From the Pastor’s Pen: Remembering Our Christian Heritage on Memorial Day

lest we forget cross

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, revering the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It is also an opportunity for us to remember our heritage as we honor those that came before us.

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many people observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries/memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades.

The date of Decoration Day, originally May 30th, was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any former battle.  On the first Decoration Day, former Civil War General, current U.S. Representative, and future President of the United States, James Garfield, was the key-note speaker at Arlington National Cemetery. It is estimated that about 5,000 people decorated the graves of the 20,000 Confederate & Union soldiers buried there.

Unfortunately, Garfield also became the second U.S. President to be assassinated, giving him the second shortest tenure in office (six and a half months).  However, he accomplished many presidential firsts.

“(Garfield) was the only one in U.S. history to be a sitting Representative, Senator-elect, and President-elect at the same time. He was the first to use a front porch campaign and, during one of these speeches, he became the first to speak in two different languages.  At his inauguration he accomplished three more firsts. He was the first President to view the Inaugural Parade from in front of the White House and the first to have his Mother attend. He was also the first President to die before the age of 50 (He was 49)”James A Garfield: Man of Many Presidential Firsts

My personal favorite first is that Garfield has the title of being the lone President of the U.S. to have served as a minister prior to becoming a resident in the White House living quarters. Not only that, but his background is very similar to Little Flatrock Christian Church, as his date of birth reflects a connection with the early days of our congregation.

“Garfield has the distinction of being the only President of the United States to have worked as a clergyman prior to becoming President. He was born on November 19, 1831, in a log cabin in Orange Township, Ohio. His parents, Abram/Eliza Garfield, joined a denomination known as the (Christian Churches)/Disciples of Christ in 1833 when James was two years old.  For more information, see “President Garfield’s Religious Heritage & What he Did With It” by Howard E. Short

The biographical sketches of Garfield tell us that he made his confession of faith on March 3, 1850, and was baptized the next day. He wrote in his diary, words that were used then and for many decades afterward: “I was buried with Christ and arose to walk in the newness of Life.”  In addition, Mr. Short’s document from 1983 provides one more insight.

 “Garfield seemed exuberant in his new faith. He wrote many…phrases in his diary. He showed the beginning of a broad concept…when he wrote about his botany studies: ‘It teaches us to look up through nature to nature’s God & to see His wisdom manifested in the flowers of the field.’”

Interestingly enough, one of the four references to God in the Declaration of Independence states: The “laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them…”  This does not seem to be a coincidence that Garfield used such similar language as our forefathers did 75-80 years earlier. This young American had not fallen far from their God-fearing tree.

As we celebrate Memorial Day this upcoming weekend, let us never forget that this country was founded on godly principles and sustained by godly people. James Garfield was one of these members of our Christian Heritage. The future President concluded his initial Decoration Day speech by saying:

“What other spot so fitting for their last resting place as this under the shadow of the Capitol saved by their valor? Here, where the grim edge of battle joined; here, where all the hope and fear and agony of their country centered; here let them rest, asleep on the Nation’s heart, entombed in the Nation’s love!”

“From many thousand homes, whose light was put out when a soldier fell…there go forth to-day to join these solemn processions loving kindred and friends, from whose heart the shadow of grief will never be lifted till the light of the eternal world dawns upon them. And here are children, little children, to whom the war left no father but…the FATHER above.”

From the Pastor’s Pen: Who Are You?

The above title is a profound part of the 2019 faith-based movie, Overcomer, as Thomas Hill, lying in his hospital bed, asks the lead character, John Harrison, this exact question. When John begins to answer, “I am a coach, a teacher, a husband, and a father,” Thomas has made his point quite clear. That is, as a Christian, his initial response should be a follower of Jesus.

What a great movie about redemption and God’s unconditional love!  But the more I thought about the film’s “question and answer session,” the more I wondered what might have been my response to the same query.  Even more thought-provoking, what would be my family and friend’s first thoughts regarding my life?  Would they think about my love for the Lord or my devotion for the sports teams that I so passionately support?

who are you 2

Our strong and unwavering faith does not necessarily have to be overbearing or confrontational.  However, it does need to be evident to those who see its results in the very fiber of our worldly existence.  An example of this is what we have been referring to as “Smiling at the Storm.”  If those around us witness our serenity during times of presumed trouble, then hopefully they will be drawn to the source of this comfort:  Jesus!

Another popular film has a unique background that is also rooted in our previous subject,Who Are You?”  Lew Wallace was born in Brookville, Indiana, in 1827 and had an illustrious career as a lawyer, Civil War Union General, Governor of the New Mexico Territory, and a diplomat.  However, his claim to fame was as an author.  Wallace is best known for his story, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a bestselling novel that has been called “the most influential Christian book of the 19th century.”

Interestingly enough, Lew’s initial intent was to write a book refuting the reality of Christ. During this process, he came to believe that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

“He spent several years working on the project and had written nearly four

chapters when it became clear to him that Jesus was just as real a personality

as Socrates…or Caesar. The conviction became a certainty, and Wallace said,

‘I knew that Jesus Christ had lived because of the facts connected with the

period in which he lived.’”

Now, the rest of the story:  the moment of “who are you?” shines brightly from a quiet, but persistent and loving, disciple of the Lord.  In other words, in Wallace’s life the “who are you?” was his wife of more than 50 years, Susan Elston Wallace. This prayer warrior had been interceding on her husband’s behalf for a very long time, when finally the literal moment of truth arrived for him.

“At that point (his new understanding of Jesus), Wallace fell on his knees

to pray for the first time in his life. He asked God to reveal himself to him, to

forgive his sins, and help him become a follower of Christ. Wallace says,

‘Towards morning the light broke into my soul. I went into my bedroom, woke

my wife and told her that I had received Jesus as my Lord and Savior.’

 

‘O Lew,’ she said, ‘I have prayed for this ever since you told me of your

purpose to write this book, that you would find him while you wrote it!’”

That is exactly what happened, as Wallace changed the work he was originally writing, and used all of his research to write another book. Later, the publication became a movie starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur. Those who have seen the film will never forget the scene where he races four magnificent white horses in a thrilling chariot race.  It is actually the story of a Jewish nobleman who, like Lew Wallace, had come to believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

So, the answer to our title, “Who Are You?” depends on where your priorities are found.  If you are a Christian, then others should recognize this fact by the way you live this life and how you continue to Smile at the Storm!

 

LFCC Back on Track to Worship Together

lawn chiar

We are pleased to announce a return of LFCC gathering together for corporate worship!   What you need to know:

·        Weather permitting, on May 17, we plan to begin outdoor worship services at 10:30 a.m. on the church lawn that allow us to physically distance between family groups.

·        It will be shorter than our regular service, and we are asking people to refrain from going into the church building.

·        For those who are able, please bring your own lawn chair.

·        We also ask that if you plan to sit on the lawn, you park so that we can leave open areas nearer the sidewalk for those who may wish to park there, remain in their vehicles, and still hear the service.

·        We are working on a communion package that allows us to serve you in the most sanitary way possible.  It may or may not be available for the first time or two that we meet.

·        We will be sending song lyrics for the service via email that you can print off beforehand at home if you wish or read on your phone if you are able.

·        Our offering time will look different, with buckets or a dropbox for people to leave their tithe as they go instead of passing a plate.  When arriving and leaving, we need to respect the social distancing guidelines and refrain from hugs and handshakes.

·        If we must cancel due to weather, we will activate the phone cancellation list and also announce it on Facebook and via email.

·        On May 24 at 10:20 a.m. (also outdoors), we plan have a brief congregational meeting to approve officers, followed immediately by the installation of officers.

·        The elders will continue to monitor the situation and make changes as necessary.

We are sharing via the link below the recommendations from Governor Holcomb about the guidelines for places of worship.  We thank you for your support and prayers and ask that you remain patient as we iron out the wrinkles in this new phase.  While this is not ideal or what we have come to think of as church, we want to be good citizens of this world and the next.  We wish to be together and to do so in a way that shows love and concern for our church family and community, knowing that we bring a wide variety of experiences and viewpoints. We understand that some may not feel comfortable with returning yet, and our prayers continue for all of our most vulnerable members.  For the time being, we will continue to share some sort of online message for those who need to remain at home.  Please contact the elders or Pastor Pat if you have questions.

The Minister of Defense

selective focus close up photo of brown wilson pigskin football on green grass

This past week a long-awaited event took place in the Smith household as the NFL draft brought some current athletics back into our sports-starved home.  It was as if an old friend had stopped by to chat for a few days. This reminded me of a funny article entitled, “How Going To Church Is Like a Football Game.”  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did:

Quarterback Sneak – Church members quietly leaving during the invitation.

Draw Play – What many children do with the bulletin during worship.

Halftime – The time between Sunday School & Worship when many choose to leave.

Benchwarmer – Those who do not sing, pray, work, or apparently do anything but sit.

Backfield-in-Motion – Making a trip to the back (restroom…etc…) during the service.

Staying in the Pocket – What happens to the money that should be given to the Lord’s work.

2-minute Warning – When you realize the sermon is almost over and you prepare to leave.

Instant Replay – The preacher loses his notes and falls back on last week’s illustrations.

Sudden Death – What happens to the attention span if the preacher goes “overtime.”

Trap Play (my favorite) – You’re called on for closing prayer and are STILL asleep.

End Run – Getting out quickly, without speaking to any guest or fellow member.

Flex Defense – The ability to allow nothing said during the sermon to affect your life.

Halfback Option – The decision of 50% of the people not to return for the prayer meeting.

Blitz – The rush for the restaurants and activities following the closing prayer.

Long before the Colts arrived in Indiana, my favorite player was Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts. About 20 years ago my new favorite Colt became a member of the Indianapolis Colts. I am withholding his name because he is part of our trivia contest for this week. (Hint: He was the Super Bowl winning Head Coach.) 

Another of my most-liked players never played for the Colts franchise, but he was an incredible individual, both on and off the field. His very name struck fear in the hearts of opposing teams.  Reggie White retired as the all-time sack leader in professional football. However, it was not his abilities on the field that interested me, as much as his labors off of the field.  His non-gridiron interests led to his nickname found in our article title. The Minister of Defense had his priorities in order, as he shared this statement in a dialogue called, Faith that Never Fumbled:

“I always believed, since I was a kid, that God was going to allow me to play professional football to use it as a platform to proclaim and to live out the name of Jesus, and that is the most exciting part about my life…”

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), this platform is referred to as literally “as you are going.”  In other words, bloom where you are planted!  This is what Reggie White did before, during, and after he retired from football.  This is what he was doing on the morning of December 26, 2004, when his platform was elevated to a new Home in Glory, as God called Reggie to join Him in Heaven.

“The sun was shining bright the day they laid Reggie White to rest. It should have been… Reggie White was a beacon of light, a man of hope and duty, going off to meet the God he lived to serve.”

To wrap things up … Football is fun; friends are great; and families are a blessing… But our FAITH is FOREVER!  So, keep your platform as a priority, and never let what you do in fulfilling the mission become the mission.

Now, let’s conclude with our football-themed trivia questions for this week:

  1.  Who was the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl-winning head coach?

2.  Last week, the Colts had two second-round picks…Who was their first pick of the second round (#34 overall)?

    3.  Google the answer to #2, adding “Athletes for God” to his name in order to fill in the following blank… ‘I am a starting receiver at USC. I am also a   ________________.’

Sincerely Utilizing God’s platform for me,

Pastor Pat

**Be the 4th one to text Pat (317-474-5623) the correct answers (all 3) to the above questions to win.  One text per person!

Successfulness vs. Faithfulnesss

James 1:2-4 (NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of ...

One of the great paradoxical statements in the New Testament is spoken by James and found in the book that bears his name. After his introductory comments in his opening statement, the brother of Jesus makes this profound statement in verse 2:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

This writing, by one of the initial leaders in the Jerusalem Church, was intended for those “followers of the faith” that were “scattered among the nations” (1:1). He tells us that, if we have real faith, we will show God’s love through our actions. This sounds great, except when applying the “trials of many kinds” statement mentioned above.

The reason why we wrestle with James’ words is because we have a false idea of what God desires regarding our faith. The following exemplifies this misunderstanding.

“Clarence Jordan was a man of unusual abilities. He had two PhDs, one in agriculture and one in Greek and Hebrew. So gifted was he, he could have chosen to do anything he wanted. He chose to serve the poor. In the 1940s, he founded a farm in Georgia, and called it Koinonia Farm. It was a community for poor whites and blacks.

As you might guess, such an idea did not go well in the Deep South of the 1940s. Ironically, much of the resistance came from good church people who followed the laws of segregation as much as the other folk in town. The town people tried everything to stop him.

For 14 years, they tried to stop him. Finally, in 1954, the Ku Klux Klan had enough of him, so they decided to get rid of him once and for all. They came one night with guns and torches and set fire to every building on Koinonia Farm but Clarence’s home, which they riddled with bullets.

Clarence recognized the voices of many of the KKK, and, as you might guess, some of them were church people. Another was the local newspaper’s reporter. The next day, the reporter came to see what remained of the farm.  The rubble still smoldered and the land was scorched, but he found Clarence in the field, hoeing and planting.

‘I heard the awful news,’ he said to Clarence, ‘And I came out to do a story on the tragedy of your farm closing.’  Clarence just kept on hoeing and planting.

The reporter kept prodding, trying to get a rise from this quietly determined man who seemed to be planting instead of packing his bags. So, finally, the reporter said in a haughty voice, ‘Well, Dr. Jordan, you got two of them PhDs and you’ve put 14 years into this farm, and there’s nothing left of it. Just how successful do you think you’ve been?’ Clarence stopped hoeing, turned to the reporter saying, quietly but firmly…

‘About as successful as the cross… Sir, I don’t think you understand us. What we are about is not success…but FAITHFULNESS.’”

The main point?  We, as faithful followers, should never base our successes on the world’s scale of achievements.  If we do, then we will always be disappointed. And, we will not achieve the results of this testing:

“…because you know that the TESTING of your FAITH develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:3-4)

During these difficult times remember to keep smiling at the storm as our job is not to always be successful, but to always be FAITHFUL!

Sincerely and FAITHFULLY facing Trials of many Kinds, 

Pastor Pat 

*Congratulations to all who texted the correct answer (Umpire & Catcher) in last week’s trivia question. Hope you enjoyed your ice cream!  Another chance to win next week.

Swinging for the Fence

man holding baseball bat

There is nothing like opening day if you are a big fan of Major League Baseball.  (This writer has been rooting for the Cincinnati Reds since the early days of the Big Red Machine.) The month of April signals the beginning of America’s Pastime, and with it, our renewed hopes for the team that has secured our attention and allegiance.

Questions will abound. and ultimately be answered, as the puzzle of each team’s season begins to unfold.  Speaking of questions…See if you can answer the following riddle I recently discovered in my devotional reading.

“A man left home running one night.  He turns left and is still running.  He then takes another left, and finally, after a few more strides he takes one final left turn. When he arrives back home, he is met by two masked men.  (Again) The QUESTION? Who are those masked men?

If you were following our earlier discussion about baseball and swinging for the fence, that should provide you with a clue to the above riddle.  Another hint can be found in Hebrews 11:1.

“Now FAITH is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Sometimes it is difficult when we begin a new adventure for our Lord.  Our recent COVID-19 situation would certainly qualify as a new adventure.  Those who lead us realize that the only way we will “Grow in the Lord” is to place our FAITH within His Might!

This is, by the way, the area of intent being expressed in this article set before you. That is, God is calling His Church, including the congregation of Little Flatrock, to go beyond the obvious and continuously swing for the fence!  The key to this understanding is found in Acts 1:10-11.

“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”

 Although this is not intended to be a riddle…Who were THESE two men? Basically, as Jesus was leaving His disciples, this duo appeared to let them know the following:

“The appearance of the two angels broke the spell and recalled them to the ENORMOUS TASK at hand with the assurance that the return of Jesus to judge the world would be in this same manner.” (Studies in the Life of Christ – R.C. Foster)

This task is what we need to be reminded of on a daily basis as the world around us needs to find Christ in those of us who our Christians.  As puzzling as that may sound, it is exemplified in the following word picture that Paul utilizes in the sixth book of the New Testament… ‘Clothe yourself with Christ’ (Romans 13:14).  It is not what it literally appears to be, but it is how the early disciples were commanded to serve.

This puzzling instruction should be the answer to our desire to go beyond the obvious!  However, as these two men stated, we must not just STAND HERE, but continuously SHOW CHRIST to those that do not know Him!

Keep Swinging for the Fence…for Him,

Pastor Pat

Resurrection Sunday Service: Together — Apart

This Sunday will be a strange one to not be together at Little Flatrock, but we can still be together in spirit AND in action — even while we’re apart.  We are sharing a worship service at home idea with you that we could all participate in “together-apart.”
We encourage you to start service this Resurrection Sunday wherever you are at 11:00 a.m. (so we’re doing this together).  The church bell at LFCC will be rung for those of you near enough to hear it, and the rest of us can imagine it.  At that time we suggest you sing (or just listen to if you prefer) “He Lives.”  Here’s a link to a lovely version of it that would be easy to sing to and has the words on the screen if you don’t remember them.
After that, read John 17:20-26, keeping in mind that Jesus prayed for us!  For YOU!  He knows our struggles and was willing to suffer with us and for us.  Finish your Scripture reading with John 20 and rejoice in His victory over the grave.
Pray together, and if you are able, take communion (a simple cracker and juice will do).
Watch for Pat’s video message coming later this week to add to your service.
Finally, we ask that if you’re on Facebook, you share a picture of yourself and anyone else in your household that is celebrating Jesus with you.  We’ll have a post asking you to do so, and you can add your picture in the comments.  We’d love to “see” you Sunday, and we’d love for our community to know that we’re celebrating.  Let’s share with them and each other the joy and hope we have.  As someone shared “Church buildings may be empty on Easter, but so is the grave!”  That’s something to cheer!
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