Dear Pleasant Ridge Church Family,
I must admit that I have always had a special place in my heart for children. Since school has started back in its modified form, our Children’s Ministry has been offering a Day Camp for the children of our church and in that time together the children recite the “Pledges of Allegiance” to the American Flag, the Christian Flag and the Holy Bible… They have a special time with me to share a Bible Story and pray… they have a dedicated time of studying and finishing their weekly schoolwork… they have lunch together and they have a special activity or trip each week… and there is so much more that they do together. Over the last several months, our children’s lives have been “modified” so much and they have missed out on face-to-face opportunities for education at least in the way that they had grown used to in the past. Smaller classroom sizes, remote learning and days without any formal classroom encounters have proven to be very challenging for teachers and students.
We don’t want to forget how this pandemic has affected our children’s abilities to have face-to-face opportunities for Spiritual Growth either. Sunday School has been on the back burner for a while and our children desperately need to learn about love and hope as they build trust in God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, biblical characters and the role they play as examples of faith and much more about being believers in the Lord! We can’t expect our children, nor our youth to just “know” about the Lord; we must teach them! Sunday School teachers, ministers to children and youth and pastors cannot do what parents can when it comes to spiritual guidance. Parents teach through example. The life you live is a reflection of the Truths you believe!
I have two grandsons right now and they are both in different stages of growth. My oldest grandson is running, talking and exploring outside, while my youngest grandson is taking his first steps and spends a lot of time being entertained by his dad and mom. Each of them is picking up personality traits and habits that my sons had as they were growing up. Each of my grandsons “act” like their dads on some level. I love being with each of those grandsons for a lot of reasons, but it’s always interesting and fun to just watch to see how their daddy’s traits come out in them. My prayer is that those little boys will grow up, not just being like their dads, but that they begin to look at life with the eyes of their Heavenly Father! But how would they know the Lord unless they were taught by their Christian mom and dad and encouraged by other believers?
Years ago, Amy Grant sang a song called, “Her Father’s Eyes” and the lyrics and chorus are beautiful… “She’s got her Father’s eyes, Her Father’s eyes; Eyes that find the good in things, When good is not around; Eyes that find the source of help, When help just can’t be found; Eyes full of compassion, Seeing every pain; Knowing what you’re going through And feeling it the same. Just like my Father’s eyes, My Father’s eyes, My Father’s eyes, Just like my Father’s eyes.”
Oh, to be able to see this world with the eyes of our Heavenly Father. Maybe if we all could see with God’s eyes, the world would experience healing; right now it seems so disconnected and filled with hurt and hate. So here is a Truth you can share with every child today: “God Loves You and He Always Will!” Remember that no matter your age, no matter what your past, no matter if you feel broken and used up or not, whether you are suffering with an addiction or not, whether you are White or Black or Brown or Blue or Red or Gold or Green, whether you are a baby or a senior adult, the truth is that God loves you and He always will.
We all have learned many lessons in these days of COVID- 19 restrictions, and we have modified many things that needed to be changed. So even this time, as hard as it has been, has also been a teachable moment for the church. We are still growing as believers… we don’t know it all, but we are learning!
The Apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of being “rooted” in the Word of God so that we may avoid the misdirection of the world! Colossians 2:6-8 says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (NIV)
I thank God that our church has been able to meet safely together for worship for many weeks now and I am thankful that beginning mid-October, our church family will be regathering for Sunday School. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to be together as the “church.” Our children need it, our youth need it and our adults need it. Every child of God needs to take time to learn more about who God is and who we are in His great plan! I am praying that you are staying connected to the Lord; it’s easy to drift away in these days of isolation, but we never want to become insulated from our Creator!
Remember that God is in control; He will not forsake you and He will always love you!
I firmly believe that the greatest days of God’s Work in our lives is still ahead. I love you and hope to see you real soon.
Keep Growing in Him,
Pleasant Ridge Church Family,
Recently, I have rediscovered the beauty of crayons. My oldest grandson is beginning to uncover the fun of drawing and coloring things… he hasn’t quite discovered the meaning of “staying in the lines” yet, but that makes his artwork even more beautiful to me. Recently, he handed me an amazing piece of art which was unique and made especially for me (Poppi). The blending of multiple crayon colors and the flow of the creation made the artwork something that reminded me of God’s handiwork in us.
When I was growing up, we used crayons in school and amazingly then, we only had boxes that held up to 8 different colors. These were basic colors like red, blue, green, yellow, black, brown, white and orange. Now, it’s not unusual to find colors like Sunglow, Midnight Blue, Razamataz, Maize, Timberwolf, Electric Lime, and Razzle Dazzle Rose. These days, there are up to 120 crayons in certain boxes of crayons. I never realized how many variances of green there were (by the way, it’s 16).
I grew up in the technicolor generation… I witnessed the transition from “black and white” televisions to “color” TV’s. I guess in my day, the inventors of Crayola Crayons only could imagine very basic colors. Now, there are boxes of crayons that feature the various skin colors of our world. Beyond color, we are all somewhat alike, because we are all made in the image of God. There are also obvious differences; we are each made with unique talents and gifts, we speak with unique dialects, we process information in varying ways, and we all have distinctive backgrounds. To me that’s quite awesome. We are all unique, yet all are created in God’s image. Part of the challenge in the world today is that we have focused on our individuality rather than focusing on our commonality.
You and I are like crayons, but we must remember that “crayons” are not the creator. We are not the illustrator, but we the instruments that He uses. Any creation or image that we reflect is due to God working through us. Any goodness that we can offer in this world comes from God’s direction and creativeness that God chooses for us. Our uniqueness is given to us in order to glorify God and to serve Him daily to make this world a more beautiful place in which to live.
The Psalmist wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth…” (Psalm 139 13-15). The author of Hebrews pointed out, “He will equip us with everything good for doing His will, and work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21).
How do you utilize your uniqueness to serve the Lord and seek to be useful to Him? Every crayon starts its life out being sharp, bright and fresh. These days, some crayons are infused with scents and even smell delicious. As a crayon is being used by the artist, the point wears down and sometimes under the pressure it may even become broken. In reality, the crayon sometimes works best when it is broken. There are times when it can be resharpened or melted down. The artist knows how to best use the crayon. For my grandson, crayons are swiftly stroked across a page, without a defined outline. But for God, we have a specific purpose and usefulness in His Kingdom work.
You may be one of those “crayons” who feels broken, melted down or even useless. But in the hands of the Master Creator, you and your uniqueness are usable and beautiful. Some “crayons” may be broken, but all are still useful and can still bring blessings and joy. Together, all “crayons” are lovely, yet each is an individual color and offers its own beautifying abilities.
The great beauty of this masterpiece that we are a part of is that God knows us individually and He even calls us by name. The Lord values us and although we may have rough edges and may even be broken, He treasures us. At times he renovates us in what seems at the time like a crayon sharpener. God knows that we are useless unless we have His hand to guide us. He takes boundless pleasure in us when we are usable and when we do what He has created us to accomplish.
I love you and pray that each of us can be used a God’s “crayons” to make our world a more beautiful and Holy place each day. God’s greatest work in your life and in the life of Pleasant Ridge is still ahead!
Be useful and usable,
Pleasant Ridge Church Family,
There are so many things that I love about this amazing God we serve! Things like the fact that He created each of uniquely (Psalm 139) and that he saw fit to make us in His image (Gen. 1). Those types of ideas help me to realize just how much He loves us. We are not stamped out in some “cookie cutter” image, instead we have distinctive thoughts, looks, experiences and perspectives. Part of the beauty of God’s creation is that although there are over 7 billion uniquely made individuals in the world today, as we come together, we form one body (1 Cor. 12). As one body, we are called to one purpose… To glorify God! If each of us utilizes the gifts, strengths, and abilities that the Lord has given us, the church (that’s each of us working together), cannot fail!
Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, many folks have taken extra precautions to protect themselves from the virus and that is commendable. During this time, God allows us to do a lot of reflecting and responding as we have rested our lives in His hands. There are so called “experts” in the world who are telling us that we live in a “Post Christian Era,” BUT nothing could be further from the truth. Christians like you and me are preparing to rise up and let the voice of the Lord be known. This is time that God has been using to help his children develop a sense of Holy Boldness and we must not be silent any longer…
There’s a lot of hate and confusion in the world right now and that’s the way Satan wants it. Think about it for a moment… Where God is the author of creation, Satan is the master of confusion. Where God is the peace speaker, Satan is the great liar. Where God is the holder of hope, Satan is the demon of despair. Where God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present King of kings and Lord of lords, Satan is a pathetic, impotent, deceitful pretender.
When you claim the promises of the Lord and you live in a way that reflects the love of Jesus Christ, Satan will cower down. The devil may snarl and growl as if he is in control, but our God thunders because He rules the universe (Psalm 29; Job 37). There is no one who compares to you Oh, God (Psalm 40:5; Isaiah 40:18)! There’s no need for hate, no need for confusion, no need to place our faith in the “solutions” that the world attempts to force on us. When we have the Author of Creation as our God and our Guide, we don’t have to listen to the pitiful plans that Satan wants us to follow.
Now, I don’t know about you, but in this game of life I don’t want to be on the losing side! We all need to be “in it to win it”, so we should start living with Holy Boldness and in the process we will become a reflection of God’s love to the world. Live victoriously… Love wins every time! Joy wins every time! Peace wins every time! Patiencewins every time! Kindness wins every time! Goodness wins every time! Faithfulness wins every time! Gentlenesswins every time! Self-control wins every time! When we are on God’s team, those attributes will come to us as a result of what we practice. When the fruit of the Spirit is obvious in our lives, then we know we have been a reflection of Christ to the world (Gal. 5:22-23).
Lately, I’ve enjoyed going to the practice field at Gardner-Webb University to watch the Runnin’ Bulldogs practice (SKO DOGS!). The new coaches there are instructing the team to move precisely as a group; to think as one body, to work as one body, to encourage each other as one body and then they will celebrate victories as one body! This is a great comparison for the church… our church. We must have our hearts, minds, bodies and souls focused on one thing… pleasing the Lord. We can accomplish that goal by utilizing the gifts, the strengths, the abilities and the resources we have available right here to glorify our God.
Look, you may feel as though you are stuck at home right now, but you can use this time to make calls, write cards and even facetime with folks who need your encouragement. As you feel comfortable regathering with the church family… plug in! Your words, your thoughts, and your actions make a difference, not only to the church family, but to the larger community. You can serve as a beacon to draw folks here, so that we may continue growing together.
God bless you, my friend. I am so thankful to be your pastor in such as time as this, and I am so glad that you are here to Love God, Grow Together and Make a Difference! The greatest days of God’s work at Pleasant Ridge are still ahead! Join Him in His work here!
In His Commanding and Comforting Hands,