Archive for March, 2011

By Nancy Pettigrew.

Catalyst Prayer participants pray for Jim Norvelle, Deacon Chair for 2011. Photo by Scott Medina.

In John 17, Jesus prays for His disciples, those followers who were being His hands, ministering in His name. He is the model for Catalyst Prayer, whose purpose is to pray for the ministries of First Baptist Church and for those who lead them.

Regular prayer items include Sunday morning worship, visitors and new members, Bible study and teachers, and other Baptist churches in Richmond. We also invite those who are leading FBC ministries to meet with us for a very special time of prayer. As we gather around, we lay our hands on the leader and pray for all aspects of his or her ministry. On February 16, we prayed for Bart Dalton, our youth and their leaders as they prepared for DiscipleNow weekend. We recently prayed for the newly ordained deacons and for Chris and Laura Harris who lead Upward Basketball. We pray for Vacation Bible School during the summer, for Divorce Recovery Workshop when it begins in the fall, for Charlie Ball and the CARITAS program he leads at Thanksgiving. We pray for mission trips and for staff members.

We pray because we believe God uses our prayers. They are the “catalyst” that prompts the work of His Spirit in and through our church.

Catalyst Prayer meets each Wednesday from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Adams Room. It begins with a short devotional time, led by Pastor Emeritus Dr. James Flamming. Catalyst Prayer is open to all who believe in the power of prayer. If you can attend weekly, monthly or quarterly, Catalyst Prayer welcomes you.

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By Nancy Mairs.

Laura Hedrick. Photo by Susan Brown.

Just as the Israelites of the Old Testament often put stones down on a specific spot as a remembrance of God’s provision for them, Laura Hedrick has very specific markers of encounters she has had with God as she has traveled along her journey of faith.

One of the first markers occurred during her high school years, on the platform of a small Baptist church. A friend invited Laura to a youth program and as she listened to the pastor’s invitation to have a personal relationship with Christ, Laura distinctly remembers calling on God. “It was right on the stairs of the platform of that church that I told God that if He wanted to have a relationship with me, then I wanted one with Him.”

Later, Laura attended a mission conference and, as a young person who took her relationship with God seriously, she assumed that to serve Him she would become a missionary – a commitment that she fully intended to carry out. In college she majored in math and pursued a degree in teaching. “I remember thinking that women missionaries were either nurses or teachers, and I knew I couldn’t work in the medical field, so I chose teaching.”

It was during the summer between her junior and senior years of college that the next marker in her journey of faith occurred. “I decided that I would work at Camp Alkulana in order to prepare for being a missionary. It was here that God showed me that I was not a people-person and that I just wasn’t cut out for the mission work that I had so faithfully been preparing for.”

After graduation, Laura found a job teaching math, knowing that she had to resolve her desire to serve God now that it was clear that the mission field was not His calling for her. “One day I was sitting in the train station waiting to pick up my father, and while waiting, I began praying and asking God about the direction for my life. I had recently heard about a new program called system analysis and programming. I prayed about that new program and I heard God speak to me in the most direct way. He was almost laughing as He responded to my prayer, ‘Child, I gave you an analytical mind… so use it.’” There she had the third marker in her faith journey.

Laura moved to Richmond and began working for the Department of Taxation – a career that continued for 35 years. “It was absolutely the best fit for my gifts, and it’s where I found my energy serving God.” In fact, she found that she could serve God without becoming the traditional missionary she had planned on earlier in her life. “I began to see that God was using me as an encourager with my co-workers at the Department of Taxation and found that I was recommending Jesus as a resource for those that I met through my job.”

Laura met her husband, Norman, at First Baptist. They were married and several years later, adopted their daughter, Jennifer. On the afternoon after the Hendricks had dedicated Jennifer, Laura realized once again that God was stirring in her heart. “I remember realizing that I had to yield Jennifer to Him and entrust her to God.” Laura did so and another distinct marker in faith journey was established.

Today Laura’s love of fabric and her gift of sewing have grown into a ministry for homeless individuals that find their way to First Baptist. She has found that making sleeping bags to keep these folks warm during the cold winter months is a practical way of reaching out with the love of Jesus. Through the help of the GAs, Acteens, Senior Adults, and the fourth grade Sunday school class, about 100 homeless individuals receive a sleeping bag each year. Laura is always on the lookout for anyone who has material they are not using and is willing to donate to the ministry, or someone to help make the bags. On Wednesday nights the room where the bags are made is a whirl of activity – material being measured, needles being threaded, and more importantly, friendships developing among Laura and the other First Baptist volunteers.

Throughout her walk of faith, Laura’s journey has had twists and turns, and unexpected shifts in the direction she was pursuing. But God has provided her with the guidance and affirmation she needed. And through it all, she has learned that, “God doesn’t waste anything … all of the ways that He has worked in my life have been used to fulfill His purpose. I feel strongly that God gives each of us gifts and He expects us to them. He designs each of us differently because He has different things for us to do.”

And there are different markers for each journey.

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Moving Upward

By Matthew Brown.

Girls play ball during an Upward game in the FBC gym.

Smoke and music fill the air. The crowd rises, claps and begins to cheer! Cheerleaders’ names are announced as they begin to line up in anticipation! Smiles, excitement, eagerness, and even some adrenaline fill the room. More smoke billows as each player’s name is announced!

Madison Brown! That’s my daughter. She has had her name announced Saturday after Saturday for the last six Upward seasons. I have not only been there to hear her name announced each of those Saturdays, but I have had the pleasure of personally announcing her name on many of those occasions. I am one of the two MC/Announcers for Upward at First Baptist Church. Maron El-Khouri and I have been tag-teaming these duties for the last six seasons. This season, I had all three of my children on Upward teams, for the first and last time. That’s because Upward runs from 1st through 6th grade, and this year my daughter is in sixth grade and my youngest is in first grade.

Adam Brown! My eldest son has had his name announced for three seasons.

Jonathan Brown! My youngest – this year was his first year running through the “tunnel” and having his name announced.

Children who participate in Upward sports are encouraged to have a relationship with Christ. Each Upward team meets together for practice once a week, during which they have a devotional. They are given cards with memory verses for the week ahead, and they take time to discuss what God is doing in their lives. After every game, players receive a star which they apply to their uniforms. These stars are earned by memorizing the weekly verse and by their efforts during the Saturday games. Each of the Upward stars has a different color and a different meaning. The blue star represents effort, the gold star represents sportsmanship, the gray star represents offense, the red star represents defense, and the white star represents Christlikeness.

Upward is very much a part of our family… and it all started with a phone call.

Chris and Laura Harris

Chris Harris and his wife, Laura, called my wife, Candi, and me, a little over six years ago. They wanted to know if we would be interested in helping them with something that had been on Chris’s heart for over a year. Chris felt very strongly that God was calling him to a mission right here in Richmond. His mission was to reach young people through sports. Basketball was the game. He began his involvement with Upward basketball by helping his brother at another church in the Richmond area, and Chris had witnessed the impact that it had had there.

Cheerleading adds a sense of excitement and fellowship at Upward games.

He had seen that congregation come together to support the Upward Program and had witnessed lives being transformed. He saw children coming to play basketball, but something amazing was happening at the same time. The children were learning more than just how to dribble a basketball, how to pass the ball, how to run a play and make a shot. It wasn’t even that they were learning about sportsmanship and the value of friendship and integrity. The children that he saw were being transformed. Chris wanted to know if we would lend a hand to help bring some of that transformative energy to First Baptist. How can you say no to that?

Here are a couple of facts about Upward at FBC:

During the 2011 season we had 147 players on 22 teams, and 20 cheerleaders on three teams.

On the average game day there are 18 volunteers who run the program, along with 25 coaches, 25 team parents, 12 volunteer score keepers, 24 volunteer referees, and volunteers for the halftime devotion for each game –  that’s more than 100 volunteers each Saturday.

Six years ago I got a call. This call is going out to you now. Are you going to answer? Volunteers are always welcome with Upward. One easy option is to come to the Gym during the season and cheer on some children as they reach for something a little higher.

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Technology has given us many convienences... including making your commitment to financial giving online.

Commitment Sunday is the time when the congregation turns in pledge cards indicating their financial giving plans for the year. In recent years, that has happened in February. The budget planning process usually takes place during the fall. Last year the budget planning process was stretched into the early weeks of 2011, to allow the Budget Team to look at year-end giving before finalizing their proposal.

As it turned out in 2011, the budget was adopted on the same day as Commitment Sunday – February 13. It raises the question about the relationship between pledging and budget planning. Associate Pastor for Communication, David Powers, sat down with Church Treasurer Kim Boys and Church Administrator Billy Burford to talk about it.

David: Every year around budget time, somebody is likely to say, “How much was pledged? And why isn’t there a connection between the pledging and the budget?”

Kim: Since I’ve been involved in the finance office, we have never pledged the budget. That’s going back to the late ’80s. In the days of the “Every Member Canvas” we would get 70 to 75% of the budget pledged. Our budget kept growing. Our giving kept increasing and the number of givers continued to increase, but the percentage of the budget pledged has continued to decrease. There has been a shift over the last decade or so. Prior to this shift, pledging’s main focus was primarily a financial planning tool for the church: the church being the center of reason for pledging. That has changed. Today pledging is more of a focus on the individual’s personal commitment rather than focusing on the church’s finances.

David: Even though the pledges have not equaled the budget, have the actual gifts kept pace with the budget?

Kim: Most of the last 20 years we’ve had enough receipts to cover our expenses. We’ve been basically break-even. In the late ’90s and early 2000s we had surpluses. Still we may not have made the budget. But the important thing is that the people gave enough to cover the expenses.

David: So more people give than pledge.

Billy: Yes. Last year over 1,000 people gave but did not pledge.

David: So, is that a problem?

Kim: That’s one of the reasons we stopped doing the Every Member Canvas… because the trend was going that way. We were still covering our expenses. We were still able to pay all our salaries, all our program expenses, all the office supplies, all the electric bills and everything, and there was a big disconnect between the pledging and what we were actually receiving. Many people will support, but for whatever reason, writing their commitment on a pledge card is not as important as it once may have been, especially with those sixty and younger.

Billy: So, pledging for us has really become an opportunity for people to make a commitment to the Lord, but not so much a commitment to the church. I applaud the individual who says, “I’ll give, but it’s between me and the Lord what I give. I don’t need you to know what I give.” It’s a personal commitment. It’s not a commitment to the church. If someone makes a commitment to the church, it is easy to find something in the institution they don’t like, and then they quit giving. But if they make a commitment to the Lord, they’re going to look beyond the things they don’t like, and they’re going to continue to give because it’s not to the church, it’s to the Lord. So that’s what I’m excited about. People are making commitments to the Lord and following through with that. Would I like to have 100% participation in making financial commitments? Sure, it would make budgeting a little simpler, wouldn’t it? Because we’d have a better idea of what to expect, but it’s an unrealistic expectation in this day and time.

Kim: And then you’ve got economic realities. You’ve got the recessions we went through, so even the people that maybe do pledge all of a sudden have found themselves where they cannot follow through. They don’t have a job. Or people on a fixed income, and all of a sudden their income and dividends just aren’t coming in anymore. While we do get some pledges from Boomers and down, the pledges are heavily slanted towards the more senior population of the church.

Billy: I’ve always had the belief that God provides that which He is blessing. So if we’re doing His work and His will, He provides the resources. So if the money doesn’t come in, then maybe we’re not doing what we need to be doing. Maybe we need to rethink what we’re doing.

David: So, why don’t we just do away with pledging altogether?

Kim: Well, we did a few years back. We just let it go by, and lo and behold, people came by and said, “Did I miss the pledge?”

Billy: I think that was our shortcoming because there are those who wanted that, and we didn’t give them the opportunity. And some people need that physical reminder or commitment—signing their name on the dotted line—during the year when things may not be going exactly like they had thought. “OK, I made a commitment, I signed it, so I’m going to follow through with it.”

Kim: And there’s no question that people give to what they believe in. I work with four or five nonprofits around town and it’s unbelievable to me how many people there are out there that will support what they believe in. There is not a shortage of money. There’s just a shortage of communicating their message. And I’m impressed with the way that has happened here. For example, look at the special offering on October 31st last year. It was the weakest year (financially) we’ve had for a long time. And then in a single Sunday our people gave a quarter of a million dollars.

David: So is “pledging” a meaningful budget planning tool?

Kim: Back in the ’60s, if we knew that 70-75% of the budget was pledged, we felt comfortable with the budget. But now we’re only receiving 50 or 55% and we’re still comfortable with our budget. So we’ve learned through the historical giving of the congregation that this doesn’t raise a big concern for us. We’re not going to look at the results of Commitment Sunday, the pledges that have been made, and then go out and start cutting programs because we’ve only received commitments for half the budget. We don’t say, “People aren’t going to give.” That’s not the case; they do give. We received close to $3.1 million in 2010; or just short of it. We only pledged $1.8 million. That was with only 30% of the family units turning in pledge cards. But historically we know more families and individuals do give. So as long those relationships hold up, First Baptist will continue to be able to execute on our mission statement and bring Heaven to Earth.

David: So, other than filling out a pledge card, what would motivate someone to think about how much to give?

Kim: I think budgeting is something that people need to be educated on, because it is a commitment to the Lord. Just like reading your Bible daily. You’ve got your time, talents and finances. You need to read everyday, become educated, put your skill sets to use, and you’ve got to give back what you’ve been given. And the way to do that is sit down and come up with a schedule… a budget. Behaviors are habits. We establish schedules to read the Bible, have prayer time and worship. Same thing should happen in the financial area by scheduling (budgeting) one’s personal finances. And I can say this, by and large, First Baptist people do have this discipline. In spite of economic environments, wars, political changes, natural disasters, and so forth, year after year after year, First Baptist people produce tremendous results. That happens because of the faithfulness of this congregation.

Billy: The New Testament talks about “generosity giving” rather than 10%. But the reason for it is that as you give, God gives back in return. And His blessings are always more than what you can give financially. And once people get a grasp of that, it can change their life. It certainly can give more opportunity for the Kingdom of Heaven to be revealed in Richmond, Virginia if they do.

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By Susan Beach.

If your spiritual life is a bit dry, or even non-existent, this Lenten season might be the time to try some of the ancient spiritual disciplines. There are a variety of disciplines because each of us is different, and because at various times, each of us is in a different place. Perhaps one will be just what brings new life to your spiritual journey. Because new life is what Lent leads to.

Each week, beginning on Ash Wednesday, one discipline is introduced. Try each one, even if it’s not familiar – allow God to connect with you in a new way. Adjust it as needed – remember that it is a tool. The point is to grow closer to God. If it doesn’t work for you, change it until it does. For each discipline there is a practical example of how to live out what you’ve learned in your journey with God. Try it or one of your own creation. At the end of each section is a resource for you to use if you are interested in learning more.

Beginning Wednesday, March 9, Ash Wednesday
He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. (
Matthew 14:23, NIV)

Silence, solitude, and listening to God have worked together as part of Christian practice since the third century when the desert fathers and mothers chose lives distinctly separate.

Pick a verse that is meaningful to you, find a place where you will be undisturbed, quiet yourself by breathing slowly, say the verse to yourself several times, then quietly allow God’s presence into your space. When you are distracted, repeat the verse and again quietly await God’s presence.

Live it out: You may want to share with someone or write in a journal what you experienced. You may also draw, dance, or give a gift to someone as your response to God’s presence.

Resource:  www.centeringprayer.com/centering_prayer

Beginning Wednesday, March 16
When you fast, do not look somber. (
Matthew 6:16a, NIV)

For Christians, fasting has a long tradition from the Old Testament patriarchs to New Testament examples. While some churches have an established time and type of fasting, the discipline can be practiced in private by anyone at any time as a personal commitment. In a fast, the believer chooses to do without something that is hard to give up, something that might be interfering with getting closer to God.

Often we think of fasting from food. If you choose this kind of fast, you can give up one meal a day, or eat smaller portions, or give up a specific food. You can fast from reading the newspaper, knitting, serving on committees – anything done so much that it takes away from time with God, that interferes with your hearing Him speak to you.

Live it out: Allow a food fast to remind you of those who are hungry not by choice. Bring a bag of groceries to FBC’s Food Pantry. Let other fasts prompt appropriate responses; if you can’t think of one, ask a friend for suggestions.

Resource: Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Beginning Wednesday, March 23
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. (
Deuteronomy 31:8a, NIV)

A prayer labyrinth is a tool for meditation, prayer and connecting with God. Unlike a maze there is only one path to the center; there are no dead ends. The point is to help you focus on your spiritual journey.

It is a physical experience, so pay attention to your pace, what you hear and see, who you encounter. You can pray for a special concern, meditate on a scripture passage, listen to what God is saying to you. You can stop at any point or spend time in the center.

Live it out: Use the labyrinth at 3351 Loxley Road in the Sherwood Park neighborhood of Richmond. Or use the link below to a finger labyrinth that you can print and use anywhere.

Resource: http://zdi1.zd-cms.com/cms/res/files/382/ChartresLabyrinth.pdf

Beginning Wednesday, March 30
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. (
Matthew 20:28a, NIV)

Sometimes the walk out from the center of a labyrinth becomes a journey to service. God is at all times calling us to serve Him by serving others. From the Old Testament’s question of “what do I require of you” to Jesus’ taking up the towel and bowl of water, we know He intends for us to show who He is by how we behave towards others.

Service is part of every believer’s life; it is not just for those who commit their entire lives to service in His name. Find direction from Brother Lawrence: “We must not grow weary of doing little things for the love of God, who looks not on the great size of the work, but on the love in it.”

Live it out: Find time today to do some little thing for someone you don’t know. Tomorrow do something for which you get no recognition. As you approach your regular work this week (whether it is doing the laundry or writing an important paper), do it as an offering to God.

Resource: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Beginning Wednesday, April 6
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you … On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. (
Psalm 63:1a, 6, NIV)

The divine offices are the practice of praying specific prayers at specific hours of the day.

Before you get out of bed, begin the day by praising God for who He is in your life – creator, shepherd, parent, teacher, champion, protector, healer…

In the middle of the afternoon, before the concerns of home take over, pray for those you work with or those who serve your meals, fix your car, deliver your mail.

As you get into bed, reflect on the day and thank God for His protection throughout and for how He used you to do His work.

Live it out: Perhaps a thank-you is in order for one of those you’ve prayed for during the afternoon. But before you express that, make a list of all the things you are grateful for about this person. Think of small and specific things, so that when you say thank you, it is received as genuine.

Resource: A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

Beginning Wednesday, April 13
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (
Exodus 20: 8, NIV)

The creation story begins with the keeping of the Sabbath. God kept it and expected His created beings to keep it. His intention was to give us a day of rest and restoration; part of that rest and restoration comes from knowing who He is. For Christians, the Sabbath is also a time of celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, of the life that is to come.

Plan how to turn this Sunday into a time of keeping the Sabbath. It’s not about rules that keep you from doing things. It is about setting aside this day, making it different from the rest of the week, so that you start the next week refreshed spiritually, mentally and physically. Begin by acknowledging who God is through worship. If you don’t always have time for a relaxed family meal, make Sunday dinner special – something everyone likes, with enough time to enjoy each mouthful, and hear from everyone present. Or plan a meal for a friend, keeping it simple and allowing for a relaxed time to catch up. If you’re inside at a desk most days, make time for a walk outside. Include time for rest. If reading or listening to music is a rare treat, include that in the day. End the Sabbath with scripture – something like Psalm 98 to celebrate the day God has given you.

Live it out: Commit to making one Sunday a month a true Sabbath for you and all your household.

Resource: http://www.jewfaq.org/shabbat.htm

Holy Week, April 17-24

Sunday, April 17, Palm Sunday

Meditate on Luke 19:28-44 several times today. Imagine the scene – the sights, smells, sounds. Watch Jesus as He weeps over Jerusalem; listen to His words. Now imagine He turns to you and says “Have you found peace?”

Wednesday, April 20

A contemplative service led by Robert Dilday.

Thursday, April 21, Maundy Thursday

Walk through your neighborhood today or through the halls where you work. Pray for everyone you see, for those you know and those you don’t know.

Friday, April 22, Good Friday

Spend your lunch break in the quiet of the sanctuary at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1925 Grove Avenue, at noon. Remember that “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.” (Matthew 27:45, NIV)

Saturday, April 23, Holy Saturday

Set spiritual goals for yourself: Choose one of the disciplines that worked best for you during Lent and one that was a challenge. Commit to doing the former one once a month and the latter once a year.

Sunday, April 24, Easter

As you plan your Easter Sunday, include whatever will make it a true Sabbath celebration.


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By Jim Somerville.

“Why did Jesus have to die?”

People often ask me that question, and although there are some important theological answers, there are also some political answers. The most obvious one is that the Roman government condemned Him to death because they saw Him as a threat.

Do you remember how the Jewish religious authorities brought Him before Pilate saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king” (Luke 23:2, NRSV)? They were accusing Him of insurrection, of “rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against an established government.” They were hoping that the Roman government would do away with Him largely because they, themselves, saw Him as a threat.

When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and “the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice,” some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop”, but Jesus said, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Luke 19:37, 39-40, NRSV). In another Gospel the Pharisees admit, grudgingly, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” (John 12:19, NRSV)

It’s that kind of thing that forces them to take action, that sense that things are getting out of hand, that the world is going after Jesus, that they are powerless to stop Him. The religious authorities enjoyed a certain amount of privilege because of their position, but if everybody began to look to Jesus for answers instead of to them, if they began to believe that He really was God’s anointed one—the Messiah—then all that would change.

Something had to be done…

On this year’s Journey to the Cross we will take a look at the “Principalities and Powers” that aligned themselves against Jesus when He came to Jerusalem, the earthly and unearthly forces so desperate to keep Him from establishing the Kingdom of Heaven. As we do, we will ask ourselves the question: “In what ways do we refuse to yield our own small power, and prevent Jesus from establishing the Kingdom within us?”

Join us as we enter a 40-day season of study, introspection and prayer, working our way through Matthew 21-23 as we journey with Jesus to the cross.

Journey to the Cross & Holy Week:

March 9, Ash Wednesday: Matthew 21:12-17: the cleansing of the temple. Jesus was angry that His father’s house had been turned into a den of robbers. The chief priests and scribes became angry with Jesus “when they saw the amazing things that he did.”

March 16, Journey I: Matthew 21:18-32: Jesus curses the fig tree, the authority of Jesus questioned, the parable of the two sons. Here Jesus shows His disappointment with a “fruitless” Israel, led by religious authorities who have not done what they told God they would do.

March 23, Journey II: Matthew 21:33-46: the parable of the wicked tenants. “When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.”

March 30, Journey III: Matthew 22:1-14: the parable of the wedding banquet. Those who had been invited to the banquet (the religious authorities?) did not come. Those who “crashed” God’s party (the same?) are thrown into the outer darkness.

April 6, Journey IV: Matthew 22:15-40: three questions meant to trip Jesus up: the question about paying taxes, the question about the resurrection, and the question about the greatest commandment. “After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

April 13, Journey V: Matthew 23 (selected verses). Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees and ends his rant by saying, “you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’” (setting us up for Palm Sunday).

April 17 – Palm Sunday worship services at 8:30 & 11 a.m. – Jim Somerville, preaching

April 20 – Contemplative service

April 21 – Maundy Thursday service – Lynn Turner, preaching

April 22 – Good Friday service, noon, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Jim Somerville, preaching

April 23 – Holy Saturday service & candlelight baptism service, 8 pm – Pastor Emeritus Dr. James Flamming, preaching

April 24 – Easter Sunday worship services at 8:30 & 11 a.m. – Jim Somerville, preaching

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By Steve Martin.

(This is a transcription of the testimony and scripture reading shared by First Baptist Church member Steve Martin during the worship services February 27, 2011.)

Today’s New Testament lesson is very special to me. I’m sure almost everyone here is familiar with it. It’s the one about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field and how they, like we, are God’s creation. So we shouldn’t spend our time worrying because worrying can’t add a day or an hour to our lives.

Many of you know that my brother and I founded The Martin Agency and that it is a very successful advertising agency. It has the Wal-Mart account. It’s responsible for those ubiquitous GEICO commercials your see every time you turn on the television. So I suspect that most of you believe that I couldn’t possibly have any money worries. Well, Dr. Somerville knows otherwise. He asked me to say a few words this morning before reading that scripture about what it means to me personally.

Your first question probably is, “Why would Steve Martin have anything to worry about?”

Well it’s true, I co-founded The Martin Agency. It’s true that I received a lot of money when I sold my stock. In fact, I thought I was set for life, but I was wrong.

When I decided to sell, I had already published some books. I love books. I love to edit books. I love to read books. I love everything about books. So I decided to start a book publishing business. I sank most of my money into it and we were fairly successful. We had 44 titles in print… and then the recession hit. My most profitable books were business books and businesses stopped buying anything that they didn’t absolutely need and that, among other things meant training for their people and the books that go along with that training. So it wasn’t long before my business was in a nose dive, and the money I had invested was gone.

All the while this was happening, I did my best to follow the advice in today’s scripture. And it was a comfort to me, but let me tell you that things got so bad that at one point I thought we were going to lose our house.
Did I worry? You bet I worried. Did God provide? You bet God provided. Just when it looked like we were going to have to pack up and move in with relatives, God’s grace kicked in. I’m not going to say specifically what happened, but let me assure you that the mathematical probability was about the same as winning the lottery – and I’m not exaggerating.
Before I read today’s scripture just let me say that the Martin family is not totally out of the woods, but I have found work ghost-writing a book for a management consultant firm, and I’ve recently started a new advertising and marketing agency called Martin Works.

I’m optimistic about the future and I learned something very important along the way. I learned that you cannot put your trust in previous success. You cannot put your trust in your knowledge of business, no matter how extensive it may be. You can’t put your trust in a big pile of money. Those things will let you down. But you can put your trust in God. Just ask the birds of the air or the lilies of the field, or sometime, if you get a chance, ask me.

Now I’m going to read Matthew 6:24-34.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

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