Pastor’s Blog

by Pastor Todd Bradbury

The Holy Spirit’s Presence

by Todd Bradbury

Have you ever had an encounter with the Holy Spirit? I’ve encountered a number of people who are honest enough to say, “I really don’t sense the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life.” Donna Lewis was one such person. By the way, it takes great humility for a Christian to admit to not being able to sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. But that’s Donna, she’s certainly humble. So who is Donna Lewis? Donna is a fairly new member at Bethel. She’s recently retired from the Masonic Lodge Retirement Home and, best of all, she’s a proud grandmother to who she considers the most perfect baby in the world: Colton Franklin. I had the occasion to sit down with her one morning over breakfast and that’s when Donna told me about her trouble with the Holy Spirit. Let’s let Donna tell the story in her own words:

“I had the opportunity to meet with Todd a couple of months ago. I specifically wanted to talk with him about how someone truly knows when the Holy Spirit comes into their heart. He helped me to have a much better understanding of the Holy Spirit and how to quietly listen to God. At the end of our time together, Todd prayed with me and asked God to specifically reveal the Holy Spirit to me.

A few weeks ago, I asked Todd where I could be of service to our Church. He suggested I speak with Brenda Peck about helping with the Food Pantry. I had a great conversation with Brenda. She was so excited that I wanted to be part of the team and explained how the Food Pantry operates. Her enthusiasm was so contagious! Brenda said one way that the pantry ministers to people is by praying for the food pantry customers for whatever needs they may have. I was thrilled to be part of the Food Pantry Team, but I told Brenda that I would never be able to pray with people. As much as I have prayed for people privately, I have never had the confidence or faith in myself, to pray with anyone publicly. Brenda understood and said it was fine if I chose not to pray. On the way to my first Food Pantry venture in July my thoughts were consumed with wanting to be able to pray with folks that evening. I said a prayer on the way asking God to please give me the guidance and confidence to pray with those who had prayer requests. When Brenda, Shirley Roberts and Barbara Phillips asked me to join their prayer circles that evening, I felt a strong sense of peace. As the evening progressed I had an opportunity to walk a gentleman to his car and he began talking about some very stressful things that were happening in his life. All of a sudden, I asked him if we could pray together. As I began to pray, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and calmness. Although I was speaking the words, I knew they were coming through me from our Lord. My heart was overflowing with peace and joy that evening! I knew without a doubt the Holy Spirit had come into my heart.

God really answered the prayer that Todd and I prayed that day. God has truly filled my heart with amazing love and joy! Steve and I are so blessed to be part of the wonderful Bethel Baptist Church family.”

Pretty cool story right? There are a couple of takeaways from Donna’s story that I’d like to point out. 

First, Donna was honest with God and admitted that she was struggling with not being able to feel the Holy Spirit in her life. Second, she prayed SPECIFICALLY for God to intervene and for God to allow her to feel the Spirit’s leading. In other words, she prayed in accordance with God’s will. Third, she took a step of faith! This is huge. Donna just didn’t sit back; she acted and went forward in faith doing something that is also within God’s will, feeding the hungry. Fourth, after the encounter with God, Donna has given all the glory and thanks back to the Lord. This encounter with God has lifted Donna’s spirit and has given her a sense of awe and wonder.   Her enthusiasm for the Lord is contagious. I hope we all catch Donna’s enthusiasm and I think we can, if we:

  1. Pray for the leading of God’s spirit in our lives.
  2. Take steps of faith in accordance with God’s will.
  3. Watch, listen and be attentive to God’s leading in our lives.
  4. Live with a sense of gratitude for God’s active presence in our lives.  
 
Thank you Donna, for being open to God’s leading. May God continue to bless Donna and may the Holy Spirit lead each one of us on our faith journey. Amen.

 

 

 



Destination: A Culture of Grace. A People of Hope.

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I covenant that I will work to create a Culture of Grace and Peace in  my family, work, and church, at all times, everywhere. These are the expectations that I have of myself:
 
I will treat others as I would want to be treated – Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
 
I will listen with the intent of understanding – James 1:19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
 
I will remember to “Begin with the End in Mind.” The “end” goal of my life is to praise and glorify God – Ephesians 1:12 “in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”
 
I will view every person as a person of value and respect everyone. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
 
I will remember that we are all on the same team. 1 Corinthians 12:13a – “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body”
 
I will be willing to let God show me what I need to see in every situation– Ephesians 1:18—I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
 
I will have a spirit of openness to another person’s point of view and be willing to consider that I might be wrong.
 
I will seek first the kingdom of God – Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
 
I will ask clarifying questions when I’m confused – James 1:5—If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him.
 
I will strive to get rid of all anger, bitterness, malice and slander and I will treat others with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31-32—Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
 
By the Bethel Baptist Church family


A Look Through the Window

 

by Todd Bradbury

I like windows. Windows frame things, and they ask us to pause, to reflect, and to notice. I’ve been enjoying the view from one particular window outside my office at church. You cannot see the outside world through this window, but the view is every bit as majestic and inspiring.   The window in question is the display window located beside our church library. About every other month or so there is a new display in the window. The current display is dedicated to summer. It is adorned with a beautiful sun, complete with orange and yellow tissue-paper carefully interwoven throughout the scene. The window exclaims the biblical truth, “This is the day the Lord has made!”

Blog_LibraryThe beauty of this window doesn’t happen by accident. The creative geniuses behind these works of art are Barbara Bell and Cindy Wight.   Would you believe that Barbara has been designing and decorating these windows for over 30 years? WOW! That is dedication! About three years ago Barbara recruited Cindy, and now they work together to create something special.

Their creations inspire me. Actually, it’s not so much their creations that inspire me. THEY inspire me. I’m inspired by their creativity and their eye for design. Not many of us have that gift. I certainly don’t. But there are some things these two ladies do in the creation of these display windows that each one of us can do.

When Barbara and Cindy sit down to design a window they are intentional about what they are doing. They think carefully about the end result before they begin. They work in collaboration with each other, using each others’ gifts and strengths. They have a true appreciation for the other person’s talents.   Then they construct their windows with great care and attention to detail. Then the big one: LOVE. These windows are designed and constructed with love.

Take a close look at all the underlined words: Intentional, collaboration, appreciation, care, attention to detail, and love. That sounds like a recipe for success doesn’t it? It reminds me of what Paul writes in Colossians 3:23a, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” These ladies certainly work on these windows as if they are working for the Lord, and it shows.

May I ask a favor of you? The next time you’re at church, take a moment and look at the display window beside the library. Pause and think about what it takes to produce that window. Then perhaps you will do as I have done and offer a prayer of thanksgiving.

“Thank you Lord for people like Barbara and Cindy. Thank you for the unique gifts you give us. Lord, help each one of us to live with intention, with appreciation for each other, help us to do our work with care and attention to detail, and above all, may others see and sense the LOVE we have for you in our work and in our being.   Amen.”

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The Bethel Prayer of Thanksgiving

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 “Thank you, God, for the good times.
 Thank you, God, for the bad times.
Thank you, God, for ALL times.”
 

by Todd Bradbury

I visited a man before he passed away. He was a farmer, had a family, a simple man who had a deep, abiding faith in Christ.   Towards the end of his life he became bedridden and spent three years in confines of his bed. The bed was located in a small room with a view of the front yard.  He could see one tree and the road where he was able to watch the cars as they passed. This once healthy, energetic, giant of a man spent the last 1,000 plus days of his life in this tiny room. Think about that. What would it be like to not feel a warm, summers breeze, or the sun on your face on a chilly spring day, or be pelted by rain, or to enjoy the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains as the leaves change? Wouldn’t you miss the ability to enjoy the company of good friends around a dinner table at your favorite restaurant, or even to enjoy a routine trip to the grocery store?
 
As the end of his life approached he began to slur his speech and moments of lucidity were hard to find. Finally there was no more speech, not for several weeks, until one day. One day a pastor dropped by at a time when the pastor knew the man’s daughter would be present. The pastor asked the daughter what she would like to pray for? The daughter, being polite to her dad but not really expecting an answer, said, “Daddy, the preacher is here and wants to know what you want to pray for?”  He hadn’t spoken in weeks, but to the surprise and delight of his daughter and the pastor, the man spoke. This is what he said:  “Tell the minister to thank God for the good times, thank God for the bad times, thank God for all times.”
 
I’m not sure I’ve heard a better prayer than that one. I liked the prayer so much I borrowed it and have named it the “Bethel Prayer of Thanksgiving.” I want to keep that prayer before us because there is a depth of spiritual maturity in that prayer that is not often heard. How many of us really thank God for the bad times? We should thank God for the bad times because God can use these times to teach us, mold us and shape us. As I think back over my own life I can honestly say that it was in the “bad times” that I learned the most about myself and, more importantly, about our Lord.   I give thanks that we serve a God of redemption, a God who is able to redeem the bad times in each of our lives.
 

Let’s claim the promise of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”