A Divine (Advent) Conspiracy

Do you know when we went from Christians celebrating the greatest gift ever given to even irreligious people being annoyed at how materialistic and consumeristic Christmas has become?  Like many things, it was a creeping yet steady change.  The question, for me anyway, is how can we practically push back against the consumerism that has the Christmas season by the throat.

Estimates of how much Americans spend at Christmas range from $200 billion to $480 billion or more.   I’ve seen estimates that eradicating dirty water in the world, which ends the life of millions of people each year, would cost $20-30 billion.  Hmmm.  So if every American consumer redirected one out of $10-20 or so we could potentially end one of the greatest scourges on our planet?  As much as my kids each “need” that second and third gift on Christmas morning, I’m pretty sure that in the long run they’d rather see our family directly contribute to giving life.

We are going to provide St. Andrews some practical steps this Advent on how to push back against the consumerism that is strangling Jesus’ birthday celebration.  Each week during worship we’ll talk about a practical way to cut back on consumerism and simplify our Christmas celebration, give to those in need, or just sleep in heavenly peace during the holidays.  You can google Advent Conspiracy for even more ideas.

On Christmas Eve we’ll give half of the offering that night to Crossing Cambodia (bringing the love of Jesus, providing basic needs and sponsoring education to the street children of Battambang, Cambodia), Lutheran World Relief (providing aid during disasters and coordinating development efforts-like clean water projects-throughout the world), and Lutheran Heritage Foundation (translating and providing the materials to train church planters and pastors all over the world to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ).  We’re calling it our Advent Conspiracy Offering.

Our Sunday messages will focus on the great promises God has given us through the prophet Isaiah (you can join us for discussions each week at the 9:45 discipleship hour) and how they are meant to resonate in our lives today.

In short, we’re simply trying to let Jesus be the first, middle, and last thing we think about and are focused on during Advent and Christmas.  We’ll celebrate what He has saved us from, and become a little more what He has saved us for. Looking forward to growing with you as we celebrate the advent of our Lord and Savior.

~ Pastor Dan  

BRIANNA KLEINERT’S TESTIMONY

As many of you may have heard by now, I went to Ecuador on a mission trip. In preparation for these trips, everyone is asked to prepare a personal testimony that can be shared overseas. Often people tell of their life’s journey that has brought them into God’s family.  People speak about God’s faithfulness and love; some speak about a time when they weren’t following God and so can testify to his forgiveness and grace. Preparing a personal testimony gives you the opportunity to truly reflect on your spiritual walk with God and where it has brought you today. Initially the testimony I had written was about growing up in the faith and how that affected me as I got older and entered the real world. I wouldn’t say it was a bad testimony, because all of our stories no matter what they are, are beautiful and a reflection of God’s work in our lives. However, as I was writing it I began to ask myself, is this really my testimony? Is this the thing in my life, today, that is a reflection of my relationship with God? If I’m being honest with myself, the answer to that question would be no.  What has become a reflection of my relationship with God is the fact that I don’t have any relationship besides the one I have with God. My true testimony is my singleness.  This struggle in today’s world is a bit of what I’ve written for all of you today.  I’m going to share some of my story in hopes that it helps you, whether you’re a teenager, a young adult like myself, a parent, guardian, grandparent, etc.

Now, I’m not necessarily saying that I’m planning on being single forever although that possibility has crossed my mind.  What I am saying is that I’ve come to a place in my spiritual journey where God has been put first above everyone else.  Our culture today is saturated with sexuality and the permissiveness of promiscuity. I do hope that that, in itself, is not news to any of you. Sexuality and the idea of sex before marriage has become so common that it’s an everyday occurrence in our culture today, it is the rule not the exception. I’ve heard stories that truly break my heart because this next generation of adults simply don’t know any different.  Being a single woman in her late twenties has exposed me more to this issue than I have cared for it to. I, myself, have been hurt, healed, and grown more in my spiritual faith due to this issue than any other. It has taken me years to understand and discern the yearnings in my own heart of those given to me by God from those given to me by the world around me.  Everyone wants to be loved and accepted in some shape or form, God has created us this way.  However, this can be manipulated and distorted to become some of our greatest sorrows. So without further ado, here’s a portion of my testimony that I pray could be used to help maybe just one of you reading this:

     The Bible tells us that God is love. We are to love God with all our whole mind, body, and soul. We do this because God did it first and showed us how. While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. This is love. This love is our purpose in life. This relationship with God is what our hearts truly desire. Earlier I said, “everything we want and desire, all this can be found in love, in our perfect person.”  This is what I believed when I was younger and it was a lie because we are only fulfilled, content, and complete in Jesus.  He is the perfect person we all need.  All the pain and brokenness that comes from love and relationships today is because we try to put a person above God. We look toward an imperfect and sinful person to bring us joy, happiness, and purpose.  This may be a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child.  For me, it was a boyfriend once. I had my person, this relationship, and yet had never been more lonely, because I did not have a relationship with God.  What I found is that only God can provide the joy and peace that I desired.  God has loved me, will love me, forever no matter what I do. God’s love is a fact. People are imperfect but God will never fail us. 

Sometimes I still struggle because my life does not include a family and children and that this is not my purpose in life like it is for others. Instead I trust in God and ask for him to give me his purpose. Relationship with God is more important than any relationship with a guy. I trust in God’s timing. In the meantime, I tell God my struggles, I tell him my desires, and ultimately I look to him to provide for me and I trust in that. I will not compromise my relationship with God for a relationship with someone who does not respect me and, more importantly, does not respect God. He is my one true love and, with him, I know I will live happily ever after into eternity. 

Books

Did you know we have a few?

You may or may not be aware but we, St. Andrews, have a library!Library

Located in the building across the courtyard from the sanctuary, you can find books about living out your faith, commentaries on different books of the Bible, parenting resources, children’s storybooks, small group and Bible studies, and more.  So check it out!

The library is located to the left once you enter the office building doors (when entering from Claremont Ave).

St Andrews – 9:45am Sunday Discipleship

Beginning August 14th

August marks the beginning of our Fall 9:45am Discipleship and our plans are as follows:

1st Sundays – 

Cross+Gen (all generations) Faith Formation

2nd, 3rd, 4th (& 5th) Sundays – 

Text/Theme Based Discipleship for all ages:

1)  Sunday School (Preschool to 5th Grade)

2)  6th-8th Grade

3)  Adults (high school and up)

4)  Childcare (under age 3)

Each age group will use the Sunday Worship Scripture as the basis for their lessons to solidify and better understand the weekly text as it relates to our lives as followers of Christ. Adult discipleship will meet in the Fellowship hall and include a mixture of large group and small group discussion by different facilitators from the congregation.

This will be our set-up through the end of 2016.  When Pastor Dan returns mid-October, we’ll get feedback from the congregation to see how this set-up works as we prepare for the start of 2017.

The Prayer Group will resume Sunday, September 11th and meet in Pastor Dan’s Office. This group is open to anyone who would like to join or pop in when available. For more information, please contact Sheryl Bettencourt at 209.368.8991.

The Ecclesiastes’ Bible Study will resume August 14th at 9:45am in the Library, 7 weeks remaining.  They will not meet September 4th. For more information, please contact Charlie Johnson at 209.951.8655.

The Power of Prayer

I wanted to share with you all  about how God has worked through the recent mission trip you all sent me to in the Ukraine this past June 2016. Prayer was a vital necessity throughout the journey from the beginning weeks of training, through fundraising and all the way through travel and return from the Ukraine.

team ukraine 2016

From day one, prayer was required as Diana, our leader, was diagnosed from her doctor with the incurable disease of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). She has led teams on five seperate trips and when she was told by her doctor that she had this illness, her first question was…”Can I still lead the team to the Ukraine”? Through all the adversity she was facing, she heard God’s call to go and share the love of Christ despite her circumstances. We all knew prayer was needed to help give Diana the strength she needed to make what will most likely be her last trip to the Ukraine.

As we all know, Satan despises God’s plans and will go to whatever lengths to put fear, doubt, and worry in our minds to distract us from His master plan. During the second leg of our flights. Kathy Posey, a fellow team mate, experienced a bad case of lock jaw. She was experiencing severe pain and needed medical attentionimmediately. Diana’s husband went with Kathy to the hospital in Amerstdam leaving the rest of us to wait at the airport. We all had our seperate worries about how Kathy would be, if they would be able to fix it so we could continue our journey, would she need to be sent back home and would we have to carry on ministry without her? This put a tremendous strain on Diana as she was fearful for Kathy’s well being. I asked if we could pray, as this is all I know to do when things go awry…and so we did. We sat together in the diner and prayed fervently that God’s will be done. A gentleman overheard us in the diner and asked if he could assist us. At this point we had gone 9 hrs with no contact with Tom or Kathy. We were unsure if we should catch our rescheduled flight to Kiev. Diana didn’t want us seperated from each other so she was at a loss of what to do. Tom arrived and told us Kathy was going to need surgery as they couldn’t get her jaw back into place. We were finally able to get in contact with Jaime Deuel and Pastor Darrell who gave us specific directions that were helpful to our team. We were able to make a plan to call Tom at a certain time to see if we needed to get Kathy a flight back home and as we were calling him, Jaime messaged my phone telling us the hospital was able to get Kathy’s jaw back in place and she was going to be fine. Praise God!!!! Every obstacle that satan tried to pull was being cared for through many prayers from you here at St. Andrews, St. Peters Church in Elk Grove and many who were praying for our team to arrive safely. Together we arrived in Kiev, Ukraine at 1:30am and surprisingly, all 13 of our ministry suitcases made it as well. God is good all the time. He called all of us to serve the people of Ukraine and he removed all the obstacles the devil tried to throw our way. Our team went on to thrive at camp. We were united, always helping one another. Diana, an amazing testimony, participated fully in camp singing songs, games of duck, duck goose, joining in on our water battle and she even smashed some raw eggs on her head in a game of egg roulette!!! Although the illness was taking its toll on her speech, she still spoke of Christ’s love for these kids and she was a living example of it.

During the second week of ministry, we delivered wheelchairs during home visits and most seem to live on 5th and 6th floors in a building with no elevator. She made her way up the stairs and shared her love with every person we visited. I’m so blessed to have been a part of this team. Diana was an amazing encouragement and inspiration to so many. She truly is glorifying God with every day she has left on this earth.

wheelchairs 2016

I want to thank you all so very much for this opportunity to share the love of christ with the people of the Ukraine. Without senders, we cannot go. You truly are building the kingdom of Christ when you send others to go and make disciples in all nations. God’s peace be with you all.

~Rachelle Moreno

Share the love of Christ and the Gospel through music! Our new outreach choir will prepare a set of simple but fun songs to take into places in our community such as shelters, retirement homes, and nursing centers. How can you be involved? 1) Sing with us! Open to 6th grade and beyond. 2) Play hand percussion with us! Some of our songs have easy instrument parts anyone can learn. 3) Pray! Pray for our message and our audiences, either coming with us or praying from your homes. When and where do you show up? Rehearsals: 9-11 am on both August 20th and 27th. At that time, we will make plans for our outreach presentation dates.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Rachel McGehee (rachel@standrewsstockton.org).