On Wednesday, I had the blessing of speaking to the Sycamore church that meets in Gravel Switch, KY. The church has met in this location since February 22, 1840 (that's before the civil war!) And now here I sat 183 years later in the same place. So much has changed since that church was first established, but you know what hasn't? Well...our faith. Though separated in so many ways over nearly two centuries, we pray to the same God & have hope through the same Savior. Not only this, but consider the great cloud of witnesses that have gone on before us. Consider the fruit they have born. How different would this world be were it not for the faith of the saints that have gone on before us?
What if I told you that God could be seen in the most ordinary things every day?
What if I told you that every day, ordinary events could teach us extraordinary eternal truths?
Would you believe me?
Hi, I’m BJ Sipe – and you’re listening to the Set Your Mind Above Podcast.
I am a Christian, a preacher, a husband, and a father.
Thanks for tuning in!
We had a bit of schedule swapping between my wife and I this week, so thanks for bearing with me as this week’s podcast is dropping on a Friday instead of our regularly scheduled Thursday. I am really excited about today’s episode, and I hope that you will get as much encouragement out of it as I have reflecting on these things the past few days. This last Wednesday, I received an invitation to come and speak in an ongoing series being held at the Sycamore church of Christ in Gravel Switch, Kentucky. Ever since Kylie and I have arrived here four years ago, we have heard countless stories about the group that has met there for a very, very long time. How long you ask? Well, let’s just say that local church has been meeting continuously in that place since before the Civil War. February 22, 1840 to be exact. As you enter their worship house, off on the left side there is an antique piece of parchment that has since been sealed and framed on display for visitors to see. At the top of the page you read the word “Covenant” alongside the date. The rest of the words I cannot make out aside from a few here and there as it is written in very old penmanship; but essentially it says something to the effect of this church was formed on the foundation of Christ and the infallible word through faith and for edification to this area of Kentucky. Then at the bottom, as with many formal declarations of that day and age, it is signed by all 19 members that made up the church at that time. I finished reading the plaque and then found my seat next to my wife and our three children as we prepared to worship God together with the saints that still meet there. As I sat there waiting for our worship to begin, I started to wonder what exactly these pews or these walls would say if they could talk. How many generations have they seen come through this meeting place as a house of worship? How many lives have they seen changed forever by the preaching of the Word in this place? How many souls were united with Christ in baptism? How many that were once members here have gone on to their eternal reward? And now here I sat, 183 years, 2 months and 25 days later, in the same place that many brothers and sisters that have become dear to me once sat when they were growing up over half a century ago. I couldn’t help but to feel a little emotional as I got up and looked out at the small group of people gathered here in this place. And just as hundreds of men have done before me, I stood up, opened up my Bible, and began to preach the Word to the saints that meet here at Sycamore.
All of these things have prompted two very important lessons that I want to share with you in today’s podcast. Two lessons that I believe are profound and important for us to consider as Christians from all over this world. Both of these lessons come from Hebrews 12:1-2. After taking the time to consider the faith of so many that have gone on before us in preceding chapter, the author writes, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” From when those who established that local church in Gravel Switch, KY to this week, over 183 years have passed. Certainly, so many things have changed in that time period. The country we live in has changed drastically. Technology has changed drastically. How we speak, how we write, how we dress, and how we live has all changed in ways that are too great to list. But you know what hasn’t changed? Our faith. The 19 men and women that came together to form that church 183 years ago worshiped and prayed to the same Savior that we worship and pray to today. We share the same hope, the same love, and were grounded in the same truths contained within God’s word. While their eyes and my eyes behold very different worlds, the commonality we share is that we all had them fixed on Jesus. As you consider those who have gone on in the years prior to your being where you are, take comfort in the great cloud of witnesses that has paved the way before you through the same faith that you now walk in. And this brings us to our second lesson. Have you ever stopped to consider how much fruit has been born, and how greatly things have changed for the better with the kingdom because of the work of times past? There was another frame as you entered into the house of worship at Sycamore, and it was a picture of the church that met there on March 9, 1976 – 101 people in all. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case, this picture was worth well over a thousand souls. What do I mean by that? One woman in the picture was one of our elder’s grandmother. She was a mother of eleven children. Eleven children that went on to marry in the Lord, have children of their own, who then had children of their own, and again once more. From her faith alone, think about how many generations have been impacted as a result of her love for the Lord and the way she taught her children about Jesus? And how in turn they taught their children? How many people’s lives have been impacted for the better because of this family alone? Also pictured here was a very young Deb Johnson, one of the finest women of our congregation. A woman that has dedicated her life to helping orphans and foster children, whose faith has impacted hundreds of young boys and girls and showed them hope & love in many hopeless and loveless places. How much fruit has been born on her account alone? And then at the bottom of the picture, two more faces I recognized: a very, very young Mark Russel and Annette Cooper (who are siblings). Mark has gone on to become one of the finest preachers of the gospel that I know, and has quickly over the past 4 years become someone I have grown to love and respect. His work in the Kingdom has brought countless to faith, and even now he serves as a mentor and friend to other members of my family as well. I don’t even know where to begin with Annette Cooper. All I can say is she has become a mother to both Kylie and I, and “Nana” to all of our kids, and we cherish her more than our words could ever say. Her strong faith led her husband to Christ, who is now one of the finest men I know and like a father to me. It’s produced two of the finest young women in their daughters who have become my and Kylie’s dearest friends – two young women whose faith now impacts the lives of hundreds of school children that come through their classrooms. Are you starting to see the ripple effect here? This was just detailing 4 individuals and their faith, and what has come from it over the past 50 years. Now just imagine how much work has been done for the kingdom of God over the past 183 years through the lives of the Christians in this little area in Kentucky? My friends, this isn’t about Sycamore or any specific local church. This is an important lesson for us all to remember as we consider the great cloud of witnesses that has gone on before us. Consider their faith, and consider how many lives were changed on account of their work for Jesus and the lives they lived. Consider the legacy they left, and the impact it had on the world then and continues to have now. Now ask yourself this…what kind of legacy will you leave? Are you about your Father’s business, doing Kingdom work and making an impact that will last on the generations to come? Or are we simply wasting our days away, entertaining ourselves and squandering our time? May we learn to have the same resolve as the saints of times past, and may we live in such a way that the Kingdom will be better for it in the decades and centuries to come.
Thank you for tuning in for this week’s episode, and I would invite you back every Thursday for a brand-new episode each week. If you haven’t already, be sure to find us on Facebook for future announcements or even some special video sessions. If you have benefited from this podcast, share it with someone else that you think would benefit from it also. Until next time, know that I love you, that God loves you, and may we all each & every day set our minds above.