From the Pastor's Heart
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
You may not have heard but something is stirring here on our little Eastern Shore. If you attended the Night of Testimony this past Sunday, you sensed it among God’s people. There is a hunger and desire to see God move in a mighty way and on a larger scale. Several churches came together to have a service with no preaching at all. Three individuals shared their story of what God has done to radically change their lives. While we did not see an altar full of people, I did sense that people were excited to see what can happen when like-minded believers come together for the purpose of worship and evangelism.
For too long, most churches have stayed in their own world, building their own kingdom. It is time that churches who share the same doctrinal beliefs work together to impact our communities for Christ. We have a far greater chance of winning the lost if all believers are out sharing “their story”. We can saturate this little peninsula of 46,0000 people if churches would stop focusing on non-essential issues such as music styles, personality conflicts or how long a service lasts. I would pray that none of us would allow our preferences to take priority over building God’s kingdom.
Preaching is very important in growing the saints but the role of prayer in personal evangelism is absolutely essential. We must talk to God about men before we can ever talk to men about God.
Would you pray that what happened here Sunday night would not just be a one-time event but the start of a greater work? Would you be willing to share “your story” with someone the Holy Spirit brings across your path? Would you pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38)?
~ Pastor Carpenter
It should be an interesting holiday season. With predictions of shipping delays and shortages of items on the shelves, our whole strategy of Christmas shopping may be forced to change. Other economic factors are sure to affect most Americans. Rising gas prices, oil hikes and overall inflation may hit all of our budget negatively. We may have to wear another layer of clothing instead of keeping the thermostat as high as we have in the past. We may have to be satisfied with less gift giving and be thankful to just be together and share a meal. And then there’s COVID...which never seems to go away. Attitudes on how to respond to it will vary greatly based on age and health but it will still be a factor. One year ago, who would have thought that it would still be a factor one year later? For all of these reasons and many more, there is sure to be stress on most Americans this year.
I am still convinced that the Lord is trying to get our attention. As a nation, we are still looking to man’s knowledge and science for solutions rather than to God. That is not a statement against medical treatment or scientific advancement, but the statement of Psalm 118:8 is true, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”
The Lord is showing us that the outcome of our nation won’t be based on who wins elections. While the selection of our leaders is very important (Proverbs 29:2), it will be more the effect of spiritual awakening rather than the cause. Until the Lord Jesus is made the King of our nation (Psalm 33:12), we will not see the favor of God upon our land as we once did. Rising crimes, homelessness, drugs and substance abuse, broken homes, floods and fires and disunity will be the marks of a nation coming apart at the seams. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Our only hope is in the Lord. (Psalm 121:1)
Ministry is a series of unexpected challenges and decisions. From week to week, we don't know the obstacles we may have to overcome or the opportunities the Lord will present us. Life itself is the same. Each day brings frustrations and things to fret over. Jesus said, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:34c). The same verse also tells us not to worry or be anxious about tomorrow's problems because they will often work themselves out without our anxiety. Each day has enough problems of its own so we must trust the Lord that He will provide all that we need. (Matthew 6:33, 2 Corinthians 12:9).
The Israelites were commanded to follow God's leading in the desert. In Exodus 13, "the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light ..." (13:21). His presence and His provisions to His people were a promise from God. All they had to do was to look, listen and follow. They didn't have to guess as to God's will. They had clear, visible manifestations of His presence.
As we enter into another period of dealing with COVID, there is much uncertainty and fear. Most churches and organizations don't know what to do. Most pastors (including this one) are weary of trying to figure it all out. So I go back to the first sermon I preached in 2021. There were three things I challenged our church with that morning.
1). God will supply our need - we must TRUST Him.
2). God will show the say - we must FOLLOW.
3). God will fulfill His plan - we must OBEY.
The Holy Spirit reminded me of that sermon this week. Now we will all be tested to see if what we do matches up with what we profess to believe.
~ Pastor Carpenter
COMMUNITY. We once had a clear understanding of what that term meant. Traditionally, the term referred to a group of people living in the same place. A village or neighborhood became a community based on where we lived. However, we are no longer living in a time where the place or area we live in is the only community we’re a part of.
The rise of technology has changed all of that. We’re now able to choose the communities we want to be a part of based on our identities, values and interests. A community may be based on homeschooling, autism support, or being a fan of a specific musician or artist.
Here’s a good definition: A community is a group of people existing in a place that shares a purpose, a sense of belonging and who communicate with each other.
More and more, churches are realizing that they are to be “communities” of believers. They share common values, core beliefs and are definitely focused around their Savior and hero, Jesus Christ. Membership is to be far more than walking an aisle at the end of the service and having one’s name on a piece of paper. In face, most churches have names on their membership rolls who have not attended in years and are not an active part of the “community.”
Being a member of Exmore Baptist Church means the following:
1) We are to Love God supremely - Matt. 22:37-38.
2) We are to Love and forgive each other - Matt. 27:39, Eph. 4:32.
3) We are to minister within the body of Christ, using our spiritual gift - I Peter 4:10.
4) We are to get to know the members of the community -
I Thessalonians 5:12-14.
5) We are to communicate with each other when there are needs, concerns, prayer requests, blessings and
opportunities for ministry - Galatians 6:10
6) We are to graciously welcome new people into the community who share our love for Jesus - Luke 14:23.
7) We are to serve our community in humility and love - John 13:14-15,35.
May we all take our part in the community of faith!
~ Pastor Carpenter
Prayer is a subject that we can never study too much or know enough about. It is the critical spiritual discipline of the Christian life. Make no mistake about it - Prayer is Hard Work! The disciples couldn’t stay awake long enough to pray for one hour in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Sometimes believers become discouraged in prayer because they feel that their efforts are in vain. When we don’t see God moving How or When we would like, we are tempted to grow weary. The New Testament is filled with reminders to be persistent in prayer, no matter what.
“And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1)
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).
“Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17).
Some would even ask that if the outcomes of our prayers are determined by God’s will, then why bother to pray at all? I have been asked that question many times. I have come to believe that the greatest benefit of prayer is that it draws us closer to God and puts us in a position where He can speak to us (John 10:27). When we enter our “prayer closet” (Matthew 6:6) and abide under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1), we experience God’s presence and peace. We also put ourselves in a position to receive His blessings. As I like to say, “We get under the spout where the blessings come out.”
Does prayer affect the circumstances of a family, an illness or a personal need? Often it does. We can all name times in our lives where God intervened and turned a negative situation into a positive one. The Bible has many examples where specific, persistent prayer touched the heart of God and moved the hand of God (read Exodus 33:1-17 and the story of Moses). Prayer can make a huge difference in our lives, but faith assures us that no matter the answer we receive, God always does and knows what is best for His children (James 5:16, I John 5:14-15) (Matthew 7:7-11).
~ Pastor Carpenter
Southern Baptist News
To those of you who are new to Exmore Baptist Church, you may not be aware that we are a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in America with 47,600 churches and 14 million members. Having started back in 1845, our denomination has had a tremendous impact on spreading the gospel throughout the world as well as on Christianity here in America.
Let me give you a few fast facts on what our involvement means:
1) We voluntarily participate in the Cooperative Program, giving 5% of our budget to the CP for the support of seminaries, church planting and evangelism, disaster relief, college ministries and camps, and the publication of Christian literature.
2) Southern Baptists cooperate for the cause of missions both at home and around the world. Through the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings, we support about 3,500 international missionaries and about 2,500 in North America. In my view, this is one of the greatest things about our denomination in that a tremendous amount of money and resources can be raised for the spreading of the gospel.
3) Every Southern Baptist church is self-governing. No outside group, committee or leader can dictate our church’s beliefs, practices or control what we feel led to do by God. Each congregation can decide who its pastor will be and how its offerings will be used. The SBC has no control over the church facilities. They are only available to help the local church when they are invited.
Having said all that, our denomination has its struggles. While it is solidly conservative on Biblical doctrine, it is trying to address serious issues that the church must face. As the culture around the church is changing rapidly, the church cannot retreat in isolation. Issues such as racial reconciliation, the role of women in ministry, and the role of politics in the church are causing serious divisions. We must approach these issues “head-on” from a Biblical worldview and not from what the world is trying to tell us. The body of Christ must seek unity and love among the brethren, but not at the expense of truth. Let’s all pray for Pastor Ed Litton of Mobile, Alabama who was elected President of the SBC at the Annual Meeting in Nashville last week. He has a big task ahead.
~ Pastor Carpenter