In the days before Connecticut became a state, an incident occurred there that has become known as “the dark day.”  Suddenly thick darkness – probably the result of abnormal atmospheric condition – blotted out the sunlight.  The Colonial legislature was in session at the time, and some of its members concluded that the day of judgment had come.  The cry went forth. “It is the day of judgment!  Let us go home and get ready!”  However, an old church deacon who was in the legislature stood up and said, “Brethren, it may be the day of judgment – I do not know.  The Lord may come.  But when He does, I want Him to find me at my post, doing my duty up to the very last moment.  Mr. Speaker, I move that candles be brought in and that we get on with the business of the colony.”

There are some days when I read the news and think surely Jesus must be coming soon.  It’s tempting to want to retreat to the safety of our Christian enclaves of home and church and have as little contact as possible with our evil and increasingly sinful world.  But as believers we are not intended to hide from the world, we are to be “salt and light” in the midst of it.  (See Matthew 5: 13-16)

Jesus tells an interesting parable in Luke 19 about a nobleman who leaves his servants in charge while he travels to a far country.  He gives his servants this clear command, “do business till I come” (Luke 19:13 NKJV).  We don’t know the day or the hour when Jesus may return.  Until then we are to keep busy using our talents and resources to serve our King.

Have a great week and keep serving!
Pastor Barry

Phillip Yancey in one of his books reminded me recently of a movie I watched years ago.  The movie was called “Whistle Down the Wind” and starred a young Hayley Mills.  As the plot unfolds, Hayley and her two friends stumble across a vagrant sleeping in their barn.

When young Hayley demands, “Who are you?”  The vagrant jerked awake and, seeing the children, muttered. “Jesus Christ!”

What he meant as an expletive, the children took as the truth.  They actually believed the man to be Jesus Christ.  For the rest of the movie, they treated the vagrant with awe, respect, and love.  They brought him food and blankets, sat and talked with him, and told him about their lives.  In time their tenderness transformed the vagrant, an escaped convict who had never before known such mercy.

Yancey tells us that the story, written by Mill’s mother, was intended to be an allegory of what might happen if all of us took literally Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 about serving the poor and needy.  Jesus reminds us “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Someone once asked Mother Theresa why she devoted such effort to caring for the dregs of Calcutta.  Mother Theresa’s answer was “First we meditate on Jesus, and then we go out and look for him in disguise.”

I wonder how many of us are looking for Jesus in the faces of needy people this morning?  Yet, isn’t that our calling?  May we be aware of those opportunities to serve our Savior that He puts in our path today.

Have a great week!

Pastor Barry

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes.  We recognize that along the continuum of Motherhood there are many different kinds of “mothers” who need to feel valued and appreciated.  With that in mind we offer these words of encouragement and thankfulness:

A Mother’s Day Tribute

  • To those who gave birth this year to their first child – we celebrate with you.
  • To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you.
  • To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you.
  • To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions or running away – we mourn with you.
  • To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears and disappointment – we walk with you.  Forgive us when we say foolish things.  We don’t mean to make things harder.
  • To those who are foster moms, mentor moms and spiritual moms – we need you.
  • To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you.
  • To those who have disappointment, heartache and distance with your children – we sit with you.
  • To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you.
  • To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience.
  • To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst.
  • To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day.
  • To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be.
  • To those who stepparent – we walk with you on these complex paths.
  • To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be – we grieve with you.
  • To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you.
  • To those who placed children for adoption – we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart.
  • And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you.

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you.  Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst.  We remember you.  Thanks Mom!

Have a great week!
Pastor Barry

Years ago when I was in Seminary in Kentucky I served as an intern at a small Wesleyan Church for several months.  One of the unusual practices of that congregation was that during the worship times some of the elderly ladies would get blessed and begin to wave their white handkerchiefs in the air.  I’d never seen this before and I wondered to myself, What are they doing?  Are they surrendering?  Are we under attack?  What’s the meaning of this?

I later had an opportunity to ask one of these dear saints who told me that was exactly what they were doing.  They were surrendering themselves to the Lord.  They were saying to the Lord, “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way…..”

Isn’t that what we as followers of Christ are commanded to do?  The writer of Proverbs tells us “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.(Proverbs 3:6).  Wives are told to “submit to their husbands” (Colossians 3:18). As citizens we are to “submit to the authorities” (Romans 13:5) and as believers we are to“submit to one another out of reverence to Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

But the problem is we’re not all that good at submitting.  We like to have things our way.  We want what we want, when we want it.  We rebel against taking orders and being told what to do.  Our pride gets in the way of submitting, even to the Lord.

Yet, Scripture warns us that “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6). If we refuse to submit voluntarily, God has a way of making life difficult for us.  I’ve found in my life that things go so much better when I reach that point of full surrender.  I’ve come to understand that God has my best interest at heart.  I can trust him with my life and rest in his love.

I just finished singing a verse of the great hymn “I Surrender All”.  I didn’t have a handkerchief so I waved a white tissue. Glory!

Have a great day!Pastor Barry

A couple of weeks ago our daughter’s family endured the sad experience of having to put to sleep their 12 year old Golden Retriever, Durden, (inoperable tumor, chronic pain and nausea).  In preparation they explained to our 3 year old grandson, Rhys that Durden was going to “Doggie Heaven” where he would be able to run and chase balls like when he was a puppy.  On the evening after they had taken Durden to the vet, Rhys asked “Next week can we go visit Durden in Doggie Heaven and see him run and chase balls.”  His dad, Jason, explained, “yes someday we can go see him but probably not for a long time. [Then dad went to the kitchen and had a good cry.]

At three, Rhys, is coming to grips with the reality most of us know far too well; death is the great separator.  Death creates a great divide that none can cross.  It separates us from those we love and cherish.  Yet, imagine how tragic and how hopeless death would be if we did not have the Christian hope of seeing our loved ones again someday.  This is not just wishful thinking or Hollywood sentimentality.  This is based on the clear promises of Scripture (see John 14: 1-6; I Thessalonians 4: 13-18).  This is based on the promise of the One who experienced death and arose victorious.  Yes, we are separated now, but it is only for a little while.  We will have all of eternity to spend together with those who love and serve our Lord.  In fairness, I should mention here that heaven is not for everyone.  It is a prepared place for a prepared people.  Only those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ will enter there.  The sad truth is that many who are unprepared will be turned away.  (see Matthew 7: 21-23)

When I was younger I never thought much about heaven, but I’m finding that the older I get it seems to be increasingly in my thoughts.  Heaven is now populated with scores of friends and family members that I have known and loved.  And yes, now even a big old Golden Retriever with a welcoming bark and a constantly wagging tail.  [I do believe dogs go to heaven based on my own personal interpretation of Psalm 36:6, Matthew 10:29 and Isaiah 11:6.  You Bible scholars can challenge me on this if you want, but I’m sticking to my personal exegesis].  If you don’t believe me – watch Mark Lowry’s video –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXgXTyfp7g0

As the popular movie and book reminds us, “Heaven is For Real” and one day it’s my ambition to go there.  I trust it’s your goal as well.  If you need directions on how to get there, don’t be afraid to ask.  Any believer should be able to give you the GPS coordinates (John 3:16; Acts 16: 30-31).

Have a great week

Pastor Barry

You may have heard this inspiring story that was sent to me by one of our church members.  It reminds us of the power of encouragement.

One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

Then on Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday, she gave each student his or her list.  Before long, the entire class was smiling.  ‘Really?’ she heard whispered.  ‘I never knew that I meant anything to anyone’ and ‘I didn’t know others liked me so much,’ were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again.  She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter.  The exercise had accomplished its purpose.  The students were happy with themselves and one another.  That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student.  She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before.  He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends.  One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin.   The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. ‘Were you Mark’s math teacher?’ he asked.  She nodded:  ‘yes.’  Then he said ‘Mark talked about you a lot.’

After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to a luncheon.  Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

‘We want to show you something,’ his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket ‘They found this on Mark when he was killed.  We thought you might recognize it.’

Opening the billfold he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times.  The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.

‘Thank you so much for doing that,’ Mark’s mother said.  ‘As you can see, Mark treasured it.’

All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around.  Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, ‘I still have my list.  It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.’

Chuck’s wife said, ‘Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.’

‘I have mine too,’ Marilyn said.  ‘It’s in my diary.’

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frizzled list to the group.  ‘I carry this with me at all times,’ Vicki said and without batting an eyelash she continued: ‘I think we all saved our lists.’

That’s when the teacher finally sat down and cried.  She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The apostle Paul repeatedly admonishes us as believes to “encourage one another and build each other up just as in fact you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5:11)  That is one of the things we are commanded to do when we come together for worship.  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

Who do you know today who do you know today that might need a positive word of praise?  Let someone know they are loved and appreciated.  It may mean more to them than you could possible imagine!

Have a great week!
Pastor Barry

I’ve got a topic for you this morning that will really spice up you lunch time conversation when you eat lunch with your co-workers today.   Ask this question:  “When you die, what kind of clothes do you want to be buried in?”  “When you’re laid out in the casket, what kind of grave clothes do you want to be wearing?”

Now that’s not a subject most of us spend much time thinking about.  It’s certainly not a very pleasant meal time conversation.  But for just a couple of minutes this morning, I want you to think about grave clothes:  Jesus’ graveclothes .

Notice the description of Jesus’ burial in (John 19: 38-40)  Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.  Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.  By the way, the quantity of spices Nicodemus brings is significant.  Such a quantity of burial ointments was typically used only for kings or the extremely wealthy.

On Friday the graveclothes were a symbol of defeat.  As Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped the lifeless corpse of Jesus, the reality of His death sank in.  He was really gone.  Their Messiah, their Savior, the one they had put their hope in was dead.  The graveclothes, the embalming process made it so final.

But Sunday morning would change all of that.  Look again at (John 20:6).  Notice what John sees as he enters that tomb.  then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there. 

The Greek word that John uses for saying the clothes were lying there is insightful.  It means literally “rolled up” or “still in their folds” In other words they had not been ripped off and thrown down.  The linens were undisturbed.   It was as if the body had simply vanished.

Think for a moment about what that means.  If friends had taken the body, wouldn’t they have taken the graveclothes with them?  Or if enemies had stolen the body of Jesus, would they have been so careful to unwrap the body and then lay them back in such an orderly fashion?  So if neither friend nor foe took his body, then what happened to it?  In the misty morning of that First Easter, John comes to a startling conclusion .. JESUS MUST BE ALIVE.  In ( John 20:6) it says, Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there.  HE SAW AND BELIEVED.  The empty graveclothes convinced him.

One  more thing notice what happened to the linen napkin that had been around Jesus head.  In John 20:7 (NLT) it says, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.  This cloth is folded – lying by itself.  Why would Jesus have taken the time to do that?

Biblical scholar Sigmund Brouwer tells us that there was a common practice among carpenters in Jesus’ day.  A tradition that may explain the folded napkin.  Brouwer tells us that when a carpenter put the finishing touches on a piece of furniture and the job was finally done.  He would wash his hands, rinse off all the sawdust and dry them on a nearby towel – a carpenter’s cloth.  Then he would fold and lay it across his finished work.  Anyone then coming in to inspect the work would see the folded cloth and know that the carpenter’s work was finished.  I wonder if John smiled as he saw that cloth, neatly folded and lying there in good carpenter’s fashion.  I wonder if he saw the significance?

The work of salvation was complete.  The price of our redemption had been paid.  The victory over sin and death had been won.

I hope this morning you are rejoicing in that victory.  The tomb is empty!   OUR SAVIOR LIVES!

Have a great week!

Pastor Barry

In a recent Samaritan’s Purse newsletter, I read this amazing story about answered prayer.

“In Mexico, hundreds of boys and girls gathered at the church in a small village, excitedly anticipating the arrival of their precious shoeboxes.  Delightful chaos erupted as bulging shoeboxes wrapped in brightly colored paper were passed into the small, eager hands of each child.  Wrapping paper was hurriedly ripped into pieces and tossed aside, a smile spreading across the face of each child as their long awaited Christmas treasurers were revealed.

But one little boy dissolved into tears as he lifted the lid of his box and peered inside to see what he had received for Christmas this year.

One of the Operation Shoebox volunteers spotted the little boy, and hurriedly made his way across the church to see what the problem could possibly be.  With the help of an interpreter, the volunteer asked the now sobbing little boy, “What is wrong?  What is in your box?”  With tears streaming down his face, the little boy said, “Socks!”  The worker instantly understood and assured the little boy that he could trade his box of socks for another box that might have crayons or a piece of candy in it.

Alarm spread across the face of the child as he vigorously shook his head and quickly jerked the box away from the now somewhat confused worker.  Clutching the shoebox to his chest, the boy began sobbing out an explanation to the interpreter who listened for a few moments and then, with tears spilling down his own cheeks, turned to the volunteer and said, “You won’t believe this!”

Taking a deep, steadying breath, the interpreter explained, “This little boy was born with a rare skin condition.  It seems to affect his feet more than any other spot on his body.  The doctors have tried various medications and treatments but finally told the little boy that nothing will work and his feet will never heal unless he begins wearing cotton socks.  His parents cannot even afford food for this boy – much less provide socks for their son.  So, all year long, he has been praying for socks.”

Socks were at the top of the little boy’s prayer list.  As a matter of fact, they were his list.  The mere sight of ordinary cotton socks brought tears to his eyes as he stared in awe at the priceless gift in his hands.  Socks.  Just socks.  Oh, they were more than just socks.  They were the profound answer from our extraordinary God to a child’s simple prayer.”

Jesus encourages us to ask in faith.  In Matthew 21:22 He promises, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer”    What miracle do you need this morning?  Keep asking.  Keep believing.  Your “socks” may be on the way.

Have a great week!

Pastor Barry

P.S.  Don’t forget Good Friday Service on April 3rd at 7PM; Easter Sunrise Service on April 6th at 7:30 AM followed by our Fellowship Breakfast.  Then our Resurrection Worship Celebration Service at 10:00 AM

Ministering to Others

One of my members recently sent me an e-mail containing this inspiring story about a Chick-fil-A located in Birmingham, Alabama. During a recent storm that stranded hundreds of motorists on the Interstate, Mark Meadows and his staff sprang into action. Some of the cars near the restaurant had been stranded for up to 7 hours.
Meadows and his employees fired up the kitchen and began preparing chicken sandwiches as fast as they could. They prepared several hundred sandwiches and then Meadows and his staff headed out and began distributing the hot meals to the stranded motorists on both sides of Highway 280.

Some of the drivers tried to pay them for the sandwiches, but Meadows and his employees refused to take a single penny. Audrey Pitt, manager of the Chick-fil-A, explained why: This company is based on taking care of people and loving people before you’re worried about money or profit. We were just trying to follow the model that we’ve all worked under for so long and the model that we’ve come to love. There was really nothing else we could have done but try to help people any way we could.

However, Meadows and Pitt were not through with their Good Samaritan efforts. They helped push cars off the roads, up inclines and whatever else they could do to help. Then they kept the restaurant open overnight so that stranded motorists could have a warm place to be. A number of motorists slept in booths or on the benches.

Then in the morning, they again fired up the kitchen and prepared chicken biscuits for their overnight guests and once again they refused to accept any payment. During that 24 hour period, this Chick-fil-A restaurant opened their kitchen, their doors and their hearts to hundreds of stranded motorists and they did so refusing to accept any payment. As one source put it, Meadows and his staff lived up to the words Jesus spoke in Matthew 25:35 which states:
"For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in." It is amazing what we as believers can do when we stop thinking about ourselves and focus on ministering to others. How does God want to use you today?
Have a great week.
Pastor Barry

The Art of Listening

An elderly man progressively lost his hearing. By and large, family and friends would sit and talk – at times ignoring the man’s presence in the room. Occasionally he would try to enter the conversation, or others would raise their voices to get his attention.

Frustrated with his lack of hearing, the old man decided to take action and make an appointment to visit an ear, nose, and throat specialist. The physician assessed his need, identified the extent of his problem, and referred him to a local audiologist who kept pace with the latest trends in hearing advances.

Within days, the elderly man was fitted with a state-of-of-art hearing device that proved revolutionary. For the first time in years he could hear clearly.

A month passed, and the old man had a follow-up visit with the doctor who assessed him. After some questioning and examination, the doctor said, “It appears you have a near complete restoration.” The old man simply smiled.

The doctor added, “Your family must be thrilled to know you can hear again”.

To which the old man replied, “Oh I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit and listen, but I’ve changed my will three times!”

I wonder what we might discover if we learned the art of truly listening? The book of Proverbs says “to answer before listening – that is folly and shame”. (Proverbs 18:13) The book of James tells us that we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

Imagine what you might find out if you turned off the ballgame and really listened to your wife? Imagine what you might discover if you really paid attention to the constant chatter of your child or grandchild? Even more importantly, imagine what you might learn if you stopped with your list of requests and actually listened for the “still small voice of God?”

We may be missing out on some life-changing information because we’re too busy talking to hear. So my advice to you this week is keep quiet, turn up your hearing aid and pay attention. You just might hear some valuable information.

Have a great week!
Pastor Barry