Pastor’s Blog

by Pastor Todd Bradbury

How Has Your Faith Changed You?

How has your faith changed you? That’s a pretty deep question, but it’s a question that I hope you’ll seriously consider, at least for a moment. I could list a number of ways in which my faith has changed me. I first accepted the Lord into my life on Easter Sunday 1976. I was nine years old. I nervously “walked the aisle” and at the end of the aisle stood my grandfather. His name was Graham Lester and he was the pastor of Fine Creek Baptist Church in Powhatan. Back then I knew only a little of what it meant to be a Christian. I wish I could tell you from that point forward the Lord was at the center of my life. In reality, and to my shame, the Lord played only a minor role in my life, unless of course I got into trouble or I found myself in a fix and needed help getting out of a jam. It was during these times of trouble that I’d remember a little thing called prayer and my prayer was usually, “Lord help me!” I confess there wasn’t a whole lot of Christ-like growth for many years, too many years. But over time growth began to happen and it happened precisely because of one of those “Lord help me!” prayers. There was one particular point in my life where I hit bottom and it’s fair to say I was broken. I won’t go into the details of my brokenness because the story is too long for a newsletter article. With nowhere to turn I uttered one of those “Lord help me!” prayers. Only this time there was something different in my asking. For the first time I truly wanted to know what God wanted for my life. God answered that prayer in a way that I knew it was Him and that answer to prayer gave me a desire to learn more about the Lord and to grow closer to him. I tell you that story to tell you this story. Not long ago I was chatting with Brenda Peck. For those of you who don’t know Brenda, Brenda Peckshe’s a life-long member of Bethel and is very active in our Food Pantry and is one of our deacons. We were talking about faith and she recounted how she too prayed a lot of “Lord help me!” prayers along the way. Then she said something that I thought was wonderfully insightful. She said, “My prayer life has gone from ‘Lord, help me!’ to ‘Thank you Lord!’ She said she still prays for the Lord to help her, but these days her prayers begin and end with words of thanksgiving. I began to think about her comments and I think they represent a continuum for what a Christ-like growth looks like. When we first come to faith each of us probably utter a lot of “Lord help me!” prayers. I believe God is anxious to answer those prayers for help, but I think His most earnest desire is that we move towards a prayer life that is   saturated with words of gratitude, graciousness and thanksgiving. The Apostle Paul ended up at this place when he says in Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Instead of asking “How has your faith changed you?” perhaps a better question is “Where are you on the prayer continuum from ‘Help me Lord!’ to ‘Thank you Lord!?’ May I pray one “Lord help me!” prayer for us? Lord, help! Help us to live our lives in such a way that we are continually moving towards living lives of thankfulness, gratitude and graciousness. Create in us a desire for You and You alone oh Lord. Amen. God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving, Todd



Ann Beacham

TGIM: Thank God It’s Monday!

Ann Beacham

TGIM – Thank God It’s Monday! Have you ever heard anyone say those words? Me neither until recently. I recently visited Ann Beacham at Sutherland Place, which is an assisted living facility. For those of you who don’t know Ann, she is a long time member of Bethel. Ann’s husband Lamar passed away last year and, as you can imagine, the last year has been quite an adjustment for her. In my most recent visit with Ann I asked her if she had a good weekend. She said most of the time the weekends are really quiet around Sutherland Place and that there is not much to do because most of the staff is enjoying their weekend. She said, “Around here we say, ‘Thank God it’s Monday’, because on Mondays all of the staff is back and we have all sorts of activities to enjoy during the week.” That statement, “Thank God it’s Monday,” stuck with me. I never heard anyone thanking the Lord for a Monday. For most folks in a 9-5 job, Monday is rarely met with enthusiasm. Most of us are too busy looking forward to Friday to actually stop and thank the Lord for Monday. Ann’s words stuck with me because they made me think about things from a different perspective. While much of the world lives for the weekend, people like Ann look forward to days when their facility is fully staffed with activities to enjoy.

I suppose it’s human nature to “look forward,” to anticipate, to dream, to hope; these are all good, God given emotions. But I sometimes wonder if we don’t spend too much time “looking forward” and not enough time immersed in the present? Unfortunately, I’ve had to repent from spending too much time thinking about the future and “looking forward.” When we allow our minds to live in the future we rob ourselves of the gift of THIS day,  THIS moment. One of the things God continues to impress upon me is that there is grace, and gift, and life, and blessing in each moment. Frederick Buechner says something similar,

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and   gladness:  touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Indeed, all moments are key moments. Life is Grace. Thank you, Ann Beacham, for reminding me to thank God for Mondays, and Tuesdays, and Wednesdays…you get the picture. Thank you Lord for THIS day, thank you Lord for ALL days, for life, for grace, for blessings and to be alive on your good, green earth and to participate in your Kingdom. Let us proclaim Psalm 118:24, “THIS is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in IT.”

Amen



Cindy Luck

Introducing Cindy Luck, Parrish/Faith Community Nurse

Cindy Luck

This month I want to introduce Cindy Luck, our new Parrish Nurse. Cindy and her daughter Megan have been attending Bethel since May of 2013, and they recently made it “official” and joined our fellowship. Seven or eight months ago, I sat down with Cindy to get to know her a bit better. Cindy is married to Mike, her husband of 30 years, and they have two daughters, Kristen and Megan, who are both in college. Cindy enjoys spending time with her family and her cats and dogs.   She works for The Richmond Christian School, and her hobbies are spending time at the beach, crafts, cooking, reading, and concerts. I asked her what she was passionate about and if there is a particular ministry that is of particular interest to her. She said, “I’ve always wanted to be a Parrish Nurse.” I thought to myself, “Have I got a deal for you!” That conversation planted the seeds that will bear fruit beginning this month. I’m excited to announce that Cindy’s ministry as our Parrish Nurse will begin on September 20th. She will see patients on the third   Sunday of every month. Cindy has recently completed a course in Parrish/Faith Community Nursing (PN/FCN) through Eastern Mennonite University. Let’s let Cindy tell you about the program in her own words:

“I first checked into the PN program years ago, and at that time it involved an out of town course that I couldn’t fit into my schedule. When the opportunity became available this year, I began my journey with FCN/PR nursing through Eastern Mennonite University. FCN offers a variety of services to the congregation and surrounding community.

Faith community nurses are licensed, registered nurses who practice holistic health for self, individuals and the community using nursing knowledge combined with spiritual care.

They function as either paid or unpaid members of the pastoral team in a variety of religious faiths, cultures, and countries. The focus of their work is on the intentional care of the spirit, assisting the members of the faith community to maintain and/or regain wholeness in body, mind, and spirit.

The PN/FCN program at Bethel will be a ministry of prayer, compassion, listening, and trying to guide an individual, family, and our community in living healthier lives. Bethel is blessed with having several nurses in our congregation that will join me in this new adventure and I want to thank them in advance for their dedication and willingness to help with the program.

Bethel’s PN/FCN program will begin on September 20th with blood pressure screenings. I’ll be available on the 3rd Sunday of each month beginning at 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and again immediately following the worship service until noon. I’m excited about the program and if you have ideas or would like for us to have a class on a desired topic please let me know.

Bethel is part of the Christian Ambassador program in Chesterfield County which offers programs, social events, and community resources available throughout the County. We have several booklets available if you’d like to learn more about the county’s programs.”

I’m really excited about this new ministry. Please join me in thanking and praying for Cindy and for the other nurses who’ll make this program a vital part of Bethel’s on-going ministry to our church family and our community. The Lord is doing great things at Bethel and it’s because of people like Cindy Luck who are willing to develop and use the skills and passions that the Lord has given them. May God bless each of you and may God continue to bless Bethel Baptist Church.



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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