JJANUARY ANUARY -- M MARCH ARCH 2017 2017
Message From The EDITOR
CHURCH CONNECTION Volume 7 No. 1
esolutions…How to keep them?
What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Do they resemble last year’s? How resolute were you with last year’s resolutions? If you are like most people, you make resolutions that are totally self- focused. I am not going to eat this or that because I want to look good. I am going to exercise 5 times a week and get in shape because I want people to perceive me as strong and in shape. I am going to be organized because it will make my life easier, etc. While there is nothing wrong with these resolutions, this year, I am going to try and add a twist to my same old resolutions.
You see, in times where I have been able to stay the course with difficult tasks, it is usually because my motivation was not for my own benefit. Sure it definitely benefited me, but my motivation was for either a team or my family or loved ones. When I am trying to accomplish something for someone else, I don’t want to let them down. As humans, we are much quicker to let ourselves down than we are others. When you think about the task that Jesus undertook, you would have to ask yourself, how did he stay the course? How did he keep his resolve to be a sacrifice for the sin of mankind. Had his motivation been on himself, he would not have made it, but he was focused on others and their eternity. His motivation was not for his on benefit, as he knew what his fate would be, but for the benefit on all people willing to accept his gift of eternal salvation. This year when I think about the resolution of getting in better physical shape, my motivation is not so I change my look so others will perceive me better, but so that I can enjoy physical activities more with my family, or so I will not be a burden to them in years to come to the point they have to help me physically or medically. When I think of my spiritual resolutions of regularly attending a local church and spending more time with God in his word, my motivation is going to be so that I am more prepared to be used to help others when God sees fit to use me and that I might be able to better recognize those times and have the confidence to act, not so that I can impress other Christians with my knowledge in Sunday School. Whatever your resolutions are this year, add a motivational mindset to them that helps you stay the course. Do it for others when you will not do for yourself. Interestingly, you may see some of your resolutions change when you make them for the benefit of others rather than yourself. Thanks for reading LCC! Please support our local advertisers as they provide a way for us to promote our local churches. Please attend one of our local Christian Churches and learn how God can use you to help others and in the process, watch your own life improve as a result. Happy New Year! Cover Photo: Lutheran Church of the Ascension, Savannah, GA Photographer: Drew Holland
For more information, please contact Chuck Thompson firstname.lastname@example.org • www.localchurchconnection.com
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The Greatest Of These By TREY DICKERSON
ow many of you grew up singing the popular hymn- Jesus Loves Me? For those of us who grew up in a Christian environment, this was a song we learned at a very early age. Sadly though, once we got out of “children’s church” we stopped singing songs like these that magnified Christ’s love, acting as though we have graduated from focusing on the unconditional love of God. I believe this is one of the worst mistakes many churches make. Why do I say this? Well, look at the fruit. In children’s church, Christ’s love is magnified and taught regularly and the children are happy. They are free and full of joy. But then you go into “big church” where they have graduated from proclaiming the love of God and everyone looks like they have been drinking lemon juice. Do you suppose that this might have something to do with what we are hearing? You see, while God’s love is certainly not all that we need to be hearing, in my walk with the Lord I have discovered it to be the single greatest truth about God that our hearts could ever capture. Sure, faith is important. Hope is important. And there are many other subjects that we need to emphasize too, but I am here to tell you that the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Now I understand that this is a strong statement, but allow me to explain why I believe this… 1 John 4:19 is a verse that is familiar to many of us. It says, “We love because He first loved us.” Now some translations state that we love Him because He first loved us, but most of the original texts leave out the personal pronoun “Him.” So what is this verse saying? It is saying that we are enabled and motivated to love because He first loved us. Now of course this means that we are empowered to live for God because of what God has already done for us through His love, but I want us to look at this verse in a different light. It is also saying that we can love when we know He first loved us. In other words, our ability to love is directly tied to knowing how much we are loved. Now that, my friends, is a very true and powerful statement.
“We love because He first loved us.”
Let me ask you a question- How can you give away something that you have not first received? You cannot. And this is why so many Christians have such a hard time walking in love towards others and also have such a hard time loving God. It is all because they have not first received the love He has for them. It is that simple. Friends, if you have not first received love from Him, then you will have no love to give. God’s plan is for us to be so filled up with His love that we pour it out into others. Perhaps this is why living the Christian life has been so hard for some of us to live. But this is good news for us though. Why? Because when we are filled up with His love, we will be empowered to fulfill His commandments. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, what did He respond? He said, the great commandment was to love the Lord God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and the second is like it, that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Now if the greatest commandments are that we love God and love our neighbor, how are going to be able to fulfill those commandments to love? You guessed it- “We love (God and our neighbor) because He first loved us.” Wow! This means that by understanding God’s great love for us, we will be enabled to love God in return and then love His creation out of that overflow! So a good question for us to ask at this point would be- How do we come to know the love of God like this? Well, I am not going to give you a formula, but the bottom line is that the Lord said when we ask it will be given to us, when we seek we will find, and when we knock the door will be opened. He said that we will find Him when we seek for Him with all of our heart. So I exhort you in the name of the Lord- seek after this knowledge of His love and ask for Him to show it to you. For the hungry heart will be satisfied. Selah. Victoriously, Pastor Trey Dickerson For more articles like this from Living Logos Ministries, write us at P.O. Box 28283, Macon, GA 31221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to visit our website at www.treydickerson.com for more materials as well. Trey also pastors High Point Church located on 2963 Hollis Rd here in Macon. Please contact him for more info and service times.
6751 Houston Road • Macon, GA • 478.781.2324 email@example.com • mikadobaptist.org Awana for 2 Years-4th grade • The Bridge for 5th-6th grade Elevate youth ministries for 7th-12th grade College/Career discipleship and small groups 15+ Sunday school classes, called Life Groups. Based on a person's age, these classes are designed to connect a person with others in their life stage. Service Times Sundays - Life Groups: 9:00 AM, Worship: 10:30 AM & 6:00 PM Wednesdays - Family Meal: 5:15-6:15 PM; Discipleship, children, youth: 6:45 PM; Bible Study: 7:00 PM. Upcoming Event: First Responders Sunday - March 19 (A day where we recognize first responders in our community. Everyone is invited to participate, especially those in law enforcement, EMT, etc.)
Pastor Smith and his family began their ministry at Mikado in September of 2001. They have two children, Scott and Joy. Previously, Rusty and Lisa served the Lord for over 14 years in the area of youth work, where they were used of God to impact the lives of teenagers. Rusty graduated from Tennessee Temple University in 1987 and majored in Pastoral Studies. In 1988, Lisa also graduated from Tennessee Temple University, having majored in Christian Ministries. During his time at TTU, Pastor Smith served as student body chaplain, was a summer evangelist with Neighborhood Bible Time, and worked at the WILDS Christian Camp as a counselor. Rusty and Lisa have been married for 28 years and are grateful for the wonderful family He has given them. Pastor Smith has a private pilot’s license and enjoys golfing and hunting. Lisa is an incredible homemaker and loves the outdoors, as well as spending time with her family. Rusty’s life verse is Joshua 24:15 which concludes with, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” His vision for Mikado is to see God grow a church for His honor and glory!
Redeeming Hope By Gary Wilson
call to Obedience
“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins. Yet they act so piously! They come to the temple every day and seem delighted to know about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near to me. “We have fasted before you!” they say, “Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves and you haven’t noticed it.” Isaiah 58:1-3 In 2010, my close friend, Todd Hunt, heard from the Lord, “This is my city that I deeply love. I’m giving it to my people if they repent and learn my ways. Carry his light into the darkest places of this city with prayer, praise and intercession. Don’t preach, unless I tell you to. These discarded people are the ones that I want.” Over the next three years, he and Jason Thomley did that very thing. They erected tents in Pleasant Hill, Peach Orchard, Unionville, Bloomfield, and lastly Fort Hill, the site of our first Hope Center. This didn’t seem like a good idea at the time. The weeklong meetings were funded from their own pockets. There were no grand revivals. In fact, sometimes God’s purpose was for “the one” that came. Certainly more people heard about the tents than came to the tents. However, Todd and Jason learned one thing; that they didn’t have to have it all figured out before they went. God told them to move, so they moved; learning sometimes you have to do the thing that God called you to do in order to see what He has done. As the march through the city continued in 2011 and 2012, our Lord began to show Jason a vision of hope centers through his word, dreams and the exposure to the absolute squalor that exists in the city of Macon. I am speaking of the not-so-pretty parts that the body of Christ seldom sees; the area where the other half of the 90,000 live. By the time the tents came to an end, the Lord told Jason and Todd to stop, he had given a new directive; build hope centers. Build eight hope centers to be exact.
Birth of a Hope Center Our God is supernatural. Within weeks of the last tent meeting we received funding from a source that had discovered us via the ‘Awakening Fires’ website. The website had only been live a couple of days. It became clear that the Lord wanted his first hope center in Fort Hill. They moved quickly and purchased a small church, one of the first built in Macon. It sits on the edge of the Davis Homes public housing development off Emory Highway. The sign that serves as the gate to the neighborhood pronounces the area as ‘The Birthplace of Macon.’ We met Mikey and Joy Walter through one of the tent meetings earlier in the fall. Mikey and Joy, along with Ben Kerr had been doing outreach to the neighborhood from the church we purchased. Mikey lived right next door and Ben across the street. . In what seemed like a whirlwind, The Thomleys then traded houses with the Walters, moving in next door to the church and sending the Walters to their house out in Lizella for a season. This allowed the mission of the hope center to begin and rested the Walters for the next season. We began to unpack the dreams and visions that the Lord had given us. Repairs were made to the church from the roof to the electrical to the painting. The sanctuary was overhauled with a stage for worship to bring glory to God and with a sound system that would pierce the darkness. Creating a (continued on next page)
“safe” place for the worshippers had been one of our dreams. Blade Davis moved his family into the two-bedroom apartment adjacent to the sanctuary and began to train up worshippers to engage the principalities that rest over the neighborhood and city. Jason and Chris Carr were drawn to the ministry and were a huge addition. They came around Blade and Beth and together, the two families began a school of worship to teach our young worshippers to engage our King in worship with the right heart. We began to add interns to our body. These are young men and women with a heart for God and that shared our passion for restoration of the city. The interns led by Thomley, Carr and Davis stewarded the house while they went deep into God’s word, spending many hours in the prayer room. We would also train these in hard work as we used them in our businesses. The Lord is crafting their destinies and preparing them as warriors to ultimately be sent out. It began to become clear that we were not going to do “church” as usual. The Lord began to assemble a group of people who carried a heart for the poor and wanted to see His Kingdom come. We are on mission here. To be on mission we have to become a covenant family. Todd painted a picture early on of an arrowhead. One that is chipped and dull will make little impact on its target, but one that is smooth, sleek and sharp will strike its target deep, doing much damage. This looks like families coming together in covenant aimed at our target, the devil. We are called to continue the mission of Jesus and that is to destroy the works of the devil. SO, although we have many services, we don’t believe that it is the answer to Macon’s ills. We are learning to listen by His word and spirit and then move as instructed. This has at times looked liked 24 hour prayer led by Jason Carr, and manned by the faithful families in the ministry, called to intercession for the city. This started on 10/10/2015, (the date of the first tent) and ended the 25th of September 2016. On that day our body joined many others across the nation in a 40 day fast leading up to the election. During these 40 days we cried out to God in prayer, praise and worship for His power to transform Macon, Ga. Since then the house of prayer has morphed into nightly prayer meetings in continued intercession for Macon. Another dream was that of gardens and greenhouses. We believe restoring the ancient ruins and establish the ancient paths are part of our mission. We planted an amazing fall garden in the fall of 2014 in the front of the church. This led us to selling the produce we grew in the garden to a Farm to Table restaurant. This led to the building of our first hydroponic greenhouse, and then the second, which in turn led to a hydroponic produce business. We want to bring jobs to the neighborhood. One of our dreams is to recover the economy that has been lost here. We are blessed with a body full of entrepreneurs. The hope center became the home to The Woodbasket, a timber sales and development company. It is currently the headquarters of 43 Tech LLC, which does development and manufacturing of small consumer and commercial electronics. Then there is East Gate Studios, which recorded the first worship CD using the worship leaders from within the house. Lastly, there is AF Farms Produce. AF Farms’ hope is to change the pattern of eating in us and within the neighborhood. We are currently selling our produce in the Bibb County School System and taking opportunities to educate on good nutrition. The ministry to the neighborhood was going and growing. There was so much happening. It was all coming so fast. We had crowds of kids for our Thursday night outreach and Sunday morning service. The place was teeming with life, as a church/hope center should be. Jason Thomley was pastoring the Hope Center and he and Todd were molding us into covenant family and keeping us focused on the mission. There were many others called to the hope center that moved into the neighborhood and became an active part of our small body. There were always kids around the church and in and out of the homes. There was always a life-on-life opportunity waiting for us. God is amazing and our dreams were coming true! And then we preached the Gospel…
Call to Repentance If you have come with me this far without quitting on the story, God bless you. I can spin this anyway I want ending this article right here and making what we have done look much more grand than it really is. Or I can tell the truth. There have been some hard-fought victories and also some stinging defeats. And there is still much work to be done. Yes, this is a good thing happening here in Macon, Georgia. It is often always met with “atta-boy! That’s so good. That’s so nice. (continued on next page)
That’s such a good thing you are doing.” I have to be blunt in saying this, and will likely offend many when I say that Macon Georgia needs another feel good church story like it needs a hole in the head. If this were the answer, things would look very different. There would be little poverty or crime, a fully functioning school system and thriving businesses. I am not from Macon. I have grown to love Macon because I believe the Lord has chosen this city. He is calling it to repentance so he can use it. God sees people groups. He saw Sodom and Gomorrah as wicked and destroyed them. One of the most heart breaking things I have heard about Macon, Georgia came recently from a young person that had moved here from the Middle East. After being exposed to a culture for a short while, they said that they had never lived anywhere else like Macon. The people are wicked. They don’t do what their mouths say. Is this true? Are we wicked people?
We Have to Cry Out In Isaiah 58, God’s people repented with their mouths and not their heart. “Why have we fasted and you not seen it?” I often see the church of Macon asking that question. I ask it myself, “Why not Macon, Lord?” We should be afraid of the answer. When we asked the Lord why we are bearing little fruit through the hope center hope center, we didn’t like the answer. It is our WAYS that displease Him. Jeremiah 6:14 says, “They have treated my people’s wounds lightly; saying ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace.” We, the body, lack a heart of anguish. We choose not to see the condition of the city and lightly invest in the healing of the wounds. We choose not look at the injustice, the poverty, the housing, and the joblessness. We are content with believing we are doing a good thing. Then we measure ourselves by our intentions and not our fruit. We treat the wounds of our people lightly as if they aren’t serious. This is why things rarely change. Did you know that we were named “the worst city in America to live” by Roadsnacks travel site? Many missed this unflattering article. The criteria of being the worst city to live in America were based on facts: vacant buildings, lack of business creation, incarceration rates, joblessness, medium household income, school system and poverty rate. This should sicken us and break our hearts. We are often too concerned about our own individual prosperity however, to give ourselves to anything higher, to anything that could benefit the whole. It grieves me to say this and it should hurt to hear it. The church body in Macon largely isn’t concerned enough to look at the injustice toward the black man in Macon, the conditions of the poor only a block or two away, or the hopelessness that permeates the atmosphere here. The truth is that the poorest area has to prosper in order for Macon to prosper. The broken family gives birth to broken schools. Broken schools alone make Macon an undesirable place to raise a family. The conditions in these neighborhoods helped to land us at number one on that previously mentioned list. Until the heart of Macon’s church is turned toward these broken areas we will continue to be measured by this criteria. Isaiah 55 tells us that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. We have spent the last year at the hope center coming under that word, repenting of OUR ways. Our ways have often been a rescue mentality; we believe we can do enough to “save the hood.” We can feed them, and continue to feed them. We can take them places and provide entertainment that will keep the neighborhood kids off the streets. While this is helpful, it bears little fruit and often wears out the ones carrying the burden. What we really need is God’s heart. It is only through a broken and contrite heart that we can be useful. Once we get God’s heart we can then move in HIS ways and not our own. It is our WAYS he is displeased with. It is the fact that our hearts are set on our own ‘little kingdoms’ and not the crumbling conditions around us when He said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God… I am not using this platform to tell the church of Macon to “do more,” rather we need to repent of our apathy toward our brother and the condition of this city and line up in his word, doing ALL that it says. To do nothing about it is to agree with it, and we will be judged for this. What this looks like at Redeeming Hope is that we stop enabling and start equipping. Our hope is the same as a kid in the hood left out in the cold, and that is the Gospel, the Good News. Too many equate the Gospel with a handout and this is not what the ministry of Jesus looked like. Jesus said, “ The truth will set you free.” God has called Redeeming Hope and His church to set the foundation, and set it strong in His Word, thus equipping His people with a foundation that will bear fruit. Only then can we build. We are learning the difference between enabling and equipping through many trials. It is sometimes difficult to speak truth in the face of poverty, but it is in this that Christ’s freedom comes to the church and the oppressed. (continued on next page)
Malachi 4:5 One of our foundational verses for Awakening Fires is Malachi 4:5, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the Fathers to the children. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” Where are the fathers? We can statistically analyze and theorize as to where the fathers have gone by what we read and what we are told. This is only knowledge, however, and knowledge won’t solve a problem that is a heart issue. The fathers have to be restored to their place. This is how God heals the home. The white church has a role in this. That role is to repent. We have aptly summarized the conditions of a fatherless hood but failed to address it. Even to the point of withholding our prayers. The family, all members, are the building blocks of the kingdom and without the father as the head, the family is out of position and vulnerable to the enemy. In this case, the family has been decimated by the enemy. The Lord is calling warriors to raise warriors. Our mission at Redeeming Hope, and the other seven hope centers coming, is to bring the Word of God like a sword into the darkness; shining the light in the places that we have lost ground to the enemy. It is to teach freedom through repentance and the Love of Christ. It is to disciple and restore the fathers, that they may take their place, raising their sons and daughters in a way that honors the Lord. It is to bring forth businesses that will teach and provide skills for the men that don’t yet know how to work or support a family. It is to raise worship to a degree that everything else pales in comparison to the presence of God. It is to see addiction broken by the power of His Word, restoring sight to the blind, and setting captives free. It is to see the church rise up, coming together, stepping into its calling and ending poverty and injustice. It sounds like a big dream but we are willing to bet our lives on it.
THEN “THEN your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. THEN when you call, the Lord will answer. “Yes, I am here,” he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression, stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors. Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out in the darkness and the darkness will be as bright as the noonday sun. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of the walls, a restorer of homes.” Isaiah 58:9-12
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A Laurens Baptist Association event with support of area schools and churches. Medallion to Half Marathon Participants that register by Feb. 26 Male & Female Overall awards in all four races 5 year age group three deep except 1 mile which only has age groups under 20 Half Marathon and 8 mile certified and eligible for state records Choose of Moisture Wicking or white Cotton T-shirts Proceeds support Free Summer Sports Camp for 5th grade and under $1 per participant to 4-H scholarships Entry fee: by Sunday February 26 - $20 for 8 mile, 5K or 1 Mile $25 Half Marathon $10 discount for under age 20 After February 26 same fee but with no shirt guarantee Have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or 478-278-6018
Dudley Baptist Church • 1425 2nd ST (Hwy 338) • Dudley GA
February: Month of Love By David Duncan
ebruary represents the month of love and all things loving…God, marriage, relationships such as family and friends, and even brotherly love between Christians. It is a great reminder at the onset of a one month old new year that of all the things that remain, the greatest of these is love!
Recently Shirley gave me a nudge as we were already in bed one night and ready for Slumbertown, and said, “David, you don’t hold my hand like you used too.” (long pause) So…I scooted over next to her and held her hand as we laid there in the dark. In a few minutes, she brought up another subject: “David, you don’t kiss me goodnight like you used too.” (long pause) So…I turned over and gave her a peck on her cheek. After a few moments, she piped up again, and said, “David, you don’t nibble on my ear like you used too.” (long pause) So…I got up and walked across the room… She said with great concern, “Where are you going?” I responded, “Well, if you want me to nibble on your ear…I’ve got to get my teeth!!!!!” LOL. As many of you know, I got started in church work by being a Youth Director. One of my many responsibilities was to express to the teenagers Biblical principles and to make it palatable to young, rebellious, hormonal minds. I often resorted to unconventional ways and means BUT it got the job done!
... God knows best and He has certain rules ...
Some places I go, I am constantly reminded about my most popular sermon on “JELLO”. (Yes…you read that correctly…JELLO!) My arch enemy via the schemes of the devil was the culture of the day, and it remains so with our children and youth of 2017. I mean…look and listen to what is going on around us. What used to be wrong is NOW considered ‘right’ but that doesn’t mean that it is God approved. I believe and have based my life on God as being THE final authority! So, I constructed a message on the “birds and the bees” for the youth group of my church. I promoted it and that week we had a record number to hear THE SEX SERMON! (I even had some parents slip in on the meeting. I guess they didn’t know where babies came from so they wanted to know!!!) LOL. Previously, I placed Jello boxes on the wall all over the church so I was causing quite a ‘stir’!!! :) That night, I read from the Bible and gave it everything I had to give. I begged and pleaded with the kids to give God their hearts and also their body parts and dedicate them to glorify the Lord in all they said and done. My final closing illustration is what sealed the deal. I held up a box of GIANT Jello! Of course, everyone looked at each other, and then at me, as if I was crazy! They were on the edge of their seats to hear how JELLO and sex went together!!! I explained that Jello has a purpose and IF you want to experience the full intention and plan of Jello then you have to follow the recipe, the directions on the box. Otherwise, you don’t have Jello…all you have is a mess. The same with sex. God invented it and it is good, but only if you follow His directions in The Book, the Bible. Regardless of what others are doing or not doing, whether you agree or disagree with God, no matter if you are apathetic about living a holy, clean, Christian life…God knows best and He has certain rules that we must follow if we want to be really happy and experience the abundant life! I personally have discovered that we don’t break God’s laws; they break us. I have seen it happen a kazillion times in the lives of those who ignore the warnings and drive haphazardly through life. They eventually wreck and ruin theirs and other lives in the process. Many times, a former young person will come up to me and tell me who they are. They have grown up now and have a family but…guess what…they still remember the infamous Jello message. It really is all about loving God and obeying His Word. Then you will see that wonderful love unfold in your own life. Romans 12: 1-2 says: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” In His Love, David Duncan Contact me on Facebook or email@example.com.
FCA Christian Athlete Spotlight By April Cassell
he Middle Georgia Fellowship of Christian Athletes has gained a new Area Representative. Mr. Landon Sparks has joined the Middle Georgia team to help build an FCA stronghold in the public and private schools in Bibb, Jones, Lamar, and Monroe counties. He will be partnering with current Area Representative April Cassell to make an impact on the campuses in these areas for Jesus Christ.
Landon believes it was through that experience that he was shown the direction in which God had planned for him to go. “I don’t believe in coincidences, and I realized how much I was getting in the way of His plan. That’s when I pursued going on staff for FCA fulltime”, said Sparks. Landon has been a part of FCA staff part-time the past three years in Henry County, but has now returned home to live in the house he grew up in on Highway 18. He and his wife Kelley, who is a teacher in Bibb County, and their kids Cameron, 11, and Laney, 9, are excited about their new transition. Starting in January of 2017, Landon will be on staff full-time in Middle Georgia and this position will be funded solely by donations of supporters committed to his efforts through FCA.
Landon grew up in Monroe County and graduated from Mary Persons in 1997. He attended Georgia Tech and then entered the corporate world where he began working for NCR in McDonough, GA the past 11 years. The Sparks’ family attended church in Henry County and through the recreation program there that he was involved in, Landon learned that FCA needed baseball coaches for a week-long summer camp. He decided to volunteer and, as a result, loved the experience of sharing the Gospel with kids along with teaching them about the game of baseball. He felt the Lord might be leading him in a new direction. Landon began to seek more avenues of ministry related to sports, but he knew that one of his obstacles he had to overcome was figuring out how to become comfortable talking to strangers, since as an FCA representative that can be an everyday encounter-coming in contact with people whom he hasn’t met and sharing the love of Christ with them. He shared his concerns with other FCA coaches and staff at an FCA retreat on St. Simon’s Island. On the return trip home, he and his family stopped by to see a friend. There was a girl in a parked car nearby when they arrived at the friend’s house. When Landon walked by the car, she asked, ‘Do I look like a bad person?’ That sparked a 30 minute conversation between the two in which Landon was able to discuss spiritual issues as well as real life emotions with the young lady. The encounter helped him realize that God would enable him to overcome his shyness and that it was a poor excuse to keep him from following God’s plan for his life.
The FCA vison is to impact the world for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes. FCA hopes to build the kingdom of God in conjunction with the Church. Landon’s main role will be reaching out to coaches and teachers to help them realize the true impact they can have on kids. He related the impact that his former coaches-Whit Maples, Kenny Walker, and Mike Hickman, had on him that impacted him for a lifetime because they invested in him and taught him about the game as well as about life. Landon wants coaches to think about how to coach in a way that players play for something bigger than winning-and that is eternal life! If you would like to know more about how to support Landon and his role with Middle Georgia FCA, please contact him at (678)770-8538.
Love God, Love People, Serve Others
Pastor Joe S. McDaniel
Musella Baptist Church 5430 Hwy 341 North • Musella, GA 31066 (478) 836-2936 • www.musellabaptist.org
Happy Birthday To Me By Marti Sullivan Tidwell
y the time you read this, I will have reached my fortieth year. I know some folks may struggle with that number, but the last several years of my life have been the richest by far, and I see reaching 40 as a celebration of all the joys that the last decade has afforded me.
When I met my husband in 2011, he was coming off two of the worst weeks a person could have. He had lost his best friend to cancer, the greatest loss among a series of other unfortunate events. He walked in the back door of First Baptist Church Charlotte, beat down, seeking grief counseling…and he not only met Christ that day, he met his future wife. I was a few years out from the loss of my big brother and together, Jason and I found a way to build a life out of the love and connection we found in our brokenness…with God’s help, of course. Only He can do miracles like that. Three year later we were married and just over 5 years later, in July of this year, we welcomed a baby girl…Aniston Claire. She’s the cherry on top if there ever was one. The best way I know how to describe motherhood is that my soul has shifted…and it reeks of the Gospel in that it is the hardest but best thing I have ever done. Aniston is the sweetest ad happiest little baby I have ever known. Everyone agrees. But that truly has nothing to do with my love for her…and I am completely enamored. She can keep me up all night and with a flash of that big gummy grin as the sun comes up, all is forgiven. She has awoken in me a need to be my best me. My greatest fears are hurting her out of my own carelessness or selfishness or just on accident or, worse yet, hurting her in the process of doing what I truly believed was right at the time. That’s a frightening thought for a new mama.
I don’t trust myself, but I do trust Him...
But, God is so faithful. He knows my heart towards that little girl. I don’t trust myself, but I do trust Him… When Jason and I started dating, I prayed over the relationship and how to handle this new man God had brought into my life. Dating a guy in such a period of grief and transition was terrifying to me. I had weathered my own heartbreaks, and the vulnerability that my relationship with Jason required was something I had to wrestle through with God. I feared he would walk away amidst all his hurt and break my heart all over again in the process. I had to hand that fear over to God almost daily. The word I kept getting, that kept pressing on my heart, was, “Love him well.” That’s it. Those three little words. So, I kept my hands open and asked God to have His way in our relationship…and I did my best to honor God and Jason by honoring those three little words. I did my best to love this man well. I still do. It was inspiring to me…to watch my man heal and bloom as I loved him well. Motherhood has brought that inspiration to a whole new sphere. I want to give her the best of me. I don’t want my child to suffer from my baggage, my issues, my selfishness...my sin. I want to be a fountain to the people I love, not a drain. I want Aniston to think of me as a place where she feels refreshed and protected and encouraged…not a place that she leaves feeling spent and frustrated. And that begins today. It begins in the way I show her what true joy is, the way I emulate patience when I teach or discipline her. It’s begins with how I fill my own cup, and use my own gifts. It begins with how she sees me treat and forgive others, and it begins with how she sees me care for others…and caring for her not out of my mama bear instincts, which could lead me in the direction of anger and ungodliness, but with the fruits of the Spirit, the discernment and wisdom of the Scriptures. For her sake. It’s overwhelming to think about, the task before us of parenting this precious soul to be all God made and intended (continued on next page)
her to be…but I have seen the faithfulness of God. I have seen God take two of the most unlikely people and give them a marriage and home built on love and respect. I have seen God take my fear and vulnerability and honor it when I sacrifice my fear to Him. I have seen God write a more beautiful story than I could ever hope for right out the greatest pain of my life. Ephraim. God has indeed made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. He has been faithful. And, I know, that as I daily submit my marriage, my motherhood, my sweet family to Him, He will continue to be faithful. It will not always be easy and we will struggle and we will make mistakes, but it will be good. He is always good. His ways…always the best ways. Feel free to remind me of that when I need it. Our daughter’s name, Aniston, is derived from the Greek surname Anastasakis which means, “resurrection.” My greatest hope and prayer for my sweet girl is that she will come to a saving knowledge of the resurrection of Christ while she is still young…that she will love the Lord and love His Word. I pray that a passion for Him will rise up in her at a young age. But her name…her name is her legacy, because she is the manifestation of God’s resurrecting power. She is literally life born out of death. My husband and I met on a road that loss placed us on…and today we celebrate a life born out of those deaths. That heals us…it strengthens us. It shows us purpose in our pain and a God with a plan that is never empty or meaningless. We hope it not only honors God, but those that we lost… Chad and Beau would love Aniston Claire. That’s what you call a full circle story. And if it takes 40 years to get a story that special, so be it. Happy Birthday to me. Ephraim.
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The Little Lamb
By Kelly Philbrick
ne afternoon I took my son to his horseback riding lesson at the quaint farm down the road. I stepped out of the riding area for a few minutes to go visit the owner’s sheep located on the other side of the barn. They own six adult sheep and one baby lamb that is only a few months old. Upon arrival the sheep hear me and take off running towards the back corner of the pen stumbling over each other. They were afraid and confused. It came to my attention that they did not trust me. Therefore, I decided to feed them some grain in order to gain their trust. Immediately I began thinking about us being sheep and the Lord being our shepherd. Also, John 10:27 came to mind. It reads: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” These sheep did not know me so I pursued a relationship with them. This reminded me of how God draws us unto Himself with loving-kindness (John 6:44, Jeremiah 31:3). Interestingly enough the baby lamb was the only one who came to me without reservation. He allowed me to pet him gently. We looked at each other intently, only a few inches away. He sniffed my face. I could not believe how for approximately fifteen minutes this little lamb trusted me and was so calm. All the others kept looking at me as if they wanted to come over but were hesitant, unsure, undecided, and afraid. I thought about how many adults respond to God in the same way. Then my thoughts focused on how this baby lamb had child-like faith, the kind of faith Jesus tells us we are to have. Children are so trusting and respond to God’s love so quickly, unlike most adults.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
There was one adult sheep that came over just to see if I had any grain to give him and then would dart away when none was offered. I thought about how many of us come to God wanting something and then turn away when we do not get what we want. The little lamb on the other hand, was willing to stay and fellowship with me without the grain. His desire was just to be with me, getting to know me-nothing else. He did not even look towards the other sheep as if he preferred to be with them. He was perfectly content. Sometimes I wonder if I look away from the Lord and want to be with others, instead of spending time pursuing intimacy with Him. What an encouragement this was for me to examine my heart to see if my motives were pure towards my relationship with the Lord. Am I seeking Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30)? Am I content with the road He has given me to travel? If no, then I need to remember that godliness with contentment is great gain (I Timothy 6:6). A few days later, I went back to visit with the sheep. On my way there I was wondering what their response was going to be towards me. To my amazement all the sheep ran away again to the corner stumbling over each other except for the little lamb. Once he noticed me he immediately came over. I was thrilled he allowed me to spend time with him. I believe it greatly rejoices the heart of the Lord when we come to Him in the same way. Now I find myself yearning to spend time with the little lamb. I know our heavenly Father yearns to spend time with us if we will only come to Him as the little lamb came to me. This little lamb has allowed me the opportunity to show my love to him. Are we allowing God the same opportunity to show us His love for us? In a few weeks I will be moving. Soon the little lamb will not be able to find me, a reminder that we are to seek the Lord while He may be found. (Isaiah 55:6). * This true story occurred in May of 1998 while we were living in Watertown, New York!
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Ten Ways To Rebuild A Relationship With A Teen
By Mark Gregston
elationships thrive in settings where everyone agrees that nobody is perfect. Unconditional love is fundamental for building healthy relationships with teenage children who will test their parents and their rules in every possible way. When they do, a busy, stressed-out parent can often react in ways that don’t always convey unconditional love. If that sounds like you, maybe you need to work on mending your relationship before it is destroyed altogether. Consider implementing some of these bridge-builders: 10 Ways to Rebuild Your Relationship 1. By spending weekly time together, one on one… Of all the advice I swear by, this is one you cannot ignore; Take your child out for breakfast, out for coffee, or do a lunch — and make it a habit every week. Even if they resist, you must insist. It tells your child, “You are worth spending time with, even when you are at your worst.” Make it a one on one time together and come prepared with a topic to discuss that will be of interest to your teen. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. But it should be consistent. 2. By sharing challenging experiences… Parents need to spend more time, not less, having fun with their child when he or she reaches adolescence. Unfortunately, many organized school and church activities can tend to get in the way of that. I recommend you find a challenge you both appreciate and pursue it together with excitement. Dedicate some resources, time, effort, interest, and vigor to developing your interest together. 3. By looking for opportunities for discussion… Ask the right kind of questions. The kind of questions that make them think about things, not just a “yes” or “no” questions. Find out what they think, how they would do something, where they would go, and why they think a certain way. Take advantage of reinforcing those moments when a discussion leads to surprising expressions of wisdom from your teen. Talk about controversial subjects as you would a friend or co-worker for whom you have extreme respect. Never belittle their opinions about things. After all, did you know everything when you were a teen? 4. By listening more and answering less… If you want your teen to grasp what you are thinking, then stop telling him what you are thinking until you are asked for your opinion. Zip your lip – just be quiet. Stop lecturing, start listening. Your teen won’t be ready to really listen until he becomes the initiator of a discussion, so just hush and get out of the way of him taking the lead. 5. By developing a sense of humor… Some of us are sour, bitter, and stressed all of the time. Lighten up! When was the last time you really laughed? Try having a joke night – where everyone has to come to dinner with a joke to share. Even if it’s corny, everyone laughs! 6. By playing together…. Play paintball, go ride horses, go fishing or hunting, go camping and gaze at the stars, or pull a stunt together. Get them up at midnight to watch a meteor shower. Live it up and enjoy life with your kids in some way. If you don’t like what they like they like to do, then just be there to watch or help them in some way. The key is the two of you being together. 7. By remembering your child’s past and believing in your child’s future… Carry a photo of your child as a youngster with you at all times! Post their baby photo on your refrigerator. This way you won’t forget who this child was when they turn into an alien in their teens. Keep in mind the joy of bringing them home at birth. Remember, the thumbprint of God is still on their life. Don’t dwell solely on their current struggles and difficulties. Thank God for the work He is doing and will do in your child’s life. 8. By establishing boundaries… Let them know where they can and can’t “go” in your relationship. Tell them what you expect, before something challenges those (continued on next page)
expectations. Clearly establish your belief system and household rules. Being too lax as a parent and trying to act more as their friend and peer will hurt, not help, your relationship. 9. By selfless confrontation… Remember, discipline is about your teen, not you. It is discipleship for their own good, not to make you feel better for all the stress they’ve caused. Seek the right things in your child’s life for the right reasons. Confront with calmness, correct with firmness, and with a love that has their best interests at heart. Confront their mistakes with matter-of-fact and consequences, unwavering and without emotion or anger. In this way, it will become clear to them through the consequences that they are causing their own grief, not you. If you are unsure, ask your spouse if you confronting your teen in an appropriate way. 10. By correcting and disciplining them, even when it makes you uncomfortable… Your child needs to know you love them enough to correct and discipline them when they behave in ways that offend others or break your household rules or the rules of society. Find healthy ways to discipline through loss of certain freedoms and privileges for a time. Never resort to physical discipline with a teenager and be sure to approach all discipline on a united front with your spouse. And be sure to reward a teen for good behavior by adding more freedoms and privileges. That’s more important to them than anything else at this age. And one more – as a bonus! You can rebuild your relationship by acting on your faith and your beliefs. Don’t just say it, put your beliefs into action. Serve others, love others, forgive others, pray, worship. Exercise your faith in front of your teenager. Which of these will you implement into your relationship with your child this week? I recommend starting with number one. And even if you get nothing but grief from your teen at first, keep up your weekly time together, week after week. Eventually they’ll come around. Remember, relationships thrive when unconditional love is delivered across a bridge of friendship that never stops — even if your teen doesn’t respond or goes on making mistakes. “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3 Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas. He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 39 years, has two kids, and 4 grandkids. He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy. His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,500 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173. For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our Parenting Today’s Teens website at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org, It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Here you will also find a station near you where you can listen to the Parenting Today’s Teens radio broadcast, or download the podcast of the most recent programs.
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