August 2017 Mind of the Missionary

Shakespeare wrote that life is like a stage. We make a brief appearance and then pass on. True. But in reality we are on several stages most days and many different ones in our lifetime. In October I will be changing roles in the drama of the life of our association and picking up more activity in several other of the dramas that I am a part of. Husband, father, brother, grandfather, church member, neighbor are some of my more important roles. As I move from one stage and one role to another, the constant is myself and the biblical worldview, about which I wrote last month. It informs how I interpret the activities on each stage, what my role is, how I should play my role, and how I seek to shape the action on that stage.

One of the sacrifices of being a Director of Missions is that one cannot play the church member role as often, as well, and as regularly as one would like to do. To visit in other churches has required for me to sacrifice many of the joys of participation, regularly, in the life of a congregation. My plan is to address this in the body of Spring Hill. It has a great preacher, a good fellowship, a progressive and caring congregation. From the elements of the biblical worldview I hope to help make our worship by helping with the music. I hope that I will be able to help others join into the fellowship of this church. I hope to be supporting of what it does week by week.

Even before retirement I will be attending its annual Homecoming Sunday, August 13. These are good events. Many persons raised in that church will recall special times and meetings with the Holy Spirit in that place.

Last month I outlined in this column the elements of a biblical worldview. It has and will inform me as I perform in my various roles on the several stages of my life. It will help me interpret each of the dramas in which I find myself. It will help me identify threats and opportunities. The commands of God will also inform me as to how I should perform my roles, how I ought to relate to the other actors, how I should react to the events unfolding before me, and give me guidance as to what outcomes I should seek in the scene unfolding before me.

It is clear from the teachings of Jesus that my life and your life ought to be one of serving God, His Kingdom, and one another. Rather than to dominate or exploit others, I am to seek their well-being. When we do this for one another in a relationship, this works very well. Jacques Ellul declares that Christians are to be salt, light and sheep. We preserve the dramas in which we have a role; we share truth, or light, with our fellow actors. And we faithfully follow Jesus. With his Holy Spirit present in our lives, guiding, informing, convicting, we consistently seek to do what is right and what is good.

Since December 1961, I have played the role of husband. Since November 1966 this role expanded to include the related role of Father. In retirement I plan to focus more energy on these roles. With aging come health issues. Jackie has always been a better server than me. Health issues make one more aware of the need to serve and to be served. We have struggled with allowing ourselves to be served. But we must. Please think about your roles and your stages and how God wants you to behave in each of them, as well as the connections between them.

July 2017 Mind of the Missionary

Elements of a Biblical Worldview

  1. The world, the universe, was created by the triune God out of nothing and thus began space and time.
  2. As the crown of creation he made mankind in his image with an eternal soul.
  3. His purpose was for mankind to live in fellowship, community, with one another and with God.
  4. After a time, some of the spiritual beings who served God in heaven rebelled against him.
  5. In turn, the leader of the rebels, Satan, successfully encouraged mankind to disobey God and join the rebellion. The virus of sin spread. Humans were born into a culture which reinforced rebellion, which was characterized by lust, pride, and sloth. The core issue was, and is, POWER. Who is in charge here?
  6. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to call humankind back to the original purpose of fellowship among God, spiritual beings, humankind, and all of creation, we are told that God entered into a covenant with Abraham and his heirs to call others to accept and live by God’s initial purpose. Rewards are promised for those who work at this faithfully.
  7. The Old Testament is mostly an account of the success and failure of Abraham and his descendants in living in fellowship and calling all of humankind to repent and live according to the will of God.
  8. God, who is characterized as Great, Good, Loving, and Free, provided the Ten Commandments and other laws so that people would know how he wanted them to live. Also, he provided a system whereby the people could make sacrifices to atone for their personal and societal sins. And God sent prophets to warn and remind the people regarding the will of God. The prophets also revealed that God would come to live among humankind, provide a new and expanded covenant, and that he would make the ultimate sacrifice to pay the sin debt for all believers. God also punished the nation for its rebellion. This included a period of exile and restoration.
  9. In the fullness of time Jesus was born. He came to defeat sin, death and Satan so that we would not fear but live in righteousness and holiness. When Satan killed Jesus, he was released from space and time limitations, so no more temptations. The resurrection demonstrated overcoming death.
  10. Believers benefit from the victories won by Jesus. We are delivered, forgiven, and declared righteous. We will live eternally in heaven with God and the redeemed.
  11. Jesus makes a new covenant with the church. We are his people. We are to serve him and one another. We are to call all humankind to repentance, to faith, and to obedience to his commandments.
  12. One day Jesus will return to earth and establish a perfect Kingdom. He will rule with the assistance of the martyrs. Justice and mercy and righteousness will characterize this kingdom. Resurrection, judgment, punishment, and rewards will be elements of life in the kingdom.
  13. Then the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven, creation will be restored and eternity will be.The function of a worldview is to provide one with a frame for understanding what is going on; history is the story of the struggle between good and evil, that God is active in history moving it toward his appointed ends, we are free as individuals to cooperate with and obey God, and we will be accountable to God for this. Of course, our response has eternal consequences. Are the leaders of our churches, communities and nations operating in terms of the biblical worldview.

June 2017 Mind of the Missionary

It seems that it has become customary for politicians to conclude their speeches with God Bless America. I often wonder is this a command, or a request? Those of us who know Scripture, realize that it can only be the latter. To be blessed by God, personally or as a nation, comes with requirements.

First, we must recognize that God is Sovereign. He is in charge. He has plans for us and for our nation. He is dealing with rebels – Angels and persons. He wills for us to love and obey him. He wills for us to love and serve one another.

Second, he wills that we live in community with him and one another. For this to happen we need to tear down the wall of separation, class, gender, race, and worldview which Satan uses to promote hostility. We must be committed to justice, mercy, and loving kindness for everyone. We need to believe that since all of us will one day give an account to God for what we have done and failed to do, we must protect freedom of conscience. He wills for us to give evidence that we are indeed his children by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty and clothes to the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison, and doing other ministries to care for others. During a life time, this will mean that we will both serve and be served. Often at the same point in time we are an agent of service and an object of service. Imagine how wonderful this could be. Caring and being cared for.

Third, as persons, and as a nation, we should seek blessing from God in order that we will have resources to bless others. It is not a matter of declaring that you are more blessed than your neighbor. And while we might believe our nation is the best and most blessed, this should call forth gratitude, not arrogance. How can we promote freedom, good health, and the good news of the Gospel to nations around the world? These questions should be ever on our minds.

On Mother’s Day at the Sonic in East Columbus the two servers with whom we interacted wished us a blessed day. It had been. It was. Encounters of blessing flowed all around. This should characterize our relationships with others.

May 2017 Mind of the Missionary

Each May we conduct a week of prayer for Associational Missions. May 22-28 are the dates for 2017. With my retirement in October, there are some prayer concerns of great importance. Please involve your family and your church in prayer concerning these following items:

 

  1. The search committee as they consider persons who might serve as our mission director in the coming years. The work of the association has changed significantly in the past twenty years. It has grown as God has given challenges and opportunities to us.
  2. Wisdom in knowing how to organize the work of the association going forward. Our goal is to provide the churches and their members opportunities to be Great Commission Christians. Our structure dates from 1982. It reflects the design of the then Home Mission Board. Where we are and how we can serve has changed. We need to seek the mind of God concerning how to be faithful, effective, efficient, and loving in following the Great Commission.
  3. The Baptist Center has grown significantly. It does great ministries and provides resources to the association. Ask for wisdom in how to operate it well.
  4. The prison with nearly 2,000 inmates, most of them from other countries, ask God what he wills for us to do there.
  5. With most of our pastors not having formal education regarding the administration of a church, the preparation of sermons, the leadership of worship, or the interpretation of Scripture ask God how he wants the association to strengthen our pastors.
  6. With the decline of persons able to play the piano, ask God to provide answers so our worship will be vital.
  7. With so many of our pastors over 60, pray that God will call and men will hear and respond.
  8. Ask God how you and your church can be supportive of the mission of the college and career school scheduled to open in Carrollton in the fall of 2018. Surely it is in the best interest not only of our youth but also of our churches and communities.

 

These are very important topics of prayer at this time. Please do so. Please share God’s response.

March 2017 Mind of the Missionary

I truly enjoy ice cream, pizza, diet Dr. Pepper and kettle potato chips. I would like to eat my fill of these every day. However, I am told that this is not a good meal plan. I need some meats, fruits, and vegetables. I must limit my consumption of fats, carbohydrates, and sugars. And I need to get exercise both of my body and my mind. I need to also sleep well. Balance and moderation are called for, if I am to have a healthy body.

The Apostle Paul liked to compare the church to a human body. Each of us is like an organ of the body. We have a function to perform. The health of the church is dependent upon each of us playing our role. While some roles are not prominent, all are important. He declared that the healthy church, like the healthy body is one where the members put the health of the church before their own interests, where relationships are informed by the Golden Rule, where each one rejoices in the work of the others.

The church has several basic functions it must perform to be the body of Christ. Essentially, it must recognize that Christ is the head of the church and that the church must focus upon doing his will in the place where the church serves. Here is a list of the basic functions:

*Worship. The church must praise God in public worship, regularly. The minds, hearts and wills of the members must be involved. The five senses–hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling should be impacted. God is glorified. We are reminded of our dependence on and our submission to him.

*Witness. The good news of the Gospel must be proclaimed and persons invited to commit to becoming a part of the body–using their gifts and graces for its health.

*Disciple. The church must provide opportunity and resources for its members to grow spiritually, coming to understand and commit to the teachings, worldview, and lifestyle of Scripture. Mentoring the new by the experienced believers is a task of the churches.

*Minister. We need to care for one another. Paramount for us should be considering how we can practice the Golden Rule in our everyday relationships. This is counter-culture. Culture teaches us to put ourselves first. Not so, followers of Jesus. This calls for us to be sensitive and responsive to the material and spiritual needs of others. When we are practicing the Golden Rule we are ministering to others and they are ministering to us. Imagine what things would be like if most of us were living like this. Joy would abound. Suffering would be checked.

*Mission. We are to be Great Commission folk. Jesus told those assembled for his assent back to the father to practice these first four functions as they moved about. In recent centuries we have become more intentional about moving about and sharing the Gospel by appointing and supporting missionaries. Nearly 30 have gone from Pickens County with the support of our churches to other nations as career missionaries. And many others have gone on short-term mission trips.

Let me note that the primary function of the Pickens Baptist Association is to undergird the work of the 34 affiliated churches in performing these five tasks and addressing more directly the missionary task in the territory where the association and its churches serve. In recent years this has been primarily at the Aliceville FCI. Through these efforts nearly 500 inmates have made professions of faith, more than 100 baptized, and more than 1,000 ministered to and discipled through Rubies for Life, Samford Ministry Training Institute, meals for staff, Kairos and other efforts.

Three Protestant churches started by the association there have been started within the walls. And these churches are performing these five tasks well and being blessed of God. Women are leaving the prison with a testimony about being saved and/or restored here. Many of them are returning to other nations and serving there as volunteer missionaries.

In addition to these five tasks, the Apostle Paul identifies four marks of a good church–unity, purity, mutual submission and spiritual warfare. But this will be the subject of another column. How is your church doing in regard to these tasks and marks? How are you contributing? How might the PBA help your church? If you have not, it is because you ask not.

February 2017 Mind of the Missionary

I recently read a new book by columnist Thomas Friedman, Thank you for Being Late. The theme is to understand the impact of change, particularly electronic communication, on our lives. Certainly, here in Pickens County there has been tremendous change since 1998 when I came. Few people had computers and were on the internet. Very few smart phones. No texting. We shopped in stores, not online. Very few TV channels for news and entertainment. The textile industry still provided about 1,000 jobs for our residents. We could buy new cars in the county.

Friedman identifies six important learnings for himself coming from his many interviews with key leaders in government, business and industry.

  1. America is becoming more diverse and, for him, this is a good thing. While he makes a good case for this, he neglects the importance of a society having shared values, a common set upon which laws can be based and followed. For many such values as freedom of religion, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, security, property rights, traditional family and rewards for hard work seem threatened by change. Some of us worry that “the baby is being thrown out with the bath wash,” that in blissfully accepting diversity we will set the stage for chaos.
  2. He found that many successful persons believed that being mentored by a successful person was the key to their success. I hope that one application for this truth here in our association will be experienced pastors mentoring the young pastors and other church leaders will mentor those who will take over the leadership in years to come. Today most of our pastors are local and not formally trained as ministers of the Gospel.
  3. Friedman sees that for a community, or a nation, to prosper, and for there to be peace and order in the world, the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” needs to be actively practiced. Perhaps this is the corrective to weakness I see with number one above. However, from my perspective the Golden Rule is not consistently applied by most in their everyday lives, nor in the practices of businesses and government. He suggests, and I would certainly agree, that this must become a priority. For this to happen, in my opinion, it needs to begin with an emphasis on it in our churches. If millions of Christians around the world would do so, then there is hope.
  4. He continues that isolation is a great threat for our nation. True. But so, to my mind, is an uncritical embracing of diversity and all change. One of the great fallacies of popular culture is that change is progress. Often it is, but often it is not. For example, consider the context of television and music entertainment. Lots of trash. Or consider mind altering drugs. Or consider the failed efforts of communism. Change is not a synonym for progress.
  5. So, while we should benefit from changes in our lives: personally, family, community, nation and world, I cannot just accept these changes uncritically. In many cases the change has been at least as bad as what it aimed to correct. It seems that the election of Donald Trump can be interpreted as many Americans feeling that some of the changes in the past couple of decades were not beneficial. Certainly, there are flaws in how things are structures and there are flaws in how we live. Changes need to be changed. But there needs to be a criteria for judging changes. To my mind this is found in the Word of God. There we find principles for how to conduct our lives, how to relate to others, both neighbors and enemies, how to have a family, a business, a community, and a nation. If change is to be made, make in a way that reflects the will of God.
  6. Finally, good relationships, good transactions, good neighborhoods are based on trust. Here the Golden Rule comes back in. Trust comes out of repeated experiences with one another. It can and should build and expand over time. What a wonderful thing it is to have a trust relationship with another person.
  7. While I doubt many of you will take the time to read this book for yourselves, I do hope that you will consider its points and work for better relationships on all levels in the coming year. Work on being a Golden Rule person in 2017.

January 2017 Mind of the Missionary

We have just celebrated the birth of the king of kings. Later this month we will inaugurate our new US president, Donald Trump. We are commanded to pray for him and for our other leaders. Recently, while worshiping with Hebron, pastor Randy Gray took as his text Ezra 9:8, “a little space of grace.” His point was that in years past we have been heading in ways that are not pleasing to God, as a nation, as churches and as individuals. Hopefully, the coming years will be a time when there can be correction and getting back on course as a nation, as churches and as individuals.

Life is about, he continued, seeking and doing the will of God as individuals, as churches, and as nations. Perhaps you, like me, were troubled about how little attention was given to the topic of God’s will in the recent political campaign.  He was mentioned only as a postscript, a request for his blessings on the nation. I heard no mention of the fact that blessings seem to be conditional on our being in compliance with his will.  You and I, our church, and our nation will not be truly blessed unless we are doing the will of God.

Jesus taught that the core will of God is for us to love him, totally, and that we love our neighbors as well as we love ourselves. Mention of this truth was missing from the campaign rhetoric. Rather, the will of Satan that we love money, sex, and power was the focus of both campaigns. These are the idols that Jesus came to destroy. If we worship any, or all of them, they will destroy us as individuals, churches and as a nation.

Our popular culture teaches us to worship these three idols. Often they are in harmony with one another. Position of lots of money is touted as the means to sex and power. The same is true for each of the others. Movies, television shows, music, and products all promote the worship of this satanic trinity. Take for example Sunday night NFL football.  Millionaires  pushing one another around to the cheers of the beautiful cheerleaders.

Please join me in committing to pray for our town, county, state and national political leaders. Pray that they focus on the common good, religious freedom, opportunities for each citizen to be involved and contributing to the well-being of others. Pray that we will have a period of peace, that diseases will be conquered, that hatred will fade. Pray that we will come to appreciate the gifts and graces of others. Pray that attitudes of exploiting others will die. Pray that serving others, not being served, will be the goal of each one of us.

Pray that the next few years will prove to be “a little space of grace” and that each of us will take advantage of the opportunities it provides.  In the current age, the church is God’s primary agent. Pray that our churches will focus on their true head, Jesus Christ, will know his will, and work to carry it out. If I read the book of Ephesians correctly, God’s general will for each church is that it be pure and holy, characterized by mutual submission and fighting against Satan, not one another. God also has a specific will for each church. Make that a matter of prayer regularly in your church meetings.

December 2016 Mind of the Missionary

As the Old Testament prophets told of the coming Messiah they painted three pictures of him—a king of the Davidic line, the Son of Man, and the Suffering Servant. Read Isaiah 11, Daniel 7 and Isaiah 53 as examples of texts where these pictures of a Messiah appear.

When Jesus came the people of Judah gave attention to only one of these pictures, that of a king of the line of David. Recall, the coming of the Wisemen to worship the king and the reaction of Herod and his spiritual counselors. Jesus, on the other hand, referred to himself many times as the Son of Man. This picture is one of a pre-existent being who comes from heaven to bless God’s people. Then as the early church reflected upon the death of Jesus on the cross they discovered that his role was as the Lamb of God, the suffering servant who atones for the sin of humankind.

Why did the religious leaders of 30 AD misunderstand Jesus? Obviously, they wanted a Messiah who would meet their perceived needs, a worldly king who would defeat Roman oppression and restore Judah as a world power.

This Christmas we will worship Jesus as suffering servant, the Son of Man and as the coming king—all three. We will note how the Jews misunderstood the role of the Messiah. He came as the Son of Man, God in the flesh (John 1). He died on the cross as the suffering servant (John 19). He is coming again as King (Matthew 24-25).  This is the correct order.

As we look for his return, we must be careful to not repeat the errors of the Jews of the first century; that is, not seek to dictate to God how, when, or where Jesus will return. We are sure only of who and why. Like many of you I have expected to see Jesus here on earth during my life time. From Hitler on I have heard many world figures identified as being the anti-Christ. But none of these proved to be true.

However, there are some truths from Revelation and the Olivet discourse (Matt. 24-25) concerning how to prepare for his return. These are certain.  Among them:

*Resurrection awaits

*Judgment is coming

*We are expected to serve others, in part, by meeting basic human needs—food, clothing, shelter, water, and caring friendship

*Love God and love neighbors

*Respond to the invitation of the Holy Spirt, put one’s faith in Jesus

*Have one’s name recorded in the Book of Life

*Be watchful and prepared

Revelation describes tribulation, war, destruction—evil running wild. It describes a great battle between good and evil. It tells of a thousand year reign of Jesus when there will be true justice and peace. It describes a great city where the saved will live eternally, worship God joyfully, and attend a great banquet.

As a part of your Christmas, read again the song of Zechariah found in part in Luke 1:72-75. Jesus is the victor. He will defeat our enemies—sin, death, and Satan—so that we can live and serve without fear in holiness and righteousness.

November 2016 Mind of the Missionary

In a few days we get to cast votes for public officials. As I see it my most significant vote will be for Superintendent of Education. Developing a strong vocational education program will benefit our children, our communities and our churches.

The presidential debates have been of interest to me as a theologian. The candidates have focused on accusing the other on breaking one, or more, of the Ten Commandments – six, seven, nine, and ten. Missing is attention to the teaching that the life that pleases God begins with adhering to the first four – those about honoring and serving God. Apparently. It is unlikely that a person will do well at keeping the Commandments concerning interpersonal relationships, if he/she does not keep the first four. Certainly, keeping the first four is not very popular, or well supported, in our culture. While one hears calls for God to bless our nation, few appear to be concerned about knowing and doing His will. God’s blessings are conditional.

Later in November we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Our nation needs to ask itself to whom are we giving thanks – Washington, ourselves, fate, or the God of history. Thanks for what, to whom are questions we must ask. And then there is Christmas and its core meaning.

I have begun the process of interviewing the pastor and leaders of each of our churches concerning their vision for their church and how the association can help facilitate it going forward. This will inform the re-structuring of the association. Will keep you posted.

Thanks to Flatwoods and Mineral Springs for hosting our associational annual meeting earlier this month. They both did very well. The offering for the Children’s Home was $521. The offering for ALCAP was $384. Jordan Lollar did a great job with the introduction sermon. And so did N.C. with the mission sermon.

Thanks to our volunteers who manned the bouncers at the Face in the Window celebration. One of only two free things at the event. Scores of children had a great time. And thanks to the ladies who sold gift items to raise funds to support our ministry in the prison.

Some of you will get to read this on the final day of our Pickens Gospel Celebration. Pray. Attend. Bring the lost.

We will be working to re-activate our Bible classes here at the associational office in January. The first class will be on pastoring a bivocational church. We need 10 students to offer the class.

During the annual meeting I spoke on the history of 200 years of the Gospel Light being in Pickens County – its planting, the establishment of churches, adjustments to changes in the economy, transportation, communication, worship styles and where people dwelt. We also dealt with the association being mostly an annual event to being a 365 day organization led by an associational missionary. We celebrated the fact that 26 persons from our association have served Southern Baptists as international missionaries. And we launched a process of considering how best we can continue the work going forward.

October 2016 Mind of the Missionary

October is a very busy month for the association. Annual meeting, area wide revival, street fairs in Carrollton, Panola, and Aliceville. Let me share more about these events in hope that you will participate.

This will be the 181st annual meeting of our association. It is kind of like a family reunion. We hear praise and petition reports from each of our 34 congregations. We rejoice and we pray for our sister churches. We hear about what God is doing in our area, our state, our nation, and around the world. We rejoice and repent. We will elect a moderator and vice moderator.  We will hear from a new international missionary who was raised among us. We will hear about the mission and ministry efforts of the association. We will rejoice and recommit. Our theme will be Celebration of the Bicentennial of the coming of the Gospel Light to our area during 2017.

We will take up offerings for the Children’s Home and for ALCAP. We will enjoy fellowship meals. We will hear good Gospel music. We will sing, laugh, and renew friendships.

It is a two day event. On Monday, October 10, we will meet all afternoon at Flatwoods, off Benevola Rd. Services will begin at 1 and conclude at 5:30 pm. We will then enjoy a wonderful fellowship meal provided by the church.

Tuesday, October 11, we will meet at Mineral Springs on the old US 82 near McShan. We will start later at 2:45 pm. At 5:30 pm we will have a wonderful fellowship supper provided by the host church. And then at 6:15 pm we will go back to a time of worship and have our annual mission message. The evening session is provided for those who hold jobs which keep them from attending the afternoon sessions.

Then October 24-26 we will have the Pickens Gospel Celebration. Monday through Wednesday at the Service Center in Carrollton. The Evangelism Committee has secured three of the finest preachers in the world for this set of meetings—Pastor Fred Luter, Professor Robert Smith, Jr. and Evangelist Junior Hill. While the services begin at 7 pm, each evening we will have mini-concerts beginning at 6:45 featuring the choir from the Aliceville Federal Prison work camp, recording artists Bros. Bob Little and Marcus Wright and others.

These services are for everyone. Pray that we will see lost persons saved and believers revived.

Then on October 15 the Rubies for Life mentors will be selling quality gifts from Lighthouse Christian Products to raise money to support their program in the prison. All of the proceeds will be used for this. They will have gifts for pastor appreciation, Christmas and other special occasions. Our prices are below wholesale.  Visit their booth at the Face in the Window celebration. On October 29 the RFL mentors will have a booth with more items at the Aliceville Fall Street Fair.

Many of our churches collect canned goods for the food bank at the Baptist Center this month. We are in need of these donations. We received the food gathered by the mail carriers only for Carrollton and half of that from Reform this past May. If you want to support the associational food bank, October will be the best time to do so. Less than half of the food collected in May comes to the Baptist Center.