Rest and Sabbatical (Amanda and Erin)

Today’s passage is Isaiah 6:1-8, which features Isaiah’s calling from God. Notice Isaiah’s initial response and his secondary response. What tends to be your response when God calls you to something?

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Rest and Sabbatical (Amanda and Erin)

This week’s Scripture passage is: 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1. I’d love to always be able to tell others that they can imitate me as I do my best to imitate Christ.

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Rest and Sabbatical (Amanda and Erin)

Today’s passage is Psalm 91. Take a moment to rest and trust in God even when your circumstances and future are uncertain.


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Rest and Sabbatical (Amanda and Erin)

This week’s passage is Exodus 3. God chooses to use us even when we think we have little to offer.

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Rest and Sabbatical (Amanda and Erin)

Happy New Year, friends!

We hope you enjoyed a great holiday season and are settling into 2015. As we start a new year, we want to let you know we’re going to take a short sabbatical from our regular weekly posts to rest and envision the future of Amanda and Erin Ministry. It’s a necessary and even holy thing to rest (check out our post on it), so we’re going to take a couple of months to do just that.

Have no fear! We will be back in the summer with our weekly blog, and in the meantime, we will post a weekly Scripture passage we find helpful and/or encouraging. Here’s today’s! It’s Isaiah 40, a reminder of how big, good, and in control our God is. You can also reference this Scripture reading guide the churches we work for are producing.

Again, Happy 2015! We look forward to the future and would love your prayers and encouragement as we plan the next phase of Amanda and Erin Ministry.

In Christ,
Amanda and Erin

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Advent – Joy! (Erin)

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” ~ Luke 2:8-12

OK, so this place changed my life. If I’ve seen you in the last week, or you’re one of my Facebook friends, you know this. I went to Foot Therapy with Amanda on Friday and was amazed, blessed, thrilled, and transformed by its greatness. The best one-hour massage of my life for only $35! Yes, they specialize in feet, but it’s so much more than that. As my massage guy was rubbing my shoulders, feet, back, and rear I kept saying to myself “You’ve got to be kidding me!” It was incredible… I’ll never spend more than $35 on a massage again.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” might sound like a funny thing to be thinking during a massage. The reason why that kept rolling through my mind is because about a year and a half ago, Amanda told me about Foot Therapy. She’d gone to a similar place in Houston with one of our friends (and a fellow blog subscriber ~ we love you, Buehler!) and came back raving about it. She said it was so great and that I would love it. Well, I didn’t doubt her, but Foot Therapy is so far beyond what I was expecting. I thought it’d be nice… it was heaven.

We’re writing about Advent these last few weeks of 2014. Last week Amanda encouraged us to wait for Christmas and think about the various things we’re waiting for in life. I don’t know about you, but I really related to her post and was challenged by it. This week we celebrate the joy of Christmas. God promised salvation to His people long ago, and it finally came through a baby boy in Bethlehem. Jesus wasn’t a political messiah armed for battle like the Jews thought he’d be; he was a prophet, teacher, and miracle worker. He forgave, healed, changed lives, and let people know of their eternal value and significance. Christ was far beyond what anyone expected he’d be; he was God Himself.

I have to remind myself ~ and have other people remind me too ~ that the God we worship goes above and beyond what we expect in life. We ask for less stress; He gives peace. We want companionship; He gives us relationships of unconditional love, support, and forgiveness. We pray for safety and security; He offers genuine purpose and provision in life. The message of Christmas is that God works differently and more powerfully than we expect. He didn’t send a savior to deliver the Jews from a difficult season; He sent His Son to deliver all people from all sin and brokenness forever.

May your Christmas be full of joy as you celebrate our God who exceeds all expectations!

  • When has God exceeded your expectations?
  • How is Christ above and beyond what we often think we need?
  • What can you do this week to celebrate Christmas with joy?
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Advent – The Wait (Amanda)

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” ~ Isaiah 9:6-7

When we were kids, my siblings and I weren’t allowed to leave our rooms on Christmas morning until our parents came to get us. The wait was excruciating. We would wake up somewhere in the vicinity of 5:00 a.m. and be raring to sprint out to the living room to see our loot. We would immediately devise a plan to wake our parents up by singing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs, banging on the walls, and calling them as if we actually needed something.

The average wait time from when we woke up until the time we actually got to go to the living room to hear the Christmas music, see the beautiful lights, and spot our stockings and mountains of gifts was probably about fifteen minutes total, but it felt like an eternity.

Erin and I have talked about waiting before. In fact, we know that many of you are waiting for something right now. Waiting is painful. And it’s painful for a number of reasons – we don’t know how long we’ll have to wait, we don’t know if what we’re waiting for will ever come, and we see other people around us who didn’t have to wait – just to name a few.

Waiting is hard. And yet, Advent is a season that teaches us to wait.

The passage above is one of my favorites in the whole Bible. It comes from Isaiah, and it’s a prophecy foretelling the coming of the Messiah. Though the Israelites didn’t know exactly what they were looking or waiting for, they knew this Messiah would be a “wonderful counselor,” “everlasting father,” and “prince of peace.” They wanted this Messiah to come, restore their nation, and reunite their people. But guess how long the Israelites had to wait between this prophecy and the birth of Christ?

400 years!

We can’t even fathom 400 years. If we had received some sort of promise when America became a nation we’d still have over 160 years to wait. The computer I’m typing on right now is six years old, and it’s a complete relic. 400 years is forever.

None of us will ever experience a 400-year wait. But we will experience times of waiting. So what should we do as we wait for God to fulfill His promises? Like we’re called to do during Advent, we should prepare our hearts and lives for what we’ve been promised. I don’t believe this convinces or causes God to fulfill the promise, but I do believe it’s our opportunity to be ready to receive whatever God chooses to bless us with.

We know how to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. We decorate our houses, buy gifts, read particular passages of Scripture, and celebrate with friends and family. These activities help our hearts and minds become ready to celebrate the big day. What are some things you can do and prayers you can pray to prepare yourself for God’s promises in your life?

  • What are some things you and your family do to get ready for Christmas?
  • What are some things you are waiting for in life?
  • How can you take cues from your Christmas preparation to adequately prepare for the things you’re waiting on?
  • How can you actively but patiently wait for what’s to come in your life?
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I’ve Had a Revelation – This is Not All There Is (Erin)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” ~ Revelation 21:1-4

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse… There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or give the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.” ~ Revelation 22:1-3, 5

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Well, we made it to the very end. You girls have been awesome to stick with Amanda and me through a whole year of the Bible. Believe it or not, just about a year ago we starting blogging about creation in Genesis and then God’s promises and call to people like Abraham and Moses. At some point we got into the New Testament and wrote about Jesus and Paul. Now give yourselves a huge pat on the back because we’re tackling Revelation for one more week. (The last few weeks of December we’ll blog about Christmas and post a fun fifth week photo!) We hope you’ve been able to see yourselves in the Scriptures we’ve shared and been encouraged by God’s Word to you.

I’ve got to say I’m amazed at how God works. I just texted the top Scripture above to a friend of mine whose mother died last week. Her family is in understandable and incredible grief over their loss, asking questions like What is heaven like? When will we see Mom again? And Now what? I of course have no easy answers or instant words of comfort, but I’m glad God paints a picture I can point Rachel to.

Last week Amanda wrote about how the book of Revelation is difficult and often confusing. One takeaway from it, though, is that God, through John, gives specific messages to specific churches ~ words of praise and words of correction. Another takeaway from the book is also very simple: good overcomes evil.

I could quote long sections of Revelation that describe Babylon and Rome and a beast vs. a white horse and lamps and all kinds of other creatures and objects in flowery, dramatic, incredibly vivid imagery. Those verses might intrigue you or get you to ask some good questions. But the verses above stood out to me because of Rachel and what she and so many others of us experience in this life. We want to be freed from chaos. We are sick of crying. The pain is just too unbearable at times…

The story of Revelation is that one day Jesus will come back to this earth and make it new. God will destroy suffering, pain, and death forever. Eternal  ~ not temporal ~ life, light, and joy will be the new norm. The second Scripture above describes healing not just of individual lives but of the entire world. I just can’t imagine that…

Our study of the Bible began with God’s goodness in creation, and it ends with His mercy in re-creation. Whatever grief or hardship you or someone you know may be facing, I pray Christ’s peace for you. I also hope you will have the vision to see new life coming soon. Just as God has been with His people since the very beginning, He is with us all now, and He will come again!

  • What do you imagine heaven will be like?
  • Have you ever felt Christ’s peace? If so, how would you describe it?
  • What takeaways have you gotten from reading through the Bible with us this year?
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I’ve Had a Revelation – Praise and Correction (Amanda)

“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live – where Satan has his throne, yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives.” ~ Revelation 2:12-13 

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and hear; hold it fast, and repent.” ~ Revelation 3:1-3

I remember reading The Odyssey, The Iliad, haikus, sonnets, and Shakespeare in school. I’m pretty sure we had to read those classics to expand our minds, but I got little to nothing out of them. I normally just listened to my teachers explain what we’d read and then regurgitate that information onto tests.

I fear we treat Revelation like I treated those difficult literary texts. I never gained anything from The Iliad or The Odyssey because I never put any effort into them. They were written in difficult language with a lot of symbolism and metaphors. Many characters had odd names, and you really had to pause and think about the meaning after every three words or so. Understanding these pieces would have been a lot of work, and I didn’t want to put in that work, even if it was worth it.

The book of Revelation was written by John. We’re not sure which John it is, but the writer identifies himself as John often. He also makes his purpose in writing the book clear from the beginning: “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must take place soon.” (1:1) John was trying to share a vision he had had about what would take place later: specifically, the end of the world.

Today we’re looking at one specific part of Revelation, so have no fear; it shouldn’t be too overwhelming. In Revelation, John addresses seven churches. To some he gives encouragement, and to some he gives correction. While that’s a very simplistic and limited explanation of what happens in Revelation, it’s a significant part. Take a second to reread the two Scripture passages above and pay attention to the differences between the two.

As we approach the end of this year (not of the world), what do you think God would have to say to you? Look back over the highs and lows, significant moments and mundane details. Based on what you’re remembering, do you think God would offer praise or correction? Why? What parts of your year stick out to help you come to your conclusion?

The good news for us today and all others who’ve read or heard Revelation is that we’re given a chance to right the ship if needed. If we’re heading in a direction we think God wants to correct, now’s our chance to change! The church in Sardis is told to hold fast to the correction they’ve been given and repent. I believe God gives us the same opportunity.

I encourage you to listen to the direction God would ask you to walk in and then do it. If you’re spending all your money on yourself – listen to God’s teaching on giving and start sharing your resources generously. If you’re overly critical of the people around you, read where God calls us all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139) and start looking for the best in others.

Though as the overused saying goes, “none of us are perfect,” if we look at our lives and see the need for change, let’s make the correction. This is the perfect time to do it. Make the change and start fresh.

  • Take a minute to read chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. These are the messages John gives to the seven churches. What strikes you? Which one is closest to what you think God sees in your life?
  • As you look at this last year of your life, do you feel it should receive more praise or correction?
  • What do you think are the benefits of both praise and correction?
  • What is one area of your life you’d like to correct in the New Year?
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Instruction Manual – James (Erin)

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
~James 1:22

On most days I love being a Christian. I’ve written a lot about how I was raised in a Christian home, went to a private Baptist elementary school, and was a leader in my youth ministry and a Christian camp counselor in college. Besides that, you all know I’ve been working in full-time ministry ever since. Faith, hope, love, and all things “Christian” make sense to me; I see them everywhere. I’m inspired by faith, and I want all people to embrace it.

Having said all that, the Scripture at the top of this blog post ~ and the entire letter of James for that matter ~ challenges me greatly. It says not just to be inspired by our faith or moved by it; live it. Many of the New Testament letters write beautiful things like “clothe yourselves with compassion” (Colossians 3:12), “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8), and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Doesn’t’ all that sounds great? What woman wouldn’t want to aspire to those things? James offers a few different instructions:

  • “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance…” ~ 1:2
  • “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” ~ 1:19
  • “My brothers and sisters, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” ~ 2:1
  • “What good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” ~ 2:14
  • “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” ~ 4:8-10

James also challenges us to tame our tongues (i.e. not gossip), not plan for tomorrow (I love to plan!!), be patient in suffering, and pray through everything. These things, he says, are the marks of a true Christian.

Whenever I need a checkpoint to see how I’m living compared to how Christ calls me to live, I read James. It is easy, easy, easy for me to read or listen to God’s word in church or in Scripture, but it’s something altogether different to handle hard times, struggle, and sin in a way that glorifies God and actually helps people.

When you think about your life as a Christian, are you easily inspired? Do you sit in church, read Scripture, and/or listen to other Christians and love what you hear but struggle to do anything? If so, James is for you. I hope you’ll take some time this week to read the short letter and find at least one way to take action in your faith.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

  • Read through the James Scriptures in the bullets above. Which is the most challenging to you and why?
  • What do you love about being a Christian?
  • In what ways do you struggle to fully live out your call as a Christian?
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