I’ll Praise You In the Storm

by Kevin Litchfield

This has been an interesting week for me as I have focused on the path of Hurricane Irma. The threat of that storm prompted at least 2 responses;:

1) worry and fretting or 2) action causing water and food and lumber supplies to literally disappear off the shelves.

But I wonder this morning if any of you are experiencing a different kind of storm in your life – an internal storm perhaps one that is physical, emotional, financial or even spiritual.

In the midst of that storm you too are faced with options: do you become paralyzed with fear and dread or do you lay them at the feet of our All Powerful and All Knowing Ever Present Father.

I would love to offer my company in the midst of that storm by praying for you / by standing in the gap for you.

As I thought about hurricane Irma this week I was reminded of a Casting Crowns song. Here are some of the lyrics.

I was sure by now, God you would have reached down And wiped our tears away, Stepped in and saved the day. But once again, I say amen That it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls I barely hear your whisper through the rain I’m with you And as your mercy falls I raise my hands and praise The God who gives and takes away

And I’ll praise you in this storm And I will lift my hands For you are who you are No matter where I am And every tear I’ve cried You hold in your hand

Praise You in the Storm – Casting Crowns with lyrics:

Your Next Step..

By Pastor Clay Smith 

 

Babies go from crawling to walking.  Teenagers go from walking to driving.  Adults go from driving to praying when their teenagers start to drive.  You have a next step, no matter what stage you are in life.

You have a next step spiritually. 

It’s up to you to decide if you take or not.  If you do, you will grow your soul.  If you don’t you will experience frustration with yourself, with others, and with God.

Ever meet someone who is continually frustrated?  They did not take the next step God laid before them.

No one can take this next step but you.  Your parents can’t do your spiritual journey for you.  Neither can your grandparents.  A pastor can’t do it for you.

This is a journey you have to do yourself.  If you don’t do it, it won’t get done.

So what’s your next step?

God wants you to take that next step.  Just like he:

    • Invited Abraham to go on a journey to a new land and a new future;
    • Invited Moses to go back to Egypt and lead his people;
    • Invited David to leave the sheep and be a King.

Jesus wants you to take that next step.  Just like he:

    • Invited Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their nets and become fishers of men;
    • Invited Matthew to leave his tax table and follow him;
    • Invited Paul to stop persecuting him and his people and be a missionary.

Not everyone accepts the invitation to take a next step:

    • The rich young ruler loved his money more than he wanted eternal life (ever wonder what he thinks now?);
    • One man volunteered to follow him until he heard there would be no Holiday Inn for the holy;
    • Religious leaders wouldn’t follow him because they would lose their power and prestige.

What about you?  Are you ready to stop a life of frustration and start taking your next step toward Jesus?

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Sunday…

With Apologies to Judith Viorst:

 I woke this morning with an empty feeling in my stomach and my head hurting.  I tripped over my shoes in the middle of the floor and couldn’t find my toothpaste so I had to brush my teeth with baking soda.  I got in the shower, and just when I got shampoo in my hair, the hot water cut off.  I hate cold showers.  I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

I went by Starbucks on my way to church.  The drive-through line was long, but I waited anyway.  I ordered a caramel latte with whipped cream.  I got an iced mocha frappuccino.  I hate iced mocha frappuccino.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

I pulled into the church parking lot and looked for a space.  All the good spaces by the door were gone.  There were guest parking spaces, but there were also people there hanging out like vultures.  I hate vultures.  So I pulled around back and found an empty piece of grass.  I hate parking on grass.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

I went to the nearest door.  It was locked.    I went to another door.  It was locked, too.  I hate locked doors. The third door was open.  When I went in, I didn’t know where I was.  I looked for a sign.  All l saw was a poster encouraging me to “Win a Million More in ’54.”  It was old.  Something smelled bad.  I hate things that smell bad.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

A man walked by in a hurry.  I hurried after him, asking, “Where is the worship service?”  He gave me a dirty look.  I hate dirty looks.  He said, “It’s that way.”  I wasn’t sure which way he pointed, so I just followed him.  He went through a door marked “Men.”  I found what smelled bad.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

I heard music.  I followed the sound.  I found a door with light shining under it.  The music was on the other side of the door.  I opened the door and walked in – right in front of the congregation.  Everyone stared at me.  I hate being stared at.  I tried to duck into the first pew I saw.  Someone tapped me on the shoulder and pointed.  I turned and saw the sign “Reserved.”  I hate reserved seats.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

I moved to another pew.  The music leader talked on and on and on about the next song we were going to sing.  I hate music leaders who talk instead of sing.  Finally, we started to sing.  Then he paused and said, “If you love Jesus, raise your hands high.”  I hate raising my hands. I’ll bet they don’t make you raise your hands if you love Jesus in Australia.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

We were told to greet our neighbors.  I turned around only to find everyone behind me had turned around and were laughing and talking with the people sitting behind them. I stood there like a dummy.  I hate standing like a dummy.  Then a man told us to sit down.  He told us about a trip, a meeting, and something called “Women’s Auxiliary.”  It sounded like a place you keep spare women.  I was bored. I hate being bored.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

The preacher got up.  He told us about his burden.  He told us how he had asked God to not make him deliver this message.  Then he started to yell.  He yelled for 45 minutes.  I hate being yelled at.  He kept telling us to “repent”, but he never told us what it meant to repent.  I hate it when I don’t know what things mean.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

Then came the offering.  The usher came and stood by me with a plate.  I didn’t have any cash so I shrugged my shoulders.  He gave me a dirty look.  I hate dirty looks.  I’ll bet they don’t take up offerings in Australia.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

The service ended.  I waited for someone to say something to me.  No one did.  I waited a little longer.  I saw my neighbors from across the street.  I thought they would come over and say they were glad to see me.  They ignored me.  I hate being ignored.  It was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

I found my way back to the smelly bathroom and out the back door.  I drove off.  It had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sunday.

I thought church was supposed to be about “Good News?”

I sure could use some.  I don’t want any more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.  I especially don’t want any more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Sundays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You Only Knew

By Rev. Kevin Litchfield

A Few weeks ago on our Cleveland Mission Trip, I was drawn to a​  passage in John 4 where Jesus challenges all social and religious norms and taboos by having a conversation with a Samaritan woman. In the course of the conversation Jesus opens up his reply with 4 words: “IF YOU ONLY KNEW.”

In verse 10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

I wonder how many times Jesus responds to us “IF YOU ONLY KNEW.” If you only knew: How close you were to falling or failing? How you quit praying when God just begins to answer? How you worry and fret and yet peace and deliverance is just beyond the horizon? How you forget this world is not your true home and the best is yet to come?

​As a network of Churches called the Santee Baptist Association, may we look with passion and enthusiasm to the future for we never know what lies ahead.​

IF YOU ONLY KNEW!!!!

The Lord Directs Our Steps

by Kevin Litchfield

Most recently, I was reminded of Proverbs 19:21, “Many plans are in a man’s mind, But it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand (be carried out).”

The Lord directs our steps. SO why try to UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING along the way.

The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord, And He delights in his way [and blesses his path]. (Psalm 37:23, AMP).

I was in Cleveland last week serving alongside a mission team of 23. Throughout the week we consistently saw that it is our job to encourage others and share the love of Jesus and leave the results up to God.

May together we learn to trust the Lord and not our own understanding of what we think God may or may not or should be doing.

Praying for an increase of the awareness of His Presence and Peace in the midst of trials, challenges, and successes.

My Squash Die.. by Pastor Clay Smith

In a fit of confidence, I set out tomatoes and squash this year.  My tomatoes have done great.  Nothing like home-grown tomatoes.

My squash, however, died.  I got two squash off four plants.  Not a good return on investment.

Most gardeners I know grow boat loads of squash.  In one community where we lived, bags of squash and zucchini would appear on our door step over night.  People weren’t being kind.  They just wanted to get rid of the stuff.  Zucchini bread multiplied.  I seriously thought we could add a room onto the house if we got just a few more loaves of zucchini bread.

If the stuff is so easy to grow, why did mine die?  I watered the plants.  I made sure they got fertilizer.  I did everything I needed to do.  Right?

There is a disease called “bacterial wilt.”  A cucumber caterpillar feeds on the plants and injects a bacteria which causes wilt.  Once wilt starts, nothing can be done.

The best way to fight bacteria wilt is to never let it start.  You get rid of the cucumber caterpillar.  I should have sprayed to kill it.  But I didn’t.  Being a lazy gardener, I thought maybe the cucumber caterpillars would leave me alone.  Maybe God would understand I was a busy pastor and didn’t have time to spray.  My excuses didn’t matter.  The squash still died.

Your soul can wilt too.

There is an infection that can wilt your ability to make decisions.  It can weaken your thoughts; it can destroy your feelings.  This infection can incapacitate your body.  It can ruin relationships.

The scripture calls this infection “sin.”  Before you dismiss the idea of sin as being old-fashioned, haven’t you seen its realities?  Haven’t you seen people with wilted souls?

The hard truth: you have wilted soul.  How do I know?  Because we’ve all invited sin into our lives.  We’ve all known the right thing to do and done the wrong thing.  Those choices – thousands of them – wilt our souls.

When souls wilt, people protest they fed their souls with art, pleasure, and intellectual stimulation.  Church people, bewildered, protest they fed their souls by going to church, studying scripture, and praying.  Protesting doesn’t change reality.

Your soul can wilt until you are left with a dried up life.  A dried up life produces no fruit.  A dried up life just takes up space.

Unlike my squash plants, there is hope for our wilted souls.  Our hope is the power of Jesus.

Jesus’ death and resurrection does not merely mean we go to heaven.  He entered our world.  He died to defeat the sin that infects us.  His resurrection means he conquered everything that wilts our souls.

Inviting Jesus into our souls brings healing.  He drives out the infection of sin.  He strengthens our weakness.  He rights our skewed feelings and thoughts.  He puts our relationships on a firm foundation.  That’s what the line in the old hymn means: “He makes the sinner whole…”

Let Jesus not only forgive your sin, but heal your wilted soul.  Then prepare to be amazed at the fruit that grows from your life.

If only Jesus would heal my squash.

 

Grace,

Clay

 

 

 

 

Come on Jesus! We’ll stay out of the way!

The story goes that the call to worship had just been pronounced starting Easter Sunday Morning service in an East Texas church. The choir started its processional, singing “Up from the Grave He Arose” as they marched in perfect step down the center aisle to the front of the church.  The last lady was wearing shoes with very slender heels.

Without a thought for her fancy heels, she marched toward the grating that covered the hot air register in the middle of the aisle. Suddenly the heel of one shoe sank into the hole in the register grate.  In a flash she realized her predicament.  Not wishing to hold up the whole processional, without missing a step, she slipped her foot out of her shoe and continued marching down the aisle.  There wasn’t a hitch.  The processional moved with clock-like precision.  The first man after her spotted the situation and without losing a step, reached down and pulled up her shoe, but the entire grate came with it!  Surprised, but still singing, the man kept on going down the aisle, holding in his hand the grate with the shoe attached.

Everything still moved like clock work. Still in tune and still instep, the next man in line stepped into the open register and disappeared from sight.  The service took a special meaning that Sunday, for just as the choir ended with “Alleluia! Christ arose!” a voice was heard under the church shouting… “I hope all of you are out of the way ‘cause I’m coming out now!”  The little girl closest to the aisle shouted, “Come on, Jesus! We’ll stay out of the way.”

What a powerful reminder to allow God to be God, to move among us, and have His way in our lives and His church. Far too often we try and do things on our own wisdom or strength. We do what makes us comfortable and easy.  We do what we always have done and follow our ways instead of God’s way.  May we always have the attitude of the little girl – “Come on Jesus!  We’ll stay out of the way.”

May we always remember, it is not about us, it is all about Him. To God be the glory, great things He has done, is doing and will do!

(Submitted by Pastor Neal Sweet, Northside Baptist Church)