December 2018

I was watching TV the other night, and ran across a movie that has become one of my Christmas favorites, The Bishop’s Wife. Produced in 1947, this movie tells the story of a suave angel (Cary Grant) who comes to earth to save a woman (Loretta Young) and her Episcopal priest husband (David Niven) from spiritual doubt, and a lack of love for life itself. You see, the Bishop had become so focused on raising the money to build his Cathedral that he had made everything else in his life secondary – his wife and daughter, his relationships, and even his principles. He had lost his way, and Dudley, the angel, was sent in response to his prayer, and that of his wife, for guidance.   But this movie is so much more than that, and features a sermon at the end, that would preach well anywhere today, in a world so in need of the simple, non-commercial message of Christmas.
 
The Bishop’s sermon goes something like this: Tonight, I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.   Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.   But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.   Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.  
 
In many ways, we can all become like Bishop Brougham. We can become so obsessed with the commercial, the tangible, the temporal, that we forget why we really celebrate this time of year. Even, in the church, we can lose sight of what’s important – the birth of Christ, heaven come to Earth, our salvation laid in a manger. Let’s don’t forget to remember, this year. Let’s put something in Christ’s stocking, this year. Let’s do more for others than we do for ourselves. Let’s seek someone to be a blessing to, and give of ourselves over and beyond.  
 
Merry Christmas!
Bro. Heath      


November 2018

“….in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

 
  One of my favorite things about November is our national emphasis on thanks. That, and great food. But, primarily, it’s the focus on thanksgiving that makes this time of year so special. We are encouraged, called even, to remember the blessings that God has lavished on us as a nation, and as individuals. Made a national holiday by presidential proclamation in 1863, giving thanks for the provision and protection of our Creator and God has been a part of the fabric of our country almost since its founding.  
 
It is a similar idea that causes the Apostle Paul to commend thanksgiving to the church at Thessalonica over two thousand years ago. Here, Paul inserts this instruction in the middle of a running commentary on what should be ideal Christian conduct. He says, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess. 5:16-22) Good advice for the Christian – then and now. To Paul, thanking God for everything He has done for us ranks right up there with praise and worship, prayer, and theological thoughtfulness. It is a part of who we are as children of God, and it marks us as brothers, sisters and followers of Christ.  
 
Notice the words “in everything” that begin this passage. Not in some things. Not in the things that give us pleasure. Not in the circumstances in our lives that are easy and natural to be grateful for. But, we are called to give thanks in ALL things. This calls us to remember our discussion on contentment, doesn’t it? As much as during our mountaintop seasons, when praising God is easy, we must thank Him for his continuous presence during the valleys in our lives, when circumstances may be dire, and the world would tell us to give up on God, because He certainly couldn’t be there in times of such struggle.   May it never be! Thankfulness is not something we withhold from God, to express our disapproval in Him for something that is happening in our lives. It should be continuous, overflowing, and ceaseless, like the life He gives, the love He shows, and the mercy and grace He pours on us every day. The more we seek Him, the more we learn about Him. And the more we learn about Him, the more obvious our need, indeed our desire, to praise Him becomes. Thankfulness is the fruit of a contented life, a life of satisfaction in the sovereignty of God and our salvation through Jesus Christ.  
 
What are you thankful for? Your family, your friends, your job, financial security, good health? How about the relationship you have with your Savior that offers the promise of eternal life? What about the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit? Absolutely! But, what about the blessing of hard lessons, times when your faith is tested, and times when you have to rely, like David, on what you know God has been to you, so you will know that He still is? Those times, too!   As you sit down with your family, friends, and church family to remember all of the things we have to be thankful for, my prayer for all of us is that we will be thankful in everything.
 
Leave nothing back. Give God the worship and praise!  
 
In His Love, Bro. Heath


September 2018

As I sit here this morning, listening to the thunder outside and the rain pounding the roof of my office, I’m reminded about a solemn anniversary we observe today. Thirteen years ago this morning, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast bringing with it a swath of devastation that has been without peer either before or since. In many ways, it seems like forever ago. In many ways, the feelings and emotions are still so raw it could have happened only yesterday.

 

We talked Sunday about what would happen if everything we had – all our stuff – was suddenly taken away. Would Jesus be enough? Most cannot answer that question with the certainty that survivors of a storm like Katrina can. I wasn’t living on the Coast at the time, although it was my home. Elgen and I had considerable damage to our home all the way in Hattiesburg, and we were without power for almost two weeks. But, the utter destruction to homes and property – and the resulting body blow to the psyche that comes from enduring something of this magnitude – that occurred on the Coast cannot be fully explained unless you lived there.

 

I have heard countless stories of how you – my church family – stepped up, “hitched up your britches,” and got about the business of living in the days, weeks, and months following Katrina. I heard about how folks worked on their homes, and then worked on everyone else’s, from daylight to well past dark. I heard how Emmanuel was a staging area for food distribution, for materials distribution, and how our fellowship hall became a welcoming and appreciative home away from home for the dozens of teams from around the country who came, bringing love, hope, and a helping hand when we needed it most.                 

 

Most of all, I heard story after story of how you would not be beaten. How, when Jesus was truly all you had, Jesus became, in a real sense, all you needed. You saw firsthand the power of Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” You abided in the promise of Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, thought he earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; through its waters roar and foam, through the mountain’s quake it its swelling pride.” You lived 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

 

Thank you for being the people you are, the children of God that you are, and the church you are. Thank you for walking out your faith every day. I am so honored to walk beside you. Your testimony will live long after we are all just a memory on this earth. Keep believing. Keep the faith. Keep serving. Keep loving. Keep reaching!

 

In His Love,

Bro. Heath

 

 



August 2018

The Gift of Service

 

“. . . but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13b)

 

Well, August is here. Soon, teachers and kids will be back to school, Summer vacations will be a memory, and everyone will be back in the grind. Pencils, paper, Lunchables and school stuff are flying off the shelves as everyone prepares for back to school. Even those without school-aged children feel the effects – from traffic to crowded stores to early fundraising solicitations. BTW, if we haven’t contacted you about supporting the OSHS Band yet, just hang on!

August is also shaping up to be a pretty exciting time here at EBC – we are moving toward the end of our church year, and the beginning of another. It’s a time of reflecting on the year that was – with all of it’s ministries and opportunities for fellowship and service – and planning for what we anticipate will be the most sensational and productive year in our history. God has really been doing some incredible things in our church and, as long as we keep responding in faith and obedience, He promises to do even more!

That’s where we all come in. Last week, everyone at the morning service was given a Church Team/Committee Form to look over, pray about, and complete. As the new year begins, it’s time for us to renew our commitment to serving God through His church by volunteering to serve on one or more of the committees of the church. These committees do the work of making sure that the church operates in an efficient, effective, Christ-honoring way through our stewardship of the gifts and resources God has blessed us with. Ever thought of the Baptism Committee as stewardship? How about the Hospitality, or the Education Committees? Yes, each of the teams that you were asked to prayerfully consider serving on are opportunities for us to work together to maximize the gifts we have been given to the work that the Holy Spirit enables and empowers us to do. That’s stewardship – it’s not just for money anymore!
 

This is part of the gift of service to which all Christians are called. And, we should be willing to serve in such a way that our lives are a testimony to the love of Christ in our lives, and the love we have for each other. As Paul wrote the church in Galatians 5:13, “through love serve one another.” Notice that we aren’t called to serve only when it’s comfortable, or convenient, or involves something we like. Service is about surrendering yourself to the Kingdom work to which we have been entrusted – it’s about stewardship. And, a few can’t do it alone – it takes all of us, working together, combining our gifts and talents, to be the family, the church, that God created us to be.

 

So, I hope you’ll sign up to serve somewhere. The forms are due back at the church by Sunday, August 5th. And, be on the lookout for other opportunities to become involved in the various ministries of the church – once we get the committees sorted out and working, we’ll be letting you know how to be more directly involved in missions and ministry work through our ministry teams. Get rested up! It’s going to be an exciting year at Emmanuel!!

 

In His Love,

Bro. Heath

 

                  

 

 

 



July 2018

LOVE IS!

 

Recently, I had the awesome privilege to participate in the wedding of a beautiful young couple. The day was beautiful, the wedding ceremony was special and Christ-honoring, and the bride and groom were Spirit-filled and ready to begin life’s journey together. The phrase, “For our good and His glory” seemed to fill my mind as I led these young people in saying their vows to each other, and to God.

 

One of the passages I included in the service was 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – Paul’s “love” passage. In these short four verses, Paul tells us what love is, and isn’t. It’s a staple at weddings and anniversaries, and it is widely considered one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture. As I studied them, though, I kept feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit to dig deeper – that there might be more there than I was giving the passage credit for.

 

It’s a trap we “life-long” believers sometimes fall into – rushing through a passage that we have heard so many times for so many years, marveling at the beauty and perceived simplicity of God’s message, without ever stopping to think about whether God may have something new to teach us. I discovered this about Paul’s “love passage” when I just slowed down and took a moment to listen, and learn, when the Holy Spirit teaches.

 

For instance, while this passage is beautiful, the context in which it was written reveals that Paul meant so much more than a lovely little monologue about the wonderful virtues of love. Remember, Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth as a reprimand and a warning. This church had forgotten what it meant to love each other as Christ loved them. Apparently, to this church, all gifts weren’t the same – some were better than others, and likewise some church members were better than others.

 

Paul was telling this church that love is the foundation of everything – grace, mercy, salvation – and how we accepted the love of God in Christ and how we shared that love was the cornerstone of our relationship with God, and with each other. In other words, they weren’t loving each other, and the world around them, because they were too busy loving themselves. It is against this backdrop that Chapter 13 begins (remember, we added these chapter designations later – this was all one run-on sentence to Paul). It’s impossible to really understand Chapter 13 until you understand why Paul wrote the first 12 chapters.

 

Paul was writing a letter to a dysfunctional church for their abuse of spiritual gifts. Read it like that. Love is patient, and you’re not. Love is kind, and you’re not. Love doesn’t brag, and you do. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, but you do. Love doesn’t rejoice when a brother falls, but you do. And on and on. He was pleading with them to love others as Christ loves them. Love here is an action, not an emotion – it is a decision of the will.

 

Paul was writing to a church, and to people, who had failed miserably at all fifteen elements of love. And he still is. Read this passage again, and, ask yourself if you can check any of these off as “mission accomplished.” If you’re like me, you will see afresh that we all have a lot of work to do!

 

In His Love,

Bro. Heath

 



May 2018

Greetings!

 

As most of you know, Cindee, Grace, and I will be going to Hawaii this summer to minister to kids and their families in the city of Holualoa. I’m writing you this month to ask you to pray for us and the families we will be engaging with.

 

When you think about Hawaii, the first thing that comes to mind, for lack of a better word, is paradise. From the beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear water, to drinking coconut milk straight from the coconut while sitting under a palm tree, Hawaii is a vacation destination dream for most. However, just like everywhere else in the world, there are people there who don’t know Jesus.

 

We are partnering with New Life Church Kona and helping them facilitate their kids sports camps. A major goal of New Life Kona is to create a community of believers that will grow and experience their new life in Christ together while bringing others along in this journey. We will be sharing the love of Christ during these camps. We will be teaching and playing a variety of different sports with the local kids, and have a time of Bible study each day. Many of these kids come from broken and/or low income homes. Our goal is to show them the love of Christ by spending time with them and loving on them.

 

The theme verse for New Life Kona is 2 Corinthians 5:17:  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” Only 8% of Hawaiian residents claim to be Christian. Many Hawaiians follow the indigenous religious beliefs and practices of the Native Hawaiians. These include polytheistic and animistic, with a belief in many deities and spirits, including the belief that spirits are found in non-human beings and objects such as animals, the waves, and the sky.

 

We are going, not to just help some kids learn some games, but to tell them and their families who Jesus is. Let them know that he died for them so they can have eternal life. It would be a shame for these people to live their whole life in paradise, and then die and go to hell.

 

So please, be in prayer for us and the rest of the team that will be going to Holualoa this July. We are very excited about this mission opportunity and look forward to what God is going to do!

 

Tyler 

 

 

 

 



April 2018

Jesus, the Promise Keeper!

 

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.’” (Matthew 28:5-6)

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There are so many precious things about Jesus – beginning, of course, with His willingness to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for my sin. While that reigns supreme as the best gift ever given, one of the things that is most wonderful to me is that He is completely trustworthy. It’s part of God’s attributes – His perfection and holiness mean that God is always trustworthy. If He says something, you can take it to the bank. Case closed.

 

Jesus and the Holy Spirit share in the attributes of God, including total reliability. It’s a defining characteristic of God; thus, a defining characteristic of Christ. And, it makes Him unique. In a world obsessed with relativism – the belief that truth is what you make of it right now, that there are no absolutes – Jesus stands as a stark contrast, a clear choice that we must make, between the world’s priorities and those of the Creator of the universe. Time and again, we see the truth of the promises of God – these promises provide a firm foundation for our faith, and for the living of our lives as joint heirs with Christ to the promises of God.

 

The Bible is literally filled with promises. Some, God tells us, and we can rely on the truth of the promise, because we rely on the total holiness of God. Some, the promise is conditioned on our response, such as the promise of eternal life to those who confess and believe in Jesus as Savior. Some, we believe without actually seeing or experiencing them – they are conditioned on faith, and, one day, our faith will become sight. But, we believe them, because of the promise-maker – we completely trust in the promise because God made it, and He’s never broken a promise to us, and never will.

 

Jesus, too, is a promise-keeper. The first day of April marks the single greatest promise ever kept. Jesus spent a great deal of time in the days and weeks leading up to His death and resurrection, trying to tell His disciples

 
what was going to happen. He told them, repeatedly, that He, the Son of Man, would be arrested, tried, and executed. Then, three days later, He would be raised again. All of the Gospels reference these conversations. Maybe they weren’t listening – we rarely want to hear things we don’t want to think about. But, make no mistake, the promise was there – death and resurrection.
 
 

Then, it happened, just as He said. The disciples, frightened and confused, deserted Jesus. His followers, with the exception of a few dedicated women, kept silent as prophecy was fulfilled, and Jesus kept His promises. Then, on Resurrection Day, victory was announced by an angel – “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” “He is risen, just as He said.” Another, unbelievable promise kept!

 

Just as He said. Four words that will change your life, if you let them. We don’t have to guess what Jesus would do – He’s done it! We don’t have to wonder if He will keep His word – He always has. His promises are true, and so is His sacrifice. Let the total trustworthiness of Jesus ground your faith, and change your life today!

 

In His Love,

Bro. Heath

 

 



March 2018

“’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

“What’s my purpose?” That’s an interesting question, and one which I imagine we have all asked ourselves more than once in our lives. Its sister questions are “Why am I here?” or “What am I doing?” or, the Sunday School version, “What is God’s will for my life?”

 

As humans, we struggle with the question of our purpose, or our usefulness, in life. As Christians, the issue becomes one of eternal significance, as we seek to discover the plans God has for us in His kingdom and its work. Every day, we see in the news or on social media how people, more plugged-in now than ever before, are dealing with historically high rates of depression and loneliness. There is a never-ceasing thirst for satisfaction with the “things” of this world – and, the more we get, the more we seem to want. Surrounded by friends and our stuff, we still feel isolated and anxious about the future.

 

Could it be that we are not looking in the right place, or for the right stuff? In His Word, God reminds us time and again that He is all we need, and that He – and He alone – can provide the peace and joy that we so desperately seek. We are never satisfied, never content, because we seek to fill the spaces in our souls with things that simply do not measure up to the One who desires to make us whole. We were created to seek Him out, and to have a relationship with Him. He wants to fill in all the pieces, to give us hope – to tell us what our purpose is.       

 

Beginning Sunday morning, March 4th, we will be looking at these, and other questions, in our new morning series, “From Garden to Glory.” God has a plan for us – to save us, to break us, to transform us, and to use us to reach and serve others to His glory. From the foundation of the world, until we see Him face to face (from garden to glory), God has had something special just for you, formed with you in mind. We will talk about living a life of purpose – not simply a life full of things, but a life filled with the things of God. How do we know? What do we need to do? Come Sunday morning, and let’s unpack these questions together!

 

See you Sunday!

 

In His Love,

Heath

 

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February 2018

Share the Love!

 

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)”

 

Happy February!  If you own stock in candy or greeting card companies, I know you look forward with great anticipation for this particular time of year – it’s the “love month.”  With a wife and two girls, February is an incredibly important time for this husband and dad!

 

For the Christian, though, every month ought to be a love month.  After all, love is at the center of our relationship with our heavenly Father, and with each other.  We are called and challenged to, above everything else, love one another.  Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross was a direct result of God’s love for humanity, and Christ’s love for His Father, and us, too.  The love that Paul wrote of in Romans 5:8 goes way beyond friendship.  Here, he wrote of agape love – something intimate, something connecting.  One definition I read said, “With reference to God’s love, it is God’s willful direction toward man.  It involves God doing what He knows is best for man and not necessarily what man desires.”  According to Romans, it is a profoundly selfless love.  And, it came to us, when we deserved it least.

 

We, too, are challenged, even commanded, to love others in this way.  One of the best ways we can share the love God has given us is to bring as many folks as we can into His family.  Sharing the Gospel is an extreme kind of  love – not because it is so hard, or takes so much

 

much time and energy on our part – but because we share it with everyone we meet, even when we feel they deserve it least.  And, like agape love, it can’t be imitated, or faked.  When you love someone, genuinely and honestly, they know it.  And, like we talked about recently in worship – if people don’t know that you love them, they aren’t going to listen to you share the Gospel.  Authenticity first, the Gospel second. 

 

February might be the best time to start sharing the love of Christ with others – after all, it’s on our minds already!  The real goal is to use this time as a springboard to a daily, monthly, and yearly commitment to witnessing.  Eternity is on the line, and we have the antidote to forever without God – shouldn’t that be reason enough to love?

 

In His Love,

Bro. Heath

 

 



January 2018

Make the Most of 2018!

 

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

 

Happy New Year! I pray that you have had a wonderful, joyous Christmas, and a peaceful, special New Year celebration with family and friends. It’s been a much-needed season of family time around our house, and I hope yours, as well.

 

As we turn our focus to this brand-new year, I’m reminded of a couple of passages:

 

Lamentations 3:22-23, 22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness, and

 

Romans 1:16, 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

 

One is a promise, the other is a challenge. Both are reminders that we worship and serve a God of infinite love, mercy, and grace, who never stops touching us in ways we simply can’t imagine. One is a call to us to remember that God is always there; the other, a call to us to remember that there are people out there who need to know that God loves them, too, and it is up to us to tell them, regardless of the cost.
                         
 

I read somewhere this great little thought – We were not saved to be silent. What an awesome idea, and a challenge that should convict us. Have you shared the Gospel with anyone lately? Have you ever? Our salvation is not a secret – we should shout it from the highest place we can find, to everyone who will listen. That’s our mission – to love, serve, and reach our friends, family, neighbors, community, and world with the message of the Gospel – the message that, regardless of your circumstances, God loves you and wants to make you a part of His family. Surely, there is someone you know who needs to hear that wonderful news!

 

So, my prayer is that you will join me in making that little thought your New Year’s mission – to embrace the reality that you were not saved to be silent, and to offer your life as a testimony to the greatness, the mercy, and the grace of the God who saved you. Find ways to make that a part of your life – God will open the doors, if you will walk through them. Let’s see what God will do with us in 2018!

 

In His Love,

Bro. Heath