Journey to Joy: 50 Day Joy Challenge
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“In our pursuit of happiness, it isn’t happiness alone we pursue but the God of happiness, the only one who can make us happy.” (Mike Mason)

“If God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, then we must make it our aim to be as happy as we possibly can be in God.” (John Piper)

Our Church Wide Study is just around the corner! 

How long does it take to acquire a healthy habit?  21 Days?  40 Days? 90 Days?  I’ve heard all of the above.  Our church family will be journeying together to pursue, chase, hunt, track, seek, and run after joy for 50 Days. 

We will pursue joy with reckless abandon.  Doesn’t this sound fun? 

What’s more, I believe this journey will be good for your soul.  And healthy for your relationships.  And life-giving to your relationship with God.  I am hopeful that joy will give itself over to us, like squeezing every last drop of juice out of a grapefruit. 

I recently read a question that stopped me in my tracks:  “When was the last time you prayed for God to give you more joy?”

“God, increase my joy.” 

“God, forgive me for my lack of joy.”

“God, help my life to radiate with the joy of the Lord.”

I want to pray those prayers, and I want to live that kind of life.

There will be several components of our Church Wide Study: 

(1)  From Sept 30 – Nov 18, I will be preaching messages around JOY.   

(2)  We are encouraging our Life Groups to organize 7 or 10 weeks of Study around John Piper’s book Desiring God.  The seven weeks will take you 50 Days.  Then, there are 3 “Bonus Weeks” which will finish the study.  [There are really two options here:  (1) Organize your Life Group for the entire 10 weeks to complete the study. Or, (2) Organize your Life Group for 7 weeks and encourage members to work through the 3 “Bonus Weeks” on their own because of the busyness of Thanksgiving and December.]

(3)  We are working on a STUDY GUIDE which will give you questions to work through Desiring God.  The Study Guide will include a JOY JOURNAL for 50 Days (Sept 18-Nov. 18) as we all attempt to “fight” for joy.  We will be encouraged to notice aspects of JOY in our everyday life.  We want to be praising God for all the little (and big) joys in life!!!  It should be a great exercise to develop a Godly outlook of joy in all of life. 

(4)  Desiring God  is about “the pursuit of joy in God”, a concept Piper calls “Christian Hedonism.” I believe the truths in Desiring God have a paradigm-shaping potential to change the way we view the entire Christian life and lead us into a rich, satisfying God-centered joy. I believe you will be blessed and challenged by Desiring God which is already considered a modern classic.  Even if you’ve already read the book before, I think digging deeper into its message will be good for your soul (especially as you do so in community). 

(5)  Now is the time to take the plunge and join a Life Group.  There IS a place for YOU to plug in!!  (If you can’t join a LIFE GROUP, then I do encourage you to read Desiring God  by yourself and participate in the JOY JOURNAL in the Study Guide.)

I can’t wait for our church to be radiating JOY, JOY, JOY in the upcoming weeks ahead!! 

Pastor Jason Carter

 

Jason Carter
My Tribute to David Bridgman, Mentor
David Bridgman praying with the church in Harbin, China

David Bridgman praying with the church in Harbin, China

On August 9, the Reverend David Bridgman went home to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  This is my tribute to a wise saint, a faithful pastor, an untiring advocate of global missions, and a personal mentor. 

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been remembering fondly the summer I spent as a youth and mission intern with David Bridgman in Wichita, KS and the ensuing friendship and mentoring over the last two decades.  I will miss David: his friendship, his wise counsel, and his passion for Jesus and his mission. 

God brought David into my life during my college years as I was still wrestling with the future shape of my call into the ministry (i.e. “What ministry path does God have for me in the future?”)  Ironically, as David was approaching 65 years of age, he found himself wrestling with many of the same questions.  I remember this unique common ground: both of us looking a bit starry-eyed into the future, though we were separated by more than four decades of life! 

I’m not sure when “Rev. Bridgman” turned into “David” for me, but I often felt his warmth, gentleness, and encouragement over the years as I navigated different seasons of life and ministry.  David was the mentor who connected me to Latin American Mission (I spent the summer after college in Mexico City) and WEC International (I spent a year after Mexico City in Equatorial Guinea before coming back stateside to attend Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary).  Years later, David arranged the “neutral pulpit” in Orlando where the pastor search committee from Trinity Wellsprings Church met me and heard me preach in person for the first time. 

The Book of Romans:  During my initial internship years ago with David, I’ll never forget the simplicity of pastoral ministry that was communicated to me when we spent time together reading and reflecting upon the Book of Romans in his study. Unbeknownst to me at the time, David was helping shape my view of pastoral ministry.  A faithful pastor reads the Scriptures with his people and prays for them.  I still remember the excitement with which David talked about the apostle Paul, the fundamental thesis of the entire Book of Romans (Rom. 1:16-17), and the chasing of many Pauline rabbit trails that summer.  I had the joy of jumping into deep waters with an experienced pastor of almost four decades.  I almost feel embarrassed by the abundance of riches that God has given me in the form of pastors and Godly men who have sowed deeply into my life. 

This summer, what biblical book did I read with Trinity’s own college summer intern?  The Book of Romans, of course!  The cycle had come full circle. 

Sage Counsel:  David was wise.  Knowledge and application came together in a unique way in David’s life. David was knowledgeable on a wide gambit of topics, but it was David’s deep wisdom that, for me, made him such a valuable mentor and brother in Christ.  I suppose David is part of the reason that I often pray for wisdom: wisdom in leadership, wisdom in parenting, wisdom in loving my wife well.  I often had the privilege of experiencing wisdom "up-close and personal" through David, sort of like seeing different faces of a beautiful diamond.  In any age, wisdom is a scarce commodity.  Is our age particularly adroit at running a deficit of wisdom?  David’s wisdom touched people deeply and paved the way for numerous initiatives for the Gospel all across the world. 

Retirement?  Nah.  I often tell people that David accomplished more for the Kingdom after 65 years of age than most people do in an entire life time.  David bookended his life in a beautiful way.  As the son of missionaries to China, David spent the last 20+ years of his life making numerous trips to China and enthusiastically throwing himself into networking and supporting the ministries in China (particularly in the Yunnan Province) through Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and other mission agencies.

I’ll always remember his humble blue car in the parking lot of Eastminster Presbyterian Church of Wichita, KS where David served as the Associate Pastor of Missions.  For me, his blue car was a symbol of what mission is all about, especially for a church that was known to send over $1 million all over the world for missions.  Yes, we want to change the world, but let’s do it humbly and in the way of Jesus. 

A Hospital Good-Bye.  I’m so thankful that I received a text a couple of hours before David passed away.  I was able to make a quick trip to an Orlando hospital where I saw David for the final time.  David asked that I read Acts 20 of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again...I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,which he obtained with his own blood...And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:24-32)

After I read the passage, David wrote on a piece of paper:  “I commend you to God.”  It was a touching end to our earthly friendship.  I thanked him.  I prayed for him.  David was ready to receive his crown of glory. 

David touched many lives over the course of his pastoral ministry.  His passion for missions took him all over the world to “testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).  I recognize that I am just one voice amongst many celebrating the faithfulness of a wonderful saint.  Yet, I personally received “David Bridgman, Mentor” as God’s grace in my own life.  

The great saints of God have a way, I think, of deeply shaping the people around them.  It gave me a quiet sense of joy, over the years, to know that David was proud of me.

I am profoundly grateful for God’s gift to me in David. 

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” (Romans 1:8)

Pray especially for Mary Bridgman, David’s wife of 62 years, and his daughter Ellen.

Jason Carter
Why our church is switching to the ESV (English Standard Version) for its Pew Bibles
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The English language has been blessed beyond measure with a myriad of wonderful translations of the Bible over the years.  Did you know that only 670 languages in the world have the entire Bible translated into their mother tongue?  There are many more languages (1,521) whose people are still waiting for the Old Testament to be translated.  Imagine trying to live the Christian life without knowledge of God’s redemption in the Exodus event or God creating the world ex nihilo (out of nothing) or being unable to soak in the character of God as God interacts with Abraham, Moses, David, and all the prophets!  Other people groups are even less fortunate; Wycliff Bible Translators are still in the business of recruiting missionaries to translate the Bible into another 3,787 languages so that these people might read the Bible in their heart language.[1] 

I’ve been blessed, in different phases of my own Christian walk with the Lord, by many different translations of the Bible over the years.  I first began memorizing verses using the New International Version (NIV) shortly after my conversion at 13 years of age.  One summer, during my college years, I remember devouring the Psalms/New Testament of The Message Bible (as the OT Message had yet to be released); I found that the contemporary language jolted me awake to consider ancient biblical ideas in new and fresh ways.  During my seminary days, I often kept the New American Standard Bible (NASB) close by my side as I labored through translating the Greek text into English; the “wooden, literal” translation of the NASB was a great friend during those days.  When I was at The University of Edinburgh in 2011, I took part in the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) in the School of Divinity.  The history and impact the KJV has had on the entire trajectory of the English language is profound.  During my time in Equatorial Guinea, I was immersed in Spanish translations of the Bible (Reina Valera, Dios Habla Hoy, and Nueva Versión Internacional) as I prepared to preach in churches and teach classes at the seminary; thus, I frequently read devotionally these Spanish translations of the Bible and often caught nuances of the text in Spanish that I long had overlooked in English.  Simply put, we are able to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ and grow in the grace and knowledge of God through many wonderful translations of the Bible.  As English-speakers, we should be profoundly grateful and thankful for the many wonderful translations of the Bible into our own “mother tongue”! 

This general appreciation for the myriad of English translations, however, does not mean that there are no real differences between our own English translations.[2] In detailing why Trinity is switching to the English Standard Version (ESV), I want to begin by emphasizing (again) that a Christian believer can have a profound sense of confidence that they are reading and hearing the Word of God through many different translations of the Bible.  

Reasons for switching from the NIV to the ESV:

If you are interested in a longer explanation about the reasons for switching from the NIV to the ESV, see the 31-page pamphlet written by Kevin DeYoung, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary entitled Why Our Church Switched to the ESV which can be downloaded here. (It’s only a 10 minute read.) I’ll be largely summarizing from DeYoung in the rationale that follows. 

1)     The ESV utilizes an “essentially literal” translation philosophy.

The ESV attempts to translate “word-for-word” whereas the NIV translates “thought-for-thought”.  This difference is spelled out in the prefaces of both Bibles very clearly:

NIV Preface:

The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the biblical writers.  They have weighed the significance of the lexical and grammatical details of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts.  At the same time, they have striven for more than a word-for-word translation.  Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers of the Bible demand frequent modifications in sentence structure and constant regard for the contextual meaning of words.  (bold italics added)

ESV Preface:

The ESV is an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each biblical writer.  As such, its emphasis is on “word for word” correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages.  Thus is seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.  (bold italics added)

As DeYoung notes, this means that the “ESV does a better job of translating important Greek or Hebrew words with the same English word throughout a passage or book”.[3]  For example, look at the difference between the NIV and ESV in translating John 16:2:

NIV:  “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.[4]

ESV:  “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

The same difference occurs again in John 16:21:

NIV: “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.”

ESV: “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”

In the Gospel of John, “the hour” (Greek ωρα, hōra) represents an important thematic and theological development which runs throughout the entire fourth gospel.[5]  The NIV translates hōra as “hour” in 12:23, 27 and 13:1 but the next use of hōra in John’s Gospel is translated “time” (in John 16:2) by the NIV which serves to obscure the meaning to a non-Greek reading believer.  The ESV makes the original Greek word “hour” more accessible by translating the same Greek word more consistently across the entire book of John. 

The same point can be made with the key Greek word μένω (menō) in 1 John which means “abide” or “remain”.  DeYoung writes:  “The verb occurs twenty-four times in 1 John.  It is an important part of the overall argument of the epistle.  The verb can easily be traced in the ESV with a good English concordance. Twenty-three out of twenty-four times, menō is translated as “abides” (or “abiding” or “abide”). By contrast, the NIV translates menō with five different words: “lives,” “remains,” “has,” “continue,” and “be”.[6]

2)     The ESV is an easier translation to use for expository preaching.

Most expository preachers believe it is the preacher’s job, rather than the translator’s job, to flush out the meaning of the text from the original Greek and Hebrew words of scripture.  A preacher using a “thought-for-thought” translation (the NIV) is thus forced to constantly get “behind” the English translation to get at the specific words of the original languages.  This may actually serve to weaken a congregation’s confidence in the Word of God over time if the preacher is always going behind the NIV translation to get at the original words of the text.  In the ESV, there is much less spade work for the preacher because the ESV is committed to translating “word-for-word”, thus making the words in the original languages (Greek/Hebrew) more apparent to the reader. 

DeYoung makes the point like this:  “I preached from the NIV for five years.  It is a good translation in many respects, but it is difficult to preach from—especially if one wants to preach exegetically and with an eye to the original languages.  There were a number of times over those five years when I had to un-explain the NIV in order to make a point in a sermon. Other times I had to simply skip a point I would have otherwise made because to get behind the NIV text in the sermon would have taken too much work.”[7]

3)      The ESV engages in less “under-translation” and less “over-translation”.

The ESV engages in less “under-translation”.  DeYoung writes “the NIV at times avoids theological words and important concepts found in the original languages”.[8] 

A case in point is made with the Greek word ἱλασμός (hilasmos) which has historically been understood to mean “propitiation”.  Christ is our hilasmos, our propitiation because he appeases the wrath of God (Rom 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).  

DeYoung writes: “The NIV, to be more easily understood, translates hilasmos (and its derivates) as “sacrifice of atonement” (Rom. 3:25), “atonement” (Heb. 2:17), and “atoning sacrifice” (1 John 2:2; 4:10).  So what’s wrong with this? The problem with dropping ‘propitiation’ is that (1) it makes it much more difficult for Christians to learn the meaning of and the concept behind this crucial word, (2) it is questionable whether 'sacrifice of atonement,' without explanation, will be readily understood by most Christians (or non-Christians) either, and (3) it deprives the church of important Christian vocabulary.”[9]

The ESV engages in less “over-translation”:

1 Corinthians 4:9 [ESV]: “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.”

1 Corinthians 4:9 [NIV]: “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.”

As DeYoung observes, “Most scholars agree that Paul’s imagery of becoming a spectacle (theatron) is meant to invoke images of the gladiatorial arena. But the connection is not mentioned explicitly in the text. Being unsatisfied with an implied connection that readers might not notice, the NIV adds to the verse to explain the imagery with words like “procession” and “arena.” This may have been the image in the back of Paul’s mind, but it isn’t what Paul said.”[10]

Conclusion: Consistency for Trinity’s Pew Bibles

Over the years, Trinity has accumulated several different NIV Bibles so that the pages numbers are not consistent from one pew Bible to another.  This variation within our pew Bibles may impede people from actually opening a pew Bible and following along during the worship service –especially people new to church or new to the Christian faith who may have a difficult time finding where a particular biblical book is located within the Bible.  (In fact, finding the Old Testament book of Obadiah or Habakkuk can often prove difficult for even seasoned Christians!)  Thus, when our elders discussed the reasons above for switching our pew Bibles from the NIV to the ESV, the Session noted that eventually having a consistent pew Bible where the bulletin (and occasionally the preacher) could reference the page number in the pew Bible as another advantageous reason to make the switch. 

Practically, the discussion amongst Trinity’s elders also moved from “this is a good idea” to “let’s do it now” when an elder returned to next month’s meeting to announce that, if it was the will of the Session to switch to the ESV translation, that this elder would contribute the entire cost of all the new ESV pew Bibles.  Praise God!

Finally, let me highly encourage you along these lines:  make it a habit to open your Bible during corporate worship every Sunday morning.

There are few sounds so sweet to a pastor who has poured over the Scriptural text during the week than hearing the congregation flip the pages to find the passage on Sunday morning! 

Grateful to be with you on the journey.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Rev. Dr. Jason Carter

[1] Wycliff Bible Translators webpage, https://www.wycliffe.org.uk/about/our-impact/, accessed August 27, 2018.

[2] For example, the NASB is often referred to as a “wooden translation” because its literal translation philosophy diminishes the literary quality of the English language.  The KJV is based on “demonstrably inferior” Greek texts; see this article by respected Greek scholar Daniel B. Wallace: https://bible.org/article/why-i-do-not-think-king-james-bible-best-translation-available-today. The Message Bible makes no apologies for utilizing highly contemporary language but is primarily meant to supplement other standard translations of the Bible.

[3] Kevin DeYoung, Why Our Church Switched to the ESV, 19

[4] All references to the NIV are to the 2011 translation, the only NIV edition currently being sold as new. 

[5] In the Gospel of John, the “hour” refers to Jesus’ death on the cross, a paradoxical “hour” of glorification despite the humiliation of the cross.  Early in his ministry, John communicates that the “hour” of Jesus had not yet come (John 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28, etc.).  Yet, beginning with John 12, suddenly “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23) which leads Jesus straight to the path of the cross. 

[6] DeYoung, Why Our Church Switched to the ESV, 19-20

[7] Ibid., 25.

[8] Ibid., 17.

[9] Ibid., 18.

[10] Ibid., 16.

Jason Carter
The Joy of Confirmation
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These summer months, I’ve had the joy of leading our confirmation class of (mostly) incoming ninth graders every Sunday afternoon from 12:00-2:00.  It has truly been a joy to hear their thoughtful responses to my questions about the faith, as I often use the Socratic method of questioning and have been known (now and then) to play the devil’s advocate with them. Yet, to be a witness to the profound way they are thinking through the faith at a deep level and wrestling with weighty issues of life and Christianity has been so encouraging to me. 

This group of fourteen has been reading (What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert, The Case for Faith, Student Edition by Lee Strobel, and chapters of Presbyterian Beliefs by Donald McKim), memorizing (Lord’s Prayer, 10 Commandments, & the Apostle’s Creed), writing (a one-page statement of faith and their personal testimony), worshipping (filling out six “sermon evaluation forms”), getting mentored (by reading through the book of Philippians), and working through Bible readings on their own. 

My prayer and hope for these students is that they will look back at Confirmation and see one of the foundational pillars of faith has been laid for a life-time of loving Jesus and serving His church.  Like (every) adult, this group of young people is “still in process” in life and faith – and I hope they feel like I’ve given them permission to struggle and doubt and still be “in process” – yet as we put one faith step in front of the other, we begin to be slowly transformed into the image of Christ. 

August 12th is “Confirmation Sunday” – and I hope you will join me in praying for this class and offer encouragement to them along the way as they finish their confirmation class at TWC.

Many of us have also been praying for Randy Gerry, our new Director of Student Ministries and Community Engagement.  Continue to do so!  He got back Saturday (7/28) from the Mission Trip to North Carolina with the Senior High group and leaves tomorrow (7/30) with the Mid-High group for a Rec Camp in Palm Beach, Florida. 

Thankful to be with you on this journey of discipleship,

Pastor Jason

Jason Carter
Control Freak? God Loves You Anyway
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I’m reminded weekly as a pastor that life is messy.  Sometimes, life seems like a series of calculated steps to remind you of one thing:  you are not in control.  We can fight for control, think we’re in control, and even live our lives under the illusion that we’re in control.  But then, a messy situation rears its head right dab in the middle of your life.

This was not the way it was supposed to be. 

And, instead of releasing control to Jesus, we often double-down on maintaining control:

I’ll get it right next time.

Friends, Jesus came in the flesh to show you a better way.

We mistakenly think that peace and control have a direct causal relationship:  more control = more peace.  The more that I can control my life, my family, and my environment, the more that peace will flood my heart.  We are hesitant (and even terrified) of trusting anybody outside of ourselves.  After all, this is my life, and I better get it right! 

The irony is that our love of control (okay, being a “control freak”) is actually the gateway to living a life of constant pressure.  And stress.  And living under the coming rain cloud of potential failure.  What if I can’t keep all these plates in the air?

That is why faith is at the heart of the Christian life.  Faith is resting in the refuge that God provides. Faith is a (childlike) trusting in the goodness of God.  God is for me, not against me.

I experience a release and freedom at the level of my soul when I recognize (and remember) that Jesus truly desires that I experience the fullness of joy

Take this verse to heart: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”  (John 15:11)

What if I could exchange the joy of Jesus for my love of control?  Perhaps that would make all the difference in my life.  Perhaps Jesus could give me exactly what I have been searching to find all of my life.  Perhaps joy is to be found “in Jesus”.  Think about it.

Grateful to be with you in this journey towards joy,

Pastor Jason

Jason CarterDevotional, Joy
Trinity Wellsprings Church: A Community Overflowing and Celebrating
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As Kool & The Gang famously put it, “Celebrate good times, woo-hoo.” 

Er….I mean, the Psalmist put it much better:  “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1)

A few snapshots of our church life are in order: 

(1)  Community Overflowing:  Between our “Day of Service” (Feb. 24th) which culminated our Matthew 25 Challenge and our recent hosting of Family Promise of Brevard, a saint of our church came up to me and said:  “It really feels like we are being a ‘Community Overflowing’ these days!”  I simply pass that encouragement onto the body of Christ – you have overflowed in life-giving ways into our community.  Thanks for wearing your heart on your sleeve and bringing Jesus wherever you go!

(2)  Last Fiscal Quarter:  The income from our last fiscal quarter (Jan-March) represented our largest non-December quarter of giving since 2015.  You are responding in sacrificial ways to the call of God on your lives.  Again, thank you for giving all of YOU – your talents, time, and treasures to making LIFE and LOVE happen on campus and in our community and world through the efforts of Trinity Wellsprings Church.  I know the Finance Team wants to whisper in our ears: “let’s hope this upward trend continues!”, but I think it’s valuable to pause and celebrate the small victories along the way in our journey together.

(3)  We asked; you responded.  Thanks for showing up in a big way for Easter.  Several of you, after attending the sunrise Easter service, came back on campus to greet and be a welcoming face to our visitors.  Thanks for going the extra mile.  I personally saw the difference that made in our congregational singing and in our hospitality to new folks.  Again, thank you for being the body of Christ!

(4)  Jim Hollis, our resident TWC statistician (and sage), recently wrote: “What a GREAT EASTER! We had a record 1417 at the Sunrise Service. We had 526 at the 9 and 11 Services. The total at these 3 services was 1943 which is a record.”  Amen. It was a great Easter for our church family and for our community! Yet, forget for a second that 1400+ people came to the beach and remember for a moment that what we are about -- pointing people to Jesus and sowing seeds for the gospel -- is incredibly difficult to categorize or numeritize. It's incredibly difficult to ever know whether our love and service challenges/encourages a man to love his wife more engagingly or comforts a widow grieving the death of a long-time husband or plants small seeds in the lives of students or children to begin to embrace a more robust faith.  Who knows whether encouraging someone to join a Life Group leads a person to say, “who knows, I’ll just give it a try” which leads to significant life transformation years later.

All in all, we want to be a church that celebrates the small victories along this long path of discipleship.  (Isn’t that a good idea for the Christian life as well?  We often need our spiritual eyes and ears to recognize God’s presence and blessings in our lives, as we often are rather quick to recognize life’s challenges but slow to thank God for his blessings.)

So, church: Be grateful.  Be thankful.  Celebrate the good times.  If we don’t celebrate the small victories in the life of faith, we’ll be prone to miss the faithfulness of God!  I’m certain there will be challenges ahead, times that will challenge us to band together in ways that stretch our capacity to believe, to act, and to respond in faith.  Yet, the good news is that we always can rest in the faithfulness of God.  Why?  “…for he is good.  His love endures forever.”  Woo-hoo! 

Be encouraged,

Rev. Dr. Jason  Carter

Senior Pastor/Head of Staff

Jason Carter