Pray for the North American mission teams and their upcoming summer missions opportunities. They will be working at MissionLab in New Orleans, LA, Remedy City Church in Portland, OR, and Resurrection BC in Isabela, PR. If you are interested in going there is still room for you. Contact Bro. Lyle Dease at the PBA office 367-8632 or his cell 251-769-6923 before March 26.
“This day belongs to the Lord! Let’s celebrate and be glad today.…The Lord is our God, and he has given us Light! Start the Celebration!” Psalm 118:24, 27
This passage is found within the context of a servant who has gone through numerous trials. Yet, in the midst of each one, God was there for him. The servant saw God’s faithfulness and salvation. Isn’t that just the opposite of what we do many times? We seem to forget that God has saved us and has been faithful to stand by us in the midst of our trials. The servant shows us that we can celebrate in the difficult, as well as the good times of our lives.
This month, I want to focus on celebrating what God has done through you all in Pickens Baptist Association. First of all, the second Puerto Rico disaster relief trip went way beyond what I could have imagined. We had a long list of projects, I wondered if we could get them done even with the help of the DR team from Colbert/Lauderdale association, but…the 2 teams did that and more. It was amazing to see how our DR leader, Gary Rogers, led us to accomplish this ministry. Also, our team (Glenn Kennedy, Lee Plowman, Ron Sick, Richie Schoolar, and I) and the DR team led by Keith Small and Director of Missions for Colbert/Lauderdale association, Eddy Garner, worked together like a “well-oiled machine.”
One of the great experiences was our conversations with the church neighbors. We would stop and talk for several minutes as they asked questions about why we’re doing what we were doing. Of course, our answer was “because Christ sent us to help you.” This answer was overwhelming for them. I found out last night that one of those couples was in church on Sunday. Continue to pray for God to reach these neighbors and others like them in Isabela with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, I want to brag a little about our churches. I remember my challenge to PBA to reach $100,000 for our 2017-18 Lottie Moon Christmas goal. Last year, we gave over $73,000. As of February 1, our churches have given over $91,000. Can you believe it?? Thank you for your promotion, giving, and praying for international missions.
Now is the time for our Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. In 2017, our churches did very well in giving more than $46,000 to North American missions. Pray and consider what your church can give in 2018. Could PBA give over $50,000? These monies are being used to fund North American missionaries, mission points, mission projects, and other ministries. Our WMU has already scheduled the “Act Like Annie” event for Saturday, March 10 to emphasize North American missions to our GAs/RAs. What will your church do?
I want to highlight a couple of other celebrations taking place within our churches. First of all, Brother Bob Little is celebrating 18 years of pastoral ministry at Galilee Baptist Church on Sunday, February 18. What a great job he has done there! Next, Brother Joe Fondren at Cross Roads Baptist Church will be baptizing 3 people on Sunday, February 18. That’s fantastic! I’m sure there are many other churches doing the same. Let us hear about it, so we can celebrate together. Finally, PBA is planning our associational international and North American mission trips. Our international trips are Brazil and Honduras, while our North American mission trips include Gatlinburg, TN, New Orleans, LA, Portland, OR, and Isabela, Puerto Rico. If you need more information, contact Mr. Buddy Kirk (Brazil), Logan McCool (Honduras), and Lyle Dease (North American trips). There is still time to sign up.
Don’t forget about the Pinewood Derby races on Saturday, February 24 at Pickensville Baptist Church at 1 pm. Registration begins at 12 noon. This will be our first time to experience the races, and we’re excited. Claren is preparing her car to win. I’m looking forward to seeing dads, moms, sons, and daughters there to cheer on one another to victory.
Finally, I appreciate all the churches, schools, and organizations who have supplied food to the Baptist Center. More and more folks come by the office asking for help, and it’s good to send them to the Baptist Center knowing that they’ll receive the help they need.
May God continue to bless each of our churches, our members, our leaders, and our pastors! May we extend God’s Kingdom throughout Pickens Baptist Association.
I’ve always loved the parables of Jesus. Each one has a principle or a teaching about the Kingdom of God. Some of my favorites are the mustard seed and leaven. (Matthew 13.31 – 33) These twin parables show that small beginnings have big endings. This point has been seen throughout scripture from Adam to the early church. As a matter of fact, unbelievers described believers in the early church as “those who turned the world upside down”. Can you believe that? A small group of believers were able to turn the world upside down in a few years.
That started me thinking, what would it take for our churches to turn Pickens Baptist Association upside down? I don’t have all the answers, but I think there are a few things our association can do to prepare itself for an “upside down” movement of God through a few small beginnings. First, our churches must be united in prayer. There is nothing more important and more difficult than prayer. This means prayer that opens our minds and hearts to see with God’s eyes what He is doing around us. As our pastors, leaders, and members pray for one another to see what God is doing around us, then our churches will be united in purpose.
Next, as we all see what God is doing in our association of churches, we need to join Him. This can be done in a number of ways through Sunday school outreach, evangelism, discipleship, men’s, women’s, youth, and children’s ministries, church revitalization, church planting, etc… However, will we, as His 34 churches, fulfill these purposes? Or will we just see a few of His churches go forward?
During 2018, Pickens Baptist Association will have many opportunities in each of these areas. Some are at different stages of growth, like the mustard seed or leaven, until they have big endings. Will we not pray for our churches to be united? Will we not join God where He is working to fulfill His purposes? As we pray together and join God where He is working, may PBA be turned upside down as we see small beginnings have big endings.
Until next month,
Years ago, there was a commercial by Heinz ketchup which showed the faces of children, youth, and adults anticipating the first drop of ketchup from its bottle. When the ketchup finally poured out, each person was happily satisfied with its appearance. The French fries, the hot dogs, meat loaf, …everything just tasted better.
Now, it’s impossible to compare the anticipation of ketchup with that of Jesus’ birth, but it can point us toward what God set in motion. The Bible shows us that through the prophets, God was doing something new and special to restore His people. As a matter of fact, it would be even greater than how God had rescued His people from Egypt through Moses. Jeremiah expresses it this way, “The day is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. The covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt.” (Jeremiah 31.31-32)
This anticipation continued to grow over the centuries until Jesus was born at the appointed time. Why else would King Herod be disturbed by the visit and news of the wise men. So, when Joseph and Mary presented baby Jesus in the Temple, the righteous and devout Simeon who was awaiting (anticipating) the Messiah and Israel’s rescue said, “Sovereign Lord,…I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to all the nations,….” (Luke 2.29-32)
The Long-Awaited Messiah had Come!! The Anticipation was Fulfilled!!
What about us? As followers of Christ and churches of Pickens Baptist Association, are we anticipating Jesus this Christmas season? Will our lives, our families, our churches, and our communities remain the same? Or will we allow Christ to shine through us to restore their brokenness?
There is no doubt that Christ has come! His coming can transform the world in which we live. However, it would be easy to allow the circumstances of our lives to quench the anticipation and expectation of Christmas. But may we not do this. May Christ’s coming as a “sign of God” be a “joy” to each of us. Since Jesus is our joy, may we let Christ’s light shine in this broken world to restore it as He desires.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Whenever someone begins a new job, a new responsibility, or a new task, there is always a period of discovery and investigation. It reminds me of the 12 spies sent out to the Promised Land. The Lord spoke to Moses, “Send men to scout out the land of Canaan….” Then upon returning, the spies gave their report, “We went into the land where you sent us.” Of course, only Caleb gave the favorable report, “We must go up and take possession of the land….” (Numbers 13:2,27,30)
My first month as your new Director of Missions has been one of discovery and investigation, but one of going up and getting to know you and your churches. I have met 25 of you, pastors and interim pastors, and have visited 17 of our 34 churches. It has been a great time of talking, seeing, and visiting this ministry field which “flows with milk and honey”.
Also, I’m learning that there is a rich church and missions history in the Pickens Baptist Association which is widely respected throughout the Alabama State Convention. As Claren and I spoke with other DOMs, state staff, and WMU leadership at the annual convention last week in Huntsville, they could not tell us enough stories of how PBA has contributed to the life of our Alabama Southern Baptist churches and institutions.
As this discovery and investigation period continues, pray for Claren and me to have attentive ears to hear your stories and open eyes to see your ministry fields as ones which are “ripe unto harvest”.
Until next month…
At the end of the book of Deuteronomy, there is a description of Moses that sounds daunting …”And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh….” (Deuteronomy 34:10-11)
As Claren and I begin this journey with you all at Pickens Baptist Association, we see the footprints of Dr. Farley, whose influence and witness has helped shape the leaders and churches within the PBA. At the annual meeting, we heard testimony after testimony of Dr. Farley’s mentoring, presence and help throughout his 20 years of service. I can imagine a little how Joshua felt as he was to be the new leader of the Jews, a little overwhelmed. As a matter of fact, the Lord came and spoke directly to him…”Therefore arise…as I was with Moses, so I will be with you, I will not fail you, nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage.” (Joshua 1:2, 5-6)
These words comfort and encourage me as Claren and I start our ministry with you. We understand that our task is not to undo nor erase what Dr. Farley and Miss Jacque did but to build upon the foundation which they and the other previous Director of Missions laid. May we be found faithful in doing so.
On another note, Claren and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of your love and hospitality. Your hugs, smiles, meals, visits, love offerings, and phone calls are gratefully appreciated. These sincere expressions of concern have made us feel at home. Thank you!!
In the upcoming issues of the “Mind of the Missionary,” I hope you will get a better idea of what God is putting on my mind and heart to share with you.
Until next month…
Saved for Serving is the title of a book written by one of the international missionaries who grew up in Pickens. Emma Fox Puthuff served from 1885 to 1889 in Brazil until health issues brought her home. She and her husband continued to serve in Texas and Arkansas where she published this book. The title captures what the Christian life is truly about. It seems to me that modern Christianity has lost sight of this. First, some understand that it is all about “going to heaven” when we die. They seem to think that all one needs to do is to “pray the sinner’s prayer,” get baptized, and do more good deeds than bad, defined by themselves, and then when they die Jesus will usher them into what Revelation describes as the New Jerusalem. As a song of a few decades ago declared, “they are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.”
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus came to defeat our enemies so that we can serve, without fear, in righteousness and holiness. Luke 1:71-78. Again, in the shadow of the cross, Jesus describes the judgment scene as being a time when the saved and the unsaved will be separated. Matthew 25:31-46. The criteria of separation seems to be whether or not a person has given evidence of living a serving life. Actually, the message of the Gospel is that we must both believe right and behave right. One without the other will not work. Jesus illustrates service in the Matthew 25 passage with six simple acts of service—giving a cup of cold water, food, clothing, shelter, and visiting the sick and the imprisoned. We are helped in this in our association with the Baptist Center Thrift Store, the Lydia House, and ministries in the county jail and in Federal Prison.
Just before the teaching of Jesus concerning Judgment, we find a parable told by Jesus about three servants. Two lived responsibly and served the interests of the master as faithful servants. The third focused on his own well-being, rather than the wishes of the master. The first two servants were told, “Well done good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful with a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” Matthew 25:23. The third was sent to outer darkness, which is understood as hell, simply because he did not serve his master.
In reflecting on my 20 years of service in the Pickens County Association, I truly believe that Jesus will say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Many good things have happened here. The association provides opportunity for members of our churches to be Good and Faithful Servants. The association is focused on being a full-partner in the mission enterprise of our denomination. Saved folk can serve. Saved folks will serve. Ask yourself, what will your master say to you?
Fearless Living in Troubled Times, a new book by Michael Youssef, addresses the issues that I presented in this article. I encourage everyone to get a copy and read it.
The key to the effectiveness of a church, or an association of churches, is volunteers. So, in my next to last column I want to express thanks to the several hundred volunteers that have served with me over these 20 years. You know who you are and God knows as well. Many of you will hear God say to you one day, “Well done….” for the service you have done.
The focus of our association has been to enable every believer in Pickens Association churches to be a Great Commission, Great Commandment, victorious servant of God. This is done through a set of ministries, programs, events and projects. Here are several examples—
*Baptist Center—volunteers who staff the store receiving, sorting, displaying donated items. Preparing food boxes. Informing the managers of needs they see in their communities.
*Mission teams—like the volunteers who worked in Gatlinburg this summer and many other places away from here beginning in 2004 with a trip to Vermont. Or like teams that have gone to Brazil since 2005 and built chapels, held health clinics, Vacation Bible Schools, and door to door evangelism.
*Prison ministry—God has entrusted us with a wonderful opportunity to evangelize, disciple, and congregationalize women from around the world. FCI Aliceville can become a major source for sending missionaries for decades to come. Women who come there are dealing with guilt. They learn that God loves them, will forgive them, and has work for them to do. Many are being saved. Many are learning the truth of Scripture. Many have a sense of calling on their lives to share the Gospel now in the FCI and in the future where they settle. Women from as many as 20 nations have been entrusted to us. We have planted three vibrant churches. We are teaching the Bible to many women. We are encouraging the inmates to serve God. Response has been great. Persons from our churches, and churches too have volunteered to serve in the many ministries that are going on there. A related ministry is one that serves the inmates at our county jail.
*Pickens Bible Institute—several of our ministers teach classes here at the PBA office on the Bible. Since many of our ministers are bivocational and have not had seminary training, this is a ministry which aims at improving the quality of worship and instruction in our churches.
*Disaster Relief Team—volunteers who help with cleanup after storms here and across America.
*Ministries at the community celebrations within the bounds of the association—Face in the Window Day, Mule Day, Reform Christmas Parade, Panola Day, and others. The Gospel is shared by volunteers.
*Block Party Trailer—used by many churches for special community events.
*Radio Sunday School class—weekly broadcasts on FM 100.8. The Gospel is shared. Explanation of how one becomes a Christian is given. Good Bible study is demonstrated. It is hoped that the quality of Sunday School teaching is enhanced through this program.
*Events for age groups—children, students, senior adults and others.
In each of these cases volunteers have made these ministries happen. Thank you. Many of the volunteers of two decades ago are now with their Lord. One day, not too soon I hope, I will be able to thank them again. But to those who are still here, I hope that you will continue to be a good volunteer in the years to come as a new DoAM arrives. He will likely find additional ministry needs and will seek to launch additional projects, events and programs. As times and needs change some of the current ministries will need to change.
Recently, I came across the fact that one of the early missionaries from our association, Emma Fox Puthuff wrote a book entitled, Saved to Serve. Although I have not found a copy to read, I am taken by the title. This is what being a Christian is about. I fear that some among us are confused and think we are saved only so that we can go to heaven when we die. While there is truth here, for the interim, in that dash between our new birth and our going to heaven, God has volunteer work for us to do. Read Matthew 25:31-46. Saved to Serve. What are you doing? What ought you to be doing?
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.
Elements of a Biblical Worldview
- The world, the universe, was created by the triune God out of nothing and thus began space and time.
- As the crown of creation he made mankind in his image with an eternal soul.
- His purpose was for mankind to live in fellowship, community, with one another and with God.
- After a time, some of the spiritual beings who served God in heaven rebelled against him.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.