Let us be as one in our prayers for the nation: those already infected by the virus and whose health is endangered; those providing medical response and care and who are themselves putting their lives and that of their families in danger; those evaluating the conditions and making appropraite decisions; those making, supplying the much needed equipment to hospitals; those working in labs to test and create a vaccine to attack this virus; those who health conditions put them in harms way.
This is an extremely critical time in our nation. It can easily produce stress, sorry, panic and fear, but we believe and trust a loving Father who has promised His children peace and hope. Let us be ever prayerful and claim His promise, guidance and protection.
Rev. Jerry W. Turner
March 18, 2020
Amazing Grace - Rosemary Siemens
Way Maker - Chicago Church of Christ Virtual Choir
I'll Fly Away - Gaither Vocal Band, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Gatlin Brothers
A Living Hope - Northwest University Choralons Virtual Choir Easter
Unclouded Day - Arranged by Shawn Kirchner Virtual Choir
You Are Good - Chicago Church of Christ Virtual Choir
Step Into the Water - Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
All Hail the Power of Jesus - Bill & Gloria Gaither
What A Beautiful Name - Hillsong Worship
September 14, 2020
“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.” Colossians 2:8
That was a key verse in a webinar presented through our North Star Baptist Association entitled “Exploring Revolutionary Civility.” With all we see and hear daily, especially during this period in our history as a nation, that verse jumps out at me: “Captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy…human tradition…basic principles of this world.”
I see that reality taking hold much more than the last four word option: “rather than on Christ.” This seems to be true even among those of us who claim Christ and His church as central to life. We are moving ever closer to the world shaping us than Christ and His church shaping and reshaping us.
The church is not Republican or Democratic. It is not conservation or liberal. It is not centered on either of those platforms. It is the bride of Christ, body of Christ, message of Christ. The church is the embassy of Christ, a refuge of hope, which represents and preserves its mission. It houses and sends forth its ambassadors. It is not to be shaped by the environment or politics of its surroundings. It is there to represent the kingdom of God, not be a political presence.
The presenter in this webinar offered the following challenges: Be informed and careful. Responsibility does not start and stop with your vote, as vital as that privilege is; Trust and honor God’s word, not a political platform; Hold every candidate and each party to their oath to be responsible and honest; Be open to hearing the opinions of others, respectfully; Who we are politically is not nearly as important as “Who am I in Christ” or “What am I in Christ”; Be an ambassador of Christ and His church before a party or cause; Work for God “in the world not of the world.”
I found such thoughts powerful reminders when thinking of all our nation faces at this time: a deadly virus that rages on for months, impacting hundreds of thousands; a political campaign filled with more attacks on the opponent than the issues, what’s good for me and the party than what’s good for the country; a society that seems to still struggle with freedom and fairness than liberty and justice for all; a society where hatred and anger too often prevents peace, acceptance and love.
The ways of the world will not solve the issues facing us, but the ways of God's Truth and Spirit will. Clearly, the scripture calls us to not love the world or the things of the world but rather be ambassadors of the Light of the world. So, let us be!
September 8, 2020
Adapted from an article in Nurturing Faith entitled “This Changes Everything.”
The recurring joke in churches has been that the seven last words of the church were, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Well, Covid-19 has sure made government agencies, businesses, families, churches, and society, in general, rethink all that. We have been adjusting our lives for the past 6-7 months, and we are not at a comfort level yet. We have all had to rearrange and adjust our lives to fit our daily situations from eating out, buying groceries, working, exercising, visiting family, even attending church.
“Adaptive change” has become a term the busines world uses that now applies to the church. It is defined as “change that requires new learning for problem definition and solution implementation.” While some churches were already into it, the vast majority of the rest of us had to quickly figure out how to conduct online worship. Thanks to Joy’s coordination, we initiated our online worship on Easter Sunday and continue to use it as our source of praise, worship, and staying connected.
In the article by Larry Hovis, Executive Director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of NC, he reminds us:
“we are learning that the building is not the church. Our theology has always professed this fact. Our practice has not lived it out.”
“Now we know we can “do Church” without going to the building. We have actually done it. It took a viral pandemic to make our professed theology our practical theology.”
“So, what will the future hold? We will gather in our church buildings again, but we will no longer see the gathering as the only, or even primary, expression of the church.”
“We are learning that while our gatherings are important to us emotionally and spiritually, their primary purpose is to equip us to be sent into the world, to participate in God’s mission in our homes, our neighborhoods, our work environments and our social networks.”
We all want to get back in our sanctuary on Sunday morning, but between the multiple restrictions still required and the comfort level related to Covid, that regathering is still to be determined. I along with our deacons continue to monitor the situation. In the meantime, let us continue our commitment to BE CHURCH and demonstrate its presence and power beyond the walls of our building.
September 4, 2020
The following is an article I have adapted from Ministry Matters by Steve Harper an evangelist, pastor and professor who taught spiritual formation and Wesley studies to Christian divinity students for more than thirty years.
Micah looked at Israel and Judah and said in effect, “We are in deep trouble.” It is easy to look at life today and draw a similar conclusion.
We are living in a time akin to the one Micah lived in 2,700 years ago. It’s not the first time his words have spoken directly to people since he wrote his book. History goes through cycles. Our time is one in which Micah’s message is needed. We are living in a period of history when the question, “How then shall we live?” is on our minds with acute relevance. Micah provides us with a broad-stroke answer. He does it by showing us what kind of moment we are in, and by offering guidance in how we should live in it.
First, what is a Micah moment? In the first five chapters, he describes it in several ways. In chapter one, Micah names the fundamental problem, and repeats it as the book continues. It is a moment of national crisis in need of a moral restoration. In other words, it is a time when a nation is experiencing root rot, and in doing so bears the bitter fruit of unrighteousness. Like every crisis, Micah reveals in the first five chapters that it is a time fraught with danger, but not bereft of opportunity.
But something else is happening in a Micah moment. There is an awakening among the people. There is a stirring in the national consciousness. There is a movement mounting. Micah points to it in chapters four and five. It is small (a remnant), but genuine — a people’s campaign emerging out of the cries of their oppression and expressed in their shouts, “Enough is enough!”
Sociologists call it a tipping point. It is a pivot away from passivity. It aims to topple the status quo (“the kingdoms of this world”) and restore righteousness (”the kingdom of God”). We are living in just such a moment — a Micah moment — which has brought us to an “enough is enough” moment which ignites passion and invites participation.
And it is when we recognize this moment for what it is that Micah helps us answer a second question: What do we do?
Micah put it this way, “What does the Lord require of you?” (6:8). The “you” is the people. It is a resistance movement characterized by three verbs and three qualities.
The verbs: do, love and walk. A Micah moment is a time for action. This does not mean words are unnecessary; it means the words are enacted — words on the move. Each verb carries an implicit meaning.
Do is a word of advocacy. We voice our values, we support the oppressed, we stand up for what we believe. This is what Eugene Peterson called “lived theology” and Dietrich Bonhoeffer defined as “the cost of discipleship.”
Love is a word of devotion — to God and to others. It is the devotion that strengthens our resolve to obey God rather than people — an obedience Micah described in chapter four of his book, the obedience Jesus named as the two great commandments (Matthew 22:34-40).
Walk is a word of endurance. The reform that is needed is not accomplished quickly or easily. It is achieved little-by-little, step-by-step. Sometimes it loses ground, but rather than giving into despair, we heed the Spirit who simply says, “Keep walking.” As we do so, we learn the lesson of history: achievements are won by those who do not give up. One of God’s repeated exhortations in history is, “Don’t stop!”
The qualities: justice, kindness, humility. Justice is the movement of fairness, equality and inclusion. We call it the common good. It issues forth through our justice system, to be sure, but justice in and of itself is not a legal term, it is a leveling endeavor.
Kindness is the movement of gentleness, generosity and care-giving. We call it compassion. It issues forth through empathy and solidarity. It is relating to people and things in ways that honor their sacred worth and enable their ability to thrive.
Humility is the movement of renunciation, servanthood and teachability. We call it consecration. It issues forth through self-surrender (Matthew 5:3). It is the offering of ourselves to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) and asking God to make us instruments of God’s peace (the prayer of Saint Francis).
All this comes together for us in Frank Laubach ‘s morning prayer, “Lord, what are you doing in the world today that I can help you with?”  It is the prayer which engages in a Micah moment without being overwhelmed by the enormity of it. It is a recognition that we each have something we can do, and it is an indication of our willingness to do it. We cannot do everything, but we can do something. Living in a Micah moment is becoming a co-creator with God, contributing our effort to the larger work God is bringing to pass.
August 31, 2020
An article from The Alliance of Baptist encouraged prayers related to schools and colleges going back to campus this Fall whether in person or online. That prayer led me to share the following as a prayer concern.
There are few of us that are not impacted by this. Phyllis and I have three granddaughters either in school or will be online, two daughters-in-law teaching. Many of you have the same, or your own child, friends, relatives facing the adjustments and confusion this school year will bring. I found the encouragement to pray a reminder to me of just how many people are impacted and in need of our prayer support.
Pray for teachers, professors and parents; principals, superintendents and college presidents; mayors, governors and government official; campus administrators; nannies and daycare workers; school nurses, counselors, office staff, cafeteria workers and custodians; teacher aides, bus drivers and crossing guards: For all those who provide support and a safe place and whose kindness and faithfulness remind our students that they are valued and loved.
Pray for all the children, whether in person or through a computer screen, connecting once again to their learning environment. Pray for the courage and encouragement they need to adjust to unfamiliar and new approaches. Pray they can be wrapped in a sense of peace and acceptance to this new norm.
Pray for the children most vulnerable in our school systems. Those struggling with physical, mental, and emotional conditions; those coming from what may not be safe environments; those coming whose best source of food or a sense of being loved is at school. Bless those teachers, aids, and school employees to be ever more sensitive to these students. Give them an extra measure of strength and compassion.
Pray for college students working from home or having to repack and move back home or are miles across country or from another country and are trying to decide what they should do.
Pray for the patience to navigate through this uncertain time with its ever-changing agendas and conditions. Pray for all the families, communities, and campuses, facing so many choices that must be made.
There is no guidebook for us so we must pray, trusting the Spirit to lead, protect, grant us grace for such a time as this. Let us pray God grant His richest blessings on all.
August 19, 2020
In the July August issue of the Nurturing Faith Journal, I read an interesting article written by Benny McCracKen, pastor of the First Baptist Church of West Yellowstone, Montana. He goes back to his childhood in the church and the belief that God is on his throne actively caring for his creation. He believes there must be a tear in God’s eye when some of His people turn every crisis into a judgement from God.
He feels this does not reflect the basic understanding of John 3: 16-17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” There is also the affirmation in John 10:10 that, unlike the thief that comes to steal, Jesus came so we can have life in its fullness.
Needless to say, we face a lot of unknowns in our lifetime, recent times not being an exception. We look for answers, for some clarification and insight. Sometimes some take it upon themselves to become the sole authorities on the workings of God, as if they have all we need to know and to hear. When in truth, we may each need to ask ourselves the most fundamental question of our faith. “What can I learn about myself and about God in this experience?”
McCracken references John Claypool’s book, Stories Jesus Still Tells, in which he reminds us that God’s goodness is always greater than human badness. That should give us the assurance of knowing God loves us as His children. The conditions we face today and at any time, provide us opportunities to learn more about ourselves and about God.
The Bible does not always give us an answer to every question about life. Our Christian faith is a journey of trust: trust in a relationship with a God who lovingly takes us through whatever comes—whatever we have to face.
August 14, 2020
The following is an article from Ministry Matters by Jake Owensby, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana.
“I’m so tired.” Tons of people report feeling exhausted by the time they get home from work. More than a few have been dragging themselves through the entire day every day since the pandemic descended upon us.
Mental health providers call this pandemic fatigue, and they point to a variety of causes.
Life has become unpredictable. Circumstances keep changing. People feel anxious about lost income or fear of infection or what to do with the kids. Isolation brings with it loneliness. Thousands grieve the death of loved ones.
Counselors are suggesting sound coping strategies like forming new routines, taking walks outside and cutting back on our media consumption, especially before bedtime. I will leave psychological advice about how to handle reaching your limit to the professionals. Instead, I invite you to consider the spiritual lesson of reaching your limit.
Here’s the pandemic’s spiritual news flash. Despite what you might have assumed while you were enjoying your pre-pandemic normal, you really do have limits. As human beings, our understanding, our imagination, and especially our power to control the course of our own lives are all finite. By contrast, once life overwhelms you, you know in your gut that you’re finite. There’s no deceiving yourself any longer.
And that is just when God can become real for you. You feel in your marrow that God is God, and you are not.
Contrary to how some people think, faith is not at its core having the correct ideas about God. Instead, faith is having the humility to let God be God in your life. One of the greatest stumbling blocks to faith is the certainty with which we cling to our concepts of God. There is always more of the holy God than we’ve gotten our hearts and minds around. So faith involves having the humility to face our limits so that God can stretch us beyond them.
As it turns out, Jesus did precisely this kind of spiritual stretching by telling parables. When Jesus’ disciples asked him why he taught using parables, he explained this way:
“For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)
The rigidity with which we hold our preferred truths about God can obscure from us what God is revealing to us in the moment. We will see or hear only what we want to see or hear. And so the parables jolt us by bringing us to the limits of our imagination.
The kingdom of heaven, Jesus says, is like a mustard seed. What? God’s reign is like a tiny seed? The kingdom of heaven is like a tiny seed that grows into a shrub and birds nest in it.
Jesus’ aim is precisely to open us up to letting God be God for us in the moment. To being surprised by the new depths and perspectives that God will show us.
Following Jesus means that you’ll reach your limit again and again. And maybe meet God again for yourself.
August 11, 2020
Illustration: Peace | Security
A number of years ago, a submarine being tested had to be submerged for several hours. Upon returning to harbor, the captain was asked, "How did that terrible storm last night affect you?" Surprised, the captain exclaimed, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!" Their submarine had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached what sailors refer to as "the cushion of the sea" – depth in the ocean where the waters below are never stirred despite any commotion on the surface.
David Jeremiah says: In our fast-paced world, it is a challenge to slow down and remember that God is in control. We are a society of "do-everything," "go-everywhere," "get-it-done" people who mistakenly believe we can handle everything if we just keep going. In reality, we need to become so submerged in God's peace that no matter what's happening in our lives, we are able to remain as calm as "the cushion of the sea."
If you feel overwhelmed, bogged down, or burnt out, add one more activity to your daily schedule: Spend time with Almighty God. It is the only way to reach the depth needed to find true calm in the midst of any storm.
(Turning Point Daily Devotional)Possible Reading Psalm 71: 14-24
August 5, 2020
was left reflecting on an article in the Post telling of Abraham Walker. Walker’s brother was tragically murdered in New Orleans. He made plans to leave that city shortly afterwards and move his family to Northern Virginia where he felt his family, especially his 2 sons, could have a “more normal” life.
He created a dads group in Alexandria that has grown to 170 members to help promote “connection” in his community. Then one day he was inspired by a Facebook page to ask the following question:
What are some positive things that have happened to you because of COVID-19?
In the days since 100s have responded with everything from simple appreciation to life-altering thoughts. Among them:
I successfully grew a tomato.
We have a swing set on our yard now.
I unintentionally learned to eat intuitively rather than emotionally.
I have been having the BEST time with my 4-year-old. I never thought of myself as a good mother, but this isolation has brought us so close together.
I finally got around to taking the Ancestry DNA test that had been sitting on my bureau for a year. I found my birth mother and birth father and learned that I have 3 half siblings and an enormous extended family.
People wrote about working from home in their pajamas. They also wrote about proving to employers that they could get their work done, and maybe even more, from home.
People wrote about getting to spend more time with children and spouses and even more time with themselves at a pace that wasn’t their normal foot-on-the-pedal go, go, go.
Before COVID I just got up late, ran around in a panic, usually in a bad mood or at least sad, endured a road rage-filled commute, and arrived at the office late and ready for a cocktail. Now I wake up and think, ‘Oh, I woke up again’ and then I go out to my balcony amidst the pine trees and the chirping birds and rising sun.
Walker says he is “ always looking for the parts that people aren’t seeing.” He thinks some people have such a different life than pre-Covid-19 that they will not go back to the old life. He “hopes people don’t waste the chance to reinvent themselves.” He is not obvious to what is happening as a result of the pandemic. He is simply trying to get people to flip the coin and recognize there is another side. Now people are adopting dogs, planting gardens, looking for old people, recording their mom’s voice during a phone call. Extraordinary things are quietly happening around us.
A person described living for 12 years in “more pain than I wish on anyone. Then comes Covid,” the person wrote. “I am forced to sit most of the day for 3 months. So . . . one day I went for a long drive, I finally arrived home and got out of the car to walk around the block. That’s when I noticed it. My pelvic bone had gone back into place by itself, the pain was SO diminished!!! I burst into tears! Covid-19 has given me my life back.”
“Look at the afterward,” Walker says. “History tells us there is always an afterward.”
Resources for inspiration and to assist in your home worship as shared by Rev. Jerry Turner