A Gift That Keeps on Giving

Gift

Christmas 2015 is behind us.  Gifts have been unwrapped.  Gifts have been given and gifts were received.  At this time of year we hear the words of Jesus repeated often that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  And, it is a time of giving.  We carefully picked special gifts for those we loved and wanted to share with.  Most of us not only gave to our family and friends, but also gave to charities and to those in need.  We were in the spirit in giving.

But, I want to share a little about receiving.  I am also thankful for each gift I received this Christmas for, it means, someone loved me enough to share a little bit of themselves with me.

Recently, I heard a pastor ask the question, “What is the best gift you have ever received?”  Of course, to us Christians it is the gift of salvation.  And, he was getting to that answer but, with this particular question, he first was asking about material gifts.

As I pondered that question (I have received many nice gifts during my lifetime), my answer was the piano I received from my parents when I was 16 years old.  Why my piano?  Because it is a gift that has kept on giving every year since that time as each week I serve as pianist in my home church.

Giving and receiving go hand in hand.  Had I not received the greatest gift of God’s Son, I would not have a message to share.  If I had not received the gift of a piano and piano lessons, I would not have that skill to use in worship.

As His children we have received the greatest gift ever given.  God has also gifted us for service.  Our family and friends have gifted us with material gifts.  Let us take a look at the gifts we have received and see how we can continue to use these gifts for God’s service into the New Year.

HAPPY 2016!!

 

 

Hope is Coming

Christmas is about Jesus. It is a time to celebrate His coming. In fact, Christmas is about the hope of Jesus coming to a world in need. During this time of year one way Southern Baptists celebrate Christmas is by giving to missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. As I think about Christmas, missions, and the hope of Jesus, I am reminded of attending my first commissioning service for the International Mission Board several years ago.

As each missionary stood on stage and offered a couple minute synopsis of where they were going and what they would be doing, one couple concluded, “They (the people group they were going to serve) don’t know yet, but hope is on the way!” Everyone in the service was moved by the reality of their sacrifice to go, but even more so by the pronouncement of the hope they were bringing.

This pronouncement of coming hope is the message of Christmas. Long ago during the dark of the night, shepherds were given a pronouncement of hope. As glory lit up the night sky, the angel announced, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luk 2:11). The Shepherds didn’t know it, but hope had come.

ornamentAs I sit some 2,000 years later waiting for Christmas Day to come in a few days, I am reminded again that hope is coming. Yes, the hope of Christmas, but in a way different than past years for my family. You see, my family has been in a process for over three years to adopt a child from Africa. Just a few weeks ago we received the overwhelming news that a little girl is now waiting for us to bring her home.

She doesn’t know it yet, but hope is on the way! Just as God set His love on us and planned to save us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), He promised to bring us into His family by adoption through Jesus (Eph 1:5). God’s plan to love us and save us would come forth in Christ at just the right time (Eph 1:9-10). This is the message of Christmas—Jesus has come, and He brings us into His family through adoption!

Just as those Shepherds long ago didn’t see it coming, hope arrived at just the right time. Though our daughter doesn’t know it yet, hope is on the way. And as is always the case with God, hope will be right on time!

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

Believers 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:State leadership Meeting

  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. 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 2016:

  • January 16, 2016 at Beaver Dam Baptist Church in Beaver Dam
  • February 13, 2016 at Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington
  • March 12, 2016 at Crestwood Baptist Church in Crestwood
  • April 9, 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church in London
  • September 24, 2016 at Clarkson Baptist Church in Clarkson

 

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

Is Serving Others Only a Seasonal Activity?

I love Christmas, the lights, family gatherings, decorations, music and gift giving. It’s a time of year when people show compassion to the hurts and needs of others. We see it displayed in the days leading up to Christmas by children taking gifts to the elderly in the nursing home, groups singing carols and delivering cookies in the hospitals, families adopting children in need of clothing and toys, and residents of the local community gathering to prepare and serve a meal for the homeless. It’s amazing how ministry active we can become at this season of the year as we serve others in the spirit of Christmas.  Christmas Soup Kitchen

When I see these unselfish acts of Christmas, I’m thankful that this season of peace, joy and love brings out such kindness in most everyone. However, I question our motivation if we only serve and show acts of kindness during the Christmas holidays. Is showing kindness and compassion to others only a seasonal behavior?

More than likely, the needs we choose to meet during the Christmas season exist all year long.  The elderly in our nursing homes need visits and the gift of your presence all year long. There are sick people in the hospital 365 days a year that would love the prayers, songs, cookies, and visits of others. There are children in our community that need clothing, food and basic necessities during the summer, spring and fall too.  If we fail to minister to the homeless in need of shelter and food throughout the year, these members of our community may not be alive next Christmas for us to serve.

Christ spent His life showing us what it means to serve others. He took the form of a servant when he was born (Philippians 2:5-7) in the likeness of man. Jesus taught us that we serve Him by serving others (Mark 9:35). He came to serve and proved to be the ultimate servant by giving His life as a ransom for all (Mark 10:45).

It seems very appropriate that we celebrate the birthday of the greatest servant, Jesus Christ, by serving others. But let’s not limit our service to only the holiday season. Make serving others a daily behavior that flows out of your love for Christ. When we give Jesus His rightful place as Lord of our lives, we will express that devotion by serving others every day of every week, not just at Christmas.

The Gift of Christmas

DR Truck‘Twas not the night before Christmas; no snow was on the ground.

‘Twas not Saint Nicholas and a sleigh full of toys.

But…

‘Twas a beautiful, sunny day of November 16, 2015.

‘Twas a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief tractor-trailer full of toys, and driver Gary, who was definitely a “saint.”

Gary, a retired truck driver from Tennessee, was volunteering his time to deliver Christmas backpacks to ministries in Kentucky and other states.  On this day he delivered 600 backpacks to the Rockcastle Baptist Association for their Operation Give Hope Christmas Outreach on December 19th.  From there, he was headed to Barbourville to drop off another load of backpacks to Missionaries James and Virginia McDonald at Emmanuel Bible Camp.

In all, over 40,000 backpacks were donated by churches in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and perhaps some in other states as they joined with Appalachian Regional Ministry and Mississippi River Ministry to provide gifts for children and teens this Christmas season.  Nearly 15,000 of those came to Kentucky Baptist churches, associations, and ministries.

In Louisville it ‘twas not Mrs. Claus, but ‘twas Missionary Linda Otterback with Eastern Kentucky SONrise Ministry who, along with a number of volunteers, collected 1023 gifts for children in eastern Kentucky.

In Jenkins ‘tis Dove Broadcasting, serving alongside Missionaries Bessie and Lester McPeek, that will provide Christmas for 2000 children.

And, the list could go on and on.

My dad used to recite a poem about a little boy named Tim Ryan, who was so poor that the only sock he had to hang up for Christmas was one with a hole in the toe.  When Santa came he filled, and he filled, and he filled but the presents kept running out at the toe.  Tim Ryan was so excited the next morning when he got up because he had not been forgotten, but had gotten much for Christmas.

‘Tis not Santa Claus, but ‘tis Southern Baptists that will cause many children across Kentucky know they have not been forgotten, but have a blessed Christmas because they are given, not just gifts, but the true Gift of Christmas.

May you have a blessed Christmas and may you too share the true Gift of Christmas with others during this special season.