We attended First Baptist Church of London, Kentucky on July 10, 2016. If you recall, that was just two days after the massacre of five police officers and wounding of nine others in Dallas, Texas. I could sense the need for not only an inspirational worship service and sermon after that horrific event, but our country needs the hope of Jesus. I’m only going to share the highlights from the sermon as it spoke to me.
The service was exceptional, full of prayers and heart rendering* praise and worship music to a presentation from a Gideon about how God uses a simple Bible to capture the heart of a lost soul. He gave two compelling examples. Do you know about the horrific homicides by “Son of Sam” in New York City? Granted it was long time ago. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1977 after killing six and wounding seven the previous summer. About 10 years later, he became “Son of Hope” after learning Jesus loved him and would forgive him of his sins. It’s a beautiful testimony and can be found here. His background was horrific, as is typical with many serial killers. Another inmate began to tell him about how Jesus had set him free and gave him a Gideon Bible, allowed in Prison. David writes:
One night I was reading Psalm 34. I came upon the 6th verse which says, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” It was at this moment, in 1987, that I began to pour out my heart to God. Everything seemed to hit me at once–the guilt of what I had done and the disgust at what I had become. Late that night in my cold cell I got down on my knees and began to cry to Jesus Christ.
The second example was about a homeless young man who survived by eating out of dumpsters. Someone shared the hope of Jesus with him and began to take him to church. He was ashamed to go, but he was assured he’d be welcomed. He was given a Gideon Bible along with love and acceptance. He finally found the hope he needed, his life was turned around and he became a Pastor.
The theme from the traditional Gideon Sunday was about hope and that was something all of us needed on this day. The sermon was from the Book of Revelation, the third chapter, the Letter to the Church at Philadelphia in Asia Minor and which is now in modern Turkey. Most of us know about the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. The name actually means “brotherly love” from Greek (phileo) “to love” and (adelphos) “brother.”
The pastor started off strong as he mentioned the aftermath of the massacre. He said now is the time for us to “Stand Up. Look Up. Pray Up. It’s not the time to give up!” He then relayed how the Church at Philadelphia had accepted the Hope of Jesus and were faithful to the Gospel. Many other churches were floundering, not remaining true, but not this church. And he used several comparisons about the First Baptist Church of London also being a faithful and true witness to the Gospel of Jesus.
Then he surprised us as he asked how many of us knew the day after the massacre, not one Dallas Police Officer called in to stay home. EVERY Police Officer came back to the work the next day. And the Chief of Police, David Brown, who knows the pain of losing a loved one having lost his 27 year old son, a former partner and his brother, all to violence, was ready to call for calm and to take on the press. What great examples of people who agreed, these tragedies are not the time to give up, but to stand up!
Only God can really turn a person around. It is VERY hard to change. And it is only our hope in Him and the sacrifice of Jesus, who died on the cross on our behalf to make the changes this country needs. The anger runs deep. The violence runs deep. People are afraid. But we can’t give up!
Those of us who believe in Jesus know God is the one who can turn it around. I liked how the Pastor coined it, “God’s turn around power.” I’ve experienced this in my own life. I was once lost, searching for hope, seeking peace….and I found it when someone explained to me how Jesus does love me – no matter how bad I had been. And I had plenty reason to feel He couldn’t love me.
So how did he conclude his inspirational message? We have to trust God is working it out. That any situation, any division, to bring unity, we need to worship. It is in this atmosphere the chains can be broken. But what is driving the division? Selfishness, wanting our own way. And how do we turn that around? We must surrender our all, to the Lord. Just as they did in the Church at Philadelphia. And what he is seeing here at First Baptist Church London.
He then asked us if we were part of the “cold water committee?” Do we believe? And who do we hang around, are they part of the problem or part of the solution? Interesting, Chief David Brown asked the same question. He said he had to look at himself when he saw violence. He decided to become part of the solution. He’s a man to be admired….
*Rendering: The verb “render” means to give or hand over. ie. a jury is said to render a verdict.
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
Quoting from Grace To You: “The peace Jesus is speaking of enables believers to remain calm in the most wildly fearful circumstances. It enables them to hush a cry, still a riot, rejoice in pain and trial, and sing in the middle of suffering. This peace is never by circumstances, but instead affects and even overrules them.”