Loving Children Like Jesus

There are times we don’t always see things like Jesus does. We struggle with it often, and as I look in the scriptures, the disciples struggled with it too. There are several times recorded in the Gospels where Jesus had to correct them. I sometimes will ask myself, “when will I ever learn?”

I am reminded specifically of the passage in Luke 18:15-16 where people were bringing their babies to Jesus so that He might touch them. What did the disciples do? They tried to prevent these parents from bringing their children to Jesus.

And I love Jesus’ response to them, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” I can hear the tone of His voice. I can sense the compassion and love He had for these precious little ones. I can see the smile on His face.

I have watched children, even my own grandchildren and love the innocence of their hearts, the excitement for life, the joy simple things bring, and a smile that will just melt your heart. When did we lose those things as we grew up? Why don’t we look forward to a new day with excitement? We can learn so much from our children.

And yes, I know children can be loud, obnoxious, and even disobedient. But let us love these children enough to spend time with them. To teach them. To show them new things and experience this world. To tell them the truth, correct them when they are wrong, and hug them when they hurt.

Most importantly, let us love them enough to show them the compassion and love of Jesus. May we tell them about Jesus and how He loved the little children. May we disciple them, teach them, and tell them about how Jesus loved us enough to die on the cross for us.

May we not be so consumed with our own lives that we miss what our children can teach us. What they can show us. And just maybe, the excitement they have for life will be contagious just enough that it will rub off on us.

Let me encourage you to take a few minutes to:
• Pray for the children in your life… that they will know Jesus.
• Play with the children in your life…that you may bring joy into their day.
• Prepare to learn from the children in your life…that you enjoy each day a little more.

Maybe loving children like Jesus will ultimately change us.

Jesus: The Great Savior Who Forgives Great Sinners

Just who is Jesus? That’s really the question that the gospel writer Luke is seeking to answer as he writes his book. Luke chapter 1 tells us that he writes to a man named Theophilus.  We are not exactly sure who he is, but it seems that he is an important person, perhaps a government official of some kind (“most excellent Theophilus”- Lk 1:3).  Stories about Jesus are spreading.  Luke’s concern is to paint an accurate picture of Jesus for Theophilus—both what He did and who He is.    

The gospel of Luke reveals many things about Jesus.  Luke 6, for example, records for us the greatest sermon ever preached; we often refer to it as the Sermon on the Mount.  But Jesus is more than a great preacher.  Luke continues painting this accurate picture of Jesus in chapter 7 with 5 different scenes or encounters. 

In chapter 7, Jesus travels to Capernaum, northern Israel, where he encounters several people.  In summary, Luke shows us that Jesus is the one in whom we have faith (v 1-10); he is the one who raises the dead (v 11-17); he is the one who heals disease, afflictions and cast out demons (v 18-23); and he is the one who is a friend of sinners (v 19-35).  But there’s more.

The last scene of chapter 7 involves verses 36-50.  Yes, Jesus is the one to whom we have faith in.  Yes, Jesus is the one who raises the dead and heals all kinds of diseases.  He is even a friend of sinners.  But this last scene described by Luke gives us understanding as to why He is more than a great preacher, why our faith is in Him, and why it matters that He heals diseases and is a friend of sinners.

Jesus is invited to a party at the house of Simon the Pharisee.  During the evening, a woman shows up whom Luke describes as a “sinner” (v 37).  She stands over Jesus’s feet wetting them with her tears and wiping them with her hair. She then kisses his feet and anoints them with oil.  Simon is appealed by this action from the woman and concludes in his own mind that Jesus certainly is not a prophet, or he would know what sort of woman she is.

Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts, shares a story of a moneylender forgiving the debt of two debtors (v 40-42).  When the two debtors could not repay the moneylender, he forgave the debt of both, Jesus explains.  He then asks Simon, “Who will love the moneylender more” (v 42)? 

The answer is obvious from the story Jesus shares.  The debtors neither could earn nor deserved the cancellation of their debt.  Jesus wants Simon to know that he is referring to the woman, the sinner.  Her debt was great, but Jesus forgave her (v 47).  And herein lies the story of the gospel.  Jesus is the great Savior who forgives great sinners. Our debt of sin is immeasurable.  We can neither earn nor deserve pardon.  Yet, in Jesus’s infinite grace, He forgives all who come to him broken (perhaps even at times weeping) over our own sins.  While our sins are great, His grace is greater. 

John Newton knew this all too well.  He was from London in the United Kingdom and lived in the 1700s. He was raised by a Christian mother but later rejected his mom’s teachings about Jesus.  As a young boy he left home, became a sailor involved in the slave trade of Africans, and later was converted to faith in Christ through a series of events revolving around sailing a ship that nearly sunk while working the slave trade.  As a result, he fought to end slavery.  He was a self-described wretch of a man prior to coming to Christ in faith. As you know, he would later write:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see…”

He died at 82 years old, and it is told that many friends would visit him prior to his death as his health faded.  He is known as saying, “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”  

Praise God that Jesus is the great Savior who forgives great sinners!

Why Are We Going?

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

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

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

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

Ever Thought About Becoming a KY-MSC Missionary?

Many of the blogs I write for KYandBeyond each month are about Kentucky Mission Service Corps Missionaries and their ministries.  You may have heard the term, read their stories, and even volunteered in their ministries, but also may be asking, “What is a Kentucky Missions Service Corps missionary.”

The definition of a Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionary (KY-MSC), is an adult (18 years of age or older), called by God and connected to a Kentucky Baptist Convention church, who commits to serve from 9 months to 2 years (renewable). The positions engage in or directly support missions, church planting, collegiate ministry, or evangelism, in cooperative partnership with a Kentucky Baptist Convention church, association, or organization. Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries are self-funded.  (Go to www.kybaptist.org/msc for information.)

Currently one hundred twenty-two (122) Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries serve in various ministries across the state.  They serve in roles from association outreach positions to equestrian ministries, ministry centers, pregnancy care centers, homeless shelters, and prison ministries, just to name a few.  Some of these missionaries came to Kentucky from other states, while most are serving in their home state, very possibly their hometown or community.

We are always looking for persons to join our KY-MSC Family.  Recently, while speaking at the Liberty Baptist Association Executive Board Meeting, I met Becky Baise.  Becky, a member of Coral Hill Baptist Church in Glasgow, shared that she served at Next Step, a Christ-centered ministry designed to help equip individuals to become personally, financially, and spiritually responsible to God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They address the physical and spiritual needs of each individual through assistance with basic human necessities, the development of life skills, and through sharing the truth of the Gospel.  The following week I connected with Becky, and Next Step Director John Harbert, about becoming KY-MSC missionaries.  They were not familiar with KY-MSC, although they fit the criteria perfectly.  Both Becky and John have been approved, and are now serving as Kentucky Mission Service Corps missionaries through Next Step Ministries.

Why become a KY-MSC Missionary?  Individuals can serve without being KY-MSC, but networking with the other missionaries is such a support.  Sharing ideas, resources, encouraging one another, is such a blessing.  We like to say we are a KY-MSC Family.

Do you perhaps serve in a ministry that would qualify you to become a KY-MSC Missionary?  Or, do you know of someone who is a candidate to serve as a KY-MSC Missionary?  If so, please email [email protected].  We would love to talk with you about joining our KY-MSC Family.     

And, thank you for supporting KY-MSC.  As you give through the Cooperative Program (CP) and the Eliza Broadus State Mission Offering (EBO) you are a part of the work of these missionaries and ministries.  Although self-funded, a KY-MSC Missionary does benefit from CP and EBO funding through orientations, trainings. annual retreats, and opportunities to apply for grants to assist in ministry.  As Kentucky Baptists. we all are FAMILY!!

Looking for Mission Partnerships in North America?

As a church leader you desire to lead your church to obey the Great Commission, but maybe you are not sure where to go?  If you are looking for mission partnerships, look no further.  The Mission Mobilization Team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention is here to help your church reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.  To achieve this goal, we have developed partnerships in Kentucky, North America, and the world for gospel impact.

It is one thing for us simply to tell you about an area in need of gospel partnerships. But it is altogether different for us to help you experience that area and envision how your church might partner there for the gospel.  Thus, we offer vision trips in order that KBC churches and associations might meet missionaries/church planters, experience the culture, hear the vision of a particular area in need of the gospel, and prayerfully consider how they might come alongside of the work being done in unreached places.

Currently, we have three North American partnerships that are great opportunities for KBC churches and associations to engage lost areas with the gospel.

Nestled along the Ohio River, Cincinnati is poised, as some experts believe, to see a population boom in the coming years.  However, only 13.7 percent of metro Cincinnati’s 2 million residents are currently affiliated with an evangelical church.  Cincinnati vision trip is August 28-29, 2023.  You can apply now for this vision trip at www.kybaptist.org/cincinnati-vision-tour/.   

Salt Lake City is a city most often recognized for Mormonism.  However, the city has become a major metro area and needs vibrant gospel churches to impact a population with only 2.2 percent evangelical presence.  Salt Lake City vision trip is November 8-10, 2023.  You can apply now for this vision trip at www.kybaptist.org/salt-lake-city-vision-tour/.   

Impact New York City and you impact the world.  As a financial and cultural hub in our country, New York City is one of the most influential places in North America and the world.  With a metro population over 22 million, only 4 percent of New Yorkers identify themselves as evangelical.  New York City vision trip is May 13-15, 2024.  Though the sign-ups are not live for 2024 yet, you can learn more about NYC at www.kybaptist.org/new-york-vision-tour/.  

You can also get involved in a new NYC project called We Inspire NYC, as church planters engage four schools in NYC.  Learn how your church can play a vital role in impacting the teachers and administrators of these schools at www.kybaptist.org/inspirenyc.

KBC churches and associations are needed to impact these areas with gospel faithfulness and partnerships.  If you have questions or we can serve your church as you prayerfully consider gospel partnerships, email us at [email protected].

Kentucky Baptists, It’s Time to Go Christmas Shopping

Well, I have just gotten back from my few days away in Pigeon Forge.  Once again, visiting the Christmas shops and hearing the Christmas music has put me in the Christmas spirit.  It is hard to believe that 2023 is almost half over and Christmas is only six months away. 

Have you begun your Christmas shopping?  Better yet, are you planning to bless Kentucky children through the KBC Christmas Backpack Initiative again this year?  If so, it is time to start planning, promoting, and collecting items for those backpacks.  For Christmas Backpacks we are less than five months away, as they are due to be delivered to the local Baptist Association collection sites October 23-27, and to the Regional Collection sites October 30 – November 3. 

Instructions for filling the backpacks can be found at www.kybaptist.org/backpacks.  Once there, you can download a promotional bulletin insert, poster, PowerPoint slide, and the “Christmas Story” leaflet.  Be sure to include the leaflet in each backpack that you fill. 

Please remember to register your backpacks and perhaps consider partnering with a specific ministry.  You may want to take the backpacks directly to the ministry and help with the distribution.  It is so special to see the children’s faces light up as they open the backpack, and to experience them hearing the true Christmas Story and a gospel message.  This is what Christmas is all about. 

Statistics show that 35% of Kentucky’s children live in single-parent homes, and a backpack from Kentucky Baptists may be all they get for Christmas.  Many of the backpacks collected will be distributed directly to children living in poverty in Kentucky, while others will go to needy children in our partner SEND City, Cincinnati.

Kentucky Baptist churches are partnering together to reach a goal of 10,000 backpacks to fill requests coming in from our missionaries, churches, and associations.  While we will receive requests for far more than that, we are thankful for partnering state convention churches that help to meet the need. 

And we are thankful for Kentucky Baptists and your part in this annual initiative.  Pray with us that not only will the children receive a nice Christmas gift and hear a gospel presentation, but that many will come to know Christ as their personal Savior and receive the GREATEST GIFT this Christmas season.

A Ministry of Serving

Last Sunday, June 4, was the Southern Baptist annual Disaster Relief Sunday. This is a day set aside to recognize and thank the thousands of Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers who serve faithfully, selflessly, and with a heart for the Gospel.

Kentucky Baptists alone has over 2300 trained volunteers and counting. Many churches across our convention recognized volunteers in various ways last Sunday. They are an incredibly special group of people who simply love the Lord and love the people they serve.

These KYDR volunteers are not part of an organization, but rather a very special family. They take care of each other, watch out for each other, and look forward to serving with each other. And the wonderful part of this family, there is always room for more.

However, these volunteers do not serve because they desire to be recognized or looking for a pat on the back. They serve for several reasons, most of which the world does not understand.

They serve because they are CALLED.
God has placed a call on their life to serve through this awesome ministry. Disaster relief gets people out of the pew and into the field to meet people where they are bringing help, hope and healing to those who are hurting. God gives that passion deep within their hearts, calling them to serve. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

They serve because they are COMPASSIONATE.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, we find many times in the scripture when Jesus was moved with compassion to help someone who was hurting. He would meet their physical need which would open the door for their spiritual need. We see the disaster relief ministry do the same. Volunteers are moved with compassion to help those who are hurting and suffering. We reach out to meet their physical need and the door is opened to share the love of Jesus.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” 1 Peter 4:10.

They serve because they are CHARITABLE.
Disaster relief volunteers are very generous and giving by nature. They desire to bless others as God has blessed them. They give of their time, their energy, their resources, and even financially. They have experienced God’s blessing and generously serve others.

“The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

They serve because they are COOPERATIVE.
This ministry is the Cooperative Program in action. They work with their friends. They work with those they have never met. They work with those across the state or even across the country. They cooperate with other state conventions and ministries. And through those working relationships and opportunities, they will make lifelong friendships.

You can learn more about the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention by visiting www.kybaptist.org/about-CP.

Learn more about how you can become a trained disaster relief volunteer and our upcoming trainings at www.kybaptist.org/dr. Also, support those KYDR volunteers who are in your church with prayer support, resources, and financially. Your support in assisting with fuel, meals, equipment and more is very much needed. And finally, let them know how much you appreciate them.

It is a ministry of serving.

First Responders with Gospel Urgency

A tsunami of debris engulfed the city blocks surrounding the World Trade Center.  Just prior to this wave of debris, smoke rose in the New York City skyline as both towers were struck by hijacked commercial airliners on September 11, 2001.  Thousands attempted to escape the chaos of the enflamed buildings and surrounding area.  While hordes of people were panicking as they ran away from the direction of the twin towers, heroically others ran to the site as the towers eventually collapsed in a massive ruble.

People were right to run away from the danger, but who would run to it and why?  First responders, that’s who.  Thank God for first responders who train and prepare for times such as September 11.  Instead of running away from danger and distress, first responders run to it.    

The Great Commission is about followers of Jesus running to the needs of the world.  We lay down our lives (both figuratively and sometimes literally) for the hordes of people running to escape the chaos of life.  I was recently reminded of this gospel call when a pastor in a large Midwest city told our vision trip team of a shooting in his neighborhood.  Instead of avoiding the location where the incident occurred, his church went and set up on the corner of the street to engage with family members and neighbors.  They were there to proclaim that hope is found in Jesus alone.  This church functioned like first responders.

This same church, on a weekly basis, has “night church” in a section of town that is known as a hot spot for trouble late at night.  They gather near the street and play Christian music, share testimonies of God’s transforming power, and talk with neighbors about the good news of Jesus.   The church is running to the needs in their community.  They are, in fact, first responders bringing hope in the name of Jesus.

Churches across our nation and state can learn much from this Midwest large city new church.  Here are some takeaways that will help us all in our Great Commission work:

  1. Be a church that runs to the needs in your community with gospel hope.
  2. To run to the needs, we need to know our communities. 
  3. To know our communities, we must immerse our lives in the community.
  4. Immersing our lives in our communities requires a continual presence in the community.

The chaos of sin is sweeping across the communities of our state and nation like a tsunami.  It would be easy for the church to simply quarantine itself from the debris and mess.  However, this is not the Jesus way.  He calls us to run to the need, not away from the need.  How will your church respond to the chaos of sin in your community?  Will you be a first responder with gospel urgency?   

Ministry Involvement Doesn’t Always Equal Missions Engagement

A comment I hear often from church leaders is “we are really involved in missions”.  As leader of the KBC’s Missions Mobilization Team, this is an exciting and encouraging phrase to hear.  It is music to my ears, at least initially. I say initially, because as the discussion progresses, I sometimes discover that while the church may be involved in some wonderful ministry activities, they are not necessarily engaged in missions.   

A 2018 Barna report (Translating the Great Commission) shared that 27% of churchgoers say they have participated in missions in the past year and 62% say they have donated financially to missions.  But how do they define missions?  

The word missions comes from the Latin word, “missio”, which means “to send”.  But as my conversations with church leaders reveals, missions doesn’t mean the same thing to all and sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with sending members to share the gospel with those who are unreached.  

Since “missions” is defined in different ways, let me share with you a definition that the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Missions Mobilization Team has agreed upon.  Missions is “advancement of the gospel by those who are reached among those who are unreached, often involving the crossing of cultural, geographic or language boundaries.” 

We may be giving resources to meet human needs or involved in community ministry, but those things may or may not be missions.  So, how does a church determine if what they’re investing in is really missions?  Here are some questions to ask to determine if what we’re doing or giving to is really missions. 

1. Are those doing the work or participating in the experience Christ followers?

2. Is there intentional gospel sharing in the activity or experience?

3. What boundaries are being crossed in-order to share the gospel?

4. Who are the lost that the gospel is being shared with?

Feeding the hungry is a good thing and meets a real need, but is there gospel intentionality?  Helping to paint a widow’s home or building a ramp for the disabled is a selfless act of service and appreciated, but are boundaries being crossing and the gospel being shared? Yes, it’s okay to plan and implement a sports camp this summer and it is missions when we use it as a tool to reach an identified lost people group. 

While the methods and resources used in missions engagement may have changed, what missions is, hasn’t. Ministry involvement doesn’t always equal missions engagement. Is your church missions engaged or simply ministry involved?

Is Your Church READY?

My wife and I are quite different when it comes to packing for a trip. She will spend days making her list so she does not forget anything. She will begin to lay out her clothes in various piles in the bedroom. She does not pack them in the suitcase until the last minute as she may change her mind. She will spend several days getting everything ready, then pack her suitcase.

I, on the other hand, will wait until the last minute, count how many days we will be gone and throw what I need in the suitcase, zip it up and I am ready to go. The reality is she will always have what she needs, but I run the risk of missing something.

And she loves post-it-notes. They keep her plan in place, keep her focused, and all she has to do is work her plan. Of course, it helps keep me on track too.

The reality is the time to get ready is before it is time to go.

Now I understand we cannot always be ready and prepared for everything that will happen in our lives. But when it comes to disasters, there are some steps your church can take to be a READY Church to minister to your community during those difficult times.

I looked up the definition of the word “ready” and found this definition: “in a suitable state for an activity, action, or situation; fully prepared.”

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief ministry can help you become a READY Church in your community. With a three-step process, you can lead your church to have a strategic focus to minister to your community in times of crisis or disaster.

First, PREPARE. The time to prepare is now. Bejamin Franklin said, “You may delay, but time will not.” READY Church enables the church to prepare for times of disaster. It is not a matter if the disaster or crisis will come to a community, but when. Churches need to be ready to respond promptly and properly. We can help you prepare.

Second, CONNECT. To maximize your effectiveness to your community, preparation is a must but also the connections in the community are critical. Those connections need to be made long before any crisis or disaster happens. We can help you connect.

Third, RESPOND. Once a crisis or disaster strikes, it is time to respond. Your planning, preparation and hard work is now ready to be put into action. By having a well thought out plan, making key connections in your community, you now can respond well as you minister effectively to your community.

You can learn more at kybaptist.org/readychurch. Through your giving to the Cooperative Program, this training can be available to your church or association at no cost by calling the Disaster Relief office at the Kentucky Baptist Convention at 502-489-3401.