No words of wisdom today! Just watch this video...Easter is coming!!
I think I can safely say I’ve never lived through a time like this. I’m sure most of us can say that. Oh, to be sure, there are others who have endured much harder trials. To have been a farmer in the plains states during the days of the Dust Bowl. To have lived through the horror of the Holocaust. To have suffered through times of war, facing troops and tanks and bombs. To have seen family and neighbors and entire villages succumb to Ebola. All who have lived through such times, just to mention a few, have faced trials much greater than I face today. And yet, again, I can safely say that I have never lived through such a time like this.
My life, my spiritual practices, my calling and ministry have long been communal ones. I love people—and their presence, and this time of forced separation is very unsettling for me. Who could have predicted that during this season of Lent – a season in which I rarely give anything up – that we would all be forced to give up something? Coming together in groups, in congregations. Going out for a meal or a movie. Traveling out of our area, or around the country or around the world. And we are forced to wait, for this season will very likely be longer than the 40 days of Lent. Therefore, the question arises…for what are we waiting? For this to be over? For a cure, a treatment, a vaccine? For our economy to recover? For permission to congregate in groups larger than ten? For the fear to go away? For restocked aisles in Food City and Walmart?
Yes, of course, we wait for all these things. But is that it? Is that all we wait for? Do we only want the researchers and doctors to find some way of dealing with this virus so that life will return to what we refer to as “normal?” Although we want that, we want our medical professionals to save us from this threat and we want our lives to return to “normal”, there has to be more.
Another question many of us may be dealing with is, “Where is God?” Where is God in the middle of this pandemic? Doesn’t he care? Why would he allow this to happen? I believe the answers to these questions are closely tied to the answer to the question and statement posed above – “Is that all we wait for? …there has to be more.”
I believe that God is exactly where his has been all the time, including in all times of trial. I believe God is here. I believe God is near. I believe that God wants us to know that he is walking through this time with us, just as he was walking with those who lived through the Holocaust or the Dust Bowl or the Great Depression or World War II. I believe God is with us, just as he was with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, trying to understand the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 24:13-32). God is with us.
And I believe that yes, indeed, he does care. I believe that God can and does and is bringing something good from all things, including COVID-19 (Romans 8:28). I believe that God is telling us that our desire for “normal” is not nearly good enough. Yes, it is a good thing to want to be together in groups – families and friends and Life Groups and churches and schools and teams and work places. We are communal beings, meant and created to be in communion with each other. But more than that, we are meant and created to be in communion with our creator. And if it takes a pandemic for us to truly embrace our great need for a relationship with Jesus, I believe God will allow that to happen. I believe that God knows that even more than we need each other, we need him.
In his song, “Clear the stage,” Jimmy Needham implores us to…
Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
I encourage you to find and listen to that song. It speaks of making the decision to clear away the things that become idols to us, the things that don’t really matter in life, and giving God the place he deserves…center stage.
May we all, in this unusual and unprecedented time when we have been forced to clear so many things off our stages, use this time to seek God and grow in a relationship with him. And when God provides a miracle and our medical professionals are successful in dealing with this pandemic, when life gets “back to normal,” may we come together as the Church, grateful to the One who has been with us all along and cared enough to call us closer to him!
May God bless you during this time!
It's Monday night, 5:30 PM in the Family Life Center. A group of middle school boys are playing basketball, eating pizza, and trying not to squirm too much during Dave's devotion. One young man asks, "Can we do this twice a week? Can we meet again on Friday nights?"
An hour later that same night at Kim's house, the freshman basketball player who injured her knee - ACL, MCL, and meniscus - just 72 hours before during the last game of the season hobbles up the front steps and into the house. Her crutches can't keep her from playing the games that come before the devotion and prayer time, and they're sure not gonna keep her from making it to Life Group!
Tuesday night, Cathy's house. Just 48 hours after returning from a ski retreat in North Carolina, a group of high school sophomores gather around the living room, laughing and talking, full of Cathy's cooking. Tonight they're celebrating the 16th birthday of one of the group members. Later, they'll share prayer requests and talk about their faith.
Wednesday night at Linda's. Fourteen high school students crowd around a dining room table, talking and eating. There are five high schools represented. Five! No one likes to miss. They all say Life Group at Linda's is their favorite night of the week.
Thursday morning, 5:30 AM. I've just gotten out of my warm bed, not used to getting up this early on a Thursday. But the schools were closed on Tuesday, and more than one of the students who normally come on Tuesdays for Prayer Breakfast at McDonald's asked if the breakfast could be rescheduled for Thursday. They love coming to Prayer Breakfast, so of course we rescheduled it!
The lady at Blackbird Bakery knows me by now. I've been coming in every Friday morning for almost two years now. Two dozen assorted doughnuts. Sometimes three dozen. And as the coaches and administrators at Abingdon High School greet me as I walk into the school for FCA, they know they'll get the leftovers! They'll be sitting on the counter in the main office. But most weeks, there aren't any left over! If the kids at FCA don't eat them, those I meet in the hallway will. They are from Blackbird, after all!
Saturday morning, Pigeon Forge. Most of the occupants of the cabin are still sound asleep. As I lay there before I get out of bed, I can smell sausage cooking in the kitchen, and I hear the kitchen crew laughing and doing their thing. Soon the cabin will be crawling with sleepy teenagers. For now, it's peaceful. Who will it be today? Who will hear "just the right thing" from the speaker at Resurrection and have their life changed today? I can't wait to find out!
As I drive up Interstate 81 on Sunday morning, I'm looking for the text I know I'm about to receive. "Are you gonna be downstairs for church today?" Oh yeah, I will be. I've sat with this guy during church for years now. I doubt if he knows how special it is for me to sit with him each week. Man, who's gonna take his place when he's away at college next year?
Have you ever thought about what it is in your life that "gives you life?" What it is that gets you out of bed in the morning? What it is that makes life worth living? I've thought about it. I think about it a lot. And I have a lot of answers to those questions. And those answers have names, like Taylor, and Brooke, and Cooper, and Sutton, and Andrew, and Caroline, and...well, you get the point. The list goes on and on and on...
Which is my favorite day of the week? Yep, you guessed it! All the ones that end in "y"!
Her name is Karen, and she is a child of God! Karen lives in a very humble home in Saltville. Her floors were falling in. Her wheelchair ramp needed fixing. Her front porch needed a coat of paint. So God sent some kids to help her out.
Their names are Samantha, Christian, Katie, Jared, Caleb, Colee, Evie, Zach and Kay. They are from South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan and Massachusetts. They needed an experience to show them what it meant to be the hands and feet of God. They needed purpose. They needed “family.” They needed to see the face of God. So God sent Karen.
Through Karen’s infectious laugh, her warm and constant smile, her love for young people and zest for life, these kids from across the country were changed, and the kingdom of God grew just a bit last week in Saltville.
This is just one of the many stories coming out of SERVE 2019! If you were involved in SERVE – and so many of you were – thank you! If you prayed, cooked, hammered, drove, spoke, ran sound, served a meal, or anything else, thank you! We couldn’t have done it without you! And lives were changed, eternally! God is so good!!
The Means to such an important End
On Saturday, June 15th, 74 teenagers and 34 adults arrived at Stono Baptist Church for Johns Island 2019! We worked for 10 homeowners, doing everything from mowing the yard to replacing the roof and literally everything in between! We replaced floors, painted houses, rehabbed kitchens and baths, replaced siding, and much more. We also worked on a facility that will be our future “home away from home” on the Islands.
On Saturday, July 17th, 55 teenagers and 15 adults arrived at Pleasant View United Methodist Church for Abingdon Serve 2019. These SERVE volunteers performed home repairs and painting, worked at Elk Garden School Community Ministry, and much more. A team of volunteers from our church as well as several “partner churches” completely outdid themselves doing all the “stuff” it takes to make a week like this possible, everything from preparing meals to praying to selecting job sites, helping on job sites and leading worship.
Lots of homeowners here in Abingdon and Washington County, and on Johns and Wadmalaw Islands in South Carolina, will have a higher standard of living because of the work of these volunteers.
But make no mistake about it. These home repairs are only the means to a much greater end.
In 10 years or so, the houses that were painted here in Abingdon will be ready for another coat of paint. In 20 years, the roofs we put on in Johns Island are going to need to be replaced. Nothing “physical” that we did at Johns Island or here in Abingdon will last.
But the spiritual work that happened in the lives of our teenagers will have eternal impact!
Just ask Tanner, who was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday night of Johns Island 2019. Or John, who is just beginning his journey with Christ and had question after question about what it takes to have a relationship with Jesus. Or the young man who was heavily engaged in spiritual warfare and who found freedom after talking with our counselors at Johns Island and after being prayed for by his friends. Just ask any of the teenagers who “spread their wings” and stepped out of their comfort zones to give devotions and share testimonies for our evening worship times. Ask the young lady who overcame her fear of heights in order to help nail shingles for a lady she’ll never see again. Or the girl who, against all odds, came out of her shell to be fully engaged in the mission trip, having the time of her life and vowing to return next year.
The work of Johns Island and of SERVE is not the work of building houses. Building houses is only the means to an end. The work of Johns Island and SERVE is investing in the lives of teenagers, pouring into them so they might have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your prayers, your financial help, your encouragement and your participation in Johns Island and in SERVE. It’s making a difference in the lives of teenagers!! What we do here matters!
It was the fall of the year; that season when the leaves begin to change color and there’s a certain chill that lingers in the morning air. It was the time of the year when it gets darker a little bit earlier each day, the evenings growing longer and longer with each passing day, and the smell of smoke from burning leaves is in the air. The sound of a distant lawn mower could be heard. I can still remember the grass being damp, the smell of the earth, the feel of the ball in my hands. I could hear the breath of the person facing me across the line of scrimmage, a guy at least 25 years older than I who outweighed me by at least 100 pounds. I was ready…every nerve tingling, every sense heightened.
22…47…hike, hike! Then it happened. The guy across from me casually reached across, putting his hands on my head, forcing my body downward, as he easily stepped right over me to get to the quarterback. That was it…I had had enough! I wanted my Mom! I went running into my house, looking for her as I fought back the tears.
It was a traumatic event, dashing my hopes and dreams, my stellar football career over at the tender age of 7.
Oh, ok…so I never really even had a “stellar football career”…but it’s fun to dream about it.
But being a football player does relate to what this blog is about, and that’s “purpose.”
It’s football season, and I’m glad! I love watching football – live or on TV. Middle school, high school or college! It’s fun to watch, and I’m always amazed at the athleticism and coordination it takes to move that ball down the field. When they’re out there on the field, those 22 football players are each working to either get that ball down the field or to prevent it from being moved down the field. Each player has a purpose related to that overall goal.
It’s good to have a purpose. In fact, we humans spend a lot of our time thinking about and trying to find our purpose. Why am I here? What am I meant to do? What is my purpose?
Well, of course, we will find many ways of answering that question in life…
Unfortunately, many people spend many years trying to find their purpose without much success.
In finding our purpose…our real purpose …we need to look at the Bible.
For you see, we were made…designed…for one true purpose, and that is to love God, to be in relationship with him.
On of the surprising things about becoming a Christian is finding out that there is really only one goal for our time on earth: to love God. That’s the whole purpose of his work on earth – to give us humans the opportunity to experience a loving relationship with himself.
Why should we love God? Because we were created to love him. Now, we can all choose to love something else, but that would be like using your car as a paperweight, or like using the quarterback on the defensive line, or using a place kicker as a free safety. True happiness and fulfillment come as we grow deeper in our love for God and, in turn, discover his love for us.
As Paul wrote, “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:19 NLT).
There is no greater purpose for your life.
You must be Fred’s son…you look just like him!
John 13:35 New International Version (NIV)
35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I can’t tell you the times in my life when someone has come up to me and said, “You must be Fred’s son.” It is usually someone who knew my dad well, some farmer or cattleman who had spent time with him at the livestock market or the feed store. It used to be the eyes. Now it’s more likely the bald head! But they can tell by looking…I look like my dad!
You’ve probably had that happen as well! How many times has someone come up to you and identified you as the son or daughter of your mother or father based on the fact that you look like them? Maybe they say something like, “You have your mother’s eyes,” or “Your smile is just like your father’s.”
John 13:35 is a simple instruction from Jesus to love one another.
So in the same way, when we are doing what this verse says – namely, loving other people – we “look” like God. It could be that someone else will notice this and say something about it: “You must be a Christian, because you’re loving like Jesus would,” or, “I can tell you’re a Christian. You look just like Jesus.”
Or maybe, or quite possibly even probably, others won’t “say” anything. But they’ll notice. And they’ll know.
You have your Father’s heart.
Hey...I'm HB. I'm the youth minister here at PVUMC.