First Baptist Church St. Simons Island

Month: December 2013

Soak Yourself in the Spirit to Show the Light of Christ

Run finish your shopping, wrap the last gifts…hurry-up! Double check your to-do list to make sure you have everything done! This time of year is so busy. In reality, our lives in general are too busy. If you are like me, we rush from one thing to another trying to do what is demanded.

I want to get back to basics. De-clutter. Simplify. I want my life to have more of what really counts in the end. So often, some of the things demanding my time, aren’t really the most important things. With all of these demands, I realize that even the best made plans, the purest intentions and most organized to-do list will ultimately fail without Jesus.

As a child of God I have direct access to Him. He tells me I personally can come before His throne. Me…individually! (Hebrews 4: 14—16) How neat is it that our Creator gives us access to Him. The more time I spend with Him—in His presence, talking to Him, learning about Him, listening to Him—the more time I am going to want to spend with Him. I want to know what plans He has for me, I want to look in the mirror and see the person He sees in me. I want to taste His goodness, grace and mercy. I want His love to fill me to overflowing and penetrate to the very core of who I am. I want Him.

Soaked in Him, I hope that when others look at me all they see is the Light of Christ. I hope they see the work of Holy God. I hope they sense His love—because that is what really matters, that is what is really important.

And all of this made possible because He was willing to come as a baby, grow as a child and die as a man for our sins—just so we can come before Him freely. Happy Birthday Jesus! Thank you for coming for us.

Responding to the Call to Serve

When my son Grady was nine months old he had already been hospitalized several times for lung infections. In the midst of one of these hospitalizations we discovered that our apartment at the time was riddled with mold and the closet in Grady’s bedroom was the hidden reservoir deposit for a leak in the building’s roof. It became a necessity that we move on short notice with Grady still in the hospital. Though we had only attended two or three services at First Baptist Church St. Simons Island, a visit from a church member while Grady was in the hospital prompted an email which called several families to our home to help with the move. Though I know these families now as the Owen’s, Bryson’s and McFarland’s, at the time we were strangers to each other. If it had not been for the help of the church, several members of whom we had not even met at the time, the move out of our moldy apartment would not have been possible.

When I think about the light of Christ shining to give glory to God, this is the one event that stands out amongst all others in my mind – this sentinel event is the reason my family are members of First Baptist Church St. Simons Island. Though I know I have told this story before in other contexts, I tell it here to demonstrate how being the light of Christ often means a blind response to opportunity. There are those times in life where we receive a phone call, email, or text asking us to act or give and our response needs to be “Yes” simply because God has given us the opportunity to be the light of Christ to others. Are there any opportunities in your life to be the light of Christ to which you simply need to say “Yes?”

The Holy Spirit is Always With Us in Our Hour of Need

Optional Scripture: Isaiah 7:10-16 (lectionary text)

I am certain that I am in the majority when I count myself as among those who find themselves closest to God when the hour of greatest need arrives.  For those of us who have made a career in the Combat Arms, that vocation has placed us in needful circumstances all too often.  When you are in mortal danger with no succor in sight, tired beyond description, hungry, parched, and filthy, with the support of your loved ones thousands of miles away, I can testify from personal experience that your most desperate wish is for God and his Son to be your companions. I testify that he answered my calls.  Many of the finest warriors I have known are dedicated Christians.  Combat soldiers aren’t joking when they say there are no atheists in foxholes — and it is not called the Service by accident.  In sum, I believe that we must embrace our tribulations with thanksgiving letting our light shine before others as we celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit who is always with us in our hour of need.  

Let Others See Jesus In You

Optional Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16 (theme selected text)

Jesus said “You are the light of the world…..let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven”. (Matthew 5:14-16). A children’s sermon that I once taught was “let others see Jesus in you.” I held up a huge mirror and asked the children to describe what they noticed about themselves. I heard “ponytail, glasses, braces, etc”. After they named all the physical attributes that they saw, I told each child one thing that I saw in them that reflected Jesus. For instance, one child always helped smaller children and was kind to them. Another child smiled all the time and never seemed unhappy. The children were delighted that I could name these great things about them and yet they were almost amazed that someone had taken note of these small actions. I wanted to show all of these children how important even the smallest good deeds are and how people really do notice. How wonderful to be able to lead someone to Christ through something as simple as a handwritten note or a gesture of friendship!

My daughter, Cammie, once insisted that I turn around on the interstate and help a homeless man with a small dog. I protested that I did not have any cash. Cammie volunteered her own money. When I asked her if she really wanted to give up her money, she simply stated that it was hot and the man and his dog needed water. At that moment, I was reminded of a bible verse, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) She thought nothing more of it, but I will remember that day forever.

Prove Them Wrong, O Lord

Optional Scripture: Psalm 4:6 (theme selected text)

Many say that God will never help us. Prove them wrong, O lord, by letting the light of your face shine down upon us.

In 1997 Lee and son James traveled to Kenya to meet their Compassion sponsor child. While there we met a Compassion social worker who was visiting in Nairobi. Her husband had recently died leaving her with six children and barely enough money to pay her rent. We got permission to sponsor one of her daughters, and so the auntie rode the bus from their village into Nairobi bringing the younger children so that we could meet them. We met Sebby, a shy 9 year old girl. She and her sister sang for us in their village language because they did not know English. That year she learned English in school and wrote us beautiful letters. She always included inspirational scripture and reminded us that she was praying for us. Our family went through some difficult struggles during those years, and we were comforted by her family’s prayers and encouragement. 10 years later she was chosen for the Leadership Development Program because of her strong Christian leadership and her high academic success. Sebby attended medical training, and in 2011 we went to her graduation. How wonderful to hear that she was seeing patients in a clinic and delivering babies!

That day we heard her story. In her testimony at LDP graduation she shared that when her father died everyone told her she was destined to be a child of the streets. She believed she had no future; she felt hopeless and cried in bed every night. Then she heard she had a sponsor. Because of the Compassion program, she received a social worker and a pastor to encourage and mentor her. Today she shares the gospel with everyone she sees in the clinic! How beautiful it is to see the light of God passed from person to person.

When Darkness Enters . . . We Are The Light

Optional Scripture: Isaiah 60:19 (theme selected text)

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Mathew 14a, 16a

Light is such a big part of the advent season. From Christmas lights, advent candles, to the star over Bethlehem, we are surrounded by light during this season. In the book of Matthew we see that we are the light of the world and are called to let our light shine before others. During this season this verse takes on a new meaning for me. As I ride around and see the many Christmas lights and as I look at the lights that cover every Christmas tree, I can’t help but to think of how beautiful these illuminations are. I find great symbolism in these lights. Like the lights on a tree, we are called to wrap our communities with the light that shines from within each of us. And as beautiful as Christmas is, nothing could be more beautiful than the love of Christ shinning in the darkest parts of our world. As the advent season fades and the Christmas lights slowly are taken down in the community let us focus on and remember that light is still needed in the world. The love of Christ must continue to shine through the darkness of poverty, injustice, and oppression that is prevalent in our world. As darkness enters the lives of our family and friends let us remember that we are the light of the world and we need to find ways to bring the hope of Christ. As darkness creeps into our communities, let us string together our light to bring joy and peace to God’s creation.

Light of Joy

Optional Scripture: Matthew 11:2-11 (Lectionary text)

In Matthew 11: 2 – 11, John the Baptist, while in prison, sends word by his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus replied, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.”

Jesus’ response to John’s question is one which still applies today. What do we see and hear that assures us that Jesus is the promised Messiah? During the holiday season we can look and see, listen and hear how Jesus is healing, restoring, raising, preaching and teaching the good news to us and through us.

There are many examples including preparing, serving or delivering meals to different groups, filling boxes for children, ditty bags for seamen and homeless people, collecting food for those in need, just to mention a few.

Recently John and I experienced people sharing Jesus’ love. John’s vertigo attack sent us to the ER one Sunday morning. While there we received calls, texts, our deacon visited, and were told that people were praying for us. Dr. Lewis walked by, saw John, and stopped to give encouraging words. At home there were calls, emails, and later cards with expressions of concern and love. What a joy to be a part of this loving Christian fellowship.

The Dorcas group has given me opportunities to share Jesus’ love with many. It is remarkable how God made needs known and provided the means to accomplish the tasks. Giving items we’ve made to others brings joy to the recipients, and greater joy to those sharing and telling others that God loves them.

Observations assure us that Jesus is the promised Messiah. We must continue His work by going, doing and sharing God’s love. This brings true joy.

Be The Hands and Feet Of Jesus

Optional Scripture: James 5:7-10 (lectionary text)

During November our Sunday School class has been studying the book of James. I like to think of it as God’s Little Instruction Book for Christians. James is short and blunt on our need to be doers of the word and not hearers only.

One of my most memorable Christmases was in the eighties when my two grown daughters were still in elementary school. Fran and I were in Earl Swicord’s class, and we were given the opportunity to help a family in need that Christmas. Our assigned family was a single mom with two young daughters about the same ages as ours. We were given clothing sizes and ages to help in our gift selection. We took our girls along shopping, letting them select just what they thought would make another little girl happy on Christmas morning. We then let the girls wrap their gifts and we all piled into the car to personally deliver them. We knocked on the door of the apartment in their modest neighborhood, and were greeted with very little furniture, and a small Christmas tree with nothing underneath. Our girls helped carry in all the gifts that they had selected, and we filled the space under that tree to the obvious delight of two other wide eyed little girls.

It was a great Christmas lesson for my family. The girls saw that there are many less fortunate, and that they could do something, no matter how small, to help. As you and your family celebrate this Christmas, be alert to ways you can be the hands and feet of Jesus by helping others in need. In this way, you will experience the joy of being a doer of the Word.

Mary’s Song

Optional Scripture: Psalm 146:5-10 or Luke 1:46b-55 (lectionary text)

Mary’s song. While the news of her pregnancy was glorious, it must have been frightening, yet Mary bursts forth in song. I wish I could say that was my response when I got frightening news this year, but it wasn’t.

I love music. My father’s sweet tenor voice filled the church, as he directed the music, index finger keeping the beat of the music, and I played the piano. Those hymns comforted me on the long ride home as I knew my mother was dying. As Daddy died, my siblings and I sang to him the songs about heaven he had sung to us. I cannot remember not singing.

But not this time. in January my song was silenced. Cancer. How could this be happening? And if I was okay with it happening to me, I was not okay that it was happening to my daughters. I knew what it felt like to watch your mother battle cancer. I railed against God. Sing? You have got to be kidding me.

While you respected my request for privacy, you quietly expressed love through cards, meals, text messages, phone calls, visits, and even Georgette, my wig, which was a gift from my beloved choir.

And I love my precious four-year-old Sunday School class. My refrigerator is plastered with their artwork, cards, get-well wishes. I cried when I found a mason jar with flowers on my doorstep, when I was given my prayer shawl, donated by Donnie Jordan after his battle with cancer, which had been prayed over by my current and former four-year-olds, and even last Sunday when I was told a child prayed for me as they packed shoeboxes.

Through the love you have shown me, I sing again. Right now, my song goes like this: “Jesus loves me, this I know.”

Joy is Internal

Optional Scripture: Isaiah 35:1-10 (lectionary text)

Luke 1:14 “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”

Nine years ago I picked up a Compassion child sponsorship packet from a table that was set up in the hallway of our church. Little did I know at that time, the joy that this decision would bring into my life.

The child that I selected to sponsor was a little five year old boy named Esvin from Guatemala. We began our correspondence with me writing letters and him drawing pictures. As he grew older he began writing his own letters. Over the years we have shared photos and prayer request through our correspondence.

This past July I had the opportunity to go to Guatemala. I traveled with fifty other Compassion International sponsors that had children in Guatemala. We visited five child development centers that were housed in local churches. In these centers we led Vacation Bible School-type activities. We were also able to make home visits and help out with chores which allowed us to enter into their world.

On the last day of our trip we were able to meet and spend half the day with our sponsored children at a “Fun Center”. Esvin, (now 14) as well as many other sponsored children traveled a long way on school buses to meet us. This was a very special and emotional time for all of us.

The people in Guatemala live very simple lifestyles. Most of their meals consisted of nothing but flour tortillas and their houses were only a small room that served as the kitchen and bedroom for the whole family. Even though their lifestyles are simple, these people were filled with much gratitude and joy. Many people think joy is external, based on their circumstances. This trip was a great reminder that joy is not external, but internal and that we can make a choice to praise God in all things. Scripture calls us to be joyful, not because of what we have in our possessions, but what we have in Christ. During the next few days may we have joy and gladness, and rejoice because of the birth and life of Jesus!