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)

What I wish Mama Could See and Hear…

It’s been almost five years since my mother died.  She really left us years before, as Alzheimer’s robbed her of her mind.  Sometimes her eyes would lock on you and you could almost feel the part of her brain that was clear of memory robbing plaque trying to communicate.

People ask me from time to time if people in heaven know what’s happening on earth.  The honest answer is “I don’t know.”  God didn’t make that clear.  I do know when people die and go to heaven, they are not converted into angels.  That’s folk theology that isn’t taught in the Bible.  Sometimes I pray and ask God to tell my mother some things I wish she could see and hear.

I wish Mama could see her grandchildren now.  They are all grown and very good looking (some too good looking for their own good).  When Sarah and my niece Katie graduate next year, all of her grandchildren will have graduated from college.  She would be thrilled.  A college education to her represented a real achievement.  She’d be even more amazed that three of the eleven have Master’s degrees.

I wish Mama could hear me say to her, “The older I get, the smarter I realize you were.”  Like every adolescent in the world, I was convinced I knew more than her.  Now I know she had a wisdom that let me try and fail; that spoke her mind when she thought I was making a mistake; and that supported me even when she wasn’t sure about the path I was taking.  I also know that she must had many conversations with my step-father I never knew about, pleading my cause: “Lawrence, don’t make him go fishing again.  That’s just not him.”

I wish Mama could hear me say, “I forgive you.”  When I hear people talk about their perfect mothers, my skepticism kicks in.  I don’t know any perfect mothers.  My Mom had a wounded soul from a father who fell short and from losing a husband far too soon.  She could lose her temper and be very judgmental.  But in many ways, I think she did the best could.  She was like the injured runner who persevered, and finished the race.  As I’ve gotten older and faced my own shortcomings as a parent, I want to apologize for being so judgmental toward her and tell her “I forgive you because I know you were doing the best you could.”

I wish Mama could hear me say “Thank you.”  I never said it enough.  Maybe you don’t realize how much you have to be thankful for until your mother isn’t there.  I want to thank her for reading stories to me, for pushing me to be all I could be, for taking me seriously when I said at four years old, “I want to be a preacher.”  I want to thank her for her imperfect love, the best she could offer.  I want to thank her for being courageous after my father died.  I want to thank her for letting me go explore, which was really the beginning of my passion for next steps.

I wish I could give Mama a Mother’s day gift one more time – like the coffee mug I made for her in 3rd grade that looked like a piece of mud with a handle.  She kept it all her life, ugly as it was, because I made it.

But for me, the window of time has closed.  I can only pray that God lets my mother know these things – and lets her know I still miss her.  I don’t know if God passes on messages, but I’d like to think he does.

And if God passes on messages, I hope he passes on one more.  There’s one more message I’d like Mama to hear:

I love you.  Happy Mother’s Day Mama.

Grace

Clay

The Space “Between”

by Kevin Litchfield

I was reminded this week of a quote by Jim Branch that has really encouraged and challenged me over the last few years. He talks about the time JESUS walked on the water and invited Peter to come and join Him. Jim says:

“There has been one particular aspect of this story that has been a wonderful source of reflection for me lately. It involves the sacred space that JESUS invites Simon Peter to step out into. It is the space “between”… Between the boat and JESUS… Between letting go and being taken hold of… Between the old and familiar and the new and the unknown… Between control and agenda and dependence and detachment.

It is a space that is both completely terrifying and unbelievably exciting. It is the space before your answer has come or your problem has been fixed. It is the space where you must trust God alone for your life. It is the space of genuine transformation.”

If you find yourself today in the in-between space, try to keep your eyes on Jesus not on the impossibility and frustration of your current life situation.

“I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).

“Look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

The Lord Looks at the Heart

by Kevin Litchfield

As I have been praying for you, I have felt led to pray that you can be confident and secure in the place God has you. Don’t look around and compare.  You are God’s man, God’s woman, and this is your time.

First Samuel 16:7 echoes this when the Lord says to Samuel, “People look at the outward appearance (degrees, experience, success, church or ministry accomplishments, or growth, past hurts, etc.) BUT the LORD looks at the heart.”

I pray that you will have an incredible year and there will be times when you will encounter the presence of the Lord in a powerful way.

Focus on the “I-Will” Blessings from Psalm 91:

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”

Psalm 91:14-16

Thank you for making us feel very welcomed. We feel like we have come home. I am excited to see all God will do in and through the churches in Santee Baptist Association.

Kevin,

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

The Last Will and Testament of Judas Iscariot…

“I, Judas Iscariot, a troubled soul, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament.  In a few moments I will end my life, because I have committed the most despicable deed and I can no longer live with myself.

Just eight hours ago, I betrayed my Master, the one I believed would deliver my people from the Roman oppressors.  Now he hangs on a cross, beaten, sure to die before the sun goes down.  I will die before him, though only God knows what waits for me on the other side of death.

I began to follow Jesus three years ago.  I had heard of him, of course.  His teaching was like no other: plain, understandable.  A power radiated from him.  When he beckoned me to follow him, I cast aside my labor, left my father and mother, and went with him.  Something in him kindled hope in my own heart.

The miracles amazed me; such power!  Could such power be used against the Romans?  Could Jesus drive them out and restore the Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of God?  That was my hope, my dream, my passion.

I knew Jesus was closest to Peter, John, and James, of course.  But I knew I was special to him.  Soon after our journey together began, he approached me with the sack of money given to him by some well-meaning women.  ‘Look after it,’ he said.  He trusted me.

Why then did I betray this man?  I thought he was losing touch with reality.  During the past three months, he talked about his death and then coming back to life.  The words were clear enough, but we did not understand what he meant.  For all his talk about the Kingdom of God, it was plain he was not going to raise an army to fight the Romans.  The hopes I had for our people began to dim.

During this last week, it was obvious Jesus was on a collision course with our leaders.  It was on Tuesday, when he was teaching in the Temple, that something in me broke.  He spoke of being a judge, of coming back at an unexpected time.  I saw him turn his back on financial security for his ministry and watched perfume worth a great sum flow onto the floor, wasted with the dust.

The thought entered my mind: ‘What if I told the religious leaders where to find him?’ They would reward me.  Jesus would have the chance to show his power and be the Messiah I expected him to be.  Or I would realize my dreams had been placed in the wrong man.  Either way, I could force him to reveal who he truly was.

I made my deal with the religious leaders; I sought my chance; I led the soldiers to the place I knew he would be.  Then I called him “Master” for the last time and kissed him.

The soldiers pushed me aside. I stood on the fringes of his trials.  A sinking feeling began to overtake my heart.  Why was he not displaying his power?  As I watched him stand before Pilate, a wave of nausea hit me.  He was going to let himself be killed.  I knew nothing he had done was deserving of death.  A rush of memories flooded my soul: the time he calmed the storm, the way he smiled at me, the compassion in his voice when he told me last night, ‘Do it quickly.’

As they led him off to Skull Place, I charged the smirking priests.  ‘He’s innocent,’ I cried.  ‘Stop this!  Take back your money.’

With cynical smiles they smirked, ‘It’s out of our hands now, and yours.’

I threw the money at them and ran from the plaza.  I passed a rope dealer and a plan leapt into my mind.  I purchased a length of rope, enough to do the job.

Now, I sit under the shade of this tree, penning these words, in hopes that whoever finds them will learn from me:  I should have stayed with Jesus, even when I did not understand.

I leave my cloak, my sandals, and my all my possessions to my brother Justus.  May my shame not touch him or my parents.

A hangman’s noose awaits.  God have mercy on my soul.”

Will you stay with Jesus even when you do not understand?

Grace,

Clay

 

 

Your Unique Vision

by Kevin Litchfield

I have been reading a book lately called Church Unique by Will Mancini. One section jumped out at me. I believe it is one of our deepest traps among churches and leaders. The trap of copying other leaders or churches instead of leading in a way that is Unique to your church and ministry. listen to what he says: “Leaders in the vortex of the ‘VISION VACUUM’ clamor for the right tools, programs, and resources to propel their church forward… The result is massive cloning and a glut of photocopied vision in the body of Christ…” Mancini says though there is a better way. A better way of leadership includes the discipline of careful observation and vibrant imagination, and demanding collaboration that forges a UNIQUE VISION based on what God is uniquely doing in each church’s unique context… Until leaders not only embrace uniqueness but celebrate and leverage it, they will miss out on God’s best for their ministry. The answer is having a vision that oozes, that is original, organic, zeroed in, and extravagant. When leaders start thinking clearly, engaging locally, focusing redemptively, and risking boldly, their church becomes an unstoppable force and an irresistible influence.”

May we be Kingdom people who seek the eyes and ears of Jesus..

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT)

Have A “Put On” Attitude

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:12-17).

These words stand out in these verses:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience.

Compassion:  Sympathy says, “I hurt with you.”  Empathy says, “I feel your pain.”  Compassion says, “I’ll do anything I can to stop your hurt. Kindness:  Love in action.  Meeting the needs of others; physical, mental, emotional. Humility:  Admitting mistakes, sharing responsibility; sharing credit. Gentleness:  Strong strength.  Handle people with care.  Meekness is strength under control. Patience:  Putting up with those you’d like to put down.

“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (v. 14).

The Greatest Gift: Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.”  All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.  It’s like this: when I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood, and now I have put away the childish things.  In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.  There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.