In the book of Genesis, we learn the story of a young man named Joseph who is betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery in Egypt, and ends up falsely accused and sentenced to prison. Despite all his affliction, though, God delivers him and gives him a family. Joseph then names one of his sons Ephraim, which sounds like the Hebrew word for “bearing fruit.” At the birth of his son, Joseph joyfully declares, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:52).
The name, Ephraim, then, has profound meaning: bearing fruit in the land of affliction. And if you consider what each one of us is going through right now,you could rightly call it “the land of affliction.” Grandparents are unable to see their grandchildren. Teachers are being asked to do something virtually impossible and also constantly changing. Medical workers are under extreme duress. Employees have lost their jobs and feel humiliated. Parents are stressed about virtual school. Believers are disappointed in church decisions.Families are coming to the Valley to flee the fires in California. Racial strife is high and society feels on edge—and all that without even mentioning the coming election in November! As Proverbs poignantly observes, only “the heart knows its own bitterness” (Proverbs 14:10).
So friends, please know that we can each honestly cry out with Joseph and acknowledge, ‘I am in the land of affliction.’ But we must also cry out, with Joseph, that we can bear fruit in the land of affliction. Joseph knew that God had not abandoned him; he knew that the dark soil of affliction can also be the tilled ground in which new life takes root and grows.
And in keeping with the metaphor of ‘bearing fruit,’ we are calling it a “co-op”because although we are scattered across the Valley, we have a ‘cooperative’ goal as a community of Christ-followers to bear fruit unto the Lord. So, as wetoil in this ‘land of affliction,’ we invite you to join the co-op and experience the presence of God daily through His Word and prayer together with your church community.
The basic structure will stay consistent. Each weekday, there will be a call & response from Scripture, a short guided prayer from the Church Fathers(pastors from the early church period), a time of surrender, a song, Scripture passages (Old Testament chapter, Psalm, New Testament chapter), and
a guided prayer designed to teach you how to use Scripture to spark transformation in your life. Some of these elements will change weekly, and others will change each day.
Similar to how the manna from heaven was only meant to be eaten that day(and did not keep overnight), the Ephraim Co-op will be new every morning,and there will be no backlog of publications. If you miss a day, that day is gone.That may seem strange, but remember, the Co-op is not primarily a Bible-reading plan, or even an insight-packed devotional. It is meant to help you in your everyday life develop a new habit of grace—daily surrendering your life to the Lord and hearing from Him in His Word. Devotionals and Bible-reading plans are great—but I often see them become discouraging to people who ‘fall off the wagon’ after just a few days. The goal of the Co-op, however, is
to connect with God in our everyday life—and we can no more “make up” a moment with the Lord than we can travel back through time. Remember, God’s mercies are new “every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). There is ‘manna’ for you today, and it is fresh for the taking. Don’t worry about tomorrow (or yesterday)!
We want to make the Ephraim Co-op as accessible as possible. These days, the majority of people (young and old) are all fairly tech-savvy. So, the Co-op will be available on our new church App, on our website, and as a physical print out.If you need physical print outs, please call the church office at 541.899.1287 and we will make sure you get them. But we highly recommend downloading our new church App and accessing the Co-op that way.
Our hope is that the Co-op also helps you connect with each other. To help facilitate these connections, we will be hosting Facebook Live events each weekday at noon on our Jville Pres Facebook page. Just log into Facebook, goto our Jville Pres page, and hear a few thoughts on the daily publication from a fellow JPC person. Then, since each week will have its own worship song, the worship band will play that song the following Sunday during worship. Plus, weare asking each small group/ministry to include the Co-op in their gatherings in a way that fits them. And lastly, we hope this opens a door for new people to connect and have meaningful conversations about faith with JPC folks.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but TJ Todd (our new Technology Director) has made a great graphic with several “easter eggs” hidden within it. As you grab your Ephraim Co-op Journal each morning, make sure you notice the graphic and what it represents!
Now, I realize that some of us have never had anything like a prayer journal,but reading and writing are important tools in the Christian’s tool belt. Think of King David, who was a warrior and a poet! David was able to fight a lot of battles and still find time and energy to write dozens of Psalms. Writing down what is weighing on our hearts—along with insights gained from Scripture—can be incredibly helpful. As the old saying goes, “a dull pencil is better than the sharpest mind.”
***Joy Tayler has ordered custom Ephraim Co-op Journals for all of us. To get yours, come to church on Sunday or stop by the church office Monday - Friday,9am - 5pm. Or, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to drop it off at your house or mail it to you!***
The Co-op will launch on Monday, September 14th. We hope you take the nextfew days and weeks to prepare your heart and mind for the task of trainingyourself “for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). I know this may be intimidating, but Itruly believe JPC knows how to rise to a challenge and come out stronger for it.May we “bear fruit for God!” (Romans 7:4)
Find a consistent place and time that fits your everyday life. Sit down, and pull out your pen, Co-op journal, cellphone, and a warm beverage! Open up the Appand work through the different parts.
Here’s an idea of how to use each part...
Opening Call & Response
It is so easy to be distracted in today’s world. In fact, distracted is often our preferred state of mind! But quiet the noise of the world and hear the voice of God call out “Where are you?” and respond like Moses, “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4).
Then, our first move is to come before God honestly with what is weighing on our hearts. “Here I am, Lord: I am angry, stressed, afraid, hopeful, joyful...” It’s vital that whatever you jot down in your journal is honest and authentic. It could be as simple as “Lord, I am afraid for our country. I am concerned about my family. My hope is that this virus goes away soon.. I long to get away from all the stress and go on vacation...” Then—importantly—surrender these to the Lord. They are in His hands.
This is a short prayer meant to help you develop a simple prayer life. We are taking them from the Church Fathers to remind ourselves that we believe the historic Christian gospel is true, compelling, and transformative.
Song of Reflection
Each week, we will have a song that ties in with our Scripture passages. You can listen to it each morning, or listen to it throughout the week. Then, you will hear it on Sunday morning during corporate worship.
Each day, there will be new chapters from the Old and New Testament and anew Psalm. The goal is immerse yourself in God’s Word. Jot down anything that sticks out to you or speaks to you. If you find something confusing or disconcerting, jot that down, too, and try to study the passage later using a Study Bible. Focus, though, on anything that speaks to your hopes, fears,concerns, and longings.
In closing, use the A.C.T.S prayer method (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving,and Supplication) to ask yourself the following:
What did I read in the Scripture passages that prove God is worthy of my adoration?
When I read the Scripture passages, what sins came to mind that I need to confess?
Despite all the things weighing on my heart, what can I still give God thanks for?
What do I need God to supply so that I can get through today?
We read a blessing from God as we embark on a new day.
1.) You can follow the whole guide or just focus on a part. There’s no need to feel like you must master this format and consume all the content.
2.) Some elements may seem repetitive, but that’s on purpose. Dig deeper, find something you hadn’t noticed before, and push on.
3.) The Co-op is designed to go through the entire New Testament and Psalms in a year, and the Old Testament in three years. That may seem like a long time,but habits are really just a “long obedience in the same direction.”
4.) Reach out to the people in your Community Group, Bible Study, or Care Group and text insights and encouragements from your own study. Or, join us on Facebook Live each weekday at noon to hear how other people are connecting with God.