26
Mar
2014

Dear Partners and Friends,
 
Welcome to Spring and the Season of New Life!! This is one of our most favorite times of year, I’ll bet it’s yours too. There is something about Spring…..Sunshine, children playing and birds singing that puts a smile on all of our faces. Years ago while still a Master of Divinity student at United Theological Seminary and youth pastor at Victory United Methodist Church in inner city Dayton, I was invited to speak at a Community Sunrise Service sponsored by our Church at a local park. That particular Easter morning in 1994 the rain was pouring down and the wind was quite chilly at 6am. We continued the open air service with much of the congregation holding umbrellas. Our Gospel Choir sang and I preached. There happened to be a news reporter from the Dayton Daily News present who took a photograph and the next day in the Metro section of the DDN there was a big picture and bold title, “Weather Dampened But Not Spirits.” I saved that article. Isn’t that a great description of what it means to be a Christian? No matter what we are facing, no matter how dark or difficult or challenging life may seem to be we have the promise of Resurrection.  Because of Jesus our Spirits are never dampened, darkened, discouraged nor destroyed. 
 
There is a wonderful song written by Robert H. Schuller that speaks to this very fact.  It has become my favorite Resurrection Sunday song.  Here are a few lines from it:
 
It’s Easter, It’s Easter the Season of Spring
It’s Easter, It’s Easter the birds start to sing
The Sun it is shining the sky it is blue
The world comes alive with a hope that is new!
 
It’s Easter, It’s Easter Christ Lives once again
It’s Easter, It’s Easter, God’s loudest Amen!
New hope for the doubter, new joy for the sad,
Our Savior Walks with us to keep our lives Glad!
 
It’s Easter, It’s Easter, the stones rolled away,
It’s Easter, It’s Easter this is the Lord’s Day!
We sing Hallelujah, We sing Praise the Lord,
Who raised up our Jesus and spoke the Last Word!
 
What a joy it is to celebrate our Risen Lord, our Conquering King, our Victorious Messiah….Jesus Christ the Lord of Lords and King of Kings!      
 
This year during Resurrection weekend we have a FULL schedule of ministry as we will be at Living Victory Orlando ministering to our Partners and new friends in the Southeastern part of our Nation and then we will be speaking at Centerville United Methodist Church in Dayton on Resurrection Sunday morning at 7am, 9am, 11am and 6pm. Our message that day will be “Rising with Jesus!”. What a wonderful, remarkable and important time of year we are will all participate in together in just 3 short weeks!!
 
Kellie and I and our entire BSU team pray that you and those you love experience Jesus…. the King of Resurrection Living and the Impacting Power of The Holy Spirit this month as they birth Springtime Faith deep within.  
 
Your friends and Partners in Faith,
 
Dr. Stephen and Kellie Swisher

3
Feb
2014

Valentine’s Day is the time we set aside to remember those who love us and those we love.  I’m sure you are aware that the day was named after Valentinus who would come to be known as Saint Valentine.  Valentinus was a priest who chose to speak out for faith, hope and…….love.  He made the conscious choice to marry people, especially soldiers, in direct defiance of a mandate from the emperor that soldiers should not be married.  Valentinus also was very popular with local children because he would give candy and kind words to every child with whom he came into contact.
 
Valentinus was one of the first passionate leaders of the early church.  He would not be controlled by the so-called rulers of the day.  He stood up and spoke up and lived up to a higher calling.  Eventually, he was arrested and sentenced to death.  While he was waiting for execution, he was befriended by the jailer.  Seeing the great education and wisdom and faith-commitment of Valentinus—the jailer asked if he might tutor his daughter.  Valentinus agreed and began daily study with the jailer’s blind daughter.  Through months of getting to know and learning to trust one another—Valentinus taught this young girl about faith and eventually led her in a prayer that restored her sight.
 
The love between them grew very strong.  The night before St. Valentine would emerge, through his untimely death, as an immortal figure in Christianity, he wrote a note of love to his special friend.  In the letter he vowed his love and encouraged her to keep her faith strong and to never give up.  He signed the note, Love—Your Valentine.
 
Yes, the very first valentine sent from the man himself.  How might you allow that story to touch you in this moment?  Is there a person, a situation, a need that could be addressed by simply expressing your love and encouragement?
 
Here is one more story that will help us on our journey to find and to give true love.  My mother shared it with me and I want to pass it along to you.
 
Mrs. Thompson, an elementary teacher stood in front of her 5th Grade class on the very first day of school, and told them a lie.  Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same.  But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
 
Mrs. Thompson had watched teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath.  And Teddy could be unpleasant.  It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with bold “F’s.”
 
At the school where she taught, teachers were required to review each child’s past records.  She put Teddy’s off until his was last.  However, when she reviewed his file, she was surprised.  Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh.  He does his work neatly, has good manners and is a joy to be around.”  His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him.  He tried to do his best, but his father doesn’t show him much interest and his home life will soon affect him if steps are not taken.”
 
Teddy’s forth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.  He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”
 
By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and was ashamed of herself.  She felt worse when her students brought Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful paper and bright ribbons, except Teddy’s.  His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy brown paper that he had gotten from a grocery bag.  Mrs. Thompson took pains to open Teddy’s present first.  Some of the children started to laugh when she found the rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle of perfume that was a quarter full.  But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrists.
 
Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smell just like my mom used to.”  After the children left she cried for at least an hour.  On that very day she began to truly teach children.
 
Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy.  As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.  The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded.  By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class.
 
A year later, she found a note under her door from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he had ever had.  Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy.  He then wrote that he had finished high school third in his class and she was still his favorite teacher.  Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough he’d stayed in school and would soon graduate from college with highest honors.
 
Four more years passed and Mrs. Thompson received an invitation to another graduation sent by Teddy.  But now his name was a little bit longer—the invitation was signed by Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
 
There was another letter  that arrived the next Spring.  Teddy had met this girl and he was going to be married.  He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.  Of course Mrs. Thompson did, and guess what?  She wore the bracelet, the one with the rhinestones missing.  And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.
 
They hugged.  Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you for believing in me and making me feel important and like I could make a difference.”  Mrs. Thompson with tears in her aging eyes whispered back, “Teddy, you have it all wrong.  You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference.  I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”
 
What a beautiful, heartfelt story.  The greatest gift that God has given us is the gift of love.  May you know that love this Valentine’s season and throughout the year.
 
PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for the loved ones that surround me.  May we all feel your blessings of faith, hope and encouragement.  And may we never lose sight of this love—your greatest gift ever in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

13
Jan
2014

Here we are at the dawn of 2014 and the beginning of so many new opportunities. When I think about 2014 and the fresh start each of us has the opportunity to embrace, I can’t help thinking of history and what it was like in our Nation 100 years ago in 1914.
Let’s step into the past for a moment and discover what it was like to live in America then:

  • Only 14 percent of homes had a bathtub with running water
  • Only 8 percent had a telephone
  • There were 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved road
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph
  • The average wage was 22 cents per hour—the average worker made between $200-$400 dollars per year
  • An accountant could earn as much as $2,000 per year, a dentist $2,500, a veterinarian #1,500-$4,000 and a mechanical engineer $5,000
  • Sugar cost four cents per pound, eggs were fourteen cents a dozen, coffee was fifteen cents per pound
  • More than 95 percent of births took place at home
  • The American flag had 48 stars
  • The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30
  • Crossword puzzles, canned beer and ice tea hadn’t been invented yet
  • There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day
  • Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write; only 6 percent of all Americans graduated from High School

Isn’t it amazing what a difference the last 100 years had made in our culture? Can you imagine what it will be like in 2,114? Will we even recognize or be able to conceptualize all of the innovations that will be common place 100 years from now? What part will each of us play individually and corporately to help implement these innovations? And will our legacy of Faith in Jesus be a wonderful example and source of strength to those who come after us? Let’s ask these questions throughout the next few days of the New Year?
 
Let me assure you of this…..God has a great plan for your life!! And this plan will unfold as each day of the new year reveals hopes, dreams, challenges and opportunities in your life. All we really need to do is TRY. Here is an acronym that will help us remember this principle:
 
T—Trust God … God will give you an idea that will appear absolutely impossible on the surface….that’s a sure sign it’s from Him. Seize that opportunity and give it all you’ve got.
R—Reach out to God…God will give you guidance and bring others into your path for support and encouragement
Y—Yield your life to the Holy Spirit…The Holy Spirit will give you the power to move along the path of your future with confidence and strength
 
Please don’t let the challenge of life pass you by. Grab it. Pay the price. Look for no shortcuts. Seek no quick, easy solutions. Embrace the idea that you will be renewed and that you can fly with wings like eagles. Buy the idea that you can be successful, happy, fulfilled and truly loved.
 
Ask God for help and you will have it. Ask God for a dream and your faith with soar!!
 
I pray God’s special blessings upon you and those you love today and throughout the New Year.
 
Your friend and Partner in Faith,
Steve & Kellie

Photo Album

  • Dr. Swisher Preaching
  • Ambassadors Christian Center
  • Ambassadors Christian Center Worship
  • Meadowlands Exposition Center

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