Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Not too long ago I shared with a friend how God had given me a new appreciation for 2 Corinthians 12:9 ("But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me"). That new understanding came by way of a Satanic attack that caused my husband to become anxious, angry, and sullen, and which brought me to a point where I felt as if my sympathy had run dry.

It was at that moment -- when my mind was filled with unloving thoughts toward my spouse -- that the Holy Spirit revealed to me just what it means to have God's power perfected in my weakness. Because I was so desperate for His peace and direction, when I heard His gentle voice whisper, "Pray," I didn't hesitate but immediately repented of my sinful thoughts and admitted that I couldn't overcome the resentment in my heart. The Spirit's voice immediately grew louder and I was instilled with a wave of powerful, godly love toward my husband as well as a desire to show him mercy through the simple act of a gentle word and a smile.

That act of mercy was the turning point. Over the next few days my husband and I were unified in our prayers and our time spent in the Word, and we overcame the attack. Thankful to put the situation behind us and sure that things would be calm for a bit while I reveled in my new insight, I was surprised to find out that God had other plans.

The past seven days have been physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting: a "simple" switch of Web hosts for the church ended up in shambles; my nine-year-old daughter's tendency toward the dramatic went into overdrive more than once (more than a half-dozen times, in fact); efforts to provide local families-in-need with a Thanksgiving meal went awry; I (once again) caused my daughter to break out in hives by inadvertently feeding her food made with pea flour; my computer, for no apparent reason, decided to stop working; and to top it off, two of my chickens suddenly and very mysteriously stopped laying eggs!

On more than one occasion over the past week I have been tempted to forget what God had just taught me about His strength in my weakness---and more than once I came very close to the edge of that dangerous cliff. Thankfully, however, He is faithful and His Spirit never once stopped whispering to me, "My power rests on you." Now that this difficult period seems to have come to an end, I can look back and see that God allowed me to have one of the most troublesome weeks of my life so that, through each and every trial, I would fall back into His arms and be reminded of His perfect strength.

-Trish Gerstel

Saturday, November 7, 2015

As most of you know, today was a very hard day for many of us at church. This morning Doctor Victor Burdick (Doctor Vic) died, and while he is joyfully celebrating and meeting his Savior, the rest of us are left missing him. He has only been in the area a short time and yet was loved by everyone he met. Why was that?
First of all, Doctor Vic passed the love of his Savior onto everyone he met by being genuinely interested in their lives, both the good things and the struggles. He prayed for a large number of people on a daily basis and frequently asked for follow-up information about their situations so he could better direct his prayers. Doctor Vic also stepped into a leadership role simply by being a mentor and sounding board. He demonstrated Jesus’ long-suffering spirit by being long-suffering with others, particularly in caring for his wife. He strived to demonstrate the character and love of Christ in everything he did.
Doctor Vic also stepped-up to the plate and became involved in the church and its ministries even though physically he was limited in what he could do: He planned and prepared intricate Children’s Messages, read and frequently contributed to the weekly blog, wrote articles for the church newsletter ("The Buzz") based on his recent study of Scripture, he was a prayer warrior, and he willingly took on a ministry group as a deacon. Even though he could not physically serve communion or physically assist the individuals he ministered to, he supported them through regular contact and through prayer. Most of these things he did from the comfort of his own couch using his computer and cell phone.
Doctor Vic could have moved to Stephentown and become bitter. Bitter that he was not living on his own. Bitter that he was no longer a practicing physician. Bitter that his wife was struggling with dementia. Bitter that he was physically struggling with a disease that left him weak and out of breath, and that limited the time he could be away from home. Bitter that he could not actively participate in the church in a way that he was able to do when he was younger.
Or, he could have sat back rested on his accomplishments: He had served in the mission field; worked as a physician for many, many years; raised three successful children; been active in several churches; and served on the diaconate. He could easily have come to Stephentown in his final years and let the church serve him.
Many of us drop out of ministry when life gets hard, when we cannot do the things we used to do, or when we just decide we are too old (or too young . . . or too inexperienced) and someone else should step up to the plate. Doctor Vic was our shining example of how a Christian should live out their final years on earth. They should continue to be a servant of Christ in whatever way they are able to, right up until the end.
There is always a ministry you can be doing no matter what your age, health, finances, or skills. God can use you and wants to use you. When you die, the church should be left with a hole, and if they have to scramble to find someone to fill the ministries you were doing, all the better. Let Doctor Vic’s life be a challenge to your own Christian walk. Step up to the plate, figure out what type of ministry you can do based on the cards you have been dealt, and just do it.
Ellen Olson