Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Five Year Anniversary

On the occasion of my fifth anniversary here on staff, I will be sharing the following expression of thanks to the congregation in our church newsletter next week.

This past Sunday marked my fifth anniversary on the staff here at First Baptist Church Lee's Summit and I cannot let the occasion pass without expressing my heartfelt thanks to the members and staff of this wonderful congregation for the tremendous blessing it is to serve as your associate pastor. When my family and I resigned and came home from the mission field six years ago, we could perhaps best be described as wounded warriors. We were hurting over the decision to leave an organization where we felt God had led us, and we returned stateside with no place to live and no immediate prospects for a place to serve in ministry. You graciously made the mission residence across the street available to us and welcomed us into the life of the church. You provided a supportive and loving environment in which we could experience healing. I was given opportunities to teach and to preach even before the church decided to create a new staff position for an associate pastor and to extend me an invitation to fill that role. I am so grateful to God for the friendships I have made here, for the wonderful opportunities of service that exist, for the overall health of our church, and for the many special expressions of love and kindness from each of you on the occasion of my fifth anniversary on staff. My prayer is that God will continue to bless our journey together in the years ahead as we seek to grow in Christ-likeness and to share the good news with those around us.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rodney Hammer new DOM for BR-KC

Rodney Hammer, former regional leader with the International Mission Board of the SBC, has accepted a position as the new Executive Director (DOM) for the Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association. The former DOM, Nodell Dennis, retired at the end of 2007 to return to his native state of Texas.

Hammer's resignation from the IMB was precipitated by two controversial policies of the IMB's Board of Trustees in recent years. It was opposition to those same policies which eventually led to Wade Burleson's resignation from that body. Hammer detailed his reasons for resigning in an open letter to Southern Baptists that was published in the North Carolina Biblical Recorder. I'm very sympathetic with his position and fully understand the struggles of leaving the IMB over doctrinal and philosophical differences.

Information about Hammer's selection to serve as the DOM of the Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association (which our church is a part of) appears in the most recent associational newsletter. I trust and pray that Rodney will have a fruitful ministry in directing the efforts of the BR-KC Association.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Great Sunday Night Experience

For the past several years, our church has hosted a summer concert series during the month of August. We've had a wide diversity of musical styles--including among others bluegrass, Southern Gospel, jazz, a harpist, contemporary Christian music, handbells, and much more. Last night we had the privilege of hosting an awesome drama group called "One Time Blind." Their skits and dramatic interpretations were powerful and challenging. They really articulated some of the issues Christians struggle with in terms of yielding our all to God, being jealous of others' gifts, etc., and they did so with excellence through the medium of drama. They only sang a couple of numbers, but their voices were beautiful and their close harmonies were extremely well done. They are based out of Detroit and I was impressed with how God is using their gifts and lives to speak words of truth to the church. If you're interested in more information about them, you can visit their website.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Albert Reyes on Immigration

I received an email this morning from Albert Reyes, President of Buckner Children and Family Services in Dallas. Albert was president for many years of the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, where he led the institution to take some significant strides in equipping primarily Hispanic students for cross-cultural ministry. I've been able to keep in touch with Albert somewhat through our serving together on the board of WorldconneX.

Albert's email alerted me to a new journal issue on the topic of immigration that was recently published by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. Albert has an article included in the journal that describes a bit of his own spiritual and ethnic heritage as well as addressing the issue of the Christian's responsibility toward the stranger in our midst.

I wanted to share a couple of quotes to perhaps whet your appetite to read the entire article.

"Jesus spoke to the experience of the stranger in his parable of the Judgment
of the Nations in Matthew 25:31-46. When the Son of Man judges the nations,
separating “people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from
the goats,” the criteria for whether a person’s identity in Christ can be authenticated is whether or not that person has demonstrated the agenda of Jesus with regard to the poor, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner. These criteria are strikingly similar to the five-point agenda in Jesus’ inaugural speech in Luke 4:16-30. Jesus said he came to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and release for the oppressed, and to announce the year of the Lord’s favor. I like to call this the Jesus Agenda, Jesus’ plan for his thousand-day ministry."

"What does it mean for redemptive history that the Lord of history has allowed us to have over fourteen million undocumented immigrants, primarily from Latin American countries, inside our borders? Think with me from a Kingdom perspective for a moment. Let me remind you of a picture and a vision that we will all see. When John the Revelator glimpsed eternity he saw “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne…. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10). Will it matter on that day if people had legal documents authorizing them to be in our country? I guess it depends on who you ask. If you ask the Master who separates goats from sheep, I think he will say what mattered, in light of eternity, is whether or not we gave food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, ministry to the prisoner, and caring to the sick. He will say, if you did it to the least of these, you did it unto me."

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Children's Music Camp

We had about 25 children from first to sixth graders who participated in a music camp at church this past week. They were allowed to choose among some electives that included guitar, drama, movement, rhythm, set design, as well as spending time learning about worship. Tonight they led us in worship in the evening service, sharing some of the things that they had learned in the individual classes and then presenting a brief musical entitled ‘We Can Praise” that they learned in just 5 days this week. They did an outstanding job and we had a good Sunday night crowd to hear them. We finished up with an ice cream extravaganza downstairs in the fellowship hall for a very blessed and enjoyable evening.

I’m impressed by how quickly children can pick up and learn new music. They had about 2.5 hrs. each morning to do everything—take the elective classes, have a devotional time, and learn the music for the musical. Music is such a great tool for helping memorize different texts and I wonder if we wouldn’t do better at things like scripture memorization if we set more passages to melodies and musical arrangements. A lot of the early praise choruses I learned back in the dark ages (college years) were virtually taken word for word from the Scriptures. The fact that I can still remember many of those today probably reinforces the idea that music is a great aid in memorization.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bible Preaching Week

One of the activities that the Missouri Baptist Convention formerly sponsored was known as Bible Preaching Week. It has been several years since they ceased to do so and this past year the Baptist General Convention of Missouri decided to offer this ministry to pastors and their families. Once again this year, the BGCM is sponsoring Bible Preaching Week at the beautiful Windermere Baptist Conference Center on Lake of the Ozarks. We’re grateful that the Baptist General Convention of Texas is helping again this year by providing scholarship assistance to pastors whose congregations average less than 150 in worship. Charles Wade, retired executive director of the BGCT will be the featured preacher for the week and David May, NT professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary will be the Bible teacher and will lead in a study of the parables of Jesus. The theme for the week is “Worship: An Encounter with God” and is based on Isaiah 6:1-8.

There will be a number of breakout sessions offered each day as well, and I have the privilege of leading one on preparing for cross-cultural missions. I hope that more BGCM churches will accept the challenge of becoming involved in our partnership with Guatemala. The week’s activities are scheduled for August 11-15. Additional information is available at the BGCM’s website.