January 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

 

January 2020

 

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

(Acts 20.35)

 

As Paul had his last visit with his dear friends of Ephesus, he reminded them of his hard work, their need to work hard to help the weak(poor), but to do so remembering a saying of Jesus that was being used in the local churches…”it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Christmas is not the only time of year in which this principle should be practiced, but  it seems most emphasized now. Recently in our association, there were 3 visibly clear examples of this principle.

The first would be the Firewood Ministry of Ethelsville Baptist church. I’ve asked Bro. Jordan Lollar to share the how and the why it began as well as its growth through the years. He writes, “it started ten years ago with a few men in the brotherhood of the church seeing a need of people that burned firewood as their source of heat for the winter needing help with cutting and splitting wood. Some people were not able to split their own wood so they would have to buy it which took money away from groceries, medicine and other things. The first year there were around twenty people involved, and they hauled 18 truckloads of wood. With every load of wood that was delivered, the people were prayed with and the Gospel was shared with them.

                Through the past ten years the ministry has grown tremendously. This past November there were over 35 churches represented, 142 people and 146 loads of wood delivered by 2:00pm in one day. It was amazing to see everyone working together for a common cause to help others and to show God’s love through a warm fire.

This ministry is unique to me as I have never seen another like it, and we are so blessed to be involved in it.”

The next example was Mission Pickens at Mineral Springs Baptist church. Through the leadership of Bro. David Blakney, Emelia Reece, and its volunteer team, more than 500 children received Christmas gifts. However, the ministry does more than give the gifts away, it takes time to share the Gospel of Jesus with each family member, as well as, provide hot chocolate and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Over the years, many have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Finally, the PBA Baptist Center sponsors Christmas Food boxes for needy families. 15 boxes filled with gift certificates from Piggly Wiggly and Wal-Mart were included with the regular box of food from the food pantry ministry. The Christmas Food boxes have been a great way for our PBA churches to bless others that are less fortunate. 

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” May this saying of Jesus always be our purpose as we serve Him during Christmas and all year round!

 

Until Next Month,

 

Bro. Lyle

December 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

December 2019

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”         (Psalm 107.1a)

As I was preparing for this month, I ran across this interesting article on “3 Root Causes of Ungratefulness” by Kristen Clark of Living with Gratitude Ministries. They are envy, entitlement, and unrealistic expectations. This is how she describes each one.

First of all, envy is a condition of people who walk through life painfully obsessed by the advantages enjoyed by others. This strong desire within them causes significant resentments leading to anger and unhappiness. Next, entitlement is a belief that one deserves certain privileges, benefits, or advantages. These individuals value relationships based on what others can give them and are dissatisfied when they don’t get what they feel they deserve. Third, unrealistic expectations are like having the ability to read the mind of others, or dropping everything  to accommodate their needs, or feeling others should give, give, give, while they give nothing in return.

This attitude appears to be quite common in our world today. It is not that it hasn’t been present before, but with technology and media being what it is, ungratefulness is shoved in our faces. Paul wrote, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him,…” (Romans 1.21a)

However, thanksgiving must be the believer’s attitude. I believe there are at least 3 ways to move from ungratefulness to gratitude. One is recognizing that we don’t deserve anything. As a followers of Christ, we should understand that we don’t deserve God’s love, mercy, faithfulness, and especially his forgiveness, but He did it even when we didn’t deserve it. Romans 5.8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Our understanding that we don’t deserve anything helps us to appreciate all that we have.

The second recognition is what we do have, it all comes from God. Now, that is a different way of looking at life, isn’t it? Everything-our family, our job, our house, our car, our health, our car, our food-everything comes from God. Jesus said, “If anyone comes after me, deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9.23)  By denying ourselves, we begin to see from God what it is we truly need and then, He’ll provide it. I’m not there yet!

Finally, the third movement is recognizing God for who He is. Maybe, I should have put this as the first point because if we, as followers of Christ, get this right, then gratitude becomes much easier. According to one source, there are 955 names for God. Here are 8 of them: ELOHIM – My Creator; JEHOVAH – My Lord God; EL SHADDAI – My Supplier; ADONAI – My Master; JEHOVAH JIREH – My Provider; JEHOVAH ROPHE –  My Healer; JEHOVAH NISSI – My Banner; and JEHOVAH MARADESH – My Sanctifier. As we read and study God’s Word, the descriptions and names for God are found within its pages. This helps us to discover more and more who He is and who He isn’t. Our growing understanding of God helps us understand how best to talk to Him as well as what to expect from Him.

May you all have a Blessed Thanksgiving by recognizing God and knowing that all we have comes from Him!

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

 

November 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

November 2019

“And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”    (Luke 15.23 – 24)

In this parable of the Prodigal Son, the father restores his son’s authority, honor, and rescues him from slavery. Why not celebrate? His son went from death to life, was lost and was found. All of us enjoy celebrating…births of babies, salvation of people, anniversaries, weddings, the building of a house or a church. The list is numerous. The point is celebrating accomplishments is a good thing. In the last few days, Pickens Baptist Association has reason to celebrate.

Nearly 70 deacons and wives with some pastors and wives attended the annual Deacons/Wives Appreciation Banquet. Bro. Ken Allen of the Alabama State Board of Missions spoke that evening challenging us to be servant leaders. (Bro. Jim Swedenburg of Pickens County was originally scheduled, but he had unexpected bypass surgery which made it impossible for him to be with us. Continue to pray for him as he recovers.) Mrs. Lauren Morris Averette sang several songs accompanied by her father, Ricky Morris. I enjoyed getting to know better some of our deacons and wives that I only see occasionally. Thank you Highland Baptist Church for hosting us!

On Saturday, October 12, more than 40 youth and leaders gathered at Mineral Springs Baptist Church for a dodgeball tournament. 2 girl’s teams and 4 boy’s teams competed for the prizes. The youth of Mineral Springs won the top prizes, but Stansel’s teams gave gallant efforts. There was a brief appearance by some of the leaders, but those 2 matches went by quickly. I’m grateful to Mineral Springs for allowing us to use their gym. Thanks to Lowden Richardson, youth pastor of Fayette FBC, who spoke on the certainty of our salvation.

This past Monday, October 14 was the Pickens Baptist Association’s annual meeting at Aliceville FBC. The theme was “Living for Jesus” from Colossians 1.10. There were  messengers and guests who participated. Bro. Glen Kennedy presided over his final meeting because he has accepted the call to become Associate Pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Coker. May God greatly use him there!  He will be missed.

Brother Mike Hall and Mr. Gordon McGlawn were elected as Moderator and Vice-Moderator of PBA for this next year. I look forward to ministering with them.

It was exciting to hear the different ministry and missions reports and preaching. One even added a bit of humor. The reports from the Alabama Children’s Homes, ALCAP, State Missions, and Alabama Christian Higher Education helped give us a better understanding of how our financial gifts are used to further these ministries.

A shout out to Bro. Jed Smart, Mrs. Bridget Crepps, and Bro. Charlie Wilson for handling all the details from lunch to the announcements to the worship and special music. It made the day go smoothly. I’ve heard say how was it possible to do so much and finish on time. Well, thank you, Aliceville FBC!!

Finally,  PBA has much to celebrate. We have been blessed with a rich heritage of missions and ministry, but we must continue looking forward celebrating at the appropriate times what God is doing around us.

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

October 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

October 2019

“He who belongs to God hears what God says…You do not hear because you do not belong to God.” (John 8.47)

There is a phrase that we often hear used, “Prayer changes things”. What does that mean? Does it mean, prayer changes the circumstances of my life? Does it mean, prayer changes the circumstances of others’ lives? Does it mean, prayer changes how I see God? Does it mean, prayer changes how God sees me? It can be very confusing. Listen to these prayers. Don’t they sound like some of our prayers?

“Lord, I really want to know your will. Please stop me if I am wrong and bless me if I am right.”

“Lord, this is what I am going to do. Please close the door if this is not what you want me to do.”

Both prayers are sincere. Both prayers are calling upon God to give guidance. However, notice that both prayers are selfish. The prayers are dotted with several “I” statements. It sort of reminds me of the Pharisee in the temple, “I thank you that I am not like,…I fast twice a week,…” (Luke 18.11 – 12) In other words, the perspective needs to be changed.

Prayer does change things when our perspective becomes God’s perspective. Throughout the Scriptures, we see Him changing the perspective of His servants. Moses was convinced that he could not speak for God nor lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. The same is true concerning the circumstances of our lives. Job could have blamed God for the very unfair situation in which he found himself, but Job knew that his circumstances were not due to a sinful lifestyle. Job trusted God to be the God that he knew before the circumstances of his life changed. As Job stated so clearly, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you”. (Job 42.5)

How does our perspective become God’s perspective? Henry Blackaby expressed it this way,

  • “I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter.”
  • “I do not leave the result to a feeling or simple impression.”
  • “I seek the will of the Spirit of God through or in connection with the Word of God.”
  • ”If I have trouble hearing God speak, I am in trouble at the very heart of my Christian experience.”
  • ”Knowing God’s voice comes from an intimate love relationship with God.”
  • ”The moment God speaks to me is the very moment God wants me to respond to him.”

Keep in mind this is not a formula, but these are principles which change our prayer perspective to God’s. May we as Pickens Baptist Association always seek to pray from God’s perspective.

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

September 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

September 2019

“I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3.15)

 

God calls men to become pastors. Some men accept the call immediately while others are slow or even rebellious. Within time, these men take up the call and serve God and His church. Many times, this means that more education is needed which calls for families to uproot themselves from their home communities and/or leave professions that comfortably took care of their families. As in our association, many of these men continue working outside their local church just to make ends meet. This leads to less time with family, less time with the local church, less time to study, and less time to rest. Despite these sacrifices, the profession of “pastor” is near the bottom of any survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.

Why is there this lack of respect? It’s a lack of respect from society, a lack of respect from our churches, and a lack of respect by pastors for their own call. From society and churches, it is a misunderstanding of what “pastor” means. A pastor is NOT just a preacher, NOT just a counselor, NOT just a teacher, or NOT just a chaplain to visit people in the hospital. A pastor is a God-given call that is confirmed by the local church through the man’s life and how he lives it. Unfortunately, as society and the church look at many of our pastors, they do not see men who understand their purpose. This leads the pastor to doubt his own call, importance, and influence in the communities in which he serves.

In our focus passage, God told Jeremiah that he would give shepherds who sought His heart and lead the sheep “with knowledge and understanding”.  Other Biblical passages state that pastors are overseers who take care of the flock and keep watch over them.  Paul says that pastors are “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”.  This makes it clear to me that the role of pastor is important to the life of Christ’s church. We need pastors who are God-called and God-led.

Pickens Baptist Association has been blessed with pastors who are “shepherds who sought His heart and led the sheep”.  As you know, Brothers Glen Kennedy, Leonard Hill, and Terry Billings have left or will be leaving their flocks by September. I’ve had the privilege to work with them, and they have blessed my life.  I can say that they are God-called and God-led pastors. May God continue to use them wherever He sends them!

Also, pray for our 6 churches who are or will be without pastors in the next few weeks. The pastor search teams, deacons, and church leaders have much responsibility placed on them. Pray for them as they go through these transitional periods.

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

August 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

August 2019

In a recent conversation with Wes Jones, missionary for Mountain Development Ministries Honduras, he shared with me about a “miracle” that God just did there. I couldn’t keep it to myself and asked him to share it with us .

Let me begin by saying, “Thank you” for your support of the work that the Lord has called me to do in the village of San Matias, Honduras.  I just returned from a 5 week  trip there. I want to share a story with you about something that happened  on my last trip. 

We had an orthopedic  team working at Hospital Escuela in the city of Tegucigalpa. On Monday night, the spine surgeon, Dr. Coyle, was late returning to the hotel because he had performed so many operations that day.  He told the team about operating on a man that was in a motorcycle accident a month ago and had a broken neck.  The man was paralyzed. The only thing he could do was barely shrug his shoulders, and he could not move his arms or legs.  The doctor told the team that the only reason that he operated was because the bones in his neck were so unstable. Dr. Coyle even felt badly about operating because he knew the operation would not make him better, but it would prevent the bone fragments from shifting in his neck.

On Wednesday, our mountain team finished their projects for the day and headed up the mountain for outreach and distribution of large baskets of food.  We give families food baskets and share the Gospel with them.  This time,  we traveled to the adjoining village of Macuelizo.  When we came to the first adobe house, we were greeted by a lady and invited in.  When we came in, there was a man laying in bed.  I went over to him, and the Lord burdened my heart to kneel beside his little cot. I told him that we had come to share the love of Christ with them and prepared a food basket for his family.  The man started to weep.  He said he was a terrible man, a bad husband and father. Now, he cannot even provide for them anymore.  He said he was hopeless.  We shared the Gospel with him and told him how Jesus gives hope.  I reached my hand over to him. and he grabbed mine with both of his.  As he lay there weeping, he squeezed my hand and asked the Lord to save him. The presence of our Lord was so strong in that little dirt house.  As I stood up to leave, the sheet moved away from his neck, and I saw a bandage. I asked him why he had a bandage on his neck. He told me he had surgery on Monday by “The North American with big hands.”  I knew he was talking about Dr. Coyle, and I remembered what Dr. Coyle had said about him. 

When I returned to the hotel that night, I spoke with Dr. Coyle. I told him that I had met the man he did surgery on Monday, and that he could move his arms and had tingling in his legs.  Dr. Coyle said, “not the guy I operated on, he was paralyzed and all I did was stabilize the bone fragments.”  I repeated it again and again, but he was emphatic that it could not be the same guy.  I showed him a picture of the man, and his face went completely blank. He said, “That is a miracle from God because we did not do a single thing to heal him.  We simply stabilized the bone fragments in his neck.”  Tears filled both of our eyes, and he repeated, “This is a miracle from God!”

Never doubt that God is still in the miracle business! ”With God, all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19.26)

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

July 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

July 2019

“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 15.5-6)

While I was attending seminary in New Orleans, Claren and I had the opportunity to attend the 1984 World’s Fair.  We had a great time walking through the pavilions, especially China, because it seemed so mysterious at the time.  Then, there was the space shuttle, the window to the universe.  Last, there was the kid’s wash.  It sounds childish, but it was super hot, and the water helped cool us down.

If you didn’t attend the SBC Annual Meeting last week in Birmingham, you missed an opportunity to see how our convention functions.  It’s like a mini-World’s Fair with the exposition hall full of SBC or SBC recommended colleges and seminaries, the IMB and NAMB booths, Guidestone, the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, Lifeway, and other ministries within the SBC. There was time for lunches and dinners for all of the different entities. The great thing is that some of them were free. You just had to make your reservation ahead of time.

In between sessions, you had plenty of room to walk, sit, talk, and maybe even catch a quick nap.  I met folks that I knew from Alabama, from the IMB and NAMB, and even met a few new people. The SBC annual meeting is a great place to experience the life of our convention…our cooperative program in action.  Just this past weekend at the Bicentennial celebration in Aliceville, I met an African-American man whose church is a member of the SBC.  He said he couldn’t believe how much the SBC has to offer.  I believe similarly…we, as members, don’t always know or appreciate what we have.

On top of all these great things, you get to hear and participate in some great worship and preaching/teaching.  These men who spoke inspired me to fulfill the meeting’s theme, “Gospel Above All” from I Corinthians 15.4-5.

As the PBA moves forward, I would like to challenge us to put the “Gospel Above All”.  Paul wrote, “Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Col. 3.17)  I would even add our desires and thoughts.  May all that we do for Jesus be what motivates us to fulfill God’s purpose through Pickens Baptist Association!

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

June 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

June 2019

“Brethren, be even more diligent to make sure your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.”  (II Peter 1.10)

 

Aaaahhhh, it’s summer!! It’s time to get away, and enjoy time with family and friends. I’m not a qualified travel agent, but I did look up some of the best US family vacation sites. You could choose Disney World-Orlando, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, Gatlinburg, TN, or the sugary white beaches of Destin, Florida. Of course, none of these are inexpensive.

No matter how you spend your vacation time at the river, the beach, or in the mountains, don’t forget the One who made them. The biggest tendency during the summer is to unplug oneself from our daily routine of prayer, Bible study, and local church attendance. We use the excuses: “It’s not convenient!” or “I’m on vacation!” or “No one in my family will go with me.” Or “I don’t won’t to have to get up early for that!”. Unfortunately, they are probably the same ones we use back home. (OOOO, that’s harsh, but true.)

Peter, in verses 5 – 7 of this same chapter, makes a list of characteristics that we, as believers, should “add to your faith”.  Then, he says, “if you possess these qualities…, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive…”.  Notice, how Peter states it,  “to keep from being ineffective, unproductive, and never stumble.” It is a diligence, a  persistent working or an effort to grow in our faith. This isn’t working for our salvation, but it is a “working out of our salvation.” We need to understand that our growth just doesn’t happen.  It takes an intentional decision on our part to become faithful disciples of Christ.

So, as you are with your families and friends this summer, enjoy it!! However, be diligent in walking with the Lord. “ And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6.9)

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

May 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

May 2019

 

“Christ was truly God,…He gave up everything and became a slave, when He became like one of us.” (Philippians 2.6 – 7)

Recently,  in one of our churches, the offering envelope on the side panel was found in the offering plate…”To God”. It was told to me that a child had written this statement as the offering was taken on that particular Sunday. I believe that child truly understood what the purpose of giving is. It is giving all that we have for God.   

Paul’s statement of Christ’s sacrifice was one of complete humility. Jesus “gave up everything” or as the Greek says it, “He emptied Himself”. In other words, nothing was left of Himself. As we ponder Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, it’s impossible to do so without realizing how He gave all that He could to redeem all of mankind. There’s a phrase that we use, “he’s spent,  or she’s spent”.  It means the person has given all that he can give until he can’t give anymore.

In a sense, Christ did that for us when “came in the likeness of men”. He spent Himself. Notice, the anguish and the sorrow that Jesus expressed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was all coming to a focal point of His death on the cross. It was drawing nearer and nearer, and He sought the strength of His Father and the other disciples through prayer. Fortunately, Jesus found the comfort He needed through His Father because the disciples’ spirit was willing, but their flesh was weak.

How do we find ourselves this Easter season? Is our spirit willing, but our flesh is weak? Have we “given up everything” for Jesus? Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16.24) Will we desire to follow Christ this Easter and give up everything for Him? 

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

April 2019 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

April 2019

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

(Luke 9.24)

Recently, I finished reading Charles Sheldon’s book, In His Steps. I saw it in the PBA library and had always wanted to read it, but never had the opportunity. It is a fictional story of Raymond First Church, and its encounter with a gentleman who appeared at the end of its worship service asking questions of the congregation. This stranger asked some startling questions from the pastor’s message that morning. First, “if what you call following Jesus is the same thing as what He taught…what did He mean when He said: ‘Follow Me!’?”.  Second, “What do you mean when you sing, ‘I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way?’ Do you mean that you are suffering and denying yourselves and trying to save lost, suffering humanity just as I understand Jesus did?”.

The pastor gave a challenge to the congregation the next Sunday to ask themselves the question, “What would Jesus do?” for an entire year. Those who were serious would come to the fellowship hall of the church and begin the journey. On that first Sunday, more than 50 individuals took up the challenge. The book follows the lives of some of those persons and shows the blessings and the consequences of their decision.

I’d like to share one of those stories with you. Mr. Alexander Powers was the railroad superintendent. It was a very lucrative job with much status in the Raymond community. Upon seeing the situation of his workers, he decided to make a nice break area for the men to enjoy during lunch and other free times during their work day. Also, he asked the local pastor to come and share the Bible with them.

Everything seemed to be going quite well for Mr. Powers until one day he found a letter on his desk addressed to him. It contained a document that proved that his railroad company was in violation of the Interstate Commerce Laws of the United States. Mr. Powell now had a very difficult decision to make. Would he do as Jesus? Or would he not do anything to keep his job and status in the community and with his family? Mr. Powers chose to do as Jesus would. It cost him his job and his status in the community. His family was furious with him for making such a decision.

I remember the “WWJD” movement in the 90s and early 2000s. Did it have an effect and transformational change on our society?  Overall, no, it didn’t. Why? Because a phrase can’t do anything unless we, as believers, are willing to live it out. Mr. Powers faced a real dilemma…go along with the crowd or lose everything for Christ. He chose to lose everything for Christ.  Are we, am I,  willing to lose everything for Christ?