Month: May 2018

THE CHURCH: A PLACE FOR HOPE, LOVE

By MATTHEW BROYLES

In February I had the opportunity to travel to Bucharest, Romania, for a mission trip. One afternoon we took to see some sites and experience the culture we walked in an area of the city called Old Town. While walking in Old Town, we stopped in the oldest Romanian Orthodox church in Bucharest. During our time in the church there was a woman crying, standing and facing the saints on the wall. Clearly, she was praying and searching and asking for something. She kissed the saint’s picture and moved to the next one where she said a prayer and kissed it again. As she left, she said one more brief prayer, wiped her tears and kissed the podium and walked out. 

MatthewBroyles

Matthew Broyles

I didn’t know what was going on in her life, and I didn’t know how regularly religious she was. But what I do know is that she was a woman in need, and in her need she came to church to seek God, to experience a transcending love, hope, and grace in a sacred space. It reminded me people how desperately people need the love of God, and also, the ability of the church and church people to help people know that love. What I do as a minister, what we do as people of faith, what we do as a church matters – not only in our churches, but in our communities and in our world.

Many people have nowhere to turn when life gets tough, so they call a pastor or walk into a church because “why not? Isn’t this supposed to be a place of love and hope.” My prayer is that the church will respond with mercy and grace. I pray we learn from people in our lives, like this women I observed, and remember being right is less important than being love. The Gospel is good news, which can look differently in every person’s life. It’s what Jesus did, it’s who Jesus was. He WAS and IS the good news. He sought out the poor and needy, the widow and orphan, the outcast and the marginalized and became their good news by meeting their needs and leading them to transformation.

Yes, Jesus is the good news, but not only the idea or belief in Jesus. We only experience the true goodness of Jesus when we give our whole lives – heart, soul, mind, strength, money and time – following Jesus as one of his disciples. When we share the gospel, we share Jesus, which oftentimes means we share a meal, share medical supplies, share a phone for a phone call or maybe even share eye contact and a smile as we meet troubled people on the street who are so often invisible. For too long the church has been followers of the idea of Jesus. It’s time to do better. We can do better as we seek to follow Jesus with every fiber of our being. 

The love of God transcends all: all belief, all borders, all races, all religions, all societal classes, all hurt, all pain, all joy. Too often we try to add to the love of God rather than simply letting people experience it first hand through those who have first experienced it. We love God because he first loved us, but we are also to love others because we have first been loved by God. We know what it’s like to need to feel God’s love. When we have experienced God’s love, it becomes our job to help others we encounter to know that same love.

Seeing this woman in the Orthodox Church was a small event with a big impact on me. The church matters. What we do matters. The love of God permeates all situations and lives and moves people in a way in which nothing else can. Some have said, “The local church is the hope of the world.” If the church embodies and expresses God’s kind of transcending love then there’s no doubt in my mind that through Jesus, the local church will be the primary beacon of hope in the world.”

Matthew Broyles is Pastor to Emerging Adults at First Baptist Church 

FORMED BY INFLUENCE

By DANNY MINTON

We all have people who have influenced us in our lives. Maybe it was the lady who gathered the neighborhood kids in her home to tell them Bible stories. It could have been a coach that worked with us day in and day out. Then again, maybe it was your mom or dad or grandparent who showed you how to live through the tough parts of life.

Danny Minton

Danny Minton

I’ve had several who have had an impact on my life in various ways. As I was rifling through my notes, I came across a poem written by a man who was a major influence on how I preach and write. Very few of you who read this will know this man, but those who know him will probably admit he had some influence on their lives as well. He preached in Plano when it was a small community of less than 10,000 residents.

He helped me with my first sermon and performed our wedding ceremony. Alan Sowders and his wife Shirley were a gift to everyone who knew them. Alan passed a couple of years ago, but left a great influence on so many. Here is the poem he wrote, but I guarantee it describes someone who was his opposite.

RELIGION OF A HEAVY WAIT

By ALAN SOWDERS

I’d love to go to Heaven, Lord

If I could work it in,

You see; I’m far too busy Lord

To even battle sin.

But I’ve promised myself I’ll serve you, Lord,

If easy it can be made,

But should it be inconvenient Lord,

I can’t make it, I’m afraid.

 I go to church once weekly Lord

To do more is a strain.

I just can’t seem to get up Lord,

Missed sleep sure gives me pain.

When I get rested up Lord

A change in me you’ll see;

But until I get rested, Lord,

Don’t let folks bother me.

 The preacher bellows loudly, Lord

So sleepy I barely hear.

He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom” Lord;

That got thru loud and clear.

But surely, you didn’t mean it, Lord

To put folks out that way?

I know you’re concerned with my ease dear Lord

Have ‘em blow softly judgment day.

 And If I rise slowly judgment morn

From the long sleep of the dead,

Tell the angels to gently shake me, Lord,

Then I’ll yawn as I get out of bed.

Please don’t take too long with judgin’ Lord,

It is so tiring you see

I can hardly wait ‘till Heaven Lord,

So I can REST with thee.

 (If this chances to disturb you over much, take another sleeping pill and drift on off to sleep.)

To all of you reading this, take time to sit down and remember those who have been an influence in your life, especially those who have formed your spiritual journey. Then say a little prayer thanking God for sending them your way. Maybe you have an Alan in your life as well.

Secondly, ask yourself, “What kind of influence am I on those in my life? Will they look back and be glad that I was a part of their journey?” Remember, we are an influence in some way with every person we meet. We should all wake up and use our lives to influence others to greater things for the Lord.

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14

“But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, … But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

 Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

CALLED TO BE STEWARDS OF CREATION

RickSunrise

A sunrise is captured at just the right moment by Rick Hammer, who believes we are all called to be stewards of creation.

 

(Editor’s Note: Rick Hammer is a professor of biology at Hardin-Simmons University and an environmental action coordinator for the Abilene area of the Texas Interfaith Power & Light organization. He believes that we are called to be stewards of creation. April marked the 400th consecutive month with above average temperatures on Earth–not a cause for celebration.)

By RICK HAMMER

Earth just celebrated a milestone: April 2018 marks the 400th consecutive month with above average temperatures. At first blush, we might want to say that this climate science fact is nothing to write home about. However, in all seriousness, when this earth climate milestone is viewed within the larger context of ongoing climate change, conveying the message loud and clear—if not shouting—that our planet and home is in a state of unprecedented global change, that should be an urgent priority.

RickHammer

Rick Hammer

The scientific evidence is indisputable that planet earth is getting hotter. Global temperatures have risen 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit since the late nineteenth century, with most of that warming occurring during the last 35 years, along with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. The rate of warming observed over this short time period of just three decades is unprecedented, and likely exceeds any rates that have occurred over the last several thousand years. What is the explanation?  Scientists have determined, from a wide array of scientific data, that human modification of the atmosphere is to blame. Specifically, the amount of CO2, or carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere has increased dramatically since the late 1800’s and the rise of industrialism.

The detrimental effects of this unnatural rate of warming have become all too common in recent years. Worrisome symptoms of a warming planet include: warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic sea ice, and ocean acidification. These symptoms are almost certainly the result of human-induced climate change. NASA has an excellent web page on Global Climate Change where you can read in more detail about all of these symptoms and the evidence behind them.

For most of us, the foregoing litany of evidence of anthropogenic—that is, human-induced—climate change, is old news. Just this week NASA’s new administrator made the statement that he believed climate change is real and is being caused by human actions.

So, where do we go from here? What should be our course of action? Should we or can we do anything to at least slowdown that rate of warming of our planet? Do we humans, faithful Christians or otherwise, have any responsibilities in addressing this problem? Well, let me speak for myself and my faith tradition. As a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ, and as a botanist and ecologist trained with a Ph.D., I think it is helpful for us to remember that we—the human race—have been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), the Imago Dei.

Properly understood, being the image bearers of God assigns humanity a unique role as God’s kingly representatives in creation, that is, planet earth. We are to be stewards and caretakers. And ultimately, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, reveals a God who binds himself to all of His creation. We cannot then deny the goodness of the physical world. Bottom line is that we are called to be stewards of this good creation of God. We are obliged to act, as ordained image bearers of God, both from theological reflection and the objectively informed scientific evidence that God has in effect revealed to us, directly on the dimensions of the climate change problem.

Personally, I am motivated to act, now. I want to be part of the solution and have been drawn to climate change advocacy. I volunteer as the environmental action coordinator for the Abilene area for the faith-based Texas Interfaith Power & Light organization. It’s a small contribution, but small contributions from all of us can add up.

Finally, just this week I received an invitation from the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), a worldwide grassroots climate advocacy group that seeks to build a non-partisan advocacy coalition to address the climate change problem, to attend their upcoming conference in Washington D.C. as the Texas Congressional District 11 representative. Attendance and participation in the training workshops would equip me to serve as God’s image bearer and representative. I believe God is calling me to be involved in this way. We are all called. How is God calling you to be His representative on this warming earth? It’s worth our sincere prayer and reflection. Please remember me in yours.

Rick Hammer is a professor of biology at Hardin-Simmons University and an environmental action coordinator for the Abilene area of the Texas Interfaith Power & Light organization.

 

GOOD ADVICE IN JUST THREE WORDS

(Editor’s Note: Glenn Dromgoole is graciously sharing a series of “Just Three Words” from his book, “More Civility, Please.” A new segment will be posted each week for 10 weeks. The entire book can be purchased at Texas Star Trading Company.)

Most good advice can be expressed in

Just Three Words

By Glenn Dromgoole

From More Civility, Please

 (Seventh in a series)

Register to vote.

Pay your taxes.

Express your opinion.

Open your mind.

Eat more fruit.

Eat more vegetables.

Savor good food.

Take more pictures.

Keep a scrapbook.

Collect more art.

Set your priorities.

Greet your neighbors.

GlennDromgoole

Glenn Dromgoole

ODE TO RETIREMENT

(Editor’s Note: Carolyn Newman is a retired public school music specialist who spent much of her career at Dyess Elementary School. She also writes “po’try,” as she calls it, thinking that her work doesn’t rise to the level of poetry. But it is certainly entertaining. Newman has sung her “Ode to Retirment” for the AISD retired teachers’ luncheon and the Dyess Elementary Retired Teachers’ Fellowship. Just dial up Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in your mind and enjoy. Newman will periodically share more of her “po’try” with Spirit of Abilene readers.)

By CAROLYN NEWMAN

Verse 1
Joyful, Joyful, we’re retired, There’s five Fridays in a row, Then along will come the weekend, Oh the places we can go!
Here we are, retired teachers,
We have experience and we’re wise. And we have the joy of knowing We helped shape our student’s lives.

Verse 2
What Educators! What Professionals! We worked ’til the job was done. Teachers with a strong work ethic
Help make their school number one.
We connect with other retirees, Together we can run the race.
For we have so much in common As life’s challenges we face.

Verse 3
Joyful, joyful where we’re headed Could be anybody’s guess! But we know that while we’re going There’s a (small) check from TRS
In retirement, God will bless us With His knowledge and His love. Joyful, Joyful, may He keep us ’til He calls us home above.

CarolynNewman

Carolyn Newman

ABILENE LOSING A GOOD FRIEND

By LORETTA FULTON

Highland Church of Christ and all of Abilene will be loosing a good friend when Jonathan Storment and his family move to Little Rock. Jonathan, preaching minister at Highland since 2010, will become preaching minister at Pleasant Valley Church of Christ.

JonathanStorment

Jonathan Storment

His last Sunday at Highland will be June 24. In eight years, Jonathan has become a favorite to people of all denominations, sharing his knowledge and love of life with all he encounters. Students love him, older members of the congregation love him. In fact, it would be hard to find anyone who doesn’t like Jonathan.

One of Jonathan’s many good friends in Abilene is Jeff Childers, a professor in ACU’s Graduate School of Theology and director of the Center for the Study of Ancient Religious Texts. He praised Jonathan as being an outstanding preacher and pastor for the he church.

“He brings enormous energy and relentless optimism to his ministry,” Childers said. “His humility makes him remarkably responsive to the needs, concerns, and even criticisms of his congregation.”

Jonathan welcomes opportunities to grow, Childers said, and has “a knack for bringing people of different backgrounds and viewpoints together for the sake of uniting in kingdom work.”

Another friend is Cliff Stewart, pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church. Stewart is a “few years” older than Jonathan, who is the father of five young children. Stewart loves teasing Jonathan about not wearing a tie. That’s holds true for when it’s Jonathan’s turn to preach at the annual Holy Week Luncheon Series. Each day, a minister at one of the sponsoring churches preaches at another’s church. For most of the “older” ministers, it’s like Sunday morning, with a suit and tie being the uniform of the day. But not to Jonathan, a point that Stewart can’t help but point out. He got in one last dig before Jonathan departs.

“If he only would wear a suit and tie to work every day,” Stewart said, “he would be an outstanding somber Presbyterian!!”

The Church of Christ isn’t likely to lose Storment, but that doesn’t matter because Storment is everybody’s pastor.

‘NO WORDS WILL MAKE SENSE’

(Editor’s Note: Cliff Stewart, pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church and president of the Abilene Association of Congregations, issued the following statement following the shooting that took place May 18 at a Texas school.)

I want to express our sadness over this morning’s shooting taking the lives of teachers and children. This shooting reminds us that such tragedy is not only a nationwide problem. It is personal. It’s in our neighborhoods. It’s in our schools. And it’s killing our children. Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been taken and to their families and friends who grieve.

CliffStewartOf course, as people of faith, we pray. In addition to praying, we are committed to keeping these weapons out of the hands of those who misuse them. Let me say something important: I don’t have answers. I have the same questions everyone has when faced with such senseless destruction. I do know there is a light that shines in the darkness…and I am confident that the darkness will not overcome it.

 No words will make sense…but I am thankful for the PRESENCE of God who is acquainted with suffering.