Author: Zlatko Sebesta

Joy in the Storm

Where do you go when the unexpected happens? Do you hide, argue, or run? Do you blame others or blame yourself? We rarely expect the unexpected so we often have to process pain and trauma in real time. We usually do not get the opportunity to mentally prepare for the many challenges we face, and unfortunately, trials often bring out the worst in us. In the midst of the unexpected, we often say and do things that we regret. As Christians, how are we to respond when trials and tribulations come?

James offers us a very clear reminder of how to respond when the unexpected happens. James 1:1-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is easy to understand what James is saying here, but this passage is drastically harder to put into practice. What does James mean when he says to “consider it all joy” when we face trials? Does this mean that we should always smile and never experience sadness? I think not. Jesus wept, and Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Joy does not always mean we are filled with happy emotions. Joy is a gift from God. Joy is not always an emotion or a feeling. Instead, we choose to find joy in the object of our faith, Jesus Christ. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Though we may not understand the unexpected, I pray we run to and find joy in Jesus Christ, our source of hope.

Due to the pandemic, the past two years have been a bit unexpected. In addition to the pandemic, each of us have faced other unexpected circumstances. Many of us have not stopped long enough to think about how Christians should respond to such unusual times. I encourage you to find some time this month to process the past two years. Think about your response to the unexpected. Repent if you have responded incorrectly at different points. Apologize to people that you may have hurt. Turn to Jesus and find joy in the storm.

Jesus is the one that calmed the storm, woke the dead, and opened the eyes of the blind. Jesus is no stranger to difficulties and challenges, but where we failed, Jesus was blameless and perfect. Jesus did not tell us that we will not face the unexpected in this world. Instead Jesus says in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” May we find hope, joy, and courage in Jesus today. He has overcome the sin, brokenness, and death of this world. Jesus has promised Christians an eternal hope in Him. When the unexpected comes, may we find our joy in Him!

In Christ,

Nick, Amanda, and Julia

Change

Does change excite you, or are you the type that tries to avoid change? We all have different ways that we deal with change. Some handle change really well, and some do not adapt to change so easily. We all have different seasons in our lives, and with each new season, we face new challenges and many changes. I know my family along with many others have been in a season of change, and our church has been going through a significant season of change as well.

As Christians, our lives have been eternally changed by the grace and mercy of Jesus. Daily, Christ is changing and transforming us into His own image (2 Corinthians 3:18). This transformation is both an internal and an external change. God made us to learn and grow, and He specifically made us to learn and grow in Him. Ever since I became a Christian, I have found that no place feels quite like home, and over the years, I have begun to realize that this world is not our home if we are in Christ. Instead my heart longs for my eternal home with Jesus. In this world we are “aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:11), and Hebrews 13:14 tells us, “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.” Thankfully Paul gives us some words of encouragement in Philippians 3:20-21 by saying, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” 

Change, growth, and transformation are unavoidable in this life, and yet, God seems to use each moment to teach us more about Him. When we became Christians, God in His sovereign wisdom chose to leave us here on this sinful earth to now be witnesses and ambassadors for Him to the unbelieving world. Each day, may we live our lives with that reality in our minds. I have found this mindset begins to dull the pain of change and growth. When we know we have been promised eternal glory in the presence of our holy and perfect God, we begin to see purpose in each day, each challenge, and each opportunity for growth. 

May our hearts cry out with the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” As a by-product, we change, we grow, and we go as Christ leads us. “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).

In Christ,

Nick, Amanda, and Julia

To Live is Christ

Scripture: Philippians 1:12-26

Preacher: Nicholas Gagnon

Summary: Paul’s life is a living sacrifice for Jesus. Paul reminds the church at Philippi that Christ is to be proclaimed and exalted regardless of your circumstances.

Partners in the Gospel

Scripture: Philippians 1:1-10

Preacher: Nicholas Gagnon

Summary: Paul begins his letter to the church at Philippi by encouraging them to continue learning and growing in Christ. Paul has a deep love for the Philippian church, and he wants their lives to reflect Jesus in everything they do