Why Faith Is Necessary

The following are notes from Fairhaven’s virtual meeting on Sunday, May 24. May it be a guiding light for you this week.

Call to Worship from Christine Bailey

  • “For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it.” Jesus is recorded as saying about the same thing in all four Gospels. Matthew 10:39 and 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24 and John 12:25.
  • Are there things in your life that God is calling you to let go of/stop trying to hold on to or save?
  • There are things in this world that we can hold on to that can keep us from moving forward.
  • We may not always know what the results of obedience in letting go of certain things may be. It is a leap of faith.

Sermon from Bill Case

  • Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
  • Faith is necessary to please God. Faith is a response to the nature of God. 
  • Miracles are not good proof for people to believe in God. Jesus did not want people to believe in Him on account of what they saw him do.
  • Faith reveals God’s presence.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
  • Faith releases God’s power.
  • Isaiah 26:3 God will keep you in perfect peace because your mind is stayed on Him.

God’s Secret

Fairhaven has been meeting virtually. Here is the outline of what was discussed on Sunday, May 17.

Call to Worship:

  • Romans 8:38-39 (Read here).
  • I must rest in God’s love to able to live in God’s grace and act in love.
  • Reflection on Julian of Norwich and how All Shall Be Well (Read here.)

Sermon by Bill Case titled “God’s Secret”

  • Colossians 1:15-20, 24-27 (Read here.)
  • God’s secret? Christ is in you.
  • Jesus comes to live within us in the context of our life, through the mundane and the struggles.
  • We are all vessels of honor. We are something because of what we contain, which is the person of Christ.

Faith That All Shall Be Well

I used to believe that faith meant certainty, that if I prayed hard enough and believed hard enough that I would get the outcome I expected. I thought God would make my path clear, with no questions to be asked or hardship to be endured.

Well, life taught me otherwise and then I noticed the Bible showed otherwise, too. In the book of Job, there was a man who had everything. When all his possessions were gone, when he lost family and his own health, he and his friends encountered life that did not look how they expected. Job’s friends told him that God must have abandoned him because Job did something wrong, expecting that bad things only happen to bad people, and only good things happen to good people. But Job had done nothing wrong and God was still there with Job even in his suffering.

When Jesus was on the cross, he quoted Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The suffering Jesus endured was not a life event the people of Israel expected of the Messiah. Despite the expectations and the anguish, God was still present. And Psalm 22 ends triumphantly with, “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (NIV). As we near Easter, we also rejoice that Jesus has done it, endured death and rose again, saving us from an existence far from God.

I have drawn comfort in the kind of faith that focuses on God’s presence through it all instead of looking to whether or not my life looks how I want it to. There is peace in knowing that I am not in control. What I am called to do is love God and love my neighbor as myself. God is in control, and ultimately all will work towards God’s good will.

I have drawn comfort in Jesus’ promise that he would be with us always and in the hymn about how It Is Well With My Soul even in tragedy. I have also drawn comfort from the words of Julian of Norwich. Hers are the first recorded words we have by a woman in the English language. She was a Christian who lived in seclusion most of her life. She lived during the 14th and 15th centuries when the Black Plague ravaged England. She got ill herself and almost died. When she recovered, she wrote down all that she had learned from God. This is the passage that she is most famous for:

See that I am God.

See that I am in everything.

See that I do everything.

See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally.

See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before the time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it.

How can anything be amiss?

God loved us before God made us;

And God’s love has never 

diminished and never shall.

God that made all things for love,

by the same love keepeth them,

and shall keep them without end.

And all shall be well.

And all shall be well.

And all manner of things

shall be exceeding well.

I love those last four lines. They are a reminder, along with the psalms, to trust God through all the things I face. I repeat them not because I am without fear. I am often anxious and frustrated and sad that things are not the way I want them to be. I love these words because they are a reminder that someone else has experienced the ups of downs of life and still maintained faith and hope. And ultimately all shall be well.

Hebrews 12 says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before us, who demonstrated their faith and shared what they learned from God during their lifetime. May the examples of faith in hard times be a guide for us at this time.

Scarcity vs. Abundance Mindset

To reference what’s going on right now in our world right now, we are in the midst of the worldwide pandemic COVID 19. We, in America, are asked to practice social distancing and to stay home as much as possible. This virus is incredibly contagious and has the risk of overwhelming our medical system. This has caused a panic, leading to a shortage to resources such as food and hygiene products.

We, as a nation, are operating in a scarcity mentality. This is driven by the fear that we will not have enough. This, though, is not a new or unique mentality of us to adopt. We often focus on what is wrong with our lives, what we don’t have, and how we would be happy if we could just grasp this one other thing. We operate with the idea that our resources are not just limited, but we are doing everything we can to possibly maximize these resources.  

This is contrasted by the abundance mentality. This is where we recognize what is good in our lives. We recognize the goodness, mercies, fullness, and grace in our lives. It is seeing what is rather than what is not, what I have rather than what I lack, who I belong to rather than who I am not.

Both these mentalities can be seen clearly in Matthew 14. The chapter begins with the imprisonment and beheading of John the Baptist.

Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:13-21)

First, do not skim past verse 13. Jesus just found out His friend died. He was hurt. He was looking for a place of solitude. He was looking to disconnect from the twelve men He was closest to. This would have been completely understandable. Whenever I have been hit with tragedy, I have looked to remove myself from others. What happened though was that people heard he was close, and a crowd came to Him. He was looking to be alone instead up to ten thousand people we around Him. Think about that. Think how you would react to that. All you need is a little time to yourself and what you get is a small city asking you to speak and heal and perform miracles. The person operating with the scarcity mentality would say that they don’t have time to help everyone. That they don’t have the energy to help everyone. That they need some me time. How did Jesus react? With compassion. He rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He took this as an opportunity to help. He took this as an opportunity to heal. He took this as an opportunity for Kingdom work.

So now it was getting late and his disciples said, we must get these people home, because we don’t have enough food for everyone. They focused on what they were lacking. Jesus instead focused on what they had.

Jesus showed us what living an abundant lifestyle looks like.

The scarcity mentality will breed a life of fear and anxiety. So how do we turn a life of scarcity to the abundant life Jesus promises?

The Father invites us to a share in His kingdom where there is abundance. A scarcity mentality is not for a disciple of Jesus. He wants us to have a stewardship mentality. A mentality that the Father has generously put into our hands all that we need.

Now the truth is, moving from a scarcity mindset to living abundantly is not easy. It is difficult to apply to your daily life. I find myself saying every day that I don’t have enough time, that I don’t have enough money, that I don’t have enough energy.  

Like anything in life, we must break bad habits and form new ones, and this takes time and effort. We first must ask ourselves in what aspects of life are you operating in a scarcity? What areas do we have a hard time giving instead of hoarding?  Next, how are we going to change those areas?

First, get out of your comfort zone. This doesn’t mean become reckless, but don’t be afraid to take a risk. An abundance mindset is fueled by the belief that there are plenty of potential paths available to you – be it job progression, creative outlets, or personal growth.

Don’t set limitations on your resources. When we set limitations on what we have, we will always fear running out. When you live in abundance, you live with a mindset that there is enough for everyone. And what you don’t have now that you need, God will give to you.

Share yourself. Those who live in scarcity are less likely to share ideas, fearful that someone else will take the idea and get credit for it. They may not allow someone to get close to them in fear that that they may be rejected. Sharing yourself abundantly will lead to healthier relationships with those around you, and sharing yourself with the Father will lead to a healthier relationship with Him.

Change the definition of success. Those in a scarcity mindset are driven by fear of failure. They will see any setback as a failure. When you are driven by belief in future success, you look at a setback as just another opportunity to succeed.

Take responsibility. A scarcity mindset will always find someone else to blame. Success is theirs but failure has a list of owners. Those with an abundance mindset are willing to take responsibility for their actions. They will look at the consequence as another opportunity.

Scarcity comes from a place of fear. Scarcity comes from a negative space. Scarcity keeps you from Jesus and His blessings. We are not meant to hold on to these things. We are meant to lean into Him when we feel that we don’t have enough. His yoke is easy and the burden He gives you is light. Do you believe that? I hope you do.


Why I Am An Anabaptist Christian

Call to Worship from February 23, 2020

Written by Faith Bell

Today is Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference Sunday. In light of that, I was reading through the booklet What is An Anabaptist Christian? I have skimmed through this before, but this week was the first time I read it through. I encourage you, if you have not read it before or if it has been a while since you have read it, to pick up a copy. (You can go through the pdf version here.) It gives the history of the wider Christian church and also goes into detail on the Anabaptist perspective that I will briefly touch on today.

I listened to a podcast episode this week on scapegoating. It is easy to point a finger at what others are doing wrong in an effort to define and elevate our own selves. The modern example we often refer to is the Nazis scapegoating Jews for the economic issues present in Austria and Germany. But the podcast brought the idea a bit closer to home. When I have trouble sleeping, I blame the temperature in my apartment or I look to melatonin as a solution. I look for anything outside of myself that is the problem and the solution. The harder thing would be to ask myself what are the thoughts racing through my mind that keep me alert and awake? Where do these thoughts come from? And what will I do differently so that the deeper things can be addressed?

It is easy, it is comforting, to find the problems everywhere but myself, to understand myself by what I am in opposition to or what I struggle with.

It is easy, it is comforting, to define ourselves by what we are not.

It is more challenging to define ourselves by what we are. That invites honesty and complexity. So I want to give start worship today with an acknowledgement of who we are.

The What is An Anabaptist Christian? booklet starts with this statement: 

“Christians with an Anabaptist perspective on faith and life have existed from the very beginning of the Christian era. Even today, in nearly every group of churches and perhaps in nearly every congregation, there are people who have understandings of the Christian faith similar to those held in the Anabaptist tradition. Anabaptist is a way of being Christian. Just as there are Anglican, Baptist and Lutheran Christians, so there are Anabaptist Christians.”

We are in the body of Christ as one expression within that body. And within our way of being there are three core values:

  1. Jesus is the center of our faith.
  2. Community is the center of our life.
  3. Reconciliation is the center of our work.

What I like about being an Anabaptist Christian is that we are willing to hold creative tension. We read scripture privately, but we also incorporate community in the interpretation because our own blindspots may have us miss the richer message. We look to the Bible for truth, but we interpret through the spirit of Jesus as the guiding light. We stand for peace to reconcile ourselves to God and others to show that there is a different way. This may mean questioning those in power or even laying our life down for the sake of peace, as Jesus did. 

So here we are, Fairhaven. A community varied in gender, color, age, class, and ability. A church among the Indiana-Michigan conference that is filled with other churches of varied people, languages, and backgrounds. In turn, this conference is part of a national and global Mennonite church within the larger body of Christ. We have different perspectives. We have different personal needs. And yet though we differ, we work together, like a family, like a body. We do this not because it is easy. Not because it isn’t complex. We do it because Jesus, who is the center of our faith, did life among all kinds of people as he demonstrated reconciliation. And Jesus calls us to follow.

So in that spirit of a body dancing unified in our diversity, we are going to read this morning’s call to worship.

Leader: We are the body of Christ!
Baptized in one Spirit, we are members of one body.
All: Many and varied in gender, color, age, class, and ability,
we are members of Christ’s beautiful body.
Leader: None of us can say to another, “I have no need of you.”
All: For only together can we find wholeness.
Leader: None of us can say to another, “I will not care for you.”
All: For we are connected like muscle and bone.
If one suffers, we all suffer. If one rejoices, we all rejoice!
Leader: Thanks be to God who, in Christ, has made us one.
All: Let us worship God!

Jesus Came for the Sick

Call to Worship from July 28, 2019

Written by Christine Bailey

Yesterday I woke up, and as I sometimes do on a Saturday, I started scrolling through Facebook. I soon came across a Christian advertisement showing a beautiful young Christian couple in a beautiful home sharing about their shared goals of becoming more Godly and family oriented. Oh, jealousy. I shouldn’t have even watched the whole thing. This picture I saw, this idea, it didn’t take long to assess and deduce my life doesn’t even match half of what this picture communicates to me…and of course my continued observation only served to prove my point. For me it was like the Christian version of browsing fashion magazines and allowing the allure of cultural ideals, social media and movies set unrealistic expectations of beauty and body until our actual intended intrinsic individual beauty is all but rendered invisible to our very own eyes. A toxic combination of twisted hope and lies that steal the realization of the beauty that we already possess.

This picture of this beautiful got-it-together Christian family. Close enough to what I think my life should look like or maybe more honestly what I wished it looked like, to make me say #lifegoals. And at the same time far enough away from my reality to taunt me.  And if that’s what my life should look like, even halfway look like – I have utterly failed. 

I walked past a pile of laundry on the floor, past the half wilted plants I had forgotten to water, past the dirty dishes left from yesterday or maybe even the days before – each a reminder of my failings that reflected other larger failings. A reminder of what I’m not and what I am. Wondering if somehow I had abandoned God’s plan along the way, or did God abandon me? I had officially spiraled into a funk. Do I think the intention of the Facebook post was to set some unrealistic standard? – not at all, but it’s certainly what I perceived at that moment. The ideas played in my head, altering the original intent of the post to be uplifting into jealousy, envy and disappointment.  That image – it was my kryptonite.

It’s Swiss Days in Berne this weekend. I had walked uptown and to meet my parents and young nephew and niece. We got some fair food and sat ourselves down under band tent. A folksy/yodeling band was playing. Because that’s Swissy. Soon after we sat down, the band leader introduced the next song. He said, “I wrote this next song when my wife and I were going through a rough time in our marriage as people often do.” I couldn’t understand the lyrics to the song, which was probably best, because it may have ruined the moment for me. But that vulnerable comment – that life hasn’t always been perfect – was the perfect antidote to my funk. It reminded me that Jesus said, I have come for the sick, not the healthy. It was Jesus who also said, the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The actual verse in Mark 2:15-17 reads:

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law, who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Sinners, the sick, the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed, the lost, the downcast, the imperfect…me…these are who Jesus came for.

Between my seasonal allergies and realizing that God was choosing to meet with me during my miserable little pity party about a life unattained, under the band tent, at the town festival, during a song that was probably very unchristian, I had to get out a tissue to wipe my eyes. I wondered if my mom thought there was something wrong, but she didn’t say anything. I was realizing at that moment, that Jesus was actually waiting for me at intersection of imperfect and broken and not on the corner of beautiful home and perfect life. And God brought me back to my reality and not my false expectations of what my life should look like….or what I want my life to look like. And later reminded of the beautiful family I do have. My 4 year nephew that wanted to hang out with me. My 1 and ½ year old niece whom my sister-in-law told me yesterday afternoon looks at my picture every day and says my name. What a beautiful life I do have – that I was completely blind to just an hour or so ago. 

So, as I let go and continue to let go of what I wish my life looked like and see that Jesus is waiting for me in my messy reality and not in the place I think or wish I was, but where I actually am right now, I’m glad I saw that Facebook video that start all of this. It’s a moment, a memento in time – that I know, that God waits for me at the intersection of his grace and my weird and messy reality, and not in my expectations of my reality. 

Like he said – he came for the mess. He hangs out with mess. The Pharisees wondered why he would hang out with the sinners…just like earlier that morning I wondered why God would want to meet with me because I was such a disaster. I realized later, that I had completely lost my mind and forgotten who God really is – the God who we see in the Bible makes a big big deal about meeting people in their reality, in their mess, in their trouble – trouble they may have created or trouble inflicted by some else – not in the place of our unrealistic expectations or or where we think we should be. 

And after all, only God is good.