Ripples of Redemption

For nearly a century God has faithfully provided for and protected Crestwood Baptist Church. We believe He has positioned us in this particular community, at this precise moment, for an unmistakable eternal purpose. It is our honor to partner with Him in His redemptive work in this city.

Our hearts and our homes, our cultures, and our communities have all been damaged by the clumsy hands of sin. It has defaced God’s property and deformed His reflection in His people. It has left its mark on the landscape. It has left its mark on us. Because sin lives death reigns, because death reigns we are a helpless people. Thank God, though, He didn’t allow sin to write The End on our story.

God sent His only Son to redeem us from the curse of sin. To redeem is to buy back something that has been lost. With His own precious blood, Jesus Christ paid sin’s debt and purchased all who will believe to be His own people. The good news is He will not stop until He has completely restored everything that sin has ruined, and that includes us! This truth is what we call the gospel. Though the culture has drastically changed, the truth remains the same and  still has the power to transform lives.

Of this I am sure:

one bead of truth dropped into a sea of error has the potential to send shock waves of grace that flow all the way into eternity.

Our vision is simple, we are asking God to use us to send Ripples of Redemption across our church, our community, and our city. Some have suggested that our location is our greatest disadvantage; we believe it is our greatest asset. Being located in a particularly broken part of Winston Salem is an opportunity, not an obstacle. We are convinced that our community is ripe for redemption and we want to be a part of the harvest.

Our mission is a mission of mercy. We want to be involved in the rebuilding of broken lives. With God’s help we intend to see this accomplished by equipping our people to reach out with truth, in with grace, and up with love. Every changed life will possess the power to repeat the process and begin a new series of ripples in its own arena. Our vision will begin with changes at home. We are committing ourselves and our resources to the redemption of our community and the revitalization of our church.

I am both humbled and excited to invite you to join us on this journey of faith as we watch our God restore what sin has ruined and rebuild what time has reduced to rubble.

In Christ Alone,

The Future is Before Us

Dear Crestwood Family,

I always find it difficult to put my feelings of gratitude for you into words. You have been such a blessing to me in the short time we have been allowed to walk this road of faith together. Some pastors may have reason to complain about the difficulty of their assignment, but you deserve no such criticism. Your love and respect for me is highly valued and deeply appreciated. I often stop and consider how fortunate I am to shepherd such a gracious group of people. I love each of you and am excited about the future God has planned for us.

When I first arrived in April of 2017 to assume my role as pastor, I began challenging the church–especially the leadership–to seek God for guidance regarding our future and His will. We asked God for direction and we believe He has answered. After many long hours of intentional prayer and intense preparation, we are ready to allow God to turn the page and begin writing the next chapter of Crestwood’s history. It is not our goal to forget the past but rather to build on it.

Our vision is not a three-step plan or an updated program for church growth. I am aware that seeing God’s dreams for this community come true will require time and effort, but I am sure it will be time and effort well spent. Our prayer is that we can be the church God intends us to be. We want to be known for making disciples and giving God the well-deserved glory to God in the process.

On January 27, we will meet at 11am in the main auditorium for a time of information and celebration as we reveal our new vision to you, our church family. We believe the mission and vision God has given us has the potential to create lasting change in our church, our community, and our city. By the grace of God, we want to be at the epicenter of a move that sweeps across our community and into eternity. Therefore, we are excited to introduce to you what God has shown to us. I hope that you will join us as we seek to prize our past while pressing into our future.

In Christ Alone,
Pastor Ben

The Consistency of Christ

It’s hard to believe that 2018 will soon be just another label in the deep file cabinet of our memories. Last week, as the Thanksgiving holiday was rapidly approaching, I sat down at my desk to write a sermon for our community thanksgiving service. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say, but I knew I didn’t want to preach another generalized message about an attitude of gratitude or seven more things to be thankful for. There, in the soft light of my computer, I bowed my head and quietly asked God what He wanted me to say to His people on the following night. Suddenly, but not like a lightning bolt from Heaven as you might imagine, I had an idea: I would speak about one attribute of God for which I was especially grateful. The difficult part would be choosing just one.

Obviously, I could speak about His love. The more I know of me, the more amazed I am by Him. Heaven itself could produce no higher theme than His love, but somehow I knew that wasn’t the one thing God was leading me to. His amazing grace and abounding mercy were certainly contenders in the race, but still they did not express the thought my heart was searching for words to say. His omnipotence and omniscience were close on the heels of mercy and grace. How could I overlook the fact that there is nothing in our universe, visible or invisible that exists outside of His consent and control? I couldn’t just avoid the fact that He has never once entertained a new idea nor ever had a fresh realization. Yet, I knew that neither of these two attributes were the one that comforted me most this past year.

Could I speak about God without mentioning the precision of His judgment and perfection of His justice? Honestly, I was in awe of the fact, considering the often biased cries for modern justice, that He has never reached a wrong conclusion because He always has all the information. After rehearsing all this on the stage of my mind, I knew that I was thankful for everything about Him; but there was still one thing that I loved most this year–His consistency.

All of His attributes provide precious comfort, but what good would they be if we had no guarantee that He would be the same tomorrow?  In the epistle to the Hebrews, the Spirit of God assured us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews13:8) Simply put, Jesus doesn’t change. His name is synonymous with consistency. The idea that He is unchangeable may seem rather simplistic at first glance, but it really is quite a profound truth. He is the only living thing in the universe that has not, does not, and will not ever change.

Boulders wear away to pebbles. Rivers take new courses, and lakes dry up. Families fragment, companies evolve, churches modify their methods, friendships go deeper or disappear, and even we ourselves do not remain untouched by the wrinkled fingers of time. But Jesus is always the same. His faithfulness to His own character is a thing to rejoice in. He is just like His Father; change is not a part of His nature. Scripture says, “In Him there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

His consistency would be a terror to us if He were not also good. Reliability means little if it is reliably bad. Consistency coupled with a tendency toward mischief would be a horrifying notion to live with. I’m thankful that Jesus isn’t just consistent, but that He’s always consistently good.

For us, change is often necessary, but for Jesus to modify His majesty would be a retreat from perfection. His constitution warrants no amendment, His attitude needs no adjustment, His appearance needs no alteration. He can’t be enhanced, upgraded, or improved. Jesus doesn’t change, because He has no need to. We change as we learn and are exposed to new things. Yet, since He never makes a new discovery or has a new experience, He is not affected by any outside influence. He never changes in either policy or practice because one can climb no higher than the summit of perfection.

The promise that Scripture makes is not just that He hasn’t changed, but that He never will.

He is who He was, and who He was He always will be. Tomorrow when I need forgiveness for yesterday, He will remain my Redeemer, always ready and willing to restore. When I find myself longing for love–no matter the hour–I know two arms that will always be open. If it’s provision I need, He will always have plenty and more than enough to spare. When I lack the wisdom to offer an answer, my Counselor will be standing near. When my body is broken, I am confident there will be a Physician within reach. When I am terrified, He will be a Tower I can run into that the enemy can’t breach. When my faith is shaky, He will be the Rock I can stand on that can’t be moved or worn down. Whatever my need, whenever I need it, I know where to go, because Jesus Christ never changes.

Of this we can be sure, He will be faithful even when we are not. I am grateful that He is consistent now; I love that He will remain that way forever. As surely as He has been faithful, faithful He will forever be. As we sail into another new year, we can face the fog of the future with a confident knowledge that regardless of the direction of the wind that blows against our ship, Jesus will remain the same, and He will see us safely to shore.

In Christ Alone,
Pastor Ben

Looking for a City: Life in the Light

Entomologists have offered various explanations as to why insects are so attracted to artificial light, but there is still no consensus on the subject. Regardless of the why, it’s clear that there is just something about a porch light that is irresistible to a moth. Like the moth outside my kitchen window, I find this same attraction to light alive in me on a much larger scale. I have a hard time enjoying dark restaurants and dimly lit churches. I want to be able to see what’s going on around me and who’s in front of me. Darkness is great for sleeping, but it provides poor atmosphere for living.

Life without light would be an exceedingly dull and exceptionally depressing sojourn. Yet, scripture tells us that there will be no more sun in the place God will prepare for His people. How can the people of the light enjoy eternity in darkness? At first glance it may be hard to picture paradise without the sun, but it’s important to recognize the Bible says, “there will be no more night.” The Bible never says there will be no more light (Rev 22:5). The devil wants to keep us in darkness about eternity. He wants us to picture it as drab and dull; but how can it be dull when the Creator of color is the centerpiece of the city?

Revelation 21:23-24 states: “And the city (the New Jerusalem) has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk.”

There is a day coming when the sun will secede its place in the cosmos to the Son of its Maker. Jesus Himself will become the center of the entire universe, and everything will revolve around Him. It’s worth considering–what will life be like in the perfect light of God Himself?

When the Day Star rises, night will not only be erased from without; it will be erased from within. Honestly, I am ashamed to admit it, but I often fear the darkness inside me much more than I do the darkness around me. That old sin nature that trips me every time I try to run, that darkness that hides the light I want to shine, that cataract in my eye that blurs reality and leaves me unable to clearly see the truth will be irreversibly removed from my sight. Scripture says that the former things will pass away and God will make all things new. That includes me. I look forward with great anticipation to the day when the Son has finally and forever driven out the darkness in me.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, for one who has lived in a cave to comprehend life in the light. This is why Heaven is so far beyond our imagination. We’ve lived in the shadows so long descriptions of the light have become foreign to us. If we could all simultaneously imagine the most beautiful scene our minds could recollect, it would not compare to the glory that awaits us when clouds are pushed back and the Son shines in.

Just as the earth burst open with new life when the cold winter season passes away and the warmth of spring falls gently on the ground, so human culture itself will experience a regeneration under the perfect administration of Christ. We will know the truth and the truth will set us free from the bondage of falsehood.  The Light will reveal all things in their truest form and dispel the lies that have so long held us captive. Our feeble hearts would rupture with excitement if we could conceive the pleasure beyond measure that awaits in the guilt-free, glory-saturated city of God.

What will life in the Light be like? It will be out of this world. Our worst moments there will be better than the combination of all our best years here. Contrary to the popular portrait of disembodied spirits floating on feathery clouds in a state of eternal inactivity accompanied by harps and halos, Heaven will be a busy place. You see,

eternity with God is not just an offer of everlasting life; it’s a promise of eternal living.

Imagine a world where people are encouraged to think, dream, write, play, build, and explore without limitation or restraint. The Michelangelo’s will finally find the colors to paint the masterpieces they always knew they had hidden deep within their hearts. The symphonies played in the grand halls of the New Earth will make Beethoven’s finest works seem as the tinkering of a child on a nursery piano. Oh, the tales the tellers will tell when they are free to dream. The architect will have no creative roof, the sky will be his limit, and Paris will seem ordinary compared to the beautiful city of God.

The government will exist only for the good of its people. God’s administration will establish a kingdom of true racial, social, and economic equality. Soldiers will gladly burn their boots and melt their weapons into farm tools because when He speaks peace, war will be no more. We have no such city here, but we are promised one to come. For this, we look; for this, we long.

Studies have found that infrared light can be used as an effective means of treating heart disease, soothing mental illness, and healing deep wounds. Infrared rays can penetrate the deepest regions of muscle and bone tissue, providing healing while simultaneously causing no harm. Astonishingly, even seemingly irreversible scar tissue can be treated through the proper amount of light exposure. Medical scientists are only beginning to uncover the potential possibilities of infrared therapy. Our future is bright because of the light.

In the land of light, all our hurts will be healed. The deep, seemingly irreversible scar tissue left by the disappointments of life will be wiped away like a child’s warm breath from a backseat car window, to be remembered no more. Broken hearts will be mended. Minds crippled by anxiety and illness will be made well. Bodies bound by the crippling effects of age and disease will dance again in the light of Heaven’s Son. In that city no one will ever be burnt by the Son. We will be able to draw as close as we like with confidence of healing and never hurt.

There will be no more tears because there will be no more reasons to cry. It has been said that Heaven is the only city without a cemetery. Death will pass away. Pain will be no more, and we will bid “goodbye” farewell. The spirit of suicide and self-loathing will be silenced when morning comes.

There’s a certain sadness that accompanies reaching the end of a good novel. We always wish the writer would have written just a little more. When the Son sets in the New Jerusalem, darkness will rise no more. As much as we thank God for the precious memories we possess of those we’ve laid to rest, we can also thank Him for the memories that are yet to be made in the City of Light. The last page will never be turned on Heaven’s story because the end will never be written. I can’t wait until the day when God cuts on the lights and I can see everything around me and, more importantly, the One in front of me.

What will life in the light be like? It will be heaven on earth.

-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Looking for a City: Land of Our Dreams

There I sat on the plush red pews of our small country church, flipping through a hymnal between covert glances at my watch. Of course I wanted to go to heaven, but not right then. The sermon made it sound like a nice place to visit but not a place I’d like to live. If you like the thought of a never-ending liturgy and eternal repetitions of How Great Thou Art, it was perfect; but as a ten-year-old it sounded–well, to be honest–boring. An eternal routine seemed like a big step back from all the fun I was having here. I consoled myself with the thought, “Maybe it’s one of those ‘you’ll understand when you’re older’ things.”

Now I’m older, and yes, now I understand. Heaven wasn’t dull. My imagination just wasn’t sharp. My experience was too small to grasp how good life with God could be. I hadn’t yet sunk deep enough into the depths of pain or flew high enough into the heights of pleasure to begin to fathom what God has in store for those who love Him.

I was well acquainted with the joys of snow days and summer nights, but I didn’t yet know the God who had made them. To me, a boring place like heaven seemed like a big step backward. I understand now what my ten-year-old self couldn’t. Heaven won’t be boring, because God isn’t boring. My misconception wasn’t just about heaven; my misunderstanding was about its Architect. It seemed to me He only knew two words, “no” and “don’t.” It never crossed my mind that fun was His invention and His no’s were meant leave my hands free to receive better yes’s.

Pleasure was God’s idea. The Psalmist writes that at the right hand are of God are pleasures forevermore. For those trusting in Christ death is not a retreat signal, it’s an order to advance. Revelation, chapter five, describes one of the most powerful scenes the universe will ever know as all of creation falls down before the Lamb in worship. As striking as the scene may be, we have to remind ourselves that the book doesn’t end with chapter five. Nor is that all God has to say about heaven. Will there be worship in heaven? Of course; but that does not mean that it will be an unending church service. It will be, however, an eternal adventure with God.

Scripture teaches that our wildest imaginations can never measure up to what we will experience when we get home. Still, we wonder as we wait, what will heaven be like? God doesn’t spoil the surprise by giving us every detail, but He has given us enough information to piece together a snapshot of the place Jesus has gone to prepare.

On the Isle of Patmos, God pulled back the curtains and allowed the Apostle John to peek at the prize. The beauty he saw was so overwhelming it left him nearly speechless. He gave us a sketch of the city of God–the New Jerusalem–in the last few chapters of the Revelation. He said the foundations of the city’s walls are adorned with rare jewels, blood red jaspers and royal blue sapphires. Often, he used the word “like” to describe things he saw. I believe he used that word because comparing the things he saw with earthly things was the only way he could begin to describe them.

In no uncertain terms he told us that the buildings there are built of purified gold clear as glass. Think about this–if the only activity of heaven is corporate worship, then why build a functional city? If I were privileged to visit Paris, I don’t think I would give much attention to describing the roads to my friends back home, but John made a point to speak specifically about heaven’s main street. It’s hard to imagine a highway paved with gold and always pothole-free. I like to think John must have laughed when he realized that gold is as common in God’s country as gravel is in ours. 

In heaven, everyone is on city water, yet no one ever gets a bill. The unpolluted River of Life flows without any hint of contamination from the throne and into the city. Groves of trees grow along its banks that produce a different kind of fruit every month. Their leaves have the power to heal the wounds of the nations.  Unsightly power plants that litter the sky with smoke and ash have no place there. God will dwell with His people, and He will be their light. The glory of God will saturate His whole creation with warmth and illumination. Imagine no more sun, yet no more night, for the Lamb will be the lamp and light. How the jewels will sparkle, and the gold will shine, basking in the radiance of Love divine!

The emerald city will leave us wondering why Dorothy ever wanted to go home. Our hearts will discover paradise was never lost, it was just temporarily out of reach. Set free from the curse, every sensation will be fuller, every taste richer, and every emotion deeper. Life on this polluted ball will seem to have been a pastel prison when we behold the sharp, bright, contrasting colors of home. And to think, that’s all just within the city limits!

In heaven, every day is Christmas and every discovery a new gift from our Father, to be unwrapped and enjoyed. Understanding this changed the way I think about heaven. Once, it was a boring nightmare; now it’s the land of my dreams.

I can’t help but smile when I think of so many I dearly love who went to sleep here and woke up in a land where the nightmare is finally over. Like the arms of a girl running to embrace her man who’s been away at war, someday soon pearly gates will swing open wide to welcome us in. I’m looking forward to life in the light, in the land where dreams really do come true.

Pastor Ben

Looking for a City: Lucifer’s Lies

In an era of fake news and false headlines we can’t imagine life without lies; but in the beginning that wasn’t so. Man existed in a world where lies didn’t, a world where lies were only foreign ideas; and telling the truth was everyone’s first impulse. No resident of that antediluvian paradise knew the pain of deception until Lucifer whispered into Eve’s adolescent ear, “You will not certainly die.” She believed the lie, and awful concept became a reality. From that moment we have been spending our days fighting to find our way, cutting through the undergrowth, and digging through the garbage trying to uncover the truth.

Lucifer told the first lie, and he’s been lying ever since. Falsehood is his native language, and he is a fluent communicator. Even when he tells the truth, he only tells the part that will get him closer to his goals. He is the father of lies, and he makes sure his family keeps growing every day.

There is a method behind his madness. He lies to rob God of glory; he steals glory by distracting and capturing the hearts of those God loves. Every fraudulent claim he makes is a calculated move toward that end. Satan is no fool. He is aware when men get a glimpse of who God is and what He has prepared for His own, he will lose all control.  So, he weaves intricate alternatives to the truth to keep our hearts too preoccupied to ever think about such troubling subjects as life after death. He knows heaven is the home we were made for. So, he spares no effort in keeping us from getting there. To those who dare to ponder the realities of heaven and hell; he happily presents a set of tall stories that fall far short of the truth. He has assembled his lies to look and feel so much like the truth that most people never look close enough to discover the difference. Yet, we must be aware–no matter how pretty the wrapping–that garbage is still garbage.

I believe there are three primary lies that the Prince of Hell likes to tell about heaven. The first being, heaven isn’t a real place. This lie works on two levels. If the skeptic can be convinced that there is no such thing as heaven, then they will give little concern to how they live on earth. However, to the believer the hope of heaven is what gives us the courage to suffer loss in this life knowing all we will gain in the next. Satan and his minions enjoy nothing more than destroying that confidence by placing a question mark where God placed a period.

This basic lie is sold in many different forms–heaven is a myth the weak need to get them through life; we live, we die, and then we cease to exist; death has a rotating door that allows us to be reborn an infinite number of times. The packaging may be different, but the statement is still a lie.

This lie always performs as if it is a proven fact. It claims science and logic as its chief advocates; it demands to be believed without cross examination. Interestingly its claims to be true are based on unfounded theories that have not and cannot be tested and proven by any measure.

The desire to know the truth must be accompanied by a willingness to listen when it speaks. Far too often we arrive at conclusions before we have even asked the right questions. What if the Bible is true and Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be? The claims of scripture are too great to be ignored. The only course of action a reasonable person can take is to make an honest inquiry into the evidence. The lie says, “just believe me and I won’t lead you wrong,” but the truth is not afraid to be put under the microscope.

The second lie is, heaven is for everyone. The 1989 release of a seemingly innocent children’s movie put a new name on this old story. The title was, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and the lie was that heaven will not exclude anyone. The problem is we’re not dogs, and heaven is an exclusive place. Simply put, heaven isn’t everybody’s home. Heaven is God’s city, and He reserves the right to legislate who gets in and who doesn’t. Citizenship in the City of God is not granted by doing good deeds; it is a gift of grace. American citizenship must be worked for, but heavenly citizenship must only be received. Citizenship belongs only to those who have repented of sin and by faith trusted in the death of Christ for their forgiveness.

The second lie may be more dangerous than the first because it cloaks itself in a religious overcoat. It differs from the first in that it appeals to the heart rather than to the mind. The first lie says, heaven can’t be seen so it can’t be real. The second lie says a loving God would never punish anyone. In soft pious tones it appeals directly to the emotions. It loves to ask questions, but it doesn’t really want answers. It assures the fearful that though heaven has walls they won’t keep anyone out.

The truth is, heaven is open to everyone, but everyone who gets in must come through the door. Jesus Christ said, “I am the door.”

It is often argued, if Christ’s death was sufficient for the sin of all mankind then shouldn’t everyone go to heaven? This seems logical until we consider that the scripture repeatedly emphasizes man’s responsibility to repent and believe. Scripture says that eternal life is to know God and His Son whom He has sent. Jesus’ death purchased pardon for sinners, but reconciliation only belongs to those who accept His gift of grace.  Mercy is available to everyone, but it is only experienced by those who receive it. The reality is that men don’t miss heaven because God rejected them; they miss heaven because they rejected Him. Everyone is invited to the party, but only those who RSVP get in.

The final lie is that heaven is a boring place. We will discuss this lie in greater detail later in this series. If the devil is that father of lies, then this lie looks particularly like its daddy. Satan has a personal vendetta against the place he once called home. He can’t go back, so he doesn’t want anyone else to either. Lucifer knows his days are numbered. Soon the deceiver will deceive no more. His eternity can be summed up in five words–Liar, liar, pants on fire. He would love nothing more than to have company, so he posts detours along the path to keep us off the narrow road that leads home. Some of his lies keep us out of heaven while others keep heaven out of us.

Be assured, the truth is always better than a lie and the place Jesus has gone to prepare for us really is out of this world. For now, we look for a city and long for the land where dreams come true.

-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Looking For A City: Longing For A Home

Dingy white sea foam crashed against my bare ankles like a snowy avalanche engulfing twin pines. Sand retreated between my toes back into wide blue expanse. With childlike indecisiveness, a nervous sand piper darted in and out of the lapping waves in search of dinner. The sun splashed an abstract orange and purple painting onto the skyline as night prepared to close the curtain on another day. My long-awaited vacation had arrived, yet a faint but clear voice still whispered I had not.

My heart knew what my mind refused to concede. Paradise was at my fingertips, but home was still out of reach. A line from C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity seized my mind: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” The soft ocean breeze was like an angel’s breath inviting me to dream about a place I have never seen, yet desperately long to be. The scene around me awakened the longing within me. I couldn’t lull it back to sleep. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to go home, not back to Mount Airy–the city of Andy–but to Mount Zion, the city of God.

Like a refugee looking for a permanent place, the desire for something better–something more–is at home in every human heart.

It reveals itself in the passing incompleteness of our greatest triumphs. It shines brightest in the shadow of disappointment. Its voice is heard in the empty echo that returns to us from the pinnacle of success. Sometimes it whispers through the persistent not yet, and at other times it shouts with the voice of unmet desires that demand to be heard. Even pleasure has a way of demanding answers to those who are willing to let it ask its questions: where does joy come from, why can’t happiness last forever, is the pursuit of pleasure our whole reason for existence?

Longing is not the end in itself. Every desire has an object. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews pinpointed the root of our desire when he said that Abraham looked for a city “whose builder and maker is God.” At our very core we are longing for a place to really call home. Without provocation something in us calls for a better country. Our souls speak an unlearned foreign language that can’t be answered in any celestial tone. We long for the place we were really meant to be all along. This longing is not naïve, it is native. The desire itself is an evidence of the existence of a better world where perfection is possible and peace overrules. When surveying the vanity of life, King Solomon wrote, in Ecclesiastes 3, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.”  We are by nature eternal being with eternal appetite. Behind every mistaken pursuit lies our deeper desire to be at Home with God.

When sin entered the story our fairy tale quickly became a tragedy. Mankind who was created for intimacy with God found himself separated from his one true love. Without doubt Eden was a garden paradise but it was the presence of God that made it home. In marvelous mercy God placed a guard post on the eastern edge of Eden to keep fallen man out of the garden lest he ate of the tree of life and lived forever in our ruined state. Ever since then we’ve been searching for a way back in to the garden that sin got us evicted from. In essence we all want to go back home.

The groans of the creation can be heard in spewing volcanoes and the destructive tsunamis. Every falling star cries out with its final breath, “Something is wrong in the universe,” and our own hearts confirm we are still east of Eden and somewhere south of home.

If longing were all I had to offer, the pleasure of my sentiment would render me still miserable and hopeless. May I say, I have hope because I have a home to look forward to. Jesus promised that He was going to prepare a place for me in the house of His Father. He then said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus is my way home! He is the gateway back to into Eden. He endured the sword to open the garden to me. Better still, through faith in Him I have been reconciled with God and can walk with Him again. I know I’m not home yet but greater still I know I’ve found the way.

As I reflected on my vacation, I found that surprisingly it was the bitter longing that made my vacation sweet. The expectation of what is to come made me enjoy the beauty of what was with a greater appreciation. Every pleasure became purer, every color brighter, and every moment sweeter knowing that these were only fleeting shadows of the better reality to come. The knowledge that I will one day live with the Artist in the land where all the beauty came from was almost more enjoyable than I could bear.

Many times since, I have been overcome with the desire to taste “again” what I have never tasted once, to hear the music my ears have never enjoyed yet somehow always miss, and to embrace what I have searched for in everything else. I’m looking forward to the land of the forever hello where I can finally bid farewell to goodbye. As for now I’m a pilgrim wandering east of Eden just somewhere south of Heaven but I’m looking for a city, I’m longing for home.

-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Ask and You Shall Receive

A beaming little girl with long brown hair stood beside her mom with her blue eyes fixed on the large glass candy jar that sat on the counter of the old country store. Lost in a land of gumdrops and candy kisses, her dream was interrupted by the sound of a kind man’s voice somewhere off in the distance. In an instant she was back in the store standing on her tip toes, with her hands on the counter pulling her up to see the treasure behind the glass.

Again the man asked, “Would you like some candy?“ To most children her age that was like asking, “Would you like to take a year off from school?” Of course the answer was yes; but there was one problem—she didn’t have any money and neither did her mom. She knew this because every time she asked for something her mom told her that she would have to ask her dad.

“No sir,” she finally replied with a deep sigh and hesitant fidget. Then a miracle happened! The old shop keeper explained that he just happened to have a special on candy that particular day. Any little girl with blue eyes and brown hair could get a whole handful of candy for free!  For a moment she thought she heard the bells of Heaven ringing, but then realized it was just the bell on the front door of the little store.

Most children wouldn’t hesitate at an opportunity like this, yet she slowly took her hands from the counter and placed them in her pockets. Confused by her response the jolly old man with the shiny bald head repeated his offer again. Still she only stood there staring up at him with her large puppy eyes. Undeterred by her shyness the old shop keep rolled up his long white sleeve, opened the jar, and scooped out a handful of sugary bliss and held it out to his little friend. It took both her hands and three pockets to hold all the candy his dozer-sized hand had taken from the jar. What could she say, other than a genuine thank you.

With a big smile on her face, candy in her pockets, and cherry red die on her lips, she left the store with a story to tell and evidence to prove it. As they walked down the sidewalk her mother stopped and asked her a question. “Why didn’t you get the candy when the nice man first offered it to you”?  Skipping along and without missing a beat the little girl replied, “His hands were bigger than mine.”

Can God do more for us than we can do for ourselves? Are His hands bigger than ours? Of course He can, and of course they are! Every need Crestwood has ever had has been supplied by the big hands of God, and He will not fail us now. Currently we are in need of $200,000.00 to make necessary repairs on our heating and air units and our parking lots. I believe God has the funds and wants to transfer them to our account. This may seem like a large amount to us, but I guarantee you it’s pennies to God. For the past two months I have been asking our Father to supply this need, and now I would like to invite you to ask Him with me.

This is His work, we are His children, and it is His delight to supply our needs. We only have not, because we ask not. I do not preach, nor do I believe in, a prosperity gospel; but I do, however, believe in a God who pays for what He orders. We must not view this as an obstacle but rather as an opportunity for God to prove Himself both faithful and able. We ought to pray for this, not just to fix problems but to increase our faith and honor our Father. Imagine what a testimony it would be to His kindness for us to be able to say, “Look what our God did!”

Through the prayers and kindness of His people He has already provided us well over $20,000.00 for special projects in this last year. Now we ask for ten times more in full confidence that He is a ten times more kind of God. When Ezra returned to Israel from Babylon we are told that the king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him. Furthermore, we are told that the King issued a decree that whatever Ezra needed should be provided to him promptly from the royal treasuries. (Ezra 7:6/21) I believe God can and will do the same for us.

We cannot justly ask God for anything that we are not willing to invest in ourselves.

With His help and by his grace, I humbly ask you to commit to increase sacrificial giving to the cause of His Kingdom this year. His hands are bigger than ours, but ours will remain empty as long as they remain closed. Brothers and sisters, I ask you to ask God what he would have us do. Would you commit to fasting and praying with me in the name of Jesus for God to supply this need for the advancement of the gospel and the fame of His name?

-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Happy Is the Man Who Grieves Out Loud

C.S. Lewis used these powerful words to describe the loss of his wife, Joy: “Her absence is like the sky, spreading over everything.” Grief cuts deep and spreads wide. It leaves its frosty fingerprints on everything it touches. There are few things more agonizing than living under its shadow. Grief is a cold and lonely wilderness of lost love and unmet expectations. Often, survivors are encouraged or even told to move on. But how can one just move on from love? I think moving forward is a better concept. The valley of death is not a place to build a house. It is a place to mark on the map, a place to learn from, and a place from which to launch out with new direction.

As the Man of Sorrows, Jesus understood more about grief than any other human who ever experienced it. His deep understanding of human loss is evident in a statement He made about mourning in the Beatitudes.  During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” This statement contains both a paradox and a promise that we should seek to understand.

Let’s examine the paradox first. I always thought this phrase to be somewhat perplexing. How can anyone say that the one who mourns is blessed? The word “blessed” is an interesting word. In fact, it could literally be translated “happy”; happy is the one who mourns. This seems to only further complicate Jesus’ statement. To understand what Jesus is driving at, we must understand the difference between grieving and mourning. Grief is the emotional internal pain felt as a result of a loss. Mourning is the external expression of that grief.

Notice Jesus did not say that the one who is grieving is happy, but the one who is mourning will be happy. Literally, Jesus was communicating the idea that happy is the one who grieves out loud! Happy is the one who expresses inward trouble outwardly. Jesus understood that physically, psychologically, and spiritually, mourning is directly related to the ability to move forward and that a failure to do so will inhibit progress.

The spiritual and the scientific do not need to be viewed as separate categories. Jesus’ words are fully compatible with recent studies on the positive effects of expressing emotions. Research shows that those who allow themselves to express sorrow—whether through tears, ceremony, or other avenues of mourning—are less likely to experience negative effects on their health and more likely to adjust to their new normal and find meaning after loss and in loss.

To those who have experienced recent loss, I encourage you to allow yourself the right to acknowledge that you are not okay. Your life has been forever changed. Acknowledge this often and openly. Allow the tears in your heart to become the tears on your cheek. Washington Irving beautifully said, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep loss, and of unspeakable love.” It is fine to remove your “I’m okay” face and acknowledge that your heart has been broken. It is more than fine; it is necessary!

The idea that Christians who have enough faith shouldn’t hurt is preposterous. Jesus Himself contradicts that idea by His own actions as He wept over Lazarus. The wise man said there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Tears are God’s gifts given to aid us in our journey through the valley of the shadow. Research proves that tears serve as agents of healing in the grieving process. Mourning plays a role that only it can.

The paradox is “happy is the one who mourns.” The promise is that the one who grieves out loud will be comforted. Could it be that Jesus desired us to understand that comfort comes through mourning? Mourning is the bridge from the shadow lands to sunlit tomorrows? Comfort will not grow where mourning has not first prepared the ground. The happiness of a memory can often heal the heart, yet the sadness of that same thought calls the heart to continue its journey onward, forward, upward, and deeper in. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a leading expert in the field of grief and loss, recently suggested that one must say hello many times before one can ever say goodbye. Hello to a memory, hello to love, hello to loss. Mourning is saying hello; comfort is saying goodbye.

When joined with the promise, the paradox makes perfect sense; “Blessed is the one who mourns for they shall be comforted.” Mourning is the path to healing.

Grief can’t be “gone-avoided”; it must be “gone through,” so don’t be afraid to mourn your loss.

Do not succumb to the pressure to be okay when, in reality, you are not. Happy is the one who grieves out loud, for in mourning, they find comfort of body, mind, and soul.

Pastor Benjamin Webb

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Pebble-Kicking Skepticism

I have never been more excited about the direction God is leading Crestwood Baptist Church than I am today. We have asked Him for guidance, and He has answered with fresh insight and clear vision. For this we thank Him. As the Lord has led our church through this process, He has been leading me through a personal process as well. I’ve heard Him calling me further up and deeper in, watched Him increase my faith, and sensed an expansion of the vision he has planted in my heart. Through every twist and turn of this brief journey, one scripture has been whispered into the ears of my heart over and over. 

Matthew 17:19-20 says, Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, “Why could not we cast him out?” And Jesus said unto them, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

After their descent from the mountain of transfiguration, Jesus–along with Peter, James, and John–returned to the find the other nine disciples in a heated argument with the local scribes. When Jesus asked what the discussion was about an anxious man in the mob spoke up and answered, Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not. (Mark 9:17-18)

This helpless father had come to the church looking for answers, but all he found was confusion. When Jesus entered the equation, He confronted the darkness with light. Jesus ordered the fretful father to bring the boy to Him. In Jesus’ presence the tormenting spirit showed his true colors, tossing his victim around like a rag doll and throwing him to the ground in a violent rage. In the middle of the turmoil Jesus took the time to ask an important question to assess the situation, “How long has this been going on?” Jesus understood the importance of determining a time frame, because the length of the oppression determines the strength of the possession.

Without fear or hesitancy of any kind, Jesus commanded the spirit to come out of the boy and never enter Him again. Having been served his eviction notice, the demon had no choice but to pack his bags and find somewhere else to live.  It was when the disciples were finally alone with Jesus again that they asked, “Why could we not cast it out? To which Jesus simply answered, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

As I reflect on this story, I am struck by one glaring truth. Jesus told his disciples if you have a small amount of genuine faith you can command mountains to move; but most believers don’t even have enough faith to get a rock out of their shoe. I am convinced that, under the guise of being realistic, we have embraced pebble-kicking skepticism and ignored mountain moving faith. We like to label our doubt as caution and maturity, but sometimes God just calls it unbelief. 

I believe God is calling our church to greater things than our minds can fathom, but we will never know the power of His presence, or apprehend the fullness of His plan, until we learn to pray mountain-moving prayers in full assurance of faith. It’s worth asking, are you currently praying any God sized prayers?

It is God-sized petitions that get God-sized answers.

Why settle for a pebble-kicking recess when the mountain-moving dynamite of the Spirit is yours in Christ? Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to ask God for more, and quit settling for less.

In Christ Alone,
Pastor Benjamin Webb