Sunday, January 29, 2017

Showing Up to Serve by Steve Faidley


Showing Up To Serve

 

Our Mission Integration Director, Glenn McDonald, serves as our “chaplain” at my employer.  Glenn is also a former minister.  He sends us a daily “reflection” to start our day.  It’s a reminder each day that God is with us.  It’s a reminder to integrate our values into what we’re doing.  It’s a reminder to think outside of ourselves.

 

Glenn recently offered up the following reflection:

Image result for empty restaurant

“A few years ago I arranged to meet a good friend of mine, a pastor on the north side of Indianapolis, for lunch.

 

We decided to try a restaurant well known for its savory Italian dishes. 

 

We walked through the front door at high noon.  Interestingly, there was no one to greet us.

 

Far across the dining room we could see a few tables of customers being tended by a single server.

 

Looking toward the kitchen, we could see three cooks.

 

They were standing motionless, looking at us plaintively. 

 

OK, I thought they were looking at us plaintively.

 

After five minutes the manager appeared.  He was deeply sorry, but he couldn’t seat us. 

 

Only one server had come to work that day, and she had her hands full with those who had already arrived.

 

My friend and I looked at each other.  We were both hungry.  So we walked across the street and ate at McAlister’s. 

 

It occurred to us that we had just experienced a living parable of God’s kingdom.   

 

The world is full of hungry people.  Cooks are waiting to feed them.

 

But there aren’t enough servers. 

 

Until the servers show up, not many people are going to be seated. 

 

Or cared for.  Or fed.  Or inspired to become servants themselves who will feed still others.

 

Do you want to do something spectacular today?  Something that will deepen and extend God’s reign on earth?

 

Show up and serve.”

 

I noticed two things in Glenn’s message:  the importance of relationship – he starts by sharing with us that the setting of this experience was while building relationship with another minister friend – and what it takes to serve. 

 

As we start a new year at Southeastern, I am challenging myself and all of my brothers and sisters here to improve our “serve.”  We have some exciting changes expected this year!  We have our building project kicking off this spring!  We expect to have our permanent children’s education minister in place!  We expect to have new elders working with us!  What more can God do with us if we open up to His leading and trust Him?

 

An upgraded building is just a building until and unless we are using it fully as a tool for the Kingdom.  A tool takes human hands to show up and put it to use – that’s our service in action.

 

Biblical education (children or adult) is the very best food for our souls, but it’s just knowledge until and unless we let it change our hearts and trust those teachings in building relationships with each other.   

 

We may have elders appointed to shepherd this congregation, work with the ministry staff and lead this body where God would have it to go.   But we are all tasked to take charge however we are able in our relationships with God, as an active, participating part of this body, and in leading others to Christ.

 

Our service in God’s kingdom is more than just showing up and filling a role or doing some work.  Our service to God is also being there for each other.  We serve by building relationships with each other.  We serve by supporting each other.  And it takes time.  This morning, we should greet each other.  We should welcome all.  But let’s all challenge ourselves at least once this morning to do more than exchange the usual, “Good morning!  How are you?” and take a little time to ask about and share what’s troubling us and what’s been a blessing.  Let’s start making it a habit to join others for lunch if we’re going out anyway.  Let’s plan ahead and invite others to join us for a meal at our homes.  We have small groups that can help us nurture our relationships, care for each other, and feed hungry souls.  Let’s engage each other in deeper spiritual relationships, tear down our walls of privacy, and share so others can pray with us and for us and take better advantage of our Almighty God’s power that he longs to use in our lives.

 

We should all be willing to serve the Lord by serving one another by giving up time, effort and space in our lives to share.  Some are well along in that journey.  Some are just beginning.  Let’s put aside judgement and fear and put on love and compassion.  Let’s all show up and serve each other.  And as we start 2017, our outpost of the Kingdom here at Southeastern will be strengthening our foundation to do amazing things for God!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

When Do You Feel Closest to God? by Frank Black


WHEN  DO  YOU  FEEL  CLOSEST  TO  GOD?

(F. Black – Nov. 2016)

 

            John Clayton has been with us and gives indisputable, specific, scientific evidence for a Creator God.  This information helps to absolutely confirm our faith and arms us to speak to others more authoritatively about the existence of our Almighty God. 

            But I want to ask you a personal question.  When do you feel closest to God?  - or feel His presence the most.  There is no ‘right’ answer here.  It’s personal with you.  Perhaps it’s seeing a child being born; during a worship service; witnessing something in Nature [God’s creation]; many other situations or events.  For me it’s seeing the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

 

            Romans 1:19-20 - “What may be known about God is plain to people, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

            Psalm 19:1-4  – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

 

            I was 24 years old, having just finished my 3rd year in medical school.  My brother-in-law, Jim Brantly, was graduating from medical school.  Jim’s father and my father-in-law, Kermit Brantly, generously paid our families’ way on a trip West as a graduation present – to the Rocky mountains and Yellowstone National Park.  We were in two cars – yours truly with Lou Ann and 18 month old Melanie in our trusty Volkswagen. I witnessed the supreme grandeur of the majestic Rocky Mountains for the first time.  I was awestruck. [In later years Colorado would become our families’ ‘vacation state’ – skiing, camping, and backpacking].  

 

            [As an aside; recently I was talking to Jill Wells, who had just returned from seeing the Rocky Mountains for the very first time.  Her eyes and voice reflected the joy and the wonder of seeing them.  [“like a small child in a candy store”]

 

            To me Nature [God’s creation] is a ‘reflection of God’; or as one author put it, Nature is “God’s echo”.  So, as I’ve made obvious, I feel closer to God in the mountains – where the beauty, quiet, solitude, majesty, vastness, and peace are ever present.

 

[My “God Place”]

Vallecito Lake is a few miles outside Durango, Colorado, and the trailhead in the San Juan Mountains leading up to Columbine Pass.  Every inch is fantasically beautiful as we climb some 3,000 feet up winding switchbacks among the glorious pines and aspens.  The beauty easily overcomes tired feet and muscles.  [I see the scene and smell the aroma even as I write.].   It’s an arduous climb to Columbine Pass.  You have to pay the price to get the reward. Just before getting to the tree line above which trees don’t grow, we cross over a roaring stream and climb a small embankment which conceals the best campsite of all campsites.  It’s not visible from the trail, and we discovered it by serendipity.  It’s flat there, which nicely accommodates our tents, and is surrounded by large pine trees, whose needles make for a soft ground cover.  Another small stream can be heard nearby as it cascades down and before joining the larger stream we crossed.  This is the nirvana of all campsites.  I hope you can ‘see it’.  From the campsite, as you look further up the mountain, the tree line is barely a quarter mile away.  Beyond that the trail continuously winds its way to the Pass at about 13,000 feet.  The Pass is a ‘notch’ between two mountains.  After crossing the Pass, the trail then leads down to Chicago Basin. 

The campsite is a welcome respite but only a prelude to the ultimate ecstatic experience of reaching the top of Columbine Pass.  This is where I feel the closest to God.   This very spot!  The beauty of His creation here is indescribable.  You have to experience it.  “...Be still and know that I am God….”   Just take it in.  At the Pass you feel on top of the world and can see the panorama of God’s vast phenomenal creation all around you [360 degrees]. 

I draw on this experience [and others from Nature] frequently. Why?  To feel that special closeness to God again; when I’m feeling ‘down’; when I need a positive thought; when any doubts about God creep in.  I hope you have some events or experiences you also draw on.  Your “spot” – that special memory.  If not, capture some special times or places and cement those in your memory to be called on when needed.     

 

            “Oh Lord my God; how Great thou art”

Friday, September 9, 2016

Meditation in the Bible by Terry Gardner

Meditation in the Bible
 
by Terry Gardner
 
Meditation for a disciple of Jesus is to think deeply and carefully about the Word of God.  To meditate, according to dictionaries, is “to contemplate, think, consider, ponder, reflect, deliberate, ruminate, or to mull something over.” Thinking, to find understanding, to find meaning and value, defines us as people of God. We are called to “set your minds on things above, not on things on earth” (Col. 3:2).
 
Some things are necessary for meditation. We need quiet . . . and we may find real quiet more elusive in the twenty-first century than ever before. Quiet requires turning off all the background noise—the television, radio, “smart” phone, texting, computers, snap-chat, and our innumerable “devices.” When the patriarch Isaac wanted to meditate he went into the field in the evening (Gen. 25:63).  In the wisdom psalms, a great source for our understanding of meditation, we find the psalmists again and again walking out to look up and to look around them, considering the wonders of God’s creation, the work of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars, the earth and everything in it, as in Psalm 8:3-8.
 
When I turn off all distractions there is soon nothing left except for me and God. Meditation forces me to deal with who I am and what I am. Sometimes we want the noise because we are hiding from God. Sometimes we want to shut off the noise of the world but find that we cannot. I am in many homes where television or radio constantly provide background noise that may crowd out our relationship with God. When we want to meditate we must find quiet.
 
We need to drink deeply of the Word of God.  In the wisdom psalms, one who is blessed finds “delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2).  Do we delight and discover joy in God’s Word?  Is thinking and reflecting on the way of the Lord what gives us happiness?  In Psalm 1:3 such a person will be “like a tree planted by rivers of water” that bears fruit and “in all that he does, he prospers.”  In Psalm 119, a praying meditation on the will of God, the psalmist exclaims, “Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). In the wisdom of Proverbs, a father instructs his son to “be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to the one who finds them, and healing to all his flesh” (Prov. 4:20-22).
 
Consider that our brother Paul tells Christians that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).  How may disciples of Jesus find that peace?  Paul knows that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, if anything is worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).  When we visited  with Ruth Sawyer before she died, she showed to Connie and me one hundred note cards of Scriptures that she was memorizing.  She was more than 80 years old at the time, but still learning and meditating on God’s Word.  Do we think about things true, honorable, right, pure and lovely?  Do we find times and places to focus on those things, to mull them over?  To ask how we can be better persons?  Better Christians?  Better friends?  Better neighbors?  Are we looking for the peace of God?  Let us spend time with our creator in meditation and in prayer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The OLYMPICS and GRACE by Frank Black


The OLYMPICS and GRACE

(F. Black)

 

          Those of you who know me well, know that I’m somewhat of a “sports trivia nut."  And I’m particularly an Olympics freak – I watched everything from badminton, to men’s and women’s wrestling and rugby, fencing, shooting, basketball, kayaking, gymnastics, track and field, and on and on – some 42 different sports and 306 events.  [Yes, I’m retired and can do this.  Even Lou Ann really “got into it.”]  I know some of you could care less, but bear with me and the analogy I’m presenting.

 

          First, if you don’t know, I’ll have to describe for you the ruling of “False Starts” in some Olympic events (sprinting events and swimming events particularly).  A ‘False Start’ is when a runner or swimmer in their events starts early or even flinches after the race starter says “SET” (remember: “ready, set, go”).  Anyone who starts early, flinches, or in any way distracts another racer after the starter says “set” is immediately disqualified!   That’s right. No second chance!  A world class athlete, after years of rigorous training, dieting, expenditure, and personal sacrifices, is OUT.  They’re finished for that event.  Can you even imagine the emotional agony, the anguish, the disappointment, the failure and loss for them?  Is it fair?  I personally don’t think so, but my opinion carries no weight with the Olympic Committee.

 

          So, where am I going with my analogy?  I’m making the case that “False Starts” in the Olympics are the exact opposite of God’s grace.   I think the “Why?” may be obvious:  In the Olympics you get one chance and one chance only.  With our Lord we get no end to the number of chances (of ‘false starting’, of fouling up, of sinning).  It’s called GRACE.  Our God is the God of second chances – and many, many more.  Isn’t this absolutely FANTASTIC for us!  Absolutely!  Our God is a God of infinite patience and forgiveness towards you and me.  God is NOT wanting us to fail or “false start," not wanting to condemn us.  No, he wants the opposite.  Because of His love for us, He forgives and forgives, waits and waits on us, and despite whatever the ‘dirtiness’ is in our lives, He’s there to say “WELCOME!"  This is called GRACE.

 

          For those who have thought or continue to think that God doesn’t want me or I’m not deserving of God because I’ve done such and so à  YOU HAVE IT BACKWARDS.  I can just assure you that, YES HE DOES WANT YOU!  [Remember, it’s the opposite of the “False Start” rule in the Olympics.]  No matter what your circumstance, no matter how long you’ve done or been whatever, no matter what others have told you, our God of love and forgiveness and infinite chances wants YOU.  He will accept you willingly and lovingly with all your ‘baggage.’ Don’t be stopped from prayerfully and lovingly approaching God by any of your life’s circumstances.  It’s never too late.  Isn’t God’s Grace beyond marvelous!! 

 

          Matthew 20:1-16  tells us this truth.  It’s Jesus telling the Parable of the workers.  The workers who came last and worked only one hour got the same pay [reward] as did those who had worked all day.  So it is with those of us who decide to follow our God and His Son at any time.  The timing has nothing to do with the ‘pay’ – the result – our reward.  It’s the same for all.  Again, it’s called GRACE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Caring for our Children by Carolyn Jackson


August, 2016

Dear Church Family,

As parents, grandparents, and others that are caregivers, we have made it a priority to keep our children safe and healthy.  We make sure to teach them right from wrong and how to be alert in traffic.  Medical checkups and dentist appointments are at the top of our lists when caring for our children.  When it comes to our children’s eternal lives, are we as diligent with their care?

The remodeling of the Children’s Wing is almost at an end.  The Bible classrooms are in use as well as the Kid’s Praise Worship Center.  Our teachers are educated Christian servants with a passion for teaching God’s Word to this generation of children.  The teachers are using many different learning styles and activities to help teach the children of God’s love for His people.

We ask your help by bringing your family to Bible class and worship.  The Children’s Wing has Bible classes for ages 3 years through 5th grade.  The Kid’s Praise Worship Center is for ages 3 years through 3rd grade.  Bible classes begin at 9:30am and Kid’s Praise runs from 10:30am until approximately noon.

Kid’s Praise begins with songs of praise and thanksgiving.  The teaching staff is served communion, and the children are given the opportunity to give to the Lord’s Church.

Please join us in prayer for our families.

Carolyn Jackson

“Write these things for the future so that people who are not yet born will praise the Lord.”  Psalm 102:18

NOTE from the Elders:

The elders have asked Carolyn Jackson to serve as the interim lead for the Children’s Bible Class and Kid’s Praise programs until we find a permanent program director.  She has graciously agreed to shoulder the responsibility.  She has our full support and encouragement as she takes on this important task.  Please be supportive of her efforts.  We agree with her sentiments in the letter above.  There is no greater responsibility that we have as parents than the spiritual training of our children.  We urge you to take advantage of these programs.  Better yet, jump in and lend a hand.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Kindness of Strangers by Greg York


The Kindness of Strangers          

 

…let us not grow weary in doing what is right,

for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

So then, whenever we have an opportunity,

let us work for the good of all,

and especially for those of the family of faith.

 Galatians 6.9-10

 

As I write this in the early morning hours of August 3, I am in my mother’s room in the Palliative Care wing of Baptist Hospital East in Louisville. If the phrase “palliative care” does not immediately register a connotation for you, here’s what that means: we have crossed the point where therapeutic measures will be taken. It is now about comfort. It means that, while we still do not know how long this leg of the journey is, at the end will not be a return to the status quo ante, at the end will not even be something that could be described as a partial recovery; at the end of this particular journey will be the end of my mother’s life this side of eternity.

 

As that reality has gained its current state of crystal clarity this week, it has become more and more apparent that what she is facing is not something for which a new med or a good night’s sleep is a solution. I think I had been suspicious (afraid?) of this outcome since she suffered a stroke on July 14. Her health had been in fairly sudden and rapid decline for about two months, but the stroke was the heaviest blow.

 

Since then, it’s been a journey of ups and downs, confusion and even some levity, and during much of that time my mother and all of us were (with apologies to Tennessee Williams) dependent upon the kindness of strangers. I’ve thought in these last couple of weeks and particularly these last couple of days of the many “strangers” (people previously unknown to us) who impacted this journey. Specifically, my mother has received (with very few exceptions) extraordinary nursing care. We have been blessed beyond measure to be in the care of nurses and nursing assistants who tended well to her physical and medical needs, but who did so with (is there any other word?) love. Even though we were not the “patient,” they also dealt with my father, my sister, and me with honesty and compassion and (yes, here’s that word again) love.

 

I know you don’t know any of them, but I want to list the names of these strangers who loved their way into our hearts as a way of honoring them: Kathy, Shellie, Kirstan, Rebecca, Marisa, Amie, Karla, Robyn, John, Ly (pronounced “lee”), and Torie (whose prayer over my mother and for my Dad as they were preparing to move to Palliative Care was one of those moments when the veil is torn back and heaven and earth are briefly, tantalizingly one). Cheri and Vicki and Katie in Palliative Care have already been amazing medically and emotionally. Dr. McCracken (who in my state of advanced years looks like he needs a note from his mommy to practice medicine) did an amazing job of walking my Dad through the medical realities as he made the decision about palliative care, a walk filled with compassion and honesty.

 

Sitting with my mother over many nights the last three weeks, I’ve had a chance to think about many things. As I considered the kindness she was receiving from so many “strangers,” and as I considered the influence of my mother on my life, my mind kept going back to one “stranger” whose kindness I remembered afresh and whose kindness I have been reminded anew to be grateful for. I wish my mother had been where we could have talked more about this, as I find my memory now not as clear on this as it should be. Anyway, the story as I remember it:

 

My mother did not have the greatest of childhoods. Her parents divorced in a time when there was more stigma attached to that for children than there is today. Responsibility for younger siblings thrust on my mother at an early age. She and various combinations of siblings were bounced around from relative to relative on both sides of the family at times. It was never a stable situation financially for her. That said, I don’t know that she would have described it as an unhappy childhood – you just don’t know better when you’re living in the midst.

 

By the time she entered junior high (as it was called back in those long ago days), seventh through ninth grades, though, she well knew she was not one of the blessed, one of the elite. One day in Home Ec class, someone of more social standing openly mocked my mother. (Yes, there were “mean girls” even in the late 1940s!) I’m sure that for a split second my mom’s self-esteem was exploding into a million pieces. But in that split second, the teacher intervened in a way that simultaneously affirmed my mother’s worth and sent the other girl sprawling down off of her high horse of false superiority.

 

But more, that teacher, Pearl Davis, became from that moment a mentor to my mother, taking her under her wing, encouraging her academically and socially through the rest of junior high and even on through high school. She saw potential in her and affirmed that on a consistent and ongoing basis.

 

I remember Pearl Davis as a much older woman because some times when we’d go to Lexington to see family when I was a child, there would also be a visit to Miss Davis for her and my mom to reconnect. My memories are of a distinguished but warm woman. I know also there were regular exchanges of cards and letters between her and my mother over the years. I want to say (I have vague memories of this…) that when I would accomplish something in the early years of my schooling, a congratulatory note from Miss Davis might soon arrive. I imagine the same was true for my sister.

 

I do not think I have thought of Pearl Davis for many years. The visits stopped probably when I was about junior high age. Maybe I just got to an age where I didn’t tag along anymore. Maybe Miss Davis had died. I just don’t remember. After Miss Davis and her influence on my mother returned to my mind these last couple of weeks, I’ve thought many times, as I said earlier, that I wish my mom were in a state that I could pull up some more details out of the well of memory.

 

It occurs to me that despite the fact that in many ways Pearl Davis is a stranger to me, she is a big part of why my mother is who she is, and thus is a big part of why I am who I am. I do not think it is overstating it to say that Pearl Davis made a difference for good in my mother’s life and that, in turn, made a difference for good in my life.

 

Who is your Pearl Davis? Be sure to tell them thank you.

 

To whom are you being Pearl Davis? You never know how far your influence might go. And that is particularly so when your influence on them is influenced by Jesus Christ’s influence on you.

 

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord;

so then, whether we live or whether we die,

we are the Lord’s.

Romans 14.7-8

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Is There an Energy Crisis in the Kingdom? by John Wright


Is There an Energy Crisis in the Kingdom?                                                     
John Wright   

The lifestyle we enjoy in this modern age has caused us to be very dependent on our access to affordable and abundant energy supplies.  We need power to run our cars, light our homes, and to keep us comfortable with instant heating and cooling.  Even our ability to work and do our jobs depends upon our connection to information and data that streams around the world.  It would seem that all of these advances would give us more time to work in God’s Kingdom, but the question is, “how is that working out?”  The answer for most of us, including myself, is not very well at all.

Today at work, we lost all our power.  For two hours, we had no lights, phones, internet, or working cash registers.  That was a big inconvenience, but we remained open and got every sale that there was to be had because we turned no one away, and we used the basic tools available to us in order to get the job done.  I was very happy when the power came on and it gave me a renewed appreciation of the modern tools and the power that makes our lives easier.  Now, this causes me to wonder.  Is it the modern age that has made us so busy that we have less time for God?  Or, could it be that we have taken our eyes off of God because the energy that powers our world is oil, electricity, and technology?  Church, the answer to our crisis is to plug back into God.

Jesus said in Mark 12:24 (NIV)—“Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”

If we do not know the Bible, no matter how educated or tech savvy we are, we will never know where real and abundant power comes from.

Hosea 4:6 (NIV)—My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

Knowledge is very important, but it is not what we know, but “who.”

John 1 (NIV)—In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  Later in the chapter, it says in verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The answer to that question of “who” is: We are to see God through the image of his Son, Jesus. 

Since we know these things, I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of opportunities to know God.  Read your Bible, and attend one of the Bible classes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.  I know we are all busy, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV) – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 

To not plug into God’s power is just like letting our electricity be turned off.  His power is ready to be streamed; we only need to connect and it will work in any old jar of clay.

There does not need to be an energy crisis in this outpost of God’s Kingdom.  Just come and sit at the master’s feet.

Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)—“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  

My prayer is that more of God’s people will become actively involved in everything offered here at Southeastern.

Peace and love.