30 Apr

Praying the Psalms with Jesus and the Spirit

By Nathaniel Gamble — Most Christians recognize great value in praying the Psalms, but many find them difficult to understand and aren’t sure how to pray them. Thankfully, Jesus and the Holy Spirit teach us how to pray the Psalms in the letter to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 3:7-11 quotes Psalm 95:7-11 about listening to God and not hardening our hearts against his voice. This reference to Psalm 95 is used throughout Hebrews 3 and 4 to emphasize God’s desire for us to have a saving relationship with him “today,” which is why he speaks to us. Take note who Hebrews 3:7 identifies as quoting Psalm 95: “So, as the Holy Spirit says” (NIV). It’s because the Holy Spirit is speaking the words of Psalm 95 in Hebrews 3:7 that God is portrayed as praying this psalm in Hebrews 4:3 and 7.

Similarly, Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes the Greek translation of Psalm 40:6-8 about sacrifices and a person’s heart, in order to talk about Jesus’ incarnation. Hebrews 10 uses Psalm 40 to underscore the superiority of Jesus’ sacrificial death over animal sacrifices for sin. But notice who Hebrews 10:5 highlights as speaking Psalm 40: “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said” (NIV). It’s because of the incarnation, which Jesus speaks about when reciting Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10:5-7, that we experience the fruits of his high priestly ministry (referenced previously in Hebrews 9).

Jesus and the Holy Spirit pray the Psalms in Hebrews, and the result of their prayers is our salvation. The best way to pray the Psalms, therefore, is to pray them with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When you realize that the Holy Spirit and Jesus have already been praying the Psalms before you joined them, your prayer life – and reading of the Psalms – will come alive to you.

Nathaniel Gamble is pastor of Fort Lupton Seventh-day Adventist Church and Aspen Park Seventh-day Adventist Church.

30 Apr

An unexpected act of generosity

By Doug Inglish — Denver, Colorado … In the early days of the current restrictions on public activities, we were all facing a lot of questions that seemed to demand immediate answers. Several times a day a new consideration would thrust itself upon us, and while still pondering that, another problem would surface. As time passed and strategies were developed and refined, we have all more or less settled into routines, and our focus has mostly shifted from how to deal with things as they are to how we manage shifting back to regular social interaction.

Moving out of relative seclusion may require just as much cautious strategic thinking as moving into it did. We have to sift through the pronouncements of elected leaders, scientists, and media figures, which are often contradictory and confusing, while a restless public simultaneously wants to protect itself and return to normal. When should things reopen? How much social distancing is still required? Will there be a second wave, and when? The only certainty is that whatever we do, someone is going to find fault with it.

As we figure out how to emerge from modified isolation, it seems like it was a long time ago when we were struggling with what modifications were needed. It’s easy to forget the details from those days when urgent and stressful decisions had to be made, but one thing stands out very clearly with me that I want to share with you all because it touched me deeply.

I received an email from a name I recognized. We had worked together previously because I represent the churches on property matters and she does the same for the major corporation that owns a property that a local congregation leases. When I saw it in my inbox my first reaction was that it was either time to renew the lease, or there was an issue between us and them to resolve.

Instead, there was what at first appeared to be boilerplate language about a time of crisis, facing challenges together, and supporting one another. If it was from almost anyone else I would have stopped reading there and deleted it, but she was my contact for an important matter, so I read on.

In the second paragraph, there it was: an act of unexpected generosity. For the next two months the lease payment would be suspended, a gift from them to help a congregation at a time when the offering plate was not being passed down the aisle.

I had to read it again to be sure what I was seeing. This was not a local branch, this was from the corporate office in another state. We were not a major customer, we just rented a small space in a building they owned. But it occurred to them that this was a difficult time for us. Unexpectedly, without being asked, they chose to be generous.

This company does not attempt to project a public image of Christianity, or even spirituality in any guise. They are a business, and while they advertise about responsibility and putting customers first and all the usual things, we all know that they are in business to make money. I don’t mean that in a negative way, as I think we all understand that the alternative is going out of business, which doesn’t do anyone any good. But even though they are big and we are small, they set aside profit in favor of generosity.

How much can we Christians learn from that? During this time when so many are out of work, have those of us deemed ‘essential’ willingly chosen to notice someone who is struggling? Have we thought about how it must be like to face the uncertainty of disrupted income? Have we considered what we could do about it?

Jesus said in Mark 9:41 that Heaven takes notice when even a cup of cold water given to someone in His name. So, it’s not the size of the action that matters so much as the motivation behind it. If we take His name on ourselves, we have a responsibility to be notice suffering, and to address it without waiting to be asked. If we are willing to embrace an attitude of generosity, our eyes will be opened to opportunities, and the Spirit will direct us in acts both great and small.

What multiple blessings I enjoyed that day! The privilege of saying thank you on behalf of the congregation. They joy of passing the news on to the local elder. The satisfaction of imagining him telling it to the congregation. The happy moment in prayer as I thanked our Heavenly Father, who is the author of all generosity. And when next we renew the lease, I will remember, and repeat my thanks.

But maybe the biggest blessing comes when I see a chance to pay the generosity forward. It’s a wonderful thing God grants to us, whenever we have a chance to be generous.

Doug Inglish is RMC director of planned giving and trust services

30 Apr

Campion ding-dong ditch

By Bela Cinco — Loveland, Colorado … A secretive group has been inundating Campion’s campus with positivity. The Underground Encouragement System, the UES as they call themselves, has been doing “ding-dong ditch” encouragement by going to staff member’s houses on campus and leaving a little something for the staff to be encouraged by. Sidewalk chalk notes, notes on the door, and little bags of goodies are finding their way to staff member homes.

“It’s awesome, because they know who God is, and they know what God wants them to do. It’s a spontaneous thing, and they have a good picture of who God is,” said Campion’s administrative assistant, Sue Helm.

This UES group has been going out two to three times a week to uplift people in this uncertain time. Some of the encouragements include sidewalk chalk notes that read “Thank you for your service; God cares”, positive notes on the door, and little bags of Hershey’s Kisses with notes that read, “Since we can’t do hugs, this is our social distancing hug.”

“It’s really cool to know that people are out there finding joy in helping others,” said Kent Kast, Campion’s academic vice-president.

Don Reeder, Campion Academy principal, commented, “It encourages me that the young people are looking for ways to do service. That is the main mission of our school. It’s exciting to see that what Satan thought was going to be bad, the young people are turning it into something good. And it feels good to be encouraged.”

Bela Cinco, Student Editor, This Week at Campion; photos supplied

29 Apr

Vista Ridge Academy Students Receive the Best Possible Education from a Distance

By Marsha Bartulec — Erie, Colorado …Teachers at Vista Ridge Academy never spoke of remote learning, yet they found themselves transitioning from face-to-face learning to remote learning within a two-week timeframe.

On March 12, parents received an email from Teaching Principal Sandy Hodgson, saying classes were cancelled for March 13, just one day before Spring Break. Parents continue receiving email communication from Hodgson, the most recent stating school will be closed for the remainder of the school year.

While the transition to remote learning has gone relatively smoothly for teachers and students, it has been a big adjustment to not be together in a classroom setting.

“When students are doing great, I want to be able to give them a high five. Now we do air high fives,” says First and Second Grade Teacher, Kenya Sanchez. “Or when a student feels frustrated, not being able to give them a tissue to wipe their tears has been a little heart breaking,” she says.

Hodgson says, “there is still the social piece of learning and collaborating together that is missing in remote learning.”

Remote learning began March 30 as a partnership, dependent on the purposeful planning of our dedicated teachers, student motivation and engagement, and strong parent support and communication.

Teachers put into place a plan that combines asynchronous learning with synchronous engagements via Zoom and other methods to support both the learning and the social-emotional well-being of our students. Students work independently, engage in (online) collaboration with peers, and communicate daily with their teachers who continue to provide support and feedback, as well as opportunities for reflection and revision.

Third and Fourth Grade Teacher, Shondra Cizek, will tell you not being together with her students has been her biggest challenge, but “Zoom has been such a lifesaver,” she says.

Harwell says her favorite part of the day is logging on early each meeting and getting to catch up with her students before the lessons start.

“My students always have so much to share, and it reminds me of them filing into our classroom with their stories,” she says.

In the Fifth and Sixth Grade morning meeting, Hodgson has kept their morning rituals going.

“We start every day with a joke, worship and Bible class. It’s fun to watch the students show up on time to school in anticipation of our morning rituals,” she says.

Jones has seen his students rise to the challenge that comes with remote learning.

“My students meet the challenges head on with positive attitudes and get it done,” says Jones.

The new [email protected] section on their website provides one spot for general communications and information around remote learning as well as creative and enjoyable ways for school families to connect and maintain community in this unprecedented time.

Many parents have faced the challenge of juggling their work schedule with their child’s school schedule.

“Parents have really stepped up to the plate and showed their support towards their child and myself, for which I’m eternally grateful,” says Sanchez. “I try to let them know often of how much they are cherished.”

Harwell wants parents to know what they are doing is enough.

“You are doing a great job,” Harwell says, “and right now this learning experience looks different in every household. Don’t get overwhelmed by what you think you should be getting done versus what your reality looks like. Keep up the good work, and don’t feel hesitant to reach out to teachers when you need to. Your children are going to cherish these extra moments they got to spend with you.”

Sanchez’s advice, “Give it time,” she says, “and pray for guidance. The Lord will help with adjusting to new situations like this. Enjoy and celebrate the big and small triumphs daily, and see the blessings pouring from above.

The staff continue to find ways to adapt year-end activities, recently hosting a virtual Moms’ Night and a virtual Fun Run, the school’s biggest fundraising event organized by H&S leader Lisa Barton for May 4 through May 8. Constituent church pastors, Jenniffer Ogden and J. Murdock of Boulder Church and Herbert Hernandez of Chapel Haven will lead out in virtual chapels each Friday for the remainder of the school year. Staff are planning the Kindergarten and Eighth Grade graduations.

As Vista Ridge Academy plans for next school year, Sandy Hodgson and her staff remain committed to providing a safe learning environment for students.

“Vista Ridge Academy has weathered many storms, but because of an actively strong support system, we are confident that we will move through this as a united community,” says Hodgson. “While our educational process is a bit different right now, we are still committed to our mission and vision and making sure our students receive the best education possible from a distance.”

Marsha Bartulec is vice principal for administration; photos by Marit Guild, Taryn Lewis, and DeaAnna Beaty

28 Apr

Montrose members worship is a drive-in church

By Zane Berry — Montrose, Colorado … A drive-in church worship service was held April 25 at the home of Pam and Larry Dupper after they refurbished an old hay wagon. This was used by Pastor Nathan Cranson as a podium from which to preach.

“It was a breath of fresh air to have our church service outside. There was enthusiasm that we could see each other, though through the car windows and have some interaction with each other,” said Pastor Cranson.

He added that it was a good turnout and he could “hear horn honking for the ‘Amens.’”

“It was great to meet as a church even though we were in cars and trucks instead of sitting in the pews,” reported Zane Berry, one of the participants, who was among some 60 people attending. “It was a beautiful day for a chance to hear our pastor speak God’s Word to the congregation,” he continued.

The congregation had been meeting virtually for more than a month but “somehow meeting where you feel togetherness was much better,” Zane added.

“It was a wonderful pastoral scene that was enjoyed by all,” said participating mobile congregant, Larry Pester.

The plan is to keep meeting in cars until the end of May when the congregation can return to their church building. “They now appreciate worshipping in their church even more than normal,” Zane commented. An FM transmitter is being purchased, which It will enable the participants to hear the sermon through their car radios.

Zane Berry; photos Michael Ryan and Joyce Bower

 

28 Apr

Brighton Adventist Academy Receives $10,000 technology grant from Versacare

By Jodie Aakko — Brighton, Colorado … Brighton Adventist Academy was awarded $10,000 in technology grant funding from Versacare Foundation on March 6. In addition, Versacare awarded $1,410,000 in grants for Adventist primary and secondary schools across the United States and Canada in support of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math).

With this grant, Brighton Adventist Academy plans to order additional network equipment, Chromebooks, desktops, and a 3-D printer to serve their growing enrollment of students in grades Pre-kindergarten through ten.

Thanks to the funds provided by the Versacare grant, Brighton Adventist Academy’s updated and expanded technology department will bolster the school’s twenty-first century learning skills, including project-based learning and technology integration.

“Brighton Adventist Academy desired to improve and expand their digital technologies to assist learners in thinking critically, communicating, collaborating, and creating.  “This grant will make a direct impact on our students,” commented Jodie Bell Aakko, Brighton Adventist Academy principal.

“Presently, our school stands strong on technology. For example, we were able to provide each BAA student with a Chromebook to use at home during this distance-learning time if the child did not have a computer at home already. Now, when our students return to campus in the fall, they will find exciting technology additions to our campus, and I am certain the 3-D printer will be the biggest hit!” she added.

Established in 1916, the school has 56 students enrolled in grades Pre-k through 10, presently studying in virtual classes. The Academy intentionally connects students with classroom learning, character development, and essential life skills in a Christian environment that delivers academic excellence valuing each individual as a creation of God gifted with unique talents for service to others.

Jodie Aakko is principal and head teacher at Brighton Adventist Academy; photo by Jodie Aakko

23 Apr

FEAR LIKE SNOW FALLS SOFTLY

By: Shayne Mason Vincent

Fear like snow falls softly
Covering verdant spring
Stark and chilled
Pharaoh’s drums
Chanting upon the horizon

In silence
The Spirit speaks softly
“Look up”

Cascading
Above the clouds
A piercing music
Eagles flying free
Above our constitutions
Above our consternation

In silence
The eternal Son reaches out to me
“Come”

So, I steady my nerve
Reaching out
I brush against His wound
And the blood that He shed for me
On Calvary
Drips down
Upon the lintel of my soul

In silence
The Father carries me
”Be still”

Exodus 14:13-14: “Do not be afraid. Just be still and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today, you will never see them again. The Lord Himself will fight for you. You only need to be still.”

–Shayne Mason Vincent is lead pastor, Casper Wyoming District

23 Apr

COVID-19 Measures and USAFA Chaplaincy response during pandemic

By Chaplain Major Lane F Campbell — Colorado Springs, Colorado … On March 12, a travel interruption letter, followed the next day by a letter limiting group size, was sent to those who have completed basic and advanced training (permanent party) and students and civilian personnel at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA).  It was decided that the Freshmen Recognition would be suspended due to the new limitation guidance for COVID-19. This immediate stop to training resulted in a decision to send all lower classes home and retain only seniors or Firsties at the campus with the goal of graduating the class of 2020 and keeping them healthy. Within days, as with many Rocky Mountain Conference pastors, an immediate change occurred for providing religious services and spiritual care. New measures were implemented to provide all denominations with virtual religious services.

Life changed quickly for the remaining Firsties as well. Classes paused for several days to allow for the transition from classroom instruction to on-line instruction. The dining facility provided take-out services only and students were required to eat in their dorm rooms alone. Squadron social activities were cancelled, gym use was prohibited and travel outside the campus was forbidden. Only mission essential (ME) personnel (which includes chaplains), were allowed to be with the students. Life changed drastically as liberties were limited, all in the hopes of keeping cadets free from COVID-19 and getting them to their May 28 graduation date.

Tragically, on the morning of March 26, the former roommate of a Squadron 8 cadet discovered that he had taken his own life. Chapel teams assigned to the squadron gave chaplain care for the cadets, the faculty and staff and the first responders. The campus family was devastated. While I’m not the chaplain for Squadron 8, my wife and I sponsor a student from this Squadron, so I quickly realized that I needed to be there for her and her fellow squadron members whom I have come to know through our sponsorship.

Two mornings later, another cadet in Squadron 7 also tragically took his life. By Monday morning, the Chief Staff of the Air Force (CSAF), Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF) were on campus visiting with students, faculty, staff and permanent party members. During the afternoon session, members from the Crisis Action Team, commanders, professors and students shared their perspective with the SECAF in which I participated as a chaplain and as a member of the Crisis Action Team. “Everything we are dealing with here, stress, change, challenge, pain, hurt and loss due to COVID-19 measures and the aftermath of these two suicides all have a spiritual foundation,” I said. “The challenge we have is we don’t have enough chaplains or mental health professionals entrenched with these cadets and permanent party here at USAFA during this unprecedented time.”

The professors in the room presented an earlier date for graduation and commanders requested more entrenched mental health and chaplain support in their squadrons. By the end of the week, five more Air Force chaplains from near-by bases (Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas) were brought in and the graduation date was moved to April 18.

Spiritual care to cadets was given high priority from CSAF and I checked on Squadron 8 members and my newly-assigned squadrons continuously. Unit visitations were implemented by the Crisis Action Team and care was given and made available around the clock. We greeted cadets during breakfast, lunch and dinner at the dining facility and walked through the dorms of the two squadrons assigned us, visiting with students in their spaces. Certain restrictions were also lifted.

Collectively this helped us meet our goal when on April 18, rather than a planned virtual speech, Vice President Pence personally arrived on campus and gave the commencement address for the USAF Academy class of 2020 with no positive COVID-19 cadets. Social distancing of eight feet was in place during the graduation ceremony and we successfully met our mission goals–graduate the class of 2020 and keep them healthy!

Squadron 8 members chose me as chaplain for their commissioning ceremony, held the night before graduation, which allowed me to give them parting words and encouragement as their chaplain. I shared three things they should take from their USAFA experience:

  1. The Air Force is so very proud of them.
  2. Their family and friends are proud of them.
  3. God is proud of them for recognizing their God-given talents and gifts at such a young age and using them. I encouraged them to have excellence in all they do, to serve others before self and to maintain integrity as newly commissioned Air Force and Space Force officers.

This past graduation weekend and commissioning service for our 2020 cadets, was certainly a highlight as a chaplain in my Air Force career. God calls Seventh-day Adventist workers to be available for all types of ministries. What a calling we have to share the love of God and the soon coming of Jesus in the environment in which God has called us.

Chaplain Major Lane F Campbell is Deputy Wing Chaplain at USAF Academy in Colorado Springs

23 Apr

Springs Adventist Academy Principal featured in Mid-America Video

Denver, Colorado … Michelle Velbis, principal of Springs Adventist Academy, Colorado Springs was featured in a video produced by the Mid-America Union Conference.  This video highlights the transformation in Michelle’s life, from a marriage and business in ruins to a successful teacher and principal at Springs Adventist Academy.  Watch the video here and read about Michelle’s transformation in the June / July issue of Outlook Magazine.

Michelle Velbis was also featured this week in News Nuggets.  Read her article here

Photo by Springs Adventist Academy website

23 Apr

WORSHIPING TOGETHER AT A DISTANCE

By Ashley Reyes — Loveland, Colorado … When I was younger, I lived in El Salvador where we experienced massive rainstorms. Every once in a while, it would get so bad that church would be canceled, and we would have church at home. My family would put on our own mini church service with a sermon, offering call, and everything.

Of course, that was before there was such a thing as online church. Now, it’s a lot more convenient to have church at home. However, it still takes a lot of work to make it happen, and there are many dedicated individuals who have put in the work.

Many churches already have a media team and a live-streaming system in place, but there have been other obstacles they have had to work together to overcome. Since outreach is such a huge part of the Adventist church’s mission, it has become a major goal for pastors all over the world to make sure that they can still reach out and connect to their church families and the community. The church staff and members have been doing things like driveway visitations (while still respecting the parameters of social distancing), calling to pray with people, online talent shows, and Instagram take-overs to name a few. Church leadership is encouraging people to get creative and find even more new ways to stay connected.

There are many volunteers who have also contributed and are making an impact. Sabbath School teachers record Sabbath School lessons for kids. Whole families have joined together to provide music for Sabbath School and for the main service. Pastor Micheal Goetz of Campion church says, “We have seen an increase in individuals and families who are coming up with their own way to care and show ministry to other people. And that’s really what the church has dreamed of being about.”

Many Campion Academy students have stepped up to help in their home churches. Ben Maxson, a junior at Campion Academy, says, “I run the video camera and help with sound and slides. I also help the associate pastor with social media presence. I also go with my parents when we visit people’s houses and just stand outside and talk. I love that I can stay active and help out my community.”

Many other students, including musicians Andy Obregón and Kylie Wehling, and speakers, including Robyn Quillin and Erick Maldonado, have all been involved in Campion Academy’s Friday night vespers. Campion Academy is also planning to have an online week of prayer the first week of May, hosted by the senior class.

Social distancing may have physically separated the church members, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still gain a blessing by worshipping together at a distance.

Ashley Reyes, Senior, Guest Contributor to This Week at Campion: photo by Micheal Goetz – in the photo the Campion Church staff printed out pictures of all the Campion

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