Friday, May 28, 2010

Reflections for May 28, 2010

"Becoming Fishers of Men"
Matthew 4:19
(All scripture references are from the NASB)

Earlier this spring at our associational men’s gathering, I won a fishing trip, courtesy of the Men’s Ministry at Northside Baptist Church in Laurens. The trip was this past Saturday. I was allowed to bring my two sons and four young grandsons with me. Our guides were extremely patient with my young grandsons. With our guides leading the way and the assistance my sons, my grandsons were able to catch two large coolers full of catfish. It was by far the most fish they had caught in a day. Needless to say, they had a great time.

My job was to observe and enjoy. I observed three characteristics of our guides that enabled them to make our day a success. If we are to be successful fishers of men, we need to embrace their characteristics.

First, they had made all the preparations for the trip. They had the boats ready; they had the fishing gear for everyone; and they had the proper bait. If we are to be effective fishers of men, we too must make preparation. We must make it a matter of prayer; we must make sure we have a verbal presentation backed up by a lifestyle that models it; and we must build a personal relationship with those we are attempting to reach. I Peter 3:15, 16 provides a plan for our preparation. It reads, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asked you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”(Bold print added)

Second, our guides had studied the lake and were familiar with the best places to drop our hooks. Their expertise was evidenced by the fact we caught fish at every place we dropped our hooks. It was clear we had to go to the fish and not to expect them to come to us. There may have been a day when those without Christ came to our churches in hopes of finding the Savior, but today, few show that kind of interest. We can no longer be content to wait for the people to come to us. We must go where they are. This is not a new tragedy. In one of Jesus’ parables, He said, Go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23 bold print added).

Third, our guides demonstrated a passion for what they were doing. It was clear fishing was not something they did occasionally. It was an integral part of their lives. Because it was a part of their lives, it was not a burden but a pleasure. Should we not show the same passion for those we know who do not know Christ? We would do well to adopt the attitude Paul had toward his fellow Jews. He wrote, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself was accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”(Romans 9:1-3 bold print added). If we had Paul’s passion, surely we would have a greater sense of urgency in our approach to evangelism.

Imagine what would happen in our churches if we concentrated on preparation for sharing, places to share, and a burning passion to share. While the world may not realize it, it is desperately in need of the “Good News” of Jesus Christ. God has commissioned us to go and to tell the “Good News”. Isn’t it time we got busy fulfilling our commission?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Reflections for May 20, 2010

"Growing Old Is Not A Bad Thing"

A few years back there was an article about Catherine Gay in the magazine, Mature Living. Her story was remarkable. Five days a week, she got up at 5:30 AM to join her walking group in a two mile walk. Two days a week she volunteered at the Texas Children’s Hospital. On Wednesdays she assisted with kitchen duty at her church. She had served as secretary of her church choir for over forty years. On Fridays, after registering out of town patients at the local hospital for free lodging, she delivered meals to the homebound on her list. In her spare time, she volunteered at the local Children’s Hospital, assisting the children with reading. She purchased her first computer just prior to the article. Her schedule would be remarkable for anyone, but what makes her story truly remarkable is that she was 94 years old, when the article was written.

Having recently retired, this story is especially inspiring for me. It reminds me that retirement does not mean sitting around and growing old. Instead, it broadens my opportunities of service, because I am no longer tied down to one position. It has given me the joy of pursing dreams of ministry that have been in my mind for years. It opens the way for God to fulfill His promise found in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (NASB). It provides me with a sense of adventure filled with all the unknowns present when I first began my journey. It calls upon me to trust in God’s provision and direction for the future. It is an exciting time.

Before you begin to think I have returned to the foolish dreams of a young man, I assure you I am aware of the toll the aging process can take on a person, both mentally and physically. I have witnessed it in my years of ministry, in my own family and in my own body. The knowledge that my ability to do might be removed at any time causes me to want to do while I can. Instead of sitting down and waiting for what might be, I choose to follow after the model of Caleb in the Scripture. Listen to the words of Caleb as he spoke to Moses.

“And now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eight-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the Lord has spoken” (Joshua 14:10-12 NASB)

I take heart in knowing I am not alone. There is a growing army of people like myself. Our churches are filled with them. We can all choose to follow Caleb’s example or we can sit around seeking new ways to make ourselves comfortable. If we are to become the Caleb’s of our generation, we must first understand that retirement is a societal term, not a biblical one. God’s retirement program is the greatest one of all. When it is our time to participate in it, He will come and take us home. Until then, He has work for us to do. Let’s discover what it is and “just do it.” If we do, maybe someday, someone will write a story about us like the one about Catherine Gay.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reflections for May 13, 2010

"Church Matters"

At the outset of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians Paul gives three things about the Thessalonians for which he was thankful. He gave thanks for their “work of faith”, “labor of love”, and “steadfastness of hope”. Over the course of my ministry, I have seen these things demonstrated in the churches I have served. I have seen firsthand the difference that a church family can make in the lives of individuals during times of joy and of suffering.

Unfortunately, many believers today have forfeited the comfort and encouragement a local body of believers can add to their lives. They have lost contact with their church family and have chosen to walk their walk of faith alone. This fact is reflected in the research that shows people do not put as much importance upon belonging as they once did. This lack of commitment to a local community of believers is widespread all across our country. It is especially strong among young believers. In his book, Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes describes this lack of commitment to the local church in this manner: “Church attendance is infected with a malaise of conditional loyalty which has produced an army of ecclesiastical hitchhikers. The hitchhiker’s thumb says, ‘You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas-and I’ll ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own! And I’ll probably sue.” So it is with the credo of so many of today’s church attenders: ‘You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills-and I’ll go along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I’ll criticize and complain and probably bail out-my thumb is always out for a better ride.’” While this hitchhiker mentality may satisfy for the moment, it does not give our roots opportunity to grow down deep into the fabric of the church enabling the individual the full benefits of belonging.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren listed six important benefits that come from belonging to a local body:

…A church family identifies you as a genuine believer.
…A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation.
…A church family helps you develop spiritual muscle.
…The Body of Christ needs you.
…You will share in Christ’s mission in the world.
…A church family will help keep you from backsliding.

If you have chosen to give up on church, I encourage you to consider another look. Find a church home that lives up to the love, faith and hope Paul wrote of the Thessalonians. Invest your life in a local body of believers and over the long haul, your life will be blessed. Remember the Body of Christ needs you and whether you realize it our not, you need it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reflections for May 5, 2010

"Mother's Are Special"

One could fill the paper talking about the work of a mother. They are many times she fills the role of doctor, nurse, counselor, teacher, maid, cook, taxi driver, tutor, and the list goes on and on. Those who are on the receiving end of her labors sometimes take her for granted and do not give her the praise and encouragement she deserves. Others belittle her efforts and question her contributions to society. One lady, who chose to stay home, held a doctorate degree and was perfectly capable of pursing a career in her field. She grew tired of the expressions on people’s faces when she told them she was a homemaker. Now, when she is asked, “What do you do?” she responds, “I’m socializing two homo-sapiens in Judeo-Christian virtues so they will appropriate the eschatological values of utopia. What do you do?”

While this statement may sound sarcastic, it does reflect one of the most important tasks that a mother has. It emphasizes the importance that a mother has in teaching a child right and wrong and in passing on the truths of her faith. Lois and Eunice were two such women in the Bible. Lois was the grandmother and Eunice was the mother of Paul’s young protégé, Timothy. In Paul’s second letter to the young pastor Paul wrote, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice ,and I am sure that it is in you as well” (II Timothy 1:5 NASB). Later in the same letter, Paul wrote, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of , knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 3:14, 15 NASB)

Little did Lois and Eunice know that the things they were teaching would help Timothy grow into a young man who would be remembered for centuries in God’s book, the Holy Bible. Other passages help us have a better picture of the kind of man he was. He was greatly respected (Acts 16:2), compassionate (Phil. 2:20), unselfish (Phil. 2:21, 22) and an encourager (I Thess. 3:2). Lois and Eunice were not the only people who had an influence on him but Paul certainly understood the important part they played in his life.

The message for mothers of our day is to never underestimate the importance of your influence over your sons and daughters and to not underestimate the importance of demonstrating and teaching a strong faith. You can never know what your teachings might accomplish, because a mother’s faith can have immeasurable impact on the world in which we live. Finally, never let anyone convince you that your job is not important. There is no work more important than the work of a mother. You deserve our praise, appreciation and respect.