A Politically Correct Christmas

At the beginning of every election cycle, in the middle of every new scandal, and at the end of each administration one thought subconsciously travels through the minds of both conservatives and liberals alike: If only the right man were in office he could fix all of this. Yet, across the world on every political stage the battle rages on to find someone—anyone—who can bring stability and harmony on earth. Every few years our hope for a good government seems to erode a little more as the flood of partisan politics and alternate agendas beat away at the shores of expectation.

Many are convinced that the good ole days are gone forever. Anticipation has been replaced by disappointment and cynicism. Still the seed planted deep within, the root from which the bud of restless longing grows, is in itself just and good. Someone is coming to make all that is wrong right again but he’s not coming from the right charging in on an elephant; nor will he appear from the left with a donkey’s clumsy steps. He will burst through the eastern barrier of the realm he means to rule riding on the back of a bright white stallion. When he comes to take office, all that is wrong will be made right again.

God opened the curtains of time and allowed Isaiah to look into future. A dark immovable cloud of pending doom rested over the nation Israel. Yet, as God’s man stared at the black backdrop of judgment, a bright spot appeared in the darkness. God told him a child would be born and a Son would be given who would restore Israel and reverse her misfortune. Of this child, Isaiah said His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

With careful colors Isaiah painted a lovely description of the living Hope he saw.
“The government will be upon His shoulders.” “Of the increase of His kingdom and of peace there will be no end.” Of all history’s mighty men, none has ever been able to carry the weight of world on his own shoulders.

Yet Jesus can, Jesus does, and Jesus will.

Christ’s first coming at Bethlehem was both an act of war and a declaration that the war was coming to an end. The King entered the arena through a virgin womb and was wrapped in reprehensible rags rather than royal robes. This same child celebrated by shepherds and saints endured unimaginable injustice at the hands of soldiers and sinners. While He suffered to redeem the enslaved servants of His realm, over his head hung the all too true words, “Jesus, King of the Jews.”

What would have been the game’s end for any other ruler was a strategic move toward checkmate for He who was born King. As surely as He kept His promise to come the first time to redeem, He will keep His promise to come the second time to rule. His first advent may have been humble, but His second will be with glory, judgment, and honor.

Among the first judicial acts of His coming kingdom will be the reestablishment of original intent. When He takes the helm, He’ll turn the ship around. Effectively He will reinstate His design for government. The Creator will rule over man and man will rule as co-regents over His creation. His will be the first government that exists only to promote good rather than to punish evil. His administration will be without default, deficiency, or deficit. Consider the obvious blessing that have fallen on nations ruled by good and godly men. Imagine the peace, prosperity, and progress that the whole earth will enjoy under the righteous scepter of God himself.

Think about the advances scientists will be able to make when the heavy fog of humanism and evolution has been burnt away in the light of the Son. The depths of understanding and the heights of philosophy man will attain when Wisdom incarnate sits enthroned cannot even be comprehended by the intelligent elite. Oh, the art that human hands will forge when imaginations are unshackled by the curse of sin! What might industrious men achieve in manufacturing when the government promotes the harnessing of natural resources?

God’s good government as intended in Eden will be restored in all the earth when the right Man takes His seat on the throne of His father David in Jerusalem. The whole earth will raise its voice and sing the sweet song of Peace when our Prince becomes our King. Words like election, impeachment, and coup may very well be removed from our vocabulary because Jesus will never earn criticism or merit complaint. The sun will never set on His kingdom when the Son sits on the throne.

Now we look forward with anxious expectation and exceptional hope, waiting and wanting to celebrate Christmas finally at home with Christ. It’s an exciting thought to think of a white Christmas in a place where white is not just a color on the spectrum but rather the very state of our souls. When the right Man establishes His rule on earth, mankind will finally and fully enjoy the serenity of a true Politically Correct Christmas. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
-Pastor Benjamin Webb

A Time to Die

High school football, chicken stews, Thanksgiving dinners, and cooler weather make Fall my favorite season. The changing of the leaves is the part I look forward to the most. It’s always so exciting to watch the dark greens transfigure from common to extraordinary. Bland, grass-colored mountains burst into fiery orange landscapes splattered with mixtures of sunrise yellow and candy-apple red.

As much as I love to see autumn come, I hate to see it go. As the leaves fall so does my spirit, because as the winter moves in, the color moves out. For the next few months everything becomes bleak and bare. It’s a strange thing to realize that it’s really death that makes Fall so beautiful.

Solomon said there is a season for everything–a time to be born and a time to die. In other words, death is a part of life. In fact, without death there is no life. You see, death is not an end; it’s only a door to a new beginning. As surely as the leaves fade and fall to the ground when spring comes around the dogwoods will bud again. The burning colors of autumn are the precursors to the bright colors of spring.

There are so many clear parallels between our current season and our Christian hope. As surely as we lay down to rest we will rise to live again.

Every fall I plant a fresh crop of tulips. Over four hundred bulbs are spread throughout various parts of my yard. Every time I cover those brown bulbs with dirt I think to myself, I’ll see you in spring. Sometimes the winter is long, but it never lasts forever. Like clockwork every year sometime towards the end of February, if you take a walk through my garden and you will find numerous pea-sized nobs barely pocking their heads through the soils surface. In only a few short weeks those nobs turn to full grown trumpets of God’s glory.

To those who are hurting and grieving, may I say, winter won’t last forever. God promised as long as man lives on earth the seasons will continue in their given order. Better days are coming, and the flowers will bloom again. During the holiday season I encourage you to take heart and rejoice in our hope that as surely as we have planted the shells of those we love beneath the soil, they will rise again more beautiful than before. As Christians we don’t look forward to dying, but we have no reason to fear death. We rejoice in the fact that though we are buried as a bulb we will rise as flowers. Be encouraged, fall is here and winter is upon us but spring’s not far away.


-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Broken Crayons Still Color

Recently, while traveling down the interstate, I noticed a billboard I had passed many times before, yet never really read. Bold white words stamped on a soft baby-blue background read, “Broken crayons still color.” At first I only smiled and continued driving, but then, in the same way a warm breeze can bring back a long lost memory, the big white words transported me back to a wooden table situated in a dimly lit dining room.

When I worked for hospice I often said that I was paid to play, but honestly I learned some very valuable lessons about life, love, and loss while coloring submarines and drawing dragons. This time I had been called to meet with a seven-year-old boy whose dad had been murdered the week before. This particular visit taught me a lesson I never want to forget.

As we sat there rummaging through my box of crayons looking for particular colors to complete our masterpieces. My little friend and I discovered that many of my crayons were bent and broken. I had a bad habit of leaving my coloring box in the car on hot days. I should have remembered my childhood discovery that crayons don’t react well to heat. I had learned this the hard way as I scraped splattered crayon from the roof of my grandmothers microwave after attempting to make finger paint by heating crayons in a Styrofoam bowl.

I apologized to the boy that my crayons were in such poor shape. I remember saying, “I should probably throw all the broken ones away.” He looked at me with a confused expression, selected a broken cherry red Crayola that was missing its wrapper, and said, “Why would you do that? Broken crayons still work.” Whether he realized it or not, this seven-year-old taught me a much-needed life lesson. Broken and useless are not synonymous.

We’re all broken in different ways. Some of us have been broken by the consequences of our own choices, while others have been broken through no fault of their own. We acknowledge that brokenness is an unavoidable part of our world and our lives, yet it seems inescapable and leaves us feeling worn down and sometimes even worthless. Do broken things have a place in God’s kingdom? Can all the pieces ever be put back together again?

The answer is yes. Jesus is the good news in the middle of our mess. He came to make good out of what sin made bad. Great beauty can arise from great brokenness when placed in the hands of a skilled artist. Looking back, I remember the final strokes my little friend added to his picture. I can still see him hard at work, his tongue barely sticking out of the corner of his mouth. When he finished, he proudly held up his picture for my approval, and I have to say it may have just been the most beautiful red rose a seven-year-old boy ever imagined onto paper; and to think it was done with a broken crayon!

In much the same way, God has a way of making a masterpiece out of a mess. He can take the shattered, disorganized pieces of our lives and build a breathtaking stain glass display of grace. I’ve learned not to be so quick to throw away the broken ones because they may be just the color needed to perfect the masterpiece. Broken can be made beautiful when placed in the hands of the Master Artist. Broken crayons still color.

-Pastor Benjamin Webb

Studying Psalm 23

On Sunday, April 23, our adult co-ed Sunday school class will begin a study of Max Lucado’s book, Traveling Light, which examines Psalm 23 in the context of helping us to “release burdens [we] were never intended to bear.” Just think, if the Lord is present in every facet of our lives, what do we need to carry? The answer is, we don’t have to carry anything alone. I love that, don’t you?

We invite you to join us this Sunday at 9:45 as we dig into Psalm 23–quite possible the best known chapter in the Bible–and are guided to relinquish all our unnecessary, burdensome baggage and cling to the promise of 23:6 – “…I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

In the meantime, enjoy this musical video by the late Keith Green, The Lord is My Shepherd.

Sunday’s Coming!

For many years, I spent the week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday (Easter) with my favorite musicians—Dallas Holm, Sandi Patty, and Don Francisco.  Early in the week, Dallas Holm’s cd, His Last Days, was played continuously. The music took me through the week, with special focus on the night He was betrayed, his trial, death, and resurrection. Who doesn’t remember his greatest musical accomplishment, Rise Again?

That week before Resurrection Day, I pondered the questions posed on the cd—Did I believe in Him? Did I trust His words? Did I understand and have full confidence in His ability to save me? I mourned the treatment of Jesus during that week, and I mourned His death. The musical ended with Rise Again, and my heart swelled with anticipation and joy of what I knew was going to happen early Sunday morning.  Of course, I knew all these events had occurred a couple thousand years ago in real time, but each year these events occurred again in my heart and mind. It was a ritual observed to remain focused on Jesus and what He did for me.

Every Easter morning I bounced out of bed and ran to the windows to watch the sunrise. As was my habit, I grabbed my cd player–already tuned up to the family’s “wake-up song,”–and turned the volume all the way up to Sandi Patty’s, Was It a Morning Like This? It didn’t exactly thrill our children to be awakened so, but they eventually got into the spirit of the day as we celebrated our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Another resurrection song I played—very loudly—was Don Francisco’s song, He’s Alive. Talk about a celebration!

Life moved forward, and the ritual continued—our churches produced plays about the Easter week; I played Sandi Patty on Easter morning; I sang along to Dallas and Don; and I contemplated what Jesus’ death meant, reinforcing my belief that Jesus was who He said He was, and I could trust Him with all of my life.

What does Easter mean to you? How do you celebrate the week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection morning? It’s a personal journey, folks. I encourage you to give the events of the week more than a passing thought as we celebrate the risen Lord.

Our children are grown and now have their own families. I don’t know what goes on in their homes during these holiest of days for Christians, but our household will begin this Easter Sunday morning with a rousing rendition of our old favorites, and we will celebrate!

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Hallelujah.

-Claudette Wood

#CrestwoodBC #LoveServeGrow

Find Crestwood, Find Home…A Testimonial

In August 2000, our family moved back to our hometown of Winston Salem after 25+ years of serving in churches throughout North Carolina and Washington DC. Because church is important to us, the first action we took after getting situated into our new home was to begin visiting local churches in search of our new place to worship and serve.

Over several weeks, Dave and I visited different churches. We knew what we wanted in a church, and though we visited many fine congregations, we just weren’t finding that special place we desired to call “home.”

The day we visited Crestwood Baptist Church, we knew our search was over.

Dave had heard about the church from a friend, and though they were without a full-time pastor, he still wanted to visit there. His friend had given a glowing report about the spirit of the church family at Crestwood, and Dave wanted to check it out.

The report was not wrong.  As we walked into the building, we were  immediately impressed by a warmth and good spirit which permeated the air. Dave and I were greeted by Elsie, a self-appointed greeter and a woman with the gift of hospitality. She showed us to the nursery, where we deposited our grandson into the capable hands of Ruth and Allen, and then we settled down in the sanctuary to worship.

During the service, Elsie sat with us (a habit she continued for many weeks), and during the morning greeting time, many of the members of Crestwood made their way to us to shake our hands and speak.  The Spirit of God was active in the service. The pastor preached the Word with conviction, the music was worshipful, and the sanctuary was beautiful. When the service ended, Dave and I left knowing that we need look no further for a church in which to serve. We became active members a couple months after our initial visit, and 17 years later we haven’t changed our minds. The atmosphere is still as warm and loving as the first day we visited.

Friend, if you are searching for a church home and family, if you are praying for folks who will love you and care for you, Crestwood Baptist is the church for you. We invite you to join us for worship at 11am each Sunday morning.

The Crestwood family loves Jesus.  We are a praying church, and we are currently in a time of renewal and growth. All we are missing is you! Come, join us for worship and find your new church “home.”

For more information, check us out on our website: http://www.crestwood-baptist.com.

#CrestwoodBC #LoveGrowServe

Claudette Wood

The Comfort of God

“The problem with God isn’t that He has been tried and found wanting, it is that He has been wanting to be tried. People who could find all of the peace, solace and strength they could ever need and more hit bottom because they refuse to ask God for the help He willingly and lovingly offers.” – Jerry Godsey, Third Option Men

Over the years God has grown me through various trials. It’s no secret that trials aren’t fun, even when you have the assurance that with God’s leading you will come out the other side. It has taken a while to sink in, but I am finally learning that God should always be the first one to hear the voice of my struggle and not my final option.

When I first read Mr. Godsey’s comment, I told myself that I had never really hit the bottom. But now, that’s just silly, right? The truth is that I can’t count the number of times my “strength” has told me I can solve the problem alone, only to find myself deep in a pit and regretting that I waited so long to cry out to God.

I learned this lesson well several years ago, when I found myself in a quandary about a situation in our home. I spent several sleepless nights, tossing and turning as I tried to decide how to handle the situation. The issue consumed my thoughts each day as I attempted to complete my work. After several days of this restlessness, and after I had exhausted every human option and myself as well, I cried out to God. I remember the day well. I was heading home after work with this heavy weight on my heart and mind. In a moment of desperation I shouted, “I could really use some help here, God. I don’t know how to deal with this.” As I blasted this prayer to God, I was ashamed as I realized that the most important thing I should have done was actually the final thing I did.

God had already answered my prayer, of course. I was at work the next day when a dear friend called. This precious woman lives in another city, several hours away. Her first words to me were, “Hey, what’s going on? God woke me up three times last night with you on my mind.” After looking heavenward with a silent, “Thank You, Father,” I poured out my heart to her. She listened carefully, asked pertinent questions, and shared her wisdom. Her advice and encouragement moved me forward to the right decision. There you go!

We struggle with so much of life. We hang on to the things that have hurt us, without trusting God to be our Healer. Our hearts become bitter. These actions harm our souls.

Why do we Christians forget to ask God first? After all that we have gone through in our lives, what part of us still thinks “we’ve got this”? Goodness knows, the above instance was just one of more than I can count when I’ve attempted to solve my own problems.

Read again what Mr. Godsey says: “The problem with God isn’t that He has been tried and found wanting, it is that He has been wanting to be tried. People who could find all of the peace, solace and strength they could ever need and more hit bottom because they refuse to ask God for the help He willingly and lovingly offers.”

Thankfully, we serve a God who doesn’t get tired of us and cross His arms against us as we attempt to help ourselves. He’s the Father standing at the door, watching and waiting. A simple, heartfelt, “Rescue me” will turn us back to our Comforter, whose arms are open wide as we run to Him. What peace to know we don’t have to struggle alone.

Claudette Wood

Rest

I Needed the Quiet

 I needed the quiet so He drew me aside,
Into the shadows where we could confide.
Away from the bustle where all the day long
I hurried and worried when active and strong.
I needed the quiet though at first I rebelled,
But gently, so gently, my cross He upheld,
And whispered so sweetly of spiritual things.
Though weakened in body, my spirit took wings
To heights never dreamed of when active and gay.
He loved me so greatly He drew me away.
I needed the quiet. No prison my bed,
But a beautiful valley of blessings instead–
A place to grow richer in Jesus to hide.
I needed the quiet so He drew me aside.
-Alice Hansche Mortenson