Monday, July 24, 2017

Nature versus Nurture

THE NATURE v. NURTURE DEBATE is the scientific, cultural, and philosophical debate about whether human culture, behavior, and personality are caused primarily by nature or nurture. Truthfully, I’m not 100% sure on which side of the debate I am. This one thing I know, man and woman, in their basic nature, are sinful and broken (listen to my message, “Foundations: The Human Condition” online at Therefore, it is safe to say that if nature is what causes our development it had better be supplemented by some sort of nurture that can move us from bad to better. I believe that God, His Word, and His church are best suited to move humanity to a more positive state of being.

Here at Felton Bible Church one of our Four Values that helps us strive to meet our Vision and Mission, is that of Nurture (Value of Sanctuary in a previous Shepherd’s Staff) We believe one of the key reasons that the church exists is to help people return to the original plan that God had for them; to be a people created in His Image (Genesis 1:26-27) and to live out His Image in the midst of His creation. This nurture begins as we respond with faith to God’s gift of grace in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. His death and resurrection not only redeem us but also reconcile us to God so that we can represent His love and grace to the world.

Being a place of nurture requires that we create various places of learning, and along with the learning, spaces where people can be touched by the love of God. Nurture is as much about the environment in which you learn as much as it the things you learn. The Apostle Paul admonished Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.(2 Timothy 3:14) And Paul encourages his readers, “Whatever you have learned or received or seen in me--put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.(Philippians 4:9)

Therefore, as we seek to nurture one another in Christ, let us give heed to the words scrolled upon the back wall of our sanctuary, “Speak Truth. Love Well.” As we encourage one another to grow in the truth of God’s Word and to reflect the image of Jesus Christ, let us do so walking side by side, hand in hand encompassed in God’s love.

Monday, July 17, 2017

In the Midst of the Storm

LONDON, JUNE 3, 2017 ANOTHER TERRORIST ATTACK. This attack took place the evening before Linda and I were to spend the day exploring London. Needless to say, we heard from people on both sides of the Atlantic that maybe we should change our plans. But we had traveled too far to do that. We would just be vigilant.

On Sunday morning we left for London, stopping at the beautiful Kew Gardens along the way. Our first stop in London was to participate in the later afternoon Evensong service at Westminster Abbey. Everyone’s bags and backpacks were thoroughly checked before entering the grounds and armed military kept a watchful eye for any trouble. Upon entering the Abbey all things changed; we had truly entered a sanctuary. It was a place that sang of stability and peace, a place of holy welcome. It was a place we needed to be.

Here at Felton Bible Church we have our Vision and Mission Statements (see the previous Shepherd Staff writings) and helping us to meet those lofty goals are four Values which we seek to live by as we work to be the Lord’s faithful church. The first of those Values is our desire to be a place of Sanctuary.

Being a Sanctuary means to be a place of peace and a place of worship. It is a place where one can escape, even if for a little while, from the cacophony of noise that fills our days. We seek to be a place that welcomes all in the Name of Jesus and a place where all can experience God’s love and grace.

Fulfilling this Value of Sanctuary is more than just being a building that looks like a church, and provides a place to worship. Being a place of sanctuary must rise from the hearts of the people who call FBC home. Sanctuary is an attitude of the heart. A place of peace and worship, of welcome and grace means there must be people given to such things.

I invite you to join with me is creating such a place. Let us open our hearts to the sanctuary that the Lord provides and out of that place of heart be a sanctuary for others. For we are the church, the sanctuary of God.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fully Loved

THE COMMAND GIVEN to us by the Lord, was to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)  It is this command that drives our Mission Statement which is, “To love God and to make God’s love known.”

Our Mission Statement’s purpose is to give guidance on how we can reach the Vision Statement which we shared with you in last week’s Shepherd’s Staff: “To see God fully glorified and His kingdom fully realized.” As you can see both our Vision and our Mission Statements have an upward and an outward dimension. Too often a church will find itself stuck in one direction and neglecting the other, this is not what our Lord had in mind.

Our desire here at Felton Bible Church is to be a fellowship of Jesus’ disciples that are lifting our hands in praise to God while at the same time stretching our arms out in need-meeting compassion. Both these actions are indicative of a life that seeks to offer up self-denying love to God and to others.

The prophet Hosea wrote of our God’s heart, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) The best way we can truly worship God is by obeying that which moves the heart of God; caring for the needs of others. As we love those around us by meeting their needs, whether it’s feeding the hungry or listening to the lonely, we are in a very tangible way offering true worship to God.

So, my friend, what holy work will you undertake to bring forth holy worship to our Lord? How will you put forth outstretched arms so you can lift up holy hands in worship? You see, it’s more than just a Mission Statement to write upon the wall of the church, it is a command to write upon our hearts and our hands to the glory of His Name.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Feeling Like Jesus

TRULY, NO ONE CAN FEEL LIKE JESUS, at least not in the fullest extent. But, during our week of Vacation Bible School I got a sense of what He just might have felt . . . at least in part.

My key responsibility during VBS was to teach the Word of God to a wide age group of kids (and of course the adults in the room as well.) Telling Bible stories, especially well known ones, seems like an easy enough task, but teaching them to such a wide variety of ages, keeping them connected and interested and helping them to grab the vital truths about God, is not all that easy as I find out each year. (Nope, it doesn’t necessarily get easier with practice.)

In that teaching responsibility I get a sense, at least a little bit, of what Jesus felt teaching the masses. Yes, I know He is perfect and so it would be all well, but He did face an audience made up of all kinds of people, not least of those who would choose not to believe. I wonder if He wondered how many were really following His thoughts or were just coming for the punch and cookies, or in His case the loaves and fishes. I’m sure it troubled His heart from time to time, and I suppose it also troubles His heart today when He knows that not all will respond favorably to His Word.

There is one time each VBS that I truly feel I am getting a sense of how Jesus felt and that is when we call the children up front who that day made a decision to trust Jesus as their Lord and Savior. There is nothing quite like sitting on the steps of the stage and being surrounded by scores of smiling faces. This year I was blessed to sit amongst 114 new believers. Kids from Pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade made their way up front to say that they had chosen to follow Jesus. To sit with them at my knee and to pray one more time is truly one of the great blessings of my pastoral work.

Looking back over that special time I always think of Jesus’ command of letting the little ones come to HIm and hinder them not. What a blessing to sit at the feet of Jesus and receive His welcome, His blessing, His love.

Here is something we all need to realize, we are all children before the Lord. He calls all of us to come. He welcomes all who come. He blesses all who come. He loves all who come. Here’s my question for you today, “Have you come to the feet of Jesus?” There’s plenty of room for all. If you have yet given up childlike faith I encourage you today to do so. Lay aside all excuses and all fears, and just like those VBS kids, come and meet with Jesus. He is waiting for you!