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Post by Linda Matchett; posted 4/1/17

The Greatest?

In 1963, Muhammad Ali wrote a poem in which he claimed he was the greatest. He had not yet fought Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight title, but for many it was obvious he was on the cusp of a successful career. In February of this year, New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, led his team to an unprecedented fifth Super Bowl title. Since then sports analysts and fans have hotly debated whether Brady is the “Greatest of All Time.” My brother, a baseball enthusiast, will argue that Brooks Robinson was the greatest third basemen to ever play the game.

Even Jesus’ disciples got caught up in determining their level of importance. “And there rose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be the greatest.” (Luke 22:24 NASB) Today people are still enamored with greatness. Lists abound touting who is the richest, most powerful, or best looking.

As human beings it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to make the grade and be considered successful by earthly standards. But when Jesus came he turned all of society’s preconceived notions upside down. “The one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” (Luke 22:26 NASB) He also said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 NASB)

Tough statements to swallow, aren’t they? To give up our place in line, or see someone promoted ahead of us at work. How about a time when you didn’t receive recognition for something you did or worse, saw someone get credit for your work?

Often our response to these kind of injustices is to get angry, and Satan would love it if we sinned because of that anger. But we can foil his attempts by taking our hurt and disappointment to the one who knows exactly how we feel. We can ask God to use the situation for his glory, rather than ours. We can ask him to take away our indignation and turn our animosity to peace.

Do you have a situation that has hurt you? Are you harboring ill-will about something?

“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”

I Peter 5:7 (NASB)

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 3/1/17

What did you say?

The boarding prep high school where I work is a diverse community with children and teachers from all over the world. There are twenty-one countries and twenty-six states represented in our population. Needless to say, the language barrier has been known to cause confusion on more than one occasion.

I recently experienced this during a conversation I had with two of our female, Thai students. They were waiting in the auditorium for the drama teacher to give them instructions on what they would be doing. Because there were students on stage rehearsal for the school play, I asked the girls if they were the peanut gallery. They looked at me in confusion and said they were sorry, but they did not have any peanuts with them.

Smiling, I fumbled through an explanation of what I meant, assuring them I meant no disrespect. (For those who are wondering, according to Wikipedia the idiom comes from the vaudevillian era when peanuts were served in that section of the theatre, and if patrons were displeased they would toss nuts at the stage). The students nodded and smiled politely, but I could tell they still didn’t really know what I was talking about.

The experience brought to mind the times I’ve tried to share my faith and fallen into using “church-ese” to explain it; using words such as sin, redemption, justification, and propitiation. Yikes! Most church-goers don’t understand those terms, why would I think a non-believer would get them?

It’s important to meet people where they are, and when someone is learning a new concept, be it math or Christianity, they need a foundation and that includes terminology that doesn’t clutter up the message. So next time you have an opportunity to talk to someone about their need for Jesus, see if you can do it in layman’s terms. Your friends will thank you.

“So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear,

how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.”

I Corinthians 14:10 (NASB)

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 2/1/17

In a Fog

Last week I drove my mother to her doctor in Concord, NH-about an hour’s distance from where we live. We had cancelled the original appointment due to illness and took what we could get-4:00 PM. My night vision is not good, but I figured the worst case scenario would have us heading home by 4:30, and with the longer days it wouldn’t be totally dark by the end of our journey. I uttered those famous words, “how bad can it be?”

It was bad.

First, mom was not take into the office until twenty minutes past her scheduled time. Then the doctor ran late and didn’t enter the exam room until twenty five minutes after that. Then he determined an extra test was required.

When we stepped outside at 5:30, my heart nearly stopped. In addition to the darkness, it was raining, and a heavy fog had rolled in. Visibility was nearly non-existent. Needless to say, it was a harrowing drive. Mom and I prayed all the way home. I prayed God would clear the fog, give me clear vision, and keep us safe. As the miles passed, and the fog didn’t clear, I became angry. Why wasn’t God clearing the mist? Did he not care about us?

As we got closer to home, I realized God had answered my prayer. He had given me enough visibility to arrive without incident. I never lost sight of the yellow line in the center of the road. He had not answered in the manner I requested (demanded?). I wanted him to lift the fog, but he saw us home.

Has that ever happened to you? You approach God with a situation and make your request, and you don’t get the answer you’re looking for. You get a different response, perhaps even a no. Sometimes it’s difficult not to get angry.

Rest assured. God has your best interests at heart, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Next time you’re praying, include a request for God to help you accept his answer-whatever it might be.

“The Lord is ear to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18 NASB

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 1/1/17

Go to the Throne

For many people, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is fun yet frantic: tasks to complete at work before the end of the year, family matters, and special events and services at church. The frenetic pace of juggling multiple commitments creates stress and even depression. For other folks, these weeks are difficult because of loneliness, ill health, or loss. Where do you fall on the spectrum? If you are struggling, you are not alone.

Noah, Moses, David, and even Jesus experienced difficult times when they were overwhelmed.

Think about Noah. Aware that the earth and all that was in it would be destroyed, he had to construct a vessel to carry people, animals, and supplies to last for a couple of years. My study Bible indicates the ark had a displacement of about 20,000 tons – a little less than half that of a cruise ship – and he built it one stick at a time.

What about Moses? First he had to convince the monarch who enslaved his people to set them free, and then he had to get those people across the desert to a land God promised them. And by the way, population estimates range from 600,000 to well over a million. A bit like herding cats, I would imagine.

Remember David? Anointed by God to replace Saul, David ruled Israel during a contentious period in their history, to say nothing of managing his household of eight wives, ten concubines, and their children. He also had to run for his life on more than one occasion.

The night before he was crucified Jesus sweat drops of blood. It is said he experienced a rare condition called haematidrosis, the result of extreme stress.

But these men were not alone, and we are not either. We have a heavenly father who walks with us each step of the way whether we are celebrating or whether we want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over our heads. It can be helpful to contact friends for support during the good times and bad, but it’s necessary for our well-being to crawl into our Father’s lap to commune with him. He, not our friends, gives us the peace that passes understanding.

The holidays are over. Are you a little worse for wear? Go to the throne instead of the phone.

“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray;

and when it was evening, He was there alone.” Matthew 14:23 NASB

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 12/1/16

The Best Laid Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

One of my staff members tore a muscle in her knee and required surgery to repair it. On her last day of work prior to the operation, she assured me she would return to work within three weeks, four at the most. Having seen friends and other co-workers experience similar surgeries, I was surprised at her prognosis of the situation. About ten days later, the woman called to inform me that it would be January before she would be released to work. With disappointment coloring her voice, she said she was still wearing a brace and her physical therapy wouldn’t begin for another few days.

Needless to say, she was discouraged at what she perceived as a setback. Further conversation revealed that during the conversation to schedule her procedure, the doctor told her to expect six to eight weeks of recovery time. Thinking she knew best, she ignored his medical knowledge of what her body required to heal. She was sure she’d be back on her feet sooner than he predicted.

How many times have we ignored God’s plan for us, thinking that we knew better? Personally, more times than I’d like to admit. It’s discouraging when failure strikes after we run ahead of the Lord and circumstances don’t work out. But if we had stuck to his plans to begin with, life would have taken a different turn.

December is a time when most people create a list of resolutions they plan to meet during the upcoming year. Lose weight. Get a new job. Go back to school. Save money. Take a trip. Maybe your list includes some of these items.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I’m a big list maker. I’ve already begun to think about my resolutions for next year. This year I’m reminded to seek God’s input before I start making my plans. I hope you will too.

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 11/1/16

Thankful No Matter What

Is it just me, or do you think retailers started displaying Christmas items earlier than usual this year? School had barely begun this past September when the one of the shops in my town had an aisle dedicated to the holiday. The big-box stores put out decorations, trees, and other accoutrements even earlier.

Sometimes it feels like Thanksgiving gets lost in the headlong rush toward Christmas. But perhaps I’m biased because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’m one of four children, and each November while I was growing up we were packed into the car to make the four and a half hour drive from New Jersey to Maryland to spend the weekend with my mother’s parents and extended family – a total of more than thirty people!

A farm family, my grandparents served more than just turkey and stuffing. The table was ladened with several kinds of meat as well as fresh-made bread and biscuits, potatoes, and countless vegetables. Dessert received a table all of its own and usually consisted of cakes, cookies, pies, and tarts. One of our traditions during the holiday was to share something for which we were thankful.

But how do you approach Thanksgiving when there seems to be little for which to be grateful? Perhaps you are suffering financial difficulties, loss of employment, family issues, or illness. Maybe even homelessness.

In the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 20), King Jehoshaphat found himself up against several armies. He received a report that said “a great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea.” His response? Fear. But in his fear he turned to the Lord in prayer and fasting. As a result, God answered his petition and sent an answer through one of the Israelites: “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

We can count on this same promise. As we approach Thanksgiving, turn your burdens over to your heavenly Father and rest in the hope that the battle belongs to the Lord.

“Casting all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”

I Peter 5:7 (NASB)

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 10/1/16

Wedding Preparations

I recently traveled to Minnesota to attend my niece’s wedding. My husband and I arrived several days prior to the ceremony so we could help with the preparations such as setting up the wedding venue and decorating the reception area. Despite the chaos, it was apparent my sister had a plan, and as the family worked together, the hall was transformed into a beautiful expression of love.

At the beginning of Friday’s rehearsal, the pastor asked everyone what the goal was for the following day. We all laughed and agreed our purpose was to get Michaela and Kollin married. Everything that followed contributed to that objective.

Throughout the process God reminded me how our Christian walk as the Bride of Christ is comparable to Michaela’s wedding preparations:

  • My niece and her fiancé didn’t let the mayhem and occasional squabble distract them from the joy of getting married. In the same way, we shouldn’t let the disappointments or frustrations of life rob us of the job of our salvation.
  • When disruptions occurred, confusion ensued, so we referred to the checklist and reminded ourselves of the goal. Sometimes we get so caught up doing work for the kingdom, we forget the ultimate goal – wooing people into God’s family. Referring back to the “checklist,” the Bible, we can keep our eye on God’s purpose.
  • The love between Michaela and Kollin is fresh. They don’t take each other for granted. They reveled in being together and preparing for their wedding day. No matter how long we’ve been Christians, we need to spend time with God, working on our relationship to prevent it from getting stale.

The wedding came off without a hitch, and God added a special blessing to the ceremony by providing a gorgeous, sunny day.

“You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Psalm 118: 28-29 (NASB)

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 9/1/16

Whatever Is Pure

As the Presidential election grows closer, the advertisements and mudslinging hurled toward and between the candidates have become more virulent. Accusations abound, and comments are made that in the past were not said behind closed doors, let alone out in public. The media fans the flames of controversy by ensuring only the most scintillating of incidents hit the airwaves. Separating fact from fiction and truth from speculation is becoming more difficult.

It’s easy to get swept into the foray. Politics are discussed everywhere-at work, at home, at church, and even in the grocery store. We all have opinions, and we all want to be heard. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But let’s consider how our opinions are expressed (whatever we’re discussing). Do we get so emotionally involved in the issue that we speak heatedly? Do we turn from the topic and denigrate the individual for their viewpoint, disparaging them personally? Or do we use knife-like sarcasm to slice through the conversation?

While watching a particularly pernicious commercial, Jesus words in Luke’s gospel came to mind. (Interesting what God uses to get our attention, isn’t it?) In 6:45 He says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” I believe God was reminding me that no matter how the world acts, I’m to exhibit a different sort of behavior. And the way to do that is to focus on Him and His Word.

Paul’s spoke to the church at Philippi about this, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

The tongue is discussed often throughout the Bible. I’m sure the following verses are familiar to you:

Proverbs 12:18 “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

James 3:8 “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

I Corinthians 13:1 “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

What treasure is in your heart?

 

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 8/1/16

Distant Memories

As mentioned in a previous post, I recently returned from the trip-of-a-lifetime to Alaska. My husband is a serious amateur photographer, so he took more than two thousand pictures while we were there. I snapped a “mere” two hundred and fifty. Since getting back, I often flip through the photos, reminiscing about those precious ten days. I frequently look at pictures from other trips my husband and I have taken during the years of our marriage, enjoying the memories evoked by the images.

But not all memories are special. I have recollections from my life that are filled with hurt, regret, or shame; events I’d like to forget, but that surface unbidden and cause me fresh grief.

Even Jesus’ disciples had moments from their pasts best left buried. These giants of the faith who are held in high esteem by Christians worldwide, had incidents they probably preferred to remain hidden: Peter’s denial of his Lord, John’s running away during Jesus’ arrest, John Mark’s desertion of Paul, Matthew’s less than honest dealings while he was a tax collector, or Paul’s killing of Christians prior to his conversion.

But God (one of my favorite phrases in the Bible) used these men despite their shortcomings. He forgave them for their failures, their sins, and used these people for His glory. Just as important, He also forgot their sins. Fortunately for us, God is able to erase our sins from His mind, as if they never happened. I wish my memory could be wiped clean, don’t you?

Are you struggling with distant memories? Memories that haunt you or badger you? Ask God to remove those thoughts from your head. Remember His forgiving grace that eliminates your failures from his mind.

Dear Father God, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Thank you for salvation from our sins. Comfort us when distant memories are dredged up, and we feel hurt, humiliation or distress. Thank you for forgetting the times we let you down.

“…for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34 NASB)

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 7/1/16

The Alaskan Way

According to National Park Service statistics, the number of tourists visiting Alaska has nearly doubled in the last fifteen years, with the state hosting more than two million people during the 2015 season. Once termed “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox,” for Secretary of State William Seward who coordinated its purchase from the Russians, Alaska is now one of Park Service’s most popular destinations.

At more than 650,000 square miles, Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas. However, it remains a remote and wild land. With few roads, residents depend on alternate transportation to reach their destination: boats, trains, planes (over 70% of Alaskans hold a pilot’s license), snow machines, and dog sleds.

Because the majority of the population lives in isolated communities, residents have learned to depend on their neighbors (often miles away) for assistance. Dependence doesn’t come easily. Americans are generally strong and independent people, something we celebrate every July 4th. But we in the “Lower 48” could learn from the Alaskans.

Society would have us believe that relying on others is a bad thing. That no matter what, we should “pull up our bootstraps” and carry on. This philosophy also causes us to run ahead of God and try numerous solutions of our own long before we turn to the Father for help. We’re sure we know the better way. Or worse, we don’t want to “bother” God with our petty problems. Those of you who are parents, best understand that you would do anything for your children, regardless of the size of the issue. We need to remember our Heavenly Father feels the same way.

Are you mired in a situation you’ve been trying to solve your way? Do you have a decision to make you’ve been reluctant to share with God? Call on Him today. He’ll be thrilled to support and guide you.

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NASB)

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 6/1/16

Busy, Busy, Busy

Everywhere I look nature is making preparations. There are several bird families in our yard, and they diligently built their nest, and now await the hatching of their offspring. The chipmunks have been frantic, setting up housekeeping and digging up the food they buried last fall. The bees have been collecting nectar, and the ants have been erecting tiny hills amidst the blades of grass.

The people in my neighborhood have also been making preparations. Snowblowers have been swapped for lawn mowers. Shovels exchanged for trimmers or leaf blowers. Weeding, mulching, planting, cleaning, painting, and building. In some ways, we don’t look any different than the ants.

Jesus talked about that.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus came for a visit, and Mary sat at his feet to listen, while Martha hustled and bustled around the house. Probably cooking up a storm, and ensuring everyone had something to drink or somewhere to sit. She was “distracted with all her preparations.” (Luke 10:39) But that wasn’t the worst part. She complained to Jesus that Mary had left Martha to do all the work.

I imagine Jesus looked at Martha with something akin to pity, rather than irritation or anger. She was missing out, and she didn’t realize it. He said, “Martha, Martha, you are so worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Jesus calls us to serve, but in this case, I think Martha was standing at the altar of self-appointed service. Then her feelings got hurt when no one noticed. She opened her home, but Mary opened her heart. In all her busyness, Martha’s distraction hindered her ability to hear what Jesus had to say.

Sometimes ministry can be a distraction in our pursuit of true intimacy with God. We get so involved in being on committees, or preparing lessons or sermons, that we miss the opportunity to simply sit at Jesus’ feet. Many things are important, but our relationship with Christ is the “one thing necessary.”

Take some time today to set aside your distractions and commune with Jesus.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a)

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 5/1/16

Savor Each Day

Recently, a friend of mine lost his wife. She went to bed one night and didn’t wake up the following morning. She was fifty-four years old.

Needless to say, we were all stunned, and there were many conversations about why death had occurred to one “so young.” But when all was said and done, we still hadn’t arrived at an answer. We may never know the answer on this side of eternity.

And if we’re honest with ourselves, we would admit that bothers us. We want explanations, especially to hard questions. Especially where loss and grief are involved. We’ll search and research, discuss and analyze till we determine a reason why something happened.

The good news is that God understands our grief. He can relate to our pain because He has experienced debilitating heartache, too:

  • Mankind was so depraved by the time of Noah that God was “sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in his heart.” (Genesis 6:6)
  • Jesus lost his friend Lazarus to death. “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
  • The Holy Spirit is grieved when we sin. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)

Rather than chase elusive answers, we can cry out to God to ease our pain. We can ask him for peace against the unknown. We can seek to savor each day that God gives us in an effort to glorify him.

Relinquishing control to God is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but it will be one of the most rewarding. Even during difficult times.

Especially in difficult times.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Psalm 46:1 (NASB)

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 4/1/16

Endurance

I am not a long distance runner. I discovered that when my college roommate asked me to be her PT (physical training) companion. She needed an accountability partner to accompany her during  her daily, five mile run, and I thought “how hard can it be?”

Not long after we set off, I found the answer to my question: “very hard.” I quickly developed shin splints that shot sharp, needle-like pain up the front of each leg. I also didn’t have the aerobic stamina. In other words, I was sucking wind. Within a few days, I resigned myself to the fact I didn’t have what it took and told my roommate to find a new partner.

In hindsight I realize I didn’t have the right equipment, nor had I prepared my body for the ordeal. I wore basic sneakers that had no arch support or cushioned heels. I had not been a physically active person, and I smoked cigarettes. Why did I think I could be a runner?

Isn’t our Christian walk like this sometimes? We don’t sufficiently prepare ourselves for the endurance needed on our journey. We read our Bible and pray, but we are often so busy serving in church that we forget to spend time communing with our Savior. Then we wonder why we get discouraged or burned out. Kingdom work is important, but maintaining our relationship with God will give us the strength we need for this marathon called life.

“One of those days, Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray,

and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 3/1/16

Unlikely Relationships

My husband and I just finished participating in the Winter musical at the school where we work. Over the course of rehearsals, I noticed various friendships form, some of the relationships seemingly unlikely – kids from extremely different countries/cultures became best buddies, other kids developed friendships with staff members or teachers. Many of these relationships might not have come to fruition if the group had not come together for the purpose of producing the play.

The Bible is filled with examples of unlikely relationships, relationships that God used to his glory. The Moabite woman, Ruth, followed her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, home to Israel. Know many daughters-in-law who would do that? But it turned out best for everyone. How about David and Jonathan, son of the man who was trying to kill David? That wouldn’t normally make for the most trusting of relationships, yet Jonathan “encouraged him {David} in God.”

Then there was Jesus and the Samaritan woman, a woman who had been married numerous times and was currently living with a man. This incident was unusual in many regards: an unrelated man and woman speaking in public; a Jew interacting with a woman from the despised nation of Samaria; the King of Kings connecting with a sinner.

Is God calling you to form an unlikely relationship? Has he whispered in your ear to approach that co-worker or fellow church member who is your complete opposite, or perhaps even an adversary? Friendships can form across cultures, generations and all walks of life.

Reach out. You’ll be glad you did.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has

no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15: 12-13 (NASB)

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 2/1/16

But God

We all have favorite passages in the Bible. Perhaps you love the 23rd Psalm, Mary’s Magnificat, John 3:16 or Paul’s writings about the Fruits of the Spirit. As much as I treasure those verses, the words I cherish most in the Scriptures are “but God.”

The phrase occurs numerous times throughout the Bible. A situation is going a particular direction, and then God intervenes, often quite dramatically. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish now what is being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) Joseph is speaking to his brothers who came to Egypt for help during the famine. Even though Joseph had been wronged by his brothers, God used the incident as part of his plan to save the Israelites.

“But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.” (Acts 7:5) Have you ever received a promise from God that you thought was absolutely outrageous? Abraham must have felt that way when God gave him this promise – yet it was fulfilled when Abraham least expected it.

“You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:14-15) If not for the fact that God resurrected Jesus, none of us would have a personal relationship with him. Because of our faith in a risen Savior, we are saved from death and destruction.

Try to remember that it doesn’t matter if we are being opposed or threatened, or waiting an interminable time for something to happen, or it seems that the task ahead is insurmountable, we can rest in the words “but God.”

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 1/1/16

Surviving Christmas

Christmas is over. Are you relieved?

Let’s face it, for those in church work (whether paid or volunteer), Christmas and Easter are our busiest times, often too busy to actually enjoy the event or feel worshipful during the service.

The grind of planning, sermon writing, meetings, and rehearsals combined with the hustle and bustle of shopping, family commitments, and other events can be overwhelming.

And snuff the joy of the season right out of you.

Here are a few ways I have found to recapture the sense of wonder and awe of God’s gift of His Son’s birth:

1. Listen to music. Make an appointment with yourself and God (outside your regular devotional time) and go to a favorite location where you can be alone. If it’s in the house be sure to shut the door and hang a “do not disturb” sign on the knob. Using the music producing device of your choice (iPod, CD, YouTube, etc.), listen to Christmas carols. Lots of Christmas carols. Listen at a sound level that tunes out everything else. Sing along (no matter your vocal ability) and pay attention to the words. Let God remind you of the “reason for the season.”

2. Take a walk. Yes, I know it is winter in New England. Bundle up and tuck hand-warmers in your gloves. Promise yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate, tea, or coffee upon return. As you walk, look at God’s creation. With the leaves gone, it’s easier to notice the variations in tree bark, size and shape of shrubs, and the nuances of color in soil and stones. Talk to God and thank him for his attention to detail in everything he made. Be specific. Remember, he could have created one type of everything, and we wouldn’t have known the difference. Instead, he gave us variety beyond belief.

3. Go to church. Not on Sunday or a day it is full of people, but when the building is vacant. Let yourself into the sanctuary. Remove your coat and sit down in one of the pews. Take a deep breath. Then another. Is there a cross in the room? Gaze at it and remember that before Christ died for us, he came into the world as a tiny baby. Then list the reasons you are thankful at this particular time of year. Speak them out loud. You may feel foolish at first, but once you get going, you’ll discover they readily roll off your tongue.

Christmas may be over, but the feeling doesn’t have to be. May you have a blessed 2016.

“…Behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people; for today in the city

of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2:10-11

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 12/16/15

Dream Big!

Dreams. Most everyone has them. Abraham dreamed of having a son. As did Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother. Jacob dreamed of marrying Rachel. Mordecai dreamed of salvation for the Jews. Perhaps you have dreams for your life – a better job, retirement, having children, getting married, purchasing your first home, writing a best-selling novel, starting a business, implementing a program at church, or reaching your neighbor/friend/family member for Christ.

From Thanksgiving through Christmas, Hallmark™ airs countless movies about love and happiness. In their film ‘Tis the Season for Love, the protagonist, Beth, is an out-of-work actress. Ten years ago, she left a small town to “make it big” on Broadway. When she doesn’t get the “role of a lifetime” yet again, she returns home for Christmas for the first time since leaving. Being repeatedly asked about her exciting life as an actress wears her down to the point where she admits, “I’m comparing my dreams to my real life, and there’s a major difference between the two. My life looks nothing like I thought it would.”

Have you had that conversation with yourself? Have you arrived at a point in your life where you wonder why your life doesn’t resemble the dreams you once had for it? Beth is a fictional character, but I sensed her despair and felt sorry for her. By the end of the movie, Beth realizes her dream has changed. She has a new dream, and she lives happily ever after-which is all well and good in the fictional world of Hallmark™ movies.

But Beth’s dreams were just that – “her” dreams. The missing component in her life was a relationship with God. He wants to partner with us in determining our dreams. In fact, he often has bigger dreams for us than we do for ourselves. Fear often nips away at the possibilities we imagine. In this season of hope (confident expectation), consider asking God what he’s dreaming up for you.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord,

“plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

Post by the Rev. David Doyle; posted 12/10/15

The Feeling vs the Reality

My Bible readings this morning where Psalm 130 and Jude 1:1–10. Psalm 130 starts where I often find myself – “Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!” I’m sure a huge majority of God’s people through the ages have had that experience. I’ll bet you’ve shared it sometimes. This is not just a crying out to God, but a “from the depths” crying out to God. It’s a hollow, black experience that makes us wonder about the reality of our faith and the secureness of our destiny. Personally, I’m glad to find that I’m not alone in this experience.

So we wait (vs 5), and we hope. We long for the time when God will come in power and victory and right all wrongs and restore this creation. There is always a future tense in Christianity. We are always looking forward to God’s action at the consummation of history. While that is good, sometimes I wish God would just hurry up and be done.
Then my reading moves on to Jude. It’s a funny little book that I used to read a lot as a new Christian. I suppose it was because I could read it completely and then feel all spiritual.

I was brought me up short this morning by verse 1. Jude tells the recipients of the letter (and you and I are included in that!) that they are the called, the beloved in God the Father, and the kept for Jesus Christ ones. It’s as if Jude read my mind as I was experiencing the depths trying to reach God with my prayers. He decided to answer me with his experience. He tells us three things we need to remember, three things that give backbone to our relationship with God.

First he says we are called. I don’t know why God chose to have me join his family though adoption, but he did. When I’m feeling lost and drowning it doesn’t change God’s calling me. Then Jude expands on this calling. One of my continuing experiences in childhood was related to my less than stellar athletic ability (I stunk, really). I would always get chosen for a team, but usually last, and never with any delight. The, “Ok, we’ll take Doyle” was never accompanied by the rest of the team clapping. Nope, it was with a sigh. I might be good for something more than filling out the roster, but my teammates didn’t know what. But this time, when I was chosen by God, I find that I’m beloved as well. Everyone once in a while that thought brings me up short! “I’m beloved by God,” my soul whispers scarcely able to believe it. That brings a smile to my face.

Jude finishes his thinking with another, just as powerful, thought. If we were left here we might think the calling and the loving are in the past (although the Greek lets us know that the loving started in the past but continues!).
We might think we are the once loved Woody when Andy gets a new Buzz toy loved person. We might think that God once loved us, but has since come to his senses and dropped us for someone better. Jude says nope, not happening! We are also kept, or protected, for Jesus Christ. No matter what my current feelings are no matter what experience I may be having, this, says Jude, will be the backbone of my Christian reality. You are called. You are beloved. You are kept.

And then, I feel like God hears my voice. I’m not merely crying from the depths, I’m a called, beloved, kept child of God. He will come into the depths with me. That is my new reality.

The Rev. David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it.

 

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 11/17/15

 

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Ain’t Technology Grand?

I don’t have a “smart” phone. I don’t tweet pithy comments on Twitter or post images on Pinterest. I’m probably considered a dinosaur when it comes to technology, which is a bit ironic considering the fact I’m married to a software engineer who owns just about every electronic gadget available.

After a lot of “encouragement” (read pushing) from my sister, I created a Facebook account. Initially skeptical about its usefulness, I am now grateful for Facebook’s ability to keep me in contact with family and friends. I have been able to reconnect with former schoolmates and am part of a community of other Christian writers. I keep up with my church’s activities through its Facebook page. However, I don’t think social media should replace personal relationships, and am often concerned about the number of people I see glued to their “screens.”

But I was recently touched by the outpouring of love and support via Facebook to a friend’s family when she passed away from cancer. People from all over the world expressed condolences and offered prayers to her grieving family. They shared countless anecdotes about how she had touched their lives.

The situation gave me pause to think of the different methods God uses to support his kingdom and further the Gospel message. I did some research and was intrigued to discover that churches and parachurch organizations are doing everything from texting requests to prayer chain members (talk about immediate notification!) to sermon podcasts. God has always met people where we are. And we are in a technology driven society.

I may never be a technophile, but I now appreciate how technology can open the doors to the kingdom.

“Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31 ESV)

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

Post by the Rev. David Doyle; posted 11/10/15

 

 

Reflections on Eating a Pizza

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I used to have a coffee mug with a picture of a fat monk on it. The caption read: “If God had intended us to be skinny, He wouldn’t have invented pizza.” I agree!

I’ve been trying hard to lose weight for the past year plus and so I’ve been monitoring what I eat. I haven’t had a store bought pizza in that time. But fortunately for me, my wife Jill is a great maker of healthy pizza. So a couple of times a month she gets out the makings and my mouth starts to water. I’ve come to prefer her thin crust delights and I’m glad it fits into my eating plan.

But a strange thing happens every time, and I mean every time, I have a pizza. When the pizza is ready I plop down in my chair and reach for the first slice. It’s hot enough to burn the roof of my mouth, but it doesn’t slow me down. I indulge with delight. Because I haven’t had a pizza in far too long, it tastes fresh and delightful. The crunching crust resonates in my ears and my face breaks into a chewing smile. This is good stuff!

But here’s the thing. Every single time when I pick up the fourth slice – the pizza has been cut into 8 slices – I feel a sense of loss. Oh my, I think, the pizza is almost half gone. Pretty soon I won’t have any pizza left. Pretty soon I’ll be pizza-less! It’s a horrifying thought.

That brings me to my reflection. I feel that way about death. I look at my life, or the lives of people important to me, and I have a sense of panic. I’m more than half gone. Soon there won’t be any life left for me. Why can’t it be different?

That’s the way our culture has trained us to look at life. It’s a fixed quantity; a thing to be used up. It’s all we get. What’s more, the last part is never as nice as the first part. Being old isn’t as much fun as being young (and certainly not worth as much if you believe our society).

So we fear death and try to run from it. Our whole culture, from plastic surgery to cryogenics, fights to negate death. Once our pizza is gone we’re done.

That’s not the Christian View, is it? The Christian view of life says that we will never run out of pizza, that life never ends. You may finish your current pizza, but there’s plenty more in heaven. Death is a transition from an earthly pizza to a heavenly one.

So, the next time I pick up that 4th slice, I’m not going to panic. I’m going to trust in the Lord who controls both this life and the next. I’m sure there will be no shortage of pizza at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it.

 

 

Post by the Rev. Dale Edwards, Region Minister; posted 11/3/15

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This fall I have had the opportunity to be a part of several church anniversary celebrations.  Years ending in “5” must have been popular years for planting churches. I have been to a #150, a #200, a #215, and a #225, church anniversary celebration. The histories of how churches began are quite similar. Baptists were driven out of Puritan Massachusetts. (Back then my forbearers were Puritans, so I have a twinge of guilt.) Churches came into being as part of the Great Awakening, the 2nd Great Awakening, and even the 3rd Great Awakening. One hears the names of George Whitfield, Benjamin Randall, and Isaac Backus.

The church I pastored for 25 years was a late comer to the history of Baptist churches in VT and NH. It wasn’t founded until 1865. At that point Baptists had been renting pews in the Congregational church. The church was planted by the First Baptist Church of Haverhill, MA. The church planting pastor was Sumner Hale. To use a modern phrase, Sumner was “bi-vocational”. He was a scythe maker by trade while planting a church. In 1870 he helped dig the trenches in which granite blocks were laid via block and tackle, a tri-pod, and oxen for the church building’s foundation. On a couple of occasions I held and read his Bible, his Psalter and his hymnal. The notes of the society he founded speak eloquently of his call to Lebanon, NH, to plant a new church. Those who signed the church covenant accepted a call to commit or recommit their lives to Christ. The covenant was influenced by the “New Hampshire Confession of Faith.” By 1875, Sumner had developed voice problems and could no longer preach. The church called one of its deacons to serve as pastor. Nathan Stone would serve as the church’s pastor for 25 years until called to another New Hampshire congregation in 1900.

Over the years I have often sat and talked with church planters who have felt called to come to New England. Although I might disagree with shades of theology or methodology, I find a sincerity of call, and a passion for Christ. Today, over longer distances, one church can plant another. You don’t have to depend on horseback, or coach, or the train from Boston. But sometimes when I talk with church planters, some of whom arrive like scythe makers with risk to themselves and families, I wonder if I hear who we once were? Granted, the ministry of church renewal is very different from church planting. Long histories are rich with instruction versus writing your own beginnings. But when I talk with church planters, do I hear the echoes of Sumner Hale or Benjamin Randall? What I think is timeless, whether we are called to plant churches or lead church renewal, is that inexplicable motivating sense of call. I am here doing what I am doing because Jesus Christ has asked this of me. To a geography and situation, Christ has called me. What is enduring out of all our history is answering a call to follow Jesus Christ. Behind the volumes of histories is simply meeting Jesus and being asked to live a life for Him, and Him alone.

In Christ,

Dale

 

 

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 10/16/15

Are You in Retreat Mode?

“For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.” Psalm 27:5

Dunkirk. I’m sure many of you have heard of it. But for those who have not, it is a town in northern France located about six miles from the Belgian border. During World War II, it was the site of “a colossal military disaster” according to then Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The Battle of France began May 10, 1940. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before things went horribly wrong for the British Expeditionary Force and the French First Army. By May 21st both armies were surrounded by the German Army. Then for some unknown reason, a “halt order” was given on May 22nd by the German High Command and approved by Hitler. The Allies were able to pull back to Dunkirk where a battle ensued causing a delay of several German divisions. This allowed the evacuation of 338,226 British, French, Polish, Belgian, and Dutch troops.

Churchill referred to the event as a “miracle of deliverance.” Why was it a miracle? The Allied armies were heavily outnumbered. They should have been overrun, yet were able to escape with the help of over 850 of every conceivable type of boat-from life boats to fishing boats to pleasure crafts. Amidst gunfire and danger, private citizens pulled together to cross the English Channel multiple times to shuttle troops to larger military ships or to bring the men back to England. A seemingly impossible task completed by unorthodox means.

Ultimately, the Allies won the war. But on that last day of evacuation knowing how many men were left behind, the Allied leaders had to have felt discouraged, perhaps even defeated. It is sometimes hard to “soldier on” when we can’t see the future and life seems to be at its darkest. Are you in the throes of battle? Are you struggling to feel God’s joy? There’s nothing wrong with a strategic retreat. Sometimes it’s necessary in order to regroup.

Take some time and retreat to the Father’s lap. He’ll give you the strength you need to bear the load.

“It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

 

Post by the Rev. David Doyle; posted 10/7/15

The Family Reunion Church: A metaphor for the church

I like metaphors. They stretch my thinking, make me see things in new ways, and ensure that I don’t get stuck in ruts. I’ve been playing with this one for a while and want you to see if it fits. I understand that it won’t fit perfectly, nor will be it be an exhaustive metaphor. But let me know what you think.

I think church is like a family reunion. That’s my metaphor.

At a family reunion you get to see people who aren’t part of your day to day life. Maybe the last time you saw them was a whole year ago. But you never lost your connection to them. You would want to know if something good or bad happened to them. You’d show up if you were needed. You’d be praying for them.

On the other hand, you probably don’t like everyone at the family reunion. There are some strange people in every family, and to many you or I are the strange one! But no matter what happens these are the people you have to deal with. You don’t get to vote on who is in or out of the family. Even when the primary family connection is lost, like through a divorce, the person is still part of the family.

The church is the same way. The people who are part of the church aren’t necessarily people you see every day – maybe not every month. You can’t pick and choose who is part of the family. In this case God picks them. But when he picks them he makes a connection that lasts forever.

So you sit at the family reunion and look around. They are a motley bunch and you are stuck with them. The same with the church. As you sit in your seat on Sunday morning you pause to look around. Strange crew, isn’t it? But realize as well that this strangeness is God’s doing. What’s more, you were picked to be part of this strange crew as well. Now that should bring a smile to your face.

Then there is the food. Some of it is really great, some you are glad to pass up. But each dish on the table represents someone’s best. As you pick up your plate and go down the table you know, without asking, who made the meatballs and who made the purple salad. Some of these foods you don’t eat except at the family reunion because no one else can get them just right.

When someone in the family dies there is always a hole in the menu next time, isn’t there? For me this reflects the same uniqueness we each bring to the church. No one leads a Bible study quite like I do. Some will do better, others worse, but none exactly like me. As we look around at the strange crew we see the manifestation of God’s choice of spiritual gifts like a table laden with your aunt’s salad and your cousin’s cookies.

Another facet of the family reunions I’ve been to is that the upcoming generations are highlighted and celebrated. We brag about our kids, are over the moon about our grandkids, and want to hear the brags about our nieces and nephews as well.

We encourage the shy kids to sing, or play their instruments, or do whatever they do and then we applaud until the roof falls. At one family reunion the Matriarch had one of the tweens show us how he did break dancing. We hadn’t the slightest idea whether it was any good (or even what it was!) but we didn’t care. When he finished we applauded just as hard for it as for anything else that was shared. The family reunion is a place that cherishes it’s young and provides a save place for them.

The church is the same, isn’t it? Where else can any child have a chance to be encouraged as they develop their gifts and skills. We’ll tell them how much we enjoyed singing even if we’ve heard better. We’ll tell them how well they are doing, how well they are growing. In church you get to try your wings without having to worry about landing short and becoming some fox’ lunch in the field.

We welcome the next generation as well. I love to see parents bring a newborn to church. It’s as if time stops until everyone gets their chance to ooh and aah and welcome the newborn to the family. There is always a waiting pair of arms to hold a newborn or a lap for a youngster to sit on.

Another thing about family reunions leads me to think of the church. How does a person, not currently a member of the family, get to come to a reunion? I’ve never known of a person to just walk in off the street and say, “Hey, this looks like a nice family reunion. I think I’ll join.” Yet this is how most of us wish church growth would happen. We open the doors and wait for the multitude wander in. How’s that working for us? People become part of the family because they are brought in by a current family member. You make a friend, you fall in love, you marry into a family. But it’s the individual, one on one, relationship that makes it happen.

One of the reasons this metaphor seems important to me is that we have whole parts of our society where people have left their families. They have moved half-way across the country, they have become estranged, they have been adrift. These folks still need a family.

I think I read somewhere that it’s not good to be alone. Even introverts need family. The Family Reunion Church can provide a family for these people. When we gather, when we swap our stories and eat together, we are being God’s extended family. I think that’s a better way to view our gatherings than a quick 60 minutes before we dash off to something way less important.

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it.

 

Post by the Rev. Dale Edwards, Region Minister; posted 9/25/15

On my next birthday I will be 57 years old. I try to believe that 57 is the new 37, but I am find-ing that the older I get, the more memories I have. The collection is larger, the reference points more like an exercise in connecting the dots. There is more to reflect on, draw from, ruminate over.

And honestly, I unnerve myself when I remember histories of some ABC churches going back 20 or 30 years. I remember annual gatherings from the time I was about 18. I remember between the ages of 20 and 24 doing pulpit supply in churches where I now sit with some of the same people I met years ago, to prayerfully discern a church’s future.

Memories of what once was and what is now can feel weighty. The burden of change and anxiety about the future is palpable. We wrestle with what has occurred over time, and wonder why the world has unfolded as it has.

But there is also a place to see beyond memories and history to a timelessness encompassed in Christ.   When I push back the layers of memories and ask myself “Why has my life unfolded like it has?”, somehow by God’s grace, in a transcendent work of the Holy Spirit, I can see a 9 year boy inviting Jesus Christ into his life via the classic sinner’s prayer.

When I ask questions about my life, and layers of memories begin to re-cede, I see my life’s starting point and purpose. I wonder who I would have been without Jesus Christ. (I suspect I could be riding around on back roads, throwing the empties into the pickup’s bed.)

When I dig into church histories, I read of the reason and purpose that churches were planted. I find cove-nants that speak of “Having left the darkness and now called into His marvelous light, we covenant….” Or, “Having been called together to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we covenant ….”  Or, “Having been led by the Holy Spirit, we covenant together ….”

When hearts received Christ, a collective heart formed Christ-ian communities who built buildings with steeples and kitchens and educational wings. But it all began with that first, near earth-shaking memory experience, that Jesus Christ has met me, and I him, and the world will never be same for myself and others.

At this point, I believe we step from just memories into a Holy timelessness, which only the reign of Christ brings about. And dwelling, “camping out,” in this Holy timelessness, dissipates the bad impulses, the gnaw-ing worries, and we see Jesus fresh.  And we are graciously given a timeless Sabbath, knowing in Paul’s words to the Colossians, “He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

When we examine our own thoughts, and when as churches we remember and look forward, the eternal Christ is holding our thoughts and memories. For individuals and churches, may God in a timeless fashion, form it all for His eternal glory.

In Christ,

Dale

Post by Linda Matchett; posted 9/16/15

Beginnings and Endings

 “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  ~Matthew 28: 20b

Look around you. Have you noticed the leaves are beginning to change? The nights are getting cooler. Fall is on its way. In some school systems, children have returned to the classroom. Or in the case of my great-niece starting school for the first time. My nephew is struggling with worry and separation anxiety, but he should be happy for her, right? Thrilled she’s begun a new chapter in her life with Kindergarten being the first step, right?

If many of us were honest with ourselves, we would admit that even good change can be hard. A new baby, a new job, a new house. Or how about retirement? Or relocating to that town where you’ve always wanted to live. Finally having lots of time to spend with your spouse. These are all wonderful beginings. Yet, for some of them an ending is involved. For some of them our level of control will be diminished (especially with that new child!)

God asked Abraham to pick up everything and move to a new country. That was a huge change, a new beginning, one that turned out great, but certainly not without quite a few hiccups (and stressors) along the way. It turned out so well because Abraham was following God, not because Abraham was in control of the situation. (Ouch!)

Are you at a crossroads? Is God asking you to make a new start? Sometimes that means making an ending. And that’s okay, too. He’ll be with you the whole way.

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

This post is by the Rev. David Doyle; posted 9/2/15 

Where Does A Good Church Start?

The Apostle Paul Builds a Baseball Team

One of the frequent discussions sports fans have goes like this: “If you were to start a brand new baseball (or any sport) team and you could choose any player to be the cornerstone of your franchise, who would you choose?” You might pick a power slugger or a lights out pitcher. It’s such an open ended question that the discussion could go on for days – and often do. While it’s a fun exercise it is really asking the question, “What’s most important?”

I’ve been wondering what that discussion looks like if we are talking about a local church and not a baseball team. What’s the most important thing to a good, healthy church? If you could snap your fingers and guarantee one thing about the new church you are going to be part of what would it be?

I think I would choose something the Apostle Paul mentions in Romans 12. I’ve always held Romans 12:1-2 in high regard. It was one of the first verses I memorized as a new Christian, and I’ve been trying to live it out in my life ever since. I am really attracted to the idea that our “reasonable service” is to give our selves totally to God as a living sacrifice; to have our minds renewed to the point where we have an understanding. So for many years I have tried to live out the Christian life through a renewed mind.

But, while having the “What makes a good church” discussion with the Apostle he pointed out a flaw in my choice. It’s as if he said, “Hey Dave, is there a problem with your Bible?”

“What do you mean, ‘a problem with my Bible?’ I’ve got fancy leather bound Bibles. I’ve got a lot of computer Bibles. I’ve even got Greek Bibles. I don’t think there is any problem with my Bible?”

“Ok,” Paul said, “but you always stop at verse 2. Does you Bible have, say, verse 3?”

“Of course, it has verse 3,” I say indignantly.

“Well, it’s there for a reason.”

So I went back to my Bible to see what that reason might be. And to see how it might apply to our discussion of a good church.

Paul says, and I’ll quote him, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment …”

I think I get Paul’s point here. I’ll make a few observations and then let you apply it to yourself and your church.

First, I think Paul is saying that this isn’t just his idea, something he thought of one day while having coffee. He says that this is from God. (As a writer of Scripture he’s allowed that, don’t you think?) So this is something that’s really important to God that might be the cornerstone of the local church we are building.

Second, Paul says not to think of yourself too highly. I’ve met a few people who think too little of themselves, but my experience would hold that most people have an expanded view of themselves. That’s why Paul starts here.

Let me digress for a bit. How many of the problems in our churches are caused by people exalting themselves at the expense of the whole? They want their favorite music. They want the sermon to reflect their viewpoint. They want the ministry of the church to do their stuff. Oh, we are very pleasant about it as we’ve learned to wrap this in spiritual language. But when you come down to it too many of us think the church is all about me.

If we were return to our baseball metaphor we’d see that it would be foolish to build a team around a selfish player. What good is someone who is only thinking about their stats, who makes her teammates have to work harder? It won’t work in the church any better than it does in baseball.

Third, Paul continues by saying that not only should you not exalt yourself but that you should be realistic about yourself. Since it’s really hard to do this alone, this means we need to listen to the others that God has brought to the church.

Fourth, let me add the Biblical conclusion to this from Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Paul isn’t saying that others are more significant that you, but he’s saying act that way.

With that we see the beginning, the starting place of a good church. It is a group of Christians who gather for the good of each other. It is a group where each member sees to it that the other gets ministered to first. It’s a group that has people who don’t say “Me first!” Rather they say, “You first, please.” The ultimate expression of this is when the whole group says, “You first, Jesus. We are here to do what you want.”

What does this mindset; this lifestyle, do for a church? I can think of a couple of things to continue our discussion.

First, it means that those on the fringes are brought to the center. All sorts of people whom the world has said, “You don’t matter,” are told “God thinks you matter.”

Second, it means that when we aren’t trying to get our own way we might make the effort to see that someone else, say maybe Jesus, gets his way in the church. I think the church might become the instrument of grace that He called it to be.

Finally, I think each of us might be able to actually relax and enjoy real Christian fellowship and show the world something miraculous.

Hey, you might want to build on pitching, and I on hitting, but Paul’s got a real point here. I think it’s worth a try.

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it.

 

This week’s post is by Linda Matchett; posted 8/17/15

From Cupbearer to Project Manager

As cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah’s job was to guard against poison in the king’s cup requiring that Nehemiah swallow some of the wine before serving it. History shows this is often a position of great influence, one that is greatly valued and given to only a select few. After a series of events, Nehemiah found himself in Jerusalem in charge of rebuilding the city walls. Despite the challenges, with Nehemiah’s guidance, and help and protection from God, the people of Israel finished the job.

From cupbearer to project foreman? I’m a former Human Resources professional. In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have considered Nehemiah for the job – after all his resume didn’t indicate he had the skills and experience for the position. But God knew better (as he always does!)

Have you ever taken on a new job and felt unprepared for the task? Take a few tips from Nehemiah:

First and foremost, pray about the situation. God will lead you in the right direction. I think sometimes in the midst of all our planning and list making, we forget to do this. (“…I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4).

Second, remember you can’t necessarily do everything yourself. You sometimes have to depend on others for a successful outcome. I don’t know about you, but I’m not always good at asking for help. But Nehemiah knew how to recognize people’s gifts and talents and use them to complete the job. (Nehemiah Chapter 3)

Third, know that people will get discouraged, or fed up or afraid, but with God’s strength, you can completed the project. Nehemiah had to deal with attacks from without and within, yet he “stuck to his guns” and finished the wall. (Nehemiah 2:19-20)

Do you try to “go it alone?” Or are you the one leading the charge and find yourself with a tribe of discouraged or unruly people? Are you being attacked from beyond the walls?

Rest in God’s strength. He will be strong in your weakness.

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

This week’s post is by Region Minister, the Rev. Dale Edwards; posted 8/5/15

My Solitary Place

(Note: Dale uses the term “poustinia” in his article. A poustinia is a small, sparsely furnished cabin or room where one goes to pray & fast alone in the presence of God. It has its origin in the Russian word for desert.)

This spring I thought I needed a new hobby, so I purchased eight chicks. I only wanted 5 or 6 and assumed a couple would die. But chicks must be stronger than when I was kid, because they all lived and now I have a coop with 8 pullets. In the coop is a plastic milk crate where I sit early in the morning when I go out to feed and water the chickens. I am getting up earlier, a little after dawn. The chickens ruffle from their roost and I sit on the milk crate and wait for them to wake up and come and greet me.

But I am now finding that my chicken coop milk crate is becoming a rather sacred spot. With the chickens milling about, and the crows crowing outside, somehow a coop becomes a poustinia; dim, hidden and simple. A plastic milk crate, pine shavings under foot, and a bird or two or three on my knees, becomes an extra-ordinary place to pray. And then as the sun is moving higher, I exit the chicken coop to be with others who do not have feathers.

We are all familiar with Mark 1, where Jesus gets up early in the morning and goes to a “solitary place” to pray. Peter and the disciples go searching for him and Jesus’ answer to them is he is now ready to go to the villages, preaching and casting out demons. Wow! I don’t really feel that ready for the world when I leave my coop, but there is this ideal rhythm of spiritual habit, to disengage so one might engage, a releasing of the world for a returning to the world. Over and over again the Christian is invited to emulate Christ in what can be a sacred life-forming rhythm; stepping back, as the first step, to stepping into once again, like warming on the beach before jumping back into the cold waters of the Atlantic.

One of the soul benefits of the disengagement/engagement rhythm is keeping the world in perspective.   From the solitary place we learn to respond and not react. I wonder if the Holy Spirit forms our minds so we have a greater sense of the eternal. This sense of God’s eternal holiness gives clarity of thought and peace of mind. Jesus’ mind was set on the day, or days, ahead. He set his mind upon Jerusalem. He lived an in-tense life with others and an abandoned life with Father and Spirit. I wonder if Jesus ever prayed about the things he didn’t want to do that day. I wonder if “not my will but yours” was a practiced prayer before Geth-semane. Maybe the lesson is that in leaving the world and then engaging the world, that the world is less likely to consume us. One then might live with confidence and joy in the great tension between the City of God and the City of the World.

Maybe in the most hidden and simple of poustinias is the place where God forms us for acts of grace and power, of which often we are not even aware.

In Christ, Dale

 

This week’s guest post is by Linda Matchett; posted 7/23/15

stamps

Stamp Collecting 101

“I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8

My husband is an avid stamp collector. It all began when he was about eight years old. His mom purchased a White Ace album and a handful of stamps for him. And the rest, as they say, is history.

His collection of American commemorative and revenue stamps has grown over the years. Instead of one small album, he has over a dozen binders full of tiny bits of colored paper. But the collection is not complete. Many pages hold a blank square where an item is missing from a series. In order to fill the holes, he frequents stamp shows and scours auction sites.

But rather than simply purchase any old stamp, he examines each potential purchase much the same way a jeweler examines a gem. He compares the stamp to industry standards. Is the stamp well centered? Are the perforations in good condition? Is the gum intact? Has the color faded? The value is determined based on the answer to these questions.

A few days ago, he received a revenue stamp in the mail that he bought after years of searching. He pulled it from the envelope, then retrieved the appropriate album so he could show me where the stamp would reside.

He was so excited about the new arrival that I was surprised to discover it didn’t finish the page. How could he be so happy? Didn’t he realize he still had more purchases to make? Didn’t he want to see the whole picture? Yes, but he didn’t need to see the completed page to be happy about the recent acquisition.

Don’t we often have that same experience when we’re struggling to follow God’s will in our lives? We think we need to know how things will turn out in order to act in obedience. Or rather than rest in our current situation, we crane our necks to see what’s in store for us. Not that we shouldn’t plan or ask God what he would have us do next, but sometimes we’re so busy looking ahead, we miss out on the moment, our current “assignment,” if you will.

I don’t think I’ll look at postage stamps the same way again. How about you?

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

This week’s post is by the Rev. David Doyle; posted 7/8/15

A Dangerous Thing

Psalm 64:3

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The Psalmist is describing some of his enemies; you may know them. He says they “have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow…”

As I read those words a mental picture forms in my mind. I see a bunch of angels standing around the Trinity as they were creating the universe.

God creates light and the angels say, “Oh, magnificent.” God speaks and stars appear. “Incredible, brilliant, stupendous.” God creates man and places a tongue in Adam. As the angels listen to the first sounds the man makes, they pass horrified looks at each other. They look at God, but they can’t bring themselves to ask the question that was foremost on their minds – “What were you thinking? Do you really want to give people this incredibly dangerous weapon?” 

Fast forward to the Psalmist. David is experiencing the worst effects of the tongue. He sees his enemies taking aim, not with real weapons that can be stopped with a shield, but with words able to penetrate his heart.

David was a grown man when he wrote this psalm. I’m amazed how hurt he seems by mere words. Didn’t his Mother teach him the saying “sticks and stones can breaks my bones, but words can never hurt me?” Probably not because the saying just isn’t true.

Fast forward a few thousand years and we see the same thing. We see how words wound, wounds that may never heal. I read and hear many words spoken by fellow Christians and I see wounds forming. I see many of our sisters and brothers who conceal word wounds with fake smiles and social distance. “Once hurt, twice cautious,” might be the motto of the church.

It’s really tragic as it is the exact opposite of what God wants us to be. Didn’t He tell Paul to write a couple of things in Ephesians? First in chapter 4:29 he wrote: “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift” (The Message).

Wouldn’t you like to be part of a community who lives that out, saying only what helps? Remember prior to this Paul laid down another principle in 4:15. He told us: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”

I can hear the tough stuff I need to hear if I know you are speaking to me in love, our relationship is more important than merely scoring points and both you and I are doing everything in our power to be like Christ.

Every time we open our mouths we are given the choice between two options. We can speak like David’s enemies with tongues sharpened on our own sinful natures seeking to dominate and wound. We also have the choice to speak out of the love God has for us and the person to whom we are talking.

I freely admit I have difficulties making the right choice. Sometimes it seems like my tongue has a mind of its own and leads me in the way of regret and repentance. But, in this I can take solace – the Holy Spirit can tame even my tongue.  I hope anyone writing about my speech might use a Proverb: “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech  increases persuasiveness.” (16:21)

Let us strive for sweetness of speech. Let us beat a dangerous weapon into Spirit formed plowshares bringing forth a harvest of love.

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it.

 

 

This week’s post is by Linda Matchett; posted 6/29/15

True Confessions

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. (I Peter 5:7 NASB)

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I have a confession to make. I’m a worrier. Admittedly, I’m not as bad as some, but that’s not really the point, is it? I worry about small things. Will it rain the day of the church picnic? Will there be enough food at the potluck? What sort of turnout will there be at the movie night? I also worry about big things. Will I experience some sort of emergency repairs that impact my ability to pay the household bills? Will I be offered a new employment contract next year? Will I develop some life threatening disease?

I’m in good company. The disciples were worriers, too. “So the disciples were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’” (John 4:33 NASB); Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.’” (John 6:7 NASB); “The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?’” (John 11:8 NASB)

Did you notice that most of these situations have one thing in common? They can’t be controlled. Try as we might, they will happen (or not) no matter what we do. Or think. Or say.

However, I’ve got good news. God is in control. I don’t know about you, but I’m prone to forget that when I get wrapped around the axle with some issue or concern, even when it’s about kingdom work. Sometimes especially when it’s about kingdom work. Then in the midst of my chaotic thoughts, God’s still small voice breaks through to remind me that he’s “got my back,” that he’s with me and will help me handle whatever I’m dealing with.

How wonderful that the King of the universe loves us so much he’s paying attention to our every concern, no matter how big or small. He simply wants me to be obedient, and he’ll take care of the rest. Even if it rains at the picnic or I lose my job.

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

This week’s post is by the Rev. Dale Edwards; posted 6/25/15

 

Buzzing About Pew

In my travels this past week, I have often been questioned about the latest Pew Foundation report “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” The report has unleashed media cries that Christianity in America is in precipitous decline. I have found some pundits gleeful at the prospect, a sort of rejoicing in secularization. I am reminded of a pastor friend of mine from London, nearly 20 years ago predicting that one day the religious environment of the North-eastern United States would become more like secular Western Europe’s. To some degree I think my friend’s prediction is coming true.

The latest Pew report surveyed 35,000 adults in both English and Spanish. The report reveals that the American church is in decline. The largest single group, self-identified evangelicals, declined from 26.4% of the population to 25.4%, Roman Catholicism from 23.9% to 20.8%, and mainline Protestants from 18.1% to 14.7%. This decline occurred from 2007 to 2014. Simply put, there are 5 million fewer self-identified mainline Protestants than existed 7 years ago. Those identifying as “nones” (those having no religious affiliation) rose from 16.1% to 22.8%.

When I read these figures, I am not sure where American Baptists fit into the new landscape. We are the only old Protestant denomination to have grown during this 7 year span, and that by only 0.3%. But it is understood within ABC leadership that this growth is almost exclusively credited to non-white and non-English speaking congregations. It has been the acceptance of global south Christian communities into the ABC that has stemmed declined and even brought about growth.

Now sifting through the buzz, I draw some rather simple conclusions, which I venture to share.

  1. Nothing in the report surprises me;
  2. I suspect there are some believers within the “nones” who are just soured on labels;
  3. Because the survey was only conducted in English and Spanish, there are likely Christian people groups that were overlooked;
  4. Yes, we are in a process of cultural secularization, and the landscape is challenging. We can’t flee from the obvious;
  5. Yet, no need for panic; God is sovereign, Christ is risen, the Holy Spirit is still about.

Fight or flight needs to give way to gracious Christian confidence. If we only try to save churches and denominations, then we find a hollow, meaningless journey. But should we proclaim the Gospel, live out our faith, seek first Christ’s kingdom, in the end all will be well. In knowing Jesus Christ, the buzz is put in tem-poral perspective, and the gleeful pundits set aside. Challenges yes, grief provoking challenges certainly, but despair? Never. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In Christ,

Dale

 

This week’s post is by the Rev. David Doyle; posted 6/4/15

Get Me A Magnifying Glass

Psalm 69:30

I think I’m on to something here. I was reading Psalm 69 this morning and I came across verse 30. It says, in the ESV, “I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” The King James and the NASB use the same word, “magnify.” I may have found a flaw in my translation of choice here. I immediately think of the cheap magnifying glass I had as a kid. I used it for nefarious purposes like starting small fires and burning ants. I can’t believe King David is saying somehow my little fire-starting toy can be used to make God bigger than He already is. Didn’t I learn in seminary that God was omnipresent; that all of God is everywhere? I’m sure I did, so how can I make God bigger?

So, I think it’s time to solve this problem: How can I make God bigger? I decide to follow the use of the word “magnify” to see if it is the English that is the problem. (Raise your hand if you think I’m jumping down a rabbit hole here.) The first definition that pops up in my computer search is “make (something) appear larger than it is, especially with a lens or microscope.” Aha! So the translators are trying to make me think I can make God bigger.

Let’s start a petition to flay them with their quills!! But wait, there’s more. The next definition listed is: “archaic – extol; glorify.” Holding aside for the moment that these words give an entirely different slant on things let me rail against the translators for using an archaic word when there are two (at least!) perfectly fine current words to convey King David’s thoughts of 3500 years ago. What’s wrong with these translators anyway? Do they expect me to do this much work every time I want to bang out my daily readings quickly? Am I supposed to spend this much time every day? And this is just one word and I’ve got verses to read before I’m done, verses to read before I’m done.

The short answer to that question is “Yes!” The Bible is not the quick read, supermarket checkout stand magazine, that requires the least amount of time and brain power possible. It’s an immersive read. It’s a slow down and ponder read. It’s a use your brain read.

So, let’s start again. “I will magnify the Lord with thanksgiving.” Hmm, since I can’t make God bigger I wonder if the translators mean something other than the primary and first image that comes to my mind? I wonder if they mean that I might need to make God bigger to me? I wonder if I am making God small so I can control Him, so I can light a fire under him when I need something? I wonder how I can do this – make God as big as He is to me? Oh, the Psalmist tells me – I need to give thanks.” What do I give thanks for? Maybe what this big God has already done for me?

From here I’m off to the races thinking of all kinds of things that the Great God has done for me, for humanity, for eternity. I’m certainly in a different place than when I thought I’d need to make God bigger! It’s amazing what happens when we think through our Bible reading.

Some practical means for helping this to happen might include using multiple translations to see how others have understood the verse in question. In my example if I had looked at the NIV “glorify” or the NLT “honor” or my favorite “shake me out of my comfort level” translation, The Message “Let me tell of his greatness in a prayer of thanks,” I never would have fallen down the rabbit hole.

Another practical way is to actually think through the consequences of your understanding. Does it make sense from a whole Bible point of view?

Finally, let me suggest the use of a computer Bible program that is linked to Greek and Hebrew. I was only a triple click away from seeing a Hebrew dictionary that never used the word “magnify” but rather other words. Then it directed me to other passages where that particular word was used so I could see a much bigger context.

PS: The next reading for the day was 2 Corinthians 4:7ff which starts “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” I think God was adding his amen to my conclusion. It’s not God that needs to grow, but me! The surpassing power belongs to God! [I don’t need a magnifying glass, I need a Biblical worldview.]

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it.

 

This week’s post is by Linda Matchett; posted 5/21/15

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A God of Second Chances

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NASB)

Several years ago I worked with a man whose wedding ring was engraved with the word mulligan because he and his wife had remarried after divorcing many years before. Not being a golfer, I was unfamiliar with the term.

According to Wikipedia, “a mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder. Its best-known meaning is in golf whereby a player is informally allowed to replay a stroke (though this is against the formal rules of golf). The term has also been applied to other sports and games, and to other fields generally. The origin of the term is unclear.”

In April, twenty-one year old Jordan Spieth took first place in the U.S. Masters tournament, one of four major championships in professional golf. The young Mr. Spieth set several records on his way to winning the tournament. You can be sure that nowhere during the event was he allowed a mulligan.

Fortunately for us, God is a God of second chances, a God who regularly provides His people with a mulligan, a “do over,” if you will. For example, Rahab was a prostitute, yet is part of our Lord’s lineage. Or consider Paul who persecuted Christians, yet became a great missionary. Then there was the prophet Elijah who fled in fear and asked God to let him die. But God sent an angel to refresh Elijah before telling him to anoint Hazael king over Aram.

Do you sometimes wish there was a rewind button in your life? Have you recently said or done something you instantly regretted? Or perhaps you are arguing with God about a task he would have you do. It’s not too late for a mulligan.  Your second chance may be less dramatic than that of these Bible characters, but it is no less miraculous. And it’s available. You just have to ask.

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

This week’s post is by the Rev. David Doyle; posted 5/4/15

I Didn’t Sign Up For This

John 9

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I’ve been leading a Bible Study through the Gospel of John and we just finished the story of the man born blind in chapter 9. Do you remember it? No. Well, go read it, I’ll wait. … Pretty powerful miracle, isn’t it? We spent weeks in this chapter soaking in each aspect of the story. But there’s one thing I can’t get out of my mind.

Do you remember what Jesus told the disciples when they asked the “Why” question? “Why was this man born blind – who sinned?” Jesus said no one sinned. He said this man was born blind to show the glory of God . Hmm. This man was born blind so Jesus could use his condition to glorify God. Here’s what I wonder: Did anyone ask the man? Did anyone say, “Hey Buddy. Do you mind walking around blind for a couple of decades so God can have a minute of glory?”

I doubt it. Go back and read your Bible and see if God asks anyone. Did He ask Job, or Paul, or Jonah, or anyone else? I don’t see any record of it. You can see the implication here can’t you – God isn’t going to ask you or me either.

But don’t miss this very important fact. Even though God doesn’t ask our permission to involve Himself in our lives (one of the benefits of being the sovereign Lord, I imagine) He doesn’t ignore us in our sufferings. He ennobles our sufferings. He uses them to allow us to be a party to actions far beyond ourselves. He brings us through our sufferings to grow us to a maturity, wisdom, and godliness we couldn’t imagine.

There is a lot that happens in our lives for which our permission isn’t asked. We are born, we are bullied, we are ignored in life without our permission. We bear loneliness, frustration and pain sans our approval.

Does this make us make us totally impotent, passive recipients? Maybe not. We have a question to ask ourselves. What are we going to do in the situation facing us? Are we going to trust God and cooperate with what is happening? Are we going to fight against what He is doing?

I think God brings these things into our lives because He knows it is the only way we will be brought to growth and maturity. God doesn’t fear the hard road because, unlike us, He can see the outcome.

Before you imagine God’s attitude is cold toward our suffering, remember this. He suffers with us. He shares our pain. He stores our tears in a bottle (Ps 56:8). It won’t make the road easy or painless. But his presence might make it easier to live through.

I wonder what my life would be like if God needed my permission to act? Actually I don’t wonder, I shudder. At the end of the day I’m glad He is the sovereign one – I’d surely mess it up. Rather than showing God’s glory through my life you’d only see my stupidity. Come to think of it, I’ll take temporary blindness so as to see real glory.

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it.

 

 

This week’s post is by Linda Matchett; posted 4/21/15

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Come as You Are

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

My husband and I recently went to England on vacation where Spring has already arrived. In addition to visiting many of the famous buildings in London such as Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace, and the Tower of London, we had a chance to enjoy Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.

Both parks are beautifully landscaped and filled with numerous gardens, ponds and statutes. Foliage was coming on the perennials, and splashes of color were provided by the crocuses, daffodils, snapdragons, tulips, and primroses. Swans, ducks, gulls, herons, geese and cormorants played and fed in the water while, jays, robins, thrushes, and finches flitted among the trees.

Along the shore, the pigeons vied for attention. Not from us, but from each other. The male pigeons were quite a sight. If the female pigeons they wanted to impress weren’t looking at them, they would either peck at her back so she’d turn around, or they’d take flight then land in front of her. Once the male pigeon had his potential wife’s attention, he would puff up his neck and sing to her all while performing an intricate dance. Usually she turned away and continued searching for food, so the poor, male pigeon would have to start the ritual all over again.

Watching the pigeons got me thinking about what we as Christians often do in our relationship with God. We think we have to look a certain way or perform all sorts of fancy moves to get his attention and make him love us. The good news is that God loves us no matter what we do, and often times in spite of what we do. It’s not about the number of committees on which we serve or how many people we bring into the Kingdom, although those are both worthwhile pursuits. It’s about approaching God as we are, with child-like faith and gratitude that we can rest in his arms. In the days ahead, try not to let busy-ness and preconceived expectations prevent you from experiencing sweet fellowship with your heavenly Father. And next time you see a pigeon, remember God loves you just as you are.

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

This week’s post is by the Rev. Dale Edwards, Region Minister ; posted 4/9/15

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 Living in Christ’s Presence

It would be easier to live and work in Christ’s presence if I were washing pots rather than juggling e-mails and phone calls. It is easier to sit with Christ on a long car drive than while engaging a committee. When it is slow and quiet, I can more easily be aware of Christ’s Spirit.

But put me in a rush with stimuli, and information, and emotional vibes coming at me, and my Christ awareness quotient declines rapidly. The words of the old Puritan prayer sound too familiar: “My sin is my heart is pleased or troubled as things please or trouble me, without my having a regard to Christ.”

What is Christ unfolding in a conversation, in meetings, or in making decisions? Or are thoughts and thinking an individual or collective human wisdom disconnected from Christ? Does the rush of the temporal wash us away from the awareness of God’s eternal presence?

Lately I have been speaking from Exodus 33, where Moses tells God, “I don’t want to keep going on this journey unless your presence is with me.” Moses does not doubt God is with Him, after all he is having a conversation with God. But Moses asks for the presence in a way that he, Moses, will know God differently and deeper. Moses asks to see God’s glory and God puts Moses in the cleft of the rock, and Moses sees the wake of God’s glory as He passes by.

Moses continues on the journey to the land of milk and honey with a new awareness of YAHWEH. The unspeakable Holiness of God motivates Moses to keep going, and Moses’  “Holy awareness” quotient goes off the meter. And I can picture Moses with each falling step toward the Promised Land, knowing God as though he had not really known Him before.

Sometimes the challenge is not a struggle to know God in the mundane and quiet, but in the falling steps and details of the day. Can our first thoughts fly to Christ?

God Bless,


Dale

 

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Paul: Not A Loner

Acts 20:4

Paul is heading to Syria and decides to take a detour through Macedonia. We read that he is accompanied by seven others. They are Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus. I wondered, “Who are those guys?” We know a bit about Timothy, but the others are a mystery.

I wonder how these guys feel about being named in Holy Scripture but no details. Were they Paul’s converts? Did he pick them as traveling companions because they were fast learners or were they trouble cases who needed extra help? We could speculate till the Second Coming and not know if we were close to the truth.

But this I do know. The Holy Spirit wanted their names included when He moved Luke’s pen. Why? I’ve got a thought about that.

We usually have the view of Paul as pretty much a lone ranger type. He might have a Silas around to carry the bags, but Paul is a loner. It’s true that Paul could blow a reality TV series into the top ratings spot. He has personality, drive, charisma, and chutzpah.

But the whole truth includes the fact that Paul was part of a community. God knew that Paul wasn’t the whole picture even if he gets most of the press. I’ll bet Paul knew that as well.

I find myself glad that these guys are listed, like so many of us. We are all part of the Church even if the only memory of us is our names. At least, that is, until we get to the Lamb’s feast. Then our stories will be known and Jesus will say, in front of all gathered: “Well done, my good and unknown servants.”

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it. 

 

 

This week’s post is by Linda Matchett; posted 3/13/15

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Be of Good Courage

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14 

I suspect that most of us are familiar with MGM’s film, The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Do you have a favorite character? Mine is the Cowardly Lion, charmingly played by vaudeville star, Bert Lahr. In the movie, the Lion bounds from the woods snapping and snarling at Dorothy and her friends, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. When she slaps him for trying to attack her dog, the Lion cries and admits he’s nothing but a great, big coward, and that he even scares himself. The Tin Man suggests the wizard can probably help the Lion, and the quartet is soon “off to see the wizard.”

Throughout the journey to Oz, the four friends are subjected to trials and ordeals brought on by the Wicked Witch of the West. Despite claims of cowardice, the Lion continues to show himself a brave companion, but he never seems to understand that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but rather acting in the face of fear.

Admittedly, that’s a tough lesson to learn. Society would have us believe that fear is a bad thing, and we are to avoid it at all costs. However, in some respects a healthy fear might be good for us. A fear of being burned means we are careful around a campfire or hot stove. A fear of being hit by cars means we look both ways before crossing the street.

Life in our sinful world provides many uncertainties, which when left unchecked may develop into fears, fears that eat away at our trust in God. Will I lose my job? Will I have enough money to retire? Will I develop cancer or some other terminal disease? Does God still love me when I’ve sinned? Am I really going to heaven when I die?

Jesus reminded his disciples where real courage comes from, and we can partake in it, too. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Lord, thank you for your words that remind us we can have courage in the face of adversity and strife because of your sovereignty. Thank you for being with us every step of the way.

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

 

This week’s post is by Rev. David Doyle; posted 3/4/15

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What Rights Your Soul? Col 3:16

I’ve been out of sorts lately. I suppose it’s the miserable winter we’ve had, but it could be just spiritual malaise. It’s been one of those things where something is just wrong, like the clothes of your soul don’t fit right. You wiggle a bit here, move a bit there, but nothing seems to help. If you’ve never felt that way either you are perfect or numb – either way you are excused and can now go on your way!

So, I set out to find what’s wrong. I’ve been keeping up on my disciplines, my exercise routine, and my diet. The Spirit didn’t convict me of any hidden sin when I asked Him. From the outside things looked ok, but I just felt wrong.

Then it hit me – I haven’t been listening to much music lately. My listening time has been taken up with podcasts. They are worthwhile, but listening to tech podcasts doesn’t do much for my soul. So I put my headphones on, turned the volume up a bit, and selected some Bach organ works. With Bach’s “Dorian” toccata and fugue dancing in my head I felt things clear a bit.

It’s sort of like when you have had a cold for weeks and then realize one day that you can breathe through your nose. You stop and take a few deep nasal breaths just because you can, and oh, it feels so good. That’s what was happening to me. Anthony Newman played on through the “Wedge” and the “Great G Minor” and things began to turn, and my soul was righting itself. I knew that if I applied a daily dose of Bach I would be much better off.

But the thing that really bothers me is why I wait so long to apply Bach’s salve to my soul. Why do I keep music so distant, when it is just what God made to keep me healthy?

For me, Bach is what breaks the ice on my soul and lets it sing in response to God’s grace.

I remember Col 3:16: “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.”

So Bach admonishes me from a distant keyboard, chipping away at my heart’s hardness. He opens the curtains to the windows of my soul so the light of the Spirit can once more return. I’ll survive another dark winter because brother Johann admonished me through a very spiritual song, and set my soul to singing again.

I end with this: what rights your soul?

Maybe it won’t be Bach organ, maybe it will be a Hillsong tune, or the David Crowder Band, or someone I’m too old to know about. I’m just glad that God gives us the help to right us when we get upside down. Let’s join together and sing.

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it. 

 

 

This week’s post is by Linda Matchett; posted 2/11/15

“Running Ahead of God?”

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

I manage the dining hall of a local boarding school, and meals generally go off without a hitch. Until we lost electrical power the first time. There’s no other way to say it: chaos reigned. We stumbled around looking for flashlights, and then waited way too long before breaking out the paper plates and plastic forks. The chefs had to figure out how to keep the hot things hot and cold things cold. Our biggest concern was whether we would have enough food for the approximately five hundred people we needed to feed. We got through dinner, but everyone was frustrated and exhausted when all was said and done.

Fast forward to last week, when we lost power again. This time we had procedures in place that included having battery-powered lanterns and flashlights close at hand. Staff members had assignments, thus knowing exactly what was expected of them. The chefs had a standby “without power” menu in their back pocket. Although challenging, dinner was served with smiles in the soft glow of emergency lighting. The difference, as you already know, was being prepared, having a plan.

Although not kingdom-changing scenarios, as I thought about the two experiences, I realized the parallel to my own life. When I run ahead of the Lord, waving at him in the distance to join me, life becomes a chaotic mess while I stumble around in the dark. I end up making mistakes and wandering down paths I have no business being on. It’s only when I follow his plan for me that I am able to handle whatever situations come.

Easier said than done, to be sure. Even Jesus in his humanity didn’t always want what God had in mind for him. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” (Luke 22:42a NASB) But because he followed God’s will, we have been redeemed.

In the busyness and noise of day-to-day living, and dare I say it – doing kingdom work, sometimes it’s difficult to hear what God is saying. I often find myself talking at God, instead of being still and listening for his voice. But I am learning to follow his words: “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31a NASB) and “Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my words.” (Isaiah 28:23 NASB).

With a BA in Psychology and Masters in Human Resource Management, Linda Matchett has had a wide and varied career as a crisis counselor, HR generalist, B&B owner and youth center director. She is currently the Front of House & Snackbar Manager at Brewster Academy. As a freelance writer, she has written for numerous online and print publications. Linda is a member of First Baptist Church Wolfeboro where she sings in the choir and serves as Church Treasurer and a member of the Fellowship Team. 

 

 

This week’s post is by the Rev. David Doyle; posted 2/4/15

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“Hey you!”

“Hey you!” Have you ever heard that across a crowded room and not turned to see if you were the recipient of the call? Not me. I’ve always turned. But after I discovered I wasn’t being paged I’ve often thought; “Why did I bother? Why would I want to answer someone who doesn’t even know my name?”

As I was reading John 10 this morning it struck me that I never have to turn and hope the caller was Jesus. He will always know my name. In a world where I am “Occupant” or “Resident” it’s nice to know that God won’t treat me as an anonymous thing to be used and thrown away. Nope, he knows my name.

I also take strange comfort in knowing that God will never be on the end of a random phone call or a spam email. Not only does he know my name, we are assured we know his voice as well.

When my phone rings at home the first thing I do is check the caller id. If it says something like “800 Service” I simply ignore it. If the number is unfamiliar I wait for the answering machine to pick up and listen to the voice on the other end. Maybe a friend has a new number I don’t know yet so I wait for a voice I recognize. That’s the way it is with Jesus. We may not recognize the method by which he speaks, but we will recognize the voice.

Then the biggest decision follows. When we hear his voice on the answering machine we have to decide if we want to be bothered. How often have I done that to Jesus? I think, “Sorry Jesus, I’m too busy ministering to answer you. I’m studying the Bible and must continue until I’ve finished my quota for the day.”

Why do we think such silly things make good excuses? If your friend kept calling and you never answered or returned the call, how long would it be before they stopped calling altogether?

My intent for 2015 is to answer His calls on the first ring.

The Rev.David Doyle pastored ABC/VNH churches in Ashland/Holderness and Concord prior to his retirement. Since then he has had plenty of time to ponder the Scripture and wonder what to do about it. 

 

This week’s post is by the Rev. Dale Edwards, Region Minister ; posted 1/28/15

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The Rise of the ‘Nones’ and Mainline Decline 

The tradition of ABC/VNH is to close the Region office between Christmas and New Year’s. It is a tradition which I have respected, although having lived through 28 very busy church Advent seasons it was a difficult adjustment. So I have to admit I still get bored with so much down time around the holidays, and feel a bit guilty that pastors and church leaders are running to and fro, and my phone has stopped ringing and the e-mail traffic gone on sabbatical.

Now boredom propels people to do strange things they would not normally do, so I re-read the Pew Foundation study on religion in America. I went on to read the data, via a link, from the Association of Religious Data Archives which is partially funded by both the Lily and Templeton Foundations. Now I realize not everyone enjoys reading stuff like this, but I sort of relish in it and ask, “What does this mean?” Even if I can’t answer big picture questions, I find asking the questions fun. I know, boredom makes one do strange things.

One of the salient points of the Pew study is the rise of the “nones”, not nuns, but “nones”. For the first time, self-identified “nones” make up the majority of a demographic group, ages 18-29. “Nones” include self-identi-fied agnostics and atheists. The breakdown of self-identified “branding” is: 25% “nones”, 22% evangelical, 22% Catholic, 12% mainline protestants and 8% historic black denominations, (Baptist, Pentecostal, AME etc.)  One quarter of persons 18-29 are “nones”. What are the challenges for the church? I wonder if I shouldn’t run out and get ink.

The Association of Religious Archives reports the decline of historic mainline denominations from 1980 to 2010 as being:

United Methodist – 14.6%                 American Baptist – 18.8%         Episcopal Church – 30.9%

United Church of Christ – 38.7%       Presbyterian Church USA – 38.9%

So what does the data mean? Frankly, I felt some grief pains when I read it. But more importantly, what is God saying through the data? How is the Holy Spirit leading us into a new way of being the church to reach the unsaved and build Christ’s Kingdom? How do we serve Christ in the prevailing culture? Please notice I am not offering any quick answers, but data and questions are great things to think and pray through on a boring cold winter night. Or maybe you think that is a little strange.

In Jesus’ name,

Dale

 

This week’s post is by Rev. Robb Dix, President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries ; posted 1/21/15

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Spirit Life

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

The Book of Galatians has been called the “Christian’s Declaration of Independence” and was Martin Luther’s favorite epistle. Growing up it was to me the cornerstone, with Romans, of our salvation “by grace through faith”. Certainly it’s all that. What I didn’t realize is how much it is also a blueprint for our walk with the Lord, especially the role the Holy Spirit plays in our every day lives. 17 times the Holy Spirit is referenced (chs 3-6). For me the high point being, And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”(4:6). If only I would relish the presence of my “Daddy” (rough translation of Abba) through the Spirit in my life I would be so much freer to walk in love and peace, etc.

Paul indicates that it wasn’t just the decision to listen to the Judaizers that troubled him but also that they were denying the reality of the transformation of receiving the Spirit which they had clearly experienced while he was among them. They were re-writing history as it were. Then he reminds them that just receiving the Spirit is not enough, they need to walk with Him daily. How else are we going to avoid all those “desires of the flesh” and enjoy all that delicious “fruit of the Spirit”? Our salvation experience is only the first step in growing victoriously to be like Jesus. So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

~Rev. Robb Dix

President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or e-mail dixes77@gmail.com.

 

This week’s post is by Rev. Robb Dix, President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries ; posted 11/6/14

Keeping in Step

 “Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal. 5)

When one joins the military (God bless you all who have) you first have to enroll and then they give you a uniform. Then a crucial part of training is learning and doing marching, i.e. keeping in step with a large group of fellow soldiers.

When we join (enroll in ) the Body of Christ, the church, we first have to be born of the Spirit (live by). Then we have to be trained and to participate in what God is doing (keep in step with) which happens in the power of the Spirit.

Indeed here in Galatians Paul makes it pretty clear that keeping “in step with the Spirit” and living by faith are the same thing. “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal 3).

In Eph. 6 he tells us to be, “18 praying at all times in the Spirit,”. I think “at all times” means “at all times”. When you’re in the service, in uniform, you’re always “on call”. Now this sounds rigorous and it can be but let’s not forget, 22 But )the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,peace, patience, kindness,goodness,faithfulness,23 (gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Freedom and fruit – what better life could anyone want?

~Rev. Robb Dix

President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or e-mail dixes77@gmail.com.

 

This week’s post is by Rev. Robb Dix, President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries ; posted 10/13/14

Resurrection

 

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

 Can people rise from the dead today? We’re not talking zombies here. Nor are we referring to the Second Coming. There are many accounts worldwide (including the good ol’ USA) of resurrections by the power of the Spirit in this day and age.  What I wonder is do we even admit that there is a possibility of it happening in our realm of existence?

I first heard of it many years ago, the tendency to rule out anything that we haven’t experienced, anything new. It was called “hardening of the categories”. Faith, however, is all about expectancy. Jesus said we could literally tell a mountain to move and it would, if we just believed.

For me bringing back someone from the dead is the apex of miracles. I don’t know if I’ll ever be involved in a resurrection but I feel I can never rule it out. Just think of how God would be glorified and the church built up, not to mention loved ones receiving their lost one back. When after 4 days Lazarus was raised, John records, “11 because on account of him (Lazarus) many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” When the widow’s son was brought back to life (Luke 7) here’s what was said,” they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.”

Imagine it being the lead story on the news and people flocking to our churches to find Him who has the power to do this! I don’t care about the spectacle, I see God getting glory and the Kingdom coming to many that don’t know Him. This is what I signed up for.

~Rev. Robb Dix

President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or e-mail dixes77@gmail.com.

 

This week’s post is by Rev. Robb Dix, President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries ; posted 9/17/14

Groaning

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 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8 ESV)

What’s happening when we groan? Usually something occurs that gives us pain or frustration that is beyond our control. Paul calls it “our weakness”. He tells us in 8:23 that we share this with creation. The kingdom is not fully here yet so we experience anguish or the collateral damage of sin. Our first reaction should be to pray (I wish that were always true). Even when we do, we don’t always know how to pray (more groaning).  My wife and I have children who either don’t know the Lord or are walking in ways that we and the Bible didn’t teach them (groan). What are we to do?

“the Spirit helps us”. The word “helps” is 3 Greek words squished together that literally mean, “take hold with us to do our part”. In other words the Spirit takes ownership of our plight with us as we struggle to make progress, to see the kingdom come to the issues we’re dealing with. Even if words fail us, the Spirit knows exactly what the Father wants and speaks to Him in that way for us/with us. We groan, the Spirit groans (tongues?) in a language the Father understands.  We can relax. God is in control. No wonder “for those who love God all things work together for good”. Talk about peace that passes understanding!!!

~Robb Dix

President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or e-mail dixes77@gmail.com.

 

This blog post is by ABC/VNH Region Minister, Rev. Dale Edwards, posted September 3, 2014

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“Reflections on Repentance and Sabbath”

I began my vacation time with no real plans to do anything. I wanted to prune some trees around my house, clean out some piles of rotted leaves, and just putter in my garden. But my thoughts kept returning to work, vocation, planning ahead, and the ever present process of problem solving. One morning I opened up my morning prayer guide from the Northumbria Community and read the OT reading for the day: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it” Isaiah 30:15. The Holy Spirit in the quiet of the morning knows how to bring Scripture to bear upon a person’s heart.

It is an interesting interplay between repentance and Sabbath, a call from God to return to Him and rest, be still and trust. But this journey into Sabbath begins with repentance. Good old Kiel & Delitizch unfold the Hebrew text to mean repenting from a “self-chosen way.” Their further unpacking of the text speaks of re-turning to quietness and rest as one “leaves God alone to act.” Now this should feel liberating, but at first it doesn’t, usually because we are too enmeshed in a self-chosen way, and can’t quite believe we can trust God enough to enter into a fullness of quietness and rest. The foundation of entering the quietness and rest begins with repentance, or returning, and ends in a state of trust. Quietness and rest is the fertile ground in which trust grows. Repenting from a self-chosen way again refocuses our soul upon a trust-worthy, sovereign God. It brings us back from idolatry which we often don’t recognize, because it is wrapped in rationalizations founded in self-importance and self-possession.

But why is it so easy to choose ways that are “self-chosen?” First, our fallen nature propels us to do what we want to do without reference to Jesus Christ. Second, I also think anxiety, of the individual, the church, the larger Body of Christ, propels us to become a bit unhinged from God, and like the Israelites wanting to go back to Egypt, we will create our own salvation rather than working it out with fear and trembling. As an old pastor/mentor of mine used to say, “Sometimes you need to ask the Holy Spirit to come and sift your heart.”   And I guess it is quite impossible for the Spirit to transform us when we won’t let our own souls catch up with us.

Repentance, rest, quietness and trust: A confident returning to and joining with, the resurrected Jesus Christ. Could every Sabbath gathering or every meeting of Christians be this way?

God Bless,

Dale

 

This week’s post is by Rev. Robb Dix, President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries ; posted 8/20/14

miracles

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. (Zech. 4: 6)

What is a miracle? The dictionary says it’s something that contradicts the laws of science due to supernatural causes, an act of God. A pretty good definition. Were there miracles during Jesus’ time on earth? Without a doubt. Are miracles happening today? I believe that not only there are but that we should expect them. Indeed we’re supposed to be seeing more of them than Jesus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, (John 14: 12)How do we do them? The same way Jesus did. ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ When confronted with a sickness, evil spirit or condition which is not fixed by human means (might or power) we depend on the One who created scientific law and can rise above it at His whim. We pray in the name of Jesus.

I have been involved in numerous healings. The two things I can safely say is that they were real and that I had nothing to do with the successful outcome. I have no remedy for foot pain, leg pain, back pain, broken bones, diverticulitis, etc. But because we prayed I have seen all these things and more healed. ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

~Robb Dix

Robb Dix is President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – “We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or e-mail dixes77@gmail.com”

 

 

This week’s post is by Rev. Robb Dix, President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries ; posted 7/21/14

 

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The Holy Spirit is a “He” not an “It”

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

Growing up in church the Holy Spirit was more of an “it” than a “He.” I knew what He was supposed to do but basically it was all about Jesus. At least that’s the impression I got. It’s hard to disagree with “it’s all about Jesus” but something was missing from my life. In my sophomore year of college I had an encounter with the Spirit (long story), a filling, that caused me to see Him as a Him. My spiritual life began to change radically. Then some years later after frustrating times in ministry, I was dramatically “filled” (another long story) and began walking and “talking” in the gifts of the Spirit. Here’s the point. I’ve come to realize that Jesus himself had an encounter with the Spirit. Not that the Spirit wasn’t always with him but He needed the Holy Spirit in a different way in order to do his public ministry at the age of 30.

He was baptized and “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove” (Lk 3:22ESV). He returned from the Jordan “full of the Holy Spirit” (Lk 4:1) and then “was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” (4:1,2) Then he “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (4:14) to begin his public ministry of signs and wonders and teaching.

It has dawned on me that if Jesus needed a special anointing of the Spirit to do what He had to do, how much more do I need it?

How about you?

~Robb Dix

Robb Dix is President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – “We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or e-mail dixes77@gmail.com”

 

 

Gifts of Joy

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

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The saying goes, “ If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” What about  church? Where does the joy come from? Is it commandments and obligation or “ I can’t wait for the next chance to serve.”? I believe that one of the keys to finding God’s pleasure in service is found in Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:6 – “   Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:” As someone has said, “God don’t make no junk” and God doesn’t give gifts that we shouldn’t want and enjoy.

 

Here’s what I believe. What Paul calls “gifts” in Romans 12 are things that we already love to do. One way to think about it is “If time and money were not issues, what would I do all the time to serve Him?” or What would/do I do without anyone asking me to?

 

These are “gifts” that God has put into our hearts to glorify Him, bless others and give us joy. Paul lists some of these – service, mercy, teaching, etc. But the list is not meant to be exhaustive. It could be something as simple as baking brownies and then praying about whom to give them to or writing letters (e-mails, tweets) just to encourage someone or visiting people in prison. Ministries can be built around these things. Teams can be formed. And no one needs to be recruited or “guilted” to serve because they already love doing it.  I’ll quote again this verse in Psalm 37 – “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

 

~Robb Dix

Rev. Robb Dix is President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – “We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or  e-mail dixes77@gmail.com.”

 

Guest post by Rev. Robb Dix, President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries ; posted 6/11/14

Delight Yourself in HIM

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

D.L. Moody tells the story of taking his daughter to the store with the intention of buying her a large, beautiful doll. Upon arriving she set her eyes on a very small, plain one and insisted that was what she wanted. Such is the way we many times settle for less than what God wants for us.

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“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37 ESV

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak… We are far too easily pleased.” C.S.Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” as quoted in Desiring God by John Piper, pg.17

There is no greater pleasure/joy than seeing God do what He wants, through us. How much do we want it?

13 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Let’s resolve to let/desire God to give us everything He has planned for us. It’s a win-win.

 20 “Now to him who is able (and willing, (my addition)) to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” Eph 3 Let’s let God be God!!

~Robb Dix

President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or     e-mail dixes77@gmail.com.

 

Guest post by Rev. Marshall Davis, Federated Church of Sandwich ; posted 5/6/14

Beyond the Menu. . . From the Pastor ’s Pen

I love words, especially the language of faith. I love writing words, preaching words, and singing words. Words can create a hunger and thirst for spiritual things. They can give us a glimpse of something beyond words. The psalmist even compares the Word of God to honey. They are sweet! But in the end words are just the description on a menu.

No one sits down and eats a menu. Words cannot satisfy hunger and thirst, either physically or spiritually. Words are meant to inspire us to order and eat. We are not honoring the menu if we never partake of the meal prepared
for us. Reading the menu is okay, but it is not the same as enjoying the entrée.

Christ is Real Food. Jesus actually used those words in the Gospel of John. He said he is True Food and True Drink, and he was not talking about communion wafers and thimbles of juice! He was talking of partaking of his divine nature and presence. Eat of this Food and you will never hunger; drink of this Drink and you will never thirst.

Many Christians are satisfied with words – saying the words, believing the words, singing the words. They spend a lifetime reciting the menu, while spiritually starving to death. That is because they have been led to believe that words are all we can expect in this lifetime. That is not true. God is meant to be experienced now. There is no need to wait. Dinner is ready.

“Thou preparest a table before me…” “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” “Let anyone
who desires drink freely from the water of life. … And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Come to the banquet table of the Kingdom of God. A table is available. The Lord is present. A reservation has been made in your name. A gift certificate has been given to you by Christ. The bill has
already been paid. Come and eat. The Food is delicious. Partake of the Presence of the Lord.
Your pastoral waiter,
Marshall

This week’s post is by Rev. Robb Dix, President of ABC/VNH’s Holy Spirit Renewal Group; posted 4/8/14

KINGDOM PEOPLE

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

I looked up Time magazine’s 2013 100 most influential people. I recognized about 5 names – Jay Z, Beyonce’, Lebron James. The only church related name I knew was Pope Francis, the new pope. So says Time. What’s God’s opinion? I will build my church,(Pope Francis included it seems) and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What could be more influential than Jesus’ assertion to Peter? We are that church!! The only thing that can stop us is US. As Pogo said, “We have seen the enemy and it is us.”

Jason Gray sings/prays, “When I lose my way, remind me who I am.” We are the most important, powerful force on earth. Jesus will literally move mountains for us if needed. Every Sunday many of us speak the password that unleashes this truth, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If we take the Lord’s Prayer as a template for our own prayer life, every day becomes an adventure of seeing God bring His kingdom to earth through us. We truly are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

~Robb

Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or e-mail dixes77@gmail.com.

This week’s post is by Rev. Marshall Davis, The Federated Church of Sandwich; posted 2/26/14

“I just came in from sliding around the roads in my SUV. In spite of my AWD I slid through the stop sign in Moultonboro on my way to a luncheon appointment with a couple of clergy colleagues. Almost got hit by oncoming traffic.

Whew!

On the way home the snow was coming down in such fluffy flakes that I thought to myself, “How beautiful. It looks like Christmas.” Then I pulled into my driveway, and my neighbor greeted me with a smile saying, “Looks like Christmas!”

In C.S. Lewis’ classic tale “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” the faun Tumnus explains the depressing weather forecast for Narnia to the Pevensie children. He says, “It is always Winter, but never Christmas.”

Well Christmas 2014 is long way off, but Easter is around the corner. In fact the luncheon meeting I attended was to plan an Ash Wednesday service and share other Lenten plans. With snowstorm following snowstorm, it may feel like it is always winter. But Easter is coming!

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Soon it will be Lent. Ash Wednesday is March 5. Lent is the forty day march to Easter. And Easter, as everyone knows, means spring! That does not guarantee there will be no more snow. There has been more than one Easter when we have had to plow the snow on the Burleigh Hill to clear space to hold the Easter Sunrise service. But snow or not, spring is coming. Soon the sap will be flowing and sugarhouses will be boiling.

Spring is a time of hope and rebirth. So is Lent. Lent may have a reputation for being a time of fasting and repentance. But it takes its name from the Latin word meaning the “lengthening” of days. The summer solstice is around the corner. Lent is a time of expectation. I spend Lent looking forward to Easter like a kid looks forward to Christmas.

The sad thing about Narnia was not that it was winter. It was sad because it was never Christmas. A land without Christmas would be sad. Sadder still would be a life without Easter. How sad if there were only Christmas and never
Easter! Easter is what makes Christmas meaningful.

Christ was born at Christmas, but died as a young man. How sad if that were the end of the story! But the good news is that he rose again to die no more. And he proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

In one sense, it is always Easter for Christians. Lent is the forty days before Easter excluding Sundays! Sundays are not
considered part of Lent because every Sunday is considered a “little Easter.” In fact every Sunday all year is a little Easter. Christians worship on Sunday because it is the day Christ arose. So it may still look like winter, but Easter is coming!

Your Lenten pastor,

Marshall

 

This is a guest post by Rev. Robb Dix, president of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries; posted 2/12/14

New Wine, Old Lightbulbs

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends” – George Mueller

Q. How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. Ten. One to change it and nine to say how much better the old one was.

We like the familiar, what’s comfortable, our routine. I know I do. We tend to hold on to the past for the past’s sake. In parts of Africa and India they have a technique for catching monkeys. They drill a hole in a coconut just large enough for its hand. Then they put nuts or fruit in the bottom and attach a string. When the monkey grabs the contents it forms a fist and cannot remove its hand. Because of greed or stubbornness it will not let go and they pull the coconut in and capture the monkey.

Jesus said we need to put new wine in new wineskins otherwise the skins burst and we lose the wine and the skin. When we don’t change the light bulb we wander in the dark and hurt ourselves. Jesus is the new wine which comes to us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Our motto in Vermont/New Hampshire is “All things new”. We must hold on to the truth, the gospel, the scripture. They never change. They bring freedom and life. However tradition and ritual can trap us and make the world think we are unyielding and irrelevant. “The wind blows where it wills.” It’s up to the Spirit to tell us what will work in our churches and relationships i.e. how to communicate the unchanging truth to an ever changing world. This is why Jesus spent so much time in prayer. He wanted to do and say only what the Father told Him. I can’t think of a better way to do life and church.

~Robb Dix

President of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, V/NH – We offer a short seminar called  “Doing What the Father Says” in which we help folks to hear God’s voice for ministry empowerment. If you’re interested, call 603-509-2224 or e-mail dixes77@gmail.com.

 

by Rev. Dale Edwards, Region Minister of ABC/VNH; posted 2/8/14

Rev. Edwards

“Random Thoughts for a New Year”                                      

This last week I was sitting by the wood stove watching lightning and waiting for the thunder to sound overhead. I would count the seconds from the lightning to the thunder, and wait for more lightning and more thunder. When I was a local church pastor, just a short 2 years ago, sitting in the church and praying was one of the most meaningful and at times intense things I would do. I would envision rolling waves of the Holy Spirit washing over pew to pew to pew, until those waves found me, sitting in the pulpit chair. Shutting my eyes, I would ask to hear God.

As my world has changed, I now ask for the Holy Spirit to roll over ridges and mountains, down the streets of neighborhoods, across town commons. I sort of see lightning striking churches ( I don’t mean this literally, once having had lightning strike a church steeple), but rather like a church building being so struck by God’s presence it glows and the Holy Spirit rolls out of its doors. Like Moses’ face glowing, like waters pouring out the doors of the Temple, endless bread and fish for the adrift and hungry, and heavenly beings crying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!”  And spectators having seen the light wait for the thunder to roll over, reminding them of what is finite and what must be welcomed.

Once in a very down time in my life I remember walking on a deserted road at twilight, a thunder storm building overhead, wondering what would come next. Lightning, thunder, or my own dark night? At last there was lightning and thunder and rain wetting the dust, and my not minding getting wet. It was good to stand in the center of a storm. I wondered whether the rocks would be rent, or at least a branch might bounce off my head. And on this occasion I did hear God, by myself, in the rain, and was reminded by lightning and wind and thunder that I was not alone, I was never alone, and I would never be alone.

For some quirky or eccentric reason, I have always liked thunder storms. They just remind me of God, maybe because they move and surround me. I pray that God’s Spirit would envelope his church, in two small, maybe lonely states. Lord have mercy.

Dale

by Rev. Dale Edwards, Region Minister of ABC/VNH; posted 1/2/14

Rev. Edwards

* I find that pastors often ask me what I am reading. Most pastors are bibliophiles, or “kindle-philes,” or “webphiles,” or whatever media we engage. So what am I reading? I just finished a very thick volume of medieval history. Yes, I read history to relax, and one cannot read medieval history without reading church history. The human condition is the same as it has always been. Currently I am reading Basil Pennington’s Listen with your Heart: Spiritual Living with the Rule of St. Benedict, and I hope to begin reading Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms. I began my sabbatical in 2011 by reading her work, Invitation to Silence and Solitude.

* On the web I found an interesting description of how to navigate the choppy waters of a rapidly changing church scene. The point being one must find “stable instability.” I think it means we find stability in Christ while instability ferments around us, while we remain not shaken, not even stirred, by chaos. Mmm….

*  For the first time in many years, Laurie and I set up the Christmas tree by ourselves. Poignant. I wonder how the kids grew up so fast.

*  Over Advent I was deeply moved by Luke 1:39-45, when the Scripture speaks of John the Baptist leap-ing in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice, and Elizabeth’s saying to Mary, “Why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” At moments, shouldn’t the joy of knowing the incarnate Jesus Christ become an overwhelming consuming joy? I think a consuming joy is different from just joy. The happy, happy, joy, joy, routine that we human beings strive for, the joy that is about some vague sense of peace, tranquility or self-actualization. Maybe the pursuit of just joy only takes us into a dead end journey, somewhere on the fringes of the soul. Consuming joy, leaping for joy in the presence of Christ, raises our souls beyond ourselves and causes us to be consumed in a joy, like living in a non-consuming holy fire, caught up wi

I can’t take in the holiness of Gabriel talking with Mary, Mary rushing to Elizabeth, the angels speaking to shepherds, who are then privy to angelic choruses. How holy, how joyful. Maybe a consuming joy is really about being enveloped into God’s holiness. I suspect only God’s holiness can bring to humanity absolute joy.  th angels and saints, embraced into the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ name,

Dale

 

by Rev. Dale Edwards, Region Minister of ABC/VNH; posted 12/12/13  Rev. Edwards

“I keeping asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of Glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may now what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power” (Ephesians 1:17-19).

This morning I write from a national ABC/USA meeting in Green Lake Wisconsin, titled the “Mission Table.” This first meeting of its kind, in keeping with a set of new national by-laws, brings together 100 people from across the denomination. The purpose of this gathering is to engage in conversation about the future ministry and mission of the American Baptist Churches USA and how this ministry serves regional and local church ministries. At the same time our prayer and conversation is meant to be a sharing of ideas, practices, and visions within regions to strengthen the local church’s ministry. To be honest, I don’t know how all this is going to work out or what actions will be taken. It seems like an awful lot of dots to connect.     I value much of what I hear, and desire to learn from what I am hearing. There is so much concern about the future of the church and churches.

But as I struggle to digest the first few conversation I have participated in I find nagging questions seeping into my soul and mind. “What am I missing?”, “What are we not seeing?” seem to be the most frequent ones that come to mind. I also wonder if I travel in my habitual thoughts so much, that I don’t hear Jesus directing me. I wonder if sometimes we just try too hard, that somehow we think we can control a future which is Christ’s alone. We treat the challenges of the present as though they are surprises, having forgotten that the wheat and tares grow together, that we battle against powers and principalities, and the city of God shines over against the city of the world. Should challenges surprise us? And have our own seasons of unfaithful-ness to Christ compounded the challenges? To paraphrase Leonard Sweet, if Jesus is the true north on our compass, why are we drawn to traveling southwest?

This morning I was reading in Ephesians 1 and was struck by Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians church. He prays that the Ephesians would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their progress in knowing Jesus Christ. And then a metaphor – that the eyes of their hearts would be opened to see what Jesus Christ has already given us: sure and certain hope, and a gracious transforming power that is working within us in the present, but already attained for us, Christ’s church, by Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Is some of our predicament, our sometimes drifting into distraction, or maybe our trying too hard, or forgetting our own depravity which it exhibits itself in our own bent needs for power, place and accomplishment, a sense of self-importance? We are limited by who we are, and our human limitations are further limited by sin. So Paul prays that a Christian community will know and see Jesus, and experience the same saving and sanctifying power in the present that accomplished the Resurrection of our Lord. Should our prayers for the future begin with anything less? From where do we start the next step into the future? I think by leaning into Jesus.

In Jesus’ name,

Dale

 

This is a guest post by Rev. Eliot Fay of First Baptist Church of Lebanon, NH; posted 11/6/13  

 “Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good…” ~Saint Teresa of Avila

Many years ago I had the privilege of hearing a lecture by the compelling apologist Ravi Zacharias.  Among the many anecdotes that peppered his presentation, most of which I no longer remember, he recounted one true story that has remained with me over the years.  This story has helped to remind me that as followers of Christ, second only to the call to love God, is the command to love our neighbor.  Though we would of course like to limit our understanding of who our neighbor is to those folks who are “neighborly” in their attitudes toward us, Jesus does not allow this restriction.  He makes clear in his parable of the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25f) that all people are those whom God would have us love – no matter how frustrating, irritating, off-putting or different from me or you they happen to be.

And more challenging even than the breadth of who we are called to love is the manner in which we are called to love them: in a word- selflessly.  The Samaritan reached across religious, social and cultural lines and incurred financial loss with no expectation of repayment, thanks, or commendation.  It is revealing that Jesus didn’t provide a checklist of requirements to complete or a time limit on how long we are to love someone without reciprocation before we can cross them off the “neighbor list” and move on.  It is also helpful to notice that Jesus didn’t limit our call to love only to his followers.  God’s love extends to all.  Since he has chosen to use us as his hands and feet in this world, our love should mirror his.  And as we love our neighbors well we embody the light of the gospel in a dreary world.  I hope you enjoy the story as much as I have…

Many years ago, an evangelist by the name of Jakov arrived at a village in Serbia. He met an elderly man there named Cimmerman, and Jakov began to talk to him of the love of Christ. Cimmerman abruptly interrupted Jakov and told him that he wished to have nothing to do with Christianity. He recounted to Jakov the dreadful history of the church in his town, where church leaders had plundered, exploited, and killed innocent people.

“My own nephew was killed by them,” he said, and angrily rejected any effort on Jakov’s part to talk about Christ. He told Jakov, “They wear those elaborate coats and crosses, but their evil designs and lives I cannot ignore.”

Jakov replied, “Cimmerman, can I ask you a question? Suppose I were to steal your coat, put it on, and break into a bank. Suppose further that the police sighted me running in the distance but could not catch up with me. One clue, however, put them onto your track: they recognized your coat. What would you say to them if they came to your house and accused you of breaking into the bank?”

“I would deny it,” said Cimmerman.

But Jakov countered, “‘Ah, but we saw your coat,’ they would say.”  The analogy annoyed Cimmerman, and he ordered Jakov to leave his home.

Even so, Jakov continued to return to the village periodically just to befriend Cimmerman, encourage him, and share the love of Christ with him.  After many years, one day Cimmerman asked, “How does one become a Christian?”

Jakov taught him the simple steps of putting his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and Cimmerman got down on his knees and surrendered his life to Christ. As he rose to his feet, wiping his tears, he embraced Jakov and said, “Thank you for being in my life.” And then he pointed to the heavens and said, “You wear His coat very well.”  (This story is recounted by Ravi Zacharias in his book Can Man Live Without God.)

Let us remember that as his followers we are always wearing his coat and, like Jakov, strive to wear it well.  Blessings to you all…

 

 

by Rev. Dale Edwards, ABC/VNH Region Minister, posted 10/23/13

Rev. Edwards

The Simple Refuge

One of the running jokes in my family is that dad is amused by simple things. I like old bottles, I talk with the two cats, I really enjoy hot sauce, and currently, I am drying beans from my gar-den. There are times when I want to take my leave from thinking too much, looking into the future, solving another problem, grappling with “adaptive thinking” and the “rapidity of change.”

Simplicity has always drawn me, but I have found that simplicity is not exclusive of depth. In grappling with simplicity, deeper things reveal themselves. Sometimes in my travels as a re-gional minister I am asked what I believe. People are interested in what I believe, sometimes out of curiosity and sometimes I wonder if not out of suspicion. I find I can only respond from the simplicity I know, and have known best. It is a simplicity in which I find refuge in early mornings, long car rides, walks in the woods. But this simplicity should not be confused with an absence of profundity. Ultimately, I can only articulate and experience my faith and my vocation as resting in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I sometimes wonder if I disappoint some people with what is viewed as simple answers. Now I can converse about theologians alive and dead, exegetical debates, the ups and downs of church history and the virtues of Baptist polity. But my faith?

I find refuge in an articulation, which continues to form my soul. God loves me deeply. Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for my salvation, here and for eternity. I love the warmth of God whose glory, grace and truth were unfolded before us in the person of his Son. I met Jesus 45 years ago. In the most feeble and limited of ways, I want to love God back, and my neighbor as myself. I want the whole world to know Jesus, because all is lost without him. I rejoice when I see and feel the Holy Spirit. Sometimes when I read a pass-age of Scripture, and think upon it, I like to place my hand upon the page and pray. In some way, some simple way, it helps me be close to Christ. It just feels like a holy moment. God comes close and I don’t want to leave the simplicity of this refuge. To borrow from another: I want to know Jesus Christ and make him known.

I sometimes wonder why simplicity of soul and faith is not always welcome, is interpreted as too simple, maybe disingenuous. But to Jesus Christ is the only place I know to go; sitting, driving, kneeling, flat on my face, it is the only place I know as refuge. Like Lucy burying her face in Aslan’s mane, or the prodigal son greeted and embraced by a running father, in Peter’s words, “To whom else would we go?”

In Jesus’ name, Dale

 

by Rev.Dale Edwards, ABC/VNH Region Minister, posted 10/3/13

Rev. Edwards

When I was a child growing up in the life of the church, I remember Sunday evening hymn sings, where our enthusiastic congregation would belt out, “Rock of Ages”, “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” and “Bringing in the Sheaves.” As a child, I often did not understand the theology or the symbolism of the words we were singing. For years I thought I was singing “There is a Bomb in Gilead”.

In my conversations with non-Christians, I find myself choosing words to communicate in a way I can be understood. Words that I have taken for granted all my Christian life are not readily in the vocabu-lary of secular America. It takes patience to talk about Jesus, eternity, atonement, salvation, and sanctifica-tion. And patience takes time and energy, questioning and conversation, planting seeds, blowing on embers, and caring for the person conversing. It all takes time, energy, compassion, and a bit of transparency.

I wonder if people appreciate having someone just listen? No cell phone sounding, no iPad, no interruptions; just a clay vessel with ears, who listens and shares the Treasure.

It takes some sacrifice on our part to share the hallowed work of Christ. I would rather just talk at people and have them nod. But people don’t do that, neither by nature, nor nurture. I have to sit, either over coffee or keyboard, and listen with a trust that as I sit with someone, I also sit with Christ. Jesus loves the person who I patiently attempt to talk with more than I do. Why, I would love to belt out an old hymn in their face, even if they didn’t understand what I meant; at least I would feel better. But my feeling better, accomplished, heard, triumphant is not really what this is about. Can I love you as Christ loves me, seeing beyond your faults and eccentricities as Christ sees beyond mine? Will my life and words unfold glimpses of His saving grace?

. . .  “and when I grew up, I gave up childish things.”

In Jesus name, Dale

 

by Edie Brigham, president of ABC/VNH, posted 9/26/13

Basically, I am using this blog time to share personal things that God has shown me and done in my life.  We are all on a path, and thankfully, God accompanies us every step of the way!

I am going to share about spiritual disciplines.  Those two words are not always easy and welcoming to hear but God has designed them to bless us and to bless those around us.  The first discipline God had me deal with in my Christian walk was bible reading.

I came to Jesus in my twenties and now am in my fifties.  Both myself, and my husband John (who is a minister at two ABCVNH churches in southern VT), started attending a small church in our area and were invited to attend a Bill Gothard seminar on Living for Christ.  Wow, what a teaching and a challenge to get us to move on and become active disciples of Jesus Christ.

To make a long story short (hard for me!) he did a teaching on the importance of reading the bible and challenged anyone who wanted to make a vow to God to read it for at least 5 minutes a day, every day.  That night I made the vow and God has been gracious in giving me the grace to follow through with it.

Was it always easy?  No, I had four children and  some nights I would find myself in bed with a flashlight reading the bible.  If I didn’t make that vow would I be doing that?  The answer is no, I DID NOT have it in myself to do it on my own, my vow to Him and the faithfulness and power of the Holy Spirit in my life gave me the grace to follow it through.  Vows are NEVER to be made lightly, God’s Word is clear on that but I can truly say that I am beyond grateful to God that I made it.  I have been, and continue to, hide God’s Word in my heart.

Want to join me?

 

by Rev. Suzanne Andrews, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Brattleboro, VT  posted 9/17/13

After you have done your very best, has this ever happened to you?  No one said “Thanks” to you?

Have you ever done something really nice for someone, or generous, or even brave and still no one said, “I think you were great!  I admire you!” Or have you worked hard, given of yourself when you felt exhausted, sacrificed, or gone without anything for yourself – and still not a single word of appreciation?

It’s quite a “Let down feeling”, isn’t it?

If this has happened to you – you are not alone.  Being unappreciated affects most of us Christians, as wives, husbands, friends, and strangers.  It happens to us all. As a matter of fact, the more we deserve appreciation, the less likely we will receive it.  For if you live your life as Jesus did, “Going about doing good” then other people soon expect you to do just that and often take you for granted.

Jesus faced this lack of appreciation.  Once he healed ten men of the terrible disease,  leprosy.  Few of us can know how awful this sickness is, for we rarely see it in America.  In Jesus’ day, persons afflicted by leprosy had to live away from others, lived without homes, without doctors, or nurses, or medicine or love. Jesus healed ten men.  And how many do you think came back to thank him?  Not eight, not seven, not five or four.  But just one single solitary man had enough gratitude to come back and say, “Thank you, Master, for this gift of good health.”

Christ must have been saddened by this experience.  But what did he do?  Did he stop healing sick people simply because he wasn’t truly appreciated?  No.  He kept right on healing.

As we grow older we find a mixture of good and bad in most people.  Should we turn into a selfish, mean, stingy man or woman looking out only for ourselves just because we aren’t appreciated enough? Jesus, our Lord and Savior, chose to do just the opposite.  The more he was unappreciated, the greater became his love, the harder he worked for others, the more his sacrifices.  Instead of letting evil overcome him, he overcame evil with good.  Instead of letting ungrateful men change him, he changed them with his refusal to hate or give up.  You can do the same.

Jesus’ greatest desire was to please God, his heavenly Father.  You can do the same.  And if we follow the example of Christ, we will not let others hurt us when we aren’t appreciated properly. And just for the future: when you see someone deserving praise or appreciation, put yourself in his/her place and say, “Thank you!”

Peace and love,

Pastor Sue

 

United Church of Lincoln Celebrates 150 Years, post submitted by church staff, September 6, 2013

Hattie Brown holds a nail from the original United Church of Lincoln

Hattie Brown holds a nail from the original United Church of Lincoln

“The weeks of July, we had folks sharing some of the history of our church. In the picture of Hattie Brown, who is 94, she is holding one of the old nails that came out of the Baptist building which burned in 1981.

 

 

The real celebration began July 28th as we held an outdoor baptism service ‘at the river’.  Averi Smith is pictured being baptized and he’s sporting one of the many-colored T-Shirts we had made for the weekend. Each says, United Church of Lincoln 150 years of celebrating Eternity!’

Baptism celebrated~what a beautiful smile!
Baptism celebrated~what a beautiful smile!

The week that followed, our church was filled with children and adults preparing for a performance on Friday night of the children’s musical, “Nic at Night” based on John 3:16.  (28 children spent the whole week putting it together!)

Creative kids prepping for the production.

Creative kids prepping for the production.

Saturday there was a town parade the theme of which was ‘Lincoln History’ and we put a float together for it. That evening we held an annual ’50’s style ‘Be-Bop Car Hop’ featuring old cars, poodle skirts and some great food.  Then Sunday’s celebration service included folks coming forward for communion followed by an Ice Cream Social for the town at the Historical Society building where there was a display of the church’s history.

It was a wonderful weekend, God was present in so many ways!”

Parade time!

 

Guest post by Rev. Aaron Goodro, First Baptist Church, Plaistow, NH, posted August 13, 2013

In the heat of the Summer, many of us flock to the ocean shore to experience the cool Atlantic water and the refreshing sea breezes.  We’re careful to leave our homes at a time when we won’t face too much traffic, and we probably have a planned parking spot at our destination.

Where is your favorite beach?  Is it in Hampton, Rye, or even south of the border, in Salisbury?  Perhaps you have family memories of sandcastles and sand in the sandwiches you brought from home.

It takes a little preparation to enjoy the beach. There are a few items that are needed to fully enjoy the experience.  My family has a mesh beach bag that Wendy organizes and keeps our beach items in.  She’s organized that way, keeping all the relevant beach going items in one place, ready to travel, ready to use, and ready to clean up after.

(I married well!)

If you’re headed to the beach this season, think of the Apostle Paul’s words as you prepare:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

(Col. 3:12-14 NIV)

Sometimes I actually think of preparing or dressing myself with these virtues.  It’s a fun reminder to how to present myself to the rest of the world.

In light of beach travel, we could think of compassion as wrapping us in a beach towel, kindness to be our bottle of water to share, humility to be our swimsuit cover-up, gentleness to be our sunscreen and patience to be that good book that we read.

When we are prepared with these virtues, we can use them and give credit to our God for modeling them for us.  If we’re mindful of them, we’ll act on them, it’s just a matter of being prepared.

Of course, it’s Love that binds them all together.  Perhaps that could be the mesh beach bag.  It holds everything else together, breathes, and is transparent enough that others can see the good items inside.

I love hearing your stories of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  It’s wonderful to hear them amidst the trials and challenges that we face in life, as individuals, as well as a corporate church.

God has shared these virtues not as suggestions, but as obedient points to follow.  And they make practical sense!

We all know what happens when we don’t use (gentleness) sunscreen!

~Pastor Aaron

 

by Rev. Dale Edwards, Regional Minister  posted on August 1, 2013

Regional Minister, Rev. Dale Edwards

Region Minister, Rev. Dale Edwards

As most of you know I attended the American Baptist Biennial meeting held at Overland Park, Kansas. I have been asked my most memorable moment of the event. Well…it wasn’t the food. It was the Karen and Chin choirs and the keynote address from the General Secretary of the Burmese Baptist Convention. When I was in seminary, To the Golden Shore, the classic biography of Adoniram Judson was required reading.   I had to go on a field trip to the church in Salem, MA to see the bench he sat on, the place where he knelt. I was urged to measure the miles that he walked from Haverhill to Salem. The professor who led the tour waxed eloquent. But honestly, I found it boring and I couldn’t wait until I finished reading To the Golden Shore. I thought reading it was an act of Baptist contrition.

But 200 years after Adoniram Judson went to Burma there before me was the reason Judson sacrificed his life: so a group of people, or I might say, whole groups of people would know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I listened to the Burmese Baptist General Secretary, Yam Kho Pau, unfold the timeless Christian faith that saves and transforms. It was one of those moments when you knew you were listening to some-one who knew Jesus very well, better than yourself, and you had better listen; listen to the reverence for Scripture, the devotion to Jesus, the salvation of the lost, and the confronting of evil. There stood a man speaking, and there sang 400 people in worship of God because one man and 3 successive wives – Anne, Sarah, and Emily – just gave themselves to Jesus.

And listening to the passionate voice and the joyful singing, I wondered, “Is God calling missionaries to America through this diaspora because we have lost our passion for Christ? 200 years later, seeing the fruit of the Judsons’ passion for Christ, the Judsons’ faith and commitment to Christ became real. And I also wondered, if time and history should continue another 200 years, what will the fruit of our faith, the legacy of our striving, look like 100 years from now, 200 years from today? Will future generations of Christians see as us fathers and mothers of faith, or will they only study and autopsy our death? Would our children and our children’s children be able to tell their children, “Back in the early 2000’s a small group of faithful men and women spoke and lived the Gospel in Vermont and New Hampshire, and God’s Spirit was poured out and people came to Christ and the culture was transformed, and that is why you worship with hundreds of voices today.” One thing I learn from the Judsons’ lives, in the midst of incredible sacrifice, was that they didn’t turn back from the call of Christ. Sometimes our vision is truncated because we see time instead of eternity.

“And the city has no need for sun or moon to shine on it, for the Glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb.”  Rev. 21:23

In Christ,

Dale

 

by Edie Brigham, President ABC/VNH posted 7/22/13

Hi to all.  Now that I have climbed the ladder to president of ABCVNH one of my jobs is to write a once a month blog, so…

Encouragement is something we all need in our lives, especially for us here as Christian leaders in New England.  We are ministering here because God has called us here. What a blessing! Last month the region held it’s Annual Gathering and it was a great example of the ABCVNH family strengthening and inspiring each other.

Who could not be encouraged getting a silly picture taken by Rev. Abe and Amanda Gross at the 25 to Life Booth?  How about 150 believers coming together with candles singing” We are Family” at the end of the Friday night service?  And who could forget the huge ice cream social, with more toppings then one could count, that American Baptist Women blessed us with?  The camaraderie felt there, along with inspired teachers and workshops, encouraged and revitalized most who attended. The Sunday after The Gathering, Rev. Linda Overall’s husband commented to her, that she seemed to be energized and her reply was: “Do ya think”? LOL. I know, from the evaluations, that many shared her sediments.

Do you need some personal encouragement in your life or ministry?  Open your ABCVNH directory and give someone in ministry a call and ask if they can talk to you a few minutes.  You could both be blessed. I did it recently with Rev. Linda Bolton, and after our talk she sent me an e-mail, and said she was blessed to be available for me. That encouraged us both. Is it hard to make yourself so vulnerable to another person?  Yes, it can be, but the results are worth it.  Remember Moses having trouble keeping his arms up during a battle? What did God do?  He sent him other believers to stand with him, to hold him up and to bring victory. Body Life.

Any comments or personal highlights from your experience at The Gathering are welcome.

 

by Rev. Marshall Davis, Sandwich Federated Church (posted 7/17/13)

There has been much discussion within the Christian community in recent months about suicide. It has been prompted by the death of Rick Warren’s 27 year-old son, Matthew, who killed himself in April with an unregistered gun bought over the internet. (Rick Warren is the world-famous megachurch pastor of Saddleback Church in California.)

Shortly later Frank Page, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared the story of his 32 year-old daughter, who died a few years ago. He has a book coming out this month entitled, “Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide.” There has also been much attention given recently in the media to the suicides of professional athletes who have suffered traumatic brain injury.

When I hear of a suicide, I sigh. It is an involuntary response to the grief I have seen surrounding suicide. During my ministry I have comforted too many families who lost loved ones to suicide. I have conducted funerals of teens, middle-aged folks, and  who died at their own hands. I have witnessed physician-assisted suicide. One of my closest friends – my college roommate and an ordained minister – killed himself a few years ago. I am too familiar with suicide.

For the most part, suicide is not a reasoned choice that people make to end their lives. It is death by depression. The one who dies by his own hand is a victim of illness as surely as if they had cancer or a heart attack. The cause of death should be listed on the death certificate as emotional or mental illness. The exception might be those with terminal illness who are seeking a “good death” (the literal meaning of euthanasia) instead of a lingering painful decline. I disagree with their choice, and I counsel against it, but I understand why they do it.

Suicide is an attempt to escape a life that has become unbearable. A person wants the pain – emotional or physical – to end. Death is seen as the end of suffering. The good news is that one can end suffering without taking one’s own life. I am not talking about pain-killers, although I also advocate pain management by prescription drugs. I am talking spiritually about the death of the self. Jesus said that one must die to self in order to live to God.

“Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it,” Jesus said. The older translations talk about saving and losing one’s soul. The Greek word translated life or soul which means the psychologically constructed personality. It is one’s self that is the problem. Most people’s problems are not the difficult circumstances of their lives. Many people in third world countries live in horrible physical conditions and yet live happy lives. On the other hand, many people in America who are physically healthy and wealthy find life too difficult to bear. It is our understanding of life that needs to change. In other words, the self needs to die. But suicide is not the solution. The solution is spiritually dying to self in order to live for Christ. If your life is unbearable, don’t throw it away. Give it away! Give it to God. He will take it and give you a new identity in exchange. Then you can breathe a sigh of relief instead of a sigh of despair.

 

The Annual Gathering and Reflections on the Future

by Regional Minister, Rev. Dale Edwards  posted 7/7/13

I have attended annual conventions, meetings, and gatherings for 35 years. I remember when we only met as New Hampshire, and I remember the first ABC/VNH convention. Always people come away with different impressions, thoughts, affirmations, and criticisms. There will be shared memories, and some memories will be individual possessions. For me, the most striking memory was those of you in attendance chanting for me to take off my coat and tie. I was trying to be a conscientious region executive minister, dressing for the role: blue suit, white shirt, modest tie. But the calls of “be yourself”, “take the tie off “, “get rid of the coat”, and “relax and preach” still resound in my ears. I was glad to oblige, and yes, it felt good to shed tie and coat, and just preach. I have grown to love lapel mikes.

But the convention’s demand indicated to me how much has changed in such a short time. I say with all respect, that I cannot imagine my predecessors Bob Williams, Lou George, George Daniels, and Allen Abbott being called upon to shed coat and tie. I can imagine such a call to Rohn Peterson. A spontaneous call to be less formal, to enjoy what I was doing symbolizes the shifting, unpredictable world of Protestant denominations. Shedding tie and coat, and just preaching from my heart, speak volumes in symbol and in fact that many of our institutional assumptions are shifting and changing. Was I wrong to assume that a regional executive minister should appear before an annual meeting in conservative suit, shirt, and tie?

As I continue to travel about our Region, as I talk with pastors, church leaders, and search committees, I often find an anxiety about the future, and sometimes a disorientation about the present. Many old assumptions no longer hold true. What things seemed to provide for a stable, vibrant, even content “church life” 20 or 25 years ago have evaporated along with the Sunday school. Just this last week I heard on NPR that the oldest states in America are, in order: Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. I wonder what this means in relation to the Pew and Gallup studies showing that Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are the least “churched” states in the U.S.?

Lately I have met church planters from other parts of our country, young people speaking of a call to come to New England. What do they see that I do not? What assumptions do I hold that are good and true, and which assumptions no longer hold true, even though they may be good? As one young church planter said to me, “I was told how hard things are in New England, but I just simply invite people to Jesus, and they come!” How many old assumptions keep us from just inviting people to Jesus? Do we try so hard to “do church” that the profundity and the magnificent simplicity of the Gospel is lost in a tangle of past assumptions, trivia, and petunias?

These last few weeks I have been re-reading Revelation. What strikes me in John’s vision is the breath-taking worship of the Alpha and the Omega. I find that one can be enthralled with the timeless presence of Jesus the Christ. When He who is transcendent becomes immanent, a desire to bask in holiness and beauty eclipses all assumptions. I believe the context for sorting out the assumptions, the presuppositions, the discerning of the future, is really found by being with Jesus, caught up in faithfulness, worship, and love. As the pillar of the cloud led the people of Israel toward a new home, we too are led “further in and deeper down” into the Kingdom of Heaven. Like leaving Egypt, we will be asked to relinquish the trappings of what we have known best, for a future known only by the One whose Glory leads us. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End”. Can I bring every assumption captive to Christ?

In Christ,

Dale

Inspiration for the week: What Rights Your Soul?

Posted by on March 4, 2015 9:17 am in Inspiration, Weekly Blog | Comments Off on Inspiration for the week: What Rights Your Soul?

Don’t miss out on this week’s inspirational message from Rev. David Doyle: What Rights Your Soul? 

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