From the Rising of the Sun

While on vacation at the beach recently, my wife wanted the two of us to wake early at least one morning to watch the sun rise. However, we kept putting off rising early for the comfort of sleeping in. On our last day at the beach, my wife decided to venture out and watch the sun rise from the deck. She didn’t bother to wake me, but wanted to capture the beauty of the moment on her phone. Just as the sun was breaking the horizon, her phone died—not because it was old, but because it wasn’t charged.

In frustration, she ran back upstairs to our bedroom, grabbed my phone and ran back outside to the deck (all the while, I kept on snoozing). The sun had already climbed the horizon just a bit, but she was able to capture its beauty as it lit up the sky and reflected off the ocean that last morning of our vacation. I would love to say that we stood there together in the moment enjoying God’s creation and even taking a selfie to prove we had gotten up early at least one morning, but I can’t. We did not enjoy that moment together because one of us was still asleep. In fact, the only reason I knew she had made the adventure outside is because of the pictures on my phone.

While I laughed as she told me her story of yet another phone-dying mishap, I am grateful for the pictures she captured. I am reminded of the Psalmist who says, “From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Ps 113:3). One thing is for certain, the author of this psalm is concerned for the praise of the Lord from the where the sun rises to where it sets.

In other words, every place on planet earth impacted by the sun’s rising and setting is called to offer up praise to God. Thus, the point of the author here is to say that every place on planet earth is called to praise God. Here, the call of praise is not for creation in general (though that is true elsewhere [e.g., Ps 148]), but for people.

While the rising and setting of the sun affects us all, the praise of God does not flow from all. In fact, of the 7.4 billion people on the planet, each of which benefit from the sun, 4.3 billion are unreached with the good news of Jesus Christ. For the praise of God to be on the lips of all affected by the sun’s rising and setting, all need to not only know of the God who created this sun, but of the God who sent His Son. They need to know that the Son who holds the sun in place lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, and was raised to life again. He did all of this in order that people all over the planet will turn from their sins and believe that Jesus is Savior and Lord, even Lord of the rising and setting of the sun.

Now, how might this matter for you? If you are a follower of the Son, you are privileged to be part of God’s plan to make His Son famous not only across the street but across the sea—from the rising of the sun to its setting. The question remains, what part are you playing in this plan in order that the name of the Lord is praised? Let us help you to connect with ways to make Jesus famous by contacting us at [email protected].

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief: Celebrating 33 Years of Ministry

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief began as a ministry outreach of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 1984.  For 33 years, the trained volunteers of disaster relief have brought help, healing, and hope to those affected by disaster.

During this time, over 25,000 volunteers have been trained, and Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief has developed incredible resources that can be mobilized in times of disaster.

Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief (KBDR) is a ministry of Kentucky Baptist churches that is supported by gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Eliza Broadus Offering for State Missions.  These gifts enable KBDR to mobilize the following mobile disaster relief units in times of disaster:

  • 4 Mobile Kitchens – capacity of 68,000 meals per day
  • 27 Chainsaw/Flood/Wildfire Recovery Trailers
  • 2 Mobile Communication Units
  • 7 Mobile Shower Units
  • 1 Mobile Laundry Unit
  • 2 Mobile Childcare Trailers
  • 3 Mobile Water Purification Units
  • 1 Roof-Tarping Trailer
  • 1 Kuboda Skid-steer, Mobile Lift, and 2 Fork-lifts

When Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief was there.

When 9-11 shook the core of our nation, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were among the first responders to arrive in New York City.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Louisiana, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief helped serve over 1.3 million meals the first week.

When the Kentucky ice storm paralyzed almost half of the Commonwealth in 2009, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief mobilized chainsaw teams, mobile kitchens, shower units, and response to 18 counties.

When the Haiti earthquake rocked this poverty-stricken island in 2010, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief sent 17 teams to minister in the midst of the rubble.

When a F-3 tornado leveled the small Kentucky town of West Liberty, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief had chainsaw teams, chaplains, childcare teams, shower units, a communication trailer, and a mobile kitchen on the ground in less than 24 hours.

When Hurricane Sandy unleashed its fury on New York City in 2012, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief was the first on the ground.

When floods destroyed over 1000 homes and took 23 lives in West Virginia in the summer of 2016, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief provided almost 40,000 meals, assisted in 214 flood clean-up jobs, and made almost 1000 Chaplain visits.

When famine gripped millions of people in Lesotho and Zimbabwe in 2016 and 2017, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief partnered with the International Mission Board and Baptist Global Response to provide over 1 million meals to starving people in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

And not only was Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief there serving faithfully in countless disasters for the last 33 years, every Kentucky Baptist church was there.

Every Kentucky Baptist church was there, because your gifts to the Cooperative Program make ministries like Disaster Relief possible through the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Together by our support of the Cooperative Program, we are bringing help, healing, and hope to the hurting and hopeless.

Thank you Kentucky Baptists for your gifts to the Cooperative Program and for  supporting Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief!

 

 

 

Are You an Insubordinate Witness?

I overheard a conversation recently among friends about a company that fired an employee after he refused to follow the demands of his supervisor.  I chimed in that “he deserved his punishment” and shouldn’t have been surprised since he knew what was expected of him when signing on for the job.

Several days later while preparing for an on mission celebration in our state, I read again the familiar Acts 1:8 passage, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. 

While the concept of insubordination is often linked with the military, it can as I’ve already referenced, also occur in the workplace.  But does it occur in the church?

Webster’s dictionary defines insubordination as “not obeying authority or refusing to follow orders”.  Before being taken up into heaven, Jesus gave final orders to His apostles, and to us in Acts 1:8.  Has the church failed to obey His authority and refused His orders?

I’m not an attorney, but as I understand it, there are several characteristics that must be present before a situation can be considered insubordination.  First of all, the order must be clear and in the form of a verbal or written statement.   If Jesus had said, “I suggest that you guys consider being witnesses after I’m gone,” it would not be considered an order or a command to follow.  God made sure that this command was recorded in the scriptures to ensure that we would understand His expectation of us.

Additionally, if it’s insubordination, the order must be proper and cannot violate the law.  Being His witnesses doesn’t violate the law, at least in very many places in the world.  But it definitely doesn’t violate God’s law.  It only seems appropriate, that if His message is going to go to the ends of the earth, His followers must be the ones to take it.

I don’t know of a church that has directly refused to be His witness.  Yet many have done their own thing and failed to be His witness in their community, state, nation and world.  However, whether direct or indirect, it’s still insubordination if the order is not carried out. So, are you guilty of insubordination or are you actively involved in carrying out the Great Commandment given by our authority, Jesus Christ?

 

A “Unique” Mission Opportunity

In far western Kentucky, located thirteen miles outside the city of Princeton, is a unique ministry that offers many opportunities to serve.  Bright Life Farms, Inc. is a residential facility, located on 27 acres, where currently 24 mentally or developmentally challenged adults, 18 years of age and older, live in a happy, protective and secure environment with 24-7 care.

Bright Life is an intermediate care facility and, while it is state licensed as a MR/DD facility, it is not state supported.  They are faith-based and, without their support base, could not do what they do.  “Bright Life is a visible testimony to God’s power to provide,” says volunteer administrator Roberta Robertson, and “we are dedicated to giving Him the honor for our three (soon to be four) homes.”  The residents can do a lot of things, just should never live alone.

This ministry is based on Ephesians 3:20-21 – “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory…for ever and ever! Amen!

As a faith-based facility, the goal at Bright Life is to provide care for the whole person – body and spirit – within an environment of love and safety, structure, training and enrichments with the goal of each individual living to the fullest.

And live to the fullest they do.  When visiting Bright Life, you soon notice how happy the residents are.  They love to have visitors and make you feel so welcome.  The residents love to participate in Bible study, VBS, crafts, games, fellowship, singing, and just interacting with guests that come.  The Bright Life Family has its own choir and, seldom do you get away without them sharing their gift of music with you.  Led and accompanied on piano by Roberta Robertson, the choir travels to many churches to present their program, which includes singing, quoting scripture, and sharing testimonies.  They have blessed and encouraged so many this past year as they presented their program 56 times.  Bright Life welcomes invitations to sing and share.  Roberta says, “We never realized that the residents could be such powerful witnesses for Jesus.”  When not traveling, the residents are active in three local churches.

An 8-member volunteer Board of Directors gives hours of service to this special ministry.  Kentucky MSC Missionary Leroy Oliver serves as the property and grounds chair, manages the facility, supplies, and all maintenance.  Leroy is a favorite of the residents, and is available to help coordinate mission teams that come to serve at Bright Life.

Bright Life loves to have visitors and welcomes mission teams.  Last year approximately 550 volunteers came to serve.  They can accommodate teams up to 20-25 and provide room and board free of charge.  The teams are, however, responsible for their own food.  In addition to ministering to the residents, there are needs for general maintenance, landscaping, painting, clean-up, etc. on all existing areas and buildings.

To learn more about Bright Life Farms go to their Facebook page (Bright Life Farms Inc) or the website at http://www.brightlifefarms.org/.  For information on needs at Bright Life Farm go to http://old.kybaptist.org/missionopportunities/brightlifefarms/.  Why not consider Bright Life Farms for your next mission trip.  No place will you be more of a blessing, and in turn be more blessed, than in serving at this ministry!!

Air Guitars, Chickens, and the Great Commission

Several years ago, I was on a short-term mission in Africa.  While gathering with a local church in an outdoor courtyard, amongst the chickens running around, one church leader came up to “play” and sing as we began our time together.  To our team’s surprise, he began “playing” the air guitar…or, maybe it was the air bass guitar.  Either way, play it he did.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to think.  As he continued to play and begin singing, I realized, “He’s pretty good at the air guitar.”  Side note, it takes quite the talent to both “play” the air guitar and sing at the same time, but he pulled it off. (Go ahead, give it a try).  His song?  “Soon and Very Soon.”  By the time he got to the third verse—“No more dying there, we are going to see the King”—he had taken it up several notches in pitch and enthusiasm!  About that time, a chicken flew from behind me and landed on my shoulder.  Needless to say, my pitch and enthusiasm rose as well!!

The Lord’s coming should excite us.  We should be eager for that Day.  However, the work of the Great Commission must continue until then.  Our responsibility to make disciples of all nations remains until the coming of the Lord.  But how can we ensure that the gospel spreads among a growing world population at over 7 billion, of which over 4 billion are unreached?

In short, multiply disciples.  As we examine the life of Paul, we see a man who continually poured his life into the lives of others.  He was strategic about multiplication.  He understood that for the gospel to advance well beyond his life or any of our lives, we must continually raise up disciples who will make disciples. In other words, our lives are meant to multiply the gospel by making disciples who make disciples.

Paul’s final words to one of his disciples, Timothy, serves to illustrate this principle.  While awaiting execution on death row, the apostle charges the young disciple, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2).  Paul challenges Timothy to pass on to others what was passed on to him.

That is the essence of the Great Commission.  In fact, Jesus’ last words to His disciples ring with similarity, “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” (Matt 28:20).  In summary, what I have taught you, you must teach others.  Remember though, the goal is not simply the dissemination of information, but transformation.  We multiply in the lives of others not simply to know, but to do.

So, as long as Jesus’ return is still to come, we have the responsibility to multiply disciples.  Let me briefly suggest three ways to multiply disciples.  Find a Timothy and regularly:

  1. Pray together.
  2. Read and discuss Scripture together.
  3. Serve together (in the church, in the community, across cultures).

This much we know.  “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King” (insert air guitar here).  Until that Day, we must multiply disciples in order to join in that multi-cultural chorus, “Hallelujah, we are going to see the King.”

The Importance of Prayer

Haiti - 3I have learned that there are some problems in the world that are bigger than us, and some tasks that are beyond our human ability of achieving.  There are some things in this world that only God can do.

One of those God-sized tasks is the Great Commission. Taking the Gospel to every people, tongue, and land is beyond any of our abilities, but with the Lord, all things are possible.  God has promised a coming time when he will gather people from every tribe, language, and corner of the globe around His throne of grace.

Our calling as the church is to “Go” and make disciples of all nations.  As we go, we need to remember that this is only possible by the power of God’s hand.  This is why prayer is vital.

Jesus commanded us, “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Power to change the world will come through prayer.  Power to reach the world will be released through prayer.  The Great Commission will be achieved through the prayers of God’s people.

How can you be a vital part of reaching our world for Christ?

  • Establish a daily time of prayer, and be serious about it.
  • Adopt a method of praying.  Change your routine from time to time.  Develop a prayer journal.  Try prayer walking.  Pray through scripture passages (the Psalms are one of the best tools for this method).  Meditate on Scripture.  Make a prayer list and faithfully pray for each of the requests.  Make sure that praise, thanks, and confession are part of your prayer time.
  • Pray for a specific people group and for missionaries by name.
  • Pray for the Lottie Moon International Mission Offering, the Annie Armstrong Mission Offering for North America, and the Eliza Broadus Offering for Kentucky State Missions. Pray for the Cooperative Program as it remains the lifeblood of Southern Baptist mission work across the globe.
  • Pray for God’s calling on your own life.  How does God want to use you to fulfill His Great Commission?
  • Pray fervently and with passion.  You are going before the throne of God, and spending time with the one who sits high and lifted up.
  • Seek to be known as a person of prayer.  What better way to be known by God and by others?

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

Are You Called to Missions?

Ninety persons who heard the call to missions currently serve, not in another country, not in another state, but right here in Kentucky.  Most times when we think of someone being “called to missions” our thought is to some remote area in Africa, China, or to international missions.  God’s call however, may be in the U.S. or, many times, right in a person’s own home state.

Time and again we hear testimonies from Kentucky missionaries saying they thought God would call them to serve “overseas”, or at least in another state, when His call was to serve right at home, to reach the thousands in Kentucky who do not have a saving faith in Christ.

Kentucky missionaries, or Kentucky Mission Support Catalyst (KY-MSC) as they are called, serve in a wide range of positions, including food and clothing ministries, pregnancy care centers, equestrian ministries, jail and prison ministries, disaster relief, all types of outreach ministries, and ministries to all age groups.  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.

To become a Kentucky missionary, candidates must be baptized Christ followers who are 18 years of age or older, be called by God, and be an active member of a local Kentucky Baptist Church.  They complete a KY-MSC application and commit to the KBC missionary conduct pledge.  The missionaries serve a minimum of 20 hours per week for the duration of their assignment, and commit to serve from 9 months to 3 years, which can be renewed.

Kentucky Mission Support Catalysts are self-funded.  Although a person can serve without becoming a Kentucky missionary, there are many advantages.  Two main advantages are prayer support, as people all over the state pray for them through interSEED (www.kybaptist.org/interseed), and networking with other missionaries.  The missionaries can be adopted by a church (http://www.kybaptist.org/adopt-a-missionary,1477), and they participate in orientation and a commissioning service.

Becoming a missionary opens the door for opportunities to share about their ministry and have teams come to serve with them in ministry.  The Kentucky Baptist Convention, as well as the Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union, helps to promote their ministries and share their stories, offers opportunities for the missionaries to speak and/or display at events, and offers an annual missionary retreat.  Grants are also available for the missionaries through both the KBC and KY WMU.

Perhaps you have felt a call to local missions and would like to learn more about KY-MSC.  Or, you may already be serving 20 hours in a ministry and would like to apply to serve as a Kentucky missionary.  Please click on the following link for more information and to download the application – http://www.kybaptist.org/kentucky-mission-support-catalyst,1635.   Or, feel free to contact us.  We would love to help you discover where God may be leading you to serve.

Encouraging Leaders

Ministry is not for the faint of heart. One need only review the apostle Paul’s “resume” to realize such is the case. He describes his ministry experience:

“Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. . . . Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-25, 28).

Paul faced both external opposition to the gospel and internal pressure for the care of the church.

Skimming his apostolic resume in 2 Corinthians 11 reveals a man who suffered much for the gospel. If the external trials were not enough for Paul, then there was also the internal pressure of caring for the church. Bottom line: ministry is filled with both physically demanding and emotionally draining work. The stereotypical idea that ministers work only a couple of hours a week (on Sunday) could not be farther from the truth.

It is no wonder why Paul, in his prison letter to Timothy, reminds the young pastor, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Ministry can be brutal both to the body and the mind. Timothy needed to be encouraged to continue in the work that God had called him to.

Today is no different. When it comes to the Great Commission, encouragement for ministers of the gospel is as vital as evangelism and church planting. There are at least five necessary components for a Great Commission strategy (praying, evangelizing, church planting, encouraging, and equipping). The first three provide foundation; the last two provide endurance. While I deal with the importance of all five elsewhere, encouragement is a slice of the Great Commission pie that more often than not is left out.

Evangelism and church planting, both domestically and internationally, seems to be on the rise within the SBC, as rightly it should. However, one area that needs equal attention when it comes to our Great Commission faithfulness is encouragement. Our church planters and missionaries, along with pastors of established churches, grow weary (quickly). While more recent study reveals that minsters are not leaving the ministry in droves like some may say (http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/october/that-stat-that-says-pastors-are-all-miserable-and-want-to-q.html), discouragement is all too real.

This is where the church can play a vital role. Discovering tangible ways to encourage pastors, church planters, and missionaries is an essential way to foster longevity in gospel advancement. While ministers of the gospel grow weary, churches that embrace a culture of encouragement among those on the frontlines provide real endurance for those struggling to run the race well.

As I meet with pastors, church planters, and missionaries all over North American and internationally, the common theme I hear is you have no idea what it means to us when we receive a card, message, package, phone call, or visit.

Paul knew this well.   After all, after planting churches, he would make his rounds back to those same churches “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith…” (Acts 14:22). You never know what a call, card, text, package, visit or just ongoing communication with a pastor, church planter, or missionary will do to help them “continue in the faith.”

Counsel for The Called

Lesotho-4God has called every believer to go into all the world and to make disciples.  Mission volunteers can be used by God to reach the nations, and to make tremendous impact on the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Here are my top ten tips for believers who seek to serve internationally::

  1. Do not expect other cultures to be like your own.  Everyone has a tendency to think that  our own culture is the norm.  It is not always good or bad, it may just be different from your own.  Avoid being critical of other cultures, or comparing it to America.
  2. Be a learner.  Ask questions.  Learn about local customs.  Embrace new foods and new experiences.  Show genuine interest in the people that you will meet.  Knowledge of others and culture will always strengthen your witness.
  3. Learn some language.  Not all of us are gifted in language, but most of us can learn a few words.  Learn to say ‘Hello”, Goodbye”, and “Thank you”.  Nationals appreciate our effort in even small ways, and it demonstrates that we want to build relationships.
  4. Treat others with dignity and respect.  Put others before ourselves as the Scriptures teach us, whether they be nationals or fellow team members.
  5. Have a servant spirit..  Christ demonstrated the effectiveness of a servant spirit in His ministry, and calls us to do the same.  A servant spirit opens doors for the Gospel and makes us a better team member.
  6. Welcome others into your presence.  Be open to people.  Seek to engage others in culturally appropriate ways.  Kindness, smiles, and a gracious attitude are bridges for the Gospel. 
  7. Demonstrate a spiritual depth.  Prayer, Bible study, and worship  are foundations for maturity in Christ.  You cannot share what you do not possess.
  8. Be fluid.   Things will not always go as planned.  Trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the changes, and go with the flow.
  9. Demonstrate a passion for Christ.  Be ready to share your story and what He means to you.
  10. “GO”.  You will never be used by God until you say “yes” and go.  The Mission Mobilization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention has challenged every church to “Send One More” in the coming year in a missions cause.  Would you be that one or, even better, would you take someone with you?

A lost world is waiting.

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are  the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)

 

 

So, What’s In Your Hand?

Most of us have seen the commercial advertising a credit card that ends with, “so what’s in your wallet?” There are many card options available and they want viewers to think about which one they are carrying.

Have you ever given thought to what’s in your hand?  What is it that you do with your hands?  Perhaps you use a drill, saw or hammer to build things.  Maybe you use your hands on a computer keyboard to design, write or keep financial records.  Some will use pots, pans and kitchen utensils in their hands to cook or bake.  I know of others who can produce beautiful music with instruments placed in their hands.  And still others who can offer healing and relief from pain using medical instruments in their hands.  So, what’s in your hand? 

God has placed within each of us gifts, skills and talents that he intends us to use for His glory.  Sadly, many have only used those gifts, skills and talents for personal gain.  Imagine what could happen if we were willing to release and give to the Lord what we hold in our hands.

Moses had a rod that he used for guiding, protecting and leaning on when tending sheep and walking the hillsides.  However, when that rod was released and given to God, it was used to part the sea, bring water from a rock and determine the winner in a mighty battle.  When the rod of Moses became God’s (Exodus 4:20), Moses was able to do extraordinary things with an ordinary stick.

What ordinary thing do you hold in your hand?  If we are willing, God will take whatever we hold in our hands and use it in extraordinary ways for His Kingdom’s advancement.  There are missions opportunities in Kentucky, North America and around the world that need you to use what’s in your hands.  There are construction, medical, farming, and technical needs that make great platforms for sharing the gospel with those who don’t yet know Christ.  Being on mission simply means using what’s in your hands and obediently answering His call.  So, what’s in your hands?

Check out www.kybaptist.org/GO for hundreds of mission opportunities through which you can use what’s in your hand.