February 2023 Mind of the Missionary

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)

 

During our Christmas vacation, our family was at the point of opening its presents, but we wanted to have a devotional time. Our niece, Julia, was asked to lead the study. She asked us, “who has been your biggest spiritual influencer?” Not being a fast responder, the first person or persons that came to mind were my grandmothers. They prayed for me and made sure that my brother and I were in church every time the door was open. However, upon reflecting on the question more, there are others, but I’d have to say the biggest influencer besides Christ Jesus himself, would be Avery Willis, former IMB missionary and writer of the “MasterLife” study series.

Dr. Willis came to Central Pennsylvania in the late 80’s to lead a set of studies on MasterLife. Several of us newer church planters were in a mountain retreat setting for 3 or 4 days with him. During our time there, it snowed. So, we were stuck even if we could leave early. Dr. Willis taught us the importance of a daily devotional life, group prayer, witnessing, and fighting spiritual battles. Honestly, I had never learned so much in so little time. I immediately began to put these principles into practice and still do today.

A few years later, Dr. Willis came to Uruguay for one of our annual regional meetings, and I was the person in charge of the afternoon session. He shared with us some of the same principles that I had learned from him nearly 20 years earlier. At the end of his teaching, I had the opportunity to ask him to sit in a chair and have our missionaries surround and pray for him. What a blessing for me to give back to Dr. Willis just a little something that he gave to me many years before.

Paul instructed Timothy to put everything into practice that he had learned from him. Timothy was a good practitioner as he listened and did all that Paul had asked of him. May you remember your spiritual influencers, and praise our Lord for giving those special persons to you!

 

Until Next Month,

 

Bro. Lyle

January 2023 Mind of the Missionary

“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my Name shall be great among the Gentiles…for my Name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Malachi 1:11

 

As I sit in my office looking at the wintry day outside, I see the Nativity on the lawn of PBA, and I’m seeking inspiration from the Lord on what to write for the New Year newsletter. It’s sort of hard to think about 2023 when I haven’t even celebrated the Lord’s birth yet! Oh, how it must have been for the prophets to proclaim God’s Word when they themselves would not see its fulfillment during their time of ministry.

In these verses from Malachi, he prophesied some 400 to 500 hundred years before Christ came to earth. For many others, it was over a thousand years for their words to be fulfilled. Here, I am concerned about this newsletter. These men trusted what God inspired them to write despite not knowing when those words would be fulfilled…the greatness of God’s Name among all nations.

Malachi wrote as the people of Judah were returning from their Babylonian captivity. I don’t know if he was thinking about God’s greatness among all the nations as much as he was hoping that His greatness would be restored among his own people. Personally, I would be!

That brings us to 2023.  From one end of our world to the other, it appears as though the Gospel is NOT advancing among the nations, countries, peoples, and tribes as we would like. I pray daily for God’s message to reach the unevangelized, the unreached, and the unengaged, and it looks like a losing battle. I’m like Malachi, how can God make His name great in the world? Then I quickly remember what God did through Pentecost and the early church. He can do it if we will allow Him to work through us. Why? Because we are filled with the same Holy Spirit that transformed the world in a few years. Will we allow Him to do so?

May 2023 be the year in which we tell the Lord, “I’ll let everything else go in order that your Name will be great among the nations”! (By the way, it’s still gloomy outside.)

 

Happy New Year!

Bro. Lyle

December 2022 Mind of the Missionary

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed…’”.                      (Isaiah 40:4 – 5a)

 

Have you ever thought about the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem? As I was pondering what to write this month about Christmas, my mind drifted to this passage in Isaiah which is repeated by John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. An earthly king always had his subjects clear the road that he was to travel. It was to be as smooth as possible. Sort of like our roads in Pickens County??

That started me thinking about the journey of Joseph and Mary. Here are just a few facts about their journey:

–        It was roughly 80 – 90 miles long;

–        They traveled south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem;

–        Due to Mary’s condition, they traveled 10 miles a day instead of the usual 20 miles per day;

–        The section through the Judean desert would have been difficult with the temperatures in the 30s and during the rainy season;

–        Joseph and Mary would have worn heavy clothing to protect themselves from rain and snow;

–        The trails were hilly and unpaved; and

–        The heavy forested valleys of the Jordan River had lions and bears in addition to bandits and pirates being very common.  (“A Long Cold Road to Bethlehem” – Religion News Service)

How many of us would have just turned around and gone home? Since it was a royal decree to go to their ancestral home, Joseph and Mary had to comply. In other words, not only was Jesus’ birthplace a cave or commonplace for animals, his journey to his family’s home was not pleasant either. Jesus, the heavenly king, did not have the road paved, lowered, or leveled to make the journey easier for his parents and him.

However, one thing did happen on that special night of his birth, the glory of the Lord was revealed. It was celebrated by angels, shepherds, and eventually oriental kings. This Christmas let us not complain about all the trimmings of the season, but recognize Jesus as the only reason why Christmas exists.

 

Merry Christmas!

Bro. Lyle

November 2022 Mind of the Missionary

“giving thanks ALWAYS and FOR EVERYTHING to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,…”

“give thanks in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES; for this is the WILL OF GOD in Christ Jesus for you.”

(Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18)

 

As I sit and write this article today, it feels like Thanksgiving! I don’t know what the weather will be like in a month, but today would be a perfect Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, we can’t choose the weather we get, nor when we get it. If I haven’t said this before, “I LOVE THANKSGIVING!” There’s just something about the time with family, friends, food, and fellowship that make the day seem very special. However, I am concerned that Thanksgiving is losing its importance within our society. For what am I to give thanks? Why do I give thanks? Am I to be grateful for the mess that my life and my world are experiencing? These are legitimate questions, but I don’t know if they are biblically based ones.

As I have reread Paul’s writing on thankfulness, he puts a different perspective on giving thanks. I’ve tried to highlight the areas that I thought were important. Look at them again, “ALWAYS”, “FOR EVERYTHING”, “ALL CIRCUMSTANCES”, AND “WILL OF GOD”.  When you read these words them  and think on them from God’s perspective, I have a whole lot of changing to do.

Just imagine, giving thanks to God always. There should never be a time when thanksgiving is not a part of our lives and especially a part of our prayers. Like me, you can probably think of a hundred different situations where “giving thanks” is the last thing on our minds. However, Paul teaches Christ’s followers to give thanks always. In other words, no matter our situation, we must give thanks.

Then, there’s the phrase, “giving thanks for everything”. This goes back to the general statement of thanking God always. Now, Paul begins to be more specific…”for everything”. This makes my thanksgiving even more difficult. I don’t have an excuse, an “out”, or a reason NOT to give thanks. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I am to give thanks to God through Jesus “for everything” period! 

In First Thessalonians, Paul complicates things even more. He writes, “give thanks in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES; for this is the WILL OF GOD.” It is God’s will that I am thankful to God. Wow! Even more pressure. Really, what does all this mean. I believe it means that thanksgiving should be at the root of everything in our lives. In Colossians, Paul writes, “ whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything…giving thanks to God”.  Since Christ Jesus lives in us, there is nothing that should shake our thankfulness to God. From man’s perspective, this is impossible, but from God’s perspective, it is possible. If it weren’t, He wouldn’t ask us to do it.

Since that is the case, I must allow Christ to teach me how to be thankful always for everything, and in all circumstances because He desires me to be thankful. So, there’s only one thing left to do…BE THANKFUL!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Bro. Lyle

Arbor Springs Sesquicentennial Celebration

Arbor Springs Baptist Church will celebrate their 150th year on Sunday, November 6th at 10:00 am. Lunch will follow the service. The special speaker will be former pastor Mike Owen and Chris Babb, former Minister of Music will be leading worship. Ricky Morris will be the pianist for the celebration.

October 2022 Mind of the Missionary

“Now when they saw the BOLDNESS of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”  (Acts 4:13)

The phrase “boldness” is used to describe how Peter and John spoke to the crowds. It became obvious to the religious leaders that they had been with Jesus. It leads me to ask, Is it obvious that we have been with Jesus? Are we bold in our speech, in our conduct, in our faith, and in our love to the point that people recognize to whom we belong?  I guess that’s the million dollar question. Can people recognize Christ in us?

Paul, Luke, and John use the phrase, “in Christ”, over 75 times in the New Testament. Mostly, this phrase is used to describe our relationship to Him. If this is the case, then we should be reflecting Him, should we not? Paul writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  (Ephesians 2:10)  There it is. We, his followers, were created-His Handiwork-to do good works for Him. We should be reflecting Him in this lost and dying world.

For this reason, I’ve been led to this theme for our annual meeting, “Dangerously Bold!” As Jesus’ followers, it becomes necessary for us to be bold in every area of our lives in order that the unsaved know that Christ lives in us. Brother Tim Jones of Pickensville FBC will speak on this theme in the afternoon session of the meeting. I look forward to hearing how God will use Brother Tim to share this message.

I invite our pastors, messengers, and church members to attend this year’s annual meeting at Friendship BC outside of Reform on Monday, October 10. The times for the 1st and 2nd sessions are changing, so please make a note of it. The first session begins with registration at 2:45 pm and the meeting at 3:00 pm. The afternoon session will feature our state and associational leadership sharing how God is working in the state of Alabama and in Pickens County. The 1st session will end with a worship service and Brother Tim’s message on our being “Dangerously Bold!”

In the evening session which will begin after supper, our entire focus will be on associational, national, and international missions. At this moment, it seems as though all the missionaries that the Pickens Baptist Association sponsors will be in attendance. That’s incredible! It’ll be the first time this has happened since I’ve been your Associational Missionary. I’m super-excited! 

To finish the evening, Brother Mike Owen, Harvest Mission-Brazil missionary, will preach and share what God is doing through his quilombola ministry in Northeastern Brazil. Come, Hear, and Participate in the Joy of how God is using the PBA to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

 

Until Next Month,

Bro. Lyle     

September 2022 Mind of the Missionary

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”   (I Peter 1:6 – 7)

 

About a year ago, Claren and I went to one of our sister churches near Columbus to see Dennis Swanberg, the “Swan”, as he likes to call himself. We were introduced to his Christian comedy several years ago through my in-laws. I know what you’re thinking, your in-laws? Yes, my in-laws. Believe it or not, this time they were right on target. This man just made me laugh at loud through his stories and jokes on video and DVD.

Well, Claren and I went looking forward to the same type of experience, but in person. Everyone can always use some laughter to brighten his day. Even Solomon said, “A glad heart makes a happy face;” and “A cheerful heart is good medicine;”. As Dennis shared his stories and jokes with us, Claren and I began to notice something else. He was sharing Biblical principles through his stories. There was a purpose behind his insane comedy. Dennis wanted us to experience God’s abundant life.

This got me to thinking (always a dangerous thing)…what if “The Swan” came to Pickens Baptist Association! Well, I contacted his son who put us down for Monday and Tuesday, September 26 and 27. It was just that simple. I couldn’t believe it.

So, pastors, deacons, and seniors, Dennis Swanberg will be our speaker for the Deacons/Wives banquet on Monday, September 26 at 6:30 pm at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. The cost will be $10 per person. Then, he will speak at the Sr. Adult Revival on Tuesday, September 27 between 10:00 am and noon at Carrollton Baptist Church. There is NO cost for this event. More information will be released at the beginning of September.

Since our meeting “The Swan” last year, I decided to use his devotional book entitled, “Breakfast, Bible, and Bull”. He said that his mother wasn’t too happy with the title, but he explained to her that it’s a MAN’s devotional book. I liked that. I have one more week before I finish. It’s been interesting to read about his life and ministry. I look forward to him being here. I hope you will, too!

 

Until Next Month,

Bro. Lyle

August 2022 Mind of the Missionary

“Today salvation has come to this house,…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”   (Luke 19:9a,10)

Zacchaeus experienced salvation on the day that Jesus visited him at his house. He went from being a despised Jewish tax collector to a transformed man in Christ.  Don’t we desire salvation for everyone…our family, our friends, our neighbors, and even our enemies!? Unfortunately, the statistics tell a different story. Presently, the baptisms to members ratio has reached 1:60 in our SBC churches. In Pickens County, the 2021 statistic is 1:47. This is better than the national convention, but are we content with this number? I hope not. Our desire is for every new believer to take that first step of obedience of baptism as quickly as possible.

On Saturday, August 20, Daniel Wilson, Director of Evangelism for the Alabama State Board of Missions, will conduct a training event for our PBA churches called the “Gospel for Everyone”. This emphasis is directed to each of our churches distributing a packet of materials to all houses, trailers, and apartments in your surrounding church’s area. On that Saturday, each church will receive a packet filled with a tract, a copy of the Jesus DVD, an example letter to place in the packet, and a map or maps of your church’s community.

It will be your decision as to how quickly you distribute the packets. For instance, you can do a one weekend blitz, a one month blitz, or a one quarter blitz. The idea is to put this material in all the residences of Pickens County. Each church can decide how it will speak to the people at each residence. You can attempt to speak at all of them, at some of them, or none of them. No matter what your church decides, please make sure to leave your packet. Make sure that your letter has contact names, phone numbers, and addresses for your pastor and church. The Evangelism team of PBA is ready and willing to help if your church needs “foot soldiers” to canvass your community.

Zacchaeus had a life-changing event by Jesus coming to his house. Your church’s commitment to visit the houses in Pickens County will have the same affect. As we all know, non-believers are not going to drop-in to our churches without someone visiting and/or contacting them. This is one way to accomplish that task.

Plan to be with us on Saturday, August 20 from 9:00 until 11:00 am. You will receive further information as we get closer to the date.

 

Until Next Month,

Bro. Lyle

July 2022 Mind of the Missionary

“You are Light of the World.”

(Matthew 5:14a)

 

What do VBS, missions trips, and Brunswick stew have in common? They most commonly happen during the summer months. The Pickens Baptist Association has been very blessed with 20 churches reaching their communities through Vacation Bible School. Through the music, crafts, and Bible stories, the children are hearing a clear message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As these children hear the Gospel, not only will they hear, but also, their parents will, too. That’s what you want!

The Pickens Baptist Association is sponsoring 4 different mission trips this summer. The annual Brazil mission trip took place from May 27 until June 5. There were some travel “hiccups” leaving the US, but the team persevered and arrived to complete their task of evangelism, social ministry, and building a chapel for the new body of believers in Maior Campo (Big Country/Field), Brazil. Many heard the Gospel message and nearly 200 accepted Christ. AMEN! Thank you, Mr. Buddy Kirk, for faithfully leading this team.

Three other teams will be commissioned in July. They are the Carlisle, Pennsylvania team, the Forgotten Children’s Ministries team, and the Whitehall, Montana team. Each of these teams will do distinct ministries from evangelism, church planting, prayer walking, evangelistic surveys, and social ministries. Pray that each team member will be a “light in the darkness”.

Our passage from Jesus’ teachings on the Beatitudes shows us the importance of shining our light. My emphasis this month is on local, national, and international missions. As I said to one of our pastors recently, we cannot be witnesses or a light for Christ if we don’t witness or shine for Him where we live. How true this is! Christ has placed us, His Body, in Pickens County to “shine before others” in order that God may be glorified. Let’s Be Lights for Christ!

Oh, the Brunswick stew…I mentioned it because many of our churches and businesses make and sell it to prepare our stomachs for the cooler weather whenever that will be. Also, I just like it!

 

Until Next Month,

 

Bro. Lyle

June 2022 Mind of the Missionary

“ Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”    (Isaiah 64:8)

I must admit I’m not a craftsman, nor a mechanic, nor a handyman. I don’t know why. My father was able to fix or build anything. My brother did a pretty good job himself. I guess it skipped the oldest child. I know occasionally my father-in-law didn’t understand my ineptitude…“Anybody should be able to fix this or that!” Well, meet Mr. Inept! However, I do know how to call in the expert to fix or build that I cannot do.

The same is true concerning ourselves. We work, work, and work trying to do this or resolve this problem in our own lives without realizing that it is God, the Father, who is the Potter who shapes our lives. When we allow Him to work on us.

I recently heard a message from a pastor who used two of Jesus’ sayings – “apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5c) and “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 b) His point was we, as God’s creation, can do nothing, only God can do His work. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Or Does it? For some reason, we like to give God a hand. Truly, it should be God’s hand guiding us!

This week, Claren and I got to meet our newest addition to the family – our great nephew. His mom and dad are learning what it means to be parents. They have the honor of shaping and molding the life of this little one. They will be sharing with him their Christian faith. Our great nephew is clay in their hands. During these first few years, whatever he believes will be what they believe until our nephew can begin to reason and to think for himself. What an awesome responsibility!

This is what God is doing with us. He wants to mold and shape us in His image. Listen again to the words of the great hymn:

Have Thine own way Lord
Have Thine own way
Thou art the potter I am the clay
Mold me and make me after Thy will
While I am waiting yielded and still”

May we allow the Lord to mold and make us after His will! However, we must be still for Him to work on us.

Until Next Month,

Bro. Lyle