Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

I am going to say this as gently as possible; please accept it in the spirit that it is offered.

Please do not thank a veteran this weekend. We have our day in November. This weekend is for our friends, our brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives in the cause of freedom.

When you thank us, as sincere as it is, it reminds us that we came home, while they did no...t. Somehow, for us, it lessens the solemnity of the day and heightens our survivor guilt.

We appreciate your gratitude. We are embarassed by it, but we appreciate it. But please, please, this weekend, remember it is not about service, it is about sacrifice.

And while willing, we did not make that sacrifice. . .

Friday, January 13, 2012

This Sunday we will continue our series How Firm a Foundation on the spiritual disciplines.  Already we have covered the two Sacraments of the Church: Communion and Baptism.  This Sunday we will focus on prayer and intimacy with God.

 In the past I have shared with you some very concrete ways to pray: 

1.  Memorized prayers.  Prayers like the Lord’s Prayer, St. Patrick's Breastplate, or other memorized prayers have an important place in our prayer life.  Not all prayer needs to be spontaneous.  Remember, Jesus as a Jew would have prayed the Shema daily.  If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us!

2. A.C.T.S. of prayer.  ACTS is an acronym that stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  We come into God’s presence remembering who He is and praising Him for His greatness; we confess that we have failed to be the people God calls us to be; we thank Him for His blessings, and we pray for the world and those who are hurting.

3.  Breath prayers.  These are prayers that can be prayed in one breath.  I often hop on my motorcycle, drive around our community and pray for the families in their homes, the people I see in our community, our police and firefighters, whatever else God leads me to pray for.

4. Contemplative or Centering Prayer is what brings me the most peace in my prayer life.  It is a way of resting in God’s presence without speaking.  I often do this in my church study, the door closed, with some spiritual or instrumental music playing in the background.

This week I will not so much be talking about the nuts and bolts of praying as I will be talking about how Jesus prayed and some of the words of correction he has for the way we pray sometime.  I hope you will join us in one of our five worship services as we think through what it means to be able to listen and speak with God and enjoy that intimacy.

Father, we want to spend some time with you.  Help us to hear your voice, to know your desires for us, and to be the children you want us to be.  What we want, most of all is to be in a deep, loving relationship with you, and to please you in what we say and do.  Thank you for our brother Jesus, who teaches us through word and example how to do just that.  This we ask in his name.  Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Czech Republic

Jeff Jernigan and I are currently in the Czech Republic for our annual pilgrimmage to our sister church in Jihlava and the History Makers and Christian to the Core Conferences in Malenovice.

For ten years McEachern has had a relationship with the congregation of the Methodist Church in Jihlava.  Many of our members have traveled to the Czech Republic to lead lead English Camps, Family Camps, weddings, and develop relationships with these brothers and sisters.  For the past four years I have come here to preach and assist in leading conferences for the International Leadership Institute.  I forget how much I love being here until I return.

We are currently in the village of Malenovice at the foot of Lysa Hora, the tallest mountain in the Beskydy range.  It is early fall here; much earlier than we usually travel to this part of the world.  Last year we were here in late November, just before Thanksgiving.  The year before we were here in early October, but got three feet of snow!  This year the weather has been sunny and warm, but after a front moved through with some rain yesterday we are not experiencing clear, sunny, cool weather.  It is heaven compared to the summer we have had in Atlanta with ninety days of ninety plus temperatures - a new record.

Aside from the beauty of the place, there is also the beauty of the people.  These are some seriously dedicated Christians.  The Czech remains one of the most atheistic countries in the world - 40% of its population identifies themselves as atheist, while only 3% describe themselves as Protestant.  There are few, if any, cultural Christians here - it is simply too difficult and the downside too steep to be lukewarm.

This is the fourth year I've taught here, and the second year helping to lead History Makers.  History Makers is made up of young adult Christians who want to reclaim their country and continent for Jesus.  Our job is to help them gain some skills in order to be effective leaders.  Being with these young adult Christians refreshes my soul.

And then, it's just good to get away and spend some time with God and fellow brothers and sisters.  I have much more time here for Bible reading and meditation.  We have some great impromptu conversations about theology and ecclesiology with these young folks, some of whom are pastors and some seminary students.  Even with the schedule of teaching, the long days (13+ hours) and the time difference, I find myself re-energized and peaceful.

There is another conference starting today where Jeff and I will also teach while still teaching History Makers.  A group from Poland will arrive and we will help teach Christian to the Core.  These folks are "E-Coaches" who talk with people after they have made a commitment to Christ via the Internet (check out

For more information about The International Leadership Institute check out

Please pray for us as we finish up here tomorrow and start the long trip back early Saturday morning.

Friday, September 2, 2011

This weekend we celebrate Labor Day. The first Labor Day was held in New York City on September 5, 1882. In 1894 the US Congress named the first Monday of September as the official date that Labor Day would be recognized in DC and the US territories. The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. Today the holiday is primarily seen as an end of summer celebration. (Thanks to the Department of Labor website for this helpful historical summary!)

But what does God have to say about Labor?

First, labor is a gift of God and was part of God’s original plan for humanity. Before the fall, work existed! In Genesis we read, “The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (2.15) As we will learn on Sunday, work is not a four letter word.

Labor, however, like everything else, became corrupted after the fall. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground;” (Genesis 3.17-19a).

Our work, however, can be used to bring glory to God. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3.17)

I hope you enjoy your day off on Labor Day. More than that I hope you enjoy and give thanks to God for giving your hands work to do. In all we do in offices, classrooms, or in the open fields may we do it as if we are doing it to the Lord.

Lord God, we give you thanks for the work you have given us to do. May we treat our customers, students, co-workers and teachers as if they are you. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Natural Evil

I was sitting in a large ballroom with 400 of my closest friends yesterday when I felt it; I knew exactly what it was. I leaned over to my friend and whispered “earthquake”. Sure enough, a few seconds later we were on the streets of Baltimore waiting for the tremors to end and get the “all clear” to re-enter the Baltimore Hilton.

Tomorrow we fly down to Orlando to lead a retreat. Can you say “Hurricane Irene”?

When natural disasters strike we often wonder where God is in the mix. Does God cause these things to happen? If so, why? Is God helpless to prevent these things from happening? If so, is God really omnipotent? Is this just the way the world is? Or is it a result of some kind of evil? Here are some of the ways others have described it.

1. Natural disasters are God’s punishment on the wicked. Undoubtedly you have heard someone say that AIDS is God’s punishment on the gay community or that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to clean out New Orleans. But then again, what about infants who contract the HIV virus or innocents who drown in NOLA? Not very satisfying to say God is just, but those folks are just “collateral damage”.
2. Others say God allows these things to happen so that good can come from it. Take a look at the Church’s response to natural disasters throughout history. We step up to the plate and become the visible presence of Christ in the world. That’s good stuff! People come to Christ through our ministrations and we have the opportunity to flex our missional muscles. But do we really serve a Heavenly Father who will cause death and misery to some of his children so that other children can do good deeds? I don’t think that is the God our Bible teaches us about.

Instead, I think these natural disasters are a result of our fallen state. If you read the third chapter of Genesis you will see that in the fall we become estranged not only from God, but also each other, ourselves, and creation. Simply put, before the fall there were no natural disasters. And to add hope to this message, when Christ returns in final glory and puts all things right again, once again there will be no estrangement between us and God’s creation and hence, no natural disasters.

You and I live in the “in between times”. We live between the fall and the final consummation of God’s kingdom. So, let’s not grow weary in doing good. Let others see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Things are certainly changing in the Higgins household. Three years ago we sent our oldest, Bo, off to Reinhardt University in Waleska, GA. For the past two summers he has stayed on campus, taken classes and worked. But, we still had three teens at home with our twins and a young man, Dekarius, who lived with us for a little over a year. We moved Dekarius down to Florida last month where he will live, work, and next year attend a local college. Many of you know that Chris left July 5th for boot camp at lovely Ft. Jackson, SC. He’ll graduate in September and go to Ft. Meade, MD for additional training. Carley leaves for Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville at the end of this week. Next week, Pam and I will be empty nesters!

This will certainly be a new chapter in our lives. I know we’ll miss their presence, energy, clutter, and friends dropping by. Dinner will be more of a challenge to prepare as I move from preparing for an always undetermined number of adults and teens to just the two of us. And I know the dinner table will be a bit lonely for a while. But I also know we are looking forward to some of the changes that are coming.

And that’s pretty much life, isn’t it? Our post-modern culture is one of quickly accelerating change. And change is good, but sometimes painful. It has been said that we are either growing or dying, and growth requires change. Think of all the change in McEachern through the years. We moved from a wooden structure to the brick chapel. In 1990 we built the current sanctuary. We embraced new technology like indoor plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, and video. The “old guard” made room for a new generation over and over again through the years so the congregation could keep moving forward. Each generation struggled to be faithful to the Gospel in the context of the changing culture and that led to what we now know as the church we love. As the old preachers like to say, “We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us”. Thank goodness those who went before us embraced those changes.

The good news in the midst of sometimes bewildering change is that God remains the same. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13.8). With all the changes going on in our house these days that may just become my favorite Bible verse for a while.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Doesn't Anyone Read the Parable of the Good Samaritan Anymore?

This past Sunday Pam and I thought we would take a drive. It was a beautiful day - sunny and warm. The perfect day to put the top down on the Miata and explore the Georgia backroads. So, after three worship services we dashed home, changed clothes, gassed up, and headed out thinking we would make it to Newnan and grab a bite there before heading to parts unknown.

That was the plan anyway.

We got stuck behind someone going slow, r-e-a-l slow. And we couldn't see much, being low to the ground and all. We were stuck for a long time. You know the drill: two lane country highway, few passing zones, and everytime we hit a zone there were cars coming from the other direction.

Finally, we got lucky. I zipped into the left lane, punched it, and then BANG, immediately hit the largest pothole in the state of Georgia. The car limped to the intersection we were approaching. I turned onto the four lane divided highway, pulled over, and got out to inspect the damage.

The front driver's side tire was as flat as they come - a big ugly gash in the sidewall. Oh, you remember we were in the Miata? Yeah, the little cars that don't come with a spare; instead, you get a can of sealant and compressed air. That is all well and good for a puncture, but does nothing for a two inch hole in the sidewall.

Thank goodness for technology. We grabbed the GPS, hit "help" then "where am I?" We were in the middle of nowhere, but it said "Fairburn". Next step, pull out the iPhone, get the Internet, Google "Fairburn Towing". It was a busy day, but they said they could get to us within the hour.

For fifty-five minutes we watched a stream of cars pass by. They stopped at the stoplight and looked at us. Their heads swiveled to look at us as they accelerated through the intersection heading on their way. Dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, heading back from lunch after church, they looked at us. And for nearly an hour, not one person stopped.

Now, this was not some six foot four, three hundred ound, scraggly-bearded guy with a broken down pickup truck with a "Kill 'Em All and Let God Sort 'Em Out" bumper sticker. This was little ol' me, and littler ol' Pam in a MIATA broken down on the side of the road. We were about as unintimidating as you can get.

But no one stopped.

Not even to ask if we needed them to call someone.

Not even the folks dressed in their Sunday finest going home after the lunch following worship.

If a Muslim man from the Mideast stopped it would have made this a sermon illustration down the road. But he didn't. No one did.

I'll remember that the next time I see someone on the side of the road. And I'll stop. Even if only to ask if I can call someone for them.

I hope you will as well.