Faith, Family and Friends: The Foundations of Fouke

Faith, Family and Friends: The Foundations of Fouke Rev. Nicholas J. Kersten Director of Education and History In the October 13, 2015, edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, there is an article by Frank Fellone about recent restoration efforts in Fouke, Arkansas, to beautify and improve life in the town. The article makes clear that the people of Fouke have banded together to cooperate in recent years to purchase and renovate historic sites throughout the town under the auspices of a group called Citizens for a Better Community. The group was founded in 2006 by ten unpaid volunteers who took matters into their own hands and mobilized an entire community behind their efforts. The article highlights Fouke’s Seventh Day Baptist roots, noting that the founder of the town in 1890 was James Franklin Shaw, an SDB preacher in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as well as the distinguishing tenets of SDB life — especially the seventh-day Sabbath. As part of the restoration efforts in Fouke, a mural was commissioned which prominently includes Shaw’s image. The heritage of the town is being acknowledged even as the residents make a better future for themselves and their community. As it turns out, the values which underpin this new effort may not be a new phenomenon in Fouke’s history. Fouke’s founder, J. F. Shaw, was pastoring the Baptist church in Texarkana in 1883 when he encountered The Sabbath Outlook, an SDB publication edited by A.H. Lewis. Upon reading the publication, he became persuaded of the truth of the Sabbath and the next year withdrew from his church with 13 others to found the Texarkana, AR, SDB church. After a short time, however, it became clear that remaining in Texarkana was not an option for the little band of Sabbathkeepers as finding work became very difficult. In response, Shaw and his congregation moved to an area 16 miles south of Texarkana and founded the town of Fouke. Soon after the little colony was founded, trouble struck as economic difficulty gripped the entire region. Compounding the difficulty, SDB settlers from elsewhere had arrived to the area just before the economic stress arrived, raising tensions. Shaw wrote to the Sabbath Recorder...

Expectancy and Agenda

Expectancy and Agenda Rev. Carl Greene SDB Church Hebron, PA   Go back to the year 1985ish with me. Picture a boy named Carl along with his brother opening Christmas presents with their parents. Wonderful expectancy filled the room as the boys dreamed of what was inside the packages. The parents swelled with joy as the boys celebrated the good gifts they received. Then, “it” happened. After all the gifts were open, said boy named Carl exclaimed, “Aren’t there any more?” A quick side note is of importance here — now that I have been through the ordination process this past year, I realize that perhaps my response was not entirely appropriate? What happened was that I had bridged the gap between expectancy and agenda. Expectancy is looking forward to what is being given. Agenda is when you have a certain amount or type of loot you want to haul in. Expectancy and agenda can be easy to distinguish with Christmas gifts — but perhaps not so easy with mission and ministry. Agenda has a way of pulling us off course to settle for good, rather than God’s preferred best. Be honest. When we get involved in ministry and mission — when we say “Here I am” to participate in youth group, or worship ministry, or Bible study, or whatever happens to be your passion to serve — is it with expectancy or agenda? Is your agenda a certain number of people, a certain level of study, certain outcomes, that people will acknowledge how great the group is, that you will achieve some sort of success? Those are certainly not bad things in and of themselves — but they are good compared to God’s best. The “Here I am” phrase to make ourselves available to God’s service is a dangerous one. In Genesis 22:1, Abraham says “Here I am” prior to being told to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice. In Exodus 3:4, Moses says “Here I am” prior to God telling him to go to Egypt and lead the people — even though he does not want to. In 1 Samuel 3:4-8, Samuel says “Here I am” and God tells Samuel a...

God’s Purpose For People – Through His People

God’s Purpose For People – Through His People by Garfield Miller, Missions Coordinator   “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16) Earlier this year I enrolled in the course Perspectives on World Christian Movement and found that it was primarily about purpose. As human beings, we rationalize and act upon an understanding of God’s reason for us becoming Christians and our purpose as Christians. The reality is that God’s actions and interactions are purpose-filled and we are meant to live in His purpose. Between Genesis 1 and 11, we find the narrative of the earliest timeline of the human race: its birth (creation — Genesis 1-2); its degeneration (through sin — Genesis 3); and its division into different language groups (Babel, Genesis 11:1-9). God’s actions in these situations were carried out with love and mercy, though not always seen on the face of it. As a result of man’s willful disobedience, God expelled them from paradise and later divided them into diverse groups as ways of retarding their actions in pursuit of significance in and for themselves. As a part of His restorative plan, God later commissioned Abram to initiate the process of reuniting all peoples of the earth together, unto Himself. An exercise in hope, significance and purpose. God’s covenant with Abram in Genesis 12 disclosed His purpose for every people. In making the covenant with Abram, God promised to bless him and his descendants (seed). Abram and his seed were to then serve as a channel through which God’s blessings could flow to the rest of the world. “…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you,” Genesis 12:3b. We have much to be thankful for. God’s purpose and work is to bless the world with His salvation, hence, “God…sent his son Jesus to us firstly to bless us,” Acts 3:26. Though not all promises are immediately fulfilled, God is steadfast in love and faithfulness. Abraham and Sarah died “not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off,” Hebrews 11:13a. Although Isaac was born to them...

In Praise of Spiritual Disciplines

In Praise of Spiritual Disciplines by Nicholas Kersten, Director of Education & History You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run. — Augustine of Hippo in Confessions The Christian life is measured by cycles of struggle and growth. Each of us experiences (and should expect to experience) periods of struggle which cause us to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ, just as storms and drought cause plants to sink deeper roots into the ground. But how do we facilitate this growth, and how do we prepare for the times of testing? The answer, for followers of Jesus Christ for most of the history of the Church, has been through the practice of spiritual disciplines. Put simply, spiritual disciplines are activities that followers of Christ undertake repeatedly, with perseverance and intent, which God uses to grow their relationship with Him. Over the course of years, faithfully seeking the Lord through the disciplines helps us to be formed spiritually and made strong so that we have the resources we need to endure difficulties, testing, and grief. There is something less than full agreement on which activities are proper spiritual disciplines, but most of the lists include the following disciplines: • Solitude (and Silence), which is taking time alone in the quiet with the LORD, actively removing distractions so that we can focus all of our attention on Him. • Fasting, which is foregoing of physical food as an act of dependence on God for sustenance. • Simplicity (or Frugality), which is the act of learning to live with less so that you can be more generous with the resources God has given you, and be thankful even with less “stuff.” • Chastity, which is the foregoing of sexual thought or contact to seek greater intimacy with God. • Sacrifice, which is service to others, often in secret, done beyond what would be normal, to the point where it costs us something real, again as an act of dependence on God. • Study, which is...

It’s Christmas Whether You Like it or Not

It’s Christmas Whether You Like it or Not

Nov 24, 2015

It’s Christmas Whether You Like it or Not by Jeremy Evans Seattle Area SDB Church The badger dozed in his easy chair while a knot of lightwood blazed in the fireplace. Great flurries of snow swept across the countryside. Every once in a while, when an icy current whistled around the windowpanes, he rousted from his slumber and peeped through the window at the snow. Sometimes he would hear the jingle of harness bells and snatches of merry laughter as travelers shushed along in pony carts. Bah, Christmas Eve. Everybody hurrying hither and yon, over hill and dale, off to one party or another. Thinking of merry-making, and nog-guzzling, and hall-decking gave the old badger a stomachache. No sir, he would never be caught at a Christmas Eve party, with all of the noise and fuss, for he was Emmanuel Grimsley, the grumpiest badger in the entire countryside. He had a reputation to uphold. Just as Mister Grimsley had closed his peepers for a snooze, there came a sharp knock at the door. Good Heavens above, who would come knocking at this time of night? Feeling very put out, he hauled himself up and muttered all the way to the door. Whoever it was had to be the brazenest creature imaginable to come unannounced, a-ratta-tat-tattering upon his door like some kind of crazy woodpecker. The knock came again. “Alright, alright,” muttered the badger. As soon as he turned the knob, a wintry blast flung the door wide open. There on the porch stood a chipmunk grinning up at him. “Merry Christmas, Mister Grimsley,” said the chipmunk. His little wool jacket and cap were dusted with snow and tiny icicles danced on the ends of his whiskers while he braced against the wind. “What is it this time, Spunkmeyer,” grumbled the badger. “Alms for the penniless again?” The chipmunk removed his cap reverently and explained, “Well Mister Grimsley, Sir, we’re on our way home after cutting down a Christmas tree and we got caught in the blizzard.” Mister Grimsley glowered down at the little creature and wanted very much to tell him what a cotton-brained idea it had been to go out on a night...