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Stories of Hope   Leave a comment

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Do you remember testimony services? I recall services such as these but was too young a person and in the faith to really get into what was being said, let alone take away deep, impactful meaning. I remember that some of the same ol’ people would get up and tell the same ol’ stories and shed the same ol’ tears while the same ol’ people in the same ol’ crowd would nod their same ol’ heads and talk about how blessed or wonderful it was to have this same ol’ experience shared once again in the same ol’ pews.

So yeah, not so meaningful to me.

Yet I do know the powerful of a God-story. I have heard tales of the Lord’s intervention in situations what can only be described as miraculous. I have BEEN IN such stories myself. The feeling that has been overwhelming in each of these situations is so intense that it is numbing, it is as if the air is thicker than usual, as if each breath comes not from my body actively taking in and releasing as it normally does. Rather, it feels as if it is the Holy Spirit being breathed in and out instead of air!

Times such as these beg to be told to the world. God is still in the business of miracle making as well as other manifestations that real people experience in real time in their real lives. Some are not miracles, but instead are stories of God’s unexpected grace. These stories need told every bit as much as the miracle stories, otherwise we would all be hiking mountains and looking for burning bushes and skipping doctor appointments because nothing will suffice short of a manifested miracle.

We should never seek the story. We should always seek the Author.

God’s miracles do not replace our doctors, or preachers, or people who just enjoy being good and doing good things for others. They do not come on demand and, frankly, do not always come when we feel as if we deserve them. This is where many find trouble that sometimes leads to unbelief. God’s miracles are not promised, not the way some folks expect them.

This does not mean we should not ask for them. I believe God wants us to request that he intervene as it is an expression of faith. I also believe that God does not want us to simply ask—even if in strong faith—and simply sit idly waiting. The angel appeared to the disciples after Jesus ascension because they just stood there looking into the sky where he had just ascended. He said he’d be back, so their thoughts probably told them to stand there and wait because this was going to be another great story. Their timing was off. It still is.

I believe in miracles. I believe in the God of miracles. I believe those miracles make phenomenal stories that the world needs to hear. Maybe now I am ready for one of those testimony services. Better yet, I need to do a better job of telling my own God-stories while also doing a better job of listening to others for theirs. After all, these are stories of hope.

For BGAV Pastors: Gathering of Silence 2021   Leave a comment

We never anticipated a global pandemic. We never anticipated the toll it would take in lives. We also could not anticipate the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll it would take on pastors. Some have done remarkably well and adapted creatively and brilliantly while others have not. All have had to navigate an entirely new paradigm of ministry. Many are worn out!

Jesus’s words are critical for pastors today when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” Matthew 11:28029 (NIV). This may be the most important time for Baptist General Association fo Virginia pastors to exercise self-care than we have seen in a generation! The Gathering of Silence is one small resource to help them with this. For 72-hours we will gather at Crossroads Camp and Conference Center for a time of resting, refreshing, and reflecting.

Churches should seriously consider sponsoring their pastor to attend this essential retreat. It is a small price to pay to give the one they count on for spiritual leadership to have a respite and be rejuvenated with the Lord. Pastors, even if your church does not sponsor you, please consider using a portion of your convention time/funds allotted and join us for this necessary rest.

We arrive at lunchtime Monday and being a time of silence. Our meals are selent as are our daytime hours. Thematic refleciton materials will be given to participatns to use throughout their time of silence whether on the hiking trails, perched upon the mountain, or enjoying the mountain stream in our exquisite surroundings. There are off-site opportunities for golfing, fishing, or more hiking. An optional time of conversation around self-care and meditative reflections is available each evening 7-9pm. One-on-one coaching sessions are also offered to those in attendance. Our time concludes with lunch Thursday where there is often much laughter and reflection and networking.

Registration is available here: http//www.crossroadscamp.com/events/gathering-of-silence/

Multiplication   Leave a comment

I’ve been reading the book of Matthew this month. This morning’s nourishment included the story of the feeding of the four thousand, a story Matthew mixes in (Ch. 15) not long after the story of the feeding of the five thousand. This is a love story in many ways, but it is also an easy math problem.

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Only men were counted when determining crowd sizes. Lord knows how much we need to have those detailed, accurate counts. I still cringe when talking with Pastors and hearing them talk about crowd size when asked about their church. Some have detailed systems that help them know with certainty. Some have parking lot scholars who calculate 2.5 people per vehicle to determine numbers. Some just eyeball the room and give their professional estimates, sometimes numbers that are even higher than the building’s actual seating capacity. After all, they’re bound to be asked during the week, “How many did you have?”

Jesus and the disciples were with a crowd of four thousand men, but if you do the math I’ve seen you should calculate that each man would probably have a spouse and perhaps a child or two or twelve, so let’s say 4 x 7.5=30,000. See how ridiculous this gets? He takes the seven loaves and few fish, blesses them and starts breaking them apart. We know the story of the miracle of how everyone was fed and there are seven baskets of leftovers, the number of perfection, carry the 3.

What strikes me this morning in this story is what happens when God blesses something. Whatever blessing it is seems to be multiplied. I like God’s math! When we read some of the healing stories we see not only the miracle of ailments being cured, but bonus health being added. Think of the paralyzed man (Mark 2:1-12) who was brought by his four friends who lowered him through the roof because they loved him and a good home improvement project. Jesus did more than heal his motionless condition, but he also forgave his sins. Then he added an extra bonus miracle of giving the man so much strength he could get up and walk home carrying his own math. No atrophy here!

What do you need God to do for you today? Jesus reminded us to ask in his name and we will receive. We do not always receive the thing we believe we need the most, but what we receive is always God’s best for us, even if that is an increased sense of God’s presence through our life’s storms. That last statement may seem patronizing, but it’s real. What is most beautiful about it is what this story of the four thousand is all about—when God dishes out God’s goodness, multiplication will likely be involved!

Posted January 25, 2021 by David N. Peppler, Sr. in Uncategorized

I’ll Race Ya!   Leave a comment

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I’ve been reading Matthew 14 this morning and experiencing the story of Jesus walking on water. For me, today, this story is all about Peter walking on water.

First of all, what gave Peter the guts to even ask the question. Scared out of his wits like all of the other disciples, he heard Jesus’ voice. It sounds like a great deal of faith because he asked the ghost to do something he knew only Jesus could do, even though he hadn’t seen that trick before.

Then, he actually attempted to do what the ghost told him. Guts isn’t strong enough a description to describe what he displayed here. The man decided to leave the safety of the boat in a storm and see if he could stand on the water, let alone walk.

But he did, and walk he did too. Sure he lost sight of the moment and started to sink and needed Jesus to rescue him. I’m terribly positive that I would have done the same thing except I have doubts I would have worked up the courage to talk to a ghost then follow its command to get out and walk on the water. If I had made it that far it would have been an indication that the evening’s rum was delicious and plentiful.

All of this reminds me of the book and movie The Shack. There’s a scene where the main character and Jesus were walking around a pond and they get to the water to go back to the house. Jesus starts to walk across the water but the guy just looks at him like, yea right!

But Jesus gives him the ability (been a while since I’ve seen this so forgive forgotten details) to walk on the water so he tests it out and sure enough, there he is walking. So with a childlike eager look, he tilts his head toward the house and smiles. The next thing we see is these two racing across the water—a scene of incredible joy.

It was a stunning scene for me since it seems very much like something I can see myself doing. I’m sure the local fishermen would not appreciate the noise of the running, but I’d make a mad dash, laughing all the way.

It really feels like a look into heaven for me. No more horrible knees. No more pains of a sore back or stiff neck or arthritic hands. It’ll be like being a kid again with no worries—I’m taken care of. This is definitely the place I want to be, even if I admit to being completely clueless as to what it looks like from this side. All I know is that God is there while also being here. I can live with that!

So the next time I experience a storm in life, those pesky inevitable storms that come, I hope to remember this scene and this feeling. Maybe Jesus will give me the opportunity. It will bring me overwhelming joy to point to the opposite shore, give him that look, and say to him, “I’ll race ya!”

Posted January 14, 2021 by David N. Peppler, Sr. in Uncategorized

Gyon   Leave a comment

I have no idea if I have spelled it correctly. I also have little faith that it is an actual word. All I know is that I have heard it a lot over the years, and to this day I am unsure what it means. Language and dialect tend to do these things to us. They separate us and cause us to look at each other differently, sometimes cocking our heads and wondering what on earth the other person is trying to communicate with us.

For example, my Aunt Joan was notorious for using this word, “gyon.” She pronounced it (as I have heard others) much like it is spelled (or at least my attempt at it): a hard “g” followed by “yahn.” She used it much where I would use the word “darned.” If I wanted to know where something was and she was unaware, she would reply, “Gyon if I know.”

I remember countless times asking her what that word meant. Mind you, I would often get the same statement in response, “Gyon if I know.” This is not helpful. I can imagine the day of Pentecost where all of the disciples were speaking languages unknown to them. The people were justifiably amazed at this. There were rumblings among the people, some saying the disciples were drunk. My imagination does not have to work hard to visualize my aunt as one of the disciples that day. I can easily see someone coming up to her and asking how she is speaking in their language. I can even hear her voice as she would utter her response, “Gyon if I know.”

Bless her heart.

What was true when I was growing up is still an issue in some churches today. There is a language barrier between those who have been in church all of their lives and those who are just beginning to explore what church is all about. Church folks will use church words and the explorers just scratch their heads and wonder what language they are hearing or question if they’re still in the same galaxy when they walked through the front door that looks strangely like some portal. They came in, sat on our hard benches, and noticed how some folks appeared to not get “bleacher butt” like they did because the “from here” folk were used to the discomfort. Then someone spoke from a podium with thees and thous and confused the heck out of their children.

I suppose that I will never understand how and why some of God’s really good folks insist on speaking a language that other folks–especially those seeking something incredibly important–will never understand. But if anyone ever asks me why I think this is still the case in some circles, I know what my response will be.

Gyon if I know!