with doubt and indecision would be a time of crisis and see that we can handle those issues much easier today. Let’s take some time to look to our past and do just that.
- What would you say is your “starting point” in your faith, the time when you started building the momentum that brought you to this point?
- Is there a time in your life that you tend to look at with rose-colored glasses? How can that be detrimental to you?
- As we look back on our past, what is something you can change to make the future a better place? Someone to forgive, a habit that can be broken, etc.
Pray for a clear picture of the past, and thank God for giving us a history of the church and His people. Ask Him to guide you toward the future with an honest understanding of where you’ve come from. Ask also for opportunities to spread His kingdom as we use the momentum we’ve built thus far.
I am open today from 11 am to 1 pm. Generally a team of two, alternating weeks, staff me. People come in the side door past the big staircase in the wedding garden where they are greeted and recorded. Depending on their family size, they shop for food to meet about 3-4 days’ need. Today, about ten to twelve families will come and shop my shelves and the one average-sized refrigerator that fits into my small room.
At about 11:30 the shoppers return from Birch Community Services – whose mission statement is “to provide a community where people can be responsible and accountable for their needs and to equip them with tools to overcome financial difficulty”. They get between 600 and 900 pounds of food to stock the shelves with – bulk rice, frozen vegetables, strangely-flavored chips and soda. Occasionally they get lucky and find some meat or some canned goods. Some shoppers have houses and apartments to cook in and some do not, so volunteers who go to Birch try to balance the foods they are offered with what different sorts of shoppers can use. Occasionally there are other things in storage to be pulled out, so the people stocking the shelves look for other gaps on the shelves to fill.
Every once in a while bulk foods need to be broken down, be it boxes of hamburger patties or bags of cous cous. This usually happens on an off day, where a volunteer will break things down and then come down and stock the shelves.
A different team from Sunday opens up the pantry at two. As on Sundays, they check the donation bin at the church entrance to see if anything needs transferred onto my shelves downstairs. They will usually have six to eight shoppers to greet and record, with a new person or two to get registered on a short sheet. These volunteers are responsible for making sure that everyone is getting a fair amount of food according to their family size, for keeping the room uncluttered, and for making people feel invited and warm. The pantry is closed up again at 4 pm.
Most weeks, the occasional person will walk in and ask for help with groceries. Even though the pantry is not open, someone from the office will walk them downstairs and help them get set up with a registration card and a few days worth of food. Sometimes they have another need to be filled, such as energy assistance or clothing. The office takes in these requests and follow up with the guest shopper.
Volunteers go to a nearby bread company and get roughly fifty bread items, then come in and stock my shelves for the next week’s worth of shoppers. The bread contribution is a huge blessing that provides a staple item for families in our church and local community.
Our food pantry is small and discreet; many people might not even realize that we have one. However, to our friends who shop regularly, it is a big help to stretch the budget a little farther. Some people have other methods of grocery assistance and some do not. We believe that our pantry is for the good of our community in any form that takes, and we try to put as few stipulations on our shoppers as possible. We recognize that it is a huge act of love that helps to make earth look a little more like heaven. We also reach out to people not already part of our church family – maybe this will be the thing that makes a difference.
This year it was also an avenue for the distribution of our Thanksgiving baskets. It was an opportunity for Troutdale Elementary families to recognize that they have yet another resource – and another friend – at Harvest Christian Church. I was overwhelmed by the support that we received for that ministry drive. It was a big relief to families and a great way for our pantry to show even more love. Thank you thank you thank you for taking part.
If you decide you want to help support our pantry, there are several ways to do it:
- Occasional Opportunities: breaking down bulk items, scooping ice cream at the January 14 chili cook-off, cleaning, stocking items,
- Regular Opportunities: become a weekly volunteer: We are currently in need of an additional Sunday volunteer who can work fairly reliably every other week from 11 am until 1 pm. We are also currently in need of two people who are regularly available on Mondays from 10 am to 12:30 pm.
- We can always use the following items:
- Peanut butter
- Canned meat
- Canned veggies
- Canned fruit
- Canned soups
- Excess garden produce
- We also do pay a fee to shop at BCS, so financial giving does have a place. Any money given should be designated to the “Care Team” fund.
- We can always use the following items:
- If your workplace, school, or community group wants a service project, we would love to have you come up with ways to stock our shelves. Recently, a group of nursing home employees had a contest to see who could bring in the most non-perishable items. Our pantry hugely benefited from this drive.
- Again, financial contributions are incredibly helpful as well.
- Spread the Word
- If you know someone in the area who needs extra help: let them know that we are here to support them.
- If you know someone with extra resources: remind them that we are a willing recipient of anything that can be easily passed out of our pantry (mostly food, occasionally clothing and hygiene items)
Interested in helping in the Food Pantry? Contact Faith Fox at email@example.com. We could not do this without our faithful volunteers!