The Sermon I Heard In Jamaica.

Day 1

Read Leviticus 23:9-14,22; 1 Corinthians 4:7
 The challenge to the church (and to each of us)
The Reverend Dr. Powell challenged the Mineral Heights Church (May Pen, Jamaica) in several ways in the context of this Scripture from Leviticus.  His message to us was more broad than individuals just bringing “first fruits” in worship and thanksgiving to God for the harvest.  He challenged the church to “consider that our whole lives should be presented to God as an offering” and that “the people of God were to be used for the fulfillment of God’s Word”.  The message was pushing the congregation to a different level of service. Hearing this while in Jamaica convicted me severely. Again, I found myself thinking, “How can they present themselves to God as an offering when they have nothing?!?!?” But then God further laid on my heart the thought that, “It doesn’t take material things or an abundance of ANYTHING to be in service to God!” The congregation was being challenged to give of what they had, and they seemed to be happily willing to do that.

As 1 Cor 4:7 suggests, everything we have is a gift from God. I heard the challenge loud and clear to give and serve humbly and graciously. The Jamaican people are beautiful examples of this.

How can we learn from these wonderful people and live out the challenge to “…present ourselves as offerings to God…?” willingly?

How can we live and serve differently as a result of this message?

Consider sharing some of this on the app so others can benefit from 

**Written by Pat and Liz Neuschwanger

Day 2

Read Leviticus 23:9-14, 22

Devotion theme:  So, what does “poor” look like?

Pastor Nate and I were privileged to hear the Reverend Dr. Jacob Powell preach a pointed and challenging sermon to the congregation at Mineral Heights Church in May Pen, Jamaica.  A bit of background:  The area is definitely what we in the US would consider “Third World” (much more less developed industrial and economic base).  Air conditioning is a luxury that most people and facilities don’t have, water is scarce (while we were there, the area was in a severe drought and remains as such as far as we are aware), and the average level of income is significantly below even what we would consider “poverty level” in the US.  And this worship service was a celebration (“The Annual Harvest and Thanksgiving Service”), somewhat similar to our “Thanksgiving” celebration.  It seemed like a dichotomy to me (celebrating provision when you have nothing… or at least that’s what it looked like to us…).

Reverend Dr. Powell, while making several points during his sermon, celebrated the church for coming together to give thanks for ALL THAT THEY HAD.  In my mind, I’m shouting, “You’re speaking to a congregation that is poverty stricken!  And you’re in a drought!!  And we’re dripping in sweat!”.  Of course, the Jamaican people were acclimated, but they were still fanning themselves from the heat…  I’m not speaking for Pastor Nate, but I was incredibly challenged in my spirit with the selflessness with which the Reverend and the congregation approached the service.  The Reverend defined “poor” as those who are continually hungry and / or miss a meal every day, are economically dependent on others, or are oppressed by others.  And he followed that statement by acknowledging that, “…there are likely those among us who fit the category of ‘the poor’…”.  He then challenged the congregation to be the “voice of the poor” and “the Protector of the poor”.

This passage of Scripture gives instructions to celebrate God’s provision, give thanks for the harvest, and provide for the poor among us.  I was blessed and challenged as we were witness to genuine, passionate thanksgiving and heartfelt worship of God for the blessings that the Mineral Heights church had been given.  I was especially convicted by the message given to the church to help their poor, when it was evident to our group that the entire church could fit into the category of “poor”.  A humbling lesson…

Some questions as you consider this passage of Scripture:

Are we truly thankful for (ALL!!!) that which we’ve been given, or do we take provision for granted?
How should this challenge each of us to change our behavior and how we approach our relationship with God, our personal worship, other people?

**Written by Pat and Liz Neuschwanger

Day 3

Read Leviticus 19:9-10
This was the first year we had the opportunity to participate in Boxing Day.  Have you heard of Boxing Day?  If not, you are in good company. My family had never heard of it before either.  We researched it this year.  It is celebrated the day AFTER Christmas each and every year.  It is actually a federal holiday in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and even Canada, it is also still recognized and practiced in several parts of Europe.  I say “still”, because it is not a new holiday or practice, it actually began in the Middle Ages.  The practice was to take the treasury from the church giving boxes from the Christmas holiday and divide it among the neighborhood poor.  It was a day set aside to “give”.  It is called Boxing Day because the practice involves gathering in boxes, “THE LEFTOVERS”, the holiday foods not eaten, the household supplies, the extra “stuff” and putting it in boxes and distributing them to the community.  To SHARE from the abundance of one’s own holiday celebration by giving the “EXTRA” out to those in need.  Where do you suppose this idea came from? My first thought was the biblical practice of “gleaning!”  I am not sure how the American Culture has turned the day after Christmas into a day of shopping the sales & returning unwanted or unused gift items; my research says the practice was never adopted by the English Colonies because they “shared everything” as a way of life.   What a fabulous holiday! To set aside to do what it is God commanded during the harvest to share from the excess, to allow the gleaning to take place from those in need.  We know from the homeless population and those receiving welfare benefits that there remains a great portion of neighbors in Westmoreland County with food insecurity.  

Does your family have “extra” leftovers at the end of meal time?
 Do you have “extra” time in your weekend to spend with someone alone in a nursing home or “extra” time to help a neighbor with yard work?

What is YOUR leftover? How can you make it available?
You don’t have to look hard, just ask God to lead you to those in need.  He will delight in seeing your compassion.  How do I know?  Because it was His idea for the way we should live.

**Written by Connie Staley

Day 4

Read Mark 12:41-44

In Mark 12:41-44 we read about the Widow’s Offering.  Verse 41 begins with Jesus sitting down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watching the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”
We might ask; Is Jesus sitting in the temple “watching to see what everyone contributed to the offering?” No, he wasn’t there watching.  He just witnessed what was occurring and he used it to teach the disciples about giving.  He is not sitting in Heaven “watching us to see what contributions we make to the Kingdom”, however, He does witness EVERYTHING.  The widow giving her last 2 coins is even more significant if we realize that she had no way of knowing where she would get any more income.  Her husband was dead and thus her widow state made her vulnerable.  She had enough confidence in God to know that her sacrifice would be seen and He would be her source and supply.  Did she know Jesus was watching, and was that motivating her?  No, I don’t believe the scripture says that.  She gave from her heart, she gave from her faith, and she gave with sacrifice holding nothing back.  I have had times in my life where I have gone without essential things like utilities for example, no electricity, no water, no heat, no gasoline for the car.  I have many memories of looking through purses and furniture for forgotten change for food.  However, those days I still had a bed, I still had mirrors, and socks, and shoes and the list continues.  I have never gotten to the place where my EVERYTHING was placed before God as an offering.  

Although Jesus is not sitting in Heaven watching to see how much is given, He IS watching from Heaven to reward the giver.  Matthew 6:4 says “Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Are you in the habit of allowing ONLY God to see what is given in private so that He may reward you?  

Do you give out of love, allowing God to move you to action, or do you give “because He is watching?”

Jesus said that the woman gave MORE than the rich because it was NOT the amount of money given that was important, it was the sacrifice made in the offering.  Realizing giving is NOT always about money, many times God will ask us to use our resources of time, maybe to visit someone feeling alone, or our abilities and gifts to teach and help or maybe our life experience to minister to the broken hearted.  
In your giving do you find that you give from your “extra” OR does it require a sacrifice?  

Do you have to say “NO” to something you feel like doing in order to give to your neighbor or say “NO” to your own comforts / needs in order to give? 

In light of this teaching about the widow giving her last, how much less of a request does it seem to “share” with those who can glean from us on our extra?  

We can find that there is ALWAYS an opportunity to “share” from what we’ve been given.  God will not often ask us to give EVERYTHING, but He always asks us to “share.”  
How great is your reward?

**Written by Connie Staley

Day 5

Read Deuteronomy 15:7, Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 14:31, James 2:14-17

I have heard that Jesus asked us to feed the poor and care for the widows and orphans all of my life. If I am being completely transparent, I had mentally excused myself from this responsibility by thinking that people much more well off than I am should shoulder this job. After all, sometimes I am just sitting and waiting for the paycheck to hit the bank so I can breathe a little easier in the cushy life I get to live. Then, I went to Jamaica…

I had seen poor places before, but Jamaica was the first time I saw poverty everywhere I looked. I saw shacks and couldn’t believe that people actually lived in these shelters…and I use the term “shelter” very loosely. Then, I met the people who actually lived in those shelters. I had heard about starving children before, but I learned that hearing about starving children and actually holding a starving child in your arms are very different things. Then I heard these people who were the poorest people I have ever met in my life give genuine thanks to God for their blessings. I heard the people of Mineral Baptist Church…some of the poor Jamaicans we speak of…sing, “I will glorify the Lord for all He has blessed me with.” I listened as they prayed that they would bless others with the blessings He had blessed them with. Meanwhile I looked at their situations and thought, “But you have nothing!”

I can’t even describe my level of conviction! As I type this, I look around at the abundance God has given me and, now that I have seen and heard the call to give, I have to make a change. I am learning about what that looks like in America. The poverty in Jamaica was so obvious, while it tends to be a bit more hidden in America. But then, is it hidden or have I chosen to close my eyes to it? 

Are there any who woul be willing to admit with me that there are plenty of needs around us to meet, but maybe we feel a little overwhelmed at the task?

Would you pray with me that Keystone would open their hearts to the poor, widows, and orphans?

Would you then also help me pray that Keystone would be the hands and feet of Christ to those who are widowed, orphaned and poor?

**Written by Jenna Altom

1 Comment

Pat N. - July 8th, 2023 at 7:03pm

So convicting!! I’m so thankful for the devotions that Connie and Jenna wrote for this week (7/3-7/7)!! Again, so convicting! Let’s join together in prayer that Keystone will be God’s hands and feet for the poor, widows, and orphans.





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