Monday, March 24, 2014

Jesus is Always at the Wheel

On 28 August 2012 at 12:30am, I wrote down a dream I had.  All my note says is, "I sit in a wagon full of sorrows and Jesus is at the wheel."  And then,  "When I go over a mountain of trials He is waiting at the top smiling at my accomplishments."

As you may remember, dear Reader, my church, Grace Christian Center in Killeen, Texas, lost our senior Pastors, Terry and Jan Whitley, and our Lead Associate Pastor, Steve Timmerman, in a tragic one-vehicle rollover in Pflugerville, Texas, about an hour south of here.  (See blog, 8 Seconds to Eternity, 1 December 2013).  It is now five and a half months since that night that changed so many lives. 

As in my dream from a year and a half earlier, I think a majority of those in our congregation were sitting in a wagon full of sorrows after hearing the unbelievable news.  But the first night after their deaths, a gathering of our congregation was joined in sorrow and blessed joy.  We worshiped the Most High God, and sang praise to the Name Above All Names.  We cried and consoled those around us, grieving and comforting at the same time.  Although feeling shock and pain at their untimely deaths, there was also a feeling of sweet surrender for me.  I knew that my three Pastors, beloved by so many, were home, where they belonged. 

Over the last five and a half months, the Pastor's pastors and advisers came from around the world to preach to us on Sundays and many Wednesday nights.  These were men who had been part of Pastor Terry's inner circle, his closest friends, men who spoke many times at our church while he was alive.  Our Associate Pastors, Youth Pastor, Children's Pastor, and Music Pastor moved forward and grew in ways that make me stand in amazement.  They had a large mantle to take, and they rose to the occasion.  Each one sacrificed even more of their time to keep Grace running and continued to serve the congregation and God.  Instead of our numbers decreasing, they have increased.  Instead of continued mourning, we as a church have found ourselves moving in new ways, against the odds, and against the naysayers.  We were left with a legacy to fulfill.  There was no longer time to sit back, but time to move forward! 

About three months before he died, Pastor Terry had prepared us for new levels, and had initiated The Next Step, where each of the congregation could find a place where they belonged, whether it be Grow - a way to find out more about what it means to follow Christ and how you can grow in your relationship with Him; Connect - discovering ways that you can connect and experience real-life friendships in a large church setting; and Serve - learning how to get involved and give back by serving in one of Grace's many volunteering opportunities, the Ministry of Helps.  There is so much joy in my heart watching what our Pastors began come to fruition.  There truly is
beauty for ashes.

In November, the Board called someone many of the congregation knew, because he used to be the Music Pastor a decade or so ago.   They asked if he would give the sermon on the 24th.  It was a warm welcome that he received, he had been genuinely loved by those that knew him.  He is currently Senior Pastor at Covenant Life Church in North Richland Hills, Texas.  His message that morning was about living the Kingdom life.  I liked him.  He made a point of introducing himself to me and others that he didn't know that morning, and his genuineness was palpable.  He was downright likeable, and his sermon was wonderful and greatly received.  He spoke again in mid-January, and once again was right on point with his sermon on how when the righteous prosper, the city rejoices (Proverbs 11:10).  He made a call for the church (The Church) to serve the cities that they are part of.  He referred to himself as a Son of God.  That men were Sons of God before they were pastors, presidents, husbands or fathers.  And Sons of God serve.  And they serve on their knees.

As time moved on from the loss of our Pastors, I found that I was no longer sitting in that wagon of sorrows.  Jesus had been at the wheel, He led the way through my grief, my sorrow, and my loss.  He allowed me to sit in the wagon while He drove it, assuring me that not only was He was never going to let me go through any trial alone, He would go first.  My husband and I were led to start doing more for our church.  We are walking in new directions, but still on the path that God has chosen.  We feel led to serve.

On Sunday, 2 March, the President of the Board of Trustees for our church announced the choice and acceptance of the new Senior Pastor.  The Board had the responsibility of finding this man.  They were cloaked in prayer and in the faith that they would only choose who the Lord revealed to them.  It is the same man who challenged us to serve more, not just at church, but in our community as well.  His name is Mark Price.  When his name was announced, the cheers and applause were almost deafening.  He is welcomed with open arms and hearts by Grace Christian Center.  Pastors Terry and Jan had a vision for our church, and we are living the legacy by getting more involved and offering our services wherever we can.  Our new Pastor has the same vision, to continue being a world outreach, and doing more right here at home.  He is bringing a freshness that is welcomed.

Jesus was at the wheel through our darkest hours, and now, as we accept that life moves on despite our sorrows, the time has come for someone else to take the helm and move us as a church in the direction that a Son or Daughter of God should go.  Jesus is waiting at the top of that mountain smiling at our accomplishments.  What could be better than knowing our steps are ordered of the Lord, and He chose the Joshua that would lead us into our future, surely our promised land. 

Welcome, Pastors Mark and Teresa, and Kortni and Tyler!  I am very much looking forward to serving you.  I appreciate that your own church will be somewhat going through what we did, losing our Pastor.  I'm sure there is sorrow there, and the wonder, why did he have to leave?  But God saw it all before the foundation of the earth.  He has us in His heart and He leads the way.  There is victory in these changes, and blessings in abundance for both churches.  I thank our Lord for His infinite wisdom, and for the blessings He is showering on Grace Christian Center and each of us who call her home, whether we live in Killeen or serve in Afghanistan.  We serve a good God, a kind God, a God who only looks after our best interests.

Though we say goodbye to Pastors Terry, Jan, and Steve, we will never forget them, nor would we want to.  Instead, we continue to run the race that they began, knowing the greatest prize is at the end!  May God bless you, dear Reader, and keep you wrapped in His love.  Deirdre


Senior Pastors Elect Mark and Teresa Price

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

O Holy Night!


"For where the treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matt 6:21 NKJV

Today I opened a Dayspring Christmas card I received.  The words on the front say:

'Wise men came with the treasures of earth in their hands.... and left with the Treasure of Heaven in their hearts.'  Inside it says, 'Celebrating this Christmas because Jesus still gives us the greatest treasure of all--Himself!  Blessings to You.'

What a beautiful sentiment!  Tears filled my eyes because it is so simple.  They came with earthly treasures for the Child, treasures of the most valuable things on earth-- gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they but left with the greatest treasure of all, having seen and worshipped the Savior of the world, the Messiah! 

We also come to Jesus giving what to us is the most valuable thing we have -- ourselves.  In this world of  'me, me!' that is what we consider to be the most treasured of our possessions, our own lives.  In reality, our lives are a filthy and totally inadequate gift for the King of kings.  But it is the best we can do; and a celebration of God and heavenly hosts occurs when we offer our lives to Jesus!  God our Father rejoices for every single person who gives their life to Christ.  He actually sings!  God sings!!

"The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

And the angels throw a party! 

"Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbors: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it—that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God." Luke 15:10 Message

This Christmas, when the world seems to be going down the drain in a whirlpool of sin and idolatry, why not rededicate yourself to Jesus of Nazareth, to Emmanuel, God with us.  Let Him take your dirty heart and cleanse it in the blood He shed for you.  Let His life be your example.  Stop rushing, instead allow someone else to go first.  Lend an ear to someone who needs it.  If you see someone who looks lost in a store ask if you can help them.  It's so easy to be kind, and it makes you feel better.  Pray for those that hate you, as strange as it sounds, you will feel so much better! You will release all sorts of stresses that may be ruining your life and health! 

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven;" Matt 44-45 NKJV

Dear Reader, if you have not given your life to Jesus but you want to, or if you have gone away and wish to rededicate yourself, let today be the day that you do.  It is Christmas Eve 2013.  You will receive a treasure worth more than anything and everything here on earth--your promise of life everlasting in Heaven with the King of Kings!  So be renewed, be born again, for "Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3 NKJV

Please pray this prayer with all your heart:

Heavenly Father, I come to You admitting that I am a sinner.  Right now, I choose to turn away from sin, and I ask You to cleanse me of all unrighteousness.  I believe that Your Son, Jesus, died on the cross to take away my sins.  I also believe that He rose again from the dead so that I may be justified and made righteous through faith in Him.  I call upon the name of Jesus Christ to be the Savior and Lord of my life.  Jesus, I choose to follow You, and I ask that You fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit.  I declare right now that I am a born-again child of God.  I am free from sin, and full of the righteousness of God.  I am saved in Jesus' name.  Amen 

Welcome (back) to the Kingdom of God and eternal life!  You may want to find a church tonight or tomorrow morning to worship and fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  You have a very large family now!   Merry Christmas and God bless you!

Please enjoy the link below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zh-yR0pbmU

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas in Heaven


What a year this has been.  There have been many children die this past year in different ways.  Sickness, stillborn, miscarriage, car accidents, abuse, and violence have taken what is so near and dear to us.  I can't even begin to imagine the loss of a child and what Christmas is like for a family without them.  But there should be a peace in our hearts knowing that God has our little loved ones right there in His Kingdom.  He is a loving God, and is taking good care of them.  He did not abandon them at their death, whatever the cause, indeed His word says that to be absent from life is to be present with the Lord.  What a comforting thought!

So if you have lost a child, as I know so many have, please know that you will see them again.  They have moved to their place in eternity, and are fine, they are safe in the arms of Jesus.  I pray for you this Christmas season, that the peace that Jesus left with us overtakes your sorrow and one day brings a smile back to your face in remembrance of your baby. 

For each life that ends, a great hole is felt in the heart of those left behind asking 'why?'  Only God Himself knows why someone dies, especially a baby or young child.  But just knowing that a child is singing with the angels is very comforting.  Our God is a good God, and He places us under His wing and He rocks us gently and comforts us.  We'll understand why someday, when we are reunited with those we lost, but until then, just know that He understands our pain.

I wonder what Christmas in Heaven is like.  I think it must be awesome.  I think that Almighty God must look down and see us worshipping; and when he looks around at His loved ones that have already gone before us, those that are part of His very own choir, I think He must smile broadly!  I think He is happy that we still celebrate the birth of His only Son even when our hearts break.  I think it shows how much we trust Him, that it shows our belief that the enemy will not and can not defeat us!  And I think that makes Him glad.  We are here but for a moment, after all, and our eternity will not be filled with sadness or grief.  There is no sorrow in Heaven, there is only never ending joy!  God bless you!

Please click on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXNqqWjuAaE

Friday, December 20, 2013

When Angels Appeared to Bring the Good News


"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”  
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  
       “ Glory to God in the highest,
         And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them."
Luke 2:8-20


Can you imagine being one of the shepherds that holy night?  Can you imagine taking care of your flock (as this Child would one day) and being interrupted by an angel of the Lord?  And then a 'multitude' of heavenly host appear and in heavenly choir sing praises of glory to the Lord?  Can you imagine the depths of wonder your soul would experience?  In the light of the stars and moon and in the glory of the angels, you must be unbelievably scared!  But you are told to not be afraid but instead to know that a Savior is born and He will take care of you forevermore!

So after the angels disappear, imagine standing there in the field with your sheep and your friends and wondering what was going on!  Your life is changed completely!  You didn't see just one angel, as Abraham and Jacob did, you saw a multitude of heavenly host!  A multitude!  How do you catch your breath after that?  After the honor that was bestowed on you to be a witness to such a miracle!

And then you do what they told you and you journey to the cave that houses an infant who will save the world!  How do you even comprehend all that?  You see His young mother cradling the Savior of the World and His earthly father watching nearby, protecting them both.  You fall on your knees and you worship the Babe.  You tell about what the angels told you, and you see His mother listening intently.  What an amazing honor to be chosen to be one of the first to see this and to bring a message from heaven to Mary!

You know how when we see a newborn baby we always marvel at the perfection of their lips and their eyelashes and tiny fingers?  Can you imagine seeing Jesus just hours old?  Knowing, because the angels told you, that He would save the world?  That He was the King of kings?  Do you dare to touch His little hand so that His fingers rest around yours?  What would it be like to touch the Son of God? 

Dear Reader, we can touch the Son of God anytime we want to!  He is in each one of us.  He is in your wife, your child, your husband, your friend, your co-worker.  He is in the guy down the street that doesn't bring his garbage can up right away.  He is in the homeless, he is in the downtrodden, he is in the teacher, the fireman, the executive, the secretary, he is in us!  Bless someone today with a hug.  If that is too uncomfortable for you, than bless them with a smile right from your heart!  Think of that person as Jesus, your Savior!  Love your fellow man; today do something extra special for someone you don't know.  Let the angels sing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men." 

Have a beautiful day, and God bless you today and always.  Wrap yourself in the miracle of Jesus' birth!  Please enjoy the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4qsDeHE1mw


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Eight Seconds to Eternity


Pastors Terry and Jan Whitley

Pastor Steve Timmerman
 On 10 October 2013, in Pflugerville, Texas, just north of Austin, three people I love lost their lives in a tragic one vehicle accident on Texas Toll Road 130.  These were people who had a love for God and for their families, and for the church that they pastored.

Pastors Terry Whitley 65, his wife Janice 63, and Senior Associate Pastor Steve Timmerman 56, were killed when a tire blew out and the church van flipped several times and came to a stop.  They say it was all over in eight seconds.  The news sent shock waves that stunned our congregation.  Each person went through their own time of meditation and quiet disbelief.  "How could this be?"  "No, not all three!?"  "Tell me it's just a bad dream."

Dear Reader, news like this could cripple a congregation, but that isn't what happened to Grace Christian Center in Killeen, Texas.  Pastors Terry and Jan started Grace Christian Center with a handful of worshipers 33 years ago.  As the congregation grew, they moved to bigger facilities, and finally built the current church that houses about 2,000 weekly congregants.  It is a world outreach center, and has built and planted churches in many far off lands.

On the night after that terrible accident, the church opened the doors for what was to be a two-hour period of prayer.  The worship team was going to play three songs.  One of them, Majesty, written by Jack Hayford, was Pastor Terry's favorite.  My husband and I arrived late, closer to 8pm.  We were astounded at the amount of cars in the neighborhoods, on the grass at the church, and the packed parking lot.  When we entered the church, the halls were filled and the sanctuary was packed with people standing and worshiping.  What started out as three songs continued for two solid hours. The congregation, with tear stained faces, through smiling lips sang praise and worship to the Lord of hosts, the Great I AM, Jehovah, the Living God.  As the crescendo grew louder and louder and the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable throughout the building, I saw for a moment the huge gates of heaven thrown open from the sincere and heartfelt songs from the earth.  I could imagine our Pastor Terry saying, "That sounds like Charles!"  (Charles Reid, our Music Minister)  And Pastor Jan saying, "I hear Emmanuel!"  (Emmanuel Hernandez, our Worship Leader), and Pastor Steve recognizing Carolanne McLean, another of our Worship Leaders.  Then in my heart, I could hear them say, "That's our church!  They know exactly what to do in times of great trial and sorrow!  They know to worship the one true God with all their heart!"

And so we did!  I have never felt such an enormous and sweet Presence as I did that night.  As we cried and hugged each other we knew that our loved ones were gazing into the face of the Almighty God Himself, and that we were not alone here without them.  The local news reported on the strength of the people of Grace, and how through our sadness there was joy, for the reward was so great for our Pastors. 

The following week was a time of grief and honor for them.  The memorial for Pastors Terry and Jan was attended by several thousand people that knew and loved them.  Killeen, being right outside Fort Hood, was home to many, many soldiers over the years that were stationed here for two to three years and then they got orders to go elsewhere.  Many flew in just to honor the pastors they loved, the ones who taught them who God is and what the Bible says.  The friends and 'family' listened as close pastoral friends and the children spoke of the love they had for their parents, and the love their parents had for the congregation and community, and the country.

Pastor Steve was the Chaplain for the Killeen Fire Department for ten years.  As Senior Associate Pastor, he was a man without equal.  He was not only the Chaplain (Killeen has 8 fire houses), but he was the head of the Helps Ministry at Grace, which includes several hundred individuals; he handled the baptisms, baby dedications, and did hospital visits from Houston to Dallas.  He served the Pastors well, and often led the Sunday and Wednesday night services in their absence.  He belonged to the Patriot Guard Riders of Central Texas, who honored him with an escort to the Central Texas Veteran's Cemetery. 

On the day of his funeral, all the City of Killeen Firemen and women and EMS workers lined the inside of the church in respect to him.  The front of the church was not only packed with cars, but fire trucks and equipment.  Receiving the honors of a fallen firefighter, his body was placed in one of the fire trucks for his last ride to the cemetery he had performed many services at.  At the entrance to the cemetery were two ladder trucks with the ladders up and an American flag hanging from the arch it made.  The firefighters and EMS and equipment were able to attend because many of the surrounding towns loaned equipment and manpower to Killeen for the solemn occasion. 

Today would have been Pastor Jan's birthday.  She is very happily celebrating it in heaven with her beloved Terry and their Armor-bearer.  Though we miss them, we are stronger because of them, and we know what we are supposed to do.  All that we were taught for these last 33 years twice a week is in our hearts somewhere, waiting to be called upon when the moment is needed.  We won't be sitting back watching, we will be doing.  What is a legacy but to be lived?  We trust our Board of Directors to find the Pastor that we need.  He won't be a carbon copy of those we lost, who would want that?  But he will have the same vision as Grace Christian Center has, and he will love the diversity of our congregation, and will not seek his own agenda, but like our Pastors, refer to themselves as Under-shepherds to Jesus.

Until that day arrives we learn from the best, the Pastor's Pastors, the close inner circle of godly men that prayed over, for, and with us many times.   We watch our Associate Pastors rise to the occasion with a word in due season, and see the strength that our Lord has given them as they carry this unexpected mantle.  God has blessed us more than we can say.  I am not so sad that I lost them, because my gratitude of having had them is so great.  I smile when I think of them.  They were unassuming, devoted to God, and as transparent as glass, as I hope I always am.  They leave behind children and a widow.  Our love and prayers for their comfort are daily and fervent.  I know they are strong, and I know that through this tragedy they too will rise, like Grace Christian Center.  I believe the next 5 years will far surpass the last 25, because our house was built on a solid Rock foundation. 

I say 'Go With God' to them.  It's where they should be, it is a just and deserving reward for three wonderfully blessed individuals.  May God's grace shower upon their families like healing rain. 

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever."  Psalm 30:11-12 NKJV    

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX8OfCSp7r8