iGO 2015

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The holiday season is behind us and we have entered into a new year.  The cold weather and snow are here, but people are already turning their thoughts toward Spring Break, Summer Vacations, and where they can go on mission in 2015.  Since the 2nd of January the phone calls and emails have abounded with team leaders looking for places to do missions.  Building teams looking for new building projects.  Other construction teams looking for remodeling projects of churches, ministry centers, and/or houses.  Backyard Bible Club and Vacation Bible School teams looking for opportunities to share God’s message with girls and boys.  All types of teams looking for places to serve.  Every year teams look forward to fulfilling the Great Commission at home and abroad.

There are lots of opportunities to serve.  If you are looking for a 2015 project go to www.kybaptist.org/go and check out our many posts.  There you will find projects in Kentucky, the US, and even internationally.

For those of you who have never been a part of a mission trip, let me encourage you and your church to let 2015 be your year to go on mission.  We will be happy to answer any questions and help you to choose a project that fits your gifts, skills, and abilities.  Whether for one day, a few days, a whole week, or maybe a longer term, there are opportunities just waiting for you that will change your life forever.

Perhaps God is calling you not only to serve short-term but you feel His leading to something more permanent.  Only a month into the New Year we have had one new missionary approved, four beginning the application process to serve, and a list of five who are prospective long-term missionaries.

God is calling.  Will you respond?  Contact us at missions@kybaptist.org and let us help you enter into the joy of missions!!

A Dead End in Southeast Asia

The quote from the banner hanging in the stairwell said it best:

“My purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God which I believe comes through knowing Christ.”

As I climbed the stairs toward our meeting room in Southeast Asia, I saw this banner for the first time.  The picture on the banner was of a young Billy Graham.  At some point in the past, Graham had said those words, no doubt with his usual fervor.  I am convinced that he believed those words and lived by those words.

I recently returned from a two week mission in Southeast Asia.  As mission strategist for thesouth-east-asia-map KBC, my purpose in going was to help KY churches reach Southeast Asia for Christ.  The lostness of this region in our world is staggering.  Religion abounds.  Yet, millions follow down a path of religion that leads to a dead end.  Like driving down an unfamiliar road that ends abruptly, scores of people are following after a religion that in the end will not lead them to God.

As one Muslim we encountered testified, “I am not like other Muslims!  I pray five times a day!”  Part of his passionate plea to us was an indictment on the other 20 or so Muslim men standing around as we talked.  He, in effect, was scolding the other Muslim men for being…well, nominal Muslims.  This young Muslim man does not realize that the path that he believes will lead him to God is actually a dead end.

Graham was right.  A personal relationship with God comes only through Jesus.  The Psalmist understood this truth as he called the earth to rejoice and the many islands to be glad (Ps 97:1).  He would go on to tell us that God alone is far above all gods (Ps 97:9).  We certainly know because of the New Testament that Jesus is the source of our true happiness and satisfaction.  We know God through His Son, not through our attempts at religion.

Whether one is a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist or Secularist, the man-made road always leads to a dead end.  Only in Jesus do we find the path of life and pleasures for evermore (Ps 16:11).  So, what has Southeast Asia taught me?  It’s simple.  All attempts to travel the pathway to God result in dead ends.  Only the path to God through His Son leads to life (Matt 7:13-14; John 14:6).

So, where does this leave us as a convention of Baptist churches?  Well, if the many islands are called to be glad in God (through His Son, Jesus), then we must send our troops to the islands.  We must march to these lands (or in many cases fly or sail) and take the only good news that countless people need to hear desperately—our God saves all who will call upon Him through His Son, Jesus (Rom 10:9-10, 13).  Right now, untold numbers are heading down a path that leads nowhere.  Actually, it is a path that leads to death and hell (Matt 7:13)—a dead end, if you will.

As Kentucky Baptists, let’s think creatively and intentionally about ways to reach the many islands and inlands with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Let’s do this before the dead end ends.  May your church’s purpose be to help people find a relationship with God through Christ regardless if it’s across the street, throughout the country or around the world.

I’m Not Trained, but I Did Stay at a Holiday Inn Express Last Night

State leadership MeetingBelievers often ask in Disaster Relief, “Why do I have to go through training to serve as a volunteer?  Why can’t I just go help people?”

Preparation is important in any area of ministry, because it enables us to be more effective in ministry.  The wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 10:10 declared, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength, but wisdom brings success.” Sharpening the blade will enable the tool to be more efficient, just as training helps believers to serve more effectively in response to the survivors of disasters.  Through your gifts to the Cooperative Program, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is able to provide training in disaster relief that prepares Kentucky Baptists to be ready to serve in positive ways during times of disaster.

Top ten reasons to be trained:

  1. Training prepares us in our understanding of disasters and the needs that arise in times of disaster.
  2. Training enables us to respond in appropriate and effective ways.
  3. Training prepares us to understand our role as part of a team.
  4. Training enables us to sharpen our abilities, in order to be an asset not a hindrance in the response.
  5. Training helps us to understand hazards and safety concerns in disaster areas.
  6. Training prepares us to understand, in a deeper way, some of the trauma that victims face, so that we might be able to offer appropriate compassion.
  7. Training prepares the heart for ministry by increasing awareness of the need and different opportunities to minister.
  8. Training prepares the hands to be ready to serve effectively.
  9. Training prepares the head by gaining knowledge.
  10. The greatest reason to train is that God deserves our very best in all that we do.  In order to achieve this, discipline, effort, and knowledge are required.  Trainings are an opportunity to grow as believers, so that we are ready when God calls.

Several years ago, there was a popular commercial that showed a man preparing to do surgery when everyone began to realize that perhaps he was not up to the task.  The man’s response to their concern was “I may not be a doctor, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”  I cannot answer for you, but I really do not want that man doing surgery on me.  And yet, sometimes we are that way when it comes to ministry.  ”Hey, I am not really prepared to minister to you, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.”

Disasters will come.  Therefore, let me encourage you, be prepared to serve by being trained.  Victims deserve that.  Other disaster relief workers deserve that.  But most of all, our God deserves that!

Check out these opportunities for training in 2015:

For more information or to register go to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr.

 

Is Your Association Missional?

Baptist associations have been around since 1707, and there were already 125 local associations of Baptist churches established by 1814.  Over the years, associations have served a variety of purposes and still do today because each association operates autonomously from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) or state convention.  churches  The direction and mission of each Baptist association is determined by messengers from churches that are members of the local association.  Most associations have a Director of Missions who is responsible for leading the mission and ministry of the association as determined by messengers from the churches in regular meetings.  Although associations function in many different ways as determined by the churches, there is one primary purpose that should not be overlooked– and that is, that they function missionally or as a catalyst for missions.    When you consider all that your local association does, would you call it missional?    I hope so, but I suspect that in some cases, that is not the word that comes to mind.  What does it mean for an association of churches to function as a missions organization with a leader they refer to as a Director of Missions (or DOM)?

Johnny Rumbaugh, who is a well-respected and excellent DOM in South Carolina, recently shared what he thought were the Four Functions of a Missional Baptist Association.  I want to share them with you for your consideration as you think about the association that your church is part of.    If you’d like to see your association more missional, get busy.   Churches that participate in the association are positioned to create change and give new direction to the association.  Get involved and serve as a catalyst for the kind of change needed to make your association function in a more missional way.

1.    Plant (Start) - “Start something new”

Here are a few basic starter ideas for planting something new:

  • Identify communities where your churches can be on mission
  • Offer training for churches to start missional community groups
  • Lead churches to participate in planting a new church(es)

 2.   Strengthen (Nourish) - “Strengthen something old”

Here are few basic starter ideas for strengthening churches:

  • Coach churches in developing a plan for leading toward spiritual health
  • Introduce struggling churches to the missional concept of merging or restarting
  • Lead in developing a plan for connecting healthy churches with unhealthy ones

3.    Partner (Collaborate) -  “Partner with someone somewhere”

Here are a few basic starter ideas for missional collaboration:

  • Enlist churches to collaborate to meet significant local mission needs
  • Encourage churches to partner with a plant/planter somewhere
  • Lead churches to connect to national and international mission opportunities

4.   Multiply (Produce) - “Produce disciples somehow”

Here are a few basic starter ideas for a greater harvest:

  • Continuously cast a vision for churches to make disciples who make disciples who plant churches
  • Equip churches to have a disciple-making-disciple plan
  • Lead in creating a culture conducive for churches to embrace a disciple-making and church planting multiplication movement.

 

Christmas Day!

As a kid I remember the dilemma.  I was always way too excited to go to sleep, but I knew that if I could fall asleep Christmas morning would come quicker.  Eventually I would fall fast asleep only to wake the next morning rather early—usually around 5 am.  I would run down the hallway toward my parents’ room and past the living room door (peeking in to see silhouettes of gifts on the floor).  The anticipation of Christmas morning was almost too much to bare!

ChristmasWith a whisper, I would say, “Mom, Dad, it’s time to get up!”  They would tell me to wake my older siblings and off I’d go to let them know it’s time to get up.  Eventually everyone would crawl out of the bed and head down the hall toward the living room.  The excitement was overwhelming!  The lights would flip on and I’d think, “No way!”  Presents were scattered throughout the living room.  I remember those days like they were yesterday.

Today, as a husband and father, I have enjoyed watching my three children with similar reactions to Christmas morning over the years.  There is something about the sheer excitement of Christmas day that transcends generations (and even cultures).  But why?

If we think about it, the first Christmas morning was filled with the same kind of wonder and excitement.  Luke tells us in his gospel that the announcement of Jesus’ birth came to the most unlikely—shepherds (Luke 2)!  Yet, His birth, as the angel told them, was for them.  In other words, the shepherds were the first to receive the greatest gift of all, the reason we celebrate this season today.  The angel’s words still bring child-like excitement: “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

“For me?” thought the shepherds. “Yes, for you!”  And for you, too!  The shepherds ran to see the baby Jesus and they leave with great excitement telling everyone around—“A Savior has been born for you!”  “For me?”  “Yes, for you!”

While we give and receive gifts this Christmas, it’s a reminder of the greatest gift ever given, a gift first given to the most unlikely.  A gift that changed their world.  A gift that they were not content to keep to themselves, but were willing to tell everyone around.

Let us do the same this Christmas.  “For unto us a Savior has been born!”  May the excitement and wonder of Christmas day compel us to share this great gift of Jesus with all those around us and beyond us.

Earthquake Preparedness

Haiti eartquake - 04Haiti Earthquake -07Experts continue to predict that the New Madrid Fault Line, which includes portions of Kentucky, will eventually produce an earthquake of 7.7 magnitude or greater.  A quake of this degree would generate 21 times the energy of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and would likely cause significant structural and infrastructure damage.  It would also potentially displace tens Haiti Earthquake -07of thousands of people, particularly in the western portion of our state.

Are We Ready?

Creating a family disaster preparedness plan and an emergency survival kit can greatly enhance your survival capabilities following a natural disaster.

Haiti earthquake - 2

During an earthquake, the best way to protect yourself from injury is to:

Drop. Drop to your hands and knees to lessen the chance of being injured in a fall.

Cover. Cover your head, neck area, and as much of your body as possible with your arms or by crawling under a table/desk. This will provide protection from falling items.

Hold. Hold on to your item of shelter or to your head and neck until tremors/shaking stops.

An emergency supply kit should be prepared to sustain life for a minimum of 96 hours, and should include:

EMERGENCY NEEDS:
Instruction Manual on Emergency Preparedness
Battery Powered Radio
First Aid Kit and Manual
Sleeping Bags and Blankets (Wool and Thermal)
Can Opener
Waterproof/Windproof Matches
Non-Perishable Foods: Ready-to-eat goods in unbreakable containers, canned meats, juice, fruits, vegetables, powdered mild, infant care foods, crackers, peanut butter, freeze-dried and/or dehydrated goods (MRE’s)
Flashlight with Extra Batteries
Water Storage (1 gallon daily, per person)
Water Purification/Filtration
Utility Knife/Multi-tool
Emergency Candles
Extra Eyeglasses/Contact Lenses
Essential Medications
Extra Clothing

SANITATION KIT (5 person example):
(1) 5/6-Gallon Bucket
(1) Port-a-Potty Lid
(12) Port-a-Potty Bags
(5) Port-a-Potty Chemicals
(5) Latex-Free Gloves
(5) 3M N-95 Particle Respirators
(2) Toilet Paper Rolls
(5) Toothbrushes
(5) Tissue Packs
(5) Combs
(5) Razors
(5) Bars of Soap
(5) Hand Sanitizers

OTHER ITEMS:
Wet Wipes/Moist Towelettes
Baby Supplies
Paper Towels
Paper Plates/Cups
Plastic Utensils
Aluminum Foil

STRESS REDUCERS:
For Children: Puzzles, Coloring Books, Crayons, Books, Games
For Adults: Books, Magazines, Games

OTHER EMERGENCY NEEDS:
Paper and Pen
Copies of Insurance Policies and Personal Papers
Money (Cash)
Important Addresses/Phone Numbers
Work Gloves
Tool kit w/Most Commonly Used Tools

ITEMS TO HAVE ON HAND IMMEDIATELY:
Flashlight w/spare batteries (keep a flashlight beside every bed in the house)
Portable Radio w/spare batteries (telephones may be out of order, so radio may be your best source of accurate information via the Emergency Alert System (EAS) (KSL 1160 AM))
First Aid Kit (everyone should know basic first aid, i.e. CPR, Heimlich Maneuver, & First Aid for severe bleeding and shock)
Smoke Detectors & Class ABC Fire Extinguishers are recommended for every home
Pipe Wrench & Adjustable Wrench for turning off gas or water mains
Work Gloves and Boots to assist with rescue work (or CERT Kit, if CERT Trained)

Haiti Earthquake -07Haiti Earthquake -07 STANDARD FIRST AID KIT:
First Aid Manual
Pain Relievers (Aspirin, Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.)
Rubbing Alcohol
Cotton Balls
Cotton Swabs
Anti-Bacterial Ointment
Gauze
Band-Aids
Triangular Bandage (36”x 36”x 52”)
Elastic Bandage
Safety Pins
Scissors
Laxatives
Anti-Diarrhea Medication
Thermometer
Salt Tablets
Sanitary Napkins (Pressure Dressing)
Medical Adhesive Tape
Matches
Needles
Tweezers
Small Splints
Heavy String
Items for any specific individual needs

Bethlehem Experience

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Last night I took a trip to “Bethlehem.”  Oh, it was just 40 miles down the road from my house, but was a nice reminder of what that wonderful night some 2000 years ago might have been like.

As we entered the city we had to register for the census and declare all of our livestock.  We then passed by the money changer’s table and to the tax collector, where we paid our taxes.  Once our taxes were paid, we entered the marketplace.

The pottery shop was our first stop.  There was beautiful pottery displayed around the shop and the potter shared about how he takes a lump of clay and molds it into a beautiful vessel, just as God does with us.  Many times, he said, the vessel has flaws and he has to start all over.

After leaving the potter’s shop we went on to the bakery.  They told us of the different types of bread they were baking and gave us samples.  They were also sharing about some most incredible news they had been hearing.  It was about a baby being born and folks asking if this could be the Messiah.  “If you find Him will you let us know?” they asked.

Our next stop was the carpenter’s shop, where they were busy working with the wood.  We then visited the spice shop, the musicians, the basket maker, and the clothier.  At each of these locations they too were discussing the rumor of a baby being born.

The stop at the synagogue was most interesting.  There a learned Rabbi was teaching his students about Old Testament prophecy of a baby, the Messiah, which was to be born in Bethlehem.  “He will bring us peace and will be pierced for our transgressions.”

As we approached the inn, we met the innkeeper; then were greeted by shepherds who shared about the angel visiting them while they were in the fields saying, “Behold, unto you is born this night, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Finally we came to the stable.  There, we met Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in the manger.  Mary and Joseph both shared how an angel had come to them telling them that this child was of the Holy Spirit and not to fear.

This “Bethlehem Experience” was an outreach of the New River/McCreary County Baptist Association at their ministry building in Winfield, TN.  At our final stop we were back in the 21st century.  Pastors were there to share the rest of the story.  They reminded us not to leave Jesus in the manger.  Yes, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and we do celebrate His birth at Christmas, but we must not stop there.  Jesus grew up.  He lived a sinless life.  He died on the cross for our sins.  He was buried, but three days later He rose from the grave, went back into heaven, and will one day come back for His children.

Can you celebrate the entire story this Christmas?  Is He your Lord and Savior?  If not, there is no better gift for you to receive this Christmas than accepting Him into your heart and life.

Merry Christmas!!

 

Oh Give Thanks to the Lord

turkeyThis week marks the celebration of Thanksgiving.  Turkey, dressing, and desserts will be devoured on Thursday.  Families will gather to eat and give thanks.  But why?  For Americans, we give thanks for many reasons, not least of which is our freedom to live in a land that is free (for now) to worship without the dictates of government.  Giving thanks is not a new idea; it’s actually rooted in a Judeo-Christian worldview.

Both the Old and New Testament calls us to give thanks to the Lord.  For example, the people of Israel were to give thanks to the Lord when King David brought the ark of God to the city of Jerusalem.  The ark symbolized the presence of God among His people. The day that the ark arrived in Jerusalem was a day of great celebration.

The writer of 1 Chronicles 16 records for us the song of thanksgiving that was offered to God on that momentous day.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.  Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders.  Glory in His holy name; Le the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.  Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.  Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth” (vv 8-12).

Giving thanks was a normal response of the people of God in the Old Testament to who God is and what He has done for them.  The people of Israel were to give thanks for what God had done for them, so that the peoples (other nations) would know this one true God.

Thanksgiving to God, therefore, is not only to be vertical but also horizontal.  In other words, our thanks is to be directed to God as a testimony to others of who He is and what He does.  While we give our thanks to God for what He has done for us, we do so in order that the nations might know what He has done on their behalf.

So give thanks to the Lord this season of Thanksgiving, but do so in order that you might “make known His deeds among the peoples.”  As you give thanks to God for all He has done for you, remember to make Him known to those who yet do not know Him.

We all have family, friends, and neighbors who need to hear of the wonderful deeds of the Lord.  So give thanks, and in so doing make Him known.

Winter Readiness

Winter StormIf you have never prepared for winter, you may want to begin this year.  Many experts are predicting an early winter with potential for harsh temperatures and large amounts of snow and ice.

Severe weather is more than an inconvenience, it can be life-threatening if you are unprepared.  Here are a few tips to help you be ready for winter weather:

  • Heat - If your main heat source does not work without power, then the first thing you should consider is purchasing an alternative source of heat.  Never use outdoor grills inside.  If you utilize a kerosene heater, then be sure that you have ventilation, as fumes can be dangerous indoors.
  • Generator – Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Never operate a generator inside the home, as generators produce carbon monoxide fumes.   It is best to have an electrician install a generator switch to prevent back feed to the electrical grid.
  • Heavy Clothing – A good coat, hat, pair of gloves, thermal underwear, pair of wool socks, and a set of insulated boots are good clothing items to have on hand for bitter weather.
  • Food - It is good to have 3-7 days of easily preparable food on hand for emergencies.  Bottled water is also a good resource to have available.  Be sure to have a manual can opener.
  • Radio – In order to stay informed in severe weather settings, a portable radio that runs on batteries is essential.  You might also want to consider solar chargers for your phone or computer, so that you can continue to have a means of communication.
  • Light - Candles, flashlights, and extra batteries are always useful in emergencies.  For extended outages, oil lamps are more long-lasting and efficient.

Preparation always increases your ability to survive and endure times of severe weather, power outages, and disasters.  Be Prepared!

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”      (Proverbs 27:12)

 

 

They were Called to Go – and Went!

I was reminded this week about Abraham who was called to go out to a new land.  Although he didn’t know what would happen, Abraham showed great faith by obeying and going (Hebrews 11:8).  Think about the practical application of this verse.  It doesn’t appear that Abraham hesitated or argued with God.  When he was called – he went!  I believe that God still calls many to go, but few respond with the faith and obedience that Abraham did.  The scripture calls those who don’t respond to God’s call – hearers of the Word only, and not doers (James 1:22).

Kelsey, Daniel & Sarah

I helped a modern day Abraham and his wife move last weekend. Daniel and Sarah were called by God to go to a new place, not knowing exactly what to expect. They only know that God called and they are going to be obedient and faithful to Him.  Daniel and Sarah moved from their nice, modern, safe, clean and comfortable apartment to a barn apartment in a neighborhood of poverty where they will live on mission for Him.

It’s unclear exactly what God has planned, maybe after school activities for the many children they saw getting off the school bus.  Perhaps it will be a community group meeting in their home to study God’s word.  Maybe special events, community activities or a new Hispanic church in the barn.  One thing is certain, Daniel and Sarah will be Christian neighbors who have chosen to live out their faith in a community that is watching and curious.

I’m excited about the opportunities that God will place before Daniel and Sarah to shine as lights in a dark world.  But I’m saddened by the many others who have refused to obey the call of God in their lives. Those who hear and don’t go are losing wonderful opportunities for sharing the love and witness of Christ to a world that is searching for an authentic witness. The call may be to the other side of the world, down the block or across town.  The only thing that matters is our obedience to the call.  Many excuses are given for not going, but few are those who respond, yes Lord.    

It’s interesting to note the concluding comment to Abraham’s life in Genesis 24:1, Abraham was now old, getting on in years, and the Lord had blessed him in everything.”  Only God knows the rest of Daniel & Sarah’s story.  But I believe He is smiling and will bless them because of their obedience.  Will you covenant with me to pray for them as they go – not knowing what God has in store for them or their new neighbors?