To make Him famous

crowdGod is concerned for His fame among all the world, all peoples. Fame is the condition of being known or recognized by many people (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ fame). If God is ultimate and His glory is the purpose of our existence (as I argued previously), then this praise of God is meant to be among all nations.

The Bible is replete with passages that speak of God’s fame being worldwide. Psalm 96 is one such passage that calls for God’s fame among all the earth. In fact, the Psalmist commands all peoples to praise God. The only way for the worship of God to be worldwide is to extend His fame among all peoples. People will worship something, but the Psalmist wants them to worship the one true God who made the heavens (Ps 96:4-5).

Missionary Jim Elliot was captive to the thought that the greatness and salvation of God should be extended to the nations. He was determined to call the nations to worship the one true God through the gift of His Son, Jesus. He wrote of praying prayers such as this: “I covenanted with my Father that He would do either of two things— either glorify Himself to the utmost in me, or slay me. By His grace I shall not have His second best (Danny Akin, Five Who Changed the World, 88).”

He knew that his desire for God to be glorified in his life would best be lived out by telling the nations of God’s greatness. Writing a letter to his family, he said, “Remember you are immortal until your work is done. But don’t let the sands of time get into the eyes of your vision to reach those who still sit in darkness. They simply must hear” (Akin, 93).

Not allowing the sands of time to blur his vision, he went to South America and to the country of Ecuador. He had heard of the Huaorani Indians, also know as the Auca Indians. They had never heard of Jesus, but he was willing to live his life, so that they would hear. He was willing to give his life, so that they would hear.  He lived his life to make Him famous.  Let us be determined to live ours with the same resolve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing with my International Neighbor

We live in a world on the move.  Our cities and communities are becoming more culturally diverse.  In Louisville, for example, there are now over one hundred languages represented in the metro school system.  Thousands of students are coming from abroad to study at our American universities.  The international community is evident in many of our small towns with the presence of ethnic restaurants and local shops.  The world is coming to us.

Iraq Team

How, in this changing world, can I be part of Christ’s Great Commission?  

How can I plant seeds for the Gospel with those from other lands that God is bringing to my community?  

  • Smile.  Grace and kindness work in any culture.
  • Open your eyes to those that God has brought to your community.  Take time to see the server at the restaurant, the cashier at the convenience store, the nurse at the hospital, the new person in your office, or the neighbor across the street who may look, dress, and speak a little different from you.
  • Start a conversation.  It can be as simple as asking someone their name and where they are from.  Ask them about their family or homeland.  Inquire about religious beliefs in their country.
  • Be a good listener.  Seek to be a learner.  People tend to listen to others who really listen to them.
  • Pursue genuine friendship.  Many internationals would love a real friend in a new land.  You are called to share with folks in a relationship, not sell the Gospel.
  • Be an ambassador for Christ.  Let them see Christ in you.  A good ambassador knows when to talk and when to listen.
  • Practice hospitality.  Share your phone number if they need a friend’s help or guidance. Invite them over for tea or coffee.  Drive them to the doctor or help them at a grocery store.  Have them over for a meal at your home.
  • Pray for them.
  • Share your faith story.  Tell them what your life was like before Christ, how you came to Christ, and what Jesus means to your life now.  Try to work on being able to share this in two to four minutes.  Avoid church words like lost or saved, as unbelievers often do not understand the internal language of Christians.
  • Remember the goal is not to win debates, but to passionately share your faith.  Stand strong on what you believe in a loving manner.
  • Finally, be ready for the day when your new friend wants to know how they can have a relationship with God through Christ.  Be prepared to share in every day language what sin is, who Jesus is, and what the Gospel is.

“Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.
Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

 

For I Wasn’t Hungry…

Several years ago, I came home from work complaining about how hungry I was.  My wife was fixing dinner and the girls were working on homework at the kitchen table.  They asked if I had eaten lunch today. To which I replied, yes, but I haven’t had anything since lunch. They laughed at my foolish reply because no one else had eaten since lunch either.  I was embarrassed by my response because it had only been hours since I’d eaten, but I acted as if I were starving.  Truth is, I’ve never been starving, but there are those for whom starvation is a reality.

hunger-child-groceriesAlmost 800 million people around the world live with constant hunger, and 1 in 6 people in the US are food insecure, meaning, they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The tragedy of hunger is very real for many of our churches and their communities. We all wish hunger would go away, but it isn’t going anywhere and the church has a clear command in scripture to feed the hungry (1 John 3:17-18 & James 2:5-17).

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Global Hunger Relief is a very effective funding system, put in place to assist ministries and churches in feeding the hungry.  80% of the hunger relief funds are used internationally while 20% are distributed within North America. 100% of every dollar given to Global Hunger Relief goes directly for the purchase of food.  None of it is used for promotion, administration, transportation, or operation costs.

The Global Hunger Relief offering has helped rescue starving children in West Africa, provided food for forcibly displaced refugees and given hope through backpacks filled with food to children in Appalachia.  SBC hunger relief ministries provide food to the hungry and offer the Bread of Life to them as well. There were over 21,000 professions of faith as a result of hunger ministries throughout the world. That includes 142 decisions for Christ last year in Kentucky as a direct result of hunger relief ministries.

Even though we have an effective hunger relief funding system in place and every penny of every dollar goes only toward the purchase of food –  it’s still not enough because the average Kentucky Baptist church member gave less than the cost of a canned soft drink to hunger relief last year.

Southern Baptists have set aside October 9th as Hunger Relief Sunday.  Let me challenge you and your church to step up it’s giving to the Global Hunger Relief offering. Raise awareness of the offering and how it helps relieve hunger.  Encourage friendly competition between small groups in your church.  Preach a sermon on hunger relief or prepare a children’s sermon for Sunday morning.  You’ll find resources to help with these suggestions at:  www.kybaptist.org/hunger

The next time you start to say, I’m starving, stop and remember that you aren’t. But, there are many others in the world, and in our neighborhoods, who are.

Pregnancy Care Centers Make a Difference

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In downtown Greenville, KY there is an amazing ministry called Pathway of Hope that ministers to families who are facing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.  This ministry, directed by North American Mission Board missionary Diana Anderson, helps these families to make life-affirming choices, with their main goals to love on those they serve, share factual information with them, and be Christ-like in their love for them.  “We want them to see Christ through us,” Diana says.  “We try to share Christ with everyone that comes in the door.”

Since the ministry opened, nearly twelve years ago (October 2004), they have seen 76 persons accept Christ as their personal Savior.  Several others have recommitted their life to Christ,  Pathway of Hope helps their clients to find, and get connected with, a church close to where they live.

12196Other services provided (free of charge) by Pathway of Hope include pregnancy tests, diapers and wipes, clothing (from newborn to size 5T), and anything baby-wise. They can use donated items, even homemade items such as baby blankets, etc.

Pathway of Hope works with at-risk parents through Social Services and the court system.  Those include parents at risk of losing their children due to drug issues, domestic violence, disciplinary issues, etc.  Their “Earn While You Learn” curriculum, written for pregnancy center use, is an education program that deals with many of the needs these families face.  Post-abortion Bible studies also allow them to see the transformation and healing that God provides.

Diana says there has never been a true need that God has not already provided what the person needed.  One day a lady come to Pathway of Hope in need of a car.  She had a newborn baby boy with a benign tumor on his forehead.  The father walked out of their lives and they needed a mode of transportation to get to Louisville every other week for treatment.  At 10:30 that morning they prayed specifically for this need.  At 3:30 that same afternoon, the answer came.  Another single lady called saying she had gotten a new car and would like to give the old one to someone that could use it.  The car had new tires and had just been serviced.  The two ladies met, the car exchange took place, and there was much rejoicing.

When asked about how someone could help at the ministry, Diana recommended they seek out pregnancy care centers in their own area and see if they might meet a need.  “The needs are generally for volunteer labor, financial needs, material needs and, most of all, prayer.  It is not an easy job,” she says, but it is sure making a difference in the lives of so many families and children.

Please pray for Diana and Pathway of Hope as they minister to these families.  Pray for them to be bold in their witness.  Pray for other pregnancy care centers across the state.  Then, go to http://www.kybaptist.org/pregnancycare/ to find a pregnancy care center in your area and see how you might get involved.  If you know of a center in your area that is not listed, one that is private, Christian based and Southern Baptist connected through a local church and/or association, we are interested in working with them as well.  Contact us at missions@kybaptist.org with that information.

“That God might be known as God”

God is zealous for His own glory. In fact, He refuses to share His glory with any other (Isa 42:5-9). But what does it mean that God is glorious? Simply put, as a noun ‘glory’ means honor or praise. As an adjective, ‘glorious’ means having honor or praise; something that is very beautiful or delightful ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/glorious).  Thus, to say that God is glorious means that He (alone) is worthy of receiving honor or praise; that He (alone) is perfectly beautiful or delightful.

sunThe Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 11 are helpful here: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways (v 33)! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (v 36) (comments about the glory of God are drawn from Tom Wells, A Vision for Missions, 114-115).  Paul’s point in verse 33 is that we know little, especially when it comes to the ways of God.

In fact, His ways are beyond our understanding. We cannot figure them out. However, there are some things we do know; those things made known to us by God. Ultimately, all things serve the purpose of God. All things are for the glory of God (v 36). As Wells describes it, “Behind all else lies the glory of God. Always and everywhere, God is to shine forth. This is true in missions, as in all else. This is why God is forming His church” (A Vision for Mission, 114).

The church is formed regardless of the culture and generation for the express purpose of giving glory to God (Eph 3:21). As Jesus followers we do all that we do, even the seemingly routine, for the sole purpose of God’s glory (1 Cor 10:31). This understanding does not negate our concern for the needs of people; rather, it prioritizes those needs. People are not first; God is first. “Our first goal is ever and always the same,” Wells insists. “We seek to bring praise to God. That—above all else—is the purpose of missions” (A Vision for Missions, 114)!

Above the needs of people, as great as those needs are, is the glory of God. The purpose of missions is to gather peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation for the praise of God (Rev 5:9). David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians in the 1700s, was driven by the prospect of God’s glory among the world. What kept Brainerd, who suffered great physical illness and mental depression, on the field among the American Indians? His journal entry on August 23, 1743 reveals his motive:

“My soul was concerned, not so much for souls as such, but rather for Christ’s kingdom, that it might appear in the world, that God might be known to be God in the whole earth” (A Vision for Missions, 123).

What was first for Brainerd? “That God might be known to be God in the whole earth.” How does a man remain committed to bringing the gospel to people amidst horrible suffering? He must be convinced that God is worthy to be known simply for who He is. Why did he endure hardship in order that American Indians would come to know Jesus as Lord? He did so in order that God would be known as God. God’s glory is the motivation for missions. Proclaiming the gospel among unbelievers so that they turn in faith and repentance to Jesus is the means to the end—brining glory to God, making God known to be God among the whole earth!

 

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

West Liberty -7 Louisiana Floods: Worst U. S. Disaster Since Hurricane Sandy

West Virginia Floods Devastate 1200 Homes, Many Lives

EF-3 Tornado Leaves Damage in Mayfield, Kentucky

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods certainly reek havoc on individuals, but house fires, vehicle accidents, and community violence can be equally devastating to families.

Disasters are always about loss.   Calamities can rob people of homes, material possessions, income, personal keepsakes, normalcy, emotional stability, and loved ones.  The loss is real.  It can be emotionally, physically, and spiritually overwhelming.  These catastrophic events often force people to live with intrusion, vulnerability, and a longing for escape.

The trauma of a disaster throws people off balance and always produces significant change.   Survivors often experience shock, numbness, fear, frustration, confusion, guilt, grief, and anger.  They are often left to depend on strangers for the basic necessities required to get through another day.

Disaster Relief ministry reminds those affected that we care and even deeper…God cares.

Titus 3:14 urges us, “And our people must also learn to devote themselves to good works for cases of urgent need, so that they may not be unfruitful.”

Disasters create doors of opportunity for us, as followers of Christ, to offer compassion to those affected by loss and pain.  The Bible teaches us that this is just the right thing to do when our neighbor is hurting.  Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me…inasmuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25: 35-40).  When we reach with compassion to the vulnerable and displaced, we are honoring Jesus and sharing His love.

Disasters also open tremendous doors for the Gospel.  Survivors gladly welcome those responding to help them.  This creates opportunities to share the hope that is within us.  In crisis events, compassionate acts of service and empathetic listening often open gates to share the Gospel.

Tragically, most churches are unprepared with a strategy to respond effectively to events of crisis within their community.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief seeks to train volunteers and partner with churches to bring help, healing, and hope to those affected in times of disaster.

Is God calling you to get involved and to be more prepared to serve effectively for His sake among the hurting?

To find out more about training opportunities and disaster relief ministry contact us at www.kybaptist.org/dr or call us at (866) 489-3527,

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things!

Going Outside is NOT an Option

What do you think of when you hear the words, “go outside”?  I’m reminded of those times as a child when I was in the way and my mother would say to my brothers and I, “you all need to go outside and play”.   We knew exactly what that meant and would go outside to escape the consequences that would follow if we didn’t.   Did anyone tell you to go outside when you were a child?   Has anyone told you recently to go outside?

Go Outside logo

Church planter, entrepeneur and author Alton Lee Webb, in his book, “Go Outside”, challenges Christ followers regardless of age or experience to go outside.  But not to play, because going outside is serious business and it’s not an option.  It’s God’s urgent mandate to those of us who have chosen to follow Him.  Lee reminds us that we are challenged through Paul’s writing in Hebrews 13 to go outside the city to worship God in acceptable ways in the unholy places.  We are called to be imitators of Christ to those who’ve not yet seen Him.

Going outside involves getting out of our comfortable place and stepping into something unfamiliar in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Going outside is discovering and using our gifts and talents for God’s glory, not mine.  Going outside is seizing opportunities to do for others at my own expense.  Going outside is recognizing and addressing the needs right in front of us that God has equipped me to meet.

The world is not coming inside to us.  If we’re going to reach them, we must go outside – and that is risky and messy.   Not all of us like taking chances, but there are many out there who have.  Lee shares his story and those of others who’ve decided it was time to get off the bench and get into the game, serving those they wouldn’t normally be associated with.  The stories inspire and challenge me to serve others more than I currently am.  They stretch me to push through myself and quit looking for someone else to do what God has equipped and purposed me to do.

Jesus was the ultimate outsider when He came to earth to redeem you and me.  If I’m going to be a Christ follower, then I too, must be an outsider.  However, if I’m completely honest with myself, some days I’m much more of an insider and nothing like Jesus.  But I’m not giving up – because being outside is a lot more exciting and brings so much more meaning to life, now and eternally.

“Go Outside – get up, get out, change the world” by Alton Lee Webb is available at http://altonleewebb.com/product/go-outside/ or from Amazon.com.

A Great Mission Field

back to school

It’s “Back-To-School” time and many students are getting help from Kentucky Baptist churches and ministries all across the state through their back-to-school community missions outreach programs.

Last week I made a trip to Monticello, KY and picked up 170 pairs of athletic shoes from Evangelist Dale Rose, with E & E Warehouse, and delivered them to Amy Wilhelmus at the Moore Activity Center in Covington, KY.  The trunk and back seat of my car could hardly hold the boxes.  There were nice shoes of all colors and sizes.  These, added to shoes that Amy has collected throughout the year, will be used to serve approximately 200 students that come to the MAC on Saturday, August 13th, for help to begin the new school year.  Some of the shoes are donated and others purchased from a monetary donation designated for school shoes.  Socks, school supplies and hygiene items will also be given to each student and, along with these items, the Gospel message will be presented.

This is just one of the many similar events that are going on throughout the state.  John Morris, with God’s Appalachian Partnership in McDowell, shared that the students at their KidStock 2016 event were excited to receive school supplies and shoes but that most importantly they all heard the Gospel.  John told a 9-year old girl that he loved her new shoes, to which she replied, “Do you know where I got them?  The lady inside said that Jesus gave them to me because He loves me!”

But, the ministry does not stop with these one-time back-to-school events.  Many of our ministries work with schools throughout the year to meet the needs of the students.  They help to provide school supplies all year long, as well as hygiene and clothing items that the students may need.  Many ministries have ongoing food backpack programs where they send food home with the children for the weekend.

Still other ministries have after school tutoring programs for the children throughout the year.  Some ministries, such as First-Priority, FCA, and B.R.E.A.K. are privileged to teach the Bible and lead students in worship during their school day.  Missionary Beth Arnold, with Bible Released-Time Education Association of Kentucky (B.R.E.A.K.) in Corbin, says our students are “possibly one the most unreached mission fields in our country.”

Our students have many needs.  The need for food, clothing, and other material items.  The need to be cared for and loved.  And, most importantly, the need to hear the Gospel.  Jesus loved the children and we must too.  There is a great mission field among the children in our neighborhoods.  May we commit to pray and care for our children and youth.

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Mark 10:13-14

 

Where do we begin?

When it comes to mobilizing for missions, where do we begin?  I mean, what should ultimately drive us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth?  Is it that 4.2 billion people are unreached with the gospel or that nearly 200 million have no one taking the gospel to them?  Perhaps it is the reality that more than half of the people in the world live on less than $2 each per day, and one billion people are engulfed in extreme poverty, living on less than $1 each per day (The Poverty of Nations, forward by Rick Warren).

In his book, A Vision for Missions, Tom Wells shares of hearing a missionary say, “A need will not keep you on the mission field. People will rebuke and repel you” (7).  While often times a need motivates missionaries to go, need alone will not keep them there or even keep them going back in the case of short-term missions in partnership with long-term strategy. Everywhere we look there are tremendous needs, which regularly overwhelm the missionary. Often adding to the frustration of the enormous needs is a lack of response by the people to the missionary’s work. What then, as Wells asks, is left? The answer: God.

God is and must be the ultimate reason for missions. We begin with God. Wells rightly argues that “God is worthy to be known and proclaimed for who He is, and that fact is an important part of the missionary motive and message” (A Vision for Missions, 9). For missions to be at the heart of the church, God must be at the heart of the church. Jesus followers gripped by the greatness of God cannot help but speak about the greatness of God among all nations, not simply because people need to know about Him, but because He is worthy to be known.

earth-1388003_960_720My intention is not to minimize the need for the salvation of mankind or the call to be benevolent, but to maximize the worthiness of God to be known for who He is.  If we are not careful our primary focus will be upon mankind rather than upon God. As one pastor describes it, you can magnify with a microscope or with a telescope. A microscope magnifies by making tiny things look bigger than they actually are and a telescope magnifies by making gigantic things (like stars and planets), which look tiny to the naked eye, appear more as they really are (John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, 17).  A proper starting place for missions is to function as a telescope for God.

Therefore, we must begin with God and His greatness. Wells asks passionately, “Where are the missionary candidates who are panting to make Christ known for Christ’s sake? Do they exist? They must exist, for these candidates are Christians. And surely a Christian wants his Saviour to be known” (A Vision for Missions, 110).

Is Yours an Innie or an Outie?

Most of us can answer pretty quickly about whether we have an innie or an outie, if we’re talking about belly buttons. Whether you end up with an innie or an outie is usually a matter of chance. Most people end up with innies, but some people have outies. Outies usually occur when more of the umbilical cord is left when it’s cut, leading to more skin left over once it dries out.  Inward or Outward

While it may not be as simple as lifting your shirt and looking down, can you identify whether you are part of an innie church or an outie church?

What’s the difference?  Outie churches are strong and healthy within, but focused on reaching those outside the church.  Innie churches are most concerned about keeping those already in the church engaged.

Outie churches are deliberate about engaging their community with good deeds and the good news of Christ.  Innie churches integrate activities and programs in the church, but fail to engage the community.

Outie churches emphasize their influence and impact on the community everyday of the week while innie churches emphasize how many attend on a given Sunday.

Outie churches will be greatly missed by the community if they cease to exist while most innie churches aren’t even noticed by the community.

Take a look at your church’s calendar or budget and it too, will help to determine whether you’re part of an outie or an innie. Is the biggest portion of your budget spent on missions, engaging the community and reaching the lost? Or is it allocated for maintaining buildings, church programming and keeping the already baptized believers content?  The activities and ministries on your churches calendar are just as telling.  Do they indicate that your church is an innie or an outie?

A study by Lifeway Research showed that 78% of those surveyed believed the church was more concerned about organized religion that it was engaging and caring for their local community.  Whether it’s true or not, that was their perception.  What is your church doing to disprove that belief?  Outie churches discover the needs in communities and develop ministries to address those needs and share Christ.

You can’t control whether you have an innie or an outie belly button, but you can control whether your church is an innie or outie.  Take steps to move your church from being an innie to becoming an outie.  Assess the needs of your community, move your congregation from the seats to the streets in meaningful ministry, equip members to share Christ in the course of their daily activity, develop new ministries to reach those still unreached, and partner with ministries already plugged into your local community.

The way to inwardly build a strong and healthy church is through external service and ministry.  Will you accept the challenge to become an outie?   The Missions Mobilization Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention has assessment tools, resources, training, networking and grants to assist your church in becoming more externally focused.  Call or email for assistance.