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Veteran's Day Sunday

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November 12, 2017

Veteran’s Day Service

Many of our veterans participated in the service today, giving announcements, leading prayers, and recounting their individual stories. James Toczko recognized everyone present who had served in any branch of the U.S. Military. He also recognized the families of servicemen, calling them an integral but little-recognized branch of the service. (I have to admit, I liked that, being the daughter of a Navy vet.) There was even a 92 year old WWII veteran in the congregation. It was heart-warming to honor these very special people.

After Pastor Alex York interviewed two of our own beloved Gateway veterans, Tim Walker and Dennis Fisher, we watched a video about the experience of Lt. Colonel Brian Birdwell, a high school buddy of Pastor Alex and his wife, Jill.

Currently serving as a Texas state Senator, Colonel Birdwell was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. He was burned so badly from the crash of a hijacked jet into the heart of the Pentagon that he was not expected to survive. On top of his grave injuries, all Med-Evac helicopters were grounded that day along with all air traffic across the country, slowing down emergency treatment he desperately needed.

Brian Birdwell said the hardest thing he had to do that day, after the Hospital Chaplain helped him to understand that he was dying and led him in a final prayer, was to say goodbye to his young son. Later, when he had miraculously recovered, he saw that impossibly difficult moment as a glimpse into what it must have been like for the Father to say goodbye to His Son, Jesus, when Jesus was sent to Earth to die on the cross. “I earned my Purple Heart stepping out of the men’s rest room in the Pentagon on 9-11,” Colonel Birdwell said. “Jesus Christ earned His Purple Heart by stepping out of the perfection of heaven.”

After the video, Pastor Ed said that we recognize our military on Veteran’s Day because they represent the right way to serve our country. He went on to explain: God is not a Republican, nor is He a Democrat. God is not an American. So how should we, as Christians, as Christ-followers, view America?

Psalm 137: 1-4 is a lament by the Israelites during the time around 597 B.C. when they were taken as captives to Babylon. They had to live in a foreign land far from their beloved home and it was breaking their hearts. In Jeremiah 29:4-14, Jeremiah’s word from God to the exiles is recorded. Here, God commands the Israelites to settle down, plant gardens, marry and have children. He urges them to pursue peace and prosperity in the land to which they had been transplanted. He promises them they will someday be returned to their true home.

We as Christians are like these exiles. This is not our true home. We live in a culture that is sometimes hostile to our faith and worship. This culture is not our own.

We sometimes lose sight of this truth in our comfortable northern Virginia setting. Twenty years ago, Pastor Ed surveyed the residents of this area. Knocking on doors, he asked questions. What he learned was that people around here generally like their lives; they just want something a little better. But for the most part, they are comfortable. We are also comfortable—perhaps too comfortable for exiles!

So how should we view America? We need to remember we live in the “in-between” times. We are between the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the end of the Earth. In Jeremiah the word of the Lord remains true today. We need to work for the peace and prosperity of our country, pray for all those in our sphere of influence and for our leaders, and look forward to one day returning to our true home.

We celebrate the veterans and military service people among us because they are fulfilling this charge. They seek peace and prosperity on behalf of all of us. America is a free country, perhaps freer than any other country on this Earth now and throughout history. This is largely due to the service and sacrifice of our military. Their sacrifices represent the right way to serve a culture.

Let us re-dedicate ourselves to being fully alive in serving today’s culture. And let’s honor our veterans who are a shining example of such service. We serve our country to bring as much goodness and glory to those around us until the time when we are called to our true home.


Posted by Evie Showers with

Resilience - Live with the End in Sight

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Pastor Ed planned something truly special for us as he continued his current series on “Resilience - Living a resilient life!” The service itself was a bit more somber than usual as Tom shared his current battle with cancer. It was a beautiful and holy time. An opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes of a private battle; literally for life. 

Thank you, Tom, for your courage, your faith, and, most of all, for your willingness to allow us to see behind the curtain just a little. Yes! It was a truly Holy time.

Ed then transitioned to the theme of this week’s message. “Resilient people live with the end in sight.” His reference verses were Hebrews 11:13-16 where the writer reminds us that the “great cloud of witnesses” he speaks about in Hebrews did not actually see or experience the full promises of God but only were able to glimpse them from a distance. Even so, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that they were looking ahead in anticipation of the promise; resting in the assurance of who God is and his faithfulness to bring all things to completion.

Ed reminded us that this earth is not our home and that we are only passing through on our way to receive the promises and rewards of the Kingdom of God in its fullness. As Hebrews puts it we are “foreigners and strangers” on earth. Ed noted that, in 100 years, everyone in the room will have died in this world and, in fact, it may be that someone who was in the room might not make it to next Sunday.

While this may seem morbid to some, Ed used it to encourage us not to hold onto this world too tightly. We are looking forward to our true home, our eternal home at, as Jesus called it in Matthew 19, “the renewal of all things.” We are not to keep our eyes on the next promotion, the next new car, the next trip to our favorite place, or even our next episode of our favorite TV show or the next game of our favorite sports team. Yes, not even to the birth of our next child or grandchild.

Absolutely, we are to celebrate many of these. We can even enjoy them immensely but in reality they are not our goal, they will not and cannot make us “happy. ” To ensure our ability to live out a resilient life our eyes are to be fixed on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith,” the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our redeemer, sustainer and the true end of everything including our lives. Our eyes, our hearts, and our greatest desire is to be as the saints of Hebrews longed for the coming of Jesus to restore, renew and redeem.

I get it. I too get wrapped around the axle about any number of things in my life that appear to be and, many times are, important and may have great immediate meaning. But I find that when I look to those things for the source of my happiness or contentment, instead of looking forward to the Joy set before me, I end up striving. Trying to make it all happen myself and, honestly, that is never a path that ends well for me.

God has been providing a theme for me over the last year or so, one that he has reiterated in Ed’s message this week … “I have this, Ray.” Not condemning or angry but gentle and as a simple matter of fact. And so, as Ed reminded us this week my prayer once again becomes … “My Father in the heavens, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come and your will be done, here on earth … as it is in the heavens.” Come Lord Jesus! Come!

To heal, to redeem, to restore and, yes, to renew! Godspeed everyone. Have a great week!



Posted by Ray Schmidt with