Laity Address- Sandy Blackburn

Sandy BlackburnOn Saturday morning, the Conference opened with a focus on the laity.

Wade Loftin, from the Board of Laity, introduced Sandy Blackburn, who gave the Laity Address for 2016.

Below is the text of her sermon:

Shine Your Light

by

Sandy Blackburn

Matthew 5: 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” 

Run to the Light of Christ!  God made us with a survivor gene….life is terminal and we won’t survive this world but we are survivors in Christ.  So again I say, Run to the Light of Christ and the good news which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Darkness is all around us.  We hear of disasters, terrorists, ISIS, sickness, cancer, death, joblessness, unemployment, rising prices, failing economy, worry, fret, and on and on and on we go into darkness!  But be of good cheer for “God did not give us a spirit of fear,” the Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 1: 7, but, “one of power, love and a sound mind.”  Perfect love casts out fear and He loves us with His perfect love.

As we pick up the newspaper today or turn on the TV or the World News, we’re bombarded with darkness.  We’re bombarded and inundated with event after event of what is happening, might happen, and could happen.  We can lie in our homes at night and hear sirens of impending danger and warnings that times are getting tough and going to get tougher.

Young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams the Bible tells us in Acts 2:17.  This old woman had a bad dream….I dreamed that in the midst of a joyous everyday life, disaster loomed and struck.  Death came, sickness came.  I dreamed that jobs were lost.  I dreamed of eminent danger all around and darkness that overshadowed the light of life.

Fear can grip us around the neck and render us impotent and immobilize us.  It can have us frozen in our tracks and rendered helpless and afraid as a rabbit.  Ever seen a rabbit caught?  It freezes and plays dead.  You’d think for all intents and purposes that it was a goner.  But no, it’s in a state of fear or survival, I’m not sure which…and then all of a sudden it will skedaddle like the scared rabbit that it is!  I’ve seen this first hand and videoed it when we found a baby rabbit in our pool skimmer one year.  I just knew it was dead when all of a sudden it ran like the wind and got away.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem into darkness.  He rode into a not so perfect world knowing full well what lay ahead for Him but He rode on anyway.  He rode into the Light!  We’ve all heard that saying “Run to the light!”  We make jokes about it to always run to the light at the end of the tunnel…or keep away from the light…don’t go toward the light, for it would surely mean that we’ve reached the end of our life.

Well folks, according to the Bible, the Light came into the darkness and the darkness DID NOT overcome it in John 1: 5.  Jesus is that Light that we need to be running toward like never before.  He is that GOOD NEWS that will carry us from this present darkness into the Light that will not be overcome by any darkness.  His word is full of encouragement and good news for us to live our lives to the fullest today in this present darkness.

Times indeed look bleak.  The jobless rate is increasing and we’re told this is nothing to what it will be in the future.  Gas prices soar up and down whichever way the wind blows and not according to the price of a barrel of oil.  Grocery prices have sky rocketed.  Our culture and “Happy Days” way of life is nothing more than memories and nostalgic TV programs on channel 62 on Time Warner Cable.

What is a person to do in the midst of all this?  We know, don’t we?  The Bible tells us that Jesus did not leave us alone.  We are called to be set apart from this world of darkness.  We are called to be light!  Story after story Jesus gave us on how to live in a not so perfect world.

What man, after lighting a candle, puts it under a bushel basket?  “NO, NO, NO,” I say!  The Bible says he puts in on a lamp stand and lets the world see…Light your candles brothers and sisters.  The world is dark, we are called to be a beacon of light and hope to a dark and hurting world. 

We must light our candle and run to the darkness.  Isn’t that what Jesus did?  He rode full throttle on that donkey into the darkness that awaited Him in Jerusalem that fateful Passover Celebration.  He rode into Jerusalem to be arrested, mocked, beaten, and crucified.  He went straight ahead into the dark heart of humanity at its worst and overcame with the Light that changed darkness forever.

The Light shines and the darkness does not and will not overcome it.  That’s the gospel or good news Of Jesus Christ…we are survivors.  He survived that darkness and rose again to life everlasting.  He defeated even death and the grave that we might have our abundant life here today and for all eternity.

We shouldn’t be found hunkered down, hiding from the darkness that is all around us.  We should be in the midst of the storm shining our lights for the entire world to see His Light in us.  Be of good hope; be of good courage His Word tells us for we are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us according to Romans 8: 37.  We can see a thousand fall on our right hand according to Psalm 91…but we will not fear.

I’ve heard somewhere the best acronym for FEAR.  Being a Wordsmith, I love acronyms so much and use them often.  Fear is no more than False Evidence Appearing Real. .. So you see fear is a lie straight from the devil.  Fear is the opposite of faith and we are called to be faithful people.  God’s Word tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God in Hebrews 11:6.  We are to be faithful children of the LIGHT! 

Be of good cheer brothers and sisters.  We are in this world but God’s Word tells us that we’re not of this world.  We can through Christ rise above whatever it is that is going on around us and shine that Light that is in us.  It’s not our Light, it’s His Light….and we know from Scripture that the darkness cannot and will not overcome it.

So, that being said…when the fear comes, and it will, when the trials come, and they will, when the darkness comes and it’s already here, run brothers and sisters….run toward the Light.  Run full into the face of God through Jesus Christ His Son.  We must run the race that is set before us with all the fervor and hope and encouragement that we can muster…for we’re not alone.

Now like never before we must be assured of Whose we are.  He will not leave us nor forsake us; He told us so in His precious Word.  We must get into His word and dig out every promise that is waiting there for us.  There are riches beyond our wildest dreams to get us through these dark times of faltering economy, joblessness, and the shadowy darkness that I’ve mentioned.  There are promises of a future with hope.  There are promises of abundant life here today and now in the midst of whatever storm or trial that we might find ourselves going through at any given moment.

This woman had a bad dream.  I dreamed cancer came to take me out of here…but God’s Word told me that He held the fullness of my days in His Hands according to Psalm 139 and that the devil could not cut them short.  This woman is a 17 year colon cancer survivor!  There is life after a cancer diagnosis!

This woman had a bad dream, I dreamed that our livelihood was stolen, and that life as we knew it was over, but God’s Word told us that He knew the plans that He had for us, not for our destruction or harm but for our good with a future with hope in Jeremiah 29:11.  There were new opportunities that opened up…better opportunities after my husband lost his job at Duracell in 2004.

This woman had a dream.  I dreamed that my family was wiped out by a big wind and that all were killed and I was left without children and a future with joy, but the Word of God told me that the even in the worst crisis in my life, that He would never leave me nor forsake me.  Losing my first child as a young mother and then in 2003 losing three granddaughters, ages 4, 7, and 10, to a horrific automobile accident made me feel like Job.  I even called myself Jobetta.  The Word of God told me that God is FAITHFUL to heal the broken hearted and redeem what is lost.  The hope that is in me in Christ Jesus is that this life is not all there is and that my babies are in my future and not my past.

The Word of God tells us that the devil comes to “kill, steal, and destroy.”  He tried to kill me, steal my joy, and destroy my family, but I ran toward the Light.  I ran into the waiting arms of Jesus.  Run for the Light today….run brothers and sisters and have your wick ready to ignite and burn with His light….only good can overcome evil the Word of God says, and only light can overcome darkness.

Then, run child of God with your lighted candle into the darkness, the song tells us but more than just a song, the Word of the Living God tells us the same thing in so many different ways.  Run, child of God, run with the assurance that eventually this darkness will be overcome by something greater than you and I.  This ever present darkness will eventually be overcome…the Bible tells us so…read the end of the story and be of good cheer.

We must shine our lights.  We must shine His light.  We must dispel the darkness everywhere we go, every day in every way…..and give God all the glory, all the honor, and all the praise.

If we as a church start shining our lights for the world to see, there will be an EXPLOSION right here at Lake Junaluska.  The fireworks will reach out into the darkness and send beautiful sparkles and lights that the world will see and WONDER at the explosive fireworks going on right here in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference.

I love to call myself a Methobapticostal with Jewish Roots whenever I go out to other denominations to speak.  The older I become the more Pentecostal I get.  We forget that the Pentecostals were birthed out of the Methodist church and we can’t let them take the Holy Spirit with them.  We must have the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be God’s church.

God knows my heart and I love me some John Wesley!  My favorite John Wesley quote is his reply whenever he was asked as to why so many people came to open fields to hear his sermons.  He said, “I simply light myself on fire with the Holy Spirit and they come to watch me burn!”

If we’re burning brightly, they…the unchurched, the unsaved, the hungry, the least, the last, and the lost will come to see what’s going on over here…they will hunger for what we have, thirst for righteousness, and that longing to fill that God-sized hole in each and every heart will bring them….Build it and they will come….remember that Movie?  We’ve built it, we’ve anticipated it, and now we must prepare to man it.  We must empower ourselves so that when they come, and they will, it’s already begun, that we’ll be ready to present them with that for which they seek….JESUS the Light!

The world is dark out there folks…no doubt in any of our minds…the darkness will try to creep into our very spirits if we allow it…but the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ is that He came into this world to overcome the darkness and He did!

It’s time now, to turn full into the face of God and be infilled with His Holy Spirit that will fuel the Light…the Light of Christ that burns inside each believer and child of God.  That light that is reflected from Jesus our Lord and Savior…That Light must shine like never before….that light MUST be put on a lamp stand so that it might shine out as a beacon for those still out there in the darkness.

That’s our purpose CHURCH!  That’s God’s goal for His Church…to be His hands and His feet…to reflect His light and shine…shine children of God…shine….run into the darkness…run to the hurting, the least, the last, and the lost…..run to your workplace…run to your lost family members….run through your neighborhoods…run child of light and light the darkness where ever you might go! 

“Arise; shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”  Indeed, God has brought you to this place by the Light of His Word, even as He directed the Magi to the Word Incarnate by the star. The Light of the world shined on you when you were baptized in the name of the Triune God. The glory of the Lord rises upon you each time you attend a divine service, each time your sins are forgiven. The glory of the Lord, the Light of your salvation, shines upon you each time you eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. So, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”

All honor, all glory, and all praise be to our God the FATHER OF LIGHT!