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India

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The picture accompanying this blog was taken before a communion service, on our last day of teaching a group of about 60 pastors who assembled in Orissa, India. For a week, Gerald Neufeld led this group in a study of Revelation; I taught them biblical hermeneutics (how to study the bible). These men are all Dalit pastors, most of whom have little formal training in the bible, doctrine, and theology. They were engaged with us from about 8:30 each morning until about 8:00 at night. 

Many of them had to travel to the site by bus, train, motorbike, or by walking. Most of them are from small villages where they have no internet and no resources for studying the bible. They are eager to learn. They desire to lead the people in their villages to Jesus and then to make them disciples. These men are godly and self-sacrificing, and all live in a culture that is certainly anti-God, and especially anti-Christian. They all suffer some form of persecution for their faith in Jesus. 

Included in the picture toward the rear of the photo, are a group of about 30 women, some of whom are wives of the pastors, others are women who seek to share the love of Jesus in their villages and communities. These women were taught all week by three other women, two from India and one from Canada, on becoming women of God. 

This trip was made possible for Gerald and me by the support of the SDBC elders and congregation for which these pastors gave thanks to, and took a year to plan. It was Gerald's third trip to Orissa to teach these same pastors, and my first trip. 

Gerald was able to go a week earlier and teach another group of Dalit pastors in a different setting, plus he shared the gospel at a girl’s vocational and bible school. We were also able to visit our Good Shepherd School in Nehtaur, India for a few hours and meet with the staff and children of the school. We will report about these various parts of the trip in a separate blog in upcoming weeks. 

For Gerald and I, we have been privileged to watch God work in all these settings. The support we have received from SDBC for this work is paying off in many ways, both in India and here at home. We look forward to continuing our work in India as we play our part in sharing the love of Jesus around the world.

Posted by Rick Burdett

The Joy of Christmas

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It is easy for believers to become disheartened by the events unfolding in our world. The stories we read in the news and the trends of popular culture continually reveal the brokenness of humanity. Lately, I have felt weighed down and discouraged by what I have seen transpiring in the world; it seems as though each time we turn on the television or check the news online, we are bombarded with the sense that something is very wrong. An economic downturn, an environment in danger, shootings in schools and churches, protests in the streets, and threats to religious freedom. How do we remain joyful in spite of all the darkness we are surrounded by? 

Jesus was born into a world very much like our own. The Roman Empire held much of the world, including the people of Israel, in its powerful grip. Living under the rule of a pagan empire, the Jews were oppressed and longed for the promised Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew recounts the words of Isaiah, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means ‘God with us.’” These words foretold the coming incarnation; the act of the Creator coming to live and die, among the created.

The reality of the incarnation should not simply be commemorated each year like some other historical event that slowly fades into obscurity over time. The incarnation is continuously significant for all Christ-followers, at all times. It is precisely what sets Christianity apart from other worldviews; that God voluntarily lowered Himself in order to graciously initiate a relationship with broken humanity. The incarnation is the source of joy for believers in a dark world; it is a reminder that God has not left us alone. This Christmas season, will you find your joy in the child that was born for you? There are many opportunities this Christmas to adore Him and to celebrate together as a Church family. I hope you will join us for The Joy of Christmas on December 17th, and again on Christmas Eve.

Posted by Gatlin Saip

Worship

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I began playing the bass guitar on the worship team at my church when I was 12 years old. At that time, I could barely struggle through the songs, desperately hunting for each note, and often making mistakes. When a song was finished, if I hadn’t made too many obvious mistakes, I would feel relieved, as though I had survived the ordeal. I would often pray that God would help me make it through the song and that nobody in the church or youth group would be too distracted by my lack of skill. 

As I grew, I began to make fewer mistakes, and I became more confident in my abilities as my proficiency increased. I finally had enough confidence to try playing piano or guitar some weeks at youth group, and over time, I began to feel comfortable leading the band and singing. Unfortunately, as my confidence increased, those prayers for God to help me make it through each song decreased.

We love to rely on our own skills and abilities, rather than trust in God’s strength. This is true of worship leaders, as well as anyone else in Church ministry. Sadly, as we build more trust and confidence in ourselves as musicians and worship leaders, we can drift from our true purpose: to bring glory to God through the songs and praises of His people. Recently, I have felt more like I did in those early years, when I struggled through each song, trying hard not to make mistakes, and hoping my weaknesses would not be a distraction. I have found myself back in that place of dependence—praying for God’s help when I have felt insufficient—and being forced to trust Him. 

Scripture is replete with examples demonstrating that worshipping God comes at a cost. Worship is not a passive experience, as though we should come to church each week and consume a product that pleases us. Rather, worshipping is something we choose to do based on our love for God and our gratitude for who He is. The church’s worship is rooted in the pews, not on the platform. Though we who lead are to do so with strength and confidence, we are also to do so with great humility and reverence for the task. All that we do as worship leaders is facilitate and maximize the praises of God’s people. Perhaps the trepidation I felt in those early years—and that I have felt recently—has been a reminder to trust Him, and not myself. Who are you trusting today?

Posted by Gatlin Saip

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