As you may have noticed, my articles for the Newsletter are typically based on my observations. I observe something and it stirs something in my brain, and it goes, “Aha”. I call them, of course, “Aha Moments”.
I hope you have stopped during your busy time this Spring to observe how beautiful the flowers and trees are right now. The weather has been mild, and they are fresh, beautiful and not burned up by the Arkansas summer. I call your attention to the knock-out roses in front of our Sanctuary. They are in full bloom at this time, with lush green leaves to frame their beauty. As I was going Main Street the other day, I noticed the knock-outs in front of McDonalds. They were also lovely and in full bloom. However, I noticed in a couple of the bushes that some sort of vine had invaded the rose bush. It was also doing very well. Ok, you know what happened next. Yep, I had an “Aha Moment”.
My immediate thought was, “Are those rose bushes going to survive with that vine growing right in the middle of it? That rose bush didn’t mind the vine, but was it going to lead to the destruction of that beautiful rose bush?” So, then it reminded me of how easily our lives can become entangled with sin. 1 John 1:8 states, “If we see we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” One major sin that entangles us is worry. To worry is to believe that we must take care of ourselves. Additionally, we all have weaknesses that seem to pop up at the most inopportune times. Each of us will find ourselves with one of more of these sins, or countless others such as, greed, jealousy, judging, addiction, envy, etc. These sins try to sneak and up and invade our lives, just like that seemingly harmless vine in the rose bush.
So, what do we do? We are reminded in the Book of Hebrews that we are surrounded ‘by such a great cloud of witnesses’. We must remember that we are not alone in this battle. There are people who have come before us, people that are running with us now and people that will run after us. Second, Hebrews goes on to tell us to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’. Sound simple? Well, we all know it’s not easy at all. It takes prayers, support from fellow believers, delving into God’s Word, strength, opportunities to serve; all things you can find right here at Jacksonville First. Let’s support and work together to detangle ourselves from sin. Always be vigilant! Those rose bushes will be taken care of. Hopefully the person that cares for the City’s flowers will come yank out that pesky vine. This will give the rose bushes the opportunity to flourish and grow to its full capacity without being entangled by sin. Let’s all try to do the same!!
Jo Ann Silvi
and Finance Manager
It is always amazing for me to think about the change which occurs among the disciples after Jesus has been raised from the dead. In many ways, their transformation is astounding. Initially, the disciples are locked away and in hiding after Jesus has been executed. They are fearful for their lives. But in a short period of time, they go from being in hiding to putting their lives at risk for the sake of the good news of Jesus’ Kingdom. They go from heading back to their former ways of life (fishing for example) to risking living counter culture lives (See Acts 2:43-47). Even more, they go from being afraid of Caesar, as well as the Jewish leaders, to being defiant proclaiming there is only one Lord who is Jesus. (Just read some early church history and you will discover such defiance led to many of their own deaths). All to say, there is an astounding transformation. The resurrection and its promises become the lynchpin, the anchor, the deciding factor that transforms the disciples.
Such a sudden change is a rarity. It may take years for someone to change their minds or to get through a traumatic experience like the disciples had experienced. And yet, their experience of the Resurrected Christ altered their outlook on life, what mattered, and how they spent their time. They were willing to let go of their previous thoughts and understandings and lean further into the Kingdom mindset. Most of the early disciples didn’t keep one foot in one world and another foot in Jesus’ new world. Rather they lived with a deep seated conviction as to the veracity and reality of Jesus’ resurrection.
What would it look like to live with the same conviction today? How might our lives be different if the resurrection took full control in our lives? What would it require of us to let go? What fears hold us back? Even more so, what is the nature of Jesus’ resurrected kingdom? What are the characteristics we would live into and seek to sustain in the world? How does it look different from the world around us? These are all questions worth pondering and even answering with our lives. The Resurrection and its effects are world altering. The early church understood its power. May we grasp it and continue to strive toward it also!
Rev. Nathan Kilbourne
A Heart of Wisdom
So, teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom. - Psalm 90:12
Each of us is given a certain number of days to live out our life. How we choose to live each day is pretty much our own decision, though we are understandably influenced by those around us, our desire to find happiness and our own personal expectations. We also live in a society that repeatedly tells us these things: “Be the best!,” “Achieve!,” and “You deserve it.” While all these sayings are indeed motivational, we can run into the danger of losing our life if we chase the vision of what others dictate our life should be.
As Christ-followers, our desire ought to be to live out our days walking with the Lord and honoring Him in our choices. That often happens in the small moments of each day. Those moments can absolutely make an impact on the rest of each day and then ultimately your life.
The words in our verse say: “So teach us to number our days.” As we seek the Lord for each new day, praying for direction and wisdom, we are asking the Lord to teach us to value each moment and each situation that comes our way. What happens in your day is for a reason.
As we seek the Lord for each new day, a sense of holy purpose will fill us. We are here to worship Him. We should not take a single day for granted. We are here to make each day count for eternity. And while we absolutely should be all that God has made us to be, and strive to always do our very best in every situation, our focus should be pointing others to Jesus and not ourselves.
When we ask the Lord to help teach us to number our days, we begin to see the value of every situation. Our hearts begin to change as we grow wiser. This godly wisdom gives us the understanding and discernment we need to make sense of each of our days. The more we seek the Lord in this area, the more we get to know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will begin to allow Him to work through our words, our faith and through each of our days.
“So, teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom” should be our focus if we are longing to make each of our remaining days matter. We are only guaranteed this one moment, not the next. Why not choose to make this moment be about the Lord? Seek Him in prayer and trust Him for each detail for the rest of today. Trust Him to guide you, to direct you, and to fill your heart with wisdom so that each of your days takes on a holy purpose.
Looking for His wisdom daily,
Be Guinn, Youth Director and Lay Servant
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common. 1 Cor 12:4-7
I imagine you have all seen the signs around town and in your neighborhoods, “Now Hiring,” “No experience needed,” “start your new career today.” It seems as if there is more work than workers. Well, we have the same challenge here in YOUR church.
We have received the challenge of returning to dining-in for Mission 5000 on Wednesday evenings. We have served food during the last two years but only to-go meals because of Covid health concerns. In studying the logistics of going back to dining in, the biggest factor is people. The greeters, servers, dishwashers, cooks, and the other multitude of jobs needed.
Mission 5000 has only missed three meal days in the last 30 months and that was due to weather, not Covid. We have been blessed to be able to provide meals every Wednesday and Saturday with only a handful of volunteers. Now we need everyone to discern their spiritual gifts, to step forward out of your comfort zone and discover what else you can do for YOUR church and community.
We are an equal opportunity Ministry! If you can only give a few hours or one day a month, we can still use you. Volunteering does not have to take over your life to be beneficial. In fact, research shows that just two to three hours per week, or about 100 hours a year, can confer the most benefits—to both you and your chosen cause. The important thing is to volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable to you. Volunteering should feel like a fun and rewarding hobby, not another chore on your to-do list.
One of the more well-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people in need. And volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help.
So, my friends, we have a challenge before us. To return to providing meals in a Christian environment, whereby we share with our community grace and love. Yes, we are hiring, no experience is needed, and the benefits are substantial for YOU and YOUR community. Will you step out and accept this challenge with Mission 5000, and your church? I promise, you will be greatly rewarded.
Mission 5000 Coordinator
God be with you, brother dear
If you don’t mind me asking what brings you here?
Oh, nothing much, I’m just looking for the man
Need to see where he’s lying in this lost land—Bob Dylan, Goodbye Jimmy Reed, Rough and Rowdy Ways, 2021
“Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”—Matthew 28: 5-6
Being on the writing team for The Journey is an intellectually stimulating challenge for me. The task is straightforward: pen a short reflection/devotional/rumination that provides a mid-week connection between the worship services. The challenge, at least as I take it, is to do so in a way that does not read like every other five-hundred-odd-word devotion.
To bring a “unique” perspective, I have some tricks up my sleeve that I developed over the years. Holistically, my process allows me to be ready to draft something or present—sometimes off-the-cuff—and that comes in handy in my adventures. It works like this:
· Read. Read all manner of things: fiction, non-fiction, history, essays, cartoons, poetry. The more you marinate in the thing you try to do, the more likely you are to do it well yourself.
· Stay current. News, trends, movies, and scholarship are constantly developing, evolving, and generally happening. Sometimes, current events are great entry points to discuss the past; sometimes, they are solid endpoints for the past.
· Curate. I have a personal book of collected quotes (135 pages and growing), a folder stuffed full of annotations from books and articles, another with odd and random facts that I find interesting, another with pictures that I find fascinating (among my favorites are “odd pairings”—Harpo Marx and Amelia Earhart? Einstein and Charlie Chaplin? Muhammed Ali and Bob Dylan? Mae West, Ringo Starr, and Alice Cooper? I’ve got ‘em.). When you need inspiration, it helps to have someplace to go.
When it’s my week to write a Journey article, I’ll double-check with Nathan to make sure I know what the general direction, theme, or scripture he’s planning on (it’s more embarrassing to duplicate Bible verses than it is to show up in the same outfit); pray for guidance; research the topic; dig into my resources, and write. More often than not, it works. I won’t say I’m always terribly original. I don’t pretend to be wiser by any measure than anyone else I’ve met or read. I can overwrite—both in subject matter and in length—my favorite teacher of all time once noted on an assignment that “your verbosity can be an obscenity,” and she was right. All-in-all, though, I like to think I can bring an honest voice to the work, which makes the writing team stronger.
Why am I telling you all this? Because sometimes, everything I just explained is precisely the wrong way to approach the work.
This is Holy Week. We remember, reflect, and celebrate the culmination of God’s plan for bringing us back into right relationship with him. We examine our hearts and wrestle with the incomprehensible sacrifice that Jesus made for our souls. We gather on Easter Sunday as living witnesses to an amazing grace that saw Death vanquished and the stone rolled away to reveal an empty tomb.
Brothers and sisters, there is absolutely nothing I can write here that could add to the glory of the Resurrection. The only wisdom I can impart is this: Jesus willingly died for us and then conquered Death itself; He rose from the dead in triumph so that every one of us can spend eternity in Paradise with Him. Let’s get to Church and offer our praise.
In Christ our Redeemer,