On any given Wednesday night, I go to church, unlock the doors and welcome folks in to pray for our Church Family and needs in our community, then to read God’s Word and study it for a few moments seeking to find what it means for our world today. Not every week or every month, but often enough, guests that I do not know walk in off the streets of downtown Newport and sit with us during prayer and Bible Study. They are welcomed in. They are greeted afterwards warmly by all in attendance. On any given Wednesday night.
While it seems many have chosen to use the Charleston tragedy to fit a personal agenda, I have just been moved deeply by a church acting like well, a “church.”
Romans 12:21 – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I Corinthians 13:13 – “All the gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on.”
John 1:5 – “The lights shines on in the darkness, but the darkness can not understand it.”
2 Corinthians 4:8, 16 – “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed – therefore, do not lose heart!”
So, this week, I have heard, church family members say, “I forgive you!” I see church members cleaning their building and again inviting people in to worship, prayer and to read God’s Word. I don’t see riots in the streets.
In the midst of this horrible tragedy, the light of Jesus Christ has shone very brightly in one church – in Charleston, SC. We, too, must overcome evil with good daily and let God’s love shine through in our daily lives. The church’s testimony of faith to our loving, comforting and forgiving God is inspiration and challenge to me.
As they prepare to bury their loved ones over the next few days, may I, and we, join with the saints, and offer these words:
Isaiah 40:1 – “Comfort, comfort, my people!
Isaiah 40:28 – “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will NOT grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom:
Romans 8:38-39 – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
John 11:25 – “I am the Resurrection and the Life!”
Lord, watch over and comfort the Emmanuel AME Church, and us, today!
Sadly, Lauren Hill died today.
You may remember her as a 19-year-old freshman basketball player for Mount St. Joseph who was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer. Her desire to play college basketball captured the imagination of our country.
I’m not quite sure why her death has impacted me but it has.
- maybe because I think of her parents today:
- maybe because she loved to play basketball;
- maybe because she is in college and I have a child in college;
- maybe because I actually know where Mount St. Joseph is – as MSJ is part of the Heartland Conference – the same conference that Transy, where Jordan is, is in.
- maybe because I love DIII sports – the true student athlete, who play for the love of the game as part of one’s educational experience.
Maybe, I think it really is, because she chose to finish her life strong. In the past six months, she has played college basketball, been recognized with major awards – the Wilma Rudolph Award, the Pat Summit Courage Award, and being named to the 1st team All Conference.
She was awarded an Honorary Doctor’s degree from MSJ. Honorary degrees are given for contributions made to an institution. She told her story over and over again, and every time she was also telling MSJ story. She earned that degree.
She chose to become the voice and face of her disease. She told her story – usually with tears – and it became the real life story of other children with brain cancer.
And she created a foundation for research for her disease – a little know disease. She raised nearly 1.5 million dollars. Wow.
But, I think, the real reason she touched me, is that in death, life becomes so much clearer.
In her interviews, she said over and over, “Life is precious, every moment you get with someone is a moment that's blessed, really blessed."
That hit home with me.
The cost of Jesus’ life so that I can have life abundant and free, means that I should not waste the moments that He has given me. Being faithful and obedient is a choice that I chose in which to give of my very best to my Lord. That becomes the “blessing.”
So, thanks, Lauren, for in death, you have reminded me, that it is my choice to give of my best very day for my Savior.
In my reading of my email this morning from a man who writes about culture and faith, I came across this information about what is showing on TV during the Easter season. I’ll copy if for you!
“It be begins with "A.D.: The Bible Continues," the sequel to Roma Downey and Mark Burnett's blockbuster mini-series, "The Bible." While "The Bible" was shown on the History channel, "A.D." will air on NBC. It begins Easter Sunday, April 5, and picks up the biblical story after the crucifixion.
Meanwhile, CNN is currently airing a six-part series called "Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery." This Sunday, the UP network broadcasts "Noah's Ark," a film version of the biblical story. On March 25, PBS rebroadcasts its 2008 documentary, "The Bible's Buried Secrets." On March 27, the Smithsonian Channel will air "Siege of Masada," a one-hour special about the event that ended the first Jewish rebellion and gave Israel her motto, "Masada shall never fall again."
The National Geographic Channel will air "Killing Jesus" on March 29. CBS will then air another Downey-Burnett project called "The Dovekeepers" on March 31 and April 1. Perhaps the most unusual biblical offering of the season is "Top 10: Bible Weather," which the Times describes as "an awkward mix of biblical natural disasters and recent meteorological calamity." The show airs this Saturday on the Weather Channel.”
While producers can shape their story to fit whatever message they want to send, they are creating these “Biblical narratives” because people will watch them. I believe that there is a “God-shaped emptiness” in every heart yearning to be filled. While Hollywood can tell a story, we are the ones who tell the message of the love of Jesus with our words and deeds. Don’t let Hollywood stand it our place. Use it as a place to begin the process.
Easter is coming – let’s tell the message ourselves!
I leave you today with a quote from Fred Craddock, recently deceased Professor from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and former pastor at the First Christian Church Newport.
“When I was in my late teens, I wanted to be a preacher. When I was in my late twenties, I wanted to be a good preacher. Now that I am older, I want more than anything else to be a Christian. To live simply, to love generously, to speak truthfully, to serve faithfully, and to leave everything else to God.”
Good word for us. Have a great week!
I was reading through one of the news web site when I can across a headline that grabbed by attention. “State Senator wants Mandatory Church Attendance.” Seems as if a State Senator from Arizona rose to the floor to declare that because of the lack of morals in our country, a state law was now needed to require people to attend church. Even the next day when pressed for an answer she refused to back down. To correct the evil of our day, she said, everyone must attend a church every Sunday of his or her choice.
Wow! We now need a law to come to church. That would be one way to fill our sanctuaries!
I remember when my children were younger, Debbie and I would think about their future. We would imagine who among their friends or children of our friends would make great mates from them. We would compare personalities and tendencies, then make lists – jokingly, of course! Our children were not happy with us. While we did that playfully, we were reminded of a valuable lesson – it is ultimately their choice. You cannot dictate who should love whom. Because if we did, would it be true love?
Christ chose to love us even in spite of our sinfulness. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looked for a way out, yet yield to God because of His unending love for us. He chose to love me. That is why we know that it is true love. We choose to love Him. Scripture gives us the image of Christ standing at the door knocking, wanting, and pleading to come in. He has never forced us to accept Him. Our faith is built on my choice to freely give my life in obedience to Him. My testimony is built not on some force regulation but out of my choice, I chose Jesus.
As Easter approaches and we see how Christ gave Himself to us through the suffering and humiliation on the cross, may we completely and freely give of ourselves in service and devotion to our Savior.
Last Sunday, I preached on “Why I Still Love the Church!” The motivation came from reading from so many that the “Church is in decline,” or “the Church is dying” or “the Church is no longer relevant for me.” We hear and read it so much that we actually want to believe it. We get pounded and pounded with those words that we can’t help but believe it to be true.
Yet, Scripture says “Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for Her” and that the Church is the “Bride of Christ!” Scripture says that Christ loved the Church and chose to use the Church as His plan for modeling the love of Christ to our world.
If the given, or baseline, is that Christ loved the Church and uses His Church for His followers to be God’s workers to transform the world, whatever the challenges that the Church faces today, much like the challenges the church has faced for every generation, can be faced and overcome without all the dire announcements.
Regardless of our challenges, I still love the Church because
1. It is a place to Worship my Lord
2. It is a place of Hope that I need to hear regularly in a world that gives us hopelessness
3. It is a place of seeing and being with my brothers and sisters of faith.
4. It is a place of reading, teaching and hearing God’s Word.
5. It is a place from the Gospel changes lives and Salvation occurs.
6. It is a place where a bit of heaven can be found.
Yes, the church faces challenges today. But we can be relevant as God’s Word is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
I have attached a link to article from a Millennial who writes why she loves the church. Read it!
I hope that you will join us for worship this Sunday as the people of God meet!
Ephesians 2:14 says “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. . . ” Paul is writing about the Jews and the Gentiles and of the things that would separate them. By welcoming all people to the cross the “two groups become one.” As a result by destroying the barriers of separation, the two groups become united.
I believe that those are appropriate words for us today. This weekend we will celebrate and remember Martin Luther King. More than a man, a movement was created to say that all people, regardless of skin color, are not equal just under the law of the land but also “red, yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight!”
Those words again need to be sounded in our country. That is why I am honored that the Woodlawn United Methodist Church and Pastor Samuel Dzabo will join us for worship this Sunday. We can collectively say “the two groups become one!”
Sunday will be a great day of Worship!
Join us at 10:30 Sunday Morning!
Wow! What a couple of weeks!
It was privilege to be part of Empower Cocke County. Lots of people worked very hard to make it happen. We had great speakers, great worship services, great music, good VBS, challenging Youth services, decisions made and the Kingdom of God glorified. Two things that I take away from Empower Cocke County are missions and God’s people. First, Empower was designed as a “stay at home mission trip.” Instead of traveling somewhere to do missions, the idea was that we simply stay at home and do “missions.” Empower was a reminder to me that we can be “mission minded” wherever we are by being God’s hands and feet for His service at any moment. Second, Empower was designed for lots of people in lots of churches. I enjoyed working and worshiping with First Baptist folks and other church folks as well. I think that we need to do that more often. I think that is a good thing. Very good week!
Then this week, Vacation Bible School came to FBC Newport. It was a joyous week. Just being around our children is such fun. Thanks to so many who have been part of VBS for years, making it an incredible event sharing the love of Jesus. Thanks as always to Rob and Lisa. I’m expecting and believing that some of our church children can and will be making decisions for Christ soon.
Last week, we hosted a five-member team from the Tennessee Baptist Convention. This team consisted of college age young people who will spend this summer traveling the state helping churches and camps in many different ways. We sponsored a Children’s Camp while they were here. At VBS, some of our children were teaching songs and verses that they had learned at Children’s Camp to others. It also was a very good week.
It is the month of June, and we have brides galore! Let’s remember and give thanks for these young couples as they begin new lives together!
Let’s also remember parents and grandparents where new life has or is coming. We have had a number of new babies born in recent weeks and more in the weeks ahead. Let’s remember these new parents and their baby – praying for good health for all.
Have a most blessed day in our Lord!
Yard Work! I’m not very good at getting things to grow but I do enjoy playing in the dirt especially in the spring. Every spring creates a new opportunity to do something new. In my landscape beds, I begin by cleaning out all of last year’s growth that is now overgrown or has died. It usually takes a while – bringing out the electric shears, the weed eater and even a shovel. All the trash of last year’s joy then has to be hauled away. Plants that have gotten too large or that died during the winter have to be replaced. Then a little fertilizer brings the project near to completion.
Then one more task remains. Mulch! I like mulch. It covers up everything that you don’t want to be seen. Just pile it higher and deeper. Once it is completed, it gives your yards a completed finished look that lets all the color of the landscape stand out.
As I was getting our landscape beds ready for mulch this year, I was thinking about how mulch just covers everything that you want it to cover – much like what Jesus did on Good Friday when his death “covers” all our mistakes and shortcoming.” His covering of our sins, gives our life that “completion” that it needs to bring meaning and purpose to our lives. And unlike mulch we don’t have to replace it every year or even have to weed it every now and then that you do after you put your mulch down. God’s covering of our sins is complete!
Come celebrate Resurrection Sunday, as Christ has covered our sins and has brought completeness to our lives.
He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed!
It is the Fund Raising Season! I went to three last weekend and two the week before including one of my own - the Cocke County Education Foundation "Celebrating Our Success Banquet" that was very successful! And fundraisers during the political season are usually very successful! Most fundraisers involve food of some kind - dinners, bake sales, or banquets - all kinds of things. My favorite fundraiser took place when I was in rural KY and a bunch of us were rebuilding a ballpark and needed some funds. We had a Cow Patty contest. We had a picnic, some entertainment, and then divided up an open field into squares. Brought a cow in and when the cow dropped a cow patty on your square you won part of the entry fee. We built a very nice ballpark off the money raised! A bucket list fundraiser for me would be have a Black Tie Gala in Newport to celebrate something - maybe one day. Everyone is raising a little bit of money for important causes that simply take money to operate and function. We're having our own Building Fund fundraiser in conjunction with Easter Breakfast. If you have a good need, most people are willing to help a little bit.
The success of fundraisers depends on the generosity of others. Whatever the cause – from scholarships or helping a program or attempting to reduce some medical bills for those in need – fundraisers’ success is dependent on the generosity of others. Being on the receiving end of the generosity of others is very humbling.
As we approach Palm Sunday and then Easter, I am simply overwhelmed again by the consistent generosity of God. Our fundraisers have many variables that determine whether or not it will be successful - crowds, weather, who shows up, or whatever else is happening at the same time. But not with our Heavenly Father- His generosity of love and grace are demonstrated daily regardless of schedule conflicts or sparse crowds. His love for you and me remains constant - a love that wants to love us out of our unloveable condition.
So as you go to another bake sale or some kind of dinner this week, be reminded of God's great generosity and constant love for you!
Dr. Rich Lloyd
A follower of Jesus Christ. Husband to Debbie since 1980. Father to Logan, Kelsey and Jordan. Since 2000 the Pastor of the First Baptist Church Newport, Newport, Tennessee nestled in the great Smoky Mountains. A graduate of Samford University (BA '79) and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv '83, ThM '85 and PhD '91). A third generation Southern Baptist minister. A serious Peyton Manning and Atlanta Braves fan!