by Tobias Stefani
An excerpt from Mark 3...Download
Hello Church Family,
The next three weeks we want to grow closer to God, closer each other and listen for God’s guidance for our church and our personal lives.
In order to focus more on God and less on ourselves, we want to have three weeks of prayer and fasting. We invite you to join us. If you want to fast for one day, one day a week, one meal per day or use a Daniel fast is up to you. However you fast, please do it in a healthy way. Mari and I will do a Daniel fast and I promised last Sunday that I would publish more information on the Daniel fast on the church website.
A Daniel fast is based on a bible verse in Daniel 10:2-3
In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
Since this is a very loose description, people made lists of what to eat and what not to eat. Here is a list with suggestions of food to fast during this time.
If you are interested to join us with the Daniel fast you find more information here:
All the links are going to www.daniel-fast.com and they also have the copy right for them. You don’t have to buy anything from them. I linked them here since they give a great overview.
Spiritually we will also have a preaching series called Faith, Love and Hope accompanying this time. The first Sunday will be on faith. It focuses on everything God has done for us and that He is faithful. If anybody has a short testimony, there will be a testimony time during the service. Since the stories of God’s faithfulness build our faith like nothing else.
The next Sunday will center on love, love for God and love for the others. And the last Sunday will be on vision and the hope that God is also faithful in the future.
Mari and Toby
Well, springtime is here and summer is quickly approaching. With the coming of each new season, we see the changes all around us. The leaves begin to appear again, bringing color back to a sometimes dreary landscape. Flowers begin to bloom, bringing with them beautiful colors and a sweet smelling fragrance. Such beautiful changes, don’t you think?
At the same time, change can sometimes bring sadness and anxiety. I know for my wife, as fall turns into winter, she definitely does not look forward to a winter indoors. A winter without much sunlight. But at the same time, looks forward to the spring to come. And so the cycle continues.
As most of you already know, change is upon the church. With the American military community leaving the Heidelberg and Mannheim areas, there are a few families within the church that are moving away. As an international church in Germany, we often see families come and go as schools and jobs bring them in and out of our lives. These occasions are usually marked with a few tears, yet also full of excitement as we see them move on to the next stage in life that God is calling them to.
This time, we are saying goodbye to our pastors, Ken and Danine Klinner, as they move to Wiesbaden. There, they will begin settling in to a new community as they leave behind the home they have known for so long. As a church, we will definitely miss them and the leadership they have provided us over the years. As a church, we need to be praying for them during this time of change, which can be hard on any family. As hard as it may be to do, we need to also be thanking God for providing them new opportunities – opportunities that He has called them to.
Because of this move and as the summer approaches, the leadership of Victory International will slowly begin to transition from Pastors Ken and Danine to myself and Pastor Toby. While we will definitely do our best to fill Pastor Ken’s large shoes, we will have to do that within the boundaries of who we are, using the skills that God has given us. As this all works itself out, I pray that as a community, we really come together to make this as smooth a transition as possible. I also have joy knowing that we will do just that and I am really excited to see all of this play out as God intends. He has orchestrated some pretty amazing events to make all of this come together at just the right time.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
While I can look at the time ahead with sorrow as we say goodbye to our pastors and anxiety as the enemy tells me I’m not good enough, instead I choose to look forward with excitement to all that God has planned for our amazing church family. May God continue to bless us and use us to reach out to the community around us.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.
There are many times that we feel distant from God. We find ourselves in situations in our life that we don’t understand. We begin to wonder if God is even there; if He was, why would He allow us to be going through these situations. When we look back through biblical scripture, we find many people that were in these same situations and yet they continued to praise God.
This verse in Hebrews talks about a sacrifice of praise. What is a sacrifice? Most of us understand the original act of sacrifice to God as being the offering up of burnt offerings. This most often meant the giving up some of one’s choicest animals in honor of God. They would have been the animals worth the most and would have provided the most return for one’s family. Given the choice, nobody really wants to give up the best of what they have, which is why it is called a sacrifice.
In Acts 16, on their journey to share the gospel, Paul and Silas were arrested in Philippi. After being beaten with wooden rods, they were thrown into prison; archaeologists today believe they have found this prison and it was a dark, windowless hole with no sanitary facilities. Their shredded backs would have been exposed to bare earth while their legs would have been spread widely apart as they were put into stocks, causing them excruciating pain. What would you do in that situation?
The bible tells us in Acts 16:25 that “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” This was a sacrifice of praise. There doesn’t appear to be anything in those circumstances to rejoice about. They could just have easily sat there all night groaning in misery at the situation they found themselves in. Instead, they sang their praises to God.
When we offer a sacrifice of praise to God, we are bringing ourselves before Him whether we feel like it or not. Today you may be struggling with a situation that you don’t understand. Don’t let that distract you from praising God, who loves you beyond all measure. I encourage you to read the rest of the story in Acts 16 and find out what happened when Paul and Silas offered a sacrifice of praise in a time that they probably would not have felt like it.
This past Sunday, we talked about Matthew 5:13 and the importance of salt. Now let’s take a look at the second part of that verse – where it talks about salt becoming tasteless and being absolutely useless:
But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
What good is salt that has lost all of its flavor? Not very good is it? You might as well be dumping some fine grain sand on your food. In the same way, we as Christians need to make sure that we are not losing our flavor. We need to make sure we are continuing to check our flavor by giving ourselves periodic “spiritual check-ups.” How are we doing in our walk with Christ? Are we moving forward, or are we just kind of coasting along? Do we still have that fire within us burning brightly, or has it been reduced to a tiny flame, barely staying lit? We need to make sure that more important than anything else, we our spending time with Jesus every single day. It is only when we do that, that we keep our fires burning brightly. We may be fooling ourselves, but others around us can definitely see changes in us when we aren’t. They can see when little things start bugging us more than usual. They can see it in our attitude and our reactions. If I am telling somebody about the joy and hope that Christ can bring to their life, while at the same time I’m walking around like everything is hopeless, what kind of message am I really sending?
As Christians, we should be checking on each other as well. If people walking in darkness can see changes in us, shouldn’t we who profess to walk in the light notice even that much more? When we see our brothers and sisters changing, it is our responsibility to be there for them – to help them. After all, we all need a little nudge once in a while, don’t we? A little bit of encouragement? Look around, be there for each other; help each other keep our flavor stoked. When we do that, when we truly act as a unified body, we can reach this world for Jesus in ways we never could have imagined.
What is it that you want in life? That’s the question that has been running through my mind this week. The thoughts came in the form of what I want MY career to be, and how I want MY ministry to look. This morning I woke up with an answer… it is not about me. It is not about me in career; it’s not about me in ministry; nor is it about me in any other facit of my life. Why? Because it all has to be about Him. When we make it about Him, we will have success in all that we do (1 Chr 22:13). I encourage you to make it all about Him, and to do EVERYTHING for His glory!
You never know how you are going to respond to tragedy in your life until it strikes you. You can imagine, you can talk a certain talk, you can even try to prepare, but you will never truly know until it happens to you.
There are several things that happened within me during the tragedy that stuck my family. One of the things that it left me with was a desire to be more transparent with those that I love. In lieu of that, I would like to share the following with you, my church family. Thanks for the amazing prayer and support. I love you!
How do you capture a half-century of memories in a short paragraph? I guess the only way is to describe the heart of the man that was more than a Dad; he was my friend. When I consider the sacrifices and choices that he made to directly influence my well being, I am humbled and extremely grateful.
It started when I was 6 years old. I lost my Dad, Wayne, in an aircraft accident. Shortly after, Uncle Dale stepped in and picked up the mantle. I remember the first time I called him Dad; I was 7 years old. From that point on, he was always Dad.
There are so many stories that come to mind about Dad… Learning to hunt, camping, motorcycling, my first car, picking me up from school in a step-side panel van that was so ugly that I was embarrassed to get in it, and the line he would always use every time we would come to visit, “We’ll keep the light on for you”.
Dad was a man that would find a way to make it happen. He consistently bent over backward to ensure that I had everything I needed in life. He became my best friend, and was even the best man at my wedding 25 years ago. Nothing was to hard for him. Of course Dad also had an opinion, but over the years I learned to appreciate his insight. I look back now and can say that most of the time, he was right.
So for me, my Dad and my friend has left this world. It’s really hard when I feel sorry for myself; I miss him and I wish that he was still here. But there is great peace and joy when I get my perspective right. This life is not about the here and now; it is about eternity. Dad got it right. He loved God and he cared about people.
Like Paul, the time of his departure is at hand. He fought a good fight, He finished his course, He kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give him at that day. Jesus himself has wiped the tears from his eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. How can you be sad about that?
So this isn’t goodbye, this is see you on the other side.
So, “keep the light on for me Dad”; we will see you soon.
This week I was reminded of the lyrics to a song that Danine and I were “forced” to listen to when our children were young. It seemed really painful then, but the truth of those words still ring true today. “Life without Jesus is like a donut, there is a hole in the middle of your heart” (thank you Donut Man!).
I really believe that the Lord wants to heal the hole in many hearts this year. Danine and I sense that this is a year of redemption and our gracious heavenly Father wants to restore us, to redeem the time, and to bring us to a place where He is the focus of our everything. His call to us today is the same as He gave to the man at the pool of Bethesda. He is calling out to us, “do you want to be well?”, and He is looking for a heart that responses in worship.
What is your response to the Lord today? Will you say yes to Jesus and allow Him to redeem every part of your life? Will you allow Him to turn your heart of pain into a heart of worship? I encourage you to say yes to the Lord today.
This is Easter week. This is the season that we remember the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ; a week that we thank Him for what He did for us; and a week that we make new commitments to make changes in our life and follow Him. I encourage you to take a few minutes this week to evaluate your spiritual condition (have a Psalms 139:23-24 moment). This is something that I do Easter week. I find that it is encouraging and really helps me in a couple of areas. For instance, it helps me to realize that God is in control so I do not have to fear. It also helps me to recognize where I have gotten off course a little and need to redirect myself back to Him. Finally, it helps me to refocus on what is truly important in life and that is Christ.
This is not a time for reflection and condemnation, this is a time for reflection and repentance. It is what I do and it helps. I encourage you to give it a shot. It may be something that becomes valuable to you as well.
Sometimes I wonder if we are crying out to God for the right things. When we are sick, we cry out to God for His healing because we want the sickness to go away. When we are struck by an economic downturn, we cry out to God for His provision and for His restoration. When we are hungry we cry out to God for sustainment. When we fall into sin, we cry out to God for forgiveness and His covering.
I’m glad that we serve a God who hears us in our time of need. I’m also glad that we serve a God that loves us so much that he comes to the rescue. I’m especially glad that we serve a God that loves us and forgives us in spite of our terrible failures. But, if we find ourselves only crying out to God in our desperate time of need, I have to ask, “are we truly living our lives for Christ?”
Hebrews 6 encourages us to grow up and move on into maturity in Christ. I think that is a resounding encouragement for us today. I believe the Lord wants us to grow up so that He can reveal His heart to us. As we see His heart, our pray focus begins to shift. Sure, we cry out to God in our time of need, but we also cry out to God as the Holy Spirit leads us.
For several months I have been crying out to God to bring revival in our midst. I have been asking Him to touch Germany and to bring the hearts of His people back to Him. I have been praying that the lost would be radically saved and transformed into His image. I have also been praying that He would bring increase to our church. But these past few weeks I have found myself crying for something different yet within the same vein. I am crying out to the Father for His mercy on us His children, on our home nation (USA), and on our host nation (Germany). I am crying out to the Father for His mercy on the hearing impaired, that they would have spiritual ears to hear. I am praying that God will reveal His mercy so that we can be all that He has called us to be.
Micah 7 tells us that God delights in showing us mercy. In 1 Chronicles 21, the Lord offers David three choices for correction. David tells the prophet Gad, “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord for His mercy is very great”. I get the sense that the Holy Spirit wants us to understand and experience the incredible mercy of the Father because it will cause us to get serious with God and light a holy fire within us; a fire sparked by His incredible mercy that changes us and causes us to shine for Him. After all, isn’t it His mercy that prompts revival in our midst anyway?
For the past couple of months, my heart has been drawn towards a more intimate relationship with Christ. I have a deep hunger to know Him more, and I want to see Him work powerfully in our church.
I think both of these desires are very attainable. The truth is God wants to do something amazing in our lives and in the life of our church. To get there, revival must begin in each of our hearts individually. Individual revival will turn into corporate revival, and corporate revival will change us and our world for Christ.
Just having a hunger and desire is not enough. We have to put legs to this vision in order to see it accomplished. The legs that we put to it start through prayer. It is getting on our faces before God and seeking Him first. For it is then that we will see the gifting of the Spirit and the power of God flowing in our church. I’m not talking about an emotional outburst that is built up in our own strength, I am talking about true revival where the presence of God is so real that we are changed.
I am ready to be changed; transformed by the renewing of my mind so that I can be everything that God has called me to be.