January 2021 Mind of the Missionary

“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”    (II Corinthians 5:17)

In 2021, everyone is desiring a fresh start and a new beginning. Usually, we want a fresh start after we’ve made a mess of a situation or as we begin a new chapter in our lives. Claren and I have started afresh several times. We’ve gone from Mobile to New Orleans to Central Pennsylvania to Costa Rica to Uruguay and now to Carrollton, Alabama. Each fresh start has had its own challenges and opportunities. However, as God has guided us through each of them, we’ve seen Him work.

The challenges and opportunities of 2020 have been difficult to see and understand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been tainted everything…work, school, family, friends, church, etc… There is nothing that hasn’t been affected. Now with the promise of a vaccine, some are hopeful while others are doubters.

In our focal passage, Paul’s experience with Christ gave him a new perspective about life and about himself. He could not remain the same person who watched Stephen being stoned and persecuting the Christian church. Paul knew that in Christ his old life was gone. Christ had made him a new creature, a new man. Is this not what Christ has done in each of us who are His followers? We are new men and women. We are not who we were before knowing Him.

This new relationship in Christ gives me hope because I see the world through His eyes and His perspective and not my own. If I were to dwell on how terrible things are now, then I wouldn’t want to continue in this life either. However, my life and my perspective has been transformed by seeing people, seeing situations, and seeing life from Christ’s way of thinking. Do we not understand that we have a new set of standards by which we are living?

As I start fresh the 2021 calendar year, I do so knowing that Christ is walking with me through these new challenges and opportunities because I am a new person in Him. As you begin 2021, may you see this new year from Christ’s perspective? If you do not know Christ, then He offers you that opportunity to accept Him and become a new creation. Desire a fresh start and a new beginning!

December 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

 

December 2020

 

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (Philippians 4.11)

 

 

As we begin the Christmas season(although many websites and stores started way before Halloween), the stress seems to build. Every commercial is tempting us to buy this or that. Even Hallmark has bought into the idea…there is that “perfect gift” for everyone. That’s just a lot of pressure. No wonder there’s so much depression and desiring for the Christmas season to end. Folks are trying to please family and friends with “the perfect gift”. Now, am I a Scrooge? NO!! But, there is a simpler way.

 

All of chapter 4 of Philippians is Paul’s plea for the Philippians to “stay true to the Lord” (v.1). Now, that’s a tough one to fulfill. However, Paul showed us that contentment in whatever situation we live is the secret to life. Of course, you can’t be content if you don’t know Christ, or if you’re caught up in the rat race of this world.

 

Envy is a powerful persuader. When you see what someone else has, it can be easy to desire what he has received. Envy even causes resentment of another person’s possessions, qualities, or life-style. For some, this envy may lead to actions which can put not only one’s life in danger  but also the life of one’s family and friends.

 

In this fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul states “Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that He has done.”(4.6b)  Now, this brings contentment. It takes the worry, the fretting, and the running around out of our hands, and puts it in the hands of the One who can handle it much better than we can or ever will.

 

May your Christmas season be one of contentment and joy as you seek first the Lord and allow Him to meet your needs!

 

Until next month,

 

Bro. Lyle

November 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

November 2020

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”   (I Peter 4:10)

 

How many times in our lives have we said, “I can’t do that!” Probably, a couple of hundred. I sometimes count myself short and didn’t do something because I thought I couldn’t do it. Peter in his letter urges the followers of Christ to use “whatever gift”, he or she has been given to serve others. As a young believer in Christ, I had no idea what “spiritual gifts” were. In the New Testament, there are several lists of gifts from hospitality to encourager to evangelist to apostle(missionary), and so on. Eventually, God did show me what gift or gifts I had to serve others. Maybe, you’re in the same situation…seeking your spiritual gift(s).

During my time with the Pickens Baptist Association Disaster Relief team in Baldwin County, I saw many of these gifts being used to serve others. In the pictures of the last couple of weeks, it’s obvious the physical skills and abilities of our team as it cut down trees and tarped houses, but there were specific spiritual gifts being used, too. For instance, there was evangelism. At each house tarped and/or trees cut down, one if not several of our team members shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with each owner. Another gift was service. Each of these men and women went with a servant attitude. They did not expect anything in return for their time and effort to help these families. It was done with the attitude of Christ…”I did not come to the world to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45)

Another gift was encouragement. Many of these owners were physically handicapped and could not do very much for themselves. Our team, especially the chaplaincy team, sat, talked, and prayed to encourage the owners during their time of discouragement and hopelessness. Finally, I saw the gift of mercy put into practice. When you go to the house of a needy person, you never know what type of person you’ll meet. Even in his/her need, you don’t know how he will respond to the Disaster Relief team. Will he be a very poor person, or a rich one, or a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or an atheist, or a fellow believer? Despite the situation, our team showed compassion and openness to the individual and/or the family living in the house or trailer.

As I reflect on Jesus’ ministry, it covered the gambit from the sick, to the needy, to the rich, the poor, to the religious, and to the irreligious. In each situation, Jesus showed mercy…compassion. One time, He even cried because He saw the devastation of the death of a friend upon his family and community.

Brothers and sisters of Pickens Baptist Association, we do not have to be members of the Disaster Relief team to use our spiritual gifts to serve others. We should use them where we are planted. In other words, we should use our gifts where we live and through our local church. God gave us His gifts to serve others. If we do not use them, they will be taken from us. May we be faithful in using our spiritual gifts to touch the lives of those around us! Jesus said it best, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds(spiritual gifts) and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

 

Until Next Month,

 

Bro. Lyle

October 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

October 2020

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the Lord. ‘You expected it to be much, but see, it turned out to be little ….’”

(Haggai 1:7 – 8)

Last week, I was reading an article by Dr. Ronnie Floyd, SBC Executive Committee President. He started his article about the “deep and increasing burden” that God placed on his heart concerning our present situation in the United States about the state of our SBC churches, the fighting among Christians, and the division in our nation. He spoke of his needing to take time to pray and fast before the Lord to know how to speak to these issues. Upon finishing his time of prayer and fasting, the Lord led him into a time of personal repentance which included humility and brokenness. It was based on his reading of Haggai especially chapter one.

As I read through these same passages, I became moved, too, but maybe in a different way. Notice, how the Lord Almighty says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” Then, the Lord gives specific instructions to the people of Israel to rebuild the temple. After the exile in Babylon and Persia, the people returned all excited about the rebuilding of the temple, but opposition from neighboring nations discouraged them from finishing the project. God sent Haggai, the prophet, to remind them to “give careful thought to your ways” because the people didn’t hesitate building their houses of luxury and comfort, but they didn’t finish the main work which was the rebuilding of God’s temple. God, Himself, said, “build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored”.

During our strange times, this is the question that we must ask ourselves, “our we taking pleasure in the Lord’s house and honoring him?” This passage speaks to the perseverance of His people. Are we persevering during the coronavirus? Have we given up? Do we feel that worshipping indoors is impossible? Have we forgotten the importance of gathering together as a body of believers? Many of our PBA pastors have told me they feel that some of their members will NEVER return to the church building. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the church is the people. I know some of you are high risk… BUT, the church is not the church unless it gathers together somewhere, sometime, and somehow. Watching worship on your TV, I-phone, or I-pad just doesn’t get it.

Brothers and Sisters, it is time to persevere. It is time to move forward and do the work of the Lord. In Haggai chapter 2, the word of the Lord came to Haggai to share with the Jewish leaders, “Be strong, all you people of the land, and WORK. For I am with you, declares the Lord Almighty”. The Lord is with us even during this pandemic of COVID-19. “Give careful thought to ways” that you can meet with your fellow believers and continue doing the WORK of the Lord!

 

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

September 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

September 2020

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread of and to prayer…Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people…”  (Acts 2:42, 45 – 47)

Is it possible to have a healthy church in an unhealthy environment? If there were ever an unhealthy environment, it would have been during the time of the early church. The Roman Empire hindered the church through beatings, persecutions, and crucifixions. Notice how the apostles especially Peter, Philip, and Paul carried the Gospel beyond Jerusalem. The book of Acts shows us how “boldly and without hindrance [they] preached the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31)

During COVID-19, have we allowed our churches to become unhealthy? What is a healthy church? A healthy church is one that worships, evangelizes, disciples, ministers, and fellowships. I heard it explained like this…imagine a 4-legged table. If you take away or shorten one of the legs, what happens? It either falls or wobbles. The same is true of an unhealthy church. When a church is not worshipping, evangelizing, discipling, ministering or fellowshipping, it is not a healthy church.

But Bro. Lyle, you don’t understand what’s happening? I do, and I don’t. It’s true that I’m not pastoring, but I do believe there are opportunities for us to experience a healthy church in this unusual time.  First of all, I applaud you for using various methods for your churches’ worship. Even, some of you have been offering your Bible study in-person and online. That’s great!

However, are we still seeking opportunities to share the Gospel, to disciple new and mature believers, and to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Yes, these may be harder to accomplish, but these purposes can be done. Of course, it may mean meeting outside our church buildings, finding times that are uncomfortable, or giving up a personal activity or two. But, isn’t having a healthy church and fulfilling God’s purposes more important than our comfort?!

Again, let’s use the early church as an example. It many times met in catacombs. Yes, catacombs, an underground cemetery!  I’m not saying “Go meet in a cemetery or a mausoleum”, but let’s try something “outside the box”. Every church must decide how to fulfill its church’s purposes, but I do believe that our PBA churches can become healthy in an unhealthy environment.

Whatever we can do at PBA to help you become healthy or grow healthier, please contact us. We have trained leaders to serve YOU!

Until next month,

 

Bro. Lyle

August 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

August 2020

“In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them… So the Temple of the Lord was restored to service.  And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly.”  (II Chronicles 29:3,35-36 NLT)

Hezekiah’s father was King Ahaz one of the  wickedest kings that ever served in the history of Israel. His life was a disaster from the decisions he made like the closing of the Temple to his placing of altars to foreign gods on every street corner in Jerusalem. This was Hezekiah’s inheritance. One even wonders how he had the sense to reopen the doors of the Temple of the Lord and seek Him.

I notice four key words in these passages: reopen, repair, restore, and rejoice. They seem like great words of hope that I believe can be used in our lives today. However, these actions must be used in this order. We are being told that our businesses, our schools, our churches, even our minds must be reopened. Why must these be reopened? Are they to be reopened just for the sake of reopening? No, they are to be reopened to lead us to the point of rejoicing for what God has done.

As you read II Chronicles 29, notice the amount of hard work in the repair and the restoration of the Temple which took place before the rejoicing of the people occurred. Many times whether it is our businesses, schools, churches, lives, etc…, we are willing to reopen, but we are not willing to do the work of repair and restoration necessary to bring about the rejoicing of all the people.

It reminds of Jesus’ statement on counting the cost, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?…Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14.28,33) Repairing and restoration must be an essential part of our reopening our churches and our lives. We must allow Christ to do his work in our churches and in us. If not, both will suffer dramatically.

The same is true for our present society. Reparation and restoration must be sought if our nation can be healed. It is our responsibility as Christ’s followers to lead that fight. We cannot shrink away from our responsibility. However, many times, we have not counted the cost. To repair and restore our communities and our nation, we, as believers, must do more than stand up, we must do the tedious work of reparation and restoration.

Let us begin asking ourselves the hard questions: Are we, the church, doing all we can to mend our communities? Are we, the church, getting our hands dirty or are we running in fear from the difficulties that our communities are facing? I remember the history of our past where Christians went where the bubonic plague ran rampant, where leprosy overtook societies, and where the Spanish flu hit the hardest. We, the church, must step in to reopen, repair, and restore, so that all the people will “ rejoice because of what God has done.”

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

July 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

July 2020

“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the Gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20.24)  

 

I recently read an article on how to better fish for crappie in the “Alabama Living” magazine. The author talked about the different types of bait and lures as well as the areas to catch crappie. I was impressed with his knowledge on the subject.  I’m sure he has a lot of practical experience or better said, he’s done a lot of crappie fishing.  

This man was intently fixed on his subject. He never wavered. This started me thinking about how Christians are responding to the coronavirus and the protests. I’m afraid that it has caused us to allow our non-Christian world to shape how we act and become distracted.  As believers, we have one task…teaching, preaching, and living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If anyone could have been distracted, it would have been the apostle Paul. As he met with the Ephesian leaders at Miletus, Paul boldly stated how he would not stop testifying “to the Gospel of God’s grace” despite all the physical and spiritual barriers trying to stop him.

Also, the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him if He was the Messiah or should they look for another? This would have been the perfect time for Jesus to make a social, racial, economic, or political statement, but Jesus didn’t spend his time talking about social injustice, racial inequality, economic problems, or political issues. Does that mean these issues  weren’t  important, NO!

Jesus had another motive – fulfilling the task that His Father gave Him. Jesus’ response to John’s disciples was the repeat of His reading from Isaiah 61 when He began his earthly ministry, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Luke 7:22) Notice how many times Satan, the religious leaders, the disciples, and others tried to change his purpose, but He persevered all the way to the cross. His earthly ministry was complete when he said, “It is Finished!” 

However, for Christian leaders and believers, we can easily get distracted from our main task which is teaching, preaching, and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this message that turned the world upside down, that has brought down empires, that has changed societies, and transforms the world. So, in this time of uncertainty, don’t take the bait! May we remain faithful to the task that God has given us to teach, preach, and live the Gospel.   “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  (Hebrews 12:1)

 

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

June 2020 Mind of the Missionary

“I know that you(God) can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42.2)

The question that most people have been asking during COVID-19 has been, “Why is God doing this to me, to my family, etc…?” Personally, I think that’s the wrong question. The question should be, “What is God doing during COVID-19?” Some believe that God is bringing judgement. Others believe that He is preparing us for the final days. And yet others are expecting a great revival, even an awakening. Honestly, I don’t know which is the correct answer. However, there are three areas where God is working in people’s lives.

First of all, there has been an increase in prayer. Jeanet Bentzen, Director of the Study of Religion at the University of Copenhagen states “internet searches for the topic of prayer surged to the highest level during the past 5 years…surpassing all other major events that otherwise intensify demand for prayer…. The rise in prayer intensity supersedes what the world has seen for years.” Prayer is how believers cope with crisis, but non-believers are seeking for answers. Fortunately, this time, people are looking to God because they have seen that science, other religions, and technology do not have an answer. As believers, we need to help our unbelieving family and friends seek God for His guidance, His protection, and His salvation.

The increase of Bible reading is the next area of growth during the pandemic. Lifeway Christian Resources has seen a 62% increase in their sales of Bibles since the same time last year. Ben Mandrell, Lifeway CEO, states “people often go to the Bible as a source of hope in times of crisis and uncertainty….people see a God who is with us during our suffering.” My concern is that those seeking help in God’s Word are “hunting and pecking”. It is our role as believers to show unbelievers and doubters Bible passages which speak to their needs. We have a great opportunity not only to share our faith, but allow God to speak to these “seekers”  through His Word. Nicky Gumbel stated at an online Easter conference, “There’s no football, there’s no sport. There’s no entertainment. People have time to hear the Gospel.” My prayer is that those who hear His Word will find Him.

Finally, the last area of growth is the number of views of Christian programming and worship online. Viewing is difficult to measure. A normal “view” lasts between 3 – 5 seconds. If the pastor/teacher or program doesn’t captivate the attention of the viewer, then he’s gone. However, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, “24% of US adults say their faith has become stronger because of the coronavirus pandemic”. This is good news! As I’ve spoken to many of our PBA pastors, they want to continue their online ministry. I applaud them for this aspiration. I do believe that online ministry must be more than just a worship service. It must capture the attention…not with fireworks or spectacular events, but with talking on the issues which concern the non-believer. It needs to be understood that this is the majority of the audience who will be viewing the programming after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. My biggest fear is that those who are interested or make decisions for Christ will not engage in follow-up discussions or attend a local congregation.

The focal passage states that nothing can thwart or hinder God’s plans. The coronavirus was not caused by God, but God is doing His work through it to bring His people and non-believers closer to Him. May we be do all that we can to make that message clearly understood.

Until next month,

Bro. Lyle

May 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

May 2020

“In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…”  (I Peter 1.3b)

 

Easter was different due to COVID-19. Each of our pastors had to make quick adjustments to their special worship services since Easter is the largest attended worship service of the year. Thankfully, almost all of our Pickens Baptist Association churches  were able to meet with their folks through online or drive-in services. However, it wasn’t the same. Claren saw this post by Lana Lollar, wife of Bro. Jordan Lollar of Ethelsville BC. I wanted to share it with you.  May these words bring you comfort and strength during these trying days.

 “ For many years now I would dare to say that, if we’re honest, Easter has been about us. Buying and showing off pretty dresses, matching outfits, shiny new shoes, taking pictures and posting them all over social media. Extravagant Easter baskets and goodies, Easter egg hunts. Now stay with me… don’t get me wrong, I have done all of this and the next Easter we get to be social, we will more than likely have coordinating outfits and get a nice family picture. The problem is not all of that. There’s nothing wrong with getting a new dress to wear to church for Easter, matching your kids so adorably and taking pictures and giving them Easter baskets filled with goodies. However it’s all about our motive. What’s our priority? Who’s really in the spotlight? What are we truly making it about? Since no one is shopping (except online) and our church buildings will be empty other than pastors and possibly their families doing online services, perhaps this is one of many ways God is reminding us that Easter is about Him and Him alone. EVERYTHING is about Him! About how Jesus paid the ultimate price by dying on a criminal’s cross to pay our sin debt. He was buried and stayed in that tomb for three days. Praise God He’s no longer there! On that third day he arose so you and I can have life eternal in Him! Maybe Easter 2020 is going to eliminate distractions we usually have so we can focus on our risen Savior! So we can worship Him as the body of Christ in His holy presence wherever we are! So we can celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and keep our minds on Him. So we can teach our kids from home about the love of Christ and what true worship looks like! Let’s change our perspective from dwelling on what Easter isn’t going to look like this year to what God is wanting to do and show us this year! All things work together for the good of those who love God(and are called according to His purpose)! Let’s open our hearts to Jesus and be changed like never before! “

March 2020 Mind of the Missionary

Mind of the Missionary

March 2020

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints.”  (Psalm 116.15)

Last week was one of those tough weeks of ministry. They don’t happen often, but they do come when you least expect it. Four men that I knew passed from this life into eternity.  A couple of them were unexpected which made the news harder to handle.

Mr. George Kyles of New Salem Baptist Church was a faithful Christian husband, father, patriarch, and friend to everyone. He led worship at New Salem for over 25 years and others churches for a few more years in addition to his singing with “The Singing Men of Pickens County”. Each time I was around him, he made me feel part of the Pickens County family. I will be miss his smile and special greeting.

The next loss was my wife’s, Uncle Sonny, or Davis Henson. He was an engineer that helped build almost all the paved roads and bridges in Washington County, Alabama. He was a quiet man who could hide his humor to the point that you didn’t know if he was serious or joking. Of course, Uncle Sonny would not let you know which one it was. He, too, was a faithful follower of Jesus who loved his wife, family, friends, and local church-Chatom Baptist Church.

The third loss was Lamar Duke, the church planter strategist for the Alabama State Convention. I met Lamar during our time in the Pennsylvania/South Jersey convention in the 1980s while serving as a church planter. He was planting near Atlantic City, NJ, and we were in Central PA. Both of us being from Alabama hit it off immediately. When Claren and I returned from international missions, I found out that Lamar was the Alabama church planter strategist. I contacted him, and he began to put me to work training other church planters. He always had a heart for evangelism and church planting. Lamar continued to share his faith and lead others to Christ even while in the hospital.  

Finally, Dr. Gary Farley, our former Associational Missionary, passed away on Valentine’s Day. Honestly, it was a shock because I understood he might be going home by the end of February. His influence within Pickens Baptist Association and the state of Alabama is unprecedented.  Dr. Farley wrote numerous articles and books on the importance of rural and small town churches and associations. He was re-energized with the coming of FCI-Aliceville to Pickens County. He poured out his life leading the PBA to become involved with these ladies through the “Rubies for Life” and “Kairos” ministries and the Samford Ministerial Training Institute classes. Of course, I can’t forget Dr. Farley’s red socks and harmonica. I’ve been asked several times if I wear red socks or play the harmonica. Unfortunately, I don’t, but I may for a day just to honor him.

Like I said earlier, last week was a tough week with four friends dying. The hope that I take with me is that each of these men are precious in the sight of the Lord today.

 

Until next month,

 

Bro. Lyle