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Will You Be Next? A Sermon I DIDN’T Preach But The People Of Good Shepherd Did

Here are the preachers from yesterday at Good Shepherd:

 

Shekinah

 

That’s Eleanor Barley, Bryant Pressley, and Shekinah Carpenter.  All three gave encouraging words about just who had invited them into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  And in each case it was not a celebrity:  Eleanor’s bible study friend, Bryant’s girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife, and Shekinah’s parents.

All three prepared for their roles diligently, and so here are text copies of how they blessed the people of Good Shepherd:

Eleanor Barley

I was young, married, with a little girl and we began attending a Methodist Church in Irvine, California.  The leader of the women’s ministry announced a through the Bible class.  I thought this would be a good thing for me to do.

About two months into the class, I began to watch and listen to a woman in our group that seemed to know Jesus in a different way then the rest of us.  It wasn’t that she was smarter or richer or without difficulties in her life.  She had a child with a chronic illness and the family was not wealthy.  She drove an old car and her clothes were not as fashionable as most women in southern California.

Her name was Cherie Olson.  She spoke with such gracious love and kindness.  She moved quietly and calmly whenever I saw her.  There was a countenance upon her face that was peaceful, but she was quick to smile or laugh.  When someone disagreed with her, she never became agitated or tried to justify what she had just explained.  She would smile and ask them to go on and speak about their views.

I began to see how different Cherie’s faith and relationship with Jesus was compared to my own.  I never saw her angry or critical or judgmental.  I was, however, not always kind or patient with others.  I was pretty judgmental and critical.  My anger would flare up when I didn’t get my way.  I was pretty much a snob – and very self-focused.

More and more I saw that Cherie had not one doubt about the Bible.  She just knew it was the living Word of God and she lived it out in her life.  So one day I asked Cherie how she studied and what she understood about our lessons.  She began to disciple me and I began to love the Word of God and wanted to understand as she seemed to understand it.

During these times we were together, the thought came to me that Cherie’s inner life of trust and faith in Jesus and her living relationship with Him was the reason her outer life was so appealing.  She was such a whole person.  Cherie was her true self.

I was not my true self and I knew it!  A great desire to have such a life and relationship with the Lord began to grow in me.  I desperately wanted to be on the outside like Cherie, but I knew I would need a change on the inside for this to happen.

One day I told Cherie how frustrated I felt about my behavior and I began to cry because I had no ability to change myself.  She asked me if I had given my life to Christ and did I understand the need for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  She said, “Without the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I would not change.  It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to become more like Jesus and to become our true selves.”  She then asked me if I would like to pray with her.  I told her I would go home and pray.

Armed with the words she had given me to pray, I went home and knelt down by the bed and told Jesus I was sorry for all my sins and how I had ignored Him all these years and would He fill me with His Holy Spirit.  I told Him I loved Him and wanted to know Him better.

I didn’t feel any great shaking or changes in me, but I knew in my heart I was on a new road, a new way of living.  I went downstairs and stood at the sink and I heard in my mind the Lord ask me, “Eleanor, what do you want?”  I quickly prayed, “Lord, please take all anger out of my life and please answer all my prayers!”  God has faithfully answered this prayer in ways that are more than I could ask or imagine.  From then on I have asked God to give me opportunities to teach women to love Jesus the way I love Jesus and love His Word and His Presence.

I know now it is the Holy Spirit within us that teaches us to know and love Jesus in our inner life so that we are truly who He has made us to be in our outer life with others.

And I thank you, Jesus, for Cherie Olson who was the witness for me of a Spirit-filled life.

 

Bryant Pressley

God puts people a long your path. Throughout your journey, you will encounter many. Some are doctors, teachers, waiters, cooks, and, of course, pastors. Seeds are constantly being planted. A woman was put along my path. It was a very tough time in my life. I was young and at the end of my first marriage.

I’d joined the Marine Corp right out of high school, and served mostly abroad. I married at a very young age, and thought I had all of the bases covered. A year after marriage I was blessed with my first child. A couple of years later, I’m back in the states – honorably discharged and seperated. I wasn’t going to church, and hadn’t been for a number of years. I knew of God, but I also knew how I felt when I was in church. I felt like every Sunday, there was a huge Broadway show, and everybody had a part. I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to be feeling like, but I knew that this couldn’t be it.

I grew up in a Baptist church – Sunday school at 9:30am, Sunday service at 11am and evening service at 5pm. Every Sunday I’d sit there in anticipation of the crescendo of word and screams. See apparently, the Holy Ghost would show up at the same time every week. As I got older, I grew less tolerant, until I found myself doing other things with my Sundays. I had lost trust in my church and wasn’t spiritually mature enough to look for another.

So I’m working in Philadelphia, PA. Long story short, my roommate worked in the retail music store that I managed, and one day, a friend of his came by the store to visit him. She was by far the most beautiful young lady that I’d been blessed to share air with. When she left the store, I inquired to my roommate about his friend. He told me that she was out of my league, because she was at one of the great law schools in the country, and I shouldn’t waste my time.

Talking about paths… I met my roommate through two friends who were regional representatives for Sony and Polygram Records. They both lobbied me to give this guy a place to live and a job. On their reputations, I gave him both. Little did I know, right?

Several months later, I was working as security for a party that my roommate was promoting. Guess who comes through the doors… Her! Chance? Who knows. The next time she came by the store I got her number. We talked for a month before going out.

As things got more serious, she was going back home, to New York, because she’d graduated law school and had a Park Avenue job lined up. She called me one day and asked me if I wanted to work for her. To her surprise I said “yes.” Shortly thereafter, I moved to New York City.

We’d have some ,”deep” conversations. And she would always ask my thoughts on God and church. I shared my feelings and told her that at some point “I’d find the right church for me.” She would tell me about her pastor and how she had experienced some of the same things I had earlier in her upbringing. She’d ask me if I wanted to check it out. I’d tell her no, and she didn’t get mad or anything, she’d just say, “O.k.. When you’re ready.”

Well now that I’m actually living in NYC, what’s my excuse. One day she asked and I told her that the next time she goes, I’m there. The smile on her face…

One Sunday, we met some of her friends and went to service. It was in Brooklyn , NY. The place didn’t look like a church, but judging from the line that was winding through the parking lot, around the buildings and up Linden Blvd, something was going on.

It was the most amazing religious experience I’d ever encountered. I didn’t want to leave. I was at a place in my life where I could receive the spiritual food being served to me. And although the Holy Spirit showed up, He seemed quieter.

Several services later, I decided that I was ready to rededicate my life to Christ. I now knew what this was all about. I was so excited to feel this way. When the altar call was made, I can’t remember how I got from my seat to the altar, but when I was done, I was a new man in Christ.

That wonderful woman, who God placed along my path, I would later marry and have have 2 beautiful children. She never forced me into going to church – she actually teased me with it. I became intrigued by this person who she spoke so highly of and learned so much from, that I wanted to experience it for myself.

There were many others along my path. Many that I passed by, without so much as a “hello.” There were others who were intimidating – they carried bibles everywhere and felt the need to quiz you. Others were focusing on what you could and couldn’t do.

I thank God for the backup plan He had for my life. Everyday I fall short of deserving His grace and mercy. But I realize that it’s “my testimony” that I have been equipped with, that will allow me to minister to others. Planting seeds. Watching the wheat grow.

Shekinah Carpenter

Hello! My name is Shekinah Glory Carpenter. Don’t tell me, I already know what you all are thinking, ‘Shekinah…? What kind of name is that?’ Well I am here to tell you all about that and how through the meaning of my name and my families believe in the Lord our God, how I was lead to Christ.

From the beginning, my beginning, my parents were always, and still are, strong believers in Christianity and reading the Bible. Before my parents decided to have children they laid down the foundation for me and my sibling’s lives by believing and speaking the verse from Isaiah 54:13 that says “All your children will be taught by the Lord and great will be their peace.”  Both of my parents came to the agreement then that they were going to raise all of their children in church and dedicated me and my siblings to the Lord as infants.

I was raised in a household that was filled with the sound of my mom’s voice belting worship music throughout the walls of my room, my father’s reassuring judgment being shared over home cooked meals and with my crazy Holy-Sprit filled, dancer of a God-mother rubbing anointing oil on me every chance that she got. I grew up in the Good Shepherd community, I even went to preschool here as a little girl. My parents and older sister submerged themselves in the church environment, so naturally I wanted to follow in pursuit.

Laughter, joy and happiness filled my days and I found myself loving every moment of the life that I lived. As I grew older entering into elementary and later middle school I began to notice a notable difference in the way I perceived things from that of peers around me. I am almost always as happy and energetic as can be and I love caring for people, but compared to the other children around me my personality was deemed as odd and fake. Misunderstood and hurt I went to my mother and father for guidance, asking them why I was so different from the other children. They answered with a simple sentence, “Why you are Shekinah Glory” they said. At the time I didn’t understand what they meant by that and their answer only proved to upset me even more. It took years later and a personal, living relationship with Jesus Christ for me to finally understand what they meant and I did that by finding out what my name, Shekinah Glory, truly means. In the Hebrew bible the Shekinah or Shekinah Glory is the word used to represent the tangible presence of the Glory of God, the Holy Spirit.

What came with that realization was a stronger developed faith and the loving reassurance that everyone is made to be who they are, no matter how wacky, energetic or different you may think you are. Psalm 139:14 says. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Now I partake in the daily beltings of worship songs, the long hour chats with my father about religious origins and converse often with my Holy-Sprit filled dancer of a God-mother, and I couldn’t be any happier.

 

Cherie Olson.  Fabia Pressley. Sam & Anjie Carpenter.  Will you be next?

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