Hello and Welcome!
The last couple of weeks have been a little more silent than usual, but I’m checking back in to fill you in on what’s what around these parts including our meeting and a fellowship earlier this month.
Things are slowin’ on down after a busy season. We were scrambling around the first part of July preparing for the musical, and while we were at it, made lasting memories to look back on with a smile. I catch myself missing the fun times hanging out and working with such inspiring, creative people on something that was not just about a project. Activities with God’s family, especially ones that engage our youth, have more going on than what you see out front. Because here’s the thing—these opportunities bring us closer as true, spiritual friends.
That’s what it’s all about if you ask me.
Why I have you guys here, I’d like to say how much I appreciate Bobby Wadleigh, Deborah Wadleigh, Hannah James, and Tiffany Denson for being a part of The Bridge Crew (Everett Smith first called us the crew and it stuck). Around here, there are always fun updates, uplifting services, things to learn, positive messages, and exciting plans in the works—and we will do our very best to keep you in the loop 🙂
The Lord is good to us, and that is worth sharing!
Our Summer Meeting.
As a church, we always feel so incredibly refreshed after a meeting. Sometimes we need to unplug from the world and pay attention to God’s voice in the earth today. Good for our soul 😉
Everything felt right in our meeting from the moment it opened. You know what I mean? (Please say yes.) God put His mark on our Ministry even stronger this past year in a way that is illuminating–and no longer overshadowed. As a congregation, we love that because we benefit.
Elder talked about suffering, which of course our flesh rejects in favor of what’s comfortable and familiar. That’s why we need to be reminded.
He explained winds that are blowing today and talked about how being willing to suffer for God’s will and His name leads to unspeakable joy. Elder would later ask B. Nobles to elaborate on a particular word in a scripture. As some of you might have noticed at that moment, the Lord anointed the Ministry in a mighty way. The spirit flooded the congregation—and these three things came together in a powerful ending.
B. Bobby has a roundup of reasons to be extra thankful for true freedom and traveling the narrow way as his title describes. In case you missed either event, the Meeting or Fourth of July Fellowship, he has the details here for you, and S. Hannah made sure you have a few photos to enjoy. If you were there, then you know what’s coming!
Okay, so here you have it . . . positive thoughts and truth as you head into next week. Have an awesome afternoon! Love you all.
TRUE FREEDOM AND A NARROW WAY
(By Bobby Wadleigh)
Regulars on the bridge know that our past few posts have been focused on this year’s Onslow Christian Academy production of Pilgrim. Having just witnessed the staging of this performance, let me just start by saying that all of the work put forth by the students, alumni, and volunteers paid off.
I am glad to report the performance went off without a hitch and everyone attending was blessed!
Today we are circling back a couple of weeks to fill you in on what was happening while you were reading about the production.
A few weeks ago, Elder LaFleur called for a fellowship meeting over the July 4th holiday weekend. He is always mindful that the saints have to work and tries to schedule meetings during times that burden the people less.
Once a meeting is announced, the excitement builds.
Since this meeting was called for on a short notice, the excitement ramped up quickly. You see when Elder LaFleur calls for a meeting, it usually means that he has something that God wants him to share.
Once the meeting started, it was clear that was the case!
The meeting opened on Saturday morning in a familiar format. Sometimes Elder likes to clear the platform and speak to the church in an informal, fireside chat setting. Elder LaFleur calls this format a Key Meeting. It provides a more intimate venue and has proven very profitable over the years.
This edition will definitely yield fruit.
Elder LaFleur opened by talking about some of the social winds that are blowing in the world today and gave us clear direction on how we should walk in these times. He spoke about the broad and narrow way Christ talked about in Matthew. He differentiated the broad way from the narrow by saying the broad way makes everything acceptable and the narrow way keeps us focused on Christ.
He went on to say, by teaching the narrow way (The Gospel), it is possible to weed out those that cannot walk this path.
As he continued, he gave us guidance on how to conduct ourselves in public and at work given the times we find ourselves. He further instructed us on how to witness effectively.
Those that have never heard Elder LaFleur speak, wouldn’t know this, but he has always had a practical approach to the Bible and has a gift that allows his audience (no matter how young or old) to understand the way forward. He used this gift with great effect in discussing these matters and his message was allowed to sink in.
Part of this informal format are breaks! That’s right! About every hour we get a few minutes to stretch our legs and settle back eager to hear more.
CHANGING GEARS AND SUFFERING
Coming back from break, Elder LaFleur changed channels, but not really.
He went on to talk about suffering. Suffering, you say? Yes suffering, but not to kind that causes physical pain.
The suffering Elder LaFleur talked about was the kind of suffering that comes from have a differing opinion. Anyone who has held a different opinion than the masses should understand this kind of suffering, so I won’t linger long here, except to say that this suffering also includes stepping up and making contributions that will further God’s work in the Earth today. These contributions could be monetary, but they may require giving up your time. They might even require you to set aside your will for a while.
In the end this kind of suffering brings great joy!
Once Elder was through speaking, we took a minute and reset the church into a more “normal” formal church service. Brother Darrell sang, “I’m Alive to What He’s doing Now”, and Brother Gibbs got up to speak.
Anyone who has heard Brother Gibbs speak will know that he is firmly planted on the foundation. So it is not surprising that he delivered a great message about that foundation. He used several scriptures pointing out a common thread that ran through them: Common salvation, Common Faith, Foundation, Chief Cornerstone, and Whole Counsel. On the opposing side, he commented on, “Perverse Things…Lack of Love”. He closed out with Paul’s instruction to Timothy, “Be instant in season and out of season”.
Brother Gibbs obviously covered a lot of ground in a short period, but as Elder LaFleur pointed out, “It doesn’t always take a long time for God to do his work.”
As is tradition amongst us, we had a fellowship Saturday night and everyone who knows us, know that fellowship is code for eating. 😀
So, we did what anyone would do on the Fourth of July weekend. We fired up the grill. There were burgers, chicken, and hot dogs a plenty.
Brother Phil added pizza, nachos, and a variety of desserts and it was on.
Once everyone had their food, they found a spot to sit and added to the roar that comes from people talking, laughing, and getting know one another in a more meaningful way.
You see that is the purpose of fellowship.
It’s not a networking opportunity. It’s not about commerce or circulating money within the city. It’s about drawing strength through testimonies. It’s about finding commonalities with your brothers and sisters and knowing who you can count on in tough times. In essence, it’s about family . . . our spiritual family!
That is true fellowship and it was on display that night.
Sunday’s service started promptly at 10:00 am with a prayer. Then Brother Darrell launched into the song, “I Want to be a Part”. The spirit was so strong that the service could have gotten away from us right then and there, but the Elder knew there was more for us to hear.
The music stopped and Elder spoke briefly, then Brother Nobles was on his feet.
Having been privileged to hear Brother Nobles many times, I am always excited to hear what he has to say. Just like Brother Gibbs, Brother Nobles was raised spiritually by Elder LaFleur and the “apple” doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It was immediately apparent that God’s spirit was on Brother Nobles on that morning!
He launched into a spirit charged message about the foundation by saying, “Elder LaFleur dug the foundation locally, but it was the same foundation that Christ dug and the twelve Apostles built on”. He went on to say, “Elder has dug consistently when it wasn’t clear what was or will happen”. He further commented that we tend to look for things that we already have, but fail to recognize.
Throughout his message he reiterated themes we heard the day before. He said, “Staying on the foundation keeps us in the narrow way”. He touched on Elder’s discussion of suffering by saying, “We are willing to suffer for things we want”, and asked, “Do you want this (way)?”
Just as Brother Nobles was winding down, Elder asked him to touch on prayer. Elder set it up by saying,”My success is not about what I do; it’s about what I pray”.
That, my friends is all it took. Brother Nobles went from a spirit-filled message to a truly anointed one.
He said, “Prayer has to be effective. It’s not about how long you pray; it’s about making a connection! It’s not about the things we need; it’s about changing our mindset!” He continued that, regardless of our desires, we should pray for God’s will to be done in a situation and for the strength to accept His will.
In closing, Brother Nobles has a way of summing things up. He usually speaks in a calm, quiet tone that entices you to listen more intensely for the next few minutes. On that day, his closing remarks were along these lines: the cloud has moved once again. This move will not require us to change physical location, but the cloud has moved and we need to move with it.
He continued, “As with any move, this move will require us to pack up some things”. He asked us to think about a time we moved and packed everything up. He went on to remind us that when we pack everything up, we generally find things we no longer need and we don’t want to take to our next house.
He then ended with a call to the leave the things that are no longer profitable behind as we continue to move forward.
In the following minutes, the Holy Ghost filled the room and I am sure we will hear testimonies of lives being changed.
Every American knows about Independence Day and I am sure everyone knows some of the traditions associated with that day. They include hot dogs, apple pie, horse shoes and lots of fun.
Over the years, we have developed our own Independence Day traditions, too. For the past several years, Brother Morris and Brother John Shepard have been gracious and opened their homes to celebrate our freedom.
BUSINESS AS USUAL?
To most, our gatherings will look just like any other July Fourth party, but anytime this family gets together, it is so much more than an ordinary party.
A new comer will see a typical American celebration. Food, games, people talking, kids being kids, a guitar (or four) and did I mention food? You will see kids playing on a hot summer day and, this year, in the rain. You will see grown-ups talking. Maybe you will see the men playing a “friendly” game of bean bag toss.
So what make this party different? Well, it’s the family itself that is a little different. Sure this family is made up of people from all over the country, from different walks of life, and from diverse backgrounds, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. Diverse families are not uncommon.
SO WHAT MAKES THIS FAMILY DIFFERENT?
This is a family of a different kind. You see, this is not a party at all. This is a fellowship of the Family of God. This is the family that is named in Ephesians 3:15. To be in this family you have to be drawn by the Father and walk the narrow way that we discussed above.
Okay, I can hear you now, “We are talking about 4th of July and this guy is preaching to me?”
Nope, I’m not preaching, but there are lessons to be learned each time this family gathers.
Let’s take a look and see what we can learn.
MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK
Although we gathered at the Shepard’s, no one felt they should carry the entire workload.
If you arrived early, you would have seen brothers working together to put up tents, setting up chairs, and making ready for everyone. When it was time to eat, you may have noticed sisters serving you, making sure you found what you were looking for, and finding space for new items as they arrived.
You see, serving one another is a custom among us. It has become normal.
Looking across the yard, you would have seen a basketball goal, a volleyball net, and in the distance, a bean bag toss. Once everyone had eaten, each of those were put to full use.
Let’s watch people “play” volleyball and you may notice a few things that don’t look “normal”. You may notice that they didn’t pick teams. No one keeps score. You don’t even have to wait to play. People just jump in and knock the volley ball around. It is all about fun.
You see, we play, but we don’t compete.
THEN THE RAIN CAME
As is typical on a hot summer day in eastern North Carolina, it rained. No, it poured. Twice. But no one left.
Rather than scattering and going home, we hunkered down and rode out the storm. Maybe as we ran for cover, we got separated from the people we normally talk to, but that was okay. It gave us a chance to catch up and reminisce about past fellowships when it rained. Did I mention we live in eastern North Carolina?
Once the rain passed, the fun really began, for the kids anyway. Hmmm, kids and standing water. You guessed it. The water guns came out and (friendly) mayhem ensued.
As the kids played, the guitars came out . . . four of them, I think. Singers gathered around and others called out song requests.
Yes, a good time was had by all and then it was time for fireworks.
OF COURSE, FIREWORKS!
Sure this family is different, but we are still Americans and it IS the 4th of July. For most that means one thing. Fireworks!
Brother John and crew always enjoy putting on our annual fireworks show, and this year was one of their best!
Unfortunately, as soon as the show was over, the rains came back, and this time everyone went home, but by then the memories were forged forever.
You see, both these events were a celebration of true freedom.
While America has given us great freedom, God has truly made us free. America has afforded us the opportunity to gather freely, to believe as our convictions lead us, and to speak openly about God’s Word and His love, but God is making us free from the laws of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
When we are free from those laws that govern us, we will truly be free!
It’s a great time to be in the Body of Christ!!!