A place where the elders, ministers, and ministry leaders of the Southeastern Church of Christ can share how God is working in their lives as they strive to serve the church that He has placed in their care.
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
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
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
Please join us in prayer for our families.
“Write these things for the future so that people who are
not yet born will praise the Lord.”Psalm 102:18
NOTE from the
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.
for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give
So then, whenever
we have an opportunity,
us work for the good of all,
and especially for those of the family of faith.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.
we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord;
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 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
The answer to that
question of “who” is: We are to see God through the image of his Son,
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
I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and
not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)
What do you
Christ your tradition or is he your savior and the Son of God?
What do you
believe you are called to be?
Christ ask of you?
How you are
you answering these questions today…right now?
Why do we
men so often feel it’s our paramount duty to have our job as #1 in our lives
and our faith as an afterthought…if at all?What holds us back from stepping up?Is it machismo?Is it pride?Is all that church stuff is just for women?
women are called to serve.While there
is much discussion about what women’s roles should be in our tradition, that is
not my focus right now.My focus is
simply serving and looking to do the work that God has called you and me to do.My focus right now is primarily on us men,
but it applies to everyone – men and women; young AND old.
What will it
take for you to engage? What will it take for you to get involved? What will it take for you to serve the Kingdom
of God better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today?
Don’t get me
wrong.I so appreciate the men that are
serving.I’m not going to list all the
ways that some men do serve…I don’t want to elevate one means of serving over
another.But consider that we are called
to grow, to mature, and to strive to be more and more like Jesus.And that requires that we step up and don’t
let fear of failure hold us back.
I Peter 4:10
of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful
stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.11 If anyone speaks, they should do
so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so
with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised
through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Step out.Serve.Stretch yourself. Remember that Jesus didn’t call in a bunch of
highly educated professionals to set up his kingdom on earth.He was a carpenter.Among those he called were fishermen, a tax
collector, some political agitator brothers, and a tent-maker who was also a
religious opponent.They stepped up to a
challenge that probably seemed pretty daunting.At times they doubted their success and at times they flatly
failed.Think in terms of what you do
for a living.If you ever took on more
responsibility at work, you stepped up!If you ever learned a new skill and then applied it to your craft, you
stepped up!If you ever learned how to
use a new piece of equipment and then used it, you stepped up!If you ever earned a designation,
certification or title, you stepped up! If you ever accepted that promotion to
a new level of responsibility, you stepped up! Every time you ever stretched
yourself to grow…a little or a lot… you stepped up and took a chance that you
might fail.I know there’s a chance our
brothers and sisters might sometimes be a tough crowd, but more often than not,
you’ll never have a more supportive and appreciative audience than your church
family – thankful for your willingness to serve them, their families, their
children, their community and the Lord.ALL of us have the obligation to encourage and support everyone that
steps up.And I have to keep in mind
myself that service cannot be allowed to replace spiritual growth and
maturity.The two should go
hand-in-hand.Perhaps one will help
encourage the other, but both are necessary.
your calling?What can you do?What are you willing to do?
everyone in our congregation to look for ways to start or expand their service
– men and women – but I’m primarily challenging the men right now.We need more men to share their skills and
their experience.Will it take time
from your week?Yes.Will it require some discipline?Probably.Will it be scary?More than
likely.I still fight the butterflies
EVERY time I get up in front of a group – congregation sized or class
sized.As for me, there are some things
I CAN do that I don’t like to do – I need to work on that.There are some things I do at which I need to
get better – I need to grow. No one
ever said that improvement is easy.
So what are
you waiting for?Your invitation to
serve and to grow was extended at the moment you accepted Christ.
service have you been called?Now
is the time to step up!
In this season we are surrounded by the factions and frictions of the human political order. Even among disciples of Jesus we find partisan political strife. We do well, in such a time, to think carefully and prayerfully about what God teaches us concerning our relationship to human power.
A year or two ago, on a visit to Great Britain, I found great interest and bitter controversy about a referendum in Scotland deciding whether Scotland should declare independence and leave the United Kingdom, or remain in it. While I was visiting, passions were enflamed; some thought such a move would be the greatest thing that ever happened and others thought it would be an absolute disaster. Yet I had little interest in which way the vote went! Why? I was not a citizen of the UK or of Scotland; I could not vote; and I would soon be moving on, as my visit was only very brief. “For our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul wrote, “from which also we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20).
As disciples of Jesus, we are to pass through this world of sin and sorrow, as our Lord did—teaching, preaching, and healing as we can (Matt 4:23). As we “seek first the kingdom of God and his justice,” all that we need to do that work will be supplied (Matt 6:33). We are not called to accumulate treasures on earth, “for where your treasure is,” Jesus says, “there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:19, 21). We have work to do on earth, seeking God’s kingdom—the rule of God—and sharing it as we can with all whom we meet. We have no call to promote any kingdom of the human order or any political faction of it. Abraham “looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). When we become obsessed with party politics, are we looking for the city of God or are we focused on a kingdom that is passing away?
Yet, someone may say, preacher X who has never written about politics has come out against candidate Y! So we must oppose candidate Y! If this be true then God’s Word will have something to say about it. In the time of the emperor Nero (who murdered Christians), our brother Paul writes to disciples of Jesus in Rome to “pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due” (Rom 13:7). In the first letter to Timothy, Timothy is encouraged to pray and give thanks “for kings and all in authority” (1 Tim 2:1-3). Timothy is to pray for King Agrippa, for the Caesars (even the vicious Nero), for all rulers whether he likes them or not. So also we should pray for rulers the world over—whether they are democrats or republicans, indeed whether they are good or evil. Let us pray that they do justice, that they love mercy, that they walk humbly (Micah 6:8), even that they speak the truth. It is not too much to ask! “With God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).
“The president recently asked for prayer as he faces the complex and dangerous challenges of leading our country in such tumultuous times,” Franklin Graham wrote in 2014. “His request was a pointed reminder to me that I should be praying for our president and our leaders every day—not to get something from them—but simply in obedience to the Scriptures. I personally haven’t prayed the way I should, and I’m sure that’s the case for some of you as well.” We can join in that prayer. Let us seek first the kingdom of God that is eternal. The kingdoms of this world are passing away.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48). Can we truly love the person whose political defeat is our obsession? Can we pray for that person, before and after the election? Whoever wins the election in November, God will still be in heaven—but will my heart, soul, and spirit still be focused on God? It is good to be informed and to understand what is happening in the world, for we must live in the world as witnesses for Jesus. Yet we do well to turn away from the 24-hour resentment factory that television networks and radio talkers and internet “bloggers” provide. We do well to love all human beings and to focus on the law of the Lord, which is “perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7) and know that men and women of God “delight in the law of the LORD, and in his law” on which we may “meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). We do well to “pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:17-18).
When I use the word “Faith”, what
comes to your mind?Probably your
religious belief.We’ll get to that, but
you should realize that you have faith in many, many things that have nothing
to do with religion.You have faith that
the sun will rise in the morning, that the lights will come on when you flip
the switch, that your car will start, and so many other things.Faith is the belief that something is true
and will happen.
I ride my bicycle for exercise. I
think an example of absolute faith is my faith in drivers - that they will see
me and steer away from me.If the
driver’s attention wavers, I would be at the mercy of their two ton
vehicle.When you drive, you have faith
that others on the road will stay in their lanes, etc.[Actually, I’m always amazed that there
aren’t many more accidents].
I’m just trying to get your thoughts
on faith broadened a bit.It’s true that
everyone has faith in something outside themselves. Even atheists have a belief
[a faith] in the fact that for them there is no overarching power [no God] in
If you have belief [faith] in
something, have you ever had events happen or something that caused you to begin
to doubt that your belief was correct.Of course you have.Well, the
same can be true for your religious belief.Have you ever begun to have doubts about “the whole religious
thing”?Come on, now.I have.Have you wondered how all the events have happened on planet Earth and
how a God could actually have created all this?Again, I have.The question then
arises, “Is it wrong to doubt”?No; a
resounding NO!So, what do you do
when doubts arise?I say ATTACK!What do I mean by ‘attack’?: look to the
real, historical Jesus who prayed earnestly to His Father God; talk to other
strong Christians; read articles/books by people who have worked through doubts
[John Clayton, C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and others]; tell God of
your doubts as you pray for what to do; and relax as some time passes.Don’t worry; our God is greater than any
challenge and understands your doubting. By working through your doubts I can
guarantee that your faith will end up being stronger!And by the way, doubts will keep arising over
time.They are not a “one and done”
phenomenon.Don’t be surprised, and be
ready for them.Remember; ATTACK !!
I’m going to present some different
definitions, thoughts, or stories about “Faith”:
Hebrews 11 is the best known Biblical definition.I like the way J.B. Phillips renders it in
his version:“Now faith means that wehave
full confidence in the things we hope for; it means being certain of things we
at God; unbelief looks at obstacles.”
·“Faith is NOT
having all the answers.”
·“Faith is holding
onto uncertainties with passionate conviction.” – Kierkegaard
·“Faith is NOT
the absence of doubts.”
·“Faith is believing
in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” – Yancey
·Luke 17:5 – “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase
our faith’.” We should offer the
same in prayer.
·“Faith is a
‘process word’; it should motivate us to action.” – York
us in John 20:29: “….blessed are those who have NOT seen and yet have believed.” [Jesus
didn’t denounce Thomas for doubt]
·A favorite story
“Legend has it that a man was lost in the
desert and dying for a drink of water.He stumbled upon an old, deserted, ram shackled shack.In it he found just a bit of shade from the
desert sun.As he looked around, he saw
an old rusty, water pump.He crawled
over to it and began to pump up and down.Nothing came out.
He struggled back to the
shade.Then he noticed an old jug off to
the side. He dusted it off and found an
attached note that read, ‘You have to prime the pump with all the water in the
jug my friend, and then you’ll get all you want. P.S.Be sure you fill the jug again before you
He popped the cork and sure
enough there was water.Suddenly he was
faced with a decision. If he drank the water, he could live. Ah, but if he poured the water in the old
pump, maybe it would yield all the water he wanted.What should he do?Pour the water in the pump and take the
chance of getting fresh water or drink the water in the jug and ignore the
Reluctantly he poured all the
water into the pump. Then he grabbed the handle and began to pump …. Squeak …….
Squeak ……Squeak – Nothing came out. Squeak ….. Squeak-- a little water dribbled out, then a small
stream, and finally it gushed!He drank
his fill of the cool, fresh, life-saving water.
Then he filled the jug to the
brim for the next traveler, put the cork on, and left a note: ‘Believe me; it really works. You have to give
it all away before you can get anything back’.”
Some items of background:1)I carry around an
home, I have a Mac computer.3)Apple automatically transferred the Mac
I-tunes to my I-Phone—much of it having been my girls’ collection from their
teen years, and often not my taste.4)I have Bluetooth in my car.5) Recently, my I-Tunes started playing
automatically when I start my car—a fact that I find rather frustrating.
Earlier this spring, I went through what my wife likes to
call a “period of disenchantment.”It
wasn’t deep enough to be depression, but I was in a consistent state of being
discouraged.Many of you know that I
have written a novel, and I had been looking for a literary agent for several
months—I have a collection of rejection emails.My job had been seeing some difficult issues.The eldership had been frustrating in some
ways, and I didn’t believe that I was doing a good job.To top it all off, I was struggling with my
own internal spiritual battles.Doubts
about myself.Doubts about God.Struggles with keeping my mind pure.And, let’s be clear—if you are struggling
with keeping your mind pure, that means that you are sometimes FAILING.Think about this—impure thoughts often lead
to bad decisions—‘nuff said.
All this leads up to Saturday morning, April 23rd.I was driving to the North Central Church of
Christ to attend ElderLink—and I just did NOT want to be there.Oh, sure, this was a great event with great
speakers.Church leaders from across the
Midwest were planning to be there.It
was a chance to meet new people and to learn new things.Normally, I’d be all over it with
excitement.Not this day.Nope.I was deeply “disenchanted” instead.Frankly, I had just exited one of those periods of struggle with my
mind, and I was feeling quite guilty.But,
I was going.
All the way there, I was praying.I was apologizing to God, and I was lamenting
my struggles.In essence, I was pouring
out my soul.I was hurting way down
deep, inside.As I turned into the
driveway at North Central, I was telling God, “I don’t want to be here.I’ll have to put on a face and act all happy,
but you and I know that I’m a mess.”
I sat in the parking lot for a while, continuing to pray and
not feeling any better.I watched as
Randy Harris, Carson Reed, and Robert Oglesby drove up, got out, and walked
in.I was still struggling in prayer and
not feeling one bit better.
The car was running.I was praying, but drawing it to a close as I steeled myself to put on
that happy façade.Finally, I grabbed my
I-Phone, and said one last thing:“Help
me, God.Please help me.”After that, I shut off the car and opened the
Then, my phone did something it had never done before.As I held it in my hand, it started singing to
“What in the world?” I said out loud.However, instead of looking for the silence
button, I decided that if it was going to randomly sing to me—well, maybe I
You guessed it.It
was singing a song that one of my girls had downloaded years before on the Mac.As crazy as this may sound, I am so glad I
listened.The song that my phone began
to randomly play was “Only Hope,” written by Switchfoot and performed by MandyMoore.The lyrics are just what I
needed—at just the right moment—right after I’d just asked God to help me.Here are some of the lyrics:
a song that’s inside of my soul
the one that I’ve tried to write over and
awake in the infinite cold
you sing to me over and over and over
I lay my head back down
I lift my hands
pray to be only yours
pray to be only yours
know now you’re my only hope
to me the song of the stars
your galaxy dancing and laughing
it feels like my dreams are so far
to me of the plans that you have for
I lay my head back down
I lift my hands and pray
be only yours
pray to be only yours
pray to be only yours
know now you’re my only hope
At that moment, my heart turned.I was still hurting inside, but now I was
ready to listen to God, and I was ready to go into the event, to see people, to
listen to the messages.I was ready to
You can write this off as a crazy coincidence, but it sure
felt like God meant for me to hear that message at that exact moment.That’s what I’m going with.Oh, and by the way, I got my literary agent
that very night.
I recently traveled on a business trip for meetings at our regional office in Minneapolis, MN. I always try to use the time between my meetings to meet people who I interact with via the phone or email so I can make a personal connection. It is always easier to work with someone you know personally. Late one afternoon, I decided to go down and meet the facilities services coordinator. His name is Lee Vang. We had only spoken on the phone once or twice and exchanged a few emails. From the moment I met him, I liked him. He had a very welcoming and genuine personality. Lee has a slender build, black hair and is about 5’3” and he speaks with a strong accent. Over the course of our conversation, I found out that he was from South Vietnam. His father had worked for the American CIA as a mine sweeper. When he was just 7 years old, his mother was killed in a night time mortar attack by the Viet Cong. When he was 9, his father was killed by a mine. A few years later, when he was 11 years old, the United States made the decision to withdraw from Vietnam. Lee was on a helicopter ready to be airlifted out of Saigon when his Uncle asked him to give up his seat for some other younger children to be saved. When all the helicopters had gone and the North Vietnamese army came into the south, Lee soon realized that he had a decision to make. If he stayed in Saigon, being the son of someone who had worked for the CIA would most likely subject him to being sent to a reeducation camp in Hanoi. (Years later over half of the people sent to these re-education camps would never return.) Lee decided to flee into the jungle. After surviving for two years, he made his way to Cambodia where he lived in a refugee camp. While he was there, he got the news that a Mennonite family from the United States would sponsor him to come live with them in Nebraska. After being raised in their home and struggling to learn English, he would work several different jobs when the family sent him to Minnesota to get his college education. Upon graduation, he started working for our company in Minneapolis and has been with the company now for over 26 years. Lee and his wife have raised three boys. His life is truly an American success story.
When Lee escaped South Vietnam, I was in the third grade at Edgewood Elementary School on the south side of Indianapolis. My biggest worries were missing the school bus or forgetting my lunch money. Years later when I was at Harding University, I would hear Captain Charlie Plumb tell his story about his experience in Vietnam. Born in Indiana he would attend the Naval Academy and became a fighter pilot. He had flown 74 successful missions over Vietnam and had just five days left before he headed home, when on his 75th mission he was shot down. He would spend the next six years in various North Vietnamese prisoner camps. Suffering brutal torture and near certain death he would survive to make it back home. Some time later, Plumb would meet the man who packed his parachute that saved his life many years before. Today, when Captain Plumb engages the people he meets, he asks them "Who is packing your parachute?" Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb states that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory - he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these before reaching safety.
Who is blessing your life today? Are you blessing the lives of others around you? Many times in our day to day routines and as we face rough times, we miss out on what really is important. We may fail to say thank you or hello, or please, or congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through today, this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes. Remember who is blessing you and share those blessings with others.
I John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love.
What motivates you in your faith?Most of you reading this article attend
church regularly.Why?What keeps you coming? What drives you?
For some it could be obligation.They feel an obligation to their family, to
their parents, to their spouse, or even to God.That obligation motivates them to come on Sunday mornings.That person comes in, sits in a pew, and
checks off an attendance box in his or her mind.“Hey, I was there,” they claim.“What more do you want?”
It could be habit.They’ve always attended and see no reason to stop now.“My family is here.I’ve always come.I’m just used to being here.What else would I do?”
Could it be guilt avoidance?You don’t want to feel bad inside, and coming to church soothes the
conscience.A couple of aspirin deadens
the leftover effects of Saturday night, and a little worship cleanses the mind
of that ache in the heart.
I know for me, in my earliest years, I simply loved God and
I wanted to be pleasing to him.So, I
came to church despite my inherent desire to sleep in.Later, it was about
relationships.My friends were there,
and I liked spending time with my friends.
Whatever the reason, most of you reading this come to
worship nearly every week.Week after
week after week.
And, I want you to really take a few minutes to consider
We always thank God
for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.We remember before our God and Father your workproduced by faith, your laborprompted by love, and your
enduranceinspired by hope in
our Lord Jesus Christ.1
After starting so well in my early years by loving God and
loving my friends, my motivation to attend and participate began to wane later on.I found myself losing my desire to serve.I wanted to blend into the crowds and become
anonymous.I went through a period where
I didn’t want to do anything but go through the motions.Frankly,
sometimes I still struggle with that desire to fade into the background.We probably all battle it from time to time.
I have a problem, however.
The problem is that the only way I can successfully fade
into the background and be an anonymous member is to let my faith decline.Why?Because faith runs counter to anonymous Christianity.Faith produces work.It makes you serve.Faith kicks you in the pants and tells you to
volunteer.If it is real, you can’t sit
on it.You cannot ignore it.The only way to deny faith its response it to
deny it a home in your heart—to sear it with the hot iron of selfish desire.
I have another problem.
I can’t sit back and be idle here at Southeastern because I
love God and I love his family.Love is
an obstacle to idleness because it prompts labor.Love is a poke in the side to keep me going.If I truly love God and love his family, that
love prods me to serve.I must be
involved.To deny the labor that love
demands is to excise it from your priorities.Or, to misplace that love on other things.
My last problem is hope.
Since I know of the hope of my eternal life in Christ and
the promise of residing in the presence of the glory of God, I know that I
cannot simply quit.I must endure.I must revive myself when my spirit is weary,
and I must do what one of my old mentors used to say:“Keep
on keepin’ on.”
Occasionally, I need to remind myself of David’s prayer in
Psalm 51:12.Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit
to sustain me.
Now, let me ask you again.What is your motivation?Is it
faith, love, and hope?Or is it
Week after week, we have opportunities to serve posted in
our bulletin, and week after week no one steps up.We need singers on the praise team, but no
one wants to make the commitment.We
need people to lock and unlock the doors, but we don’t want to come in a little
early or stay a little late to take care of that simple need.We need people to change the sign, but that
might mean coming in on some day other than Sunday.We need teachers for our children, but they
are a lot of work.
Every ministry needs help.Do we really need to track you down and beg you to serve?
Do you have the faith that will move you to step into one of these
roles?Do you have the love to prompt
you to labor?Do you know the hope that
keeps you going when you get weary?
Folks, if you love God and you love this church, step out
and step up.Put your faith into
action.There are a few among us who
have been volunteering all along, and some of them are tired.They need your help.They need your support.
If we all work together, we can do amazing things as a
church.However, it does require faith, hope,
And, the greatest of
these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13b
These are anxious times, no? There’s so much to be
anxious about: What if Trump wins? What if Hillary wins? What if I keep running
out of money before I run out of month? What if I don’t have enough saved up to
retire on? What if I don’t get a job that pays me enough to pay off my student
loans in a reasonable timeframe? What if my job is “outsourced”? What if people
find out about that really stupid thing I did/said? What if things keep heading
like they are; what kind of world will my children and grandchildren have to
live in? What if my health fails? What if…what if…what if…
the one hand, we might be tempted to just dismiss all this anxiety as
unrealistic and perhaps even ungodly: “Why, a lot of these things we are
anxious about will never happen. And, besides, God tells us not to worry.”
There’s truth there, certainly, but also, truth to tell, bad things, confusing
things, troubling things, difficult things do
happen in a broken world. There are things that happen to us in life that will
produce anxiety. (Notice in the reading from Jeremiah above, the year of
drought does come!)
So, is Peter just adding to our load of (anxious)
guilt when he famously says, “Cast all
your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5.7)?
is an emotional response to those bad, confusing, troubling, difficult things
that can happen in life. And we’ve been created for such emotional responses.
What matters is what we do with that emotion, with that anxiety. Will it run
our lives or will we manage our anxiety?
How does a Christ-follower manage anxiety?
know, it sounds like a “duh” thing to say, it’s the “correct” answer, the
“holy” answer. But I wish I could get back all of the sleep I’ve lost over the
years because I was anxiously turning something over and over again in my mind,
hours upon hours before I commit myself to praying about the anxiety-producing
me be clear, prayer in this case is not just, cannot be just, “Here’s what I
want you to do, God; now, sic ‘em!” God is not like the Pepsi machine in the
Fellowship Hall, where you just put in your money and get the very drink you
desire. Rather, the prayer that I have in mind, the prayer that (if I’d only
learn!) is most effective in quelling my anxiety is one in which I just say,
“God, forgive me for trying to run my life on my own. Help me to see what I
need to do to honor you in this situation. Help me to see past this anxiety
that’s blocking my view of you and everything else. Help me to let go of my
need to have an answer right this minute. Help me to just live into what you
can do with this.”
not very good at being transparent and sharing my anxieties with trusted
others. So, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else here. Here’s where I am on
this right now. I know this is the right thing to do, and I know that others’
perspectives are crucial in helping us manage our anxieties at times. I don’t
do that well. But what I do now find myself doing is just talking about whatever
it is that’s triggering anxiety with someone I trust. Not necessarily a
dedicated conversation. In fact, I usually try to be a bit casual about it all
(“Yeah, I’ve been concerned about X
lately…”). I have found that just talking about it, not looking for answers, but
just admitting to the anxiety, takes away its ability to overwhelm and control
me. And maybe with time I’ll even get better at transparency.
the future (God’s future).
tries to block our sense of the future, our trust that, with God, the best is
always (this side of eternity) yet to come. Paul writes these words in Philippians
4.6: Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known to God. But do you remember the words right before
that, the words right at the end of v. 5? The
Lord is near. Eschatological words, words that remind us that Jesus is
coming to set it all straight in the end. Regardless of how deep a shadow
anxiety casts, God has guaranteed the future.
of the cultural newsreel of my generation is the image of then-Alabama Governor
George Wallace standing in the doorway of the administration building at the
University of Alabama in 1963 to prevent two black students from enrolling. But
in the end, due to an intervention by the Kennedy administration, Vivian Malone
and James Hood were enrolled. But that’s not the end of the story. The
harassment and pressure on Malone and Hood was staggering and intense. A bomb
was set off near Malone’s dorm at one point. Hood soon transferred out. But Malone
stayed on and in 1965 became the first black person to graduate from the
University of Alabama. She went on to a distinguished career in public service.
After her death in 2005, someone who knew her made this statement about her:
“She had a way of casting herself into the future in order to endure the
present and it created a remarkable calmness about her.”
if in my anxious moments I learned to cast myself into the future, into God’s
future? What if I could but remember that this momentary anxiety does not mean
that God’s future is not real and is not (for certain!) on the way?
May God grant that no matter what happens in the
world writ large or in our own personal worlds writ small that we will embody
his calm and calming presence in a world filled with anxiety.
have made us for yourself, O Lord,
our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."