Men’s Fellowship Cookout

“And let us consider how to stir up one another

to love and good works”

Hebrews 10:24

“Because we are members of His body” (Eph. 5:30), the men’s fellowship at First Independent Methodist Church enjoyed an amazing cookout. We converged on the home of Billy & Carol Mason on May 18th and shared in conversation while our brother Billy grilled most delicious hamburgers and hot dogs. We know that where two are three are gathered in His name, He is present. I am sure He enjoyed our fellowship as much as we did. We hope you will join us next time.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day

Pastor Doug preached a very special message on Mother’s Day. Faith that is determined and directed. A faith that brings one to a decision, and a faith that declares our savior to others. This is a mother’s faith. After the sermon, he called all mothers to the front of the church. Husbands and family stood behind them as he prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing for each.

Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children. ~ Billy Graham

I don’t believe there are devils enough in hell to pull a boy out of the arms of a godly mother. ~ Billy Sunday
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. (Proverbs 31:27-30)
I cannot tell you how much I owe to the solemn word of my good mother. ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. ~ Abraham Lincoln


Your mother’s voice is the first voice you ever hear – even before you are born. Even as a newborn baby, you know your Mother and prefer her above anyone else. Cherish your mother and be sure she knows you appreciate everything she does for you. The days are short, love your mother before time is gone. If your mother has already gone on before you, take some time to recall memories of her. Share these memories with your family so that she will live on in your hearts. (www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com)

Loving One Another-A Discussion On Race

“Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:4)

For the past several years I have worked toward writing my memoirs. I have shared many of them here. Today I would like to share another such memory. When I am done I will invite you to a much-needed conversation.

I was writing of the summer in 1958. My family arrived from Baton Rouge at our annual Church of God Camp Meeting in Anderson, Indiana. My two brothers and me were playing in an open field across the street from all the church activities. Mom sat on a bench and read while we played. A short time had passed when we noticed a black boy and his little sister were watching. They eased a little closer. We needed a fourth player so one of us asked if he would like to play. The boy, we’ll call him Ben, hopped up off the ground and joined in. We had a great time. His sister sat by herself until Mom invited her to sit with her on the bench.

A short time later we began to notice a black woman hiding and watching from between some cars. When Ben noticed her, he stopped playing and ran to her. Yes, it was his mother. He took her hand, walked her to my Mom and introduced her. The two mothers talked, while we continued to play. Ben’s mother was uncomfortable sitting on the bench with a white woman so she and Mom stood to talk.

Having a lot of fun, time flew, and lunchtime arrived. My parents were forever packing a picnic lunch, usually fried chicken and pimento cheese sandwiches. Mom invited Ben’s entire family to stay and eat lunch with us. His mother was reluctant at first but, after my mom assured her we had plenty, she gave in and joined us. We enjoyed our picnic but could only wonder why Ben’s mother was was constantly looking around while we ate. She seemed nervous and to be watching for someone.

After lunch, Ben and his family left and we never saw them again. We looked for them so we could play during the week, but never found them. We assumed they went home. Whenever I go to Anderson University, my alma mater, I think of this moment.

I tell you this story because, at the age of eight, I believe this to be my first encounter with how different we are. I did not understand what black families went through back in the 1950’s. The racial divide kept me away from black Children. The animosity of whites towards black could even be felt at a camp meeting where our whole purpose was to worship a loving God. I am sure the family left and went home simply because of the overwhelming impression of being unwelcome. I look back at how unusual it was for this playful event to have happened in this era. How uneasy the mother of these two children must have felt. How easy it was for my Mom to invite them, because her white world was protected, is compared with the protection Ben’s mother wanted to provide, and yet gave in to an invitation. She knew it was the right thing to do as a Christian. But the responsibility of protecting herself and her children was foremost in her mind. No wonder she was looking around. Society had taught her to fear the repercussions of white people. She worried about the wrong person seeing them playing, talking and even eating with a white family. Worried about danger stirring among those who may have despised her simply because of who she was, who her children were. When I see this anger and frustration vented today, I remember this encounter so long ago. I see a young Ben playing with us. I see his mother watching and yet alert in protecting and still allowing things to happen between us.

When I remember this occasion I am struck by what I see today. No wonder Black people are angry. No wonder there is a growing hatred. No wonder we see a cultivation of divisiveness that is nurturing our society. No wonder satan is excited. Two people with different pigmentation cannot get along because the hatred they have been taught separates them. You and I are different from the rest of the world. We have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We can sit and talk, and respect each other, because of the One we love and follow provides the grace for us to do so. But, we have to want to. The world around us doesn’t know Him. Their lives cannot change because there is no one who will help them recognize what is causing this hostility and see that it will destroy all of us.

As believers in the One True God we cannot sit idly by and do nothing. I did not understand what black families went through in 1958. I can’t pretend that I know in 2017. I realize that most children are colorblind. But I ask you, where and when did this stop? How can we get back to being colorblind of race and live for the purpose of unity in Christ body and the sharing of His message of salvation? We look at this memoir and say, “Well, this was an encounter of children. They don’t understand.” I ask, understand what? That we can’t get along the way children seem to? You are right, children have not developed a racially charged worldview at this point and therefore are willing to play together because they have the same purpose.

Why would Jesus tell his disciples who were trying to push children away from him, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God?” (Luke 18:16) Jesus saw division coming. “He took the irresistible opportunity of lowering their (the disciples) pride of reason by informing them that, in order to enter the Kingdom, . . . instead of the children first becoming like them, they must themselves become like the children” [Richter in Stier]. This does not mean we are to be childish. This simply means we need to consider our pride and our humility in accepting others for who they are. Christ said, Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

Have we become judges with evil thoughts by making distinctions about others? Do you not realize we are God’s gift too each other? “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 12:24-25)

I wonder if our world today can heal? Are we capable, as children, of sharing the same purpose? In Christ, I believe it can happen. Like this young Black family of the 1950’s they were willing to join my family for an unforgettable day. I have often wondered if the impression left on me, after all these years, lingers with Ben, now a grown man. We both learned that we are capable of living together in unity, sharing a glorious life in Christ.

Whether black or white, or another race, now is the time to lay all racial animosity and ill-will aside and love one another as Jesus commanded us to do in John 13:34-35:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As mentioned above, I want to invite you to a much-needed conversation. This conversation is not with me. No, the conversation is with God. He invites you to search your heart. Ask Him to expose any animosity you may have toward another race, known or unknown. When He reveals this to you, ask forgiveness. Don’t stop there. Renounce this sin. This means to cast it off and never pick it up again. Abandon this sin never to return to it (2 Corinthians 4:2-3; Proverbs 28:13).

We are all one in Christ. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. We are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. Are you that fragrance? We are to be as one who has been brought from death to life. We are to offer every part of ourselves to God as an instrument of His righteousness. In Jesus we find our peace; He has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility. So love others, regardless of the color of their skin, as you love yourself (Galatians 3:28; 2 Corinthians 2:15; Romans 6:13; Ephesians 2:14; Mark 12:31).

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   So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Could You Forgive a Murderer?

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Inside Job

God can set anyone free from inner pain and unforgiveness.

I pulled my baking sheet out of the oven and inhaled the sweet scent of chocolate chip cookies. When I bit into a warm one, my tears came — again. These cookies were bound for the male inmates in one of our state prisons.

Would one of the three men who’d killed my husband be eating them? I hoped so. But I never would have believed that thought was possible.

Disturbing call

On September 27, 2005, my twenty-year-old son, Brandon, left a message at work for me to call him. I presumed he wanted to talk about a job interview he’d had that day.

I was wrong. Without explanation, he said, “Auntie Dawn is coming to get you.”

My heart froze. “Why is my sister picking me up?”

Brandon dodged my questions, but right before he hung up, he said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll take care of you.”

My stomach lurched. I thought of calling my husband, Kim, but started shaking. What if something had happened to him? I pressed my hand over my mouth and ran to the restroom.

Horrible news

My sister arrived, her eyes red and puffy. “Where’s Kim?” I grabbed her hand. “Is he dead?”

She nodded. The room swirled, and I collapsed into her arms with a gut-wrenching scream. How could my husband be dead? I’d talked with him on the phone during lunch. Didn’t Kim say he’d left work early and was home? We’d joked and laughed.

Was it a heart attack? What if the gun he’d been cleaning for the hunting season had accidentally gone off? His final words — “I love you, darling” — squeezed my heart.

I leaned against my sister and urged her, “Get me home!”

Crime scene

Yellow caution tape sealed off my street. I stretched my neck to see beyond the police cars with their flashing blue lights. “Where’s my son?” I cried, pacing back and forth. “I want my son!”

Just then, Brandon ran up to me. Chests heaving, we clung to each other and wept. My son told me he’d come home and found Kim, his stepdad, lying on the basement floor in a pool of blood. He’d been beaten and shot in the head. Many of our electronics and guns were gone, including the handgun used to kill my husband.

My mind reeled. Who could be so cruel?

Intense emotions

Two days passed before the police allowed me to go into my home. I was numb as they escorted me through the house and questioned me. When I entered our master bedroom, I gasped. The blue-gray T-shirt Kim wore the last time I’d seen him was splayed across our bed.

I grabbed the shirt — the closest thing to hugging Kim — and breathed in his clean scent. Tears flooding my eyes, I slumped like a rag doll on the bed and wept.

Unsettled

After Kim’s funeral, I moved back into the house with Brandon. We installed a burglar alarm, but it didn’t alleviate our fears. What if the murderer was someone we knew? I kept the alarm’s panic button with me at all times.

Nights were the worst. Unable to sleep, my mind searched for answers. I listened for the slightest sound, rushed to Brandon’s bedside whenever nightmares woke him up and he needed me. My only comfort was prayer and Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous . . . for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (NIV).

A year after Kim’s death, the handgun was found, leading to the arrest of three men. However, relief morphed into impatience as I waited another year and a half for the trial.

Desiring justice

During that time, Kairos Prison Ministry came to our church to organize an intensive weekend Bible study at one of our state prisons. They asked for volunteers to bake cookies for the prisoners.

I crossed my arms. I hadn’t baked cookies since Kim’s death. And I wasn’t going to bake them for some criminal. My back stiffened as I leaned against the cushioned pews. Preach the gospel if you like, but I want justice.

Panic and pain

I rushed out of church and drove home. Although the men were behind bars, I double-bolted the door and threw my car keys on the granite kitchen counter. They landed with a clanking thud next to a package of store-bought cookies.

Bake cookies? I breathed deep and listened to Christian praise music to calm my nerves. Lord, it’s going to take more than a batch of cookies to soften my heart.

Facing the enemy

And then I had to face my enemy. For seven days in September 2008 I sat in the courtroom behind the two men who killed my husband, and stared at the back of their heads. The third man had already pled guilty and testified at the trial.

As I listened to the prosecuting attorney, I learned the men had needed money, mistook our house for someone else’s, and thought the place was empty.

“If only’s” replayed in my head. If only the seventeen-year-old who pulled the trigger had stayed in school that day. If only they’d entered our neighbor’s house, my husband would still be alive. If only Kim’s pistol had been in the gun safe.

Tears and anger

I’d never seen the crime scene photographs until the trial. Now, seeing the horror of Kim’s final moments crushed my heart. I wept countless tears. My anger grew. I kept waiting for the men to face me. Beg for my forgiveness.

Even when I was on the witness stand and excused myself because I became sick to my stomach, their cold, dark eyes stared straight ahead as though I were invisible.

Verdict

The jury found the men guilty of first-degree murder, and they each received a life sentence.

End of story, or so I thought. Negative thoughts consumed me. I tried to forget the past for the sake of my family and health. I even volunteered to bake cookies for Kairos Prison Ministry.

Painful prayer

As I stirred the chocolate chips into the dough, tears rolled down my cheeks. What would Kim say if he saw me baking cookies for convicted felons? I wiped my eyes and set the oven timer. Lord, make my spirit as sweet as these cookies. Use them for Your glory.

As the scent of chocolate chip cookies filled the kitchen, I prayed for the men who killed my husband. I prayed for them by name. They weren’t evil men. The poor decisions they’d made in life became a domino effect that led to Kim’s death. Now they suffered the consequences.

Maybe I could forgive them, but my heart needed more time than it took to bake several dozen cookies.

Unforeseen answer

My prayers were answered, but not in the way I expected. My son had become addicted to prescription pain pills he’d taken for a sports injury, and he wanted something stronger to purge the memory of finding his murdered stepfather on the floor.

Six years to the day of Kim’s death, Brandon was arrested for the possession of illegal drugs. He called me from jail. His breathless voice quivered like a frightened child’s. “Mom, get me out of here.”

Tough visit

I couldn’t get there fast enough. When I saw the dark circles under his hollow eyes, my body swayed; I had to look away. A thick glass window separated us, and we used a phone to hear each other.

I offered to post bail, provided he went to a Christian rehabilitation program. Brandon agreed but realized it would take about a month to get accepted.

When our visitation ended, Brandon stood up to leave and looked back at me over his sunken shoulders. His pleading eyes, filled with despair, yanked my heart. I bowed my head and sobbed. I loved my son, but only the Lord could save him. He needed God’s grace — the same way I did.

New compassion

I thought of the other men sitting in prison. Where was their hope? Did they know about God’s grace?

Visiting my son in jail roused my compassion for prisoners. In addition to baking cookies, I hosted an annual hayride and invited the community to bring toys for the Angel Tree Program.

Granting forgiveness

But my heart wouldn’t rest until I wrote the men who murdered my husband.

“God loves you, regardless of what you’ve done,” I said. “I’ve forgiven you, and God’s willing to forgive you if you turn to Him.”

The following month, I gasped when I opened my mailbox and saw the envelope’s return address. My hands shook as I read the prisoner’s neat, handwritten letter. “I’m sorry for all the pain I caused you and your family. Thank you, Wendi, for your letter. I prayed for a sign that I’d been forgiven.”

I clutched the letter to my chest. How long had I waited for an apology? As if “I’m sorry” could ease the pain. All along, this man had been praying and waiting too. The young man who pulled the trigger also replied with heartfelt words that made me weep. God had been working in all our lives to heal, redeem, restore.

Sharing a story

When another organization, Forsyth Prison Ministry, asked for volunteers to participate in their services at Cherry State Prison, my hand went up. On a summer evening in 2014, I walked through the metal detector of that prison with a plate of cookies and a heart filled with praise. The next year, I shared my story.

My knees wobbled like Jell-O as I stepped in front of a hundred inmates. Their eyes widened as I described Kim’s ghastly death and how that led to my son’s drug addiction. I told them I’d forgiven the men who killed my husband and continued to write them. Some inmates wiped their eyes. Others slowly shook their heads.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory,” I said, referencing Romans 3:23. “No one is beyond God’s love and grace.”

The men gathered around me to shake my hand when I finished speaking. I longed to ignore the prison rules and hug them.

Slow process

People ask how I could forgive the men who killed my husband. Sometimes, I ask myself that question when I see Kim’s shirt tucked in my dresser drawer. Or when I bake chocolate chip cookies for prison ministry.

I tell them God’s love softened my heart, one batch of cookies at a time.

by Wendi Johnson as told to Karen Foster

Link: https://karenfosterministry.com/2017/01/09/could-you-forgive-a-murderer/

The Bilbe Advocate Press: http://nowwhat.cog7.org/inside-job/

Becoming a Team Player

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We are a diverse group of believers here at FIMC. Our church is blessed to have different races and folks from an array of different states who have move to the area and have chosen to worship here. While we are serious about our Lord and sharing His gospel we also enjoy the fellowship we have with each other. One way we enjoy this fellowship is when we have Fan Day. Because we are from all over the USA we bring our favorite football teams with us. We poke fun at each other and raze each other about success and failures on the field. This one day a year we wear our team colors to church and sit with those who who are fans of “our” team. We even forgive Pastor Doug for being an Ole Miss fan, and we still love him. Afterward we enjoy a fellowship dinner in the Blend, our new youth building. Each person brings something for a nice tailgate party and the food is delicious.

Most importantly is remember who we are in Christ. While we have our fun we must never forget our Savior and the Word of God. On this Sunday, 2016, Pastor Doug preached a sermon titled: Becoming a Team Player. Below is an outline of his sermon reminding us that we are all a part of the body of Christ.

Becoming a Team Player

1 Corinthians 12:12

What should being a team player mean to me?

  1. I have made the roster (Revelation 20:15)
  2. What does church membership mean at FIMC?
  3. I have changed inwardly. (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17)
  4. I will attend regularly. (Hebrews10:25)
  5. I will give faithfully. (Malachi 3:8-10; Luke 6:38)
  6. I will serve willingly. (John 12:26
  7. How does being a member of the team help me?

               Belonging is Necessary to my Growth. It give me a place for my family to

               learn, allows me to accomplish God’s Word, and gives me roots down in faith.

  1. I will follow my coach. (Hebrews 13:17)

            Why does ‘team church’ need a pastor/coach?

                 To lead, feed, and succeed. (Acts 20:28)

  1. I will find and accept my position. 1 Cor. 12:18-27)

            No one rides the bench on God’s team.

  1. I will encourage my teammates. (Eph. 4:2; Psalm 37:4; 1 Thess. 5:11)

            Four Words that describe the attitude of a team player.

  1. Humility- the team is more important
  2. Gentle – Meekness
  3. Patience – Wait Expectantly
  4. Loving – Showing love to one another as Jesus did to you. (John 15:12)

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Thank You Father For Fellowship With You and Others!

On Purpose

Youth Conference 2016

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“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

From September 25-28, we held our first FIMC of Madison youth conference. Churches from all over Mississippi were invited to attend. Based on Jeremiah 1:5. When asking our youth pastor how he came upon the idea to have a conference, this was his reply: “I was in my office praying and just being quite. I felt the Lord was speaking to me about doing a conference. I was totally pumped! I have been waiting to do something like this, but didn’t want to just have one without the Lord having control of it. I was totally excited to gather young men to preach for the conference. Everything fell right in line with God’s will for this conference. The Lord made the path straight by bringing these men of God to preach, and lead worship for these four services.” Here are the message titles God laid on their hearts with our theme, On Purpose.

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Josh Wilfong came all the way down from Fredericktown, MO to lead us in worship and WoW the Lord used him in a huge way. Playing his guitar and singing he did a magnificent job allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us with a heart ready for worship and the receiving of God’s Word. Thank you Josh!

Justin Sawyer of Hattiesburg, MS kicked it off for us Sunday the 25th. His message was titled Pursue Purpose. Using Jeremiah as a young person who felt he was too young for God’s purpose, Justin emphasized his point when he said, “Our life is not just looking for a purpose but in searching for it through Jesus Christ!

Ven Tripi Madison, MS reminded us in his message, Wake Up Your Purpose of the force behind our purpose. Using Ephesians 2:10 Ven reminded us to grow our focus in the purpose God has given us. Without growth the enemy will try to keep us from God’s purpose. Remember the enemy has been defeated and cannot keep us from God’s will and purpose. Pastor Ryan said this was one of the best sermons he’s heard in a long time.

Jake Korokis, Kosciusko, MS used the story of Daniel and the lions Den to teach us that Patience Has Purpose (Daniel 6:11KJV). Jake challenged our students like they have never been challenged before. The altar was full! God was moving in their hearts.

Ryan Sawyer, FIMC Youth Pastor, Madison, MS spoke Wednesday night on The Progress of Your Purpose” the whole idea of the message was to tell the students not the let the places they start dictate where they finish! Wednesday the altars were filled once again!

Fifteen youth accepted the challenges that were given. Several students have said this conference was a much needed blessing. “Kinda like going to church camp and getting fired up for the Lord,” one youth said. Another student sent me (Ryan) a text after the last night. He said “I want to seek his purpose for my life and follow it.” PTL

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God is about to do some great things in the lives of our students. We are not going to stop until we see the Lord. The response to the conference has been a huge blessing! Most, if not all, asked if we were going to do this next year. The Answer is a resounding, “YES!” Pastor Ryan said he is already looking forward to it!

Josh was a true blessing. Worship was fantastic and was as important as the speakers. This conference had the Lord all over it; here’s why. The four preachers and the worship leader were given the theme, On Purpose. When the conference came to an end, the five discussed the services. It was amazing how God used each one to magnify and continue what the previous speaker had spoken on purpose. They didn’t plan it that way—God did. The Holy Spirit worked all the messages together, as one for the Lord’s purpose.

 Can’t wait till next year!