From the Pastor's Heart
I recently sat in a small gathering of pastors while a guest from another state brought a presentation. The offer was for some new resources that are available to church staff to make ministry easier and more effective. I watched the faces and reactions of those in the room as it quickly turned into a “sales pitch.” I must confess that I am a student of human nature and often watch body language to pick up on people’s responses to ideas and personalities. You can learn a lot not just from what people say but also by what they don’t say. Non-verbal cues are very important in learning how people feel about certain situations.
Whether it’s ministry, family or business, people want to know that they are valued. A big part of that is listening to what is on their heart. While we don’t have to agree with everything they say, nor offer to fix all their problems, it shows great respect and consideration for us to simply listen. Many of us have the bad habit of formulating our next response rather than hearing the person’s heart.
Dr. Howard Hendricks, a long-time professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, was known for the saying, “People will never care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is so true! Another version of that statement is, “People will forget what you said, much of what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We all would do well to ponder that statement. Christians, of all people, should strive to do what is right and be just in our dealings with others. We should follow Christ’s example in doing unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12, Galatians 6:10).
~ Pastor Carpenter
This week has started with horrific news. The mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas left 21 dead, including 19 children. The report concerning sexual abuse among clergy within our own denomination is beyond disturbing. Another news story said we are in the midst of a mental health crisis in America, certainly among our youth. After listening to a sermon at our Men’s Discipleship Meeting Tuesday night, we sat around and discussed the current state of affairs. It is such a distressing and divisive time in our country. The two political parties can’t work together or agree on anything. It’s hard to imagine that we were anymore divided at the time of the Civil War.
As believers, we know where our hope lies. “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth”
(Psalm 121:2). All of the answers to society’s ills lie with Him. He is the only source of truth, righteousness, love and justice (I Cor. 1:30). While we know that there will never be perfect justice or lasting peace in this life, we certainly desire a world where children can live in safety and not have to fear the horrible things that are happening around them. We know that these solutions are spiritual and not political (Eph. 6:12). We know that spiritual awakening and turning to the Lord is critical at this moment in our history.
The world will seek its own answers. Politicians will propose more education, social programs and gun control as the answers. It is claimed that if we can change a person’s environment that we can change the person and the world. While well intentioned, it misses the reality that the human heart must change. Reformation won’t last; only transformation will (2 Cor. 5:17). The unsaved cannot comprehend these spiritual realities (I Cor. 2:14). The church must be the shining beacon of hope for so many troubled souls that are lost
~ Pastor Carpenter
What a month April has been for our Church! Each Sunday has left me physically exhausted but spiritually recharged. We have seen new faces every week, but most of all, the Lord’s Spirit has been among our people. Even if I were not the pastor, I wouldn’t want to miss One Sunday and miss out on what God is doing. After all of the activity and excitement of the month, the next logical question I ask is, “Now what”?
After the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended back to heaven, I am sure the disciples asked the same thing - “Now what”? What was the next step for these new believers in Christ? Where do we go? To whom do we preach? Who’s in charge here? What should the priorities be for our time, energy and resources? All of these questions and more had to be on the forefront of their minds.
While the New Testament records very little of Jesus giving specific instructions on church government and organizational structure, it does give what Jesus wanted their mission to be. What we commonly call ‘The Great
Commission’ is recorded in all four Gospels and in Acts. (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-48, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8). Their mission was to carry this gospel to the four corners of the earth. Their power source was the Holy Spirit and their inspiration had to come from their recently resurrected Savior. After all, seeing a man alive who had been dead three days earlier ought to provide all the motivation that anyone would need to do God’s Work.
As we press forward in God’s work here at our “Jerusalem” (Exmore), let’s be reminded that God has given us everything we need to do His will. We must obey His voice, follow His lead and trust His provisions. And, like the disciples, we must “Go and Tell”!
~ Pastor Carpenter
Most years I like to give a Bible reading plan to our people leading up to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. I find it spiritually helpful to “walk” in the footsteps of Jesus in order to contemplate and appreciate all that our Lord endured and suffered for us. I hope that you will follow this or some other Bible reading plan over the next few weeks. Another idea is to stick with one book, like the Gospel of John and read from Chapters 11 through 21. Your reading will culminate with the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection. I have also included additional days that give the first hand accounts of appearances of Christ after His resurrection.
Many of us are facing serious life issues. Some in our church family have recently lost a loved one. Others are dealing with a long-term health problem for themselves or for a family member. Still others struggle with emotional battles that are not quickly solved. All of these must be given to the Lord daily through prayer and the exercise of our faith.
Still others have lost their peace of mind over things that shouldn’t consume them. Satan wants nothing more than to steal our joy and cost us sleep. We lay awake “mulling” over things in our mind that we can’t resolve or understand. This is what Solomon called “the little foxes” that spoil the vines (Song of Solomon 2:15). Here are three areas that can easily ruin the peace God desires us to experience.
1) The Words and Actions of Others
When people around us say hurtful or careless things, it can be a wound to the heart. The closer the person is to us, the more it tends to sting. Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a word, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” While there are times where truthful words offend, often the person who says hurtful things has other sources of anger and frustration in their lives. They can easily unload that anger on others close to them. We shouldn’t let it discourage us.
2) Situations We Can’t Control
There are some things in life we can affect by our decisions and habits. There are other things we cannot control. The famous “Serenity Prayer” reminds us to show courage to change the things we can, serenity to accept the things we can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference. God allows situations in our lives that we can’t control to test our trust in Him. We must commit those things to God (I Peter 4:19).
3) The World Situation
There is enough in the news to terrify anyone. Inflation. COVID. Crime. Gas prices. Russia invading Ukraine. We could lose total peace if we focus on these things 24/7. Don’t allow that to happen. It is good to know what is going on around us but don’t fixate on these things and miss out on the joy of following and serving Jesus. Remember that Christ has predicted in His Word many things that we are seeing (Matt. 24:25).
~ Pastor Carpenter
I am convinced that God puts His people exactly where He wants them at the right moment to do His work. When obedient Christians are sensitive to the Shepherd's voice (John 10:27) they will be lead by the Spirit at a moment's notice. Stacey and I have both witnessed "God's messengers" approach us with messages from heaven. We can remember instances where complete strangers would walk up to us with words of encouragement and hope. This usually would happen when we were at a low point. These were people who knew nothing of our circumstances. They didn't even know our names. Were they Spirit-led believers or angels sent that we were unaware of (Hebrews 13:2)? All I know is that they spoke truth from God that we needed to hear. Perhaps you have had a similar experience.
Proverbs 5:11 says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver" (NKJV). Another proverb says, "A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, And a word spoken in due season, how good it is" (15:3). Words have tremendous power. They can judge, criticize, condemn or uplift, inform and inspire. Words have started rumors, destroyed marriages and started wars. They also have brought love, healing and restoration to many hurting hearts. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue - and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof" (Prov. 18:21).
Every one of us has the potential to either build up or tear down. If we allow ourselves to be used of God, we will be led by the Spirit to be at the right place at the right time. God led Elijah in I Kings 17-19 to a brook, a widow, and an angel. In every case, God know exactly what the man of God needed for that moment. All of it was preparing him for greater victories (read 1 Kings 18:17-46).
~ Pastor Carpenter
Another year is winding down. While we wondered if we would all survive 2020, this year has proved no less challenging. Some of the same issues that our nation dealt with last year have remained through 2021. COVID is still with us. Violence and crime are surging at alarming rates. Political unrest remains. I am convinced more and more that Satan is dividing homes, families and churches in his ultimate aim of bringing down the people of God. Ultimately he will fail but on the short term it appears that he is having great success. He is a defeated foe.
In addition to all of this, we each face our own personal struggles. Several in our church have just faced the first Christmas season without a loved one. Many continue to battle the loneliness and grief that accompany such losses. Others face health, family and emotional concerns that lack simple answers. We all battle our own habits, hurts and hang-ups. Pain is universal, temptation is real, and trouble is constant. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
On the first Sunday of this year (Jan. 3, 2021), I preached on three facts that we could be assured of:
1) God will supply our need - We must trust Him.
2) God will show us the way - We must follow.
3) God will ultimately fulfill His plan - We must obey.
Fifty-two weeks later, I am more assured of these promises than ever. God has been faithful in the past; He will be faithful in the future.
“Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” I Peter 4:19
As we begin a new year, we can trust in a God who is already in our tomorrow.
~ Pastor Carpenter