When Micah Was Born

On Saturday, I woke up… expecting to move more boxes into the home we’ve lived in for 3 weeks.  I expected to empty those boxes, putting things where their new spot would be.  Later on Saturday, I expected to check out the “new” Spider-Man movie, that is now so old it is about to leave the theaters.  On Saturday evening, I expected to study my sermons for the next day… preparing for another Sunday.  That’s what I expected would happen last Saturday.

Then Micah was born.

Micah is my first grandchild.  A girl.  My daughter’s daughter.

My daughter was sure Micah would never come (though she actually came 5 days early).  Life was expected to continue as normal.  But, Micah had other plans.  And, at 6:01PM, after a day 2 families spent together in a hospital waiting room, those plans became a reality.

19 inches long.  5lbs 15oz.  10 fingers.  10 toes.  Petite perfection.  And she already wields such power!  It seems that everything already revolves around her!  Adults act goofy… and talk goofy… and smile goofy.  And, at the first whimper or squawk, everything goes silent… until the adults begin to talk to her in a goofy way again.

And beyond her small world, think of how things have changed with those family members closest to her.  Her birth turned a young married couple into parents… just that suddenly.  And turned parents into grandparents… just that suddenly.  She, without actually doing anything other than being born, began a new generation.  A whole new generation!  Just think of that…

If that’s what Micah was able to begin when Micah was born, there’s no telling what she will do throughout the course of the life still before her!

How Well Do You Know Your Town?

Most of us think we know our community/town/city.  Most of us think we have a pretty good grasp of the culture in which we live.  Yet, when we’re asked to describe our own neighbors – those people who live closest to us, many of us struggle to give even a short list of their interests and personalities.  A few months ago, my Sunday morning schedule was altered in such a way that I was able to run a quick errand in a large store on my way home from an early church service; I was surprised by how many people were not in church (and did not appear to have been dressed as one might expect to see at most churches) and had adopted Sunday morning as a shopping day.  This might come as a surprise to many of our regularly-attending church-goers.

If you were a missionary sent to your community, you would get to know the mission field you’d been sent to.  So, since – as a believer – you ARE a missionary and you HAVE been sent to the community you live, shouldn’t you get to know it?

Where would you go to learn more about your town/neighborhood/community/city?  You might check the statistics given on your city’s website, the kind of cultural events and clubs that are present, Wikipedia, etc.  All of these help paint a picture of the places God has sent us.

You might even engage in a conversation with your neighbors… or the people in your community… or the people who live closest to your church building.  You might ask them about their family history… the things they like/dislike most about their community… what they spend their time and money on… what they value most… etc.

Take a look at what Paul did in Acts 17.  As you read, notice the things about the Athenian culture Paul knew.  Paul understood he had been sent as a missionary to the people of Athens.  So, he did some homework.  He discovered there were both Jews and Gentiles living there… and he knew where he could find crowds of them at any given time (v.17).  He knew there were philosophers there… and that Athenians liked to learn and discuss new things (v.18-21).  He knew there was a statue in the Aeropagus dedicated to an “unknown god” (v.22,23), and he used that fact as a point of connection to share the gospel (v.23-31).  In the midst of sharing the gospel, he showed he knew some of the local culture by quoting Athenian poets (v.28).  Historians think Paul only spent one winter in Athens.  Yet, look at all Paul learned about the people he’d been sent to?

How long have you been on your mission field?  Did Paul know Athens better than you know your own community/town/city?

Let’s follow the example of Paul, the greatest missionary in history, and get to know the facts and everyday routines of our own mission fields!

Saturday Was Move-In Day

Many of you have been following our recent adventure of moving to Conway.  Through many twists and turns, we sold our home in Lonoke… camped out with great friends and family for a week… and signed the papers (hundreds of them!) for our Conway home.  We moved in on Saturday!

As I sit in my recliner (now on the other side of the room), I think of this new home we now live in…

“God… You know how many times we have asked You over the past few months about this event.  We have asked You for wisdom, for direction, and for confirmation… and we have moved forward believing this is the right thing at the right time.  Over the past several weeks, our life feels like it’s been lived from boxes, but things are starting to settle in… and we thank You for that.  We have experienced other larger changes in our life as a family, but change is still change… and change can be difficult.

“On this day, as on other days of transition, Lord, I am reminded of Your enduring faithfulness.  I look around at these still-pictureless walls and feel a sense of gratitude. You will continue to be with our family in this new house.  You will continue to grow our faith in this new house.  You will continue to bring us closer together in this new house. You will continue to dry our tears, hear our laughter, cheer our successes, and love us through our failures; You will do this in our new house just as You did in our last house.  The houses may have changed, but You have not.  You are still God.  You have been with us – and for us – through sickness and health, through joy and heartache.

“If our old walls could talk, Lord, I pray they would give testimony of a family trying to center their lives around faith in You.  And now, as we settle into a new place, I pray for the family that has occupied our previous space.  I pray they might grow as we grew, to have an ever increasing sense of Your greatness.

“For us, Lord, as we move forward, I pray that we might find ourselves in a place where we commit ourselves to the extension of Your grace… not only to each other but to those who walk through the doors of our new home.  Let our new home be a place where the stranger is made into the friend, the lonely have a place at the table, and downtrodden find the joy of hope, and a family has the security of belonging.  May this home, in so much as it can, serve as a reminder of our greater home in Heaven.

“But, at the same time, Lord, I pray You would guard us from being too comfortable.  Keep it at the front of our minds, Lord, that we are not long for this earth and that our true citizenship lies elsewhere.  I pray that – even through the regular frustrations of home ownership – that you would do something redemptive, bringing to our minds the fact that our true security, inheritance, and dwelling is not in a house that needs a plumber, an electrician, or new paint on the wall, but one that will not decay for all eternity.

“May it be so for Your name, for You ultimately are in whom we find our best home.  Amen”

From the Jaws of a Lion

One of the books I am currently reading is a biography of David Livingstone (a missionary to Africa in the mid-1800s) entitled “The Daring Heart of David Livingstone” (written by Jay Milbrandt).  Here is an excerpt from chapter 2, early in his missionary life…

“His most infamous narrow escape (referring to Dr. Livingstone) had come at the jaws of a lion.  In an African village paralyzed by the beasts, terrified villagers ran to Livingstone seeking his hunting skill to kill the lion.  Livingstone had encountered lions before – he once helplessly witnessed a woman ‘devoured in her garden’.

“At the villagers’ request, Livingstone set out, gun over his shoulder, to track the lion.  As he walked alone across the valley to track the beast, the lion found him first.  Livingstone lifted his gun, aimed, and fired both barrels.  BANG!  A direct hit.  But not a kill shot.  Startled, the giant cat turned in defense.  As Livingstone rushed to reload, the lion rushed him.  Pouncing with a great leap, the lion’s teeth sank into Livingstone’s left shoulder as it tackled him to the ground.  Growling, the beast violently shook him ‘as a terrier dog shaking a rat’.

“‘It caused a sort of dreaminess,’ Livingstone recalled.  He felt no pain or terror.  ‘I was quite conscious of all that was happening… It was like what patients partially under the influence of chloroform describe, who see all the operation, but feel not the knife.’

“Livingstone thought the moment would be his last as he painlessly watched his approaching death in slow motion.

“Unexpectedly, an old African man appeared on the scene with a gun and fired both barrels.  The gun jammed.  Yet the noise distracted the lion from Livingstone, drawing its attention to the old man.  The lion released Livingstone, leaping at the man and driving its teeth deep into his thigh.  Then it turned to attack another native, biting him in the shoulder.  Amidst the commotion, the lion succumbed to the wounds inflicted by Livingstone’s initial gunshot.

“The beast fell to the ground and Livingstone rose to his feet.  Shattered and bearing 11 permanent tooth scars, his arm would never fully heal or again rise higher than his shoulder.  Despite injury, the attack transcended the physical – Livingstone became fearless.  Death no longer scared him.

“‘The shake annihilated fear,’ Livingstone reflected, ‘and allowed no sense of horror in looking round at the beast.  This peculiar state is probably produced in all animals killed by the carnivore; and if so, is a merciful provision be our benevolent Creator for lessening the pain of death.’

“Punctuated by the lion encounter, Missionary Travels (a report written by Livingstone for his people back home in England) sold an astonishing 70,000 copies.  Livingstone was not only famous, but fever gripped England.

“A best-selling book now made Livingstone not only famous but rich as well.  He set aside money to take care of his family, who had mostly lived in squalor while he was away.  From rags to riches, Livingstone now possessed financial security, social respect, and modern comforts.  He had it all; he had become an icon.”

It had appeared to be the darkest day of his life… but resulted in the opportunity to do the mission work he would do for the rest of his life.

You may be going through a tough time today, but hang on.  This day may be necessary in order for tomorrow to be the great day of opportunity it may be!

A Missionary’s Biography

One of the books I am currently reading is a biography of the life of Dr. David Livingstone… entitled, The Daring Heart of David Livingstone, written by Jay Milbrandt.  Dr. Livingstone was a fascinating man.

On one occasion, as he stood before a group in order to explain his work in Africa, he spoke of his call to be a missionary:

“Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?  Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter?  Away with the words in such a view and with such a thought!

“It is emphatically no sacrifice.  Say rather that it is a privilege.  Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment.  All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us.  I never made a sacrifice.”

What a perspective!  Would that we would all… including myself… view our lives and  ministry in such a way!!

2 Ways to Live On Mission with Your Family

If our family… our immediate family who lives under same roof or our extended family we may see every day, every week, or at family reunions… are those closest to us, then they are certainly those to whom we can most often show and share Christ.  How do we do that?  Depending on the relationship, we can:

  • Be Instructive to Children

When it comes to a parent’s role in a child’s life, he/she is the primary discipler.  Not the pastor, not the youth minister, not the children’s minister… but the parent.  We cannot delegate our child’s spiritual growth to a church, school, camp, or trip.  Others can help, but WE are responsible to teach and model the gospel to our kid.  Remembering Deuteronomy 6, we demonstrate the good news to our children… in everyday ways, using everyday objects and stories.  We help them understand the motives behind disobedience.  We pray for them… and with them… and encourage them to pray themselves.  We explain baptism and communion to them while they watch as we partake.  We read the Bible… sometimes out loud, we have family devotions, we pray.  As the opportunity arises, we explain how much God loves them… and what Jesus did for them on the cross… and why He did that.

God has placed us on mission to those He’s most-closely entrusted to us.  Our own children are part of our mission field.

  • Be Faithful to Adults

In the 10 Commandments, we are told to “honor” our parents.  But, the New Testament also speaks to adult relationships… echoing these words over and over in different ways.  The Bible tells servants how to behave toward their masters (employees to bosses?), wives toward unbelieving husbands, husbands toward unbelieving wives, and every Christian toward those in authority.  As Jesus faithfully laid down His life for us, we are sent to the unbelieving adults in our family.  As Jesus revealed the character and work of God through His actions, death, and resurrection… so we can reveal God’s character through our own words, actions, and death to self.

God has placed us on mission to those He’s most-closely entrusted to us.  Those adults in our family are part of our mission field.

Your Closest Neighbors

Jesus told us to love our neighbors.  When asked to specify who those neighbors are, He implied that EVERYONE is our neighbor.

The greatest act of love from a believer is – of course – to show and share Christ with those who are lost.  And we should be willing to show and share Christ with EVERYONE.

Everyone includes our families!

The largest group of people we interact with on a regular basis are those under our own roofs.  They are our closest mission field, and – sadly – often the most forgotten mission field.  There’s no one with who we share our lives with more than our spouses, our kids, our parents, and our siblings.  Being on mission cannot skip over those closest to us in order to get to those around the world.

After giving the Shema in Deuteronomy 6, God commanded Old Testament Israel to teach these important truths to their children in as many everyday ways as possible.  This sentiment continued throughout the Old Testament, as God instructed His people to make His ways known to their “children and their children’s children”.  Later, in the New Testament, Jesus encouraged children to come to Him (even as His disciples attempted to keep them away).

Unless your family is uniquely blessed, there are likely those within your immediate or extended family who do not yet know Christ.  Some of them may be rejected Christ outright.  Do your best to live on mission with your family.

As we enter into this season of summer of mission trips… and Vacation Bible Schools… let’s do what we can to share Christ.  Let’s share Christ around the world… and in our community.  But, let’s also show and share Christ in our own homes… with our own families!

6 Reasons Why VBS Is A BIG DEAL!

Ah…Vacation Bible School, there’s nothing like it.  Screaming kids, water games, snacks with gummy worms hidden in them.  What kid wouldn’t be up for a week of summer fun?

As we enter into VBS season, I hope our adults and youth are also getting bit with the VBS excitement bug!  Sure, we have to manage all those sugar filled, crazy kids.  But hosting a great VBS is worth the cost!  Here are 6 reasons VBS is a big deal!

  1. VBS gives us the chance to connect with our community!

    Yes, some kids spend their entire summer hopping from one VBS to the next.  But, when they drop into our VBS, we should be thankful!  Each time we connect with a new family, we develop a better picture of what our community is really like.  VBS will help us better understand how to minister to our neighborhoods.

  2. VBS gives us the chance to demonstrate the love of Christ!

    In today’s world, conventional Christianity is becoming increasingly unpopular.  But, the best argument against the stereotype of the “angry Christian” is to love our neighbors.  VBS gives us the chance us to do just that!  As we serve our neighbors’ and co-workers’ kids, we can dispel many of the myths some people have about your church.  Paul encourages us to do just that: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).  VBS provides our church a premium stage for wowing the world with the love of Christ!  Remember the words of our Savior, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  Let’s highlight God’s love this summer!

  3. VBS give us the chance to fulfill the great commission! 

    Evangelism is not just something missionaries or preachers do.  Nor is it something we do “somewhere else”.  Jesus said all of us are to be making disciples (Math 28:18-20)!  We need to be sharing the gospel in “the uttermost parts of the earth”, but we also must talk about the good news of Jesus in our towns, homes, and ballparks!  VBS gives us an amazing venue for reaching and discipling the kids in our own community!  By participating in VBS, we get to experience the joy of obeying Jesus’ mission call!

  4. VBS gives us the chance to connect with the unchurched! 

    Many kids only come to church during VBS.  By breaking out the wacky games, we can reach the unreachable.  And if it takes playing a few games and sharing a few snacks to earn the opportunity to share Jesus, why wouldn’t we do that?  VBS expands the reach of the gospel into our community!

  5. VBS gives us the chance to work as disciples alongside other disciples!

    Believers tend to get to know other believers best when they’re working side by side in ministry.  I have seen deep friendships grow as people get to know one another by serving snacks, making crafts, doing silly motions while singing songs, etc.  Many people who never really got to know other people in their own church family were able to do so by working in VBS.  As different ages work together… people of different interests work together… maybe even people on different sides of an issue work together… we get to really know one another by working together!

  6. VBS gives us the chance to see people saved! 

    This is the big one.  We do VBS every year because God saves.  We welcome kids to church this summer because God uses VBS leaders to open the eyes of the blind.  And I’m not just talking about the “bad” kids or the unchurched kids.  I was saved at a VBS… and I came from a good family, was in church every Sunday, and was considered a “good” kid!  Anytime the gospel is present, the Holy Spirit can move in powerful ways!  He often works through VBS.  In fact, in many churches, VBS sees more people come to know Christ in a personal way than any other ministry we do in any other week.  In fact, in some churches, VBS sees more people saved in that week than all the other weeks put together!  Let’s hope and pray God uses your VBS to bring many to salvation!

My 1st Week as a Director of Missions

I preached my last sermon at Lonoke Baptist Church on Sunday morning… and started my first day as Director of Missions of the Faulkner Baptist Association on Monday.

I moved some of the boxes of books from my old office to my new office early on Monday morning.  I met with many of the pastors of the Association for a breakfast… then unpacked some boxes.  I got to meet several of our churches’ college ministers at a planning session they’d planned… then went back to office to unpack more boxes.  On Monday night, I packed more boxes and loaded them on my truck.

On Tuesday morning, I unloaded those boxes into my new office… and spent about 3 hours unpacking boxes.  On Tuesday afternoon, I met with a task force on Pastor Appreciation Month at the ABSC building in Little Rock.  On Tuesday night, I packed more boxes and loaded them on my truck.

On Wednesday morning, I unloaded those boxes into my new office.  Then I went to Cold Springs Camp to get a tour from Gene & Lori Chambliss.  Then I had lunch with a pastor and part of his staff.  On Wednesday afternoon, I packed the remaining items into my truck.

On Friday night, I will spend some time with this summer’s camp staff at their orientation retreat… and already have 2 preaching service scheduled within the association.

It has been a busy week (and I haven’t even included all the errands dealing with selling our house and searching for our next house).

I know there may not be any spiritual value in this post… nor any devotional edification.  But, many of you have wanted to know what is going on and how my week has gone… so here it is.  Eventually, I’ll be able to sit down and think deeply again…

On to Our Next Adventure…

As you may have heard by now, I have resigned as pastor of Lonoke Baptist Church (LBC) in order to accept the call to be the Director of Missions at the Faulkner Baptist Association (FBA – Conway & surrounding area).  My last Sunday at LBC will be Mother’s Day morning, May 14.

This has been a difficult decision for me and my family… just as it was when God called us from our last church to LBC.  It’s always difficult to leave good friends and a good situation, even if you’re as confident as faith can be that God is leading you elsewhere.  We have come to view God’s call as more of a transfer within His Kingdom work… as though we are being moved from one “factory” to another… but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy move.

I know many of you are not familiar with Southern Baptists and how our churches might cooperate together.  Some of you may be curious as to what a “Director of Missions” does.  My ministry will consist of:

  • ENCOURAGING the pastors and staff of the churches within the FBA.
  • Helping the pastors of these churches EQUIP the members in their churches to do ministry; this will be done primarily through workshops, conferences, and clinics.
  • ENGAGING the churches of the FBA in mission work and church planting.
  • There will also be the ETC things that are a part of any ministry, and I will be working with the leaders of the FBA as they conduct their ministries.

I will still be preaching… that’s always been my favorite part of pastoring.  I will be preaching in the churches of the FBA… and anywhere else I am invited!

Some of you have been asking me how you can pray for us (and I appreciate that!):

  • Pray that our house in Lonoke will sell… and for a price that allows us to invest in our next home.
  • Pray that we will find the house that becomes a home… somewhere in the FBA area.
  • Pray that Tana (my wife) finds a teaching job in a school district local to the Conway area.  I’ve never met a better teacher, and she loves what she does.
  • Pray that we will find a church there that becomes our church family.
  • Pray that I will be able to adjust to this new ministry; all I’ve known for 32 years is pastoring a local church.

Thanks for caring…