Saturday, April 29, 2017

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - More Than 800 Times

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

1 John 3:11-18

For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

More Than 800 Times

Image result for adult and teenagerI’m not very patient, especially with my daughter when I’ve told her do something for at least 800 times. Well, the number isn’t really 800, but it sure seems that way. “Maggie, please take the dog out.” “Yes, dad; in a minute.” “Maggie, please take the dog out.” “Yes, dad; in a minute.” And so it goes for another 798 times. But of course, after time number two, you can add an exclamation mark at the end of each request along with higher decibel levels, increased facial redness and that strange tingling in my left arm. I’m not very patient.

But I can tell you, I’m sure glad that God is everything that I’m not. It’s like God says to me, “Love one another.” And of course, I say to God, “What do you want me to do?” And God says to me, “Love one another.” And of course, I say to God, “What do you want me to do?” And so goes the dance. Therefore, I’m really delighted that Almighty creator of the universe is patient with me, because over my life, I’m sure we’ve had this exchange more than 800 times.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Prayer Requests, to be shared during Sunday’s worship service

On Sunday, April 30, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Amy Slisik
Audrey Vincent
Betty Michael
Bob Crupp
Bruce Mader
Cecilia Barnhardt
Chad Peppler
Chad Wilson
Cindy Kuzel
David Johns
Debbie Zuccaro
Debi Edge
Doris Greene
Emery Edwards
Ethlyn Dellaria
Faith Bonyak
George & Mary Shepherd
Greta Billham
Jan Jackson
Jim & Shelley Pearson
Jim Neil
Joanie Lawrence
Josh and Dee
Karen Lombardi
Kay Hyde
Kenny Orlando
Kevin Kuzel
Libbie Messerly
Marcia Cooper
Marge Oslett
Matthew Kirtley
Michael Shade
Minnie Pazich
Patricia Cox
Paul Welch
Randal Kane
Richard Ballard
Rocco Zuccaro
Ronnie Buffington
Sally Robinson
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Susie Hawkins
The Buckingham Community
Vicki Williams
Wayne Channing

Alphonzo Lloyde
Elijah Parker
Jameson Criss
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonathan Marte
Lily Ghrist
Macaiah Lloyde
Meadow Abbett
Michael Daugherty
Mitch Almason
Temica Lloyde

Isaac Stephens
Jason Kerr
Jonathan Criss
Justin Schmalstieg
Kara Criss
Michael Criss

Church Families
Cinthia Virtue, Brandi, Logan & Sidney
Doug, Sue, Steven & Summer Wesie
Michael Weaver

Local Church
New Life Worship Center

Special Friend
Judy Jackson

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Committee and Congregation
Training and Development Committee – Rev. Dr. Steve Cramer
First Presbyterian Church, Barnesville, OH – Rev. Michael Mistic

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr
Carl Hamill
Dolores Edwards
Harry Hutch
June Virtue
Ruth Ann Oestering
Ruth Coates

Theresa Skiles

What's Happening at Cove Presbyterian Church?

Below are the announcements as they appear in the Sunday bulletin.

“The Pasch, the Christian Passover, the transformation of the Jewish Passover, was the great festival of redemption, and a commemoration of the cross and the resurrection.  In the fourth century there was a process of evolution, and with the development of Good Friday as we know it, the Pasch became limited to the theme of the resurrection.  So Easter emerged in our understanding of the term.”  (The New Westminster Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship, p. 218)  White, the color of perfection, perfect glory, beauty, holiness, and joy is the liturgical color for Easter.

the Rev. Rudiger pours water into the baptismal font even though we might not have a baptism on that particular Sunday. Here’s the reason. Since baptism is one of the pillars of our identity as Christians, this is a reminder that we’re united as members of the Body of Christ. It represents a gift given to us by God, one that we can’t earn and don’t deserve. As we move forward as a congregation, it’s important to remember and to celebrate the sacrament that unites us. And since Jesus said that part of making disciples of all nation involves baptizing them, it’s also a reminder of the mission we’ve been given.

all our children and young people. This Sunday School experience offers them the opportunity to learn the Bible story and apply that story to their lives. “Jesus Time” meets at 11:00 a.m. and runs until the end of the Worship Service. If you have children and teens, ask one of the greeters to direct you to the children’s location.

this Tuesday, May 2, at 12:30pm in the Fellowship Hall.  This meeting will include a Salad Smorgasbord, so ladies please remember your salads. If you would like to attend and are not on our call list, please call Peggy Baldt at 304 224-1681, so that the class will have a plate for you.

will meet on Tuesday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. to continue a series entitled “On the Road Again: A Study of Luke/Acts.”  During this session, we’ll look at Acts 4:1-26.

will be having their May Friendship Day Friday May 5 at 10:00 in the Cove Presbyterian Church. The theme of May Friendship Day 2017 is “Kindling New Fires of Love,” and it  centers on the role of Christian women in addressing the social needs of children. A lite breakfast will be served. All are Welcome to attend.

on Wednesday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the church board room.

will practice on Saturday, at 11:00

Sundays, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. They’ll rehearse in the choir room.  

The weather may not be warm, but Spring is in the air, the flowers are blooming and it's time for Spring cleaning!! As a way of assisting you to dispose of no longer used or wanted items, the Deacons would like to inform everyone that they are having a Flea Market on May 6 at the church. They welcome any and all donations. The sale will consist of small appliances, glassware, dishes, books, collectibles, toys, and household items. Gently used children's clothes will also be sold. If you have items that you would like to contribute to this cause, they can be dropped off at the church at anytime or call the church office at (304) 748-5980 to arrange to have the items picked up.

on Monday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the church board room.

in the parlor before and after the service. Before you leave, grasp a cup and a donut.

In the narthex, there’s a fish bowl where you’re invited to leave any pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters you might have rattling around in your pocket or purse. 

their time and special gifts to the church. In particular, we thank the following:
We thank Ray Seifert for directing our choir, Sue Willson for directing the bells, and Peggy Baldt for running our sound system during the service.
We thank the Trustees (Dan Grant, Burnie Huey, Chuck Caleffie, TJ Smith, and Dean Allen) for making needed repairs. 
We thank Debbie Rudiger and Tina Viakley for the work they’re doing with our young people.
We thank Rick Baldt and Jeff Grant for the maintenance they’re doing around the church.
Finally, all those who offer their time, talent and money to further the God’s Kingdom.

The Chad Pickens Scholarship is available to high school seniors and students currently attending colleges or universities, etc. The applicant must be a member of Cove Presbyterian Church; must have a GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and must plan on entering school in the fall of 2017 as a full-time student or a returning student. Grade transcripts are to be turned in with the application.
The Bud Schmidt Scholarship is available to any  member of the congregation of Cove Presbyterian Church who plans to attend a seminary in the fall of 2017. Chad Pickens and Bud Schmidt Scholarship applications must be received in the church office by Sunday, May 22, 2017.
Applications for The Helen T Hamill Scholarship are available through the guidance counselor at the area high schools.  Scholarships will be presented to the recipients during the morning worship on Sunday, June 5, 2017. 

who have not received a Bible please let us know.

If you are not on it or know someone who should be added please give the information to  Heather Campbell or Debbie Seifert.

raised $182.00 for the church. And the winner will be announced before the service.

are reserved for our members and guests who have disabilities or other health issues and need to park as close as possible.

there’s a white board on the wall facing the secretary’s office.

In the narthex, there’s a fish bowl where you’re invited to leave any pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters you might have rattling around in your pocket or purse. 

and aren’t receiving e-mails from the church, please contact the church office. For some reason, Comcast blocks messages from Cove; therefore, you may need to set-up another e-mail account (gmail, aol, hotmail, etc.) to receive material we send.

If you’re in the Krogers Community Rewards Program your enrollment is valid for 12 months from the registration date. You will need your Kroger rewards card number. To confirm that your registration is still active or to re-register you can contact Kroger customer service at this number: 1-866-221-4141. If you need to re-register all you'll need is your Kroger Card number and  our Cove Church number which is 80270. All that is required is that you go to Kroger. com; Community; Rewards; Enroll Now; type in Cove and hit search; click on Cove Presbyterian; click on Enroll Now. Please check your receipt the next time you shop, the bottom should read You requested Kroger to donate to Cove Presbyterian Church. If you need help with this process just call the church office, and Heather Campbell will be happy to assist you.

to Israel and is planning a pilgrimage October 20-29. This kind of pilgrimage is a life changing experience that deepens one's faith and expands one's awareness of history. Each participant has found this trip spiritually rewarding and adds depth and strength to one's faith. If you are at all curious about such a trip, please contact Steve Cramer at 330-921-1115.

to be our presbytery’s commissioners and Young Adult Advisory Delegate (YAAD) to the meeting of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) in St. Louis, MO. The General Assembly meeting will take place from June 16 to June 23, 2018. At the June 27, 2017, presbytery meeting, we need to elect one minister commissioner, one ruling elder commissioner, and alternates, and a Young Adult Advisory Delegate. E-mail your nominations for minister, ruling elder commissioner, and YAAD to the Presbytery Office by May 25, 2017. Applications and info including eligibility have been sent out by e-mail. If you need another copy, please contact the Presbytery Office.

Information and an application for the Russell Scholarship can be found on our website Applications must be postmarked by Saturday, MAY 27, 2017. If you are dropping them off at the Presbytery Office, they must be brought in by Thursday, May 25th, as the Office is closed Fridays. If you have questions concerning the application, please call Cindy Foster 740-359-2750. Online applications will not be considered.

is set for July 22-29, 2017, at Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA. At 112 years old, the New Wilmington Mission Conference is the longest-running mission conference in the United States. Held every July, NWMC is intergenerational, Presbyterian-related, and youth-focused. About 1,000 people attend from over 30 states and 20 countries for a chance to connect with mission workers and hear what God is doing all over the world. This week-long conference features many well-known and engaging speakers for one low, all-inclusive price! This year’s speakers include Dr. Rodger Nishioka, Director of Adult Educational Ministries at Village Presbyterian Church, and Rev. Dr. Jim Singleton, Associate Professor of Pastoral Leadership and Evangelism at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as many others. Visit the conference website for more details or to register:

we need volunteers for Wednesday evenings to chaperone the Cub Scouts. If you’re available, please tell the pastor or call the church office.

can be found by calling 304-748-7900 Cove’s Prayer Line. You can call at anytime to hear a message by Rev. Rudiger. The messages are changed every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  You can also hear the devotion at and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian). You can also read the devotion at

by go on the link you can find in our daily e-mails and on our website ( and all our blog. We can also help you set up a PayPal account, if you don’t already have one.

by clicking the “Donate” button on the Cove Presbyterian Church page.

regularly. If you wish to add someone, contact the church office.

you get the same products and service we expect from Amazon except the Church gets .5% of every qualifying purchase. The Amazon Smile registration for first time users is You only have to register once then go to to place orders.

that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They’re listed below:
The Cove Community - This is for the whole church. I’ll post sermons and announcements.
Cove Kids - This is tailored for the young people in our church. Again I’ll post announcements. You’re also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you’d like to post.
Bible Talk - We’ve established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary.
The Bible in a Year - Each day, we’ll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.
Growing in Grace - Although we’re saved by God’s grace, we can grow in our understanding of grace. At Cove Presbyterian Church, we offer a variety of different classes for children and adults, many of which are recorded and posted on our PodBean page.

so that some of homebound members are able to attend our worship services, please tell the pastor or another member of session.

the Cove PodBean page and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian).

“like” us on Facebook (Cove Presbyterian Church) or join our Facebook group (The Cove Community). You can also connect with Pastor Rudiger on Instagram (rev_ed).

If you know of someone who is in the hospital please contact the church office, due to privacy laws the hospital is unable to contact us. If you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit from Rev. Ed Rudiger or to receive communion please contact the church office. Also, if you would like to receive the Sunday Bulletin contact the church office.

drop it in the purple container at the back door so that it can be recycled.

for a service. The cost is $16.00 a vase.  You may also purchase silk flowers or live plants, the choice is yours.  Telephone the office to place your order. After the service, we’ll place the flowers in a vase for you to take.

Campbell’s Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Weirton Christian Cent er.  The labels including the bar code or just the bar code can be dropped off in the container located in the hallway downstairs. 
Greeting Cards are being collected by the Myrtle McHendry Class. Please drop off your used Greeting Cards or just the front of the card in the box located in the main hallway downstairs. No envelopes -please. The cards are being sent to St. Jude’s  Ranch to be remade into cards to be sold in their gift shop.  FYI . . Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting Cards can not be accepted as they are trade marked. 
Can Tabs are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Deposit your tabs in the container located in the hallway downstairs.

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, April 30, 2017

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. During the service, we'll focus on Jesus's appearance on the Emmaus.

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - The Holy Spirit and Fire

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Luke 3:15-22

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Holy Spirit and Fire

Image result for The Holy Spirit and Fire
When answering the people, John said that the one who was coming after him would baptize with Holy Spirit and fire. Now if I’d been there, you know part of the crowd, I think I would have assumed that he was contrasting how the Messiah was going to treat the good and the bad. In other words, for those who were good, those who did what they were suppose to do, well, they’d be baptized with the Holy Spirit. And once they got the Spirit, they’d begin receiving all those blessings that I would assume the righteous are suppose to receive, stuff like health and wealth and happiness. I think you could call that was the “good” baptism. But for those who didn’t make the grade, their baptism would involve fire, you know, like the fires of Hell. In other words, they’d be punished. I mean, they could look forward to hot times, but not in any good sense, because they hadn’t done what I’d done, and they hadn’t said what I’d said, and they hadn’t experienced what I’d experienced. You see, as opposed to the good, this baptism would be reserved for the bad. Now I think that’s what I would have assumed.

But, of course, now I know better. I mean, when John talked about Holy Spirit and fire, he really wasn’t talking about two different experiences. Instead, he was looking forward to Pentecost, when the Spirit rested upon the disciples like tongues of fire. And those who received the Holy Spirit, this wasn’t the trigger for blessings, rather it was a source of power, enabling them to follow in the footsteps of that other one on whom the Spirit rested, but for him it was in the bodily form of a dove. You see, because of the Holy Spirit and fire, this is who we are and what we’ve been called to do.

Sunday's Sermon - In Defense of Thomas

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, April 23, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Now, if I were to mention the names of some of the more recognizable disciples to you and then ask you to write down the first word that comes to mind, I think it’s pretty unlikely that y’all would come up with the same words for each person. Let me tell you what I’m talking about. 

For example, suppose I were to say “Peter.”  I imagine that some of y’all would write down the word “faith,” but not all of y’all. I’m sure somebody would write something like “Simon” or “rock” or “denial,” maybe even “pope.” Or suppose I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase “Sons of Zebedee,” but I’ll tell you, just as many would write “brothers” or “disciples.” I’ll tell you, somebody might even come up with “Sons of Thunder." But again, it wouldn’t be unanimous. And even if I were to throw out to you the name Judas, I believe many, maybe even most of y’all would write down the word “betrayer” but I bet not everyone. Somebody might say “Iscariot.” You see what I mean? When we think about each of these disciples, there are at least several different words that come to mind. 

But of course I think most of us would probably agree that there’s one exception to this rule; because let’s face it, if I said the name Thomas, I think we all know what almost everyone here this morning would write down. It would be the word “doubting,” right? I mean, dah! Good night, Thomas is so connected with that particular word, it’s sort of become part of his name: “Doubting Thomas.” And you don’t have to be Christian to know this.

And you know, because of, well, this title, along with, Judas, Thomas has become the disciple no one wants to be, right? And I know exactly what I’m talking about. On my first Easter in Indianapolis, the ministers in my area put on sort of a passion play, and guess who got stuck with Thomas? The new guy. Man, if I’d gotten “Peter” or even “Judas,” who knows what direction my career would have taken. But Thomas, give me a break. I’ll tell you, poor, old Thomas has become an example of what faith and trust and discipleship isn’t about. I mean, he’s certainly not the kind of follower we want our children to grow up to be. And why not? That’s simple; Thomas doubted, and doubting, well, that’s just not a good thing for Christians to do, especially when you’re talking about something as important as the resurrection.

But you know, before we just slap on that label on him and head off, I think we should pause for just a minute, because, to tell you the truth, I think he’s been the victim of some really bad press over the last two thousand years. And you know, for that reason, this morning, we’re going to take another look at Thomas, because I think if we do, we might not be so negative, so judgmental when we think about him. 

I mean, just remember what happened in the story. According to John, “But Thomas, one of the twelve, the one called the twin, was not with them when Jesus came. Now the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I might see the nail marks in his hands and might put my finger in the nail marks and put my hand in his side, then I will absolutely not believe.’ And eight days later, the disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. And Jesus came, though the doors had been shut, and he was in the midst of them and he said, ‘Peace to you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and put your hand and place it into my side, and don’t become unfaithful, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed is the one who doesn’t see and believes.’” [John 20:24-29] 

Now that’s what happened, and that’s the reason he got the label of Doubting Thomas. But I’ll tell you, I don’t think it’s a bad as it seems, at least it wasn’t for Jesus. I mean, just think about it; first, even though Thomas questioned, Jesus never condemned him. Now I think that’s important. Jesus never put him down, and Jesus never suggested that his uncertainty was a sign of sin or evil, which, when you think about it, is a good thing for us. My gosh, let’s get really, from time to time we all doubt; therefore, I think it’s nice to know that a moment of doubt doesn’t lead to eternal punishment. In fact, not only did he not punish him, Jesus did just the opposite. Without any fuss or muss, he did exactly what Thomas wanted him to do; he showed his hands, feet and side. You see, Jesus didn’t judge him. And that’s one thing I think we can say in defense of Thomas.

And second, as soon as he saw, Thomas made what may be the most powerful and complete confession in the entire Bible. My goodness, just look at what he said. He didn’t say Jesus was a good teacher or a great Lord or even the Messiah, all of which would have been fine, but not perfect and certainly not personal. No sir, “Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’” I’ll tell you, this is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. And it was said with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just like 2 + 2 = 4 and like the sun is in the sky and like the Browns won’t make it to the Super Bowl this year, Jesus was his Lord and his God! Now, I think that says something incredibly positive about Thomas,  and the second point we might want to consider in his defense.

And third, and in my opinion, this one is huge, when we consider what Thomas was working with and remember what he didn’t have, you know, what he hadn’t received, well, let’s just say, compared to the other guys and frankly to us, Thomas was really flying blind after the resurrection. Man, he was lacking two things that make it a whole lot easier for us to understand exactly who Jesus is and why he came, two advantages that he hadn’t received. 

I mean, think about it, Thomas didn’t have the Holy Spirit, and I’m talking about before all this doubting stuff. Just listen to what John wrote: “Now while it was still early evening on that day, the first day of the week, though the disciples were behind closed doors because of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and was in the midst of them, and he said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ And after he said this, he showed his hands and side to them. Now the disciples filled with joy when they saw the Lord. Now he said to them again, ‘Peace to you. Just as the father has sent me, I also am sending you.’ And after he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you might forgive the sins of any, then they are forgiven them. If you might hold [the sins] of any, then they are held.’ But Thomas, one of the twelve, the one called the twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” [John 21:19-24] 

Now, that’s what happened, and for me, that’s also a big deal. Thomas wasn’t there with the others; therefore, he didn’t receive the Spirit. And so no wonder he questioned. And right there’s a huge advantage for us, too, because you know something; we have. As we’ll talk about in June; you know, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came on the church like tongues of fire, and in a very real way, Jesus has breathed on each one of us here this morning, giving us life just like God breathed on that little mud man and made it a living person. You see, unlike Thomas, we’ve received the Holy Spirit; therefore, we’re able to understanding stuff that he couldn’t. Remember Jesus said before the crucifixion, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you,” [John 14:26]. And I’ll tell you, that same advocate, that same Holy Spirit gives us the chance to understand and to accept things that puzzles the rest of the world, ideas that, according to Paul, are blasphemy to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, and I’m talking about insight that enables us to believe without seeing. The Holy Spirit offers us the ability to understand, but that’s not all. It also offers us peace. You know, I don’t think it’s any accident that in the passage we just read, the risen Christ said three times to his disciples, “Peace to you.” You see, peace is something else that comes from the Spirit. Again, it’s like Jesus said before he went to the cross: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” [John 14:27] You see, right now, we access to peace, peace like a river, peace from the Spirit. But again that’s not all, we also have power. Do you remember the first words Jesus said after breathing on the disciples? “And after he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you might forgive the sins of any, then they are forgiven them. If you might hold [the sins] of any, then they are held.’” Not only do we have understanding and peace, we also have power, power to do God’s work, power that Thomas didn’t know anything about. The Holy Spirit, that’s one thing we have that Thomas didn’t and so we can understand and can feel and can do a bunch of stuff Thomas couldn’t.

But that’s not the only thing, because we also have a book, the book, in Greek, the βιβλος, the Bible. John wrote, “Now there were other things and other signs Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, things which were not written in this book. But these things were written in order that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and so that because you believe, you might have life in his name.” [John 20:30-31] You see, we have something tangible Thomas didn’t have: something that we can feel in our hands or see on our phones and pads and something that enables us to understand some things that Thomas just couldn’t know. We have the book; therefore, in a very real way, we were there at the wedding feast when Jesus turned the water into wine and when he healed the man who was born blind. And we heard him say to Nicodemas that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son and to the woman at the well that he offered living water. And we watched as they lifted him up on the cross and as Jesus spoke to Mary in the garden. And we were with those disciples and later with Thomas when Jesus appeared in a locked room. You see, because of the book, we were witnesses to all those signs; therefore, we have possibility of faith and life, eternal life springing from a faith that has a foundation and structure. But more than that, we also have direction and guidance, practical guidance that offers us direction as we try to live the life that Christ called us to live. And finally, we have a message, a message that’s so much more than pie in the sky, a message that’s a real as a wooden cross and an empty tomb. You see, unlike Thomas, we not only have the Holy Spirit, we also have a book of signs. I’ll tell you, no matter how you cut it, like the other disciples, we have some pretty big advantages over Thomas. And that’s the third thing I think we probably need to consider in his defense.

And you know, because of that, I think we should probably take it easy on Thomas. I mean, when you get right down to it, I think he did the best he could with what he had. Therefore, he had a good reason for wanting to see and feel before he’d believe; man, he hadn’t received the Spirit, and I’m talking about the presence that enables us to understanding truth and to feel peace and to know power, nor did he have the Book that offers us faith and guidance and a message to share. You see, speaking in defense of Thomas, given what Jesus didn’t say to him and what he said about Jesus and of course, the enormous advantages we have I really think we shouldn’t be throwing stones. In fact, maybe “doubt” shouldn’t be the first and only word that comes to mind when we hear his name. 

But you know, I just wonder, if we neglect what we have, I mean, if we don’t claim the Spirit that Christ has breathed into each one of us here and if we don’t read the book that God himself has given to us just so that we can have life, and if, because of that, we fail to become the church and the people that God has created us to be, do we have an excuse? And if we don’t, then what word will come to mind when people in the future mention our names.

Minute for Mission - Monday Was Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

The men were taken first, then the women and children were brutalized. Witnesses saw the Euphrates run red with blood, and women plunged into the river to escape the terrors of the desert march. Armenian villages throughout the Ottoman territories of 1915 were emptied in a systematic campaign to demean and destroy innocent victims. Although modern-day Turkey actively denies this genocide, historians have gathered undisputable evidence of at least a million Armenians killed and a million more dispersed from their ancient homeland.

Today’s Armenia is the size of Maryland, locked among Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Over 90percent Christian, this post-Soviet republic is a miracle of survival. Yet the lives of women and children are still at risk. In the remote, deeply impoverished Vardenis region, there is virtually no access to health care. Villages lack reliably clean water. Expectant mothers lack proper prenatal care and birth rates are low. Without early cancer screenings, death rates from breast cancer in Armenia are among the highest in the world.

But this is beginning to change. The Jinishian Memorial Program, an outreach of World Mission, began sending free mobile medical clinics to one village at a time, reaching nearly 600 women in its first year. Most had gynecological disorders. Many obtained vital surgeries and began cancer treatment plans. Women desperate for medical intervention finally had an advocate with the expertise to shepherd them through Armenia’s complex health care system. The program was funded solely through Jinishian donors.

New plans for a telemedicine center in Vardenis will make an even greater impact. Supported by a local family physician, patients will have access to specialists through teleconferencing. Jinishian is also making ultrasound clinics widely available and training specialists to focus on infant disability prevention. Through economic development programs, several communities are implementing grants from Jinishian to construct pipelines to provide clean water.

Because our God is a redeeming God, even genocide is not the end. Jinishian’s mission throughout the Middle East is to bring dignity and hope where there are poverty and despair through relief, development and spiritual uplift.  You can join Jinishian’s work by giving, or visit Armenia in person on a mission encounter tour October 6-16, 2017.

Cara Taylor, Jinishian Memorial Program