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!!!!

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.

Fishers of Men by John Sorrells

A friend took me fishing last month at Lake Wateree. We talked about church.  We talked about our mutual love for God’s people and a desire to see God do great things through His church.  We long to behold His glory.  We spoke of the church’s purpose lead people to and grow people in Christ.

We were watching the birds flying all over the lake and it reminded me of some vivid pictures of our church in this community. The birds come to Wateree in the winter for food.  The circle of life works this way: the stripers chase the shad to the top where the birds feed also on the shad. Men look for the birds to catch the stripers.  From a boat you can observe several things.  Birds that the fishermen call scouts fly up and down the lake seeking the disturbance of water.  Often the birds flock together encircling something that appears to be activity.  It often ends up being a loon.  Here’s the take on the loon.  There are shad there, but the loon dives deep to feast.  I will address that later. It is unmistakable when finally a real feeding frenzy is observed on the top of the water.  All the birds within sight come to where the food is readily available. They come quickly. Boats also motor to the spot with eager, ecstatic fishermen.

Many in the world are spiritually hungry whether they are cognizant of it or not. In all cultures we find many flying from frenzy to frenzy in search of meaning in life. There are frenzies that offer a smorgasbord of the spiritual—other religions, philosophies, mysticism, cults and paganism.  For some, they may find that others are feeding but they have no means to feed.  Like gulls among loons, there is food but it is too deep for them to come to the table.  The content or the approach may be too deep and they are left searching with empty souls.  There are others, in the case of the gulls the majority, who spot the frenzy that only shad on top of the water can produce, and they flock there to gorge themselves on the abundance of food being offered at the top, readily available.  Here is the takeaway for the church in 2017.

The church has to be where the food is readily available to all. The church is where the food, God’s word of Truth, is feasted upon and available to others throughout the world.  The result of a church feeding together on Truth should impact its community.  The church must produce scouts who go out into our community and constantly point the searching to where there is abundance of truth.  Our feasting upon truth will grow us all and will create a frenzy that attracts the hungry to feed with us. Come and eat!  Invite others to the table.  Help others to feed.

“We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Colossians 1:28

Christmas Travel by Clay Smith

I’ve always traveled at Christmas.  Growing up, it was going to Kissimmee to stay at Granny’s house with all the other cousins, trying to stay awake to hear Santa arrive.  I never made it.

After my mother married my step-father, our routine changed.  We did Christmas Eve with Pop’s mother, then we went to Pop’s first wife’s parents (I never could never understand why I didn’t get the same amount of presents as my step-brother and sister), then to Kissimmee, then on Christmas Evening we returned home to be ready for the day after Christmas.  In two days, we would cover over 300 miles on the highways of Central Florida.

The grandparents passed away and the journeys were modified.  There was still the Prescott gathering on Christmas Eve, but now we stayed at the ranch for Christmas morning before going to Kissimmee.

When I met Gina, everything changed.  We worked out that we would spend Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with hers.  The December we got engaged, I drove from Kentucky to Gaffney, SC in a snow storm after conducting a midnight Christmas Eve service at the church I pastored. It was pretty romantic until I feel asleep at Christmas dinner.

When we moved to Sumter, our tradition changed again.  We would wake up Christmas morning to the delights of Santa, and then pack up and drive to Gaffney to have Christmas dinner.  The kids usually complained about trip but fell asleep on the way.  Even in their twenties, they still nap on the way to Gaffney on Christmas Day.

I know my travels are nothing compared to what some of you have experienced: traveling home from halfway around the world, praying there are no delays and hoping you make it home for Christmas.

Yet I think about the longest Christmas trip of all:  Jesus’ trip to earth.  Imagine living as an infinite being and then making the long trip into a womb as a single cell.  That’s how small Jesus was when he began.  It was a journey not to be measured in miles or hours, but in humility.

Jesus’ journey was not even about going home.  He made his trip to a hostile place.  It was the place he made, but the residents didn’t recognize him and wouldn’t welcome him.  If Jesus rated his trip on Trip Advisor, I would imagine he would give it zero stars.

But he came anyway.  He did the long trip of humility and rejection so we could have a different future, a different life –a new birth.  Given how far he came for us, does it seem such a big thing to follow him wherever he goes?

So this Christmas, while you are traveling, remember the trip Jesus made.  Tell him “thanks.”  Then ask, “So where are we going now?”

What will you get Jesus for Christmas?

Making the list starts for us before Thanksgiving.  We add to it as we have conversations with the children.  Shopping begins in earnest after Thanksgiving.  There are websites to check out and stores to dash into.  Each day seems to bring something new to the list.  Sometimes, it is a new item added by one of the children.  Sometimes, it is the name of someone we forgot.

By mid-December we’ve made good headway.  Amazon should be delivering.  A special trip or two is scheduled to get things we can’t find in town.  We’ve gotten on a first name basis with the cashiers at Simpson’s.

Two days before Christmas there is a final flurry of activity.  Stockings must be stuffed, last minute items purchased.  Someone must make the frightening trip to Walmart on Christmas Eve.

Gift giving starts for us on Christmas Eve and goes through Christmas night.  It’s a wonderful twenty-four hours of expressing love by giving gifts.

It struck me the other day, that one name is missing from our list: Jesus.  Seems strange doesn’t it?  After all, it is His birthday.

Granted, Jesus is hard to buy for.  What do you get the person who has everything?  I mean, literally, everything!  He already owns the cattle on a thousand hills and stars by the thousands.  What would He want anyway?

He has a list detailing what He wants. It is found in the book of Micah: “What does He require of you, O man, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?”

This Christmas, give Jesus the gift of doing justice.  This is about more than being fair; it means treating each other with respect, standing for what is right, and doing right even when it costs you.

This Christmas, give Jesus the gift of loving mercy.  When someone offends you or hurts you, forgive them.  Give them grace.  If possible, keep the relationship intact.  Love people when it is hard to love them.

This Christmas, give Jesus the gift of walking humbly with Him.  Admit to Him you have no idea how to live your life.  Ask for His help and guidance every day.  Walk closely with Him so you learn to be like Him.  Stop where He would stop.  Walk past temptations as He does. Climb mountains with Him.  Rest in the valleys with Him.

This Christmas, the best gift to give Jesus is to give Him yourself.  He delights in you and will love the gift you present.  Ironically, the gift you give Him will also be the greatest gift you give yourself.

Grace,

Clay Smith

 

Thanksgivings I Have Known…

Thanksgivings I have Known…
by Dr. Clay Smith

 Every Thanksgiving since 1937, the Smiths have gathered in the woods to share a Thanksgiving meal. I was always told that Granny Smith didn’t want to have Thanksgiving at the house that year, since Grandpa Smith had passed away.  Thus the tradition was born.

I remember when I was five, six, and seven, running around with my cousins Kelly, Ned, Steve, and Dennis, and my brother Steve. We would shoot BB guns at each other and make forts in the palmettos.  Our mothers would yell us to come and eat and we have to wait behind the “old people” – Aunt Neta, Aunt Nell and Uncle Dow, Aunt Mewie, Aunt Iris and Uncle J.N., Aunt Ouida and Uncle Kelly, and Granny Clemons to go through the line first.  Back then children went last.  Stretched out on the 40 foot table were every imaginable dish, the pride of women who knew who to cook without recipes.  At the very end, there was a big pot of Swamp Cabbage, a true Florida Cracker favorite.  Our hope as children was that there would be something left (there was always plenty).

By the time we were teenagers, these same cousins had progressed to bird hunting and hog hunting. Being 16, 17, and 18, we were all indestructible.  We would hog hunt all night the night before Thanksgiving, then bird hunt Thanksgiving morning, and then deer hunt that afternoon before going back out to hog hunt again.  Some of the best times of my life were chasing through the woods after a pack of dogs, looking for hogs by moonlight.

Tragedy struck in our twenties. Dennis died in a freak accident and Steve died in a car wreck.  We moved on, got married, and started having children.  Somehow, I became the uncle/cousin who drove all the kids around in the jeep to give the adults a break.

I only missed Thanksgiving in the woods once – Gina was due to give birth to Abram on Thanksgiving Day so we had to miss that year (he was a week late, so we could have gone, I suppose). I’d have to say the thrill of seeing my first born was worth missing my only Thanksgiving in the woods.

I knew there was a changing of the guard the year Uncle Tiny, 37 years my senior, told me to give the prayer one Thanksgiving. That was also one of the first years we realized something wasn’t quite right with my mother, and she began to descend into the nightmare of Alzheimer’s.

We’ve kept a book for almost 50 years now, that everyone signs. My childish first grade handwriting appears in 1965.  There is my mother’s name, her signature strong and sure.  Flip a few pages and Gina’s name shows up in 1985.  She met all my family and still married me.  Year by year my children wrote their names; now, Hannah does calligraphy for the date, the year, and the weather.

Lately, we’ve started taking pictures of each generation. What is startling to me is I now belong in the oldest generation (let me hasten to add I am the youngest –by far- in that generation).   We span four generations; Smiths are nothing if not fertile.

In all these years, I can’t say that anybody really stressed giving thanks. We didn’t do the things I hear other families do, like go around and describe what we are thankful for.  With over a 120 people there, that would take too long.  But each Thanksgiving I feel a deep sense of gratitude for God’s blessings.  Coming back to the same place year after year reminds me that God has been present and working in my life, whether I was five or fifty-five.  He has given me great grace.  I see the great grace He has given to so many: cancer cured, children born, true love found, broken hearts mended.  He has carried us, all of us, each year, each decade.

This Thanksgiving, don’t just think about what God has done this year. Think about how He has been faithful to you and your family every year of your life – and thank Him for all His grace.

Grace

Clay

The Secret to Breakthrough

“Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own” (Jeremiah 33:3).

The secret to breakthrough, the secret to victory is prayer. God wants to give us a complete breakthrough, like a dam breaking, or a door unlocking. There is no place in our lives where God cannot break through! David calls God “The Lord of the Breakthrough.”  He said, “As waters breakout, God has broken out against my enemies.” (1 Chronicles 14 – battle with Philistines). David didn’t lean on his own wisdom or abilities. David’s secret to victory when in battle was that he prayed.

Moses understood power of prayer: In Exodus 17 we read of Moses praying atop a mountain for victory. As long as his hands were raised in prayer the Israelites prevailed. From this story, we learn what happens “up the hill” has an effect of what happens “in the valley.”

“And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun” (Exodus 17:10-12).

If we do not win battle in presence of God, we can’t win it on the battleground of life. Prayer determines the result of battle and we can’t do it alone.

The concept of a breakthrough has its parallel in nature:

When a dam is constructed in a mountain valley, its construction may take many months. Then the water begins accumulating behind the dam, which can take months or even a year or longer. But when the water level reaches the right height, the sluice gates are opened, water begins to turn the generators, and there is tremendous power.

Maybe something like this happens in the spiritual realm. As more and more people unite in prayer or as the prevailing person prays on and on, it seems as if a great mass of prayer is accumulated until suddenly there is breakthrough and God’s will is accomplished. Prayers prayed in the will of God are never lost but stored until God gives the answer.”

(Excerpt from When Mothers Pray, Bringing God’s Power And Blessing To Your Children’s Lives by Cheri Fuller)