Hi, dear Grace!
Today’s post is dedicated to the memory of the greatest third baseman to ever play baseball. With all due respect to those of you who are fans of the Phillies, Royals, Red Sox, and Braves, I am not referring to Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Wade Boggs, or Chipper Jones. No, I am referring to the man who played his entire 23-year career with the Baltimore Orioles – #5 in your program but #1 in our hearts – Brooks Robinson.
As I was scrolling through my news feed on Tuesday, I was surprised and deeply saddened to learn Brooks Robinson had died at the age of 86. When I was only eight years old, the Washington Senators left DC to become the Texas Rangers. That move turned every baseball fan in the Metropolitan Washington, DC, area into orange-black-and-white wearing Orioles fans. Mostly, I watched the Orioles on television or listened to the Orioles radio broadcast. But every now and then, I traveled with family or friends to Memorial Stadium (and later Camden Yards) to see Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, and many other Oriole greats in person as they battled for the American League pennant. Brooks was near the end of his playing career by this time, but I got to know him better after his retirement when he started doing color commentary for Orioles games on television.
Not only was Brooks Robinson known as “Mr. Oriole,” he was also known as “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” for his acrobatic play at the hot corner. He was the winner of 16 Gold Gloves, two World Series championships, one World Series MVP award, and one regular season MVP award. In 1971, he was immortalized in a painting by Norman Rockwell. And if you don’t take my word for his being the best third baseman ever, then perhaps you’ll take the word of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the movie Sleepless in Seattle. As one of many female suitors seeking the affection of Tom Hanks (the lonely widowed dad of a son), Meg Ryan writes him a letter. In said letter, she writes, “Let’s just say right now that Brooks Robinson was the best third baseman ever. It’s important that you agree with me on that because I’m from Baltimore.” Tom Hanks’ son, who wants his dad to get married, then says, “She thinks Brooks Robinson is the greatest. So do you.” In response, Tom Hanks says, “Everyone thinks Brooks Robinson is the greatest.” And to that, I say, “Yes, we do, Tom. Yes, we do.”
I can’t really articulate why the death of a baseball player has affected me so much this week. Perhaps it’s because he was larger than life to me when I was a kid. Perhaps it’s the realization that even my heroes are mortal. And perhaps it’s because my dad is the same age as Brooks Robinson. Whatever it is, it is also a reminder of the truth of God’s Word. The Bible says, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:27–28a NIV). No one will escape death, dear Grace. All will die and face judgement. But thanks be to God for Jesus, Who died to take away our sins and offer us eternal life by grace through faith. Praise Him today!
It really is an exciting time at Grace. The church is growing. People are connecting to the Lord and to one another through Life Groups, Bible studies, youth events, and other opportunities. Soon, teams of people will be traveling to Selma, AL, and to East Pokot, Kenya, for short-term mission purposes. Please pray for these teams – for safety, for unity, and for the fulfilling of The Great Commission. And speaking of missions, serving the church is local missions. Would you please prayerfully consider an area of service here at Grace? There are needs in the Children’s Ministry (for teachers and helpers), the Worship Team (for a drummer and another pianist), Connections (for greeters), the Sound Room (for sound, visual, lighting, and livestream techs), and other areas. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
I sure hope to meet Brooks Robinson in heaven one day. And Elvis, too. And many others, of course. And to those who are reading this, I sure hope to see you there, too. If you do not know where you will spend eternity after you die, please contact me. I would love the privilege of sharing with you how you can know for certain that you will spend eternity in heaven with the Lord. Nothing is more important, dear reader. Nothing.
You are so very loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
As you read these words, Blair and I are in the mountains of North Carolina with friends from Maryland. It has been several years since all four of us couples have been together, so we are excited about a long weekend with one another. We left yesterday (Thursday) and will return on Sunday evening. Please pray for safety in travel and for a wonderful visit with dear friends. Thank you.
With limited time to write this week, I’m going to the archives for today’s post. With the thought of mountains on my mind, this one comes from June 8, 2022. You’ll understand the connection to the mountains as you read.
As you know, I was away for about nine days dealing with my dad’s house in Maryland. Thanks so much to those of you who prayed for me while I was gone. It was a very productive (and, at times, emotional) trip for me. While there, I saw many photographs I had never seen. I found letters from my dad’s biological mom, as well as letters from his foster mom. I found his Marine dress blues and my mom’s wedding dress. All of it and more was packed into my rental vehicle and is now in my home to go through more thoroughly. I also found case files from back when my dad was with the Metropolitan (DC) Police Department. They too were brought home and will be shredded. Oh, and I found a box of old newspapers – and I mean old! One is dated November 23, 1963, with the headline, PRESIDENT KENNEDY SHOT DEAD. Others are about historic events like the Apollo moon landing, Watergate, Nixon’s resignation, and the death of Elvis Presley. Hey, Elvis’ death may not rise to the level of all the other headlines, but to my mom that was huge (and really sad) news!
Finding these old newspapers made me think of a verse out of the book of Isaiah. Perhaps you know it already. It says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7 ESV). There wasn’t much good news in that box of newspapers I brought home. How thankful I am, then, to share in the privilege of bringing “good news” to you here at Grace Community Church! You know, if anyone else were to compliment my size 12’s, I would say that’s weird. But because I preach news that brings life and peace and freedom from sin, God says my feet are beautiful. And to that I say, “Only by Your grace, Lord.”
Thanks to all of you who invited someone to join you at Grace on Back To Church Sunday. It was a terrific day, and all comments from those who visited us for the first time were very positive.
There’s so much happening, Church. Please check it all out in the Grace Weekly. And if you want to get connected in service or in discipleship, do not hesitate to reach out to me.
To all of you who share the good news of the gospel with a child, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, or anyone else, thank you. By God’s grace, you too have beautiful feet. May He bless you in a special way this weekend, dear Grace. I miss you when I’m not here. Always know how deeply loved you are.
Hi, dear Grace!
Have you ever said the words, “Make yourself at home,” to a guest at your house? Did you mean it when you said those words? If you are being honest, probably not. Instead, what you meant was this – Make yourself at home within the confines of the rules we have established for our home.
My daughter was very young when she was invited to a friend’s birthday party. At some point during the party, a group of girls (including Lindsey) found their way up to the birthday girl’s bedroom, where they were being giddy and being loud. And when the mom of the birthday girl went to investigate, she scolded Lindsey because Lindsey was jumping on the bed. Now please understand me – I’m not offended that another mom scolded my kid. If you don’t want her to jump on the bed, then by all means tell her to stop. What I am offended by is the question she asked Lindsey after she scolded her – “Do your parents let you jump on the bed at your house?” Lindsey was embarrassed and didn’t answer, so I’ll answer for her. Yes, we do!
Our kids jumped on the bed all the time at our house. And to tell you the truth, Blair and I jumped on the bed with them. It was fun. Of course, I had to be careful not to hit my head on the ceiling, but we jumped on the bed with our children. I’m smiling now just thinking about it. And when our children had friends to our house and they wanted to jump on the bed, that was okay with us. The only rule was they were not allowed to get hurt. The point is this – When I say, “Make yourself at home,” I am being sincere but not so sincere that I want you to cross any lines. I really don’t want you to draw on my walls, watch TV all night at a high volume, or turn my A/C down to 60 degrees in the summer. And I really don’t want you to be going through my closets and my drawers and my attic looking through my personal stuff.
It's that last thought – invading personal spaces and looking through personal stuff – that prompts this week’s post. In Ephesians 3:17, the Apostle Paul prays “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (NKJV). This has to do with allowing Jesus Christ to be at home in you – not merely as a guest, but as a homeowner with complete control of your life. In other words, Paul is praying that we would allow Jesus Christ to abide in us – giving Him full access to every corner of our lives (the attic, the crawl space, the checkbook, everything). Are you there yet, Grace? Have you surrendered it all to the Lord? Carrie Underwood sang the words, “Jesus, take the wheel.” Are you able to sing those words with her? Yes, Lord, in every area of life, please take over. May our thoughts, our actions, our money, and our priorities be Yours to do with as You will. Invade every corner of our lives, and rid us of sin and junk that gets in the way of exalting You. To You be all the glory. Amen.
This Sunday is Back 2 Church Sunday. Please invite someone to church. Matthew will be delivering the message, and it promises to be a good one. If it is truly our desire to reach the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton areas for Christ, it starts with all of us. We look forward to a packed sanctuary at both worship services. Please pray for the Spirit of God to do a wonderful work in us on Sunday morning.
This Sunday also marks the official start of our fall ministry season. As I say often, there is much happening at Grace. Please check out the Grace Weekly to learn more.
Thank you for reading, Grace. You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
As I consider what to write about this week, my mind is drawn back to ten days ago. It was then that we were preparing for a tropical storm, which many forecasters thought might arrive here still in hurricane form. Thankfully, the storm blew west of us and we escaped major damage. But there’s something about a storm that Blair and I enjoy. When we were first married, we lived in a mobile home with a tin roof. We loved hearing the rain batter that roof during a storm. While we no longer have a tin roof, we still love to listen to the rain. And we like hearing the wind howl. Of course, these statements apply only to those moments when we are listening to the rain and hearing the wind from the safety of our home. And it’s only when everything in our yard is secured with no threat of blowing away. Yes, dear Grace, this is the lead-in to a story.
After two years of living in that mobile home – our first home and one that still brings a smile to our faces – Blair and I bought a home in Shady Side, MD. Yes, Shady Side was the name of our town. Neighboring towns were Edgewater, Friendship, Tracey’s Landing, and West River. And then, of course, there was the city of Annapolis only twenty or so minutes away. But I digress … One evening, Blair and I were watching Monday Night Football and listening to a storm outside when we heard a crash. I leapt up and looked out our window, only to see my shed turned over on its roof. It was a metal shed, which I had put together but apparently didn’t secure properly to the block-and-wood foundation I built for it. (Never have I claimed to be gifted in the area of construction. Ugh!) Several neighbors joined me as I dragged that shed between my house and our next door neighbor’s house. We then piled everything that had been IN the shed ONTO the shed so that it wouldn’t blow away. Needless to say, the shed was ruined.
Prior to hearing the crash of our shed coming off its foundation and ending up on its roof, I recall hearing a strong wind outside. The sound of that wind was powerful. And in thinking about the power of that wind, I am reminded of what happened in Acts chapter 2 at the birth of the church. Read what verses 1 and 2 of Acts 2 say about it – “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:1–2 NKJV). As you consider the scene, consider also the testimony of those who have lived through a tornado. Every testimony I have heard begins with, “I heard a sound like a train was coming.” Imagine that, Grace. The sound the people heard in Acts 2 was the sound “of a rushing mighty wind,” kind of like that of a tornado (or an oncoming train!). What’s interesting, however, is there appears to be no wind – only the “sound” of wind. And that sound announced the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years later, here we are! Please, Holy Spirit, come. Fill every crevice of Grace Community Church with Your presence. Fill Your people, Lord, and please do so much more in us than we can ask or even think. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Last Sunday we finished a series of messages called “God’s Values & Grace Church,” during which four different preachers highlighted the seven values that drive Grace Community Church. Continuing the theme, Matthew and I will be preaching a two-part series of messages starting this Sunday on the church of Jesus Christ. What’s so important about the church? Why are we commanded to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together?” It’s going to be special, and I invite you to come. Please bring a friend, as well. Oh, and don’t forget Back To Church Sunday is scheduled for Sunday, September 17.
Be sure to check out the Grace Weekly for all that is happening here. The fall ministry season is kicking off with Bible studies, Life Groups, Operation Christmas Child, and so much more available. Oh, there’s even a karate class forming. Cool!
Thank you for reading, dear Grace. You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
First, I pray all of you made it safely through the storm on Wednesday. If there are any benevolence needs or prayer needs as a result of storm damage or other reasons, please be sure to contact the church office. Your church loves you and wants to care for you well.
This Monday is my mom’s birthday. I think of her every day, but I remember her especially on the fourth of September each year. Of course, Monday is also Labor Day, and this week’s post comes to you in recognition of the American worker. More specifically, it comes as a result of the wisdom my dad imparted to me and my brother when we were just youngsters. To set the stage, you must know laziness was never tolerated in the Salvas home. My dad worked hard, and he expected his sons to work hard. This expectation came from a hard life. As I have shared before, my dad was raised in two separate foster homes. He and his foster siblings were expected to contribute to the operation of the home by doing chores and working hard. As a young teenager, he got his first “real” job working on a milk truck. After high school, he joined the Marine Corps, and when his enlistment period ended he joined the Metropolitan (DC) Police Department. So when Chuck and I were boys, my dad sat us down and gave us firm instruction on the importance of work. That conversation went something like this – “Boys, as you get older, work must be number one. Do you hear me? WORK is number one. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. If you don’t work, you can’t provide for your family. If you don’t work, you can’t have a home or a car and you can’t support the church through your giving. Your job must always come first.” After that talk and out of earshot of my dad, I remember looking at Chuck and saying, “I don’t think that’s right.” Of course, I would have never said that to my dad. What he told us was very real to him. And years later, understanding where he came from helped me to understand why he said what he said. But here’s the thing – When it became obvious that my mom could no longer be alone due to her advancing dementia, my dad threw that “fatherly wisdom” out the window. Without a doubt, I know my dad would have continued to work if he could have, but my mom needed him. Never will I forget him saying to me, “Your mom took care of you boys while I was working shift work all those years. It’s time I stay home and take care of her.” Wow! My eyes still get wet remembering those words!
You know, work was never intended to be a curse. When God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work – the Bible says “to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:14) – work was a blessing and a good thing. It was only after sin entered the world that work became toilsome, sweaty, and hard (Genesis 3:17–19). Yes, work can be all of those things, but there can still be fulfillment in it. And while I never passed along that particular “wisdom” from my dad about work to my own children, what I continuously pass along to them are these words from the Apostle Paul, who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23 NIV). If you are not yet retired, dear Christian, may your labor be a witness for Christ in your workplace. And may those who work WITH you, FOR you, and OVER you see Jesus IN you and in all that you do.
Believe it or not, it’s time to start talking about Christmas. More specifically, it’s time to start talking about Operation Christmas Child. Please consider packing one, two, or more shoeboxes to be sent to a child overseas. Or you can pack a box online. It’s easy. It’s fun. And it’s a great way to bless a child with a gift and to share the gospel message with him or her at the same time. Check out the Grace Weekly for more information.
The fall ministry season is right around the corner. With it comes a calendar filled with opportunities to grow in Christ and to serve Him. Life groups and Bible studies are still being formed. Stay tuned for more information about them. The Kairos Prison Ministry event at the Ridgeland Correctional Facility is less than a month away. There’s also a women’s conference scheduled for October 7 featuring Lysa TerKeurst and Proverbs 31 Ministries. And FamilyLife is bringing the Weekend to Remember marriage conference to Hilton Head Island in February 2024. Again, check out the Grace Weekly to learn more about these opportunities.
Sunday concludes our currently preaching series titled “God’s Values & Grace Church.” Matthew will be bringing the message. I hope to see you there.
You are so loved, dear Grace.
Hi, dear Grace!
Have you kept up with the news this week? Wow! There was a LOT happening in our universe. Russia failed to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon, while India succeeded. In the midst of a hurricane, California experienced an earthquake. Eight candidates squared off in the Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee. News of violence. The release of a mugshot. Yes, it was a busy week in the news. But the news that most captured my attention was the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin. If you read the news at all, you know Prigozhin was the leader of a mercenary group that is active in Africa, in the Middle East, and in the war in Ukraine. Two months ago, Prigozhin and his fighters attempted a coup of Russia and President Vladimir Putin. That coup ultimately failed, and Prigozhin negotiated an agreement to avoid charges of treason. He then fled in exile. Many anticipated his quick demise, and it came this week as he was aboard a plane that crashed without explanation. The circumstances surrounding his death are highly suspicious, and many are pointing the finger directly at Putin. But the story is complicated, because Yevgeny Prigozhin is no hero or martyr. He is a murderer. He and his group are suspected of serious human rights abuses and war crimes. And he held no regard for God or others. Speaking of death, he once said, “We will all go to hell, but we will be the best in hell.” Very sad!
But you know what? There was happier news this week. Did you hear about the one-of-a-kind birth in Limestone, Tennessee? At a family-owned zoo there, a female giraffe was born without spots. She may be the only spotless giraffe in the world today. Oh, this has happened before, but the last time was over fifty years ago. The giraffe has not yet been named, and the zoo has invited the public to take part in a contest to name her. It’s a neat story – one that actually brings a smile to your face instead of sadness.
That spotless giraffe reminds me of the Apostle Peter’s words in his first letter –
“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God … Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.” (1 Peter 1:18 – 19, 21 NLT)
Yes, dear Grace, Jesus is “the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” Who died on the cross so that whoever believes in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life. He Who was perfect died for me, who is imperfect. And He died for you, too. Thank You, Lord, for Your marvelous grace that saves through faith. May others know and experience Your grace as we are obedient to the Great Commission. Amen.
I’m excited about Sunday, when Dr. Sasan Tavassoli will be here to preach the message at both services. Grace is a mission-focused church. Dr. Tavassoli will share all that God is doing in the Middle East, and he will encourage us in our efforts to reach Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, and all the world for Christ. It will be an exciting day. I hope to see you here.
God bless you, dear Grace. You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Among the items packed away in our attic at home are boxes of videocassette tapes. These tapes contain family memories of our daughter and son (Lindsey and Andrew) when they were babies, when they were learning to walk, when they were learning to ride a bike, when they were playing sports, and when they were in school plays and school programs. They contain memories of Christmases past with my parents, my brothers, and their wives and children. Thanksgiving get-togethers and Easter egg hunts are included in those memories, too. And one of those videotapes contains an interview with Lindsey when she was four years old. She and her classmates were being interviewed by their teacher for a family night at Lindsey’s school. The teacher asked questions like, “What’s your name?” (Lindsey Rochelle Salvas) “How old are you?” (Four) “What’s your favorite color?” (Pink) But one question stands out to me and Blair because of the answer Lindsey gave. Mind you, she was only four years old. The question was this, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Lindsey’s response? Shyly and with a sweet smile, she said, “A butterfly.” It was cute and perfectly Lindsey at that age. Blair and I melt every time we see it.
Switching gears – but on a related note – for years Andrew drove our old minivan after getting his driver’s license. It was a 2001 Ford Windstar with over 200,000 miles on it, and he drove it back and forth to Liberty University and back and forth to work until finally wanting a reliable vehicle he could call his own. (Toward the end, that minivan was not very reliable and had never been his own.) So several years ago, he bought himself his own vehicle – a KIA Soul. It’s bright red in color so people can see him coming. He paid it off early and takes really good care of it.
So what do an interview with our four year old daughter and a vehicle purchase by our adult son have in common? Well, besides being the subject of this week’s post, they are prayer triggers for me and Blair. Yes, we pray daily for our children – usually in the evening before we go to bed. But whenever we see a butterfly – no matter the time of day – we stop and pray for Lindsey at that moment. The prayer is only a few sentences long, with Lindsey as our focus. (“Lord, please bless Lindsey right now. Watch over her and give her a good day. May she be a light for Christ in her workplace and in her community.”) The butterfly is a “trigger” for us to pray for Lindsey right then. Likewise, when we see a KIA Soul on the road, it “triggers” our prayers for Andrew. (“Lord, bless Andrew right now. Give him a good day at work. Open doors of opportunity for him there, and have Your way in his life.”) Other “triggers” are a sunrise (which prompts us to thank God for His creation) or a rainbow (which prompts us to thank God for His promises).
You are familiar with the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV). These words mirror his admonition to the church at Colosse to “continue earnestly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2 NKJV). But here’s the thing – Paul didn’t just write these words; he lived them out. Just a quick search of Paul’s letters will reveal evidence of his prayer life. Paul prayed constantly for the church of Jesus Christ and for God’s people. He prayed “without ceasing” and “always” for the Romans (Romans 1:9 NKJV). He gave thanks “always” for the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:4 ESV). He “(did) not cease to give thanks” and pray for the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:16 NKJV). He thanked God “always” and “upon every remembrance of” the Philippians “with joy” (Philippians 1:3–4 NKJV). He prayed “always” for the Colossians (Colossians 1:3 NKJV). He “always” thanked God for the Thessalonians and “continually” mentioned them in his prayers (1 Thessalonians 1:2 NIV). He remembered Timothy in his prayers “without ceasing … night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3 NKJV). And he mentioned Philemon “always in (his) prayers” (Philemon 1:4 NKJV).
Yes, Paul was faithful to pray. And so must we be, dear Grace. I hope you have a set time to pray during the day. But how about throughout the day? Have you identified any “triggers” that might prompt you to stop and pray at any time of day for your spouse, your children, a friend, an unsaved loved one? Is there anything that might “trigger” a prayer for your Lead Pastor and his family? For someone on staff? For the ministries of Grace? What is it that might help you to maintain an attitude of prayer always, continually, and without ceasing? I recommend you identify prayer triggers. They really are helpful. Oh, may we be a praying church, and may God be glorified in us.
On Sunday after the second service, there will be a meeting of all Life Group leaders, facilitators, and hosts. If you serve in any of these capacities or if you perhaps have an interest in serving in the Life Group ministry at Grace, please come. Lunch will be served. I hope to see you there.
Next Thursday at 6:30 PM, a new year of men’s Bible study will commence. The men will begin with a study of Philippians and then move to the books of Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and 1 John. It promises to be a great year of study, fellowship, and iron sharpening iron. Please, men, consider being part of it.
You are such a source of blessing and encouragement to me, Grace, and you are so deeply loved. May God bless you in a special way today.
Hi, dear Grace!
You are reading this on Friday, but I’m writing it on Sunday afternoon. What prompts me to write my Friday post so soon in the week? Well, as I sit here typing away, I’m not in a good mood. Oh, please don’t get me wrong. It’s been a good day. The services this morning were wonderful. The singing, the message, the Lord’s Supper, the fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ … all of it was awesome! Afterward, Blair and I enjoyed a lunch date. Yes, it’s been a good day. So why am I not in a good mood? Let me tell you.
I pride myself on having a good memory. I feel good about remembering names. Unfortunately, more and more I’m getting names wrong. Just ask Mark, whom I called Chris for months before finally getting it right. Ugh! I’m happy to say, however, that I saw Mark today and called him Mark. Victory! At least I thought it was victory. At the conclusion of the second service, I was posted outside to meet and greet many of you as you exited the church. While talking with some, I waved or shook hands with others as you walked by. I enjoy this time. What I don’t enjoy is what happened while all of this was going on. As I was speaking with a family, a dear member of Grace stopped and got my attention. I smiled and called her by name. No problem so far, but behind her was her daughter. Not only have I met this daughter, I have spent time talking to her and praying with her. But I don’t see her regularly. Perhaps I should have quit while I was ahead, but no. Instead, I plowed on. Smiling, I said, “Hi, Wrong Name Here! Great to see you!” Immediately, I didn’t feel right. Immediately, I wondered if I called her by the wrong name. I brushed off the thought and went back to my conversation, but I couldn’t let it go.
As Blair and I were traveling to lunch, I asked her, “What is Correct Name’s daughter’s name? Is it Wrong Name Here?” In a moment, my great mood became a sour mood. I had called her by the wrong name. Seriously, calling someone by the wrong name really affects me – perhaps more now than ever. I have a dad living with me who has dementia. While he knows my name, he doesn’t remember Blair’s name, our son’s name (even when our son is my dad’s namesake), nor my brother’s name. As I have mentioned before, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and passed away over twelve years ago due to its complications, so dementia-related conditions run in my family. Has it caught up to me? These are the things I think about when I forget someone’s name. Of course, all of you have been so kind when I err. Thank you for your patience, dear Church. By God’s grace, I vow to get better.
You know, this isn’t just a pride issue (or a potential dementia-indicator issue) for me. It’s an obedience issue. The Bible commands, “Greet the friends by name” (3 John 15 NASB). I recall my pastor at the church where I was saved and baptized as a boy often concluding the service with this same admonition. Why? Because being part of a Christian community demands that we know one another. But it’s hard to say I know you if I don’t know your name. In his third letter, the Apostle John encourages Gaius (his intended recipient) and all of us to know one another, to be personal with one another, and to care for one another. Yes, greeting a person by name shows that person that he/she is important to me. And it shows that I care enough to know them. So be sure to greet one another by name this Sunday. I’ll do the same. (But if I get your name wrong, do not hesitate to correct me. Thanks.)
If you haven’t heard, Matthew and I had the wonderful privilege of baptizing a visitor to Grace earlier this week. Brian is from Ohio, but he was vacationing here on Hilton Head Island. His sister and brother-in-law attend Grace, and they brought Brian to church with them the past two Sundays. Brian recommitted his life to Jesus Christ as a result of the message he heard, and he asked to be baptized before returning home. What a joy it was to baptize him in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on Monday afternoon! Praise the Lord!
This Sunday we will be honoring all teachers and educators as they begin a new school year. We will present each of them with a gift and pray over them during the service. Please, Church, pray for our teachers. Lord, please bless our teachers – and, yes, our students, too – with a safe and successful year. Amen.
Speaking of teachers, thanks to all of you who will be teaching and serving in our Children’s Ministry on Sunday mornings while Charlynn is away. Parents, please remember there are no children’s classes during the 9:00 service until Charlynn’s return. Thank you for understanding.
Peace to you, dear Grace. You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
I have been back in the office for two weeks now, but my mind is still on the vacation Blair and I enjoyed last month. As a matter of fact, even as I type these words my mind is going back to that cabin, that front porch, that lake, and that peace we felt just being alone together.
As my mind pictures the scene where we spent the week, it goes to a hammock between two trees in the side yard. In my head, I’m there on that hammock again now. I’m lying on my back with Blair on my right. She is lying on her left side with her head on my shoulder. Her right hand is resting on my chest, and her right leg is draped over my thighs. Everything is perfect in this moment. I love what I feel right now. And I love what I see. The colors are vibrant from my viewpoint. I’m looking up to see the woody gray-brown color of a tall oak tree extending to the sky. The leaves of this tree are a bright green. Through the leaves I can see a beautiful blue sky and brilliant white clouds. The contrast of these colors against each other is incredible. Oh, and then there are the sounds I hear. Blair’s breathing tells me she’s asleep. A slight rustling in the leaves of the trees above tells me there’s a breeze in the air. Birds – many birds – are all singing away and wanting to be heard. I enjoy them all as a chorus of calls and songs before trying to distinguish each one as a solo voice. In the tiny fish pond next to the gazebo that stands about twenty yards away, there’s a man-made waterfall that I can hear. A bullfrog apparently longs to be heard over the waterfall and the birds. In the distance, a motor boat races along the lake. And then, suddenly, I hear the bouncing of a basketball nearby – not what I expected, but it makes me smile.
I love what I feel and see in that hammock, but it’s the hearing part of this equation that prompts today’s post. During the week of my vacation, I took some time to read through and study the book of Leviticus. Each morning on that front porch at the cabin, I sat with a glass of iced tea, my Bible, and a commentary. It was a really wonderful time with the Lord. Among the many verses that stuck out to me were these – “And he (Moses) brought the second ram, the ram of consecration. Then Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram, and Moses killed it. Also he took some of its blood and put it on the tip of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot” (Leviticus 8:22–23 NKJV)
In consecrating Aaron as a priest, Moses dipped his finger in the blood of a sacrificed ram and placed a drop of blood on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of Aaron’s right hand, and on the big toe of Aaron’s right foot. May I remind you, dear Grace, of the Apostle Peter’s words here? “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9a NKJV). Yes, Christian, YOU are part of a royal priesthood. And while I have no intention of painting your ear lobe, thumb, and big toe with a dab of blood, I do want to help you understand what this all means. The blood on the ear was to remind Aaron to hear the Word of God. The blood on his right thumb was to remind him to do the work of God in service. And the blood on his right big toe was to remind him to walk in the way of God in obedience. Of course, you cannot serve and you cannot obey if you do not first hear the Word. I remember a godly professor at Washington Bible College who used to say, “Get everything you can, every time you can, from every man of God you can.” Yes, Grace, hear the Word. Read the Word. Study the Word. Get everything you can from the Word. And as you do, put it all into practice through service and obedience. People will take notice when you do. May they be drawn to Jesus because of it.
Please be in prayer for our amazing Director of Children’s Ministries, Charlynn Bonham, as she takes some time away from Grace to rest, to be restored, and to be with her family. Pray too for safety as she, John, and Gideon take time to travel and make memories together as a family. Finally, pray for those who will be teaching and serving in our children’s programs during Charlynn’s absence. If you would like to help in any way, please contact Mary Jane Hoey in the church office. Thanks so much.
I hope to see you this Sunday as Matthew continues our current preaching series titled “God’s Values & Grace Church.” Matthew’s focus this week? We are Spirit Empowered. Pray for Matthew as he prepares and preaches the message.
Thank you for praying for the ministry of Grace. Thanks too for reading to the end. You, dear Church, are such a blessing to me. And you are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Let me begin by thanking you for your prayers for me and Blair while we were away last week. We had an AWESOME time! The mountains were beautiful. The lake was peaceful. Our cabin was comfortable. And the weather was incredible – low 60’s (and once in the upper 50’s) when we woke up. Every morning, we sat outside on the covered porch of our cabin enjoying the cool weather with hot coffee (for Blair) and iced tea (for me – and, yes, it was sweet!). We also enjoyed reading, resting, hiking, boating, visiting with Blair’s aunt and cousin, and seeing the old Montgomery farm and the family cemetery. Everything about the trip was great. Uh, well, almost everything.
Over the course of a week, I spent about 10 to 12 hours fishing. While I fished, Blair sat next to me, enjoyed some sun, and cheered me on. Claytor Lake is filled with bass, trout, perch, catfish, and even walleye. Three fishing rods were at my disposal – one my own and the other two borrowed from Blair’s cousin – and all three made their way into the water (often at the same time). Two held baited hooks and a bobber, while the third held my favorite lure.
So you would think after about 10 to 12 hours of fishing, I would have caught something … but no! I caught zilch. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Oh, there were some bites, but in the end it was a shutout. To make matters worse, on Friday evening I had two bobbers bobbing away in the water. All the while, I was casting my lure toward the dock next door. There was a nibble, but nothing latched on. Then Blair and I saw a really nice bass boat making its way toward us from the left. He was trolling slowly with an electric motor and casting between the docks. When he saw me and my three poles, he asked, “How far are you out from the dock?”
I appreciated his courtesy, but I was having no luck. “I’m about twenty yards out,” I said, “but that’s okay. Let me reel mine in for you.” I set my rod with the lure down and pulled the other two lines in. As he continued to cast, I coveted his boat. “How are you doing so far?” I asked.
“Caught five so far,” he answered. “But a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.”
Bad day? I’d love to catch five. Hey, I’d love to catch one!
About that time he tossed his lure between our dock and the dock next door – right where I had been. Nothing. And then he did it again. Wham! That fish hit his lure hard. It wasn’t big, but it WAS number six for him. And it was still zero for me. He wished us a good evening as he trolled on by, continuing to cast that lure between the docks along the shoreline. And I packed up and gave up for the evening. That was definitely enough for me.
The Bible says when Jesus called His disciples, He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NKJV). Just as we must be properly equipped to catch fish, we must also be properly equipped to share the gospel with others. By inviting the disciples to follow Him, Jesus was saying He would teach them and invest in them so that they could accomplish The Great Commission and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NIV). You know, reeling in a nice fish is a thrill, but nothing thrills me more than to share the good news of the gospel with someone. Absolutely nothing is greater than leading someone to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. I hope you have had that experience. But if not, I implore you to continue being a witness to others. Recently, I read a book called Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice. This line in the book jumped out at me – “Conversion isn’t the mark of a successful witness – witnessing is.” Amen! Keep being a faithful witness for Christ, dear Grace. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. You can trust Him in that.
Please pray for me, as I will be preaching the second in a series of messages titled “God’s Values & Grace Church.” My topic? We are Gospel Driven. I’m excited about it. Thank you in advance for your prayers.
You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
As I shared with you last week, Blair and I are away celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary. I am therefore taking a break from writing my weekly post. But do not fear, dear Church! See below for my post from two years ago this week, when Blair and I had just returned home from a quick trip to celebrate our 35th anniversary. It was only two months later that we brought my dad to Hilton Head Island to live with us. Hard to believe!
This one was titled “Favorite Places, A Wonderful Time Away, A Serious Question, and A Place for Me.” Enjoy!
When our children were young, we took a lot of fun vacations. We were by no means world travelers, but we made such wonderful memories wherever we went. Our two favorite vacation spots were Shenandoah, VA, and Hilton Head Island, SC (of course). On road trips of any distance, we would always count the number of states we could find on license plates. Our record was 47 out of 50 states – not bad!
As you probably are aware, my wife and I spent the past several days away celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time together. Thanks to those of you who prayed for us while we were gone. We talked about the past, dreamed about the future, laughed at stuff that may be funny only to us, acted like we were still on our honeymoon, and counted license plates. (Only 41 states on this trip – Boooo!) We returned home late last night feeling refreshed and ready for the final sprint through the summer months.
A question I have asked several of you since our arrival to Hilton Head is this – Where do you vacation when you already reside in a place like this? Seriously, we LOVE it here! Back home, we always looked forward to planning a vacation. Now, however, we live in our favorite place. What could be better than this? (Feel free to send me suggestions. Thanks 😊)
As wonderful as it is here, I am struck by how awesome Heaven must be. The Bible describes Heaven in wondrous terms, but when I think of Heaven, I don’t often think about gates of pearl or streets of gold or tears wiped away. Rather, I think of Jesus’ words, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 KJV). That’s all I need to know – that Jesus has prepared a place for me. I trust Him fully. If He has prepared it, then it must be wonderful – even more wonderful than Hilton Head Island. That excites me!
Wow! That comment about dreaming about the future? Little did we know then … But thankfully, God is in control, and Blair and I still trust Him fully with our future. Thank You for Your grace, Lord. And thanks too for Grace Church. How blessed we are!
Lord willing, I will return to the office on Monday. May God bless you in a special way, dear Church. You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
As the old bubble bath commercial used to say, “Calgon, take me away!”
It’s vacation time for me and Blair. Tomorrow, we will be going away for about nine days to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary. By the time you read this, my brother will have arrived from Delray Beach, FL, to care for my dad while we are gone. Blair and I will take some time to introduce Allen to some people he will need to know. We will also show him the ropes in regard to my dad’s care. Then around noon or so on Saturday, we will head north to rural Virginia, where we have a cabin waiting for us overlooking Claytor Lake. Woo hoo!
It's been a year since Blair and I had at least a week away together, so we are pretty excited about this trip. Several books are already set aside for reading. A fishing pole will surely make its way to the van. A hike has already been marked on the map. And a visit with Blair’s 90-year old aunt is written in ink on the calendar. After that, however, all I really hope to do is rest, recharge, and reconnect both with the Lord and with my precious wife. Please pray for us as we go, dear Grace. We need this time together.
You know, as much as we love Hilton Head Island and our home and the ministry and my dad and everyone here, the need to get away is real. Jesus even encouraged it. In Mark chapter 6, as you may recall, He sent His disciples out two by two to preach the message of repentance, to cast out demons, to heal the sick, and to serve people (see Mark 6:7–13). Upon their return, this is what the Bible says – “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:30–31 NIV). Did you catch that, Church? After a time of intense ministry, the disciples were invited by Jesus to come with Him to a quiet place to rest.
I don’t share this with you to defend my need for a vacation, dear Church. No, I share it to encourage you to get away yourselves. As Christians, we live in a world that can often be hostile to the gospel. Living the Christian life outwardly – loving others, serving others, meeting the needs of others – can be exhausting. Oh, it is surely rewarding, but it is also physically and emotionally demanding. Please don’t just take my word for this. Please do, however, take the advice of our Savior – Join Him in a quiet place and get some rest. You won’t regret it.
Thanks to all of you who came out yesterday in support of our blood drive in memory of Brennen Reeves. How about this for a praise report? One Blood sets a goal for each blood drive they do. Because of your response, we blew away that goal. As a matter of fact, people were being turned away during the last hour due to the number of donors who arrived. Awesome!
Please be sure to check out the Grace Weekly for all that is happening at the church. One highlight I would like to mention is The Savvy Caregiver class that will be offered by Memory Matters starting Thursday, August 17. The class will meet here at Grace on Thursdays for five weeks from 10 AM to noon. This course is designed to help family members who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. Blair took this course last year and loved it. It was very helpful to her as we care for my dad. It may be helpful to some of you, as well.
Thank you in advance for your prayers as Blair and I head out for our time away, Grace. As we go, you may know for certain that we are praying for you, too. You will be deeply missed, and you are much, much loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
You are reading this on Friday, but I’m writing it on Tuesday. All the while, I’m thinking about Sunday. What a good morning it was at Jarvis Creek Park as we gathered for Worship at the Park. Having an outdoor service is not something we do often, but when we do it is always a success. Just think about it, Grace. Every sunrise service we have held … every baptism service … all have been a wonderful blessing. Of course, having an all-church cookout afterward is quite a bonus. Thanks to all of you who were in attendance. It really was a special day.
Have you heard any of the stories of Sunday? A visitor to Grace pulled into the church parking lot right before 9 AM and found it nearly empty. He was greeted and invited to join us at the park. Not only did he come, but he had a great time meeting the people of Grace in a relaxed setting. I heard about another guest who would not have felt comfortable entering the doors of a church but who was comfortable checking us out at the park. That person enjoyed it so much that she said she would be back. Several families who brought their children to the playground came over to hear the music and message. Some even joined us at the cookout afterward, and one family has already said they would be here this Sunday. And finally, there was a young gentleman who appeared homeless. He approached us from the woods and asked if he could have something to eat. It wasn’t yet time for lunch, but this young man was encouraged to join us at the service and then return for as much food as he wanted. He was blessed with food from the Word and food for his belly. Please pray for him and for all of these who experienced Grace on Sunday.
All of the comments I heard about Worship at the Park were positive – from the wonderful music and worship led by Seth and our Praise Team to the encouraging message by Matthew to the great food prepared by a team of great people to the awesome fellowship. And while there were plenty of comments about how warm it was, none were negative. The day was surely warm, but there was plenty of shade to go around. And that reminds me of a passage in the Bible that says, “Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain” (Isaiah 4:5–6 NIV). Did you read that closely, dear Grace? Isaiah is writing of a day to come when God’s glory will be a canopy over His people. That means God is a protector – He will protect His people from harm. How so, you ask? He will be the “shelter and shade” for those who are caught in the heat of the day, and He will be a “refuge” for those caught in a storm. Yes, cover us with Your glory, Lord. And may we be ever mindful of Your care and protection.
Today is Independence Day. It’s a day for grilled chicken, grilled sausages, potato salad, and watermelon. As an appetizer, we are having a homemade salsa with pita chips. It’s a great day to be free. Thank You, Lord, for the freedoms we enjoy in Christ and in our nation.
God bless you, dear Grace. You are deeply loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
I met my wife in 1985, and we were married the following year. During the get-to-know-you phase of our dating relationship, we talked about the stuff every guy and girl talks about as they are starting out. It all has to do with what you have in common with one another, what differences exist, family history, etc. It’s funny, but one of the biggest concerns for Blair about me had to do with sports. She was attracted to athletic guys, and I was definitely an athlete, so that wasn’t it. Instead, her concern had to do with my rooting interest in sports. The Washington Nationals? They didn’t exist in 1985. The Baltimore Orioles? I was (and remain) a big O’s fan. That was cool with her. The Washington Bullets (as they were known then)? She wasn’t a huge basketball fan – sacrilege! – but that didn’t cause an issue between us. The Washington Capitals? Nope. That wasn’t it, either. The issue was this – When we met, I was a BIG Dallas Cowboys fan. (That all changed in 1989 when the greatest coach in NFL history and a godly Christian man was fired by the new owner, but that’s another story.) To be honest, Blair really didn’t have an issue with my allegiance to the Cowboys. Her real concern had to do with how her family would respond. To say her family loved the Washington Football Team would be an understatement. As a result, I had to hide my team preference from them. (Her brother learned the truth about two years after we were married. That was dicey, to say the least.)
Today’s post has nothing to do with sports, but it does have to do with one of Blair’s favorites. Very early on – as a matter of fact, probably before we officially started dating – I learned Blair’s favorite movie. Maybe you have heard of it. Nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and winner of eight (including Best Picture), Blair’s favorite movie of all time is Gone With The Wind. It was her favorite when I met her in 1985, and it remains her favorite today. Was that a problem between us? Not for me, but it was for her. Why, you ask? Because I had never seen it. Sacrilege (to her)! Blair just couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen a love story that is set during the Civil War and that runs for nearly 4 hours. A love story? During the Civil War? Four hours long? Really, Honeybunch? Of course, one of our dates had to be a 4-hour movie night with popcorn and Kleenex. (Popcorn for me – Kleenex for Blair.) And I’ll say this about the evening – The popcorn was good. So was sitting so close to Blair for 4 hours. The movie? Well, let’s just say Blair loves me anyway.
Believe it or not, it was eighty-seven years ago today – that is, June 30, 1936 – that the book Gone With The Wind (upon which the movie is based) was published. Interestingly, while Margaret Mitchell (the writer of Gone With the Wind) reportedly got the title for her book from a line in a poem, she could easily have gotten it from the Bible. Here are the words of the Psalmist-King as inspired by the Holy Spirit:
“Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to His covenant,of those who obey His commandments!” (Psalm 103:15–18 NLT)
Consider these words again – “The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here.” Yes, dear Grace, compared to eternity, life here on earth is short. There will be a day when we are gone with the wind. But praise be to God, our hope is not in this life. Our hope is in Him and in His faithfulness to His Word. David continues, “The love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him.” Yes, Church, for those who give God His rightful place – believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross – His love for us will continue beyond the grave as we dwell with Him for eternity. Oh, what a promise! To God be the glory!
Don’t forget this Sunday – ONE SERVICE at 10 AM at Jarvis Creek Park. Please bring a chair to sit in. This will be a God-honoring and patriotic service, followed by a cookout to celebrate our nation’s independence and freedoms. To those who are able to walk comfortably, please park in the further spaces or at The Children’s Center across the street. Please allow the parking spaces up front to be filled by our older members. Thank you for your consideration. Check the Grace Weekly for more information about the service.
The church office will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, July 3 and 4, in celebration of the holiday. With much planning and preparation for Sunday’s service at the park, the staff deserves the extra day of rest. The office will reopen at 9 AM on Wednesday morning. Thank you for your support and understanding.
Happy Independence Day, dear Grace. You are much, much loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
I’m pulling from the archives, as I am busily preparing the message for Sunday and had no time to write this week. As you read the below post from August 18, 2021, you will see why I selected it. Matthew was just days away from returning from his sabbatical when I wrote these words. It was a fun (but very busy) summer for me. Nearly two years later, this post still applies today. Enjoy!
I can become distracted very easily. As I’m studying in my office for the Sunday message, my computer “dings” to notify me that a new correspondence has arrived in my Grace e-mail. Well, I can’t just let that e-mail sit there without checking it, so I pause in my study to see who needs me. Oh, it’s only a notification from Verizon – not important right now. But, hey, since I paused from studying, I may as well check my personal e-mail. Nothing! That’s okay, since now is a good time to send my wife a note to tell her I’m thinking of her. Once that’s done, I wonder what’s happening in the news. So I jump on the internet and check my favorite news source. Hmm … not much has changed since the last time I checked. Ding! Blair just wrote me back. After several e-mails and/or texts back and forth, it dawns on me that I should probably stop drinking sweet tea. Time for a walk down the hall to the men’s room. Suddenly, an hour has passed and I have gotten NOTHING done. Ugh!
All of the above is exaggerated, but there is some truth to it. That’s why last week I made a conscious effort to manage my time better. I blocked out time for everything – studying for the message, meetings, studying for the Wednesday evening devotion, writing, studying for discipleship, returning phone calls, more studying for the message, checking e-mails, etc. Incredibly, by Friday I was further along in my sermon preparation than I had been all summer. That was exciting to me! Then, of course, I ran out of time on Sunday morning as I was delivering the message! Apparently, I need to apply time management principles to the actual preaching of my sermon – Hahaha!
Did you know the Bible actually talks about time management from the Christian perspective? In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wrote these words – “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV). Another translation of verse 16 says this, “… making the most of every opportunity …” (NIV). To “redeem the time” literally means to buy up every opportunity. As Christians, we must be buying up every opportunity we have for Jesus Christ. Free moments are opportunities to pray, to read God’s Word, to write a note to encourage a friend, to call someone to check on their welfare, to do the dishes to bless my wife … The list is a long one. Moments with others are opportunities to love, edify, and point them to Jesus. I like what Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, writes – “Eternity affirms that our lives mean more than mere time can contain. (How we spend time) must be measured by an impact that is eternal rather than temporal.” Help us in this, Lord. May our time on earth be spent in view of eternity, and may we recognize every opportunity as one to be used for Your glory in these difficult days.
Tonight we will gather at the church for a night of worship. Seth and the Praise Team will be here to lead us in singing hymns and contemporary worship songs. Andrew and I will each share a brief devotion, as well. It will be a special evening. Start time is at 7 PM. I hope you can come.
Be sure to check out the Grace Weekly for more of what’s happening. From Worship in the Park on July 2 to a Christmas in July event to Bible study opportunities, there’s much to be excited about.
Now it’s time to get back to my sermon preparation. But, first, I wonder what’s happening in the news. (Just kidding!)
I love you, dear Grace.
Hi, dear Grace!
Let me begin by thanking your for your prayers for Vacation Bible School. It has been an exciting week. With today being the final day of VBS, please now pray our investment in the lives of these dear children will reap an eternal reward. Thank you for being a praying church!
As you know, Sunday is Father’s Day. Because of this, my dad is the inspiration for today’s post. I’m smiling as I type these words, because it’s funny what a kid hears when an adult is speaking to him or her. More specifically, it’s funny what I would hear in my head when my dad said something. It was kind of like listening to the teacher speak to Charlie Brown. I would hear sounds and letters and yet have no idea what my dad was saying to me. Let me explain.
I recall as a young boy riding with my dad in the car. My dad’s vehicle was named Nellie Belle. I don’t know where he came up with the name, but that’s what he called every vehicle he drove. He would turn the key, and that car would shake and rattle and struggle to turn over, and all the while my dad would be saying, “Come on, Nellie Belle. Come on.” And when Nellie Belle finally started, my dad would pat the dash like she did something good. Anyway, I would be in the passenger seat next to him – no air bags (which didn’t exist), no seat belts (which did exist but were rarely if ever used), and no second thoughts about not using either – as my dad coaxed Nellie Belle away from the curb and onto the roadway. As he drove, it was at every intersection that I become confused. It was at every intersection that I heard gibberish out of my dad. That’s because whenever he would stop at a stop sign, my dad would say the same three letters. He would look left and then say, “K O A?” He always said it like it was a question, and he always said it as if he were talking to me. He would then look my way (i.e., right). I had no idea what the letters K, O, and A stood for, but it must have meant something because he said it every time. And I never had to say anything back. I just knew he would say the letters “K O A” every time we came to a stop sign and then eventually look my way. He would then slowly enter the intersection and proceed to the next one, where he looked left, asked me, “K O A?” again, and proceeded into the intersection again. Can you put it together, Grace? Do you know what my dad was asking me at every intersection? It took years before I realized my dad was asking me, “Is anything coming your way?” Here’s the problem, all my kid-brain heard was KOA, but my dad was asking me if it was okay (or safe) to enter the intersection. He wasn’t saying letters; he was saying, “Okay your way?” Or more quickly, he was saying, “’Kay yo’ way?” (Well, maybe he wasn’t saying it exactly that way, but that’s how it sounded to me.)
No, I definitely wasn’t the smartest kid in my class when I was a kid. But neither were the disciples. On the night before His death on the cross, Jesus told His disciples that they soon would not see Him, and not long after they would see Him again. How did the disciples respond? “Then some of His disciples said among themselves, ‘What is this that He says to us? … We do not know what He is saying’” (John 16:16–18 NKJV). Although Jesus had told His disciples THREE TIMES that He would be delivered into the hands of men, crucified, and then be raised from the dead on the third day, the disciples never understood what He was telling them. But to be honest, there are times when I read my Bible and am just not sure what it is saying to me, either. Yes, there are times when I’m confused ... kind of like when my dad asked, “K O A?”
Here's the thing – The Apostle Paul wrote, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33 NKJV). God wants His people to know and understand His Word. He wants ALL of His people to have this understanding, but for today, I want to specifically challenge our dads. Men, you have the awesome responsibility of raising children and pointing them to Christ. In order to do that, however, you must spend time in God’s Word for yourself. You must seek to hear from the Lord so that you can pour into your own children. So in those times when the Bible seems unclear, I encourage you to pray the words of the psalmist – “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:34 NKJV). Yes, Lord, give me … give our dads and all of the people of Grace … understanding so that we may be obedient to Your perfect will. And may You be glorified in us. Amen.
Please check out the Grace Weekly for all that is happening at Grace. While Vacation Bible School is coming to an end, there is a new Bible study beginning next Thursday evening. And that’s not all. Not only that, there’s the Summer Book Club, Worship Night, Christmas in July, and much more.
Happy Father’s Day, men! May God bless you in a special way this weekend.
Thanks for reading, Grace. You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
The church is bustling with activity this week, as Charlynn and her team are busily decorating rooms in preparation for Vacation Bible School. The building is being transformed into a kingdom. There will be a castle, a king’s throne room, knights, and even a dragon. On Monday, the children will arrive and hear all about Jesus and putting on the armor of God in the battle against evil. It is going to be an exciting week! Please continue to be in prayer for Charlynn and all of the teachers, leaders, and helpers at VBS. And please also pray for the children who will be in attendance. May they have ears to hear the gospel message, and may their week at VBS make a lasting impact on their lives for Jesus Christ.
As I was walking the halls of the church earlier this week, I passed by a room where I heard someone humming a hymn to herself as she was assisting with the set-up for VBS. It made me smile to hear her. As a matter of fact, whenever I hear anyone singing, whistling, or humming a hymn or worship song, it is a joyful sound to me. Such joy comes from the heart, and it is contagious. It builds me up and fills my own heart with joy.
So here’s an embarrassing story for you – one more among the many that I have already shared with you in the past (and will likely continue to share in the future). At the age of 31, I was a married dad of two toddlers. I was also a rookie officer with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, assigned as a student to the Southern Maryland Criminal Justice Academy to become certified by the Maryland Police and Corrections Training Commission. On this particular day between classes at the academy, I happened to be quietly humming a tune to myself. As an aside, this still happens. If a song gets stuck in my head, I replay it over and over and it will often spill out of me in an audible way that others can hear. And that’s where the embarrassment comes in, because as I was humming this particular ditty, one of the guys in my class looked over at me and said, “Are you singing The Little Mermaid?” BUSTED!!!! And while there is no grace from fellow student officers given to anyone humming a song from a Disney movie, please understand my situation and show me a little grace, dear Grace. With two precious toddlers in the house, The Little Mermaid was totally in my wheelhouse at the time. Never did I consciously decide to hum this particular tune. In that moment, however, this just happened to be the song that spilled out of me. Ugh! (But, on the other hand, how did my academy classmate know the song was from The Little Mermaid if he hadn’t seen it himself? Hmmm.)
To those who love the Lord and place their hope in Him, the psalmist wrote, “But rejoice, all who take refuge in You. Sing for joy forever! And may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You” (Psalm 5:11 NASB). Notice the two commands here – “Rejoice” and “Sing for joy forever.” Let me concentrate on that second command for a moment. As Christians, the fruit of the Spirit is in us. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). Surely, there are many ways to express joy, but one of those ways is through singing. And remember, this is a command to the people of God. To be true, this doesn’t mean we should be singing any old song. Our singing should be an expression of our worship of the One in Whom we take refuge … the One Who shelters us … the One Who provides protection in the storms of life. And hey, your singing doesn’t have to sound great to be worshipful. Remember the beginning words of Psalm 100? “Make a joyful NOISE unto the Lord” (Psalm 100:1 KJV). What may be noise to others is a sweet sound to our gracious God. So sing, dear Church, and sing loud. By doing so, you will share your joy in Christ with others. It really is contagious.
To the dear sister in Christ who was humming that hymn, thank you for the blessing of allowing me to hear you worship the Lord in such a way. May all of us at Grace feel the freedom to sing, whistle, and hum in worship. Others may just join in. Oh, and if any of you catch me singing, call me out if it happens to be a Disney tune.
You are so loved, dear Grace.
Hi, dear Grace!
Well, I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Many of you told me and Blair to expect guests to visit us once we arrived on Hilton Head Island. We live in such a beautiful location, you said. People will want to visit us here, you said. And, yes, we have had friends and relatives come, and it has been wonderful. However, last weekend was different. We had a surprise guest. Not only did he show up in our driveway unannounced, but he stayed for two nights. With all of the bedrooms in our home spoken for, we were forced to set our guest up in the garage. Yes, we put him in the garage! To make matters worse, this guy is really finicky. He will eat only what he wants to eat. Being completely unprepared for his arrival, Blair had to go out and do some quick shopping specifically to meet his dietary demands. While the visit never affected my dad, it stressed me out. Blair didn’t sleep well for those two nights, either. Surely, you must think we are horrible hosts. But did I mention our guest was a cat?
Yes, dear Grace, a cat – nay, a kitten – found his way to our home last Saturday. As I was reading in my chair in the bedroom, I could hear a cat meowing outside. The cat sounded like it was possibly in distress, so I began searching the trees to see if it was stuck and unable to get down. Instead, Blair saw a tiny kitten peek out from my tire well before making its way to the engine compartment of my vehicle. Ugh! All Blair could imagine was my starting my car to go to church on Sunday morning and sending that little kitten immediately to kitty-cat heaven. With that awful picture in her head, she took several hours to coax the kitten from my engine compartment. Unfortunately, because my son and I are highly allergic to cats, we had to keep him in the garage ... on a holiday weekend … when no shelters were open. As a result, we welcomed this little kitten into our home – uh, make that garage – providing him with free food, drink, and no-frills accommodations. Most of all, he was safe (to my dear wife’s delight).
Full confession here – The Salvas family is a dog family. When I was a kid, it seems we always had a dog in our home. Our dogs would never be candidates for first in show, but we loved them from the time we picked them out of a litter until it was time to say good-bye. However, we also had cats. And it’s funny, because every cat we had – I recall three – was a stray that just showed up at our home one day. This prompted us to feed the cats, which prompted them to stay, which resulted in our being cat owners. Do you get the difference? We sought, we pursued, we invited dogs into our home. Cats apparently sought us, pursued us, and invited themselves into our home. And we would always welcome them in. Not only that, we adjusted to their being in our home. (Example: I got allergy shots for years so that they could stay.)
Based on the events of last weekend, cats are still finding us. And we are still welcoming them into our home. Which reminds me of God’s love for you and me. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 15 – “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 5:5–7 ESV). Jesus is our example. He has welcomed us into His family. How blessed we are, dear Church! As a result, we are to welcome – the better translation may be to accept – one another. Sadly, Christians can be really hard on one another. But just as God has welcomed and accepted me and all of my quirks and imperfections, we are called to welcome and accept one another – quirks, imperfections, and all. The result is unity, and the result of unity is the glory of God. May the glory of God always be our aim.
There’s a lot happening here at Grace this summer. Vacation Bible School, Summer Book Club, Old Savannah City Mission, Savannah Bananas games, a co-ed Bible study, and more are all on the calendar. I’m thankful for all of the ways we have to serve and to connect with one another. Please take advantage of these opportunities as you are able.
Finally, on this date two years ago a group of us met for our first midweek prayer service. We sang a few songs together, and a brief devotion was shared. Afterward, we spent the remainder of our time in prayer for Matthew, for one another, for loved ones in need of salvation, and for the ministries of Grace. We continue the same format today. Please join us on a Wednesday evening in the future. We would love to have you.
By the way, we were able to find a nice home for the kitten. No more garage for him, and no more allergy shots for me. Win-win!
Thanks for reading, Grace. You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Feel free to tell me if I’m wrong here. You have my permission to admonish me if I’m being insensitive. You are welcome to chide me if I’m coming across as rude, but I just don’t get it. Let me explain.
Soon after my dad moved in with us, Blair asked me about having someone come in to clean the house on a regular basis. Of course, I agreed. Having my dad with us comes with many extras – extra laundry, extra dishes, extra grocery shopping … you get the idea. And we are happy to take it on, but it’s nice to get some help. Enter a woman who is scheduled every other Monday to come to our home and do a thorough cleaning – vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, dusting, scrubbing, and much more. We do our own dishes and laundry, but what she does is really helpful. And the house smells so fresh when she’s done. We love her and are really thankful for her service to our home and family. None of this is worthy of a complaint.
Here's where I’m confused, though. As I said, Hazel (not her real name) arrives every other Monday to clean the house. Yet on the Sunday afternoon prior to her first coming to our home, I heard these words from my precious wife – “Hazel is coming tomorrow. Would you help me straighten up the house?” Uh … what? (Imagine a record scratch sound and a befuddled look on my face here.) To me, straightening up the house and cleaning the house are synonyms. So we have to clean the house before Hazel comes to clean the house? Someone help me understand this logic. Never have I said to Blair, “The landscaper is coming tomorrow. I think I’ll go out and mow the lawn. Maybe I’ll do a little edging, too. Just want the yard to look good for when he gets here.” Not one time has she ever heard me say, “The trash truck comes tomorrow. I think I’ll make a run to the dump.” Nor have I ever said, “Before I take the car to the mechanic in the morning, I’m going to change the oil and rotate the tires.” When it comes to having the house cleaned, however, a “pre-cleaning” is apparently in order.
You know, this reminds me of the words of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, who wrote the following under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NKJV). Did you catch that, Grace? The Lord did not wait for me to clean up my act before He sent Jesus to die on the cross for me. He didn’t wait for me to rid myself of sin before He loved me enough to save me. Instead, while “my house” was still dirty, Jesus paid the price to make me clean. All He asks is that I admit I’m a sinner (Romans 3:23), believe that Jesus died on the cross for me (Romans 10:9), confess Him as Lord of my life (Romans 10:9 again), and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). When that happens, I am made clean (Hebrews 9:13–14). No “pre-cleaning” necessary. Praise the Lord!
Vacation Bible School is fast approaching. Please be in prayer for all of our VBS leaders and helpers, as well as every child who will be in attendance. Only by God’s grace and the faithful prayers of His people will the week be a success. Thank you in advance for praying.
Oh, before I finish, let me assure you the difference between straightening up the house and cleaning the house has been explained to me. That befuddled look may still appear from time to time as I’m “pre-cleaning” the house, but I do it gladly. It’s actually a wonderful reminder of God’s goodness and grace to me.
You are so loved, dear Church.
Hi, dear Grace!
Have you watched The Chosen? The Chosen is a television series about Jesus and His disciples with three seasons under its belt. Most Christians agree the show is very well done. Sure, there are some liberties taken where there are unknowns. One example is from episode 2 of season 1, when Mary Magdalene is speaking with Nicodemus. Nowhere do we find such a conversation in the Scriptures, but the conversation as depicted in the show is nonetheless a beautiful one. Nicodemus is questioning Mary about how she was healed from demonic possession, and Mary is unable to explain anything about her healing or even Who made it happen. She doesn’t even know Jesus’ name in this scene yet. What she does know, however, is a powerful testimony of Jesus’ work in each of our lives as we place our faith in Him. This is what Mary says – “Here is what I can tell you. I was one way, and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between was Him.”
The show has been quite successful. Financial support is raised through a crowd-funding effort that has generated millions of dollars to reach millions of people. T-shirts and hats are also sold online for additional support and for marketing purposes. My dear wife has one of these shirts. As a matter of fact, the shirt bears the line that I just mentioned – “I was one way, and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between was Him.” That shirt and what happened when Blair was wearing it recently are the subjects of today’s post.
Several weeks ago, Blair was with a friend on the beach when a couple took notice of her shirt. This couple wasn’t familiar with the message of the shirt, and they felt comfortable enough to approach Blair and ask what it meant. What an opportunity! Blair told them about The Chosen – that it is a television series about the life of Jesus and His disciples. She told them Who Jesus is to her – her Savior Who died on the cross for her sins. And she shared with them her testimony – how she was one way (lost in her sin), how her dad died when she was a teenager, how after his death she wrestled with anger toward a God she did not know, how she was wonderfully saved in college, and how Jesus has made all the difference in her life since then. The entire exchange took only minutes, and the couple politely listened. When Blair was done, the couple thanked her before continuing their walk. A seed was planted, and that was that. Perhaps the Lord will use it one day to draw this couple to Himself.
Here's my purpose for sharing all of this with you this week – The Bible says, “Honor Christ and let Him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope” (1 Peter 3:15 CEV). With that in mind, let me ask you a question, dear Grace. If someone notices the Grace Community Church window sticker on your vehicle … or if they notice the “Jesus Loves You” shirt you are wearing … or if they simply notice you speak and act differently than the world speaks and acts … are you ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within you? Are you ready to share a testimony about God’s goodness and grace in your life? Are you ready to tell them about Jesus? “Always be ready” is what the Bible says. For the Christian, this is a command. If you are not sure you are “ready” to do this, please feel free to contact me by phone or e-mail. I would be happy to meet with you personally to discuss how you can be ready.
This Sunday, the message will be from the first twelve verses of Mark chapter 12. Matthew will be preaching. I hope to see you there.
God bless you, dear Grace. You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
I am humbled each week by your positive comments about my weekly post. You bless me with your kindness. To be honest, however, my ramblings often write themselves. For example, consider the headline of this week’s post –
ROGUE WAVE TAKES DOWN LOCAL PASTOR
Concerned Parishioners Left To Wonder, “If We Laugh, Are We Still Loved?”
What’s that? Some of you are confused? You weren’t there at the Baptism Service last Sunday? Well, here’s a quick summation of the events that took place: It all started with a wonderful picnic at Driessen Beach Park. Well over a hundred people gathered for a joyous time of fellowship and the sharing of a meal. Afterward, we heard sweet testimonies from Asher, Emelia, and Wendy – all of whom shared their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, as well as their desire to publicly profess that faith to the world through baptism. We then sang together, prayed together, and made the trek to the beach together. The water was cold and rough as Matthew, the elders, and I entered the surf, but our hearts were warm and expectant. Baptism Sunday is always a special day. Asher was first to be baptized, followed by Emmy. It was good to have their dad, our own Seth Shirley, join us in the water to assist in baptizing his beautiful girls. Wendy was last. Despite the rougher-than-usual waves, all went smoothly – that is, until … None of us saw it coming. A monster wave (at least in strength if not in size) crashed into our group and swallowed us whole. Six were in the water at the time; only four of us were left standing. Yes, dear Grace, I was one who went down. Ugh!
To those of you who saw all of this transpire, how did I look going down? Was I graceful? If being knocked over by a wave were an Olympic event, would you have given me a 10? Was I more Buzz Lightyear (falling with style) or Vinko Bogataj (the “agony of defeat” guy from the opening of ABC’s Wide World of Sports)? Yep, I can already hear the chants of “Pastor Vinko” now. But that’s okay. Not only does Baptism Sunday remain one of my favorite days of the year, this one provided me with something to write about today.
As I drove away from Driessen Beach on Sunday evening, I was thinking of these verses from God’s Holy Word – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5–6 NKJV). The context of these verses is “various trials” and “the testing of our faith” (see James 1:2–3). James describes the one who is driven and tossed like a wave as a “double-minded man” (see James 1:8). The word “double-minded” literally means to be “two-souled.” It is a split faith – i.e., going back and forth between faith in God and faith in myself and the world. When we go through trials, will we trust the Lord fully? Will we seek the wisdom of God to learn through such trials and endure to the end? If we do, the Bible promises we will be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (see James 1:3–4). Sadly, if we choose our own wisdom or the wisdom of the world, we will get just the opposite and lack everything. I want what the Bible promises. I don’t want to be two-souled. Lord, continue to have Your way in me and in all of us at Grace, and give us the means to trust You fully in all You bring our way. Amen.
As a reminder, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. Please pray for me, as I have the wonderful privilege of sharing the message. To all of the women of Grace – Whether you are a mother by birth, by adoption, by marriage, or by the impact you have had on a child as a “spiritual” mom, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you. May God bless you in a special way this weekend. The men of Grace salute you.
Yes, dear Grace, you are still so deeply loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
I love sweet tea. That’s not news to you, since I have shared this with you before. What I haven’t shared is this – Since January 2 of this year, I no longer drink sweet tea. Whenever Blair and I go out to eat, I now order unsweet tea with a lemon. This is a health decision more than anything else. With a mom who passed away over twelve years ago as a result of Alzheimer’s Disease and a dad who now struggles with dementia, two doctors have told me I need to take it easy on the sugar intake. Apparently, too much sugar has been found to contribute to cognitive decline. When my wife heard this, sweet tea was banned from our home. While a long life is no guarantee for me, my hope is to avoid dementia and other brain disorders for as long as possible.
Several weeks ago, Blair and I went to lunch with a dear friend. As I have for the past four months, I ordered my unsweet tea with lemon, and that’s just what I received. However, our waitress apparently forgot my original order. Why do I think that? Because when she gave me a refill, it was sweet … and I mean “sweet” in every good sense of the word! Now please understand it wasn’t a full glass of 100% sweet tea. When the waitress refilled my glass, there was still some unsweet tea in it. Still, it wasn’t exactly half-and-half – definitely more sweet than unsweet. And, boy, was it good! I sucked that second glass down quickly. My third glass? Yeah, it was all sweet. That glass was empty faster than you could quote John 3:16. And that’s the problem for me. When I used to drink sweet tea, I could drink four glasses of it during a meal and then take a to-go cup home with me. That’s way too much sugar! When I drink unsweet tea, my glass doesn’t empty so quickly. Two glasses is enough, and I’m not always interested in a to-go cup.
That episode several weeks ago taught me a lesson. I can easily fall back into the habit of drinking sweet tea again. Before I do, however, I must answer the question – Would that be good for me? The answer, not necessarily for you but for me, is no. And while drinking sweet tea is NOT sin, I find a correlation there for me. The Bible says, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1–3 CSB). Sin can easily ensnare us. The word translated “ensnares” in verse 1 suggests sin – like sweet tea for me – has an advantage to prevail over us. As Christians, we must therefore “lay sin aside” and “run the Christian race with endurance.” How do we successfully do this? By looking at the example of Jesus. Only in Him will ever have victory over sin and everything that is looking to trip us up in our walk with Christ. So press on, dear Grace. Endure to the end. What a day that will be when we are counted among the “large cloud of witnesses” in heaven cheering on those who come after us!
This Sunday, May 7 is the date of our all-church picnic and baptism service at Driessen Beach Park. Start time is 5 PM. You have heard me say many time that Baptism Sunday is a highlight of the year for our church. Please come. You will be blessed if you do.
As I sit here typing the conclusion to this post, I’m staring at a half-empty glass of unsweet tea. It would be empty by now (and probably refilled two or three times over) if it were sweet tea. And yet this is victory for me. By God’s marvelous grace, may victory over sin come as easily for all of us. To Him be the glory.
Oh, dear Grace, how loved you are.
Hi, dear Grace!
Last weekend, Blair and I were able to get away for the weekend. Our trip was fast. We left on Friday morning and returned late on Sunday. The main focus was a surprise 98th birthday party for Blair’s aunt in Northern Virginia. It was so good to see the three surviving sisters of the original Montgomery clan, all of whom are aged 90 and above. Blair’s mom died several years ago at the age of 95, so the Montgomery females have an incredibly strong gene pool. I jokingly tell Blair she will be a widow for a long time, because I surely won’t live that long. She doesn’t think that’s very funny, though.
While it was really good to see Blair’s aunts, siblings, and cousins, the highlight for us was simply being together. Time alone is a luxury we don’t take for granted anymore. Thanks to our son and a dear member of Grace, we turned the trip into a weekend getaway. I slept better than I have in months, for which I’m so thankful to the Lord. Unfortunately, there was a lowlight to the trip. After the party, which lasted several hours at a really nice Italian restaurant, one of Blair’s cousins invited all of the attending Montgomery cousins to her home, which was only 30 or so minutes away. What hospitality she showed us! We had a wonderful time at her home. It didn’t exactly get off to the best start, however. Why, you ask? Well, when Blair and I arrived, I parked right in front of their home. It looked like we were the first ones there, and I thought it appeared rude of me to take the primo spot along the curb. As a result, I decided to pull down further and open up the curb at the front of the house to others who arrived after us. Big mistake! A street gutter extended a full foot from the curb. (Sorry, that was an exaggeration. It was more like a full inch, but it really doesn’t matter.) Yes, dear Grace, as I crawled along the curb, I struck the street gutter, which was protected by a metal lip. Blair immediately said, “I hope we don’t have a flat tire.” With a don’t-be-ridiculous tone in my voice, I said, “Don’t be ridiculous. We do not have a flat tire.” But, alas, I was wrong. Not only was our tire flat – the sidewall was punctured and beyond repair. Great! Just great! We were able to change the punctured tire with a spare “donut.” A call to the local tire repair shop got us an appointment when the store opened on Sunday morning at 9 AM. Not wanting us to travel on the Washington Beltway on a spare tire, Blair’s cousin encouraged us to take her car back to our hotel, which was very kind. Although our Sunday morning arrived earlier than we anticipated, we were able to return the car to Blair’s cousin, enjoy breakfast at her home, pack our van, and get to the tire repair shop in a timely manner. Thirty minutes later, the spare was replaced with a new tire and we were on our way to a local church where a friend is the pastor. Our visit with him was great. Our worship was great. His message was great. And then we hit the road southbound to return to Hilton Head Island. We arrived home at 11:30 PM – exhausted but really pleased with the weekend we enjoyed together.
Switching gears here, but on a related note, I carry a basketball in my car. Last summer, Blair encouraged me to keep it there and stop by the park every now and then to shoot some baskets. When I was a teenager, I did my best thinking about life, my best dreaming about the future, my best praying through all of my cares with a basketball in my hand. Hundreds of shots from all areas of the court were very healthy for me physically, mentally, and spiritually. Years ago, I shared this with Blair. She remembered, and she thought it would be healthy for me once again to shoot baskets and work through some things in my head. I took advantage of it for a while, but slowly that basketball went flat. It’s still in my car, but right now it’s just a deflated basketball waiting for me to put air in it.
That punctured tire and that basketball with no air in it are the inspirations for this week’s post, dear Church. Here’s my question to you – Have you ever felt deflated? Sometimes, an event can be so traumatic that you feel deflated immediately – kind of like my punctured tire. And at other times, the stressors of life beat at you and beat at you until, over a period of time, it takes its toll – kind of like a slow leak in a basketball. If either of these situations describe what you are going through right now, I have good news for you. The Bible says this –
“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul,‘There is no salvation for him in God.’ But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:1–3 ESV)
Meditate on these words with me for a moment, dear Grace. David, the psalmist king, writes, “Many are my foes. Many are rising against me. Many are saying God is not on my side.” It was enough to make him feel deflated. Better, let’s just call it what it truly is – David was deeply depressed over his situation. And yet, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was able to respond with these words – “Many are my foes … but You, O Lord, are a shield about me. Many are rising against me … but You, O Lord, are my glory. Many are saying God is not on my side … but You, O Lord, are the lifter of my head.” As David’s shield, the Lord was his protector. We can count on Him to be our protector, too. As David’s glory, the Lord was his confidence. Even as the king of Israel, David knew he was nothing without the God Who sets up kings and deposes kings (Daniel 2:21). David’s full confidence was not in himself, but in the Lord. May that be true of us, as well. And as the lifter of David’s head, the Lord was his encourager. A deflated spirit pushes the head and the eyes downward. But thanks be to God, He lifts our heads up, where our eyes are focused on Him. Be encouraged in the Lord, dear Grace. Your deflated spirit will be lifted as you keep your eyes on Him.
Please be in prayer tomorrow for the Women’s Spring Luncheon. Many of our ladies will be here from 11 AM to 2 PM to worship the Lord, meet new friends, and be challenged by a message from our own Sunnie McCaghren. Thanks to Jessica Maples, our Director of Women’s Ministries, and her fabulous team for their work in preparation for this great event.
Next Thursday, May 4 is the National Day of Prayer. As we have for the past two years, we will host a guided prayer service at noon. I invite you to come. Stay tuned for more details.
Don’t forget next Sunday, May 7 is the date of our all-church picnic and baptism service. If you have questions about baptism, please see Matthew, me, or one of the elders. We would love to speak with you.
How thankful I am for you, dear Grace. You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
During the twenty-five years that I served at the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, I had several recurring dreams. In one, I was involved in a foot chase, but I could barely lift my legs to run. It was as if I was running in slow motion, while the person I was chasing was running like a rabbit. I could never catch him. In another, well, I know it sounds morbid, but I got shot. I don’t know how many times I had that dream, but I got shot in my dreams way too many times. But while the dream of being shot was always a bad one, it’s not the worst dream I ever had. When I was a kid – and I mean probably as young as 6 or 7 years old – I had a nightmare that I still can’t shake. That dream haunts me deeply whenever I think about it. This week’s post isn’t about dreams and nightmares, but it is about a real-life situation that could have been a nightmare. In the end, it turned out to be pretty funny – but when it happened, there was absolutely nothing funny about it.
Lindsey and Andrew were young – perhaps 6 and 4 years old respectively when this happened. They were sound asleep – as were Blair and I on this particular date at 2:00 in the morning when something woke both of us up. I recall opening my eyes and thinking, “Did I just hear that?” Blair must have done the same, because she said to me, “Did you just hear that?” Neither of us had moved. We were still lying in bed, still under the covers, but with our eyes wide open and our minds racing. “Yes, I heard it,” was my response. We just lay there for several more minutes listening to nothing but silence. Blair began to relax, but I couldn’t. And then, of course, we heard it again. I bolted upright in the bed, threw off the covers, and ran to the kids’ bedrooms. I checked on Andrew, whose bedroom came first, and then on Lindsey. Both were still sleeping, still breathing, still safe, and still perfect. Blair and I? Not sleeping. Hyperventilating. Not so sure any of us were safe. And definitely not perfect. Oh, sorry about that. You’re wondering what woke us up. You want to know what turned a peace-filled night of rest into a horror movie for us. Are you ready for this? It was … and I’m not making this up … a high-pitched, cackling laugh. It came from nowhere, and yet it came from everywhere in the house. After checking on Lindsey and Andrew, I searched high and low for anything that didn’t seem right. Nothing upstairs, so I went downstairs. The living room checked okay. So did the dining room, the kitchen, and the downstairs bathroom. No way! Could what we heard really have come from the basement? Down I went to search for the source of that awful laugh. Meanwhile, Blair was upstairs – not wanting to leave the kids alone. And then I heard her panicked yell for me – “Stephen, it’s up here! I just heard it again!” Back up the stairs I charged, determined to find whatever it was that was laughing at us. By this time, every light in the house was on. How our children continued to sleep through all of this, I will never know!
Blair took our bedroom while I took the kids’ bedrooms. I checked in their closets, under their beds, through their dressers … everywhere I could think. Finally, it happened … we identified the location. That laugh happened again, and Blair knew from whence it came. To the bathroom she and I ran. Cabinet? Nope. Under the sink? Nothing. Behind the toilet? (Hey, every inch of that bathroom was searched.) It wasn’t until Blair threw back the shower curtain and looked in the tub that we discovered the culprit. Yes, dear Grace, lying in the bathtub was evil disguised in innocence. What was it, you ask? It was a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. More specifically, it was a plastic Nemo toy – you know, from the Disney movie Finding Nemo. If you are not familiar, Nemo is a clownfish. That stupid orange-black-and-white striped fish was smiling up at us from the bottom of the tub. Lindsey and Andrew were so excited when they got this Nemo toy in their Happy Meals. Each time they pushed a button on Nemo, he would say one of about five different lines from the movie. Or, he would simply laugh. Because they loved Nemo – and because Nemo was a fish – they took Nemo in the tub, where, of course, water eventually made its way to Nemo’s insides and messed with the sound circuitry. That caused Nemo’s laugh to be distorted from a cute, clownfish laugh to a high-pitched, evil laugh. I’ll never know why all of this started at 2:00 in the morning – the entire incident lasting for approximately 20 minutes – but Nemo laughed no more after that. That’s because I took Nemo to the basement and beat him to death with a hammer. Nope … not kidding. That Nemo toy was in a hundred or more pieces when I got done with it. No way it was ever going to cackle again in my house. (Breathe, Steve. In with the good … out with the bad. Everything is okay. It was just a plastic clownfish.)
The Bible says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh (or a demented Happy Meal toy) do to me?” (Psalm 56:3–4 NKJV). Later in verse 9, David, the writer of this psalm, gives the reason for his trust in the Lord – “… because God is for me.” He is for me, dear Grace, and He is for you, too. So trust Him in your circumstance – whether it’s an in-the-moment, middle-of-the-night, freak-out situation like the one I described above or a years-long fight for your life. God is for you. Praise Him today!
Tomorrow (Saturday, April 22), a group of people will be traveling to the Old Savannah City Mission to sort through and organize donations in their warehouse. Our help in this area has been a real blessing to the small staff at the mission. It has also been a blessing to everyone from Grace who has participated. Thanks to all of you who will share in this service opportunity.
The Ladies’ Spring Luncheon is scheduled for next Saturday, April 29 from 11 AM – 2 PM. Much work and much prayer have gone into the planning for this event. Please see Jessica Maples, our Director of Women’s Ministries, or call the church office if you are interested in attending.
Baptism Sunday is scheduled for Sunday, May 7. The baptism will be preceded by an all-church picnic at Driessen Beach Park. After the picnic, we will trek to the beach for the baptisms. If you are interested in publicly professing your faith through believer’s baptism – or if you have any questions about baptism as an ordinance of the church – please call the church office and schedule a time to meet with Matthew or me.
Finally, tickets are available for the Savannah Bananas game on Thursday, May 11. Tickets are $25 apiece, which includes dinner. Please contact Charlynn Bonham, our Director of Children’s Ministries, if you would like to attend.
Thank you for hanging in there and reading to the end, dear Grace. You are such a source of blessing and encouragement to me, and you are deeply loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Wow! What a great eight days of Easter events and services we enjoyed at Grace Community Church! From the Easter Egg Hunt to Palm Sunday to the Wednesday evening prayer service to Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to the Sunrise Service to both worship services here on Easter Sunday morning, God was glorified in it all. Praise Him! To everyone who volunteered in some capacity to make it all happen, thank you so much. Because of you, over a thousand people were touched with the message of the gospel last week. Again, praise the Lord!
I confess when I got home from church on Sunday afternoon, I was exhausted and slept for two hours. That never happens. Usually, Sunday afternoon is when I begin my Friday post. So because my time this week is dedicated to studying in preparation for the message this Sunday, the following is a throwback from July 28, 2021. That was back when these posts were sent via e-mail on Wednesdays and came with a title. This one was titled Writer's Block, Writing "Books", Meaningful Contributions, and Habakkuk. It’s been edited slightly, in that I was in the midst of a preaching series through the Minor Prophets at the time. The part about Habakkuk, which remains one of my favorite books in the Bible but which is not the focus of this Sunday’s message, has therefore been deleted. Enjoy, dear Grace.
I started this e-mail yesterday. I also re-started it yesterday, and I re-started it again this morning. Writer’s block stinks! And then suddenly, by God’s grace, I remember something my pastor once said that I’ll never forget. Of course, it’s related to writing.
I was saved and baptized and discipled under the ministry of Pastor Carmon Hartsfield. Seriously, I love Pastor Hartsfield like a dad. Of the many people who have invested in my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, no one has had the impact on my spiritual growth like he has had. He is retired and living in Virginia now, and to my shame I don’t call him enough. But there is rarely a day that I don’t think about him or about something he taught me.
Many years ago, I remember asking Pastor Hartsfield what he would like to do after he retired from preaching. He said he would perhaps like to write a book. Well, any book that Pastor Hartsfield writes is a book I would want to read. So years later, I asked him when he was going to write his book. It was then that Pastor Hartsfield placed his hand on my chest and said these words to me – “You’re my book.” (I can hardly write these words without being moved to tears remembering them.)
The Apostle Paul wrote something similar to the Corinthian church – “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NIV). Let me run with this imagery for a moment. Every day, Church, you are contributing to “letters” and “books” around you. They come in the form of spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, neighbors, co-workers, employees, students, strangers – the list could go on – who are carrying on their hearts a sentence, a page, a chapter, or more that reflects your influence for Christ on their lives. Here is the question I ask you to consider today – Has your contribution to these “books” been meaningful? Oh, Father in heaven, may we make every encounter with others be meaningful for the sake of the gospel! May people see in us our commitment to Christ and our love for others, and may the pages we contribute to their lives count for eternity!
Now I think it’s time I give Pastor Hartsfield a call. I need to thank him (again) for his investment in me.
As a reminder, please mark your calendar for Sunday, May 7 for our all-church picnic at Driessen Beach Park, followed by a baptism service in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The time will be confirmed later. Among the best days of the year are the two Sundays that we host the picnic and baptism service. I hope you will come. If you do, you will be blessed. Oh, and if you would like to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism or if you would like to know more about what baptism is all about, please call the church office or see Matthew or me. We would love to speak with you.
May God bless you in a special way this week, dear Church. You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Deep and meaningful conversations with my dad are impossible anymore, but we still talk. It’s just that the interaction between us now is in the immediate. That means we talk about what’s right in front of us – the weather, the food, the church service that just ended, the phone call he just received. Hmm … those phone calls! Only two people call my dad now. One is my brother, Allen, who lives in Florida. Allen is faithful to call at least once a week to hear my dad’s voice and to assess for himself how my dad is doing. My dad doesn’t do a lot of the talking on his end, but he does laugh and he tries to chime in every now and then. Despite already knowing the answer, at the conclusion of the call I always ask my dad from whom he heard. He will think a moment, chuckle, and say, “The guy from down there.” Down there is Florida. The guy is my brother – my dad’s son. He regularly forgets Allen’s name, which saddens me.
Several months ago, I was seated at the kitchen table with my dad. He was eating his dinner, and I was there just to be close to him. No real back-and-forth was happening between us at that moment, so it surprised me when he asked a question. It was a doozy of a question, too, and one he just blurted out. Even now – so many months later – the question evokes deep well of emotion in me as I think about it. “Have you heard from Chuck lately?” he asked. I was able to squeeze out a response, something like, “No, but I’m sure he’s doing really well right now,” before turning my head away from my dad and choking back tears. For those of you who are new to this space, my parents had three sons – Stephen, Charles (whom we called Chuck), and Allen. We were a close family, and Chuck, Allen, and I were very close as brothers. Unfortunately, Chuck passed away in August 2015 after a three-year battle with brain cancer. Until that day at the kitchen table, my dad hadn’t mentioned Chuck’s name in a long time. His question overwhelmed me with heaviness – partly because of the reminder that Chuck was gone, and partly because of the realization that my dad’s loss of memory was worse than I knew. Eventually, I was able to excuse myself from the table and recover. It took some time, though.
Think back with me now to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Think about those who loved Him … those who watched Him die. Think about the seeming finality of it all. On three separate occasions Jesus told His disciples that He would be beaten, killed, and raised from the dead, yet the disciples “understood none of these things” (Luke 18:34a NKJV). And then it happened. Jesus was arrested. He was tried. He was scourged. He was crucified. He was buried. And His followers all thought it was over. That “raised from the dead” part? They didn’t get it! Oh, but – glory be to God – on the third day they found Jesus’ tomb to be empty! Hallelujah!
Now think back to my dad’s question – “Have you heard from Chuck lately?” Of course I haven’t! Chuck died seven-and-a-half years ago! But just for a moment, apply my dad’s question to Jesus. Imagine, after Jesus’ death on the cross, asking the question, “Have you heard from Jesus lately?” And imagine the responses you would receive from …
- Mary Magdelene (days after Jesus’ death) – “Yes, I spoke to Him at the tomb! I thought He was the gardener, but He called me by name. I then recognized Him. It was definitely Jesus!”
- Cleopas and another man (days after Jesus’ death) – “Yes, we spoke to Him as we walked along the road to Emmaus! We didn’t recognize Him at first, and we told Him about all of the events that took place in Jerusalem over the past several days. He then explained the words of Moses and the Prophets to us. Eventually, our eyes were opened and we recognized Him. It was Jesus!”
- Ten of His disciples (days after Jesus’ death) – “Yes, we were hiding behind a locked door when Jesus entered! We were afraid, but He breathed peace on us. He even ate with us, and He opened our understanding of the Scriptures!”
- Doubting Thomas (over a week after Jesus’ death) – “Yes, I saw Jesus! He knew I didn’t believe He had resurrected from the dead, so He invited me to touch the holes in His hands and place my hand in His side. Jesus – my Lord and my God – is alive!”
- The Apostle Peter (over a week after Jesus’ death) – “Yes, Jesus spoke to me on the shore at the Sea of Tiberias! He asked me three times if I loved Him. And He told me to follow Him. Me! Jesus wants me – the one who denied Him three times – to keep following Him! I feel restored, and I’m blown away by His grace!”
- The Apostle Paul (years after Jesus’ death) – “Yes, Jesus met me as I was on the road to Damascus! He spoke to me, and He changed my life! I went from persecuting the church to planting churches! Believe it – Jesus lives!”
- The Apostle John (approximately 60 years after Jesus’ death) – “Yes, I heard from Jesus the other day and put what I heard into writing. He said He is the Beginning and the End. He explained what we should be looking for as we await His return, and He explained what happens after that. Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
Count ‘em, Grace. That’s sixteen testimonies from people who saw Jesus after His death on the cross. Sixteen testimonies from people who spoke to Him after His body was placed in the tomb. Sixteen testimonies from people who know for certain He rose from the dead. And there are more testimonies from hundreds of others who saw Jesus – others who spoke to Him! Jesus is risen! He is alive today! Prior to His death, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2b–3 NKJV). What a promise! And because of this promise, there will be a day a million years from now when someone will ask me, “Have you heard from Chuck lately?” And I’ll be able to say, “Yes, I have. As a matter of fact, he lives in the mansion right around the corner. Let me introduce you to him.” Thank You, Lord!
Don’t forget the Sunrise Service at Driessen Beach at 6:30 on Easter morning. This will be a service that is shared between Grace Community Church and Hilton Head Presbyterian Church. I hope you can come. Oh, and be sure to invite someone to one of our Easter services here on Sunday at 9 and 11 AM. We anticipate a good turnout as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and His victory over death. I look forward to seeing you there.
You may know two things for certain, dear Grace. First, Jesus is risen! And second, you are so deeply loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
I love to read. Yes, I have shared that with you before. But have you ever read something that you just couldn’t keep to yourself? Have you ever read something you just HAD to share with a friend? Perhaps it was a new insight into a previously misunderstood passage of Scripture … or an interesting take on a topic of importance to you from the latest book you are reading … or ground-breaking information from a news article … or maybe even a deep and meaningful thought from the latest post by your favorite blogger or Associate Pastor. (Haha! Just kidding on that last one!)
As you may know, Blair and I are leading a Life Group for married couples. Our study is from the Kingdom Marriage video series by Dr. Tony Evans. Several months ago, Blair and I started reading the book Kingdom Marriage – also by Tony Evans and upon which the video series is based – in preparation for our Life Group. We read several pages a night and discuss it together. As a matter of fact, this is something we have done since the start of our marriage – reading a devotional or a marriage-focused book before going to bed. As an aside, Blair will often fall asleep as I read. She says my voice puts her to sleep. (Wow! Not exactly the words any preacher wants to hear!)
One evening about six weeks or so ago, I was reading to Blair and came across an illustration that will forever stick with me. It’s one I have never heard before, but it excited me so much that I have already shared it with several people. I still can’t get it out of my mind, so I’m sharing it with you this week. Before I proceed, let me emphasize this illustration is not mine. While I am telling it in my own words and making it my own here, Tony Evans deserves full credit for it. Also, while the illustration is applied to marriage in the book, it applies universally to all relationships between believers. So here you go: When I was a kid, I loved mustard. It was my condiment of choice. If I was eating a hamburger, I wanted mustard on it. Lots of mustard. Bologna and cheese sandwich? Mustard. Ham sandwich? Chicken sandwich? Tuna fish sandwich? Mustard. Mustard. And, yes, I even wanted mustard on my tuna fish sandwich. It’s funny how tastes change as you get older. Don’t get me wrong – I still like mustard, but on many of my sandwiches today, I prefer mayonnaise. But only when I read this illustration in Kingdom Marriage did I ever think about the ingredients of mayonnaise and how it is made. As a matter of fact, while my practice has been to pick up a jar of Hellman’s or Miracle Whip at the grocery store, I have learned how easy it is to make homemade mayo with a few simple ingredients. Two of the ingredients are oil and vinegar. As you know, oil and vinegar do not play nice with one another. They just don’t mix together. Because of this, an emulsifier is needed. An emulsifier is something that brings two things (like oil and vinegar) together and that keeps them from separating. In the case of mayo, the emulsifier is a raw egg. Oil likes eggs. Vinegar also likes eggs. Because both like eggs, oil and vinegar like one another when an egg (the emulsifier) is added.
The Bible says we are “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). What’s interesting about that phraseology is the implication that we already have unity in the body of Christ. Whether it is in marriage or in working relationships or in the church – we already have unity. Our responsibility is simply to keep that unity. But the truth is this – that can sometimes be hard. Each of us has a personality that differs from others. Each of us has lived through experiences that left scars. And, to be honest, sometimes we just don’t mix well with others – kind of like oil and vinegar. But here’s the point of this week’s post, dear Grace – As Christians, the Holy Spirit lives in us. And the Holy Spirit serves as the emulsifier in every relationship we have with other believers. It is the Holy Spirit that brings us together and gets us through any differences we might have. I love the Holy Spirit. You love the Holy Spirit. Therefore, no matter how different we may be, we love one another because of the emulsifier – the Holy Spirit – in us. Praise Him!
Please pray for all of our Easter events and services, starting with the Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 1 from 11 AM to 1 PM. Please pray for our Director of Children’s Ministries, Charlynn Bonham, as she leads this community outreach. Pray too for every volunteer, visiting family, and child who attend. Pray for good conversations, good connections, and a good (and safe) time for all.
Pray too about whom you can invite to one of our Easter services. We are excited about our Palm Sunday services this Sunday, the Maundy Thursday service at 6:30 PM, the Good Friday service at noon, the Sunrise Service at Driessen Beach at 6:30 AM on Easter morning, and our two Easter services at Grace. We anticipate a great turnout. Please pray that the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection, providing forgiveness of sin and the hope of eternal life, will be heard and received by many over the next week.
I’ll end with the words to a song we used to sing at youth group years ago – “We are one in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord … And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Yes, dear Grace, you truly are loved. Thanks for reading.
Hi, dear Grace!
Packed away in a box in my garage at home is a children’s book of Bible stories. The book is small in size and bright yellow in color. It contains 40 stories from the Bible – twenty from the Old Testament and twenty from the New. The title of the book is My Very Own Bible, and it is intended to be read by (or to) little ones. When Lindsey and Andrew were toddlers, I read to them from this tiny book. They loved the stories of Noah, Moses, David, Naaman, and Jonah, among others of the Old Testament. And they loved the stories of Jesus’ birth, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and Doubting Thomas from the New Testament. But there was one story they loved the most. There was one story they wanted to hear every night. There was one story that made this little book for children a treasured possession in our home. I’m smiling even now as I think of it.
Before I go on, it's important that you know about my reading style. Whenever I read aloud – and especially when I read to children – I read in an animated way. Whether I was reading Pat the Bunny and What’s That? (when they were still nursery age) or Dr. Seuss and Curious George (when they were toddlers) or How To Eat Fried Worms (when they were older elementary students) or The Chronicles of Narnia (when they were young teens), I read in character. What I mean is this – If a character in the book was excited, I read with an excited voice. If a character was sad, I read with a sad voice. If a character whispered, I read in a whisper. And if a character shouted, I read in a very loud voice. And that brings me back to My Very Own Bible and Lindsey and Andrew’s favorite story. Because of their response to this story as I read, it became one of my favorite stories in all of the Bible.
On page 74 of this special book is found a story called “Blind Bartimaeus.” You know how it goes, because Matthew’s message last Sunday was from Mark 10:46–52 – yes, the story of Blind Bartimaeus, who was begging on the side of the road when he heard a crowd of people coming his way. When he heard Jesus was among them, Bartimaeus was so excited he cried out to Him with a loud voice. Do you remember Bartimaeus’ words? “JESUS! SON OF DAVID! HAVE MERCY ON ME!” When the people told Bartimaeus to be quiet, Bartimaeus shouted even louder, “JESUS! SON OF DAVID! HAVE MERCY ON ME!” When Jesus heard Bartimaeus’ cries, he called Bartimaeus to Himself and asked what he wanted. Bartimaeus answered, “Lord, I want to see.” So because of his faith, Jesus healed him.
The story of Blind Bartimaeus is beautiful. But it’s also fun – as in fun to read aloud to two precious children. It really is a good thing I liked this story, because every night I would ask what story Lindsey and Andrew wanted me to read, and every night they gave the same answer. Now remember, they were toddlers. Neither of them were able to pronounce Bartimaeus’ name correctly. But they were able to say the one name they most remembered from the story. And they said it loudly, like I did as I read to them. What was the name? “JESUS!” Yes, dear Grace, at the top of their little lungs my children shouted the name “JESUS!” when I asked what story they wanted to hear each evening, which simply meant they wanted me to turn to page 74 in My Very Own Bible and read the story of the blind beggar who received his sight.
You know, I loved hearing my children call out to me when they were toddling around the house. To hear them call out “Daddy!” was music to my ears. But as I think of them calling out in their high-pitched toddler voices the Name that is above all names – “Jesus!” – well, it still moves me. I mentioned Matthew’s message earlier. Perhaps it is because the story of Blind Bartimaeus is one of my favorites, but I absolutely loved the sermon on Sunday morning. And I really loved this line in particular – “Jesus always has time for those who cry out to Him.” Of course, there is a difference between crying out to Jesus in faith and crying out to hear a favorite story, but still … to hear the Name of Jesus escape the lips of my children when they were so young is a very special memory to me.
I hope you will come tonight as our Worship Team will be here to lead us in an evening of praise and worship. We will praise the Lord together by singing a blend of hymns and contemporary worship songs. This is always a great evening of worship and fellowship. Start time is 7 PM here at the church. Drinks and light refreshments will be provided.
If you are interested in knowing more about the ministry of Grace, please join us on Sunday evening from 6:00–7:30 PM for our Discover Grace Dinner. You will have an opportunity to meet the pastors and staff, as well as several of our elders and deacons. While it doesn’t commit you to membership, this is the first step toward becoming part of the family at Grace Community Church. So that we can plan accordingly for food, please RSVP to the church office or sign up on Sunday morning. We look forward to meeting you there.
Reminder – Please be in prayer all of next week for the Easter Egg Hunt that is scheduled for next Saturday, April 1. Much planning and preparation has gone into this outreach, but we are fully dependent upon the Lord for a successful day of ministry. The fervent prayers of God’s people will go a long way in determining whether this happens. Thank you in advance for lifting the Easter Egg Hunt – as well as every volunteer, every child, and every visiting family – to the Lord in prayer.
How thankful I am for the promise of Scripture, dear Grace! The Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13 KJV). He will never turn His back on you when you call out to Him – no matter your circumstances. Praise the Lord!
Thank you for reading. You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Last weekend my wife traveled to Hillsville, VA, to celebrate her aunt’s 90th birthday with family and friends. Aunt Janette was married to Pastor Elmon Thompson for 69 years before he went to be with the Lord just three years ago this month. While I always miss Blair when she is away, I am happy she had the opportunity to celebrate her aunt’s life and to be with her oldest brother, several cousins, and many others on this occasion.
When Blair is away, I try to redeem the time with my dad and son. My dad really enjoys cornhole, so we spent some time playing last weekend. Or better, hespent time playing last weekend. My role is not as his competitor, but as his gofer. My dad throws all eight beanbags – averaging four bags in the hole each time – and I then retrieve the bags, bring them back to where he is standing, and hand them to him one at a time so that he can throw all eight bags again. Maybe that’s why he loves it so much. Haha! Meanwhile, my son (Andrew) and I watched a few movies that wouldn’t appeal to Blair – i.e., movies not found on the Hallmark channel. And Sunday, after getting my dad settled and ensuring he was taken care of, Andrew and I spent some time at lunch together after church. That lunch is what prompts this week’s post.
So if you think I’m getting ready to bore you with a restaurant recommendation or a menu item selection, that’s not it (although we were very happy with our location and our lunch). Or if you think I’m getting ready to share the details of our deep and probing conversation with one another, that’s not it either (although we did talk about some important things in spite of how loud the music was). Ah, there it is – that mention of the music! Actually, it was a particular song that caught my attention as we sat in our booth enjoying our meal and conversation. That song took me back to a place in my memory from the fall of 1988. I can narrow down the date because I recall my circumstances – married but without children (pre-1991), teaching in a Christian school (pre-1990), and a fan of the Dallas Cowboys (pre-1989, when a new owner purchased the team and fired the greatest coach in the history of the NFL and a strong Christian man). But I digress … let me get back to the song and that place in my memory. Blair and I were invited to a party at the home of some friends. Everyone at this party was associated with the Christian school where Blair and I were teaching at the time. They were teachers, employees (secretary, finance person, etc.), spouses of teachers/employees, and parents of students. All were wonderful Christian people. Blair and I still keep in touch with many of them today, while others are already with the Lord. So what does a group of wonderful Christian people do when they gather together for a party? Well, back in the 1980’s – and I promise I didn’t know this until we arrived – we created our own music videos. Yes, dear Grace, in the basement of this home, our hosts had set up a drum kit and guitars. All were fake – no music could be played on them. Also set up was a videocassette recorder in front of the “stage” where our “instruments” were set up. We each drew a number from 1 to 4, and all those with a matching number became a band. We then had to decide what song we were going to lip-sync to while being recorded on video. Sorry to disappoint you, Grace, but none of these wonderful Christian people chose “Amazing Grace” for their song selection. Ugh! I shudder even now realizing – unless it was destroyed sometime in the past thirty-four-and-a-half years – that there is a VHS tape out there with a recording of Dan on lead guitar and sax, Jamie on bass guitar, Lisa on drums, and yours truly lip-syncing to Huey Lewis and the News’ “Heart of Rock-n-Roll”.
Let me now fast-forward to last Sunday. As Andrew and I were enjoying lunch and talking over the music, what song do you think started blaring over the sound system in this restaurant? Yes, it was “Heart of Rock-n-Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News. I cannot recall when I last heard this song, but you know what? I remembered nearly every line. It was brand new to Andrew, and I told him the story I just shared with you. (Really, Dad? Music videos? How embarrassing!) But what struck me as I remembered back to 1988 and a party and a particular song was this – Music is powerful! And our brains are wired in a way to remember music even after decades have passed! And I like that, because although my mind is filled with a bunch of useless songs from the radio or theme songs from television shows or even jingles from commercials – going back even to the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s – my mind is also filled with the songs I sang so long ago in Children’s Church, songs from Vacation Bible School, songs from youth retreats, and songs from the worship service at Landover Hills Baptist Church where I was saved as a boy. They make me smile even when life gets hard. And that’s the message of today’s post.
The Bible says, “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18b–19 NKJV). These verses identify three evidences of the Spirit-filled life – all of which center on music. “Speaking to one another” is in the sense of communicating or encouraging one another. How? With God-centered music (psalms, hymns, and “spiritual” or worship songs). “Singing” is not just about singing any old song, but rather those “songs, hymns, and spiritual songs” that were just mentioned. And “making melody in your heart” is indicative of the joyful expression that such music brings. Yes, music is powerful. It uplifts the spirit and brings joy to the heart. So sing loud on Sunday morning during the worship set, dear Grace! Let your voice and your joy fill the sanctuary this week! Not only will you be blessed, but all who hear you will be blessed, as well. Praise the Lord!
Speaking of songs, hymns, and worship songs, Seth and the Worship Team will be here next Friday (March 24) at 7 PM for a night of singing, special music, and more. Drinks and light refreshments will be served. I hope you can join us.
Of course, there is so much more happening. The church calendar is full. Please check the Grace Weeklye-newsletter for details on all of it.
Funny, but as I wrap this up I’m no longer thinking of the words to “Heart of Rock-n-Roll”. Instead, I’m thinking of a song that was written by Matt Redman in the late 1990’s. The words go like this – “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You. It’s all about You, Jesus.” Amen.
You are so loved, dear Grace.
Hi, dear, Grace!
On March 10, 1876 – yes, that is 147 years ago today – the first-ever telephone call was placed. Alexander Graham Bell, sitting in his laboratory, placed a call to Thomas Watson, who was sitting in an adjacent room. Bell’s words to Watson? “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Watson then walked to the laboratory from where Bell placed the call. Bell’s telephone invention had worked!
Phones have come a long way since 1876. There was the old upright telephone (also called the “candlestick” telephone), the hand-crank telephone, the rotary telephone, the touch-tone telephone, the cordless telephone, the cell phone, the flip phone, and now the smart phone. Whew! That’s quite an evolution of the telephone! Today more than ever, it’s easy to reach someone simply by placing a call. Why? Because while a phone may have been a luxury as recently as 60 years ago – when nearly half of all families in South Carolina had no phone available to them at all – it is now a necessity today. In 2023, it seems everyone has a phone in their pocket. As a result, anyone and everyone is within our reach – as long as we have their number, of course. And God forbid we lose our phone. Panic sets in … we are shut off from the world! Oh, no! But consider, dear Grace, this question – If we were ever to be shut off from the Lord – if the privilege of prayer were ever to be taken away – would panic set in? If our access to the Lord were to be severed, would it change us the way a missing phone changes us?
The Bible says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Prayer – unceasing prayer – is a command. Are we being obedient in this? I have a picture in my head of what it means to pray without ceasing. This “picture in my head” is actually a memory of my son, Andrew. He was perhaps six years old at the time. I arrived home from work and walked in the door, only to find my son seated on a beanbag chair in front of the television. He had our TV hooked up to a video game console, and he was playing a game – probably Mario Kart or something similar. He had no idea I had come in. He was completely focused on what he was doing. So what’s this got to do with praying without ceasing? Nothing yet, but I’m getting to it. At first glance, it appeared Andrew had a toothache or some type of injury to his jaw. Then I looked more closely, at which time I saw that my dear son had tied one of my tube socks around his head. Surprisingly, an antenna appeared to be sticking out of the sock. I finally realized what was going on – The sock that was tied around Andrew’s head was holding a cordless telephone to his ear. As he was playing a video game, he was talking to his best friend, Alex. Since he wanted to play his game and speak to Alex at the same time, he created his own version of a “hands-free” device by fastening our phone to his ear with my sock!
I want my prayer life to be just like that phone tied to my son’s head, dear Church. Whether I’m at the office or at home – whether I’m working hard or resting easy – whether I’m reading a book or watching the birds – I want an open line of communication with the Lord. In all things and at all times, I want to have an attitude of prayer. In a moment when something good happens, I immediately want to praise the Lord. In a moment of selfishness, I immediately want to confess it to the Lord. In a moment of worry for a sick friend, I immediately want to bring that friend and his/her situation before the Lord. As I’m going about life from day to day, I want to be always conversing with the One Whose ears are always open to our prayers (1 Peter 3:12). Oh, but please don’t think this is a one-way conversation, Grace. I also want my ears to be always open to what the Lord has to say to me through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in me. Whether I am praying for blessing over my family or the salvation of a loved one or the healing of a friend or the needs of others or the ministries of the church, at the same time I want to pray the words of 1 Samuel 3:9–10 – “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (NIV). Yes, Lord, speak … and have Your way in me.
BIG reminder – It’s “Spring Forward” time. Be sure to set your clocks ahead one hour before going to bed this Saturday night.
Quick reminder – If you volunteered to fill Easter eggs, please remember to return the filled eggs to the Children’s Ministry table by Sunday, March 26.
New reminder – Ladies, save the date for the Women’s Spring Luncheon on Saturday, April 29 from 11:30 AM – 2 PM. More information will be forthcoming. Stay tuned.
Finally, I’ll end this post with a quote on prayer by C. S. Lewis – “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
You are so loved (and prayed for), dear Church.
Hi, dear Grace!
I was framed! It was a set-up! You can’t pin this on me! I am not a crook! Innocent, I tell you! Besides, I was just a kid!
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m thinking back to an incident that occurred years ago. I was perhaps 10 years old, although I could have been younger. (I sure hope I wasn’t older. If so, my plea of innocence might not even convince me.) As I have shared in this space previously, vacations when I was a kid were to the family reunion or to the home of relatives. On this particular occasion, my parents took us to the Garden State for a visit with my uncle, aunt, and cousin. While there, I recall going to the grocery store with my brother and cousin. An adult was with us, although which adult it was I do not recall. It really doesn’t matter, except that he or she should have been paying a lot closer attention to what we youngsters were doing. Near the produce section of this grocery store was a large barrel full of peanuts. I paid the peanuts no mind until my cousin walked over and grabbed a handful, shelled them, and started popping them into her mouth. My brother took my cousin’s lead and did the same. “Hey! You can’t do that!” I said incredulously. “That’s stealing!” My cousin’s response was completely calm, as if it was no big deal. “It’s okay to eat a few,” she said. “It’s a courtesy sample.” Well, even as a kid I knew what the word “courtesy” meant – kind, polite, considerate. But I had never heard the word used in this context. The gray matter in my head did some deductive reasoning and concluded the word “courtesy” must have a second definition, and that definition is free! I grabbed a handful of my own, enjoyed some free peanuts, and wondered why the grocery stores in the Great State of Maryland weren’t as “courteous” as the stores in New Jersey. Unfortunately, I snapped back to reality very quickly when my cousin quietly yet sternly scolded me by saying, “What are you doing? Don’t let anyone SEEyou!” My eyes went wide, and visions of prison danced in my head. Apparently, courtesy samples weren’t offered freely; they were taken in secret! Ugh! Yes, dear Grace, I – the apple pie-faced rule-follower who would grow to become an enforcer of the law and a minister of the gospel as an adult – turned into a shoplifter that day.
I like that word “courtesy”. Although it doesn’t appear in the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23, it’s a word that should be lived out in the life of every believer. The Apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil” (1 Peter 3:8–9a NKJV). The Greek word translated “courteous” in this verse is related to the Greek words that are translated humble and lowly elsewhere in Scripture. Hmmm … courteous, humble, lowly. The idea is of putting others before self. The Bible says a lot about this concept – nowhere more directly than in Philippians 2:3, where the Apostle Paul writes, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (NKJV). Two verses later, Paul writes, “Let this mind …” – the mind of verse 3, that lowliness of mind that esteems others better than self – “… be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 NKJV). Imagine with me, Church, the impact we might have on our community if we were to truly live this way – thinking of others before ourselves in every situation. Wow! Oh, dear Father in heaven, may my pride and selfishness be stripped away. May the needs of others be more important than my own. Transform my mind into the mind of Christ, and may the heart of Jesus be lived out in me. And to You, and only You, be all of the honor and the glory. Amen.
Starting this Sunday, Children’s Church will be offered for children in Kindergarten to 5th grade during the 9 AM service. Thank you to those who have volunteered to serve for this purpose during the early service. Unfortunately, more teachers and helpers are needed before we can offer a nursery or a program for toddlers at 9 AM. As a matter of fact, you may not know it takes two teachers in each classroom every week for a nursery and a toddler class to happen. That means we need an additional 16–20 people (depending on the number of Sundays in a particular month) who are willing to love on children and pour into their lives by teaching them the truths of Scripture. This is a service opportunity, and I encourage you to pray about how God might use you in this area. Of course, all children’s programs will remain available during the 11 AM service.
Also, our Annual Easter Egg Hunt is fast approaching. The date is Saturday, April 1 from 11 AM – 1 PM. This is a huge community outreach, and we are excited about the day. Please be in prayer for a successful day of ministry. We are still in need of people to help in the following areas: hiding Easter eggs, helping with set-up, and manning the cupcake table and the Bible giveaway booth. Please stop by the Children’s Ministry table on Sunday to sign up to serve or to have any questions answered.
Despite dipping my toe into the waters of criminal activity so many years ago, by God’s grace I was able to avoid becoming a juvenile delinquent in my youth. And it will be by His grace, too, that I become better each day at putting the needs of others – my wife, my dad, my children, my neighbors, the staff, my church family, and even the driver who cut me off this morning – before my own. Surely, it will take a wonderful work of the Spirit to make this happen. Do Your work, Lord, in me and in all of us.
Thanks for reading, Church. You are so deeply loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
First, let me thank all of you for your very kind welcome on Sunday. After ten weeks away, it sure was good to be back and to see so many of you. What a blessing you are to me and my family!
Fifty-four years ago next month, Frank Sinatra released a song that included the following lyrics – “Regrets … I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.” The song is called “My Way”. It’s not exactly the anthem of the Christian life. Rather, the words of the song reflect a man giving himself a pat on the back for getting through life successfully by doing things his own way. So why do I begin this week’s post with these lyrics? Because regrets have been on my mind a lot recently. Let me explain.
During my recent leave, I was talking to someone about stressors and responsibilities and the strong desire to be right in my decision-making. After listening to the stream of consciousness that was spilling out of me, this person responded, “Instead of looking at all of this from where you sit now, work ahead in your mind to twenty or thirty years down the road.” He then challenged me with this question: “What regrets do you not want to have in twenty to thirty years?”
Obviously, our conversation centered on my current situation as a caregiver to an aging parent and how that situation affects me now and into the future. It’s been many weeks – perhaps even months – since this conversation took place, yet I cannot escape his question to me. Yes, I have thought much about the question in light of my circumstances at the moment. But the question doesn’t simply apply to my dad’s care; it applies to every area of my life. I have considered this question as it relates to my marriage, to my children, to my health, to the ministry. It has caused me to evaluate my priorities, to reconsider some expectations I have of myself, and to reaffirm God’s call on my life. Perhaps the question will be helpful to you as you deal with your own circumstances. Just know answers may not be easy to come by initially.
About regrets, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NASB). In a previous letter, Paul had confronted his readers with a sin issue. Their response? Godly sorrow, which produced a repentance that results in salvation and comes with no regret whatsoever. In contrast, worldly sorry leads to longstanding guilt, shame, and even death. Thanks be to God, who is a forgiver of sins when godly sorrow and true repentance take place. In Him is no regret. Praise the Lord!
Don’t forget the conversational evangelism class that will take place after the second service this Sunday. The purpose of the class is to provide you with tools to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others in a non-threatening way. Thanks to David Spahr and Dave Homiak for leading this effort. Lunch and child care are provided.
Also this Sunday after the second service, there will be a meeting for those who are interested in going to Kenya for a short-term missions trip in November of this year. Questions will be answered, and an itinerary will be provided. Again, lunch and child care are provided.
Thank you for reading, dear Grace. As we ponder our answers to the above question about regrets, may we seek to be faithful to the Lord in each moment. To Him be the glory.
You are so, so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Did you miss me? Haha! I returned to the office on Monday (February 13), and it sure is good to be back! Thanks so much for your prayers, calls, cards, texts, words of encouragement, meals … the list could go on! I am returning much healthier than when I left, and your support over the past ten weeks is a big reason why. I’ll talk more about my leave at a later time, but something else is on my mind today. Read on for more.
While I was away, I missed celebrating and/or recognizing some pretty big events with you. There were birthdays (my dad, my own, my Savior 😊, my pastor, my wife, and many others), holidays (Christmas, New Year’s Day, MLK Day), weddings (Christina, Alli), disasters (earthquakes, mass shootings, and weather-related events), and some sad remembrances (the anniversary of my mom’s death being the biggest for me). There was also plenty of news in sports (the College Football Playoffs, the Super Bowl, my introduction to pickleball) and some news on the injury front (sadly related to the aforementioned introduction to pickleball). But since I arrived back to the office on Monday, I didn’t miss Valentine’s Day. For the sake of your marriage, husbands, I sure hope you didn’t miss Valentine’s Day either! Anyway, Valentine’s Day – rather, a particular Valentine’s Day gift – is the subject of today’s post.
Thirty-six years ago on Valentine’s Day – that would be February 14, 1987 – I was teaching 4th grade at a Christian school while Blair was finishing up her Bachelor’s degree and waitressing part-time. We were living in a small mobile home, totally poor, and happy as could be. Oh, and we were also celebrating our first married Valentine’s Day. Now before I continue, let me make one thing clear. Up until Valentine’s Day 1987, my gift-giving skills were never in question. Gifts to Blair on her birthday or on special days were never expensive, but they always made her feel loved. Sure is funny how the second most expensive gift I ever gave her up until then – the first most expensive being a modest diamond engagement ring – is the gift I’m still reminded of way too often as the worst Valentine’s Day gift ever. As you continue reading, dear Grace, please extend me plenty of grace and understanding.
As I shared, Blair and I had very little in our first year of marriage. Even so, we were really happy and loved being married. It was important to me to make that first Valentine’s Day a special one. However, I also wanted to be practical, since we were in no position to waste money. This was back when I tried to pay for everything in cash. Any time I received a dime in change, I would put it in a jar. Over time, those dimes added up to enough money to go out on a dinner date. They would have added up more quickly if I had saved all of the quarters, nickels, and pennies with the dimes, but we needed those coins in order to meet our budget. Anyway, that year I decided to couple a special gift with a practical gift. (At the time, it seemed like a good idea.) So what gift did I come up with to present to my dear wife on Valentine’s Day? I’m embarrassed to type these next words … It was a vacuum cleaner! Yes, Church, for my first married Valentine’s Day I bought my beautiful, sweet, loving Valentine a vacuum cleaner! My expectation of hugs, kisses, and a debt of gratitude was immediately dashed to smithereens. Instead, I was greeted with hurt and deep disappointment. Instead of appreciating me for my practicality, Blair interpreted a vacuum cleaner as a criticism of her housekeeping skills. To be clear, that was absolutely NOT my intention. Needless to say, the day did not end with hugs and kisses for me. On a positive note, however, I got the “dud” gift out of the way early in our marriage. There was no place to go but up from there.
Speaking of gifts, the Bible says, “… the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b KJV). Surely, there is no greater gift, and this is the message we boldly proclaim through the preaching and teaching ministry at Grace Community Church. But it’s a message you can also share with others through your faithful testimony and witness. If you are unsure about how to share your faith, I encourage you to attend a class on conversational evangelism that is being offered by Dave Homiak and David Spahr over the next two Sundays immediately following the second service. In this class you will learn how to share your faith – not in a confrontational way, but in a non-threatening, relational way. Lunch will be provided. Please know this, dear Church – God can use YOU to reach others with the gospel message. Perhaps this class will give you the tools you need to win a loved one to Christ. What a joy it would be to celebrate such an occasion with you!
Thank you for reading. I have missed you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday morning as we gather for worship.
You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Last Sunday (November 27) would have been the 100th birthday of Blair’s mom. She has been gone for over five years now, but she left a lasting legacy.
Mae Montgomery Sweeney was raised on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her six siblings during the Great Depression. Her dad built a church by the creek on their property so that neighbors could gather once a month when the circuit pastor arrived for the Baptist worship service. Mae was the first Montgomery in her family to earn a high school diploma, after which she left the farm to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigations in Washington, DC. There, she met a handsome guy named Jim Sweeney, and she and Jim were married on August 20, 1949. (As an aside, I have been wearing his wedding ring for 36 years. In it is inscribed “JS to MM 8-20-1949.”) May and Jim had four children, my wife being the youngest. Sadly, Jim died prior to their 29thwedding anniversary. Blair was only 17 years old then. Mae remained a widow for the rest of her life.
When she died, I was blessed to be asked to preach at Mae’s funeral service. So I reached out to her eleven grandchildren and asked them for one word to describe their grandmother. All of them responded, and every word they shared was related to strength. Mae was a strong lady, and her grandchildren recognized it. After sharing each grandchild’s word to describe their grandmother, I then shared my own word and preached a message out of Romans chapter 5. The Bible says, “… we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3–5 KJV). That word “patience” is better translated “perseverance.” Think about it – The Bible says “tribulation worketh perseverance.” Mae experienced much tribulation in her life. It was not an easy life growing up on a farm in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. It wasn’t easy to leave home as a young adult to find her way in the world. It wasn’t easy to be a widow for so many years. And yet she persevered!
Perseverance is one of my favorite words in all of the Bible. As believers, God is calling us to be faithful in the moment and persevere through the tribulation and trials of life. Mae is an example of that to me. I want to be better at it, and by God’s grace I shall. As I step away from the ministry for just a little while, thank you for your prayers for me and my family. I hope to return healthier and better prepared to serve you, dear Church. Please pray to that end.
Keep watching this space, as Stacey will be scheduling guest writers to share with you in my absence. If you are interested in contributing to my Friday post while I’m gone, please contact Stacey directly. Also, midweek prayer on Wednesdays will continue to happen. Thanks to David Spahr, David Houck, and Seth Shirley for their commitment to our weekly prayer service.
I love you, Grace. You are a blessing to me and my family. May God bless you with a wonderful Christmas season.
Hi, dear Grace!
It was almost two weeks ago that I preached a Thanksgiving message using Psalm 136:1 as our theme. At the conclusion of the service, we read the entire Psalm – all 26 verses – together as a responsive reading. I then challenged you to write your own Psalm 136 – your own psalm of thanksgiving – and share it with someone. Here’s mine. I am blessed to share it with you today.
Pastor Steve’s Psalm 136
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
In the beginning He already was.
His love endures forever.
And even then He already loved me.
His love endures forever.
He loved me even in my sin.
His love endures forever.
And even when I was still in my sin, God sent His Son to die for me.
His love endures forever.
He blessed me with incredible parents –
His love endures forever.
a Marine for a dad and a Mama Bear for a mom –
His love endures forever.
who nurtured me, disciplined me, and taught me right from wrong.
His love endures forever.
He blessed me with two awesome brothers –
His love endures forever.
and memories of a wonderful childhood.
His love endures forever.
He saved me through the ministry of Pastor Carmon Hartsfield and Landover Hills Baptist Church –
His love endures forever.
where my family grew in faith, grew in grace, and grew in the knowledge of God and His Word.
His love endures forever.
Through my family, through the church, through my Christian school, and through Bible college –
His love endures forever.
through sports, through friends, and through life –
His love endures forever.
godly men poured into me.
His love endures forever.
By God’s grace, their investment prepared me for adulthood, for marriage, for parenthood, for work, for ministry, and for now,
His love endures forever.
By His grace, God prepared me even for loss.
His love endures forever.
Yet by His grace, I will see my mom again – and my brother and others.
His love endures forever.
God blessed me with the perfect wife –
His love endures forever.
a true help meet, and truly the better half of me.
His love endures forever.
He blessed me with two amazing children.
His love endures forever.
My love for them has taught me how much the Lord must love me.
His love endures forever.
He allowed me to work what I thought was my dream job for 25 years –
His love endures forever.
and watched over me in some really dicey situations.
His love endures forever.
He called me to what I have learned is my dream job –
His love endures forever.
to you, dear Grace –
His love endures forever.
with a pastor I love, a staff I adore, and a people I am humbled to serve.
His love endures forever.
By His grace, my cup overflows with blessing.
His love endures forever.
Because of His grace, my heart overflows with thanksgiving.
His love endures forever.
To Him be the glory forever.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.
Sunday begins our Advent season, and Christmas is around the corner. There is much happening at Grace through the month of December. Take advantage of it all, if you can. You will be blessed if you do.
I pray you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Church. There really is so much for which to be thankful. May God bless you today and all through the Christmas season.
I love you.
Hi, dear Grace!
Next to the desk in my office is a corkboard on the wall. On that corkboard is my calendar. It sure is packed with meetings, events, plans, and opportunities. Looking at it makes me feel busy. There are checklists, reminders, appointment notices, a newsletter, and a Building 4 Impact update on that board, as well. Hmmm … nothing fun yet. Ah, but then there are things that bring a smile to my face. There’s a paper tie, decorated in bright crayon colors, stickers, and gems. It was gifted to me by Naomi on Father’s Day this year. What a blessing to me! I smile when I see it. There’s a painted drawing by Charlie, coloring pages from Asher and Emelia, and crafts and cards from other children of Grace. All are precious to me. I’m smiling again. Oh, there’s a small, square card with a mustard seed glued to it and the words, “Sow the seeds of the Gospel wherever you go.” Verses out of the Gospel of Mark from the parable of the mustard seed are highlighted on that card. I was humbled by the dear lady of Grace who gave it to me. More smiles here. And then there is a card with a quote by Andy Rooney. You remember Andy Rooney, right? He served for 33 years as a commentator on the CBS news program 60 Minutes. The card is from my wife and says this, “No one is perfect … until you fall in love with them.” Big, big smile now.
I’m not perfect. I think I made that clear last week. But I’m glad to know my wife thinks I am. Regarding perfection, the Bible says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience …” - the NIV uses the word perseverance – “… have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4 NKJV). Think about that, Church. Trials in my life are for the purpose of testing my faith. The testing of my faith produces perseverance. The result of perseverance is a stronger faith that leads to “perfection” (which is better interpreted as maturity in Christ). I want that! But very often, I don’t want the trials that test my faith that produces the perseverance that leads to the maturity I so desire. I just want maturity, holiness, and perfection to happen without the trials. Surely, I’m not alone in this. But here’s the analogy I often use – The guy who wakes up one day and decides he wants to be the next Michael Jordan doesn’t go to the gym once, shoot a few baskets, and turn into Jordan overnight. It takes years of hard work – years of missing shots – years of getting knocked down and getting back up again for another go at it. And just like we can be thankful IN all circumstances, we can have joy in times of trial. God is still doing a perfect work in all of us, Grace. Praise Him!
Today, a wonderful group of Grace people gathered at the church to load our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes into vans, trucks, and SUV’s and transported them to the Island drop-off center. The final number is in. I’ll share it with you on Sunday. Stay tuned.
As a reminder, I challenged you last Sunday to write your own Psalm 136. This will be your psalm of thanksgiving to the Lord. When you are done, please share it with someone. I’ll share mine with you next week.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! There is much for which to be thankful. I surely thank God for you, dear Grace. You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
I’m drawing from my basketball archives for this one. Thirty-nine years ago this month – can it really be? – I was a junior at Washington Bible College and playing forward for the men’s basketball team. We had traveled to Clarks Summit, PA, as we did every year to play in a pre-season tournament hosted by Baptist Bible College. Eight teams participated in that tournament, to include Lancaster (PA) Bible College, Philadelphia (PA) College of the Bible, Valley Forge (PA) Christian College, Circleville (OH) Bible College, Cincinnati (OH) Bible College, and Fort Wayne (IN) Bible College. We won our first-round game handily and landed in the winner’s bracket. Unfortunately, we lost in the second round to Baptist. Neither game is consequential to this post, however. It’s that third game – the consolation game – and, more specifically, the end of regulation, that I draw your attention to. Our opponent? Fort Wayne. The score? I don’t recall, but the game was tied. Time left in the game? 00:03. (That’s three seconds to anyone unfamiliar with a game clock.) Situation? Timeout. Our possession. Coach is drawing up the play in the huddle. Feeling among the team? Total confidence. The result? Keep reading, dear Grace. I’ll get to that.
We were taking the ball in from the sideline on the other side of half court right in front of Fort Wayne’s bench. Tim Fowler was throwing in the ball. I was at the left elbow at the top of the key. Fort Wayne was playing a man-to-man defense (as they should have). As I recall, my guy was between me and the basket. When the referee blew the whistle and gave Tim the ball, my defender surely thought I was heading toward the low post to set a pick. Big mistake, since the play was designed to go to me. I posted the guy up right there at the top of the key. Tim fired a perfect pass, which I stepped toward to retrieve. When it hit my hands, I heard my defender say, “Oh, no!” At about 19 feet from the basket, I took one dribble with my back still to the player guarding me before lofting a turnaround jump shot over the guy’s outstretched arm. The natural fadeaway turned a 19-foot jump shot into a 22-foot jump shot, which would have been beyond the 3-point line had I played today. (Yes, kids, I played my college ball when there was no 3-point line.) I felt so good when that ball left my fingertips. It was a buzzer-beater for the win … until it wasn’t. The ball clanged off the back of the rim, and we ended up losing that game in overtime.
You know, I don’t often think about the shots I made. There were some big ones, for sure. But the shots that come to mind most often – the ones that haunt me – are the shots I didn’t make. I don’t recall ever taking a shot that I knew I would miss. That’s because I expected to make every shot I took. But the truth is, the average NBA player misses more shots than he makes. As a matter of fact, the average shooting percentage in the NBA last year was 46%. Does that surprise you? Worse than that is the average batting average for a Major League Baseball player. To be considered an exceptional batter in the MLB, a player will record an out seven times in 10 plate appearances. Think about that! A player to whom teams are willing to pay millions of dollars per year only has to get three hits in every 10 at-bats!
I hate failure. I hate not living up to my end of the bargain. I hate letting people down. I let my team down by missing that shot against Fort Wayne, but it only motivated me to get better. And yet here’s the thing – Even though I got better, I still missed plenty of big shots in my collegiate basketball career. And I still miss plenty of shots today, too. No, I’m not talking about missing shots on a basketball court anymore, but in so many other areas of life. This may surprise you, dear Church, but I continue to “miss shots” … continue to fail … continue to let people down every day. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to the Lord so much … why I need Him so deeply … why I long for Him to have His way in me. I absolutely love the verse that says, “My flesh and my heart may fail …” – along with my jump shot, my support, my promise, my plans, my (fill in the blank here) – “… but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26 ESV). Yes, I will fail to meet my own expectations of me. Sorry to say, but I may even fail you and your expectations from time to time. But please read these next words slowly – GOD – WILL – NEVER – FAIL – YOU. Praise Him, dear Grace, and press into Him! May He be our strength and may He be enough – loosely, that’s what “our portion” means – forever!
Matthew returns from his final week at the Soul Care Institute today. Please pray for a safe flight home and a wonderful reunion with his family.
This Sunday, we begin a two-week Thanksgiving series. I’m excited to be sharing the message this week. Thanks in advance for your prayers as I put the final touches on the message.
We will also be praying over our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes on Sunday. While the final number won’t be confirmed until the following week, the Steve Salvas goal for OCC is 500shoeboxes. I’m keeping the faith here, Church! Haha! Please bring your boxes with you on Sunday so that we can include them on stage for our time of prayer.
To all of our military veterans, THANK YOU! May God bless you for your service to our nation. And to all of the family of Grace, thanks for reading. You are deeply, deeply loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
For the past 36 years – that’s as long as Blair and I have been married – we have purchased a vehicle based on family need. When we first got married, Blair was driving an old 4-speed Datsun B210, while I was driving a 1981 Chevy Chevette. My Chevette was in pretty good condition, but Blair’s Datsun was on its last legs. We therefore traded it in for a Ford Escort, which was a good first car for the newly married us. It was all we needed, and it was all we could afford. After our daughter came along – but before the birth of our son – we purchased an Escort wagon. It had more room for car seats, play pens, and everything else that comes with having children. Years later, that wagon was traded in for our first minivan … which was later traded in for our second minivan. (As an aside, that second minivan – a 2001 Ford Windstar – became the vehicle Andrew drove back and forth to college. It also limped to Hilton Head Island with us when we moved here. I may talk more about that van in a future post.) Because Blair loved sitting up high and the room that a minivan provided, we later bought her a Toyota Sienna with all the bells and whistles. Blair was in love with it. To her deep chagrin, however, that vehicle was totaled in an accident. (Thank You, Lord, for watching over Blair and Andrew that day.) All of this leads to the vehicle she drives today – another Toyota Sienna, not as nice as the previous one but just as reliable. It’s getting up there in mileage and in age today, but it’s been a good vehicle for the longtime married us. As for me, car-buying has been pretty easy. That ’81 Chevette is a good indicator of what I used to drive back-and-forth to work every day. As a matter of fact, including the Chevette there were a total of only three vehicles for me – all used, all small, all deathtraps, and all driven until they screamed to be put to rest. But in October 2001, things changed. Let me explain.
For the twenty-five years prior to my arrival at Grace, I served as a police officer in Southern Maryland. One of the best days after graduating from the police academy and completing field training is the day a new officer is assigned an Agency vehicle. And one of the best perks of being a police officer is the Agency vehicle take-home policy. Yes, if an officer lived in the jurisdiction where I served, he or she could take their Agency vehicle home, park it in their driveway, use it to run errands in the County while off-duty, and so on. They could even drive their family to church or to school or to a ball game. It was great! The problem? I lived outside of my jurisdiction. I therefore had to go to and from work in my used, small deathtrap that was screaming to be put to rest … that is, until I moved into the County in October 2001. (Cue heavenly choir music here.) Free vehicle. Free gas. Free oil changes. Free repairs. Free insurance. Sure, there are trade-offs. The policy was put into effect to promote more police vehicles on the County roadways. How many times did I make a traffic stop while off duty? Or handle an accident scene? On one occasion I even dropped Blair and our kids off at the public library so that I could respond to an emergency call for service in the area. But still, it was awesome!
As I got closer to retirement, I started looking forward to purchasing my own vehicle. Driving a police vehicle is great, but the thought of purchasing a non-used (i.e., new), non-small (i..e., mid-sized or bigger), non-deathtrap (i.e., safe and solid), non-screaming (i.e., a full life to give) vehicle was exciting to me. It would be a gift to myself after a wonderful career. And then, I went car-shopping for the first time in many years – not for family need, but for me. It didn’t go well. I entered the dealership with a lot of confidence. I left without a new car. I have heard of sticker shock, but I never experienced it firsthand until that day. All of this brings me to the point I want to make today.
The cost of a new vehicle is expensive. But you know what? So is the cost of discipleship. I loved Matthew’s message on Sunday. Toward the end of chapter 8 in the Gospel of Mark, the Bible says, “And He summoned the crowd together with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it’” (Mark 8:34–35 NASB). The cross was a symbol of humility and death. When a man was sentenced to crucifixion in Rome, he carried his own cross to the place of execution. It was a one-way ticket; there would be no return. And there were people along the route who would see this. To take up your cross, then, is a pronouncement to the world that “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). My allegiance is to Him, and ALL of me – my life, my will, my possessions, my goals, my everything – is His. Expensive? Sure, it is. Worth it? Absolutely!
Thanks to all of you who participated in Trunk or Treat last Sunday. It was a tremendous event. Hundreds of children and their families came for food, fun, and games. Many were introduced to Grace for the first time. If you see Charlynn or Andrew, please express your appreciation to them for their great work in making it all happen.
Our men will be gathering tomorrow morning at 9 AM at Legendary Golf for breakfast and a mini-golf tournament. The cost is $10 per person.
This Sunday is Missions Sunday. There will be ONE SERVICE at 10 AM, and it’s going to be special. I hope to see you there. By the way, don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour before you go to bed on Saturday night.
Operation Christmas Child is coming to a close. There are only two more weeks to turn in your filled shoeboxes. From what I hear, 109 boxes have been filled and returned so far. Thanks to ALL of you who are participating in this wonderful missions opportunity to reach children with gifts and the gospel.
Tuesday is Election Day. Before you vote, please pray. After you pray, be sure to vote. And after you vote, please pray more. Thank you, Grace.
Oh, last week I registered my dad’s 2004 Toyota Highlander with the SC Department of Motor Vehicles in my name. No new car for me in the foreseeable future, but that’s okay. I am thankful for God’s provision and His timing. He is so, so good.
Thanks for reading to the end, dear Grace. You are deeply loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
I love to read. Recently, however, my reading sparked a comment from my wife that I just can’t shake. You see, Blair and I read differently. While I read books, Blair studies them. Along with her book, she has a highlighter, a pen, and a notebook with her when she reads. Currently, she is reading/studying two different books. The first is a book for women based on the Titus 2 model of older women coming alongside younger women to encourage them in their roles as thriving people in the church and the home. She has been “reading” this book for months. The second is a book on faith by a former professor we had at Washington Bible College. I am excited to read this book when she is done, but I’ll probably not have it for myself until sometime in 2023.
So about that comment Blair made. Each night, I read aloud a devotional for married couples before we go to bed. Admittedly, however, sometimes we miss a night. Because it’s a year-long devotional, I may therefore read two devotions on another night so that we finish by the end of the year. Blair doesn’t like that. She would rather read one devotion and discuss it, digest it, and master it before moving on. (Huh? My brain says if it’s a 365-day devotional, then we have to complete it in 365 days. Blair’s brain definitely doesn’t work like mine.) So while I contend that Blair takes forever to read a book, not because she is a slow reader but because she squeezes everything out of it that she can – not a bad thing, by the way – she accuses me of not reading books but conquering them. Ouch! But you know what? The truth hurts. If Blair is reading a book she doesn’t like, she stops reading it. To be honest with you, I cannot do that. If I start a book, I WILL finish it – even if I hate it. Yes, I guess that means I will conquer that book. (Wow! As I read those words back to myself, it sounds so dumb!)
But what about my daily Bible reading? Do I go into my reading of God’s Word in the morning with the thought that I just have to get it done before I start my day? If so, I’m wasting my time. Time spent in God’s Word should be the most important part of my day. But Blair’s comment to me has me thinking – Do I read my Bible simply to get it over with, or do I read my Bible to spend time hearing from the Author of the Book I’m reading. Is my Bible reading an item to be checked off a list of things to get done, or is it an investment in my walk with Christ? Am I conquering my reading of God’s Word, or am I allowing God’s Word – through the power of the Holy Spirit – to conquer me? Having asked myself these questions and examined my own heart, I now approach my Bible reading more purposefully. It’s too important to be a checklist item that I squeeze into my already-packed day. Rather, it’s a time to be prioritized. If any of this resonates with you – if you approach your Bible reading with the intent to conquer it or to just get it done – I encourage you to be more purposeful and to make it more meaningful. May God bless you as you examine your own heart about these things.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37 NIV). Think about that. You, Christian, are more than a conqueror. The Greek word literally calls you an “over-conqueror.” And Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, isn’t talking about conquering books. No, he is talking about conquering “all these things,” which are identified in verse 35 as trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness (i.e., poverty), danger, and sword. Paul’s purpose here is to encourage you, faithful believer, in knowing that overwhelming victory awaits you today (because nothing can separate you from God’s love) and in the future (because nothing can separate you from eternity with the God Who loves you). Praise Him! Of course, don’t forget the two most important words in this verse, “… through Him who loved us” – that is, Jesus. It is only through Him that victory will ever be ours. Praise Him again, dear Grace! I encourage you to read Romans 8:35–39 for yourself. You will be blessed when you do.
Trunk or Treat is this Sunday, October 30 from 4:30 – 6:30 PM here in the parking lot of the church. There will be free food, some games, and plenty of candy. As I write these words, there are twenty-six (26) vehicles signed up to participate. Our goal is forty (40), so if you are available to join us, I hope to see you there. The link to sign up can be found in the Grace Weekly E-newsletter. If you cannot come, please pray for a great turnout, good weather, and strong connections with people from our community.
In lieu of the Saturday morning men’s breakfast here at the church, our men will gather at Legendary Golf on Saturday, November 5 for breakfast and a putt-putt tournament. Legendary Golf is located at 900 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island. The cost is only $10. It should be a good time of food, fellowship, and fun.
The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world. There is a little more time left to pack a shoebox with gifts for a child this Christmas. You may do so by picking up a box at the OCC table this Sunday, or you may pack a box online by clicking this link – https://build-a-shoebox.samaritanspurse.org/view/08aac289-8cf1-4a27-809a-226ea9e3421e. Please note online boxes must be packed by Saturday, November 5. However you choose to participate, thank you for your support of this wonderful ministry.
I better stop writing now. If we are going to finish this devotional for married couples by the end of the year, I need to read a couple devotions to Blair before going to bed. (Just kidding, Honeybunch.)
Thanks for reading, dear Grace. Know for certain how loved you are.
Hi, dear Grace!
Have you ever recommended something to a friend? Maybe a great book? Maybe a good movie? Maybe a new restaurant? And has that friend ever come back to you and said that book, movie, or restaurant was just okay – or worse?
I have a tendency to talk up stuff I like. If I read a great book, I want everyone to read it and get the same blessing out of it that I got. If I see a good movie, I want everyone to see it and enjoy it as much as I did. If I try a new restaurant and experience quality service and mouth-watering food, I want everyone to try it and have the same experience I had. Of course, everyone has their own preferences and tastes, so not everyone is going to like what I like. While I understand that in my head, it’s hard to accept sometimes. (What? You didn’t like it? Do we have anything in common?!?!)
For the past several weeks, I have been talking up Sunday, October 16. I said over and over that it would be the best day of the year. To those of you who were here Sunday, tell me – Did I oversell it? Did all of the hype exceed reality? Is there a chance you were disappointed in the day? Was it just “okay” to you? Let me recap the events of Sunday for you – Nineteen (19) people were introduced as new members to the family of Grace. Yes, nineteen people! Wow! Later in the day, over one hundred (100) people gathered for an all-church picnic at Driessen Beach Park. The food was good, but the real blessing was the fellowship ... and the singing … and the testimonies. Ah, the testimonies! After we ate and after we sang, thirteen (13) people covering every area of life – from children to teens to young adults to thirty-somethings to forty-somethings to sixty-somethings – shared why they wanted to be baptized. One by one, they professed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Oh, what a joy to hear! Of course, all of this was followed by a walk to the beach, where these thirteen people were baptized in the cool – some would say verycool – waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Praise Him, dear Grace!
Admittedly, we did have a baptism service back in May of this year, so perhaps it’s best to say Sunday, October 16 is TIED for the best day of the year. Haha! Either way, I don’t believe I oversold anything. Sunday was an amazing day and is one I will never tire of. As a matter of fact, I’m already looking forward to our next baptism service. YES!!!!
David, declaring his unwavering faith in our God Who alone is worthy of our praise, wrote these words – “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in His temple” (Psalm 27:4 NIV). All David wanted was to bask in the beauty of God’s presence every day of the rest of his life. This was his only request. It was all he sought. Having considered the words of David, I can’t help but mull over the following questions – Was I in the presence of the Lord on Sunday at Driessen Beach Park? (Yes!) Did I feel His presence as I enjoyed the fellowship of like-minded believers at the picnic? (Yes!) Was I moved by His presence as I listened to the testimonies of those who were going to be baptized? (Yes!) Did I bask in His presence as I had the privilege of sharing in the baptisms of Luke W, Nolan, Jackson, Eevie, Olivia, Adyson, Conner, Caroline, Jessica, Nam, Luke B, Karen, and Jim? (Yes!) And did I witness His beauty as I stared at over 100 of you and many other dear friends of Grace on the shoreline with the sun setting behind you? (Absolutely yes!) With that settled, let me ask one final question – Can you imagine every day being like Sunday? David could, and he desired it. I desire it, too – for me and for all of us. Oh, Father in heaven, may David’s desire be our desire. May every day feel like Sunday felt to me. May I – may we all – bask in the beauty of Your presence daily – whether we are gathered in corporate worship or whether we are alone. And thank You for the promise of Jesus that He is with us always. We praise You for that, Lord! Amen.
If you are interested, several of us from Grace will be taking CPR/AED training at the Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Headquarters, located at 40 Summit Drive off of Dillon Road, on Tuesday, October 25 from 10–11 AM. As one person said to me recently, you don’t know how important such training is until an emergency presents itself right in front of you. There is a maximum number of people who can attend the training, so please contact the church office if you would like to reserve your place.
In a little over a week, Trunk or Treat will be here. The date is Sunday, October 30 from 4:30–6:30 PM. Please consider signing up to participate. Trunk or Treat is intended to be a fun event for the children of Grace, while at the same time being an outreach event to children in our community. There will be free food, some games, and lots of opportunities to make every child feel loved and welcome. If you have any questions, please contact Charlynn Bonham or Andrew Cannell.
Thanks to all of you who are supporting Operation Christmas Child this year. Several of you have already turned in your filled shoeboxes. Awesome! As I said on Sunday, these boxes are filled with the two G’s – Gifts for a child who may not otherwise receive a Christmas gift this year, and the Gospel to point that child to Jesus. Remember, too, that you can pack a shoebox online by clicking the following link – https://build-a-shoebox.samaritanspurse.org/view/08aac289-8cf1-4a27-809a-226ea9e3421e. It’s easy, and it’s fun. Thank you again for participating in this wonderful ministry.
So here’s a good movie recommendation for you, dear Grace. Blair and I love this movie, and I know you will, too. It’s called Seven Days in Utopia. You can find it on several streaming platforms, or you are welcome to borrow the DVD from me. Seriously, this movie has the BEST ending of any movie I have ever watched. I look forward to your thoughts after you see it.
This Sunday, I’ll be continuing our preaching series through the Gospel of Mark. Sure hope to see you there.
You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Thank you for your prayers as Blair and I were away last weekend. The wedding was beautiful, and my challenge to the bride and groom was very well received. Keith loved the NASCAR angle – Haha! It was really good to see so many friends from our former church. Blair and I had a great time, but we sure are glad to be home.
Because of the twenty-five years I spent in my former profession, I am an observer of traffic. I was never a big “traffic guy” during my career – I was much more interested in criminal investigations – but I did write a few tickets and many more warnings in my day. But after years of patrolling the roads of Charles County and enforcing the rules of Maryland, I still notice violations of motor vehicle and traffic laws. Expired tags. Vehicle registration covered up. Headlight or taillight out. Failure to use a turn signal. Of course, the worst will always be a driver who cannot stay in his or her traffic lane. In those cases, they are likely either texting while driving or driving while impaired. It’s not that I’m looking for such violations, but after so many years, it has become second nature to me.
So what would you say is the most common traffic violation I have witnessed here on Hilton Head Island since my arrival almost three years ago? No, it’s not speeding. It’s not being on the phone while driving, either (although that one may be a close second). Here’s the answer – Almost every day, I watch someone run a red light right in front of me. Now please understand, I live 3.2 miles from the church. I don’t drive far to get to the office. Therefore, in the span of 6.4 miles – that’s a round trip from home to work to home again – I witness at least one vehicle run a red light almost every day. It’s so bad that I have told Blair – and I suggest to all of you who drive on the Island – to wait before pulling out into an intersection when your light turns green. If the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office were to purchase red light cameras for all of the major intersections here, I can only imagine how much money would be generated for emergency responders or education or infrastructure or even – gasp! – lower taxes. More important than additional revenue, however, is how effective these cameras can be in getting drivers to stop for a red light.
On the day of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the disciples were hiding behind locked doors when Jesus miraculously appeared before them that evening. Thomas, however, was not with them. When he heard the disciples had seen the risen Lord, Thomas refused to believe it. One week later, the disciples were again gathered together in a home. Although the doors to the home were shut and locked, Jesus again appeared before them miraculously. This time, Thomas was present. In that moment when they came face to face with one another, Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27 NIV). I love the response of Thomas, whose words – “My Lord and my God!” – proclaim the Lordship (“My Lord …”) and the deity (“… and my God!”) of Jesus. (John 20:28 NIV). May that be our proclamation, as well.
To those of you who may wrestle with faith, stop your doubting. Jesus, the One Who died such a cruel death on the cross, is risen today. He is alive, and He is interceding for you. Praise Him! Are there times when you may experience a crisis of faith? Sure. Perhaps some of you are experiencing that right now. If so, I encourage you to pray the prayer of the father of the demon-possessed child, who cried out in tears to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24 KJV). You can be sure He will make Himself known to you. Praise Him again!
Thanks to our Director of Women’s Ministries, Jessica Maples, and her incredible team for their hard work. All of the reports I heard about the Fall Women’s Conference last Saturday have been very positive. Awesome!
This Sunday is Baptism Sunday. I have said it many times – Baptism Sunday is the best day of the year. I hope to see you at Driessen Beach Park at 5 PM for our all-church picnic. The church will provide hamburgers, hot dogs, and drinks. If you are able, please bring a side dish or dessert to share. The picnic will be followed by a baptism service in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. If you come, you will be blessed.
Trunk or Treat is coming! The date is Sunday, October 30 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM. We hope to have 40 cars with full trunks of candy to pass out to children. This is an outreach event to our community. Please see Charlynn Bonham, our Director of Children’s Ministries, to learn more about how you can help.
A special thanks to all of you who are packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. The goal this year, as set by my wife, is 400 boxes. As I have shared with you, however, my goal is 500 boxes. I’m smiling as I type these next words – Let’s reach my goal, dear Church! Oh, by the way, you can also pack a box online by clicking the following link – https://build-a-shoebox.samaritanspurse.org/view/08aac289-8cf1-4a27-809a-226ea9e3421e. It’s easy, and it’s fun. Thank you, Grace, for reaching the world for Christ through the ministry of OCC.
Drivers, stop for a red light. You may avoid an accident and serious injury to yourself or someone else. And Christian, stop your doubting. The Bible is true. If you are experiencing a crisis of faith, I would love to pray for you and even meet with you. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime.
Thanks for reading, dear Church. You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Can it really be twenty years since I started teaching the young adult class at Grace Brethren Church in Waldorf, MD? That’s hard for me to believe, but it’s true. For nine-and-a-half years, you could find me and Blair at 9:00 every Sunday morning on the first floor of the E-wing of the church, feeding breakfast and God’s Word to kids from 18–29 years of age. (I know they were adults, but they still felt like kids to us.) I had been teaching young adults for over five years at a sister church when our family moved to a neighboring county to be closer to my work. By doing so, we left a healthy and thriving young adult ministry to start a new ministry at the Waldorf church. I smile as I think of my first Sunday. It was August 2002. Breakfast was set up, my lesson was prepared, and ½ a person was in attendance. Yes, you read that correctly – one-half of a person showed up on my first Sunday. I say that because one person came but stayed for only half the time because he had another obligation. The following week, one person came (and stayed for the entire hour). In the weeks that followed, more started coming until we grew to over 30 young adults gathering for food, prayer, and Bible study every Sunday morning. As time progressed, many of them started getting married. As more weddings took place, a couple approached us about starting a ministry to married couples. It was an emotional transition for us as we left the “kids” we loved to take on this challenge, but it was a blessing to us.
It may be sappy to say, but Blair and I love weddings. I tell you this because as this week’s entry is being posted in the Grace Weekly, Blair and I will be in Maryland for the wedding of one of the “kids” from that young adult class. Keith was a college kid back then, but he is 38 years old today and finally met the girl of his dreams. One of my greatest joys has been to participate in the weddings of people like Keith – people that Blair and I had the privilege of loving and pouring into for many years. Those relationships run deep for me. With my head filled with wedding preparation right now, I thought I would share some points with you from the message I will share with Keith and his bride on Saturday at 4:30 PM at Running Hare Vineyard in Prince Frederick, MD, where the wedding will take place. I’m still putting this together, so there may be some edits between now and Saturday due to time or to the Lord’s leading on some things. Thanks in advance for your patience and grace as I get my thoughts together.
First, it’s important to know that Keith is a big NASCAR fan. With that in mind, I’m going to lead with the following mnemonic device – Elliott Wins Daytona. Stenhouse Finishes Last Place. For those of you unfamiliar with NASCAR – like me – Chase Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. are NASCAR drivers. The Daytona 500 is the biggest NASCAR race of the year. (As little as I know about NASCAR, I did know about the Daytona 500.) For someone like Keith, this mnemonic device will be easy to remember. And for a strong marriage that will last, it is important to remember. Why? Because …
- “E” is for Elliott and stands for the word Encourage. Encourage one another. Every day, say something that expresses value to your spouse. They need to hear it. The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up.” This is a must in marriage. Always seek to build up your spouse.
- “W” is for Wins and stands for the word Worship. Worship together. Make this a priority. It doesn’t simply mean to worship in the same location, but to really worship together. Exalt the Lord together. Serve Him together. Grow in faith together. The Bible says, “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips … Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.” (Psalm 34:1, 3 NIV)
- “D” is for Daytona and stands for the word Dream. Dream together. Up until your wedding day, all of your dreams were individual dreams. Starting today, all of your dreams – all of your goals – all of what you hope for in the future – are for the both of you. Amos 3:3 (KJV) – “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Dream together. Set your goals together. And pursue those dreams and goals together.
- “S” is for Stenhouse and stands for Serve. Serve one another. The letter “S” does not stand for Self. Marriage cannot be all about me. As Christians, Jesus Christ is our model, and He came to serve. The Bible says, “Through love, serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 NKJV). Follow the model of Jesus, and serve one another.
- “F” is for Finishes and stands for Forgive. Forgive one another. There are two words you should know well in marriage. They are forbear and forgive. Colossians 3:12–13 say this, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another … even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” There are little issues that are not sin issues, but they still irritate. Squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle of the tube instead of from the bottom is not a sin issue. I must forbear the little things. That means I must bear with or put up with those things. Forgiveness isn’t necessary for such occasions – only love and grace and much forbearance. Forgiveness is for the sin issue. I have been forgiven much by God. I must therefore forgive others – including my wife.
- “L” is for Last and stands for the word Love. Love one another. The best definition I have ever heard for the word “Love” is this one by Dr. Tim Kimmel, who wrote a book called Grace-Filled Marriage – “Love is a commitment of my will to your needs and best interests regardless of the cost to me.” Love is not limited to a feeling. Feelings come and go. But my commitment to love my wife will never go away. In Jeremiah 31:3, the Lord is speaking and He says these words – “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Love your spouse like the Lord loves you!
- And finally, “P” is for Place and stands for the word Pray. Pray FOR one another, and pray WITH one another. Take the words of the Prophet Samuel seriously – “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23 KJV). I promise if you pray for one another and with one another, you will experience more closeness in your marriage – more intimacy in your marriage – more romance in your marriage – and more blessing in your marriage. Pray for your husband. Pray for your wife. And pray with one another. You will be happier in marriage if you do.
As I said, there may be some edits between now and 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, but this is where I am right now. I’m excited about it. But more importantly, putting this together has been a good reminder to me of my own responsibility to Blair. Perhaps it will be a good reminder for those of you who are married, as well. I sure hope so.
A lot of work and a lot of prayer have gone into the planning for tomorrow’s Fall Women’s Conference. Thank you to Jessica Maples and to ALL of those who pitched in to make this event a reality. To those of you who are attending the conference, I am praying for you. To those who cannot attend, please pray with me for a great day of worship, fellowship, and solid teaching for our women. I am excited to hear testimonies that come out of the conference.
I am also excited about Baptism Sunday next week at Driessen Beach Park. We will begin with an all-church picnic, followed by a celebration of those who are publicly professing their faith in Jesus Christ through baptism in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Praise the Lord!
Our church has partnered with the Hilton Head Island Fire and Rescue Squad to bring CPR training to Grace. Dates are being scheduled now, but the first is set for Tuesday, October 25 at 10:00 AM. The training is free and lasts for one hour. You will learn CPR and how to use the AED in the event of an emergency. Please contact me or the church office if you are interested in attending.
Trunk or Treat is several weeks away. It is scheduled for Sunday, October 30 from 4:30 – 6:30 PM. There will be free food (hamburgers, hot dogs, and chips) and plenty of candy for children in our community. This is an outreach event. Please pray about how you can participate. Thanks so much.
Blair and I will miss seeing you on Sunday morning, as we are returning home late that day. Thanks for your prayers as we travel.
How loved you are, dear Grace!
Hi, dear Grace!
I have always liked to write. However, I never kept a journal – ever. This week’s post feels like a journal, though. That’s because I started jotting notes for it on Tuesday. I starting writing on Wednesday with another thought in mind. I then started it again yesterday. It’s Friday morning now, and I need to get this entry to Stacey in time for the Grace Weekly. Since it might interest you to know how my mind works as I write, I thought I would share the evolution of my weekly post.
The following are notes I jotted down on Tuesday, September 27 – Discover Grace Dinner on Sunday. Great meal. Great turnout. Great testimonies. By His grace, God is doing great things at Grace. Also, track the storm in the Gulf to see where it is. Some are saying it could become a hurricane and affect our area. (No way!) If so, maybe start with that and go with a question like, “Speaking of hurricanes, have you ever felt like you had a hurricane roiling around in your head?” Develop this. Talk about peace. Maybe use Isaiah 26:3 – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee.”
I scrapped the above and started down another track on Wednesday. A hurricane roiling around in your head? Really, Steve? So here is what I started on Wednesday, September 28 – As I write, today is Wednesday. The temperature is quite comfortable, but the winds have increased. Some might even describe it as a blustery day. I believe Winnie the Pooh referred to a similar day in the Hundred-Acre Wood as “Winds-day.” Of course, two days from now when this entry gets posted on the church website, we could be experiencing high winds and heavy rains due to Hurricane Ian. At least that’s what the latest forecast is saying. Whether the storm arrives in the Lowcountry in the form of a full-on hurricane or as the remains of one, you can be certain many of us here at the church are praying for you and all who are in the path of this storm.
All the talk of a hurricane heading this way has me thinking about the prophet Elijah. Perhaps you recall the story. After confronting and destroying the 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah traveled to Mount Horeb (called “the mountain of God” in 1 Kings 19:8) and met the Lord there. The Bible says, “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:11b–12 NIV).
Unfortunately, that’s as far as I got two days ago. I planned to develop my thinking on the above passage yesterday (Thursday), but with the latest news on the storm, I started over. The following is what I started on Thursday, September 29 – I have started this post several times this week. Due to the alert that just came over my phone, however, I’m starting over one more time. Perhaps you received the same alert on your phone – There is a Hurricane Warning for the Hilton Head / Savannah area. Hurricane Ian left quite a mark through central Florida. Although it has been downgraded to a tropical storm now, weather forecasters believe Ian will move out to sea where it will gain strength and make landfall near us. Today is Thursday, and landfall is expected sometime tomorrow.
The alert on my phone included instructions on how to stay safe. It said, “Urgently complete efforts to protect life and property. Have food, water, cash, fuel, and medications for 3+ days. Follow instructions from local officials.” Wow! That sounds pretty serious!
In the conclusion of his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul gave urgent instructions when he wrote, “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love” (1 Corinthians 16:13–14 NLT). I like how the New American Standard Bible translates the first part of verse 13 – “Be on the alert!” Yes, like the alert I received on my phone, the Apostle Paul shared an “alert” with the believers at Corinth – and to all believers. The Corinthians were an immature people. Paul’s desire was for them to move from a baby faith to a strong faith. Therefore, they (and we) must constantly be on the alert. The Bible says we are in a battle. We have a clear enemy. Fight hard! Stand firm! Be courageous! Oh, and love others!
Well, it’s Friday morning now. The plan was to put the finishing touches on what I wrote yesterday and get this to Stacey. It rained all night, but it appears the storm has moved more north of us. Does what I have from yesterday still apply, or should I scrap it and start over? Do I talk about the uncertainty of a weather forecast as opposed to the certainty of God’s promises? That He is coming again? That the signs point to His soon appearing? Maybe another time. After much consideration, I think I’ll share how this week’s post got started and its transformation through the week. Sure hope there’s something here for you to chew on, dear Grace.
The Discover Grace Dinner on Sunday really was a great success. It is such an encouraging event for the staff to hear the testimonies of those in attendance. Among the questions we ask are these – What brought you to Grace, and what kept you here? Often, people talk about being invited to the church by a friend. Or they are new to the area and found us online. But what is it that keeps them coming? Overwhelmingly, it is YOU, dear Grace. Yes, they enjoy Matthew’s preaching. They love Seth and the Worship Team. They rave about our Children’s Ministry, our focus on Missions, and every other aspect of the ministry here. But the most common response to that question is this one – “It just feels like family here. The people are so kind. I felt so welcomed that first Sunday here.” Thank you, Church, for being a loving and welcoming church. The Lord is surely pleased, and I am so blessed by you.
Tomorrow morning, the men are planning to gather at 8 AM for breakfast, fellowship, and prayer. This will take place at the church. If you come, you won’t be disappointed.
Ladies, don’t forget the fall conference next Saturday, October 8. You may visit the church website – www.gracehhi.org – to register. Contact Jessica Maples, our Director of Women’s Ministries, with any questions about the event.
Finally, we will host an all-church picnic and a baptism service at Driessen Beach Park on Sunday, October 16. If you know of someone who wants to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism, please have them contact the church office.
Sorry I’m a little late this week, Stacey. Thanks for your patience. And thanks to you, dear Grace, for reading my ramblings. I hope to see you Sunday. You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
Would you like to know how I knew Blair was THE ONE for me? Would you like to know what solidified in my head that she would be my wife? It’s not some deep theological nugget that will change how people determine who their future spouse will be. It is, however, something I had never experienced before and was quite revelatory to me. But before I get to that, let me share some backstory.
Despite what you may think, I am quiet and reserved by nature. Yes, I can be loud and boisterous about things that excite me – the Bible, my family, God’s grace, Grace Church, sports … the list is long and varied – but to be honest, while I am surely less restrained about some things, I really am an introvert. I liked girls in high school. The problem? I liked basketball more. And baseball. And my friends. And … well, let’s just say girls could be found on the list of things I liked, but you would have to look at that list closely to find them on it. Things started to change when I was a senior and took the following year’s homecoming queen to the Junior-Senior Banquet. Dressed in a tux, pulling up to her home in my light blue ’76 Chevy Chevette, and carrying a corsage to her door, I was feeling pretty good about myself. The banquet itself was great. My date was great. The time with my classmates was great. And the Senior Awards were great. (I was voted Most Easy-Going Guy of the Class of ‘81.) However – and I hate that there’s a “however” to this story – I was stressed out the entire time I was with my date in the car. As we were driving to the banquet … as we were driving to the after-banquet party … and as I was driving her home, I felt such pressure to keep the conversation going. If a moment of silence passed between us, I panicked. As dumb as it may sound, a lull felt like the end of the world (or, at the very least, the end of my dating relationship). By the time I was a sophomore in college, I was much more confident in myself. Not only that, but you didn’t have to look too closely on “The List of Things Steve Likes” to find girls on that list. Unfortunately, when I was with a girl, I continued to struggle when a hush fell over us. Oh, no! What do I say? She probably doesn’t want to talk sports. I was at a total loss.
And then Blair came along. Blair was outgoing. She was fun. She loved to laugh. She loved sports – YES! And although her faith was very new to her, she deeply loved the Lord. I was very attracted to her and began to wonder if she could be THE ONE for me, but it wasn’t until we went on our first date that I knew for certain she was definitely THE ONE. Why? Because with her, I was at total peace – even in times of quiet. As a matter of fact, I didn’t immediately notice when silence happened between us. Only after these times passed did I realize a hush had taken place and I didn’t panic. That was big for me – really big! I’ll say it again … With Blair, I was at total peace even in the quiet.
You know what? The Lord wants this with me, and He wants it with you, too. Sadly, how I felt in silence with a date years ago is sometimes how I feel in silence before the Lord even today. Sure, I spend time reading my Bible daily. And yes, I spend time in prayer. But spending time in the quiet of God’s presence? I really don’t do that too well. Perhaps it’s because I have so much to say to Him. Or perhaps it’s because I have so much to do. Either way, my excuses are all about me. The Bible is clear – There is a time to keep silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Oh, dear Grace, how I long to be obedient to the Scriptures in this area! Do you remember the words of Moses to the Israelites as they stood between the Egyptians and the Red Sea? “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today ... God will fight the battle for you. And you? You keep your mouths shut!” (Exodus 14:13–14 MSG). Do you remember the words of David in the Psalms? “Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him” (Psalm 37:7a HCSB). Or the words of God in the Psalms? “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a NKJV). Or the words of the Prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations? “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26 NIV). Or the words of the Prophet Zechariah? “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation” (Zechariah 2:13 NKJV). Forgive me, Lord, when I do all of the talking in prayer. Forgive me when I fail to spend time in silence before You. Help me – please, help me – to be still in Your presence more often. And in that stillness, allow me to simply bask in Your peace and presence, knowing You alone are God. Thank You, and Amen.
To those of you who are not members of Grace, you are invited to attend our Discover Grace Dinner this Sunday at 6 PM. You will have an opportunity to meet the staff and several of our elders and deacons. You will also hear about the mission and vision of Grace. Child care is available. An RSVP is required so that we can prepare adequately for food. We look forward to a great evening together with you.
Ladies, don’t forget the Fall Women’s Conference – Knit Together In Christ, Sewn Together In Love – scheduled for Saturday, October 8 from 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM. Dawn Camp is the featured speaker. A continental breakfast will be served, as will lunch. Tickets are only $15.00 per person. It promises to be a great day. You may visit our website to make your reservation. See our Director of Women’s Ministries, Jessica Maples, if you have any questions about the conference.
We are planning an all-church picnic celebration, to be followed by a baptism service, later in October. Stay tuned for more information on that. If you know someone who is interested in being baptized, let them know. This is always one of the highlights of our year.
I hope to see you Sunday, dear Church, as I will continue our preaching series through the Gospel of Mark. Thank you in advance for your prayers.
To Blair, you are still THE ONE for me. Thank you for an awesome 36 years (and counting). And to the family of Grace, you are such a blessing to me and my family. Thank you for a wonderful coming-up-on 3 years.
You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
One of our family’s favorite movies is called The Emperor’s New Groove. It is an animated feature by Disney that came out twenty-two years ago. Lindsey and Andrew were 9 and 7 years old then, and they watched this movie over and over to the point that they can still today say many of the lines from the film by memory. As an aside, many of you with children and grandchildren from the Frozen era may be experiencing this now. Anyway, Blair and I laugh hard as we listen to our kids – now 31 and 29, respectively – go back and forth with dialogue from the film. One particular scene involves Yzma (the protagonist) and Kuzco (the emperor who is turned into a llama by Yzma). Yes, he is turned into a llama. Remember, this is an animated movie. While not one of my favorites, it really is funny. In this particular scene, Yzma is talking incessantly while Kuzco is paying no attention to her. Rather, he is looking at her quizzically and – in his head – asking questions like, “What is holding this woman together?” He then spots a piece of spinach in her teeth and wonders, “How long has that been there?”
That scene from The Emperor’s New Groove leads me to recall a time … Ugh! Am I really sharing this with you? Yes, and here goes – Lindsey and Andrew were students at Grace Brethren Christian School, so this goes back about fourteen years or so. There was an evening assembly of some kind at the school. Since Blair was a teacher there, I arrived separately. As I climbed the steps and entered the doors leading to the sanctuary where the assembly was to take place, I saw several people who greeted me and shook my hand. One was even a fellow elder of the church. I remember a double-take from him, which seemed odd, but I didn’t think much of it. I still hadn’t seen Blair or our kids yet, but I did see two friends – Cliff and Sheryl, a husband and wife who are very dear to me and Blair. I received no greeting from them, though. Instead, Sheryl looked at me, pointed her finger, and said, “You need to go into the bathroom and get that off your face. I can’t look at that all evening.” Having no idea what she was talking about, I went into the men’s room and promptly looked in the mirror. In that moment, the words of Kuzco were my own. HOLY COW!!!! HOW LONG HAS THAT BEEN THERE?!?! AND WHY DIDN’T MY FELLOW ELDER SAY SOMETHING TO ME?!?!
Yes, I was quite embarrassed. But you know what? I really appreciate Sheryl for speaking up. And since then, I speak up, too. Food in your teeth? Something in your nose? Bad breath? Zipper not zipped up? I’m probably going to say something to you – not to embarrass you, but to keep you from being embarrassed. Similarly, if a sin issue has overtaken a brother Christian, it’s likely that I will say something. The Bible says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1 NLT). I’m not talking about judgement here. I’m talking about a brother Christian who has fallen into sin – sin as obvious as that thing on my face – who doesn’t need judgement, but restoration. Of course, this is to be done by one who is mature (godly) in the faith. It should also be done gently and in humility. Perhaps I would come alongside a brother more gently than Sheryl did for me – that was brutal, but she did it because she loves me. And love is the motivation in all of this, in hopes that restoration will happen. May we love one another enough to live this verse out at Grace. I pray you will do it for me, dear Church, and I pray you know how much you are loved if I ever have to do it for you.
Many of our Life Groups have started meeting. A few openings are available if you are interested in joining. Community Bible Study also kicked off on Tuesday and figures to be really good. The men’s Bible study through Romans has been meeting for several weeks, and the ladies’ Wednesday morning study through Colossians started up again this week. The ladies’ Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit study also met for the first time last night. Other studies are available, as well. If you are interested, do not hesitate to contact me. I will work to connect you to a Life Group or Bible study that will fit your current schedule and life situation.
On Sunday, September 25, we will host a Discover Grace Dinner at 6 PM. This event is for those of you who are interested in knowing more about Grace Community Church or who are considering membership. You will enjoy a wonderful meal, have an opportunity to meet our staff and others in leadership, and hear about the mission and vision of Grace. Please contact the church office if you are interested in attending, as an RSVP is required. Child care is also available.
Ladies, don’t forget the Fall Women’s Conference – Knit Together In Christ, Sewn Together In Love– scheduled for Saturday, October 8 from 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM. Dawn Camp is the featured speaker. A continental breakfast will be served, as will lunch. Tickets are only $15.00 per person. It promises to be a great day. Visit www.gracehhi.org to make your reservation.
As you can see, there’s a lot happening at the church. None of it will matter, however, apart from the work of the Spirit in us. We are fully dependent on the Lord and His amazing grace. Please, Lord, have your way in us.
Thank you for reading, dear Grace. You are so loved.
Hi, dear Grace!
First, thanks so much for finding me among all that is in the Grace Weekly E-newsletter. As you can see, my musings – formerly known as “The Wednesday E-mail” – now have their own space on the Grace website, as well as a new name. Thank you so much to all of you who weighed in with suggestions. You made the decision very difficult, but several of you referenced how I close each edition of my weekly posts. As a result, this corner of our website will now be known as Pastor Steve’s You Are Loved. Enjoy, dear Church!
Each year in September, the Maryland Police Chiefs’ Association and the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association hold a professional development training conference in Ocean City, MD. Chiefs, Sheriffs, and Command Staff personnel from agencies all across the State of Maryland attend this conference. One evening of the week is dedicated to hosting an Awards Banquet for officers whose actions went above and beyond the call of duty or who displayed exemplary work in a particular field. Twenty-three years ago, Blair and I were at that banquet. I was less than five years into my career at the Charles County Sheriff’s Office at the time and serving as a detective in the Criminal Investigations Division when someone apparently thought highly enough of my work to nominate me for an award. That nomination resulted in my being named the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association’s Deputy of the Year for Outstanding Contribution to Profession in 1999. In front of an untold number of high-ranking law enforcement officials, I thanked my wife for her love and support, and I thanked my Sergeant and fellow detectives for their example and their commitment to our calling. I then talked about my brother Chuck, who was a Maryland State Trooper and who had been named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in St. Mary’s County, MD, several years earlier for heroic actions he took during a response to a shooting incident. I also talked about my brother Allen, who had been named Manager of the Year for Foot Locker (an international sportswear and footwear retailer) on more than one occasion in the past. With that, I honored my mom and dad. My award, I said, and my brothers’ awards are reflections of our parents, who instilled the character values of sacrifice, service, and a strong work ethic in each of us. I then dedicated the award to them before finally thanking the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association and getting off the stage.
Fast forward with me now to last Friday, when Blair and I were in Orlando, FL, to witness our daughter receive The Walt Disney Legacy Award. Allow me to be a bursting-with-pride dad for a moment here. The Legacy Award is named for Walt Disney and his mission to dream, create, and inspire. Recipients are nominated by their peers, and less than one percent of all Disney employees will receive the award. Lindsey is a mover-and-shaker, she is a lover of people, and she is being salt and light to those who work below her, above her, and beside her at Disney World. The Legacy Award is a really big deal there, so when Blair and I got a call to notify us of Lindsey’s selection, we made arrangements to be there in person. Oh, we were also sworn to secrecy; the award was a surprise to Lindsey. Yes, there were tears. It was a very special time for our family, and we sure were happy to have all of us – including our son Andrew – together to celebrate the occasion.
You know, the Bible says, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT). Yes, dear Grace, there will come a day when we stand before the Lord and answer for the life we have lived. And if we are found deserving on that day, we will receive our reward. Please don’t misunderstand me here – I don’t live a life of faithfulness so that I can receive a reward in heaven. I live a life of faithfulness because God has called me to be faithful. But a life of faithfulness will never go unnoticed – not here on earth, and certainly not on that day when we stand before Him. Oh, dear Father in heaven, may we be found worthy of a reward as we stand in Your presence. What a joy and privilege it will be when we – like the 24 elders in Revelation 4 – cast our rewards at the feet of the One who truly is worthy of all glory and honor and praise! (See Revelation 4:10–11 for reference.)
Don’t forget this Sunday is Back To Church Sunday. There’s still time to invite someone to church. If you do, please introduce them to me. I love meeting new people and welcoming them to the greatest church on the Island.
Also on Sunday is the first gathering of the new ministry season for our youth. Teens and their families are invited to Jarvis Park from 5:00–7:10 PM for a time of food, fellowship, and games. If you know of a student in middle or high school, please make them aware of this event. We are hopeful for a great turnout.
Oh, one final thought – To my mom and dad, Lindsey may have received a Legacy Award named for the founder of a global entertainment empire, but your legacy lives on through her and all of your grandchildren. Thank you for your example of faithfulness, commitment, and hard work. Lindsey’s award is your award. Feel free to add it to the many rewards you have received (in the case of my mom) and will receive (in the case of my dad) in heaven. We can lay them all down at Jesus’ feet together one day.
You are so loved, dear Church. Thanks for reading.