Taking Care of Your Heart

“Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

I have served in active ministry for the sake of my Lord for forty years, and in my role as Disaster Relief Director for the last decade.  Ministry is not for the faint of heart, weak, or timid.  Our calling often requires us to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Christ and others with long hours and stressful days.  This can wear on us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

I was reminded of this in May of 2017, when I began having some neck pain and numbness in my left arm.  When this continued for several days, I decided to call my cardiologist.   I was quickly scheduled for a heart catheterization, and the result was three stents placed in my coronary arteries.  I am thankful for God’s sufficient grace, and that I could catch this health problem before it caused more serious issues like a major heart attack or stroke.  God has reminded me afresh that I cannot serve him well if I do not take care of my own health.

I would encourage you as a minister to:

  1. Develop a regular discipline of exercise.  I have found a morning 30-minute exercise regimen to be best for me as I often lose control of my afternoons and evenings as ministry needs arise during the day.  Find a type of exercise that you enjoy and can maintain. For me, it is walking or riding a stationary bike.
  2. Maintain a healthy diet.  It is easy in ministry to eat on the “go” and to make less than healthy choices.  I am disciplining myself to watch my portion size, to eat more vegetables and fruits, and to watch my cholesterol and fats.  I thank God that eating healthier has increased my energy for His sake.
  3. Get Proper Rest.  We all need a good night sleep.  God recharges the body when we allow it to rest and trust the events of the day to Him.
  4. Take time to get away from ministry for brief periods and to allow God to restore you.  Unlike the Energizer Bunny, we will run down without some down times to relax.  Ministry can be demanding and stressful, even when things are going good.  Burnout and Compassion Fatigue are damaging to us and our families, and can be deadly to ministry.
  5. Rely on the strength of God’s Holy Spirit to help you begin and maintain good health practices.  If overeating is a weakness for you, then ask the Spirit to help you fight the urge to make unhealthy food choices.  If lack of exercise is your problem, then ask God to help you set your alarm and get up a few minutes earlier.

God has reminded me that I cannot minister effectively if I neglect my own physical, emotional, or spiritual health.  God cares about our bodies.  He gave them to us.  He wants us to do all we can to keep our bodies healthy and active for His sake for the days that He has appointed us.  Take care of yourself for your sake, but even deeper for His sake!

“For you were bought at a price.  Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

What’s a Lollapalooza?

I recently had the privilege of attending a lollapalooza put on by Dexter Baptist Church in western Kentucky.  Pastor David Little led his church to plan and implement the lollapalooza event as an effort to reach out to their community. I had never attended a lollapalooza and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In fact, I’m not sure I could’ve spelled lollapalooza without googling it on my computer.   

So where did this word come from?  Legend and Encyclopedia Britannica have it that musician Perry Farrell claims to have named a large international music festival Lollapalooza back in 1991 after hearing the word.  The popularity and use of the word grew.

People have developed this positive association with ‘-palooza’ and it’s become kind of shorthand.  People have hosted a saleapalooza, gameapalooza, kidzapalooza, doggiepalooza and a variety of others you’ve no doubt come across.

Webster’s dictionary defines a lollapalooza as one that is extraordinarily impressive; alsoan outstanding example”.

What Dexter Baptist did was indeed, “extraordinarily impressive”.  This church that normally averages around 60 in Sunday morning worship had 89 people attend their lollapalooza that included music by a Christian band, free food (and lots of it), door prizes and giveaways, bouncy houses and games, and a presentation of the gospel.  The most exciting thing about their lollapalooza was that four individuals committed their lives to following Christ and another person recommitted his life to Christ.

Dexter Baptist also set “an outstanding example” of how a church can reach out and touch more people through a community event like a lollapalooza than they do on any given Sunday morning.  Yes, it took lots of planning, work, promoting and inviting.  But it was worth it to see so many spiritual decisions made.

The church went outside, the community was engaged and it was a great evening together.  But nothing was more “extraordinarily impressive” than the life transformation I witnessed as people experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ.  Let me challenge you to follow the example of the Dexter church and plan something extraordinarily impressive to reach your community for Christ.

Embracing the Stranger Next Door

It was estimated that last year over 50 million people were displaced from their homes, with around 19.5 million forced to live as refugees. These people have been driven from their homes by war, violence, persecution, and disasters.  They have lost their culture, friends, security, sense of community, and often their dignity.

These are people with names, dreams, and hopes. These are people just like you and me. These are people loved by God. And they are coming to our communities.  Every year refugees, students, and other internationals are coming to our communities.  They are becoming our neighbors.  God is bringing the nations to us, and the church has been called to take the Gospel to all peoples.

How can we embrace the nations and reach out to those from other cultures that God is bringing to our communities?

  • Smile and welcome them.  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.
  • Consider adopting a refugee family through your small group or church family.  The Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Mobilization Team can help you connect to families through partnering ministries.
  • 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 everyday 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).

How to Uniquely Involve the Uninvolved

Have you ever felt that only a small number of church members were doing the majority of the work?  It’s pretty common in churches, at least the ones I’ve been a part of, for us to depend upon the same few individuals to teach Sunday School, sing on the praise team, lead the men’s ministry, serve as deacons and coordinate the discipleship ministry.  When this happens, we are observing what is called the 80-20 rule or Pareto principle.

The Pareto principle, named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian mathematician and economist,  states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the inputs or causes.  What if we’re observing the 80-20 rule in our churches because we don’t provide opportunities for the uninvolved 80% to be involved in ministry that utilizes their gifting, skills and experience?  Ephesians 4 teaches that believers have been gifted and should be equipped for the work of the ministry.  Ephesians 2 reminds us that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  So, what if we’re not seeing more believers involved in ministry and missions because we’ve limited the ministry opportunities made available to them?

An example of this was recently seen when one of the international missionaries with whom we partner needed someone to come alongside them to help with the artificial insemination of dairy cattle on a Muslim island where a plaque had killed most all of the cattle population.   Several Kentucky farmers with the experience and knowledge stepped up to meet the need, and provided a Christian witness too! These farmers may not have volunteered to lead a VBS class or sing in the choir, but God had gifted them uniquely for “such a time as this”.

There are many unique missions opportunities that allow believers to find joy and fulfillment in serving because they’re using the talents and gifts God has equipped them with.  Christ followers want and need to serve – but not all are given the chance if ministry opportunities ONLY exist within a very narrow window of mission experiences.

Here are just a few of the many ways that Christ followers can use their passion, skills, talents and experience to be uniquely on mission.

  1. Athletes are needed to help with sports camps (football, basketball, archery, etc). 
  2. Help is needed with literacy classes or after school tutoring
  3. Farmers are needed to help with artificial insemination of cattle & crop production
  4. Business and leadership classes for professionals in other countries
  5. Cooking and food service help is needed in disaster relief work
  6. Business owners can help with the development of micro-businesses that provide income for indigenous church planters and missionaries
  7. Volunteers can learn how to install and repair wells that provide remote villages with fresh water
  8. Those with construction experience are needed to provide ramps or make repairs for the handicapped and elderly
  9. Plumbers and electricians have skills that can be utilized internationally or here at home as a witness
  10. Skilled chainsaw and heavy equipment operators are needed in disaster relief work
  11. Car mechanics could provide assistance to single mothers and the elderly
  12. Medical professionals can serve through clinics in remote villages or in areas of poverty here in the U.S.
  13. Small motor repair courses can be used as a ministry in many cities throughout the world
  14. Woodworking, leather or metal work may provide income for church planters in many places if they are trained and provided start-up resources
  15. Retirees have years of experience to offer and should prayerfully consider using their unique skills and gifts for an extended period of time
  16. Students should consider giving a month or a summer to serve in a mission opportunity related to their major or degree program

Every skill or talent can be used for God’s honor if we give it to Him through missions opportunities.  The next time you observe the Pareto principle happening in your church, let me challenge you to consider how a unique missions opportunity would involve that unengaged believer to use his passion, gifts and talents.

Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

Studies indicate that those who are prepared for disasters have a greater chance of survival than those who are not prepared.

So how can your family be prepared for a disaster?

  1. Be Informed.  What are the most likely disasters that could occur in your community?  What are the best safety practices that our family should enact if disaster threats happen in our community?  What risks do they impose on my family?   How can I mitigate the risks?
  2. Make a Disaster Plan with your Family.  How will we respond in an emergency? Does everyone know what to do if a tornado siren is heard, if flash flooding is occurring, or what to do in an earthquake?   How will my family get to a safe area?  How will we get in touch after the disaster to ensure everyone is safe and accounted for, or where will we meet if phones or computers are not working? And remember, practice insures everyone understands how to implement the plan.
  3. Put Together an Emergency Kit.  An emergency kit should include:
  • 3-5-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).
  • 3-5 days of ready-to-eat food supplies
  • a first aid kit
  • paper plates, cups, and utensils
  • toilet paper
  • garbage bags
  • flashlight with extra batteries
  • plastic bucket with tight lid
  • disinfectant
  • household bleach
  • battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • 3-5 days of cash
  • essential medications
  • non-electric can opener
  • pliers
  • duct tape
  • matches in waterproof container
  • aluminum foil
  • pencil and paper
  • signal flare
  • wrench to turn off gas and water
  • water hose for siphoning
  • candles
  • good, sturdy shoes
  • rain gear
  • blankets or sleeping bags
  • warm clothing
  • box for important papers
  • whistle for signaling

No one knows when a disaster will strike.  However, we can and should be prepared in the event a crisis happens. Being prepared, may save you and your loved ones.

One last note, even secular disaster entities concur that those with a spiritual foundation, survive better and recover in healthier ways during disaster events than those lacking a spiritual refuge.  So, the greatest way to be prepared for a disaster is to rest your life on the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ!

“A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12).

Being Prepared for a Flood

Flooding is the most frequent disaster that impacts Kentucky.  Kentucky averages about 56 flooding events a year with an average yearly loss of 30.4 million dollars.

Sometimes, floods develop slowly, and forecasters can anticipate where a flood will happen days or weeks before it occurs.  However, flash floods can occur within minutes and without any sign of rain.  Floods can happen anytime and anyplace.  Being prepared can save your life and give you peace of mind.

How can you be ready?

  • Talk to your insurance agent and make sure that you have proper coverage, particularly if you live in an area prone to flooding.
  • Copy important documents.  Keep a copy at home but store additional copies in a secure place outside the home.
  • Take photos of your possessions and store them in a secure place with documents.
  • Have an emergency plan that includes best contact phone numbers and an evacuation plan.  Have an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, matches, batteries, candles, blankets, and a three-day supply of food and water.
  • Monitor weather warnings in your area and heed official instructions.
  • Always follow evacuation orders.
  • Seek higher ground.
  • Never walk or drive through a flooded area.  Turn around; don’t drown!  Six inches of water can cause control issues and stalling.  A foot of water will cause many cars to float.
  • Stay away from downed power lines or other electrical wires.
  • After a flood, check for structural damage before entering your home.  Remove wet and damaged contents and dispose of them properly.  Sanitize affected areas to prevent mold growth and contamination.  Mud and water from flooding can contain chemicals and raw sewage.

“A shrewd person sees danger and hides himself,
but the naive keep right on going and suffer for it.” 
(Proverbs 27:12)

“Pulling Teeth” at Show and Tell

Perhaps you remember as I do, participating in “show and tell” as a child in elementary school. In case you’re not familiar with show and tell, it’s an informative presentation involving the demonstration of an object.  While the class may not always need the demonstration of the object to understand the information presented, together, they communicate much more effectively.

Jesus used show and tell as a means of sharing the gospel with those He encountered.  He demonstrated the Father’s love and preached the message of salvation.  He was always showing and telling, healing and preaching.   

1 John 3:18-19 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;”

The Scriptures emphasize the importance of using actions and deeds when sharing the gospel.  It doesn’t say stop using words altogether when sharing the gospel.  But it does say stop “just” using words.  In other words, show and tell the love of God.  One of God’s frustrations with His people is that we sometimes honor Him with our lips, but our hearts are often far from Him.

I witnessed a show and tell of the gospel in an effective way on a recent Saturday in Bowling Green when Rich Pond Baptist Church assisted Christ Fellowship Church in conducting a dental clinic. The Kentucky Baptist Convention partnered to provide training, dental supplies and use of the North American Mission Board’s mobile dental unit. Brent Fields, Minister of Missions and Outreach at Rich Pond shared that “this opportunity to meet physical needs served as a bridge for sharing the gospel”.

Preparation for the clinic began months in advance with training, enlistment of professionals and canvassing of the neighborhood.  On the day of the clinic, over 35 volunteers worked together to shepherd almost 100 refugees through registration and dental screening, cleaning and pulling teeth, filling cavities and ending pain.  While waiting to be treated, patients heard volunteers share stories of salvation and life transformation.  All day long it was a show and tell of the gospel.

The churches intentionally targeted a refugee population from Africa because of their desire to develop an on-going ministry to their new to Bowling Green friends.  Brent shared that he overheard one volunteer tell a patient from the Congo, “we do this because Christ loves us … and He loves you too!”  Every person coming to the clinic was part of a show and tell as they were shown love in a practical way and told about the gospel of Christ.  Brent also commented that “the dental clinic provided professionals an opportunity to use their skills to demonstrate the love of Christ”.

Churches of any size can show and tell the gospel in their own community and a dental clinic is not the only way to do it.  Other ways to show and tell include after school ministries with children, pregnancy care, small group ministry to recovering addicts or ex-offenders, food and clothing distributing, foster parenting or adoption, rent or utility assistance, parenting courses, home repair, ESL classes, tutoring, etc.  There is no limit to the many ways we can show and tell about the love of Christ.

We must open our mouths to fully express the gospel, but using only words doesn’t fully demonstrate His love. Live the gospel and share the gospel.  Words and deeds.  Lips and life.  Walk and talk. Show and tell!

How is your vision?

I have never had issues with my eyesight.  Well, until recently.  As I am now fully into my mid-40s, I am noticing that my vision is becoming a bit blurry.  Distances are not quite as clear as they once were.  I have yet to do anything about this new middle-age challenge.  Perhaps I should go to the eye doctor.  If I do, the doctor might prescribe me glasses, which would affirm my lack of clear vision.

Seeing clearly is important.  As Jesus traveled through cities and villages he saw people, and he felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).  How sad it would be for us to see and yet not see the needs of people all around us. Because Jesus saw the people (Matt 9:36a), he felt compassion for them.

In other words, Jesus seeing people first led him to have compassion.  Compassion has been defined as sympathetic pity for the distress of others with the desire to alleviate it (Merriam-Webster).  Believers cannot look on the hopelessness of others and not be moved—moved not only with compassion, but with the desire to bring hope.

The Missions Mobilization Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention exists to mobilize KBC churches for gospel impact.  We might say, to mobilize KBC churches to bring hope.  One of the ways we desire to help KBC churches see clearly is providing vision trips to various North American and international partnerships.  These vision trips are designed to expose KBC churches to the hopeless peoples and places throughout the world.

By seeing it, touching it, tasting it, hearing it and overall experiencing it, our prayer is that KBC churches will see the people, feel compassion for them, and do something gospel-centered to bring hope.  Making the most of a church’s time on a vision trip is crucial.

Be prayerful—With Paul, pray always.  Be in prayer as you travel from point A to point B. Pray as you walk and talk.  Pray as you hear from planters or missionaries. Pray as you return to your room.  The point…pray!  Ask the Lord to lead you in how He would have you partner in this place.

Be flexible—the time is short and filled with much to see and hear and experience.  Be prepared to spend long days with potentially shifting schedules.

Be attentive—take careful notes both on paper and in your head of planters/missionaries, stories, and situations that stand out to you.  What might speak to you now might be forgotten if you do not write it down and make note of why it impacted you.  Be observant of the area you are in (what is the community like, the people, the needs, etc.).  Take whatever notes necessary, so that you can make a prayerfully discerning decision about partnerships later with your leadership team.

Be interactive—this vision is meant to be an experience, not simply an informational dump load.  When able, talk with the planters/missionaries about the city, the needs, ways to be involved.  The point is to be engaged in the vision trip.

Be willing—to partner as the Lord leads you.  As David Platt suggests, bring a blank check (of your life) to the table and ask the Lord to fill in the amount.

So, do you have a clear vision for missions?  Learn more about KBC vision trips and partnerships at www.kybaptist.org/vision.

“Hey, Come Over Here!”

As the Apostle Paul began his second missionary journey strengthening previously planted churches, he planned to travel northeast, toward modern day northern Turkey.  However, the Holy Spirit forbid him to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6).  In fact, the “Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” to go there (Acts 16:7).  Instead, they traveled west toward Europe under the Lord’s leading.  Why? Because Paul had a vision during the night of a man in Macedonia (present day Greece), saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9).

So, immediately they concluded that the Lord was calling them to preach the gospel to them, and they went.  The first city they came to was Philippi.  Paul and his traveling companions went to the riverside outside of the city to find people who would be gathered there for prayer.  Women were there, and as Paul shared about Jesus, God opened the heart of an influential business woman named Lydia and she believed (Acts 16:14).  Paul and his team then shared with her whole family and they all believed and were baptized (Acts 16:15).

What an incredible start for this mission team as they were sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The gospel is shared for the first time on European soil and a house church is birthed.  Lest one think that things always go this well, the following events take a different turn for Paul and Silas.  As they continued to stay in Philippi for many more days a slave girl with a spirit of divination began following them.  She continually said, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17).

Paul finally has enough and casts the spirit out of this girl.  Her master sees that his form of profit is now gone and drags Paul and Silas before the authorities, accusing them of throwing the city into confusion by proclaiming unlawful customs (Acts 16:19-21).  The authorities beat them with rods and throw them into jail.  Things definitely have turned downward…or have they?

While in jail Paul and Silas sit shackled singing praises to God.  Around midnight an earthquake rocks the jail and all the prison doors and shackles are unfastened (Acts 16:25-26).  Fearing that the prisoners had escaped, the jailor intends to kill himself, but Paul cries out to him, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here” (Acts 16:28).  The jailor then asks the question of all questions—“Sirs, what must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:29)?  “Believe in the Lord Jesus,” Paul and Silas reply, “and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30).

Here are a several take-aways from this visit to Philippi.  First, gospel advancement relies upon the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Where do we go?  Just be faithful to go and trust God to lead you in where to go.  Second, gospel advancement involves engaging people where they are.  Go where people are gathered and engage them with the gospel.  Third, share the gospel and trust God to open hearts.  Ours is not the responsibility for results, but for faithfulness to share.  Fourth, gospel advancement often involves opposition.  Here is the bottom line, the devil does not like for us to advance the gospel.  Therefore, don’t be surprised when opposition arises; in fact, expect it.  Last, gospel advancement, amidst opposition, often leads to opportunities for God to do the unimaginable.  God can use demon possessed girls, earthquakes, and jail cells to change sinners’ lives.  If we will simply listen, we might hear the faint cry of someone “over there” saying, “Hey, come over here.  We need your help!”

What the 2017 Hurricane Season Taught Us

The year 2017 will be remembered as one of the worst hurricane seasons in U.S. history. Three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) caused almost 370 billion dollars in damage, and it was only the second time in history for two Category-5 storms to make landfall at that intensity.  Two areas received over 60 inches of rain, one island was left almost uninhabitable, and September 2017 became the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.

This hyperactive hurricane season left thousands trying to recover, and stretched the capacities of every major disaster response entity.  What are the lessons to be learned from this active response season?

    • Disasters create opportunities for the church to demonstrate the love of God and to share the hope of Christ.  Closed doors open when we show up to offer His love in deed and in truth.
    • Partnerships are vital to effective response efforts.  Working in partnership increases effectiveness and broadens our ability to help more hurting people.  We can do more together than any of us can do alone.
    • Trained volunteers have the greatest impact in disaster response, and greatly increase response effectiveness.  The best way to help in times of disaster is to be trained and connected with a reputable disaster relief organization.  You can get connected and sign up for a 2018 Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief training by going to http://www.kybaptist.org/dr/ .
    • Untrained volunteers create challenges for effective response, but spontaneous volunteers are always going to show up in disaster events with extensive media coverage.  Though untrained volunteers often create response issues, they can fill a needed gap when channeled in a right direction.  God used Southern Baptist untrained volunteers from our churches in amazing ways in the midst of the suffering and devastation, but they were most effective when paired with trained Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers.  Send Relief through the North American Mission Board gives us a vehicle to effectively utilize untrained volunteers effectively, if we develop a strategy from our lessons learned this hurricane season.
    • Disaster sites were overwhelmed with spontaneous loads of collected resources, such as used clothing, bottled water, and other resources.  Before collecting items for disaster victims, we should make sure items are needed and wanted.  We were reminded in 2017 that the best way to help those affected is by giving monetary donations, which enables those affected to both maintain their dignity and to purchase what they really need.
    • Recovery takes time for those affected.  Recovery often takes years for those affected from the loss of disasters.

    • Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the best ways to donate to those affected by disaster.  100% of every dollar given goes directly to meet the needs of those affected.
    • Southern Baptist Disaster Relief remains as one of the most effective disaster relief entities in the world.  Southern Baptist volunteers prepared more than 3 million meals, served over 90,000 days and witnessed more than 700 people profess faith in Christ as they ministered to hurricane survivors in 2017.  Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers brought help, healing, and hope to thousands of people affected by this extremely active hurricane season in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

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