Happy WV Day, also known as, “Happy No Mask Day,” per the Governor. While many have discontinued mask-wearing prior to today, I guess it is official today. I just mention it because it does feel as if it is a new day. It feels as if it is time to put the pains of the recent past behind us. It seems like time to “move on,” and like there is a shift in focus. I’m up for a new thing. I’m ready to hear about something new, to dream about something new, to be consumed by something new. How about you?
Isaiah 43:18-21 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (desert). 20 …I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (desert), to give drink to MY PEOPLE, MY CHOSEN, 21the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
Anybody feel this morning like you are in the wilderness or wasteland? Like you are walking in a desert? We can go through seasons of life that can drain us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’m coming out of what I would call Covid-fatigue. For me, it feels like I have been walking through mud, like I have been living life in slow motion and have been fighting to move in a forward direction. I’m someone who likes to see progress, and life has been a lot harder in recent months which has made progress more difficult to quantify and experience. Covid came with restrictions that tied my hands in some ways.
We have had more church members pass away during this past 18 months than at any other time in my ministry with you. Saying “goodbye” to many prayer warriors, workers, encouragers, worshipers, has been really hard. Those losses have added to this wilderness and wasteland time for me. Many of you have lost loved ones, lost time with loved ones, lost your office and now work from home, lost your job, lost in-person learning, lost confidence in being out and about and doing life with people, lost out on vacations and travel, lost the stability of predictability and a routine, and perhaps you have even just felt lost spiritually or emotionally. I believe God says, “It’s time to move on.”
You know what has gotten me through this season? You know what has given me comfort and a forward look? Two things: Number one, God says I belong to Him. He calls us “My People, My Chosen.” He says earlier in Isaiah 43:1, But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
If you are in Christ, you are God’s treasured possession. You belong to Him. You matter to Him. God isn’t going to let you die in the desert because you are HIS! In fact, not only is God not going to lie you die in the desert, but second, He’s going to do a new thing while you are there. God doesn’t have to wait until we are out of the desert in order to do something new. His power isn’t restricted to optimal circumstances. He can work anywhere, at any time. This desert experience with God is the stuff of miracles. To receive provision in the wilderness and wasteland, to have streams appear where everything is dead and dry? This is what God can do. I have come today to make sure you know that God is with you, and that He is the One who can create something new and wonderful, something beautiful, even in a situation that seems hopeless or barren.
There are times when something new seems risky or unwanted because you are comfortable with the way things are, but when you find yourself in the wilderness or wasteland as many of us have during the Pandemic, you are eager for something new. This is know: Life with Jesus is never static. He is always on the move, and He is always up to something new. That’s where I want to be. I want to live on the edge with Jesus. Do you think that God might take us into the desert once in a while, so that we become ready to and open for the new thing He has in store for us? Could the desert be preparation for something wonderful!? It was for Jesus, wasn’t it? We read in Matthew 4:1 that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. This was an intentional move. Jesus was being prepared for the ministry He would take on, for the tenacity He would need to have, for the connection with the Father that He would share and demonstrate, for the power He would exert over and over and over again. The effective ministry of Jesus was prepared for in those desert moments.
I have spent time listening for the Spirit’s voice this past Spring, and I want to share with you some of the new things God is up to here at TVCOG. Just open your heart and listen for the Spirit’s voice as I speak. I know many of us have had a sense of loss as we have had to watch Pastor Brenda step away from ministry to care for her husband, Kelly. She was more than capable at her post as she led our Discipleship Ministry, ran our office, and assisted with pastoral care. Her departure has left us in need of help.
As I have thought and prayed about how to staff for our needs and to staff for the new thing I believe God wants to do here, God has led me to fill our office right now with not just one person, but with three awesome servants. Mary Beth Norman (SHOW PICTURE) and Carolyn Wright (SHOW PICTURE) each take a day to volunteer to do whatever is needed in the office, and Susan McGough (SHOW PICTURE) has stepped in three days a week to do some of the database management, bulletin prep, scheduling, online support and routine ordering that we need done. We will be adding Vicky Casto (SHOW PICTURE) to our office helpers very soon as well. Office support was one of Pastor Brenda’s three roles that is now covered.
During the Covid season, God brought an insightful and passionate Bible teacher to us. She began by watching online first and then was led by the Holy Spirit to join our fellowship. Her name is Kim Miller (SHOW PICTURE). She is going to be assuming the leadership of our Discipleship ministry as a volunteer. Kim will oversee Sunday School, Small Groups, and the Discipleship of new believers. That is the second piece of Pastor Brenda’s assignment that will be covered.
How cool is God, that before we had a need to replace the Discipleship piece of Pastor Brenda’s job, God sent Kim to us? He was making a way in the desert! He was providing ahead of the time we would have a need. Kim is a life-long student of the Bible and is devoted to the service of the Lord. Born and raised in West Virginia, Kim is the founder and president of Woman at the Well Ministries, a Bible-teaching ministry that is entering its 18th year. Kim is a licensed minister and a certified life coach. She has served as a chaplain for over 14 years. Professionally, Kim is a trained biologist who teaches leadership and mentoring to senior level scientists for the federal government. The author of Angel Grams, Waiting Upon the Lord, and A Year in the Scriptures, Kim is a dedicated Bible theologian and author deeply committed to walking alongside others to enable them to deepen their personal relationship with Christ. In her free time, Kim enjoys boating, fishing, sports, and being with family and friends. We’re glad to welcome Kim to the leadership team.
As I spent time thinking about what other new things God wanted to do here at TVCOG, I thought about the momentum we had going into 2020. Attendance was climbing. We had a vision for sports ministries and other outreach that Covid restricted. This Spring I began to dream about the new things God wanted to do to reach the community through our facility and outdoor campus. We had a visioning committee meet, and the result was the hiring of a master planner to redo a plan for the entire 74 acres we own. I hope later this Fall we will have a rendering of the work that will commence in the next few months.
Seeing the potential for our building to be used even more than it is, and to have outreach that is systematic and ongoing rather than simply a flurry of events, which is what I have had the time to develop and promote, I believe our next strategic step is the hiring of someone with a vision to connect our community to Christ in even more strategic ways, to truly move us to becoming a Community Center. The new position I want to share with you is that of Community and Care Pastor. The focus of this person’s role is to expand our reach into the community through all kinds of outreach through community partnerships, sports ministries and programs that meet practical needs.
God has led us to a candidate that has come highly recommended. His name is Rev. Rawlin Kegley. (SHOW PICTURE) Rawlin grew up in the Church of God as a pastor’s kid in Florida and Louisiana and accepted Christ as Savior at a young age. He began exploring his relationship with God during high school in Ohio and felt a call to ministry while attending Anderson University. During his time at Anderson, Rawlin played baseball for the Ravens and competed against high level competition in both the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Rawlin met and married his best friend, Jyllian (also a Church of God pastor’s kid), in 2013 after studying ministry at Anderson. Rawlin then served as a youth pastor for 7 years in Indiana. After a medical mission trip to Zimbabwe, Africa, Rawlin decided to pursue a nursing degree to help position the local Church to meet a practical need and further its evangelistic impact through medical outreach ministries. Rawlin’s wife, Jyllian, works remotely, part-time in an administrative role for Church of God ministries. They currently reside in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Rawlin’s calling is to help bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ and further explore the love of God while being led by the Holy Spirit. His passion is practical, wholistic and community-focused evangelism through medicine, nutrition and sports. Rawlin loves the Church and desires to help the Church of God be the embodiment of Christ. He is excited about the ministry of TVCOG and our passion for the community. Rawlin enjoys spending time with his wife and playing and watching “Bluey” with his two daughters, Ayyah and Myrah. He loves being outside, playing sports, creating, woodworking, cornbread and all things Florida Gators.
In addition to the outreach and community focus, it is my vision that Rawlin will help me with the pastoral care needs that Pastor Brenda also provided support for, making that the third piece of her assignment to be covered. I believe the addition of Rawlin Kegley to our team is another new thing God is preparing us for. The Kegleys will be with us on July 4th and will share for a few minutes in our service. They will be with us through the evening fireworks to meet those of you who can be present. Please pray for the Kegleys and us as we continue to be led by God’s Spirit in this process.
That’s a lot of new, right? People stepping up, a new position, people coming on board. But wait, there’s more. I need to give Pastor Jed an opportunity to share something new that God is doing in his life.
Over three years ago while we were sitting in Boston Children’s hospital waiting for our daughter, Gracie, to come out of her second brain surgery, I remember thinking to myself “What is the purpose for all this pain?” At the time I couldn’t see the point or purpose of any of it. It made absolutely no sense to me. Spiritually, I was weak. Emotionally, I was crushed. Physically, I was exhausted. During this time, I lost focus on what was most important in my life and the area that was hit the hardest was my marriage.
Not very many people know, but that summer I actually was in the process of filing for divorce. I couldn’t find answers to all these questions, so I wanted to give up. During the process I remember sitting there in an office, broken, beaten down and angry because I wasn’t getting the answers I was looking for. Then it hit me! I wasn’t finding the answers because I wasn’t asking the right questions.
So, I began to write down hundreds of questions on how to mend my marriage, strengthen my faith, and most importantly, I finally asked the question “How can God this pain as a purpose?” Over the last three years, Marsha and I began asking the right questions for our marriage, for our parenting and for us as Christ followers. We are clicking on all cylinders! It’s like our Marriage just began!
A couple months ago I shared this story with someone in a restaurant that I met while traveling to Virginia’s sate youth convention. I was unaware that he was a Christian Marriage and parenting counselor. After I shared with him, he looked at me and said, “Your pain now has a purpose.”
Marsha and I have been asked to publish those questions in a book as well as share our story at different marriage conferences and seminars around the country. Even though it’s hard to share so many intimate details about our marriage with others, we now know that the pain we endured was for a reason.
Sadly, this will be my last summer as the youth pastor here at TVCOG. On August 1st we will begin transitioning into our new marriage and family ministry called “Where we began” Ministries. This is also the name of our book that should be out by the end of 2021. We are not leaving the area! WV is our home and TVCOG is our family. We ask that you keep those prayers coming as we begin this new ministry. Love and Blessings.
Jed and Marsha are super examples of what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit. Even in the desert experiences of life, they held tightly to the hand of God. They trusted Him with their story, and guess what, God not only wrote a story, He wrote a book AND He opened the door for an entire NEW ministry. And He did it IN the desert! The desert may be unwanted, but it isn’t wasted. It takes faith to leave something you love to embrace the new thing God is calling you to do, but Jed and Marsha are people who listen to and walk with the Spirit of God. We can trust that God is in what is happening, even though it could feel like another loss for us as a church.
Just as God has a plan for Jed and Marsha, so too, God has a plan for us here at TVCOG. I’m hopeful that as we work to transition Rawlin and Jyllian into place, we will be able to follow that with news of who God might be bringing to help us with our youth ministry. Listen, God was ready for all of this, and He has been readying people to meet our need.
Be assured that God always knows what He is doing. If you are going to be one who gets ready for the new thing God wants to do in your life, you have to change your focus.
If Jed and Marsha had been focused on the woes of their circumstances instead of the will of God, they would never have been ready for the new thing God had in store for them. Too many believers are letting their circumstances control their feelings and their faith. You need to separate your feelings and your faith. They are not one in the same. It is OK to feel what is part of the human experience, whether discouragement or sadness, but know this: It is how you view God in the midst of the desert and not your feelings that will determine how you come out on the other side. Get a revelation of Jesus. Be reminded that He went through a desert experience to prepare Him for the greatest ministry the world has ever seen. Isaiah says, “Don’t dwell on the former things. Don’t dwell on the past.” Don’t dwell on what Covid has done, don’t dwell on your pain, dwell on what God can do.
Not only do we need to quit letting our circumstances control our feelings and our faith, but We need to exercise fresh faith in the ability of God to do something new. Step out of the boat today. Step beyond what you can see in the natural. Reach for something new. Ask God to show you something new. Faith cannot be exercised by just believing something; but it is exercised as you step out to do something. Isaiah said, “I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it?” God wants you to picture the possibilities for your personal life today. He wants you to have a better quality of relationships. He wants a better marriage for you. He wants healing for you. He wants stability for you. He wants joy for you. He wants you to know Him better. He wants peace for you. He wants you to be free of anxiety and fear so you can enjoy life. He wants you to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He wants your kids to be saved. He wants you to have what you need. You need to perceive it. You need to believe it. You need to walk towards it. You need to start picturing the possibilities instead of all of the problems. What is burdensome to you now, what is bothering you now, what you wish would end now may be the exact preparation you need for the new thing God wants to ready you for. You can resist it, or you can trust God in it and keep walking by faith.
Too many believers have quit walking by faith and have given up on God just because they walk through a desert time. Too many believers have quit believing the report of the Lord and have believed the report of their feelings. Luke 10:17-19 tells me that Jesus has given me authority over every power of the enemy, and nothing shall in any way harm me. Romans 8:28 tells me that even the desert will serve the purposes of God and will be for my good. Jed and Marsha have this opportunity BECAUSE of the time they spent in the desert. While they wouldn’t have wanted to have walked through those difficult moments, it was those moments that have made possible this moment in time.
God is at work. He speaks confidently about His involvement in our lives in Isaiah 43:19: I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (desert). He didn’t say, “I’ll try.” He didn’t say, “I hope I can make something good happen.” He said, “I am!” Be encouraged. The same God who has worked to move these volunteers into place, the same God who has been preparing Rawlin Kegley to help us with outreach and care, the same God who was getting Jed and Marsha ready for a traveling ministry, He is at work in your situation. I will close with this: What you believe will determine what you receive. Only those who choose to see what God is up to will go where God is leading.
Isaiah 43:18-21 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (desert). 20…I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (desert), to give drink to MY PEOPLE, MY CHOSEN, 21the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.