Called and Commissioned

DSC_0349On April 4, Keith Decker was recognized as the Kentucky Missionary of the Year and twelve new missionaries were commissioned during the Kentucky WMU annual meeting at Central Baptist Church in Winchester.  It was a special day to honor one who for the past 21 years has served so humbly and faithfully in ministry to the physical and spiritual needs of literally thousands of families.  Many (300 during the past few months) have prayed to receive Christ through the outreach of Cedaridge Ministries, where Keith serves as Director.

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As Keith continues his service there are 12 new missionaries just beginning in ministry positions from the Illinois border to the Tennessee border and all across our state.  These missionaries serve children, the homeless, those in jail, persons seeking help with recovery, families and those in ministry who may need a little respite, families living in poverty, and in a Christian camp settings.  All twelve have responded to God’s call and are using their varied giftedness to serve.  It is not an easy job but, as Keith would attest to, it is most rewarding.

Please commit to pray for Keith and for these twelve as they reach out to share the Gospel message.  May they, like the “twelve” of the New Testament turn Kentucky and the world upside down for Christ.  May we see God do “exceeding abundantly above all they can ask or imagine.”

Please consider adopting one of these new missionaries and begin partnering with them in their new calling.

Finally, consider how God may be calling and leading in your life.  Could he be asking you to join the Kentucky missionary force to get the Gospel across our state?

If we can help in any of these areas please contact us at 502-489-3530 (1-866-489-3530 toll free in KY) or email us at missions@kybaptist.org.  We would love to help you live out God’s call in your life.

The Call and Commission of a Disciple

RunningIt does not take one long to see the seriousness and magnitude of Christ’s call to discipleship as one examines the call of Christ’s early followers. In fact, Jesus calls His followers to radical living.  Well…I may say normal living because all Jesus followers are called to this kind of living.  Furthermore, this call of Jesus results in our mandate—making disciples of all nations. This radical living is not simply a new way of life or the newest self-improvement strategy. Rather, this radical living is quite simply running hard after Jesus. The call to discipleship is the call to follow Jesus.

Unfortunately, in 21st century, Westernized Christianity, we have substituted our call in the Christian life for church involvement. We have been convinced that the more involved we are with activities of the church, the better Christian we become. So, we become involved with this ministry and that organization and this committee, and quite frankly we have taken our eyes off of the One we are to be following.  James M. Boice bemoans,

“Even in the church we are far more often encouraged to join this committee, back this project, or serve on this board than we are counseled to examine our relationship to God and His Son Jesus Christ. So long as we are performing for the church, few question whether our profession is genuine or spurious” (Christ’s Call to Discipleship, 15).

Discipleship is not about performing, but about running. Where is the running hard after Jesus?

As mentioned above, the result of running hard after Jesus is a full-hearted embrace of our mandate—the Great Commission. The Great Commission, which can be referred to as the Christian’s “marching order,” is simply the bi-product of our call to “follow” Jesus.

The call of the Christian is to follow Christ without reservation. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 4:19, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Fishing (our Commission) is the bi-product of following Christ. Our first responsibility as a disciple is to follow hard after Jesus.

I say hard after Jesus because men like Peter forsook everything to follow Christ. Not every Christian is called to vocational Christian living, but every Christian is called to full-time Christian living. The problem is that we have said that “if we are not vocational Christians, then we can be vacational Christians.” There is no such understanding in the Bible as vacational Christians.

The call of the Christian is to follow Christ at any cost. Our primary responsibility is to follow Christ, to learn to be like Christ. Performing, as mentioned earlier, is only the bi-product of following Christ. Many Christians have reversed Jesus’ call. For many, today, the call in the Christian life is “fishing,” “teaching,” “serving,” “advising,” etc. These are the bi-products of the call. The call is first to follow. I may add here, too, that the bi-product is Jesus’ doing.  He will make us fishers of men.

Are you following hard after Jesus? If so, is there evidence that you have gone fishing?

 

Trampled Grass

Refugee DR Team - Uganda - 3The man shared despondently, “The only thing that is trampled when two bull elephants fight is the grass between them.”

These words sum up the despair of tens of thousands of displaced refugees.  Sadly, many of them have been forced to flee their homeland in South Sudan, as civil war erupted last December.

A few weeks ago, I traveled with a team of four disaster relief leaders and three field strategists from the International Mission Board to evaluate the needs of refugee camps in Uganda.  Our team drove over 2500 kilometers, assessed 20 refugee camps, and witnessed the tragic deprivation of more than 100,000 displaced people.  The vast majority of these driven from their homes and living in these hopeless camps were women and children.  Every person we encountered had experienced unbelievable loss and trauma.

The images seared into my mind have left me a bit broken.  The camps are overflowing and short on resources.  People are drinking contaminated water because they do not have a decent well.  The food never lasts long enough.  Some water tanks have been dry for days. Families are living under USAID tarps.  Orphaned children are trying to survive alone.

The media has moved on to the crisis in the Ukraine and other breaking stories.  Fighting in Sudan is old news, and those in the camps feel forgotten and forsaken.  Again and again, I was asked, “Are you here to take a few pictures or will you help us?”

I promised that I would not forget them.  I gave my word that I would lift their needs to the God of glory, and share their story with followers of Christ.  Please hear their cries and:

  1. Pray for the people of South Sudan.  Pray for peace in this land of unrest.  Pray for our missionaries living in this difficult place of service.  Pray that God would use this time of brokenness to awaken people to the Good News of Christ.
  2. Give to help those who have so little and who need a Gospel with hands and feet.  A gift through Baptist Global Response or Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief of $25 could provide a hoe and seed to a mother trying to feed her hungry children in a camp; a gift of $500 could provide blankets, care kits, and hope to the elderly living under tarps.  A gift of $10,000 could drill a borehole providing clean water to an entire settlement.  Your continued support of the Cooperative Program, through your local church, enables missionaries and ministries like Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief to offer help, healing, and hope to the hurting.
  3. Engage by leading your church to connect with an unreached people group.  Tribes in South Sudan and across the globe continue to wait for someone to bring them the hope of Jesus Christ.  God continues to ask, “Who will go for Me?”

My heart was broken over the need that I witnessed, and I was reminded of a word from Isaiah, “And if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.”

UK Bench Challenges Christians

March Madness is in full swing as the top ranked college teams face off in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  It’s been exciting for some and disappointing for others. It’s no mistake that many of the best teams in the tournament have a strong reserve with lots of talent on the bench.  Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse, Louisville and others have stars on the team who are not considered starters. But when called upon, they are ready to get out there and play.

UK Basketball Bench 2013When Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein hurt his ankle in the first half of Friday’s Sweet 16 game against Louisville, bench players Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee were called upon to play in one of the biggest games of the season.  Forward Alex Poythress hasn’t started a game this season, but he has scored many points and some helpful rebounds as a bench player. Although every bench player would prefer to be a starter, the rules of basketball limit each team to only five players on the court at a time.

There is no limit to how many may serve as witnesses of the Gospel.  In fact, God expects every Christian to be on mission and actively engaging lost people with the Gospel.  We’re commanded to be witnesses in our community, state, nation and around the world (Acts 1:8). Yet, we look more like bench players waiting to relieve someone who’s been hurt or has fouled out.

There is no such thing as a bench player in the Kingdom of God. Every believer has been uniquely gifted to serve (1 Corinthians 12) as a witness of Christ.  Every Christ follower is to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered” (Jude 3).  So, if you’re sitting the bench waiting for the appropriate time, it’s now!  The clock is ticking and many people still have yet to hear the Gospel.  Get out there and join God in the action and excitement of mission service as His witness, because there’s a lot more at stake than an NCAA championship.

Teacups, Lace and Role Models

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All of us have had role models throughout our lives, people we have looked up to, have gone to for advice, and persons who have helped to mentor, mold and shape us in a Godly manner.  More than likely this included our parents but also there have been others such as pastors, Sunday School teachers, and older ladies and men in the church that have had a definite impact on our lives.

Recently I was invited to Salem Baptist Church in Monticello for a WMU Tea.  The fellowship hall was decorated beautifully with teapots, teacups, and lots of lace.  Some of young girls had on hats and there was lots of tasty teas and food.  As a tea drinker and a collector of teapots I felt like a little girl at a tea party.

The theme for the day was “Celebrating 125 Years of Missions with WMU!”  The celebration was a time of looking back to former church ladies that had served as role models and had influenced our spiritual lives in so many ways.  Although some of the role models had passed away, a few had actually brought their role model with them.  As each lady shared many tears were shed.

It is special to look back and remember those who were role models in our lives.  But, we must also realize that we are now the role models for those coming behind us.  What kind of role model am I?  What am I teaching those coming behind me?  We think of missionaries sharing the gospel around the world but we too may be a “missionary” to some young person right in our home or church.

Titus 2 tells us how, as women, we are to behave in a reverent, Godly manner and to teach and encourage (or be a role model) the younger women.  Who is looking at my life?  Am I the kind of role model I should be?  What am I teaching the younger women looking up to me?  As you song says, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

A Night with Nik Ripken

Last Frida1Snarling_Gray_Wolf-medy I had the privilege to attend an event hosted by Redemption Hill Baptist Church (RH) called God’s Leading Edge: The Front Lines of the Great Commission.  RH invited veteran missionary and author Nik Ripken to share about his experience serving God in hard places throughout the world.  He is most recently noted for writing Insanity of God and Insanity of Obedience (http://www.nikripken.com/).  Nik shared about the challenges that many believers around the world face when coming to faith in Jesus.  In fact, as Nik reminded us, the reality of persecution is normal for followers of Jesus.

He shared three biblical pictures that I want to pass on to you.  First, Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10).  What a glorious truth that Jesus seeks out the lost.  We did not go looking for Jesus; He came looking for us, and by His grace found us.  People don’t just make new resolutions to live better or to even become a Christian.  That’s not how it works.  Jesus comes for us; He pursues us!  He seeks us out in the midst of our despair and sinful pleasures.  He saves us from our bondage to sin and self-idolatry.  Yet, in seeking and saving us, the lost, He sends us back out into the world with the same message that transformed our lives.

So, as Nik shared, the second biblical picture is that Jesus came to send us as sheep among wolves (Matt 10:16).  The imagery is graphic.  Wolves eat sheep!  Persecution isn’t something you run toward or away from; it just is, as Nik spoke.  While physical persecution isn’t as readily noticed in the US, 70% of believers worldwide suffer for their faith.  The number one cause of persecution around the world is people coming to faith in Jesus.  Wolves don’t like sheep turning in faith to the Shepherd, nor do they like sheep sharing with others who the Shepherd is and how to embrace Him.  We certainly need to pray for our fellow sheep who are suffering this very moment for the cause of the Great Shepherd (http://www.opendoorsusa.org/).  We also must heed Nik’s call to not waste our lives if we are among the 30% not facing persecution for our faith.  Let us leverage our lives and our freedoms for the propagation of the gospel to the ends of the earth . . . yes, even to the hard places where wolves eat sheep.

The third biblical image that Nik shared is the call to love our enemies (Matt 5:44).  It’s easy to love those who love us, but it’s altogether different to love those who hate us, who want to eat us.  In fact, if we do not love our enemies we are no different than the wolves.  Wolves love their own, but kill and eat their enemies.  This love for our enemies is most visibly expressed in our lion-hearted proclamation of the glorious gospel of our loving Lord.  You see, as sheep we are really called to be lion-like in our gospel advancement, even among, especially among, the very wolves who would seek to devour us.  May God give us love for our enemies and may He give them transformed hearts that supernaturally change them from ravenous wolves to loving sheep.

Are You a Tourist or a Missionary?

The spring and summer of each year is usually busy with activity as groups go on mission trips to share Christ.  In years past, mission trips were typically only taken during the summer when school was out.  But many more groups are exploring other times of the year for engaging in volunteer mission efforts, like fall break and Christmas vacation.  Many collegiate ministries will raise funds and travel out of state or internationally on mission trips during spring break.  And believers of all ages will spend a week or more of their summer this year on a mission trip with their church or family.  But will they be going as missionaries or tourists? 

Suitcase TravelsWe’re quick to call everyone going on the mission trip a missionary, but is that really true?  Is it possible that some individuals go on mission trip as a tourist and not a missionary?  You may be asking “what’s the difference”, so let me explain.  Yes, both are going, and perhaps to someplace new, but their purpose in going is dramatically different.  Tourists go because of the place.  However, missionaries go because of the people and their need for Christ.   Jeff Iorg, in his book, “Live Like a Missionary”, addresses this very subject, suggesting that a “missional Christian prioritizes impacting people – not going places – as his or her ultimate objective.”

Yes, God does call us to go and make disciples and many times that involves traveling to another state or country.   Yes, traveling to a new place can be exciting and fun.  But let’s not let the place motivate us more than the opportunity to be a witness for Christ.  God’s focus is always on the people who need a relationship with Him, not the place.  I’ve encountered Christ-followers who considered where they were going on their next mission trip by where they’d not yet been.  Almost as if they were checking states or countries off a map to see how many different places they could go on a mission trip.   

My prayer is that every Christ-follower would be on mission and willing to go wherever God leads.  But let the emphasis be on where He leads and not where we want to go.  There are already enough tourists traveling around.  God is calling out missionaries who will go forth and engage lost people with a boldness to share Him.

Seeking Those Who Can Do

General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote this in 1942 during  the Second World War, “This is a long road we have to travel.  The men who can do things are going to be sought out just as surely as the sun rises in the morning.”Dis_Rel_ice_storm_clean_up_07

We have witnessed a continuous erosion of morality and ethics in our culture for several decades, and now we are seeing a growing anti-Christian sentiment in the public arena.  The church has been losing the cultural battle for some time, but this should not drive us to despair as believers in Christ.  Our mission has never been to change culture; our mission has always been to draw people to Christ and to make disciples for our Lord.  Perhaps, one of the unintended tragedies in this battle for culture is that too often the church is identified more by what we are against than what we are for.

We are surrounded by a sea of lostness and the only hope for those drowning in these dark waters is Jesus Christ.  As a believer living in this post-Christian nation, I do not want my neighbors to know what I stand against, as much as I want them to know what I am living for.  Building a moral majority is not the answer for our time.  The answer is drawing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

This road may be difficult and long, and it will require doers of faith.  We will not change lives with picket signs and votes in ballot boxes.  But, we will make a difference by boldly demonstrating the life-changing power of Christ in how we live.  This is a time for the church to seek out men and women who are willing to wade into the waters and be doers for Jesus’ sake.

Real ministry has always required those who follow Christ to roll up their sleeves and enter the muck of this world.  This is one of the reasons why ministries like disaster relief is so effective in breaking down barriers to the Gospel.  As volunteers offer help, healing, and hope to hurting people, it opens doors to share about Christ.  In these tough places of ministry, most do not care about my views on same-sex marriage, abortion, or gambling.  They need the compassion of Jesus, and to hear the hope of the Good News.  As Scripture tells us, the harvest will come for those who do not grow weary in doing for the Lord’s sake.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”  (Galatians 6:9)

Moore Activity Center

Wihlehmus, Amy Photo 2Just south of Cincinnati, two exits off the Ohio River, in downtown Covington, KY sits an amazing ministry that is reaching out to its community with the Gospel.  The Moore Activity Center (MAC), directed by North American Mission Board self-funded Missionary Amy Wilhelmus, opened its doors in 2004 as an outreach of Southside Baptist Church.  Although they continue to work closely with the church, they are now a separate entity.

MAC’s goal is to find the needs in their community and meet those needs as possible.  Amy says they attempt to “meet the people where they are and hopefully that will open the door to share Christ.”

Each week regularly scheduled activities reach out to all ages.  Those include:

  • One-on-One Tutoring for children in grades K-6 with adult/child relationship building
  • An inner-city Adult Bible Club with a meal, Bible study, and crafts
  • “Fill My Cup” Women’s Bible Group
  • Bible Study for children and youth.  Since most have no other connection with church, this Bible Study is considered to be their “church time.” A meal is served, there is singing, prayer, a craft, gym time, and Bible focus.

The MAC offers community fellowships from time to time for anyone, any age where they look for ways to bring people together just to interact with one another.  These events have included such things as “Minute to Win It” games and a Hawaiian Luau.

MAC’s summer programs include:

  • “Fun in the Son,” a Backyard Bible Club type event where they go out into the community and meet people on their own turf.
  • A “24-Hour Day Camp” which is a one-day, overnight camp at a local church and done on a shoestring budget.  The camp, for grades 1-6, focuses on helping kids to understand what God wants to do in their own lives.
  • “Simply Dinner” meets every Tuesday in the summer as a time just to feed the kids.  Local churches adopt a night to provide the meal and fellowship with the kids.

“Big Give Aways” are held three times each year.

  • Back-to-School – 150 to 200 children and youth in grades K-12 receive gym shoes, socks, school supplies, hygiene items, and haircuts.
  • Thanksgiving – Includes worship, singing, and a meal to take home and prepare.
  • Christmas – Includes worship, singing, a meal to take home to prepare, and toys & clothes for children 12 and under.

Interesting in a mission trip to the Moore Activity Center?  They would love to have teams come in and take a week of “Fun in the Son”,  provide construction help, or assist with other outreach.  Amy will work with your gifts and talents to use them to the fullest.

Please pray about partnering with Amy and the MAC.  Pray for financial needs, for volunteers to come and help meet needs & share Christ, and for them to be a source of light in their community.  Also pray for a strong leader to come serve alongside Amy.

If interested in learning more or in volunteering with this ministry contact Amy at 859-261-2300, macmissions@aol.com, or on Facebook at Moore Activity Center (Covington, KY).

Obligated!

careysmrGod used a simple cobbler in the 1780s to birth what we now call the modern missions movement.  William Carey developed a God-given passion for the glory of God among the nations.  When others were telling him he need not go to the heathen with the gospel, Carey said otherwise.  When others said that if God desires to save the heathens He will do so without our help, Carey said that the very means that God has chosen to save sinners is through the proclamation of the gospel by sinners who have been saved.

In his book An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, Carey wrote:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, a little before his departure, commissioned his apostles to Go, and teach all nations; or, as another evangelist expresses it, Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  This commission was as extensive as possible, and laid them under obligation to disperse themselves into every country of the habitable globe, and preach to all the inhabitants, without exception, or limitation. . . . It seems as if many thought the commission was sufficiently put in execution by what the apostles and others have done; that we have enough to do to attend to the salvation of our own countrymen; and that, if God intends the salvation of the heathen, he will some way or other bring them to the gospel, or the gospel to them.  It is thus that multitudes sit at their ease,
and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow-sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry” (quoted from When Missions Shapes the Mission, 2).

Our obligation, therefore, is from the Lord.  We may not sit idle and do nothing.  Nor may we be content and spiritualize our participation in the Great Commission as if it is fulfilled because we are seeking to reach people where we live.  The GC is not like a childhood love letter with optional check boxes of “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.”  The GC is all-encompassing.  We are to reach our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the nations with the gospel.  In fact, we are obligated to do so.

Upon hearing the word “obligated” people often first react with reserve or inward rebellion.  The thought goes something like this: “No one is going to tell me what I must do!”  Yet, the word obligated is a beautiful word when understood in the context of Paul’s use in Romans 1:14.  You see, Paul, as one who had received the grace of God, felt obligated to share with others the same hope given to Him in Jesus.  He could not fathom a world in which all peoples did not have equal access to the life-transforming gospel of Jesus.

For the Jews, he was willing to be cut off from the life-giving gospel of Christ, so that they might hear and believe (Rom 9:1-5).  As for the non-Jews, he could not imagine not saturating the nations with the gospel of Jesus (Acts 26:17-18).  Further, Paul understood the GC to be binding on his life because the command came from God himself.  The authority behind our obligation to send the gospel and to embrace all peoples for the gospel is not man made; it’s divinely given.  As Jesus made it so clear from a mountainside, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18).  The authority of the GC resides in the giver of the Commission.  His authority has not changed; therefore, our obligation to His command still stands.