ABC Ready to Begin 7th Season!

We are all set to begin our 7th season of Avalon Beach Church on June 21st at 9am. The New Jersey governor has raised the number for outdoor gatherings to 100 people effective immediately and he plans to increase that number to 250 on June 22nd and possibly to 500 on July 3rd. We will be asking families to maintain social distancing not only for your health but our witness as well. (https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/06/nj-coronavirus-stay-at-home-order-lifted-by-murphy-as-state-reopening-moves-forward.html)

HERE IS OUR THEME FOR THIS SUMMER: 2020 – VISIONS OF RAPTURE NOW BURST ON MY SIGHT!

Many of you will recognize that last phrase from the much-loved hymn “Blessed Assurance.” The hymn writer also penned this line: “Watching and waiting, looking above. Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.” Sight is at the core of this great hymn.

The irony is that Blessed Assurance was written by Fanny Crosby. As a little girl, because of the mistake of a doctor, Fanny lost her sight. But she was able to see what many miss…visions of rapture…intense joy!

THAT IS OUR “VISION” FOR ABC 2020! CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO JOIN US!

Bring your beach chairs, invite some friends, help us spread the word. We will be on the 30th street beach at 9am on June 21st.

Who knows what will burst on our sight!

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How should the church in America respond to the Covid 19 Crisis?

How should the church in America respond to the Covid 19 Crisis?

#1. Let’s embrace this crisis as a sabbatical reset for the entire globe.

In the physical realm, the animals and the atmosphere are being renewed. This can be a season of renewal in the lives of individuals and communities in the spiritual realm as well. This can be the “year of the Lord’s favor,” this really can be “Jubilee!”

Read: Luke 4:18-21 and Isaiah 61

#2. Let’s recognize this crisis as a warning shot to get perspective for the end of this age.

In what is known as the Olivet Discourse, Jesus describes calamity on the earth as the beginning of birth pains. Birth is not something you want to stop…you want to move through the pain because of what you know is coming. The church exists to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. Jesus said, “Then the end will come.” We must wrestle with the question of how we might continue to be in mission when ministry structures that have existed for decades are closed down. What would our missionary endeavors look like if we believed that travel could be shut down worldwide?

Read: Matthew 24

#3. Let’s use this event as a catalyst to develop the two-winged ability that caused the first-century church to soar.

There is no doubt that the reason Christianity grew spontaneously and eventually conquered the whole Roman world was the power of corporate worship (one wing) and house to house worship (second wing). This dual experience in worship was not only necessary, but it was also effective. People really loved one another. The Body of Christ was activated in spiritual gifts instead of simply consuming as spectators. It is interesting that in John 16:32, Jesus describes a time when “you will be scattered each to his own home.” That is certainly a foreshadowing of what has already taken place in Asia and what certainly could take place around the globe. Small groups of people meeting in homes may not just be a reality imposed on us by persecution. We have seen a new reality in this global pandemic. We must make ourselves ready.

If ever there was a time when we should be willing to meet together for worship in home groups, it is clearly an essential move now!

Read: Acts 2:42-47; 5:42; 20:20; Matthew 18:20; Colossians 4:15

#4. Let’s believe and declare the absolute sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

When the promised land was being divided up, the Levites (the priestly tribe) did not receive anything. Why? God declared that He would be their portion. This pandemic is going to wreak havoc on the economy. This is a test for believers. Is Jesus really enough? Those who love Christ have become the “priesthood of believers.” We bring God to the people and bring people to God. In this economic pressure cooker, we are being tested as to whether Jesus really is enough. Do we believe in the Lord’s Prayer that we have been praying all of our lives? Is it enough to have “Daily Bread?” Are you OK with Jesus as your portion?

Read: Deuteronomy 10 & 18; Colossians 2

Steps for us to take right now:

#1. Receive renewal, be sanctified. Read: Galatians 2:20; 2 Timothy 2:21; 2 Peter 1:2-4

#2. Establish SCOPE in your home.

We’ve got worship songs with lyrics on Youtube, and a plethora of Bible Studies and sermons available to us. Do this with your family now and when you are able, invite some friends, neighbors, and others from your church family to join you. This is how the church will soar at the end of the age.

#3. Don’t allow yourself to ease back into what was normal before this pandemic.

If this warning shot from God is going to be effective, we will have to say “no” to things that don’t have eternal value and “yes” to things that will further God’s mission in this world. Practice the sufficiency of Christ.

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Wedlock – Some Thoughts about Jesus, Jessie and my Grandson

Wed·lock – /ˈwedˌläk/ – noun

The state of being married.

Late Old English wedlāc ‘marriage vow’, from wed ‘pledge’ (related to wed) + the suffix -lāc (denoting action).

We don’t use the word “Wedlock” very much anymore, it’s “old” English now. If we’ve used that word in our vocabulary, it probably came with two other words always in front of it: Out of.

“Out of wedlock” used to be a brand of shame in our culture…a child born outside of the boundary of matrimony. But it is hardly even noticed in our “new” English conversation. In fact, according to a recent study, 40% of all children born today are born “out of wedlock.” Another study indicates that 61% believe having a child outside of marriage is morally acceptable and only 35% believe it is morally unacceptable.

On September 21st, 2019, my newest grandson was born here in Lancaster Country, PA. He was born out of wedlock. Does that matter? Yes. I am a second-generation conservative evangelical preacher. My Dad was “saved” at a Billy Graham crusade in Philly the year before I was born. He left a brand new home and a good job to be trained as a pastor when I was one-year-old. I grew up in a home that honored the Bible and cared about people’s eternal destiny. 

I answered a “call” to ministry as an 18-year-old college student. I started preaching in a little church when I was 20 while finishing college and seminary. I have served Jesus in Kingdom building ministry for the last 37 years. Our ministry continues to honor the Bible and care about people’s eternal destiny. One of our greatest joys is that our four children, who have withstood the difficulty of growing up in a pastor’s family, love Jesus. My wife, Tania, and I love watching them follow Jesus and grow in their faith.

A couple years after Jessie, our first daughter, was born, I wrote this song for her:

With two brothers before you,
What a joy to behold
A baby wrapped up in pink
With her hair in a bow.
In the image of your mommy
A little lady is here
And with each passing day,
These are the things we hold dear:

You can smile with your eyes
Change my mind with one touch
Sing a song about beauty
Squeeze my neck with a hug
You’re so sweet, you’re so tender
Send my heart for a whirl
You’re my princess, my Jessie…
You are daddy’s little girl.

Well the years pass so quickly
Won’t be long ‘fore you’re grown
One day we’ll hear wedding bells
And then a home of your own.
So we’ll treasure these moments
Thank Jesus every day      

For our precious little girl
And memories time can’t steal away.

We prayed for the spouses of our kids and hoped for the Biblical order…you know…first comes love, then comes marriage…you know the rest.

Based on all that we believe, Jessie took the wrong road. But I can’t wait to tell you what she found at the end of that road.

Jessie isn’t the first to take a wrong road. How many of us wish we could retake certain trips we have taken on a less than ideal pathway? One of my favorite stories in the Bible involves Peter and Jesus not long before Christ was crucified. Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for the reality of His death. In Mark 14:27, Jesus looked into the eyes of His closest friends and said: “You will all fall away.”

Peter takes a good hard look at his comrades and basically concedes that they could definitely fall away. But he is “rock” solid sure that he will not. “Even if all fall away, I will not.” Peter is full of prideful presumption, he can’t even fathom falling. It is divinely ironic that he will share the limelight that very night with a rooster! By the end of the evening, after denying Christ three times, he will have lost his strut and his cockiness. 

How does Jesus deal with Peter’s fall? Even before Peter shouts with curses his denial of Christ, Jesus makes a “can’t believe it’s true promise.” Mark 14:28 says, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Christ was promising: “I will walk the way of suffering and be nailed to a cross and put in a tomb. But after I have risen from the dead, I will also walk to where you will be at the end of your wrong road. I will be waiting for you in Galilee after you have denied me.”

I wrote a lot more about this encounter in “Scattered Sheep – For Those Prone to Wander” (You can find this on Amazon). Let me wrap this part up here by saying that Jesus is promising Peter He will be waiting for him at the end of the wrong road.

Back to our Wedlock story…Jessie took a wrong road according to God’s Word. I can’t sugar coat that and stay true to the Word of God. But I also want you to see how Christ has revealed Himself to us through this pathway.

In January of 2019, I led a retreat for the Wesley Network staff in Ocean City, NJ. That is where both of my girls, Jessie and Corrie, lived at the time. On Friday night at about midnight, Jessie called us and asked to come over. We would find out later that she had moments before taken a pregnancy test and saw that it was positive. When she got to our house, she immediately fell on her knees. With tears streaming down her face, she said: “Dad and Mom, I am so, so sorry. I know this is wrong.” Sobbing, she told us about a relationship with a man that she had broken off a month before and that she just found out she was pregnant. She just kept saying over and over again, “I am so sorry.”

I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. Some of them were selfish, some angry. The thoughts that won the night were from Jesus. I thanked Jessie for coming right to us. I still can’t believe that her first move after the pregnancy test was to find her parents. I reminded Jessie about her identity in Christ and that we are not defined by our darkness, but by Christ’s destiny for us. 

What took place that night was almost sacramental. Tania and I were privileged to lead Jessie in a prayer of repentance. It was heartfelt and real. We were able to walk with her in receiving Christ’s forgiveness. It was immediate and full. Then…this is such a miracle…we were able to pray prayer’s of blessing over this precious child. This all took place within the first hours of finding out she was pregnant. 

Jesus kept showing up on this road. Several months later, Jessie was in the hospital with bleeding. Tania and I know firsthand the pain of miscarriage. We also know from pastoring that 1 in 4 pregnancies end with this result. I felt like I could see the prognosis in the faces of the doctors and nurses. I was preparing for the worst. But that little baby just kept kicking!

On Father’s Day of 2019, I got one of the best cards I’ve ever received from Jessie. She wrote about her feelings for me and that she had decided to name this baby Richard Graham. He would be my namesake, along with another pretty good preacher named Billy. I couldn’t wait to tell my Dad the news. I made a gamble with my first question on the phone call to him, but it paid off:

“Dad, who are your two favorite preachers?” I asked.

He replied, “Well, you of course. And then Billy Graham.”

We celebrated that his newest great-grandson was named after both of them. 

From the moment Richard Graham, we call him Graham, was born, he was been one of the purest expressions of joy our family has known. In this season, Jessie and Graham are living with us. I can’t describe to you the feeling I get when he waves his arms excitedly, crinkles his nose, and smiles a great big smile just because I’ve walked through the door. 

Maybe the clearest way that I have seen Jesus on this road is through my daughter. Jessie is absolutely one of God’s favorites. She loves with a ferocity that few know. Watching her walk this path with grace and
glory has been a highlight in my life. She certainly did not dream of single-motherhood or living with us in a townhouse at this stage in her life. But she has not lost one facet of beauty in walking out her destiny in Christ Jesus. 

Jessie went down the wrong road. But what she found at the end of that road was forgiveness and grace. No…it was more than that. Jesus went ahead of her down that road. He was waiting for her there.

Wed·lock – /ˈwedˌläk/ – noun

The state of being married.

Late Old English wedlāc ‘marriage vow’, from wed ‘pledge’ (related to wed) + the suffix -lāc (denoting action).

I’ve got a new take on this term now. The etymology is from two words that basically mean “the act of making a pledge.” I still believe in the pledge of matrimony. But there are more pledges from God:

Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:4

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

You may be prone to wander and maybe you are on a wrong road right now. Keep your head up…look around you. Our Savior goes ahead of us. You can find him at the end of that road. He’s the one with a glimmer in His eye and grace in His hands. 

(Please know that I have published these thoughts with the full support of Jessica Stevenson)

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Simply Bible – The Word and the Spirit for Today #6

Thank you for joining in this Bible Study today. We are focusing on John 1:35-42 as we look to the Word together.

I hope you are ready to hear the Voice of God the Father and receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We are going to take a close look at Peter’s first encounter with Jesus.

After you listen to the message, here are three questions for you to discuss with others.

  1. Who helped bring you to Christ?
  2. What do you think Jesus sees when he looks intently at you?
  3. Would you pray and see if Jesus highlights someone you could help encounter Jesus?
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Good Friday 2020 – Wesley Network Staff

This Good Friday will certainly be one to remember! So glad that you have joined with us through this video and Bible Study. Below you will find the link for the youtube video in which Wesley Network staff will share prayer, scriptures that give the seven last sayings of Christ from the cross, and a closing message.

Here are some questions that you can use for study or discussion with others:

  1. Why was John the only disciple to stand at the cross with Jesus?
  2. Why did Jesus say that God had forsaken Him?
  3. Are you walking in the same way that Jesus did? Are you willing?

 

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