Thursday, December 19, 2013

Blake McKinney on Mutual Submission in Marriage

Our pastor, Blake McKinney, was featured this morning in Ethics Daily with an excellent article on mutual submission in marriage.  It's well worth reading.

Monday, December 09, 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  These words from a song by the same name, recorded and released by Andy Williams on his first Christmas album in 1963, sum up the feelings of many regarding the holiday season.  For many folks the Christmas holiday season is indeed the high point of the year as it signals perhaps one of the few times when the extended family will gather around a scrumptious meal to spend time together.  Gifts will be exchanged, with new toys for young and old appearing to replace old, worn out models.  Cousins who rarely see one another will enjoy renewing acquaintances and catching up on what’s been happening in the lives of their extended family.  There’s much to do and plenty of excitement to go around as we prepare for the Christmas holidays.

As we hopefully pause at some point in the “busy-ness” and bustle of our holiday preparations to reflect on the true significance of Christmas, our thoughts go back some 2000 years to a quiet evening when some shepherds were tending their sheep outside of Bethlehem.  Their normal routine was shattered as a bright light shone around them and angels announced to them the good news of the birth of the long-awaited Messiah.  “Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” the angels declared.  After 400 years of prophetic silence this was good news indeed!  God had remembered His people and had sent them a Savior. 

That same message is still incredibly good news in our world today.  In the midst of so much heartache, brokenness, economic distress, and suffering brought on by both natural disasters and strife between peoples and nations, the good news of Christ’s coming to offer us salvation is a message that we dare not keep to ourselves.  May the hope of Christmas fill your heart with joy and peace as you celebrate His coming.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Carol Bercian's visit

I had a very enjoyable time this past weekend with the visit of Carol Bercian, the director of the Tabitha Ministry in Guatemala City.  I've shared on numerous occasions about this remarkable ministry among the most impoverished who live in or near the city dump in Guatemala City.  Carol has been in the States for a few weeks, visiting a sister in Seattle as well as sharing about the Tabitha Ministry with some Baptist churches in Alabama.  Alabama Baptists had an ongoing partnership with Guatemalan Baptists for a number of years and many of those churches continue to send mission teams to Guatemala.  Carol has assisted them as she has our teams with all of the logistical arrangements.

We had a potluck dinner on Saturday evening at one of our member's home, attended by several who had gone to Guatemala on one of the 6 mission trips our church has made there.  Then on Sunday, Carol shared during the message time in all 3 of our morning services.  I was slated to preach in Blake's absence as he was leading a marriage enrichment retreat for a number of our couples down in Branson over the weekend.  I had prepared a message but anticipated that there wouldn't be too much time to share it after interviewing Carol about how the Tabitha Ministry began, hearing the testimonies of some of the lives that have been radically changed through the ministry, and then learning of some of the ongoing challenges and prayer requests for the ministry.  Carol had also brought numerous crafts that the ladies of the Tabitha Ministry had made--the sale of which provides them with a source of income and an alternative to their former lifestyle.

Following the morning services, we hopped in my car for a four and a half hour drive to Farmington, MO where Carol was able to share with more than 300 who had gathered in their Family Life Center for a Thanksgiving celebration that included thanks for the church's multiple missions efforts.  We enjoyed a delicious meal and then heard reports about efforts in the church's "Jerusalem," featuring outreach ministries enabled by the new gymnasium.  Reports about efforts in "Judea and Samaria" included a focus on the church's outreach to the Filipino community in Farmington and featured a song by a trio of Filipino women and a testimony by the leader of a Bible study group working with this community.  Carol then shared about the Tabitha Ministry as I translated for her. It was great to re-connect with several friends at Farmington and see their new facilities. 

I'm grateful for the time I was able to share with Carol, her sister, and her son who also accompanied her on the trip.  I'm looking forward as well to the next round of leadership training conferences in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in mid-January.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Together for Hope Arkansas

Last Thursday and Friday, Aaron Huffmann (our youth minister) and I drove with Harold Phillips of CBF Heartland to Helena/West Helena, Arkansas to check out the ministry of Together for Hope Arkansas.  Together for Hope is the name of an initiative launched several years ago by CBF to positively impact poverty in the 20 poorest counties in the U.S.  Some of these counties are found in South Dakota on reservations where the Lakota and other Native Americans live.  Several of these counties are on the Texas/Mexican border, while still others are found along the Mississippi River delta region.

Helena, Arkansas is the county seat of Phillips County, one of those poorest 20 counties in the U.S.  Together for Hope Arkansas is focusing their ministry efforts on making a difference in the next generation of children and young people through literacy and leadership development.  The high school graduation rate for Phillips County has historically been abysmally low, so TFH Arkansas is striving to turn that statistic around by encouraging children from their preschool years to love books and learn to read early.  Another program called Delta Jewels encourages teenage and adolescent girls to design and make jewelry which is then sold with half of the profits going to the girl and the other half being used to purchase additional materials for the program.

The two young women who are co-directors of TFH Arkansas are a true testament to the life-changing power of the gospel as it's lived out among the poorest of the poor.  Mollie and Kat (short for Katherine) have networked well with civic leaders, school teachers and administrators, local pastors and church leaders, and others to promote the vision to impact Helena's next generation in a positive way.  We're looking at a family missions trip there next June to try and assist their vision to become a reality.

One of the things that can be done in the meantime is to help purchase new and gently used preschool books for their ministry.  They have a converted bus that serves as a mobile library on wheels that goes out to outlying rural towns in Phillips County to carry out the same strategy of promoting literacy.  They also give away books to young children involved in the program and are seeking to acquire 500 books by Christmas.  If you're interested in donating books for this ministry, here's a website to check out.

If you cannot donate books at this time, let me encourage you to pray for the ministry of Together for Hope Arkansas and like their page on Facebook.  That's the main tool they use for sharing ministry needs and updates.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Loss of Home Field Advantage

No, this post isn't about who enjoys an advantage or suffers a disadvantage going into the World Series this year because of their regular season record in baseball.  Rather, I want to reflect on a quote I recently read that has to do with the Christian faith losing its "home field advantage" here in the U.S. as the number of nonbelievers rises and legislation increasingly strives to achieve impartiality in the treatment of the divergent religious groups that make up the modern mix of our culture.

The quote comes from John Stackhouse who has said, "Multiculturalism and extensive religious plurality can offer an opportunity for Christians to shed the baggage of cultural dominance that has often impeded or distorted the spread of the gospel. It may be, indeed, that the decline of Christian hegemony can offer the Church the occasion to adopt a new and more effective stance of humble service toward societies it no longer controls."  [John Stackhouse, Jr., Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 36.]

I consistently hear well-intentioned church members bemoaning our nation's drift away from its founding Christian principles.  I think that premise is considerably flawed to begin with, as many of the founding fathers were deists at best or atheists at worst.  Baptists like Isaac Backus and John Leland were at the forefront of the movement to ensure the separation of church and state via the passage of the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, because they had a long history of experiencing persecution at the hands of a state-sponsored church. 

But even granting for the moment for the sake of argument that the U.S. was founded upon Christian principles, is it such a terrible thing for the church to forfeit its home-court advantage as a dominant force in shaping culture?  Stackhouse's quote argues powerfully that the loss of cultural domination brings with it manifold opportunities to engage society not from a position of power and authority, but from one of humble service.  That sounds much more consistent with what Jesus taught His disciples about greatness consisting not in lording it over others via the exercise of power and authority, but by being the servant of all.

Perhaps the loss of a home field advantage will even bring measures of persecution for the church in the future.  I'm not speaking of what many falsely label as persecution today, which is little more than the outworking of the leveling of the playing field for all religious groups and the loss of dominance for Christianity as other groups' rights are equally ensured by law.  But if and when true persecution comes, even that shouldn't be a source of fear for the church.  Christian history attests to the fact that the faith has always advanced best in the crucible of testing and persecution.  Maybe the loss of home field advantage is really God's orchestrating of events to purify the church and prepare it for greater service and ministry.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Great Quote by Paul Brand

One of my favorite Christian authors is Phillip Yancey.  I've read practically everything that he has ever written and have been greatly encouraged by that which he shares.  One of the formative influences in his life and writing is Dr. Paul Brand, a physician who for many years worked with the victims of leprosy.  Yancey writes that he first met Brand while Yancey was writing Where is God When it Hurts?  They would later collaborate together on the book The Gift of Pain.  Brand's observations from working with leprosy victims caused him to think deeply about pain as a gift from God that warns our bodies when something isn't functioning properly.  This gift is frequently lost or absent in leprosy victims when the disease has consumed their extremities and destroyed the nerve sensors that receive and transmit painful stimuli.

This morning as I was reading a daily email devotional entitled "A Slice of Infinity" that I receive from Ravi Zacharias' organization, the managing editor, Jill Carratini (a great writer herself) quotes a 1990 sermon by Brand.  I wanted to share that quote today.

Brand says, "I pray that when my time comes I may not grumble that my body has worn out too soon, but hold on to gratitude that I have been so long at the helm of the most wonderful creation the world has ever known, and look forward to meeting the designer face to face."  Great words from a physician describing the awesome creation that is the human body.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Recent Leadership Training Conference

I suggested when I started the 4-part series on the updates from the recent Guatemala medical missions trip that I would probably backtrack when I finished those updates to share a bit about the latest Guatemala leadership training conference for pastors and leaders.  So here's the scoop on that event.

I was joined on this occasion for the training event by my colleague Bob Perry (congregational health team leader for Churchnet) and his wife Marilyn Nelson.  Bob and Marilyn had previously traveled with me to Guatemala for a prior training event back in January of 2009.  On that occasion they focused on spiritual gifts, including an inventory assessment tool to help folks identify their spiritual giftedness.

On this most recent trip, Bob took 3 sessions on Tuesday to provide an overview of the Old Testament, utilizing materials written by Melton Short entitled The Old Testament Made Simple.  Short (and Bob in turn) looks at the Old Testament from a variety of perspectives, helping folks grasp the major movements of the people of God, key leaders, etc. 

On Wednesday, we did something unique for these training events.  For the first time we split the group by gender and in addition to the women who normally attend the sessions, we invited an additional 30 or 40 women from area churches to join us for the studies that Marilyn led on the OT figures of Deborah and Esther.  I translated her materials into Spanish ahead of time for both her translator and for the outlines that were included in the participants' notebooks and the contents were wonderful.  Bob, meanwhile, took the morning sessions to lead the men through a discussion of a relationship cycle, describing how relationships begin typically with a contract (written or unwritten) that includes certain expectations that each party has of the other participant(s) in that relationship.  He then explored what happens when those expectations aren't met and the possible outcomes of where that relationship will proceed.  The discussion was lively and the content was well-received by those present.

The ladies (including our additional guests from area churches) joined us for the lunch that wrapped up the training event.  We had a record number of participants at the training event this time--not including even the additional women who came for the Wednesday morning session only.  Counting our driver, Edwin, who doubled as Marilyn's translator and Carol Bercian, our partnership liaison, we had a total of 87 present for the training sessions.  As always, the participants were extremely grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to further their ministerial training in some practical ways.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Guatemala Medical Missions Trip Update #4

We finished up our medical clinics and other activities today at the Lily
of the Valley Church.  We saw a few less patients today than on the
previous days with 58 being seen.  That permitted us to all divide up in
about 5 teams with some of the local church members to deliver bags of
food to some needy families.  Some of these were church members--including
some quite elderly folks in their upper 80s.  That something you don't see
too often here as life expectancy isn't that high.  We did get to see a
few folks who were friends or neighbors of church members and as
opportunity presented itself, we shared a brief gospel presentation with
them as well.

We packed up the left over medications and took them to a local dress
boutique for storage.  I'll share more about that business and its
ministry at a later time.

One of the amazing things that took place this week was being able to
minister to a young woman in her early 30s who has no legs.  Jason thought
she might suffer from cerebral palsy.  One of the ladies from the Judah
Baptist Church had recently met her and has been praying for and with her.
 The young woman pulls herself along on the ground as her only means of
locomotion.  The friend from Judah mentioned that it would be awesome for
her to have a wheelchair, but they couldn't afford to provide one.  It
turns out that the cost for one is only about $150 or so.  Our pharmacist
friends from FBC Farmington had told us that their church had sent them
with some extra funds to use as necessary.  When I mentioned this need to
them, they didn't hesitate to say they wanted to help.  The church member
asked the pharmacists if they could be present on Sunday to present the
wheelchair to the young lady and they agreed to do so.

This morning, one of the young ladies from Judah informed me that the
local TV station here in Quetzaltenango found out about this lady and the
provision of a wheelchair for her and they wanted to show up and film the
delivering of the chair to her tomorrow morning at church.  It seems that
this lady for years has been begging at the main plaza downtown and almost
everyone in town knows of or has seen her.  The lady from church asked if
it would be alright with the pharmacists for the TV station to film the
event and they concurred again, saying that it would be great publicity
for the church.

That's one of many neat things that God has done this week through the
efforts of the team here in Guatemala.  Tomorrow we wrap up with worship
services in both churches we've been assisting and then we head back to
Guatemala City after lunch.  My voice isn't much better so I'd certainly
still appreciate your prayers that I'll be able to preach.  The Lily of
the Valley Church is celebrating its 43 anniversary and is expecting a big
crowd we're told.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Guatemala Medical Missions Trip Update #3

Here's the 3rd installment of the updates from our recent Guatemala medical missions trip.  I posted this to Facebook on Friday evening.

Just a quick update for the evening.  Today was another very good day here in Quetzaltenango.  Weather has been nice here since we arrived with no rain other than the first evening when we arrived.  We saw a total of 88 patients today in clinics at the Lily of the Valley Baptist Church located at the base of the Santa Maria Volcano.  

The kids' crew had fun making woven bracelets with thread on a paper circle with slots cut in it.  They actually had not just children but older adults making them as well.  Caleb also had his own soccer clinic going with lots of the boys.  Kelsey and Andrew helped with the children's activities as well as helping the pharmacists count vitamins.

I didn't ask Thorvald and Trish how many glasses they dispensed, but they stayed fairly busy throughout the day as well.

We finished about 4:30 or so and made another Walmart stop to purchase food for an additional 20 bags that we'll work on distributing tomorrow in addition to everything else.  We had the production line system running efficiently as we double-bagged rice, black beans, powdered milk, oil, and sugar in each bag.

Tomorrow is our final day of clinics and then we'll split the team in 2 groups to worship on Sunday at the two local churches that we're working with this week since they both have services at 10:00 a.m.  Jason will preach at the Judah Baptist Church and I'm slated to preach at the Lily of the Valley Church.  I've been battling some kind of upper respiratory stuff and have struggled the last 2 days at times with not much of a voice.  I'd appreciate your prayers that it will be okay by Sunday morning.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Guatemala Medical Missions Trip Update #2

Installment #2 of our recent Guatemala medical missions trip follows below:
Whew!  What a day we had today!  Got a bit earlier start as we had hoped
to do and then went pretty much non-stop other than a brief break for
lunch from about 9:20 or so and wrapped up about 5:00 or a little later. 
We saw an incredible 131 patients today.  Jason and Connie were really
going non-stop as were David and Susan in the pharmacy, and Jen with the

The kids activity team visited with a couple of the classes of children at
the school that they didn't get to see yesterday before school finished. 
Lots of balloons, Bible stories, craft activities, etc. that Janis, Caleb,
Lily, Kelsey, and Andrew all had lots of fun.  Janis said that they saw
about 170 kids or so in the 2 days at Tierra Colorada.

Thorvald and Trish distributed about 35 pairs of glasses or so today also.
 We had to go by Walmart and pick up a few more pairs of the lower
strength reading glasses as we went through several yesterday.

The other thing we did today was distribute 20 bags of food to needy
families.  We were all pretty tied up with our responsibilities so Pastor
Nehemias of the Judah Baptist Church suggested that he could speak with
the school principal and perhaps those families that she designated could
come to the school to receive them.  That's what we did.  We had 15 in one
session in the afternoon and I was able to share a gospel presentation and
visit with them a bit before delivering the food bags to them.  We then
did another 5 later in the afternoon.  Caleb, Lily, and Janis helped with
the early session and then presented a couple of soccer balls we had
purchased to the principal as well for the kids to play with.

Tomorrow we'll be working in a church at the base of the Santa Maria
Volcano.  It's fairly close to the same location as Tierra Colorado, but
we don't have to drive up several hundred feet on switchback roads (paved
and dirt) to reach it like we've done the last 2 days.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Guatemala Medical Missions Trip Update #1

I've been out of the country in Guatemala the past 2 weeks and thought I'd provide here some updates that I've already emailed back to our church staff and then posted on Facebook as well.  I realize that there are some folks who read my blog who don't have access to either of those 2 venues, so I wanted to pass along this information here as well.  I plan to share here over the next 4 days or so the updates I sent home from Guatemala and then will probably backtrack and share a bit as well about the pastoral leadership training conferences that took place the prior week.  Here's update #1 from last Wednesday morning.

We had a busy, but very rewarding day today, seeing a total of 78 patients between Jason (my oldest son who is a physician) and Connie (Jason's mother-in-law).  The group working with the kids (Janis, Caleb, Lilly, Kelsey, and Andrew) was especially busy in the morning as they did activities with the kids at the school where we were holding the medical clinics.  They all pitched in and helped with multiple activities.

David and Susan Holman (pharmacists from FBC Farmington) did an outstanding job of getting the pharmacy up and running and medications distributed to all of those who were seen who needed them.

Trish and Thorvald took care of fitting lots of folks with reading glasses.

Jen and I worked as well with the clinic with her performing nursing duties while I took medical histories and recorded complaints and/or symptoms.

We were told to expect even more folks tomorrow so we're going to try and get an earlier start.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


After leaving Mendoza on Monday morning, we headed to Bariloche via Buenos Aires.  While both Mendoza and Bariloche are on the western edge of Argentina, there weren't any direct flights to Bariloche so this necessitated traveling through Buenos Aires to get there.  We arrived in Bariloche about 11:00 p.m. and were pleasantly surprised by a welcoming party--Gustavo Videla, his wife Graciela, their three children and a friend.  Gustavo was the pianist for our church in Guaymallen, Mendoza during the years I pastored there and I also was honored to officiate at their wedding.  Despite the late hour of our arrival, we lingered for 45 minutes or so at the airport visiting and decided to try and reconnect again while we were there.  They were there on vacation, taking advantage of the winter school break.  

A light snow was falling as we were driven to the hostel where we were staying in Bariloche and the temperatures were around 33.  The next day was still quite cool with a light rain falling on and off throughout the day.  We decided to hang around the downtown area and do some sightseeing and shopping there.  We had an enjoyable day, finishing up by eating fondue together at one of the local restaurants.  We booked a tour as well for the following day of what is called the "Circuito Chico" (small circle) that stops at several tourist and scenic stops in the area and scheduled a boat ride on Lake Nahuel Huapi that featured 2 stops--one at the national park where the arrayanes trees are located (found only in Argentina) and the site of the cabin where Walt Disney reportedly was inspired to write Bambi.  The other stop was on the island of Victoria where we saw multiple species of trees and plants including some giant sequoias.  The highlight of the day was probably taking the aerosilla lift up to the top of Cerro Campanario.  The view from the mountaintop is absolutely breathtaking.  Snow-covered mountains, forests, and multiple lakes are all visible from the top.  We were told that National Geographic magazine proclaimed the view one of the 7 most beautiful scenic vistas in the world.

When we got back from the tour, we called Gustavo and arranged to meet with his family for dinner at a place that the hostel owner had recommended to us.  It's called La Fonda del Tio.  It has a long history, dating back to serving the European workers who originally went there to help with the construction projects and has some outstanding (and very abundant) food at quite affordable prices.  We had a wonderful time reminiscing with Gustavo and Graciela about the church, family camps, their wedding, etc.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Visiting Barrio Infanta

We had a very enjoyable visit this morning at the Iglesia Evangelica Bautista de Barrio Infanta.  This was a church that we helped plant in our first term of missionary service when we were living in Mendoza.  They weren´t a lot of the old-timers present from those years (more than 20 years ago now), but we did reconnect with several.  The pastor introduced us at the start of the service and then asked me to share a few words of greeting.  I also was asked to pray a prayer of blessing over the church at the conclusion of the service.

They built a school about a year ago that meets on the church property and have about 250 students enrolled, many of whom aren´t Christians so it´s a great outreach opportunity.  They`ve also begun construction of a sanctuary that we had planned to build many years ago and were frustrated by some major hold-ups in getting approval from the city and then by a period of hyper-inflation that saw building materials rise almost 800% in costs in a one year period.  

The biggest blessing of the morning was seeing and visiting with Nancy Sanchez.  She was instrumental in working with the children and youth back in those early days.  Her mother, Doña Ramona and Laura de Rebollo, the widow of the former pastor, were the key prayer warriors who helped initiate home Bible studies that gave birth to the church.  We were thrilled to see her and to be able to spend a few minutes at the end of the service visiting with her.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Renewing acquaintances in Argentina

My wife and I traveled last Friday to Argentina to spend a couple of weeks here visiting familiar sites and seeing old friends again.  It's been 12 years since we left here after having served as missionaries here for some 13 years.  This past Sunday morning was a really special time as we worshiped with the Liniers Baptist Church, a congregation that we attended for some 9 years here and where we made lots of dear friends.  We were warmly greeted with hugs and kisses by many who still remembered our time of ministry among them.  The pastor mentioned a special memory that I had forgotten--praying for them in a public service as they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.  We also had a wonderful time recalling an outdoor Christmas cantata that the church presented of a work that my wife and I translated (John Peterson's The Night the Angels Sang).

Following the church service, we traveled to the north zone of Buenos Aires and saw the last home that we lived in here in the country before leaving for Mexico.  We also visited BAICA (Buenos Aires International Christian Academy) where the younger boys attended and where Annetta Marie taught.  We stopped by as well to see the International Baptist (now International Bible) Church where BAICA began and where some missionary colleagues served as pastor of this English-speaking congregation.

We've traveled down to the south zone a couple of times to where Jonathan is studying Spanish at the Universidad Nacional de Lanus.  We're getting our exercise as we're doing a lot of walking and lots of steps (mainly up and down stairs to the various subway lines).  We'll be heading out to Mendoza on Saturday where we spent our first term as missionaries and fell in love with the city and the people.

I'll try to periodically post some additional updates about our travels here in Argentina.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Funerals for Colleagues' Mothers

On Thursday and Friday of this week I attended funeral services for the mothers of two of my colleagues and fellow ministers at FBC Lee's Summit.  Marianna Baker, Allen's mom, passed away on Tuesday morning at the Kansas City Hospice House where my own mom spent the last 3 weeks of her life and received outstanding, compassionate care.  I was able to visit Marianna two or three times the last week of her life and was privileged to be asked to share the eulogy at her service on Thursday as well as handling the graveside service at Mt. Washington Cemetery in Independence.  I had enjoyed getting to know her as one of our senior adults at church since she joined back in May 2004.  We'll all miss her and are certainly praying for the Baker family in these days.

Randy Buffington's mother, Virginia, passed away last Sunday night.  We had honored Randy during the services on Sunday morning and evening in recognition of his 20th anniversary on staff at First Baptist Church Lee's Summit.  The choir and orchestra surprised him with an anthem arrangement of his favorite hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" on Sunday morning.  On Sunday evening following the Pops Concert that featured the orchestra, handbells, and a couple of musical ensembles, Randy was also treated to another surprise--a combined group of the current youth choir plus former youth choir members who returned to sing a favorite number of the youth choir down through the years.  There were more than 60 present.  Randy displayed his emotions as he's prone to do in both services, getting pretty teary-eyed both times.

After the service, Randy drove through the thunderstorms that hit about the time the reception for him was concluding after the concert in order to be with his mother who's been in failing health and under hospice care for a few weeks.  He arrived and sang her into heaven as she opened her eyes briefly as he was singing "The Old Rugged Cross" and then took her last breath.

Several of us from church drove to Jeff City yesterday (Friday) for the funeral service and it was a beautiful tribute to Virginia Buffington's life, complete with music by the Buffington brothers and a solo by Randy.

Three of us on staff have lost our mothers now in the past year and a half and Mike Eaton (our facilities manager) also lost his mother-in-law just a few weeks ago.  All of these women were wonderful Christians and undoubtedly our loss is heaven's gain.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Not Resting on our Laurels

I shared the following thoughts with our senior adults for the June edition of Joyful Tidings, our monthly newsletter for our seniors.

Blake has been sharing some challenging messages with us in his current sermon series on “Dare to Make a Difference.”  He has encouraged us to move beyond our comfort zones and engage in some actions that stretch our faith beyond what we normally do.  I suspect that some of you reading this column might be thinking that your adventuresome days are all best viewed in the rear view mirror.  You might be tempted to say that God couldn’t possibly still use you or expect you to attempt anything new and challenging because you’re well into the prime of life.

If that’s what you’re thinking, I’d suggest that you think again.  When we read the pages of scripture, it’s amazing that many of God’s choice servants were just beginning their active ministries or catching their second wind as they approached 80 years of age.  Abraham and Moses were both certainly senior adults when God called them to make a difference—challenging Abraham to leave his country and journey to an unknown land, and asking Moses to free His people from slavery in Egypt.  The other person who stands out in my mind is Caleb who at the age of 85 is begging Joshua for the opportunity to take the fortified cities of the enemy who lived in the highlands of Israel.  Caleb confidently affirms that he’s still just as strong to engage the enemy in battle as he was at the age of 40 when Moses sent him and Joshua to spy out the land of Canaan.

You may be thinking it’s time to rest on your laurels and let the younger folks lead the way, but I strongly suspect that God still has some things He wants you to accomplish.  Otherwise, He wouldn’t have left you here.  Why not pray that dangerous prayer that Blake suggested we pray of “Lord, what do You want me to do?”  Then trust Him for the strength, resources, and courage to do it.  Let’s not grow weary in well-doing.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Recalculating Conference Update

We had a good time today at our church as we participated in the Recalculating Conference.  I didn't get to attend all of the breakout sessions as I was dashing around doing some of the behind-the-scenes stuff, but the reports I heard from those who did were all uniformly positive.  We ran into some scheduling conflicts with area graduations that prevented some of the other churches from participating as actively as they had anticipated, but overall it was a good experience.  Meissen's did a wonderful job of catering the lunch as they always do and the bonus breakout session after lunch led by Judy Baker that provided an overview of the Affordable Care Act was extremely informative.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Recalculating Conference

This Saturday (May 18th) our church will be hosting a conference entitled "Recalculating: GPS for Active Adults."  This is the second year in a row for such a conference to be offered in the Kansas City area.  Holmeswood Baptist Church hosted the initial gathering at their facility last June.  There is an outstanding line-up of 12 break-out sessions that will be offered that are all designed to help emerging baby boomers and senior adults have the information and tools necessary to navigate their retirement years. 

The conference is free and starts at 9:00 a.m.  First Baptist Church Lee's Summit is located at 2 NE Douglas St., Lee's Summit, MO 64063. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Dangerous Offering

I wanted to share a follow up from my last post about our church's response to our pastor's challenge of this past Sunday morning to give away our entire undesignated offering to the Tabitha Ministry that serves some of the neediest folks on the planet that live in and around the Guatemala City dump.  Our church has a history of responding generously when challenged to meet a sincere need and this Sunday was no exception.  The exact figures are still being finalized, but it appears that our church's gift to the Tabitha Ministry from this offering will surpass $38,000.  I can't wait to see how the Lord uses this generous gift from our folks to bless the lives of the children and families that the Tabitha Ministry assists each week.  To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Moving Experience

I had an especially moving experience yesterday that I'd like to share.  Our pastor began a new sermon series last Sunday morning entitled "Dare to Make a Difference."  He's challenging us to get out of our comfort zones and live a bold faith rather than the complacent, safe approach that seems to be the default mode for most of us.

As a part of that, he asked me to provide him with some photos of the Tabitha Ministry that functions at the city garbage dump in Guatemala City.  I've posted about that on several occasions previously on this blog.  Each of our missions teams that has gone there in recent years as well as the folks who've gone with me on the leadership training events have all visited the Tabitha Ministry while there.  I suspected that he was going to be challenging us to make a significant investment in the Tabitha Ministry, similar to a challenge he issued shortly after he began serving with us 3 years ago.  He proposed at that point that we give away an entire Sunday offering to support the work of three different agencies that all are involved in meeting human needs.  We did so and the church generously responded by making up that amount within 2-3 weeks.

Back to the emotional experience....  After I had worked in the morning to pull up some appropriate pictures and other info regarding the Tabitha Ministry, I went home for lunch.  As I do most days at lunch, I was reading my "Through the Bible in a Year" selections on my cell phone.  I'm using the New Living Translation this year and was catching up from missing Tuesday's assigned reading.  I came across the following verse in the midst of Hannah's prayer that she offers in 1 Sam. 2.  The first part of verse 8 reads as follows, "He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump."  Having just seen the pictures of the precious children that the Tabitha Ministry cares for on a daily basis that would otherwise be rummaging through the hazardous and unsanitary garbage with their parents in an attempt to find something to salvage, recycle, or even eat, I was overcome with the impact of that verse.  I related the experience to our pastor and told him to feel free to share it with the congregation this coming Sunday.  He confirmed to me this afternoon that he had sought and received approval from the Finance Team to give away our entire Sunday offering this coming weekend for the Tabitha Ministry.  I can't wait to see how our folks respond to this challenge to make a difference in the lives of some of "the least of these" that Jesus talks about in Matt. 25.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hilarious case of misunderstanding

Our pastor shared the funniest true story this morning in staff meeting.  I'm going to reproduce it as he shared the account on his Facebook page.

Not making this up... A little girl new to our church told her parents that she wanted to be baptized, but she didn't want to do it at our church. When they asked why, she said it was because she didn't want a Martian to baptize her. They asked what in the world she meant, and she said that in the "Welcome to FBCLS" class her family attended, Mr. Allen said we practice baptism by a Martian. Apparently Mr. Allen needs to enunciate more carefully when talking about baptism by IMMERSION.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Churchnet's Annual Meeting

After a busy week that involved officiating two funerals in three days, I enjoyed the wonderful opportunity on Friday evening and Saturday morning of attending Churchnet's annual meeting.  The great folks at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City did an outstanding job of hosting the gathering.  We kicked things off with our missions banquet on Friday evening.  The folks at Metropolitan prepared a delicious meal and then we heard testimonies from folks who had participated in missions trips to Guatemala this past January.  Bill Miller, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmington and David Holman, a deacon from his congregation, accompanied me in January for the latest round of leadership training conferences.  They shared about their experiences at the conference and challenged others to participate as conference leaders on future trips.  Verlyn Bergen, a colleague with Churchnet who has also accompanied me as a conference leader on multiple occasions, spoke of a trip he made in January with members of the Parkade Baptist Church in Columbia, MO to work at the Tabitha Ministry in the city dump of Guatemala City.  He shared a powerful testimony of lives being changed by this amazing ministry.

Following the banquet that was held downstairs in the beautifully decorated fellowship hall, we moved upstairs to the sanctuary where the church's choir thrilled us with some outstanding music.  The 23-voice choir sounded like there were some 50 or 60 singing.  Our African American brothers and sisters really know how to praise the Lord in song and lead in worship.  Their pastor, Wallace Hartsfield II, who serves as a professor at Central Baptist Seminary brought a wonderful Bible study from 2 Kings 24 and 25 about the plight of the poor who remained in the land of Israel when the talented and gifted were exiled to Babylon.  Later, Molly Marshall, president of Central Baptist Seminary, brought a great message in keeping with the theme of the gathering: "Share Hope with Those who Need it Most."

Saturday morning began with a breakfast provided by the church followed by a short business session to approve budgets and elect officers.  Afterwards, a series of breakout sessions focusing on Sharing Hope were offered.  We concluded with a final worship service, featuring a vocal ensemble from William Jewell College as well as a trio from Metropolitan Missionary Baptist.  Our outgoing president, Doyle Sager (pastor of First Baptist Church Jefferson City) preached a message from Mark 5, emphasizing how Jesus brought hope to some folks in desperate situations (the woman with the hemorrhage and Jairus in the raising of his daughter to life).  

The annual meeting proved to be a great time of fellowship, inspiration, and encouragement to share hope with those who need it most.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wilma Weeks' Funeral

The funeral for Wilma was a wonderful tribute to her life.  Several of her former missionary colleagues from Indonesia were able to be present and to share some reflections on her time of ministry there.  In addition, Paul Budd and Darlene Gutshall who both served with her in the Chaplaincy Department at John Knox Village were able to share insights and anecdotes from the 23 years or so that Wilma ministered to the residents at the Village after her official retirement from the Foreign Mission Board.  Our worship minister, Randy Buffington, sang two hymns that Wilma had requested to be sung at her funeral--"The Longer I Serve Him the Sweeter He Grows" and "Where He Leads Me I Will Follow."  I can't think of a more fitting pair of songs to describe her life's commitment to serve the Lord faithfully for so many years.

I shared some of the insights that I had gained into Wilma's life both from visiting with her over the past 10 years and also from information that her niece shared with me on Saturday.  For the message itself, I felt led to base that on 2 Tim. 4:6-8 with Paul's personal testimony of having fought the good fight, having finished the course, and having kept the faith.  Wilma certainly accomplished each of those as well in her long life of service as an international missionary and later as a chaplain.  

Wilma's funeral marks the second one that I've officiated for a 101-year old friend in the past 2 months.  They will both be missed.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Funeral for Emeritus Missionary

I have the privilege tomorrow of officiating at a funeral service for a 101 year-old emeritus missionary.  Wilma Weeks was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention to serve as a missionary to China in 1937.  After serving one term, she was home on furlough in the States at the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  She stayed for a couple of years in the U.S. at that time, continuing her Chinese language study before returning to the field.  Unfortunately, she was only able to stay 18 days before being forced to flee the country.

Wilma's next assignment with the board was in Hilo, Hawaii where she served for three and a half years among the Chinese immigrants to the island.  She would later request assignment to a new field of service in Indonesia, eventually serving a total of 24 years there.  Her accomplishments included helping to open a theological education building in connection with a seminary there, writing a textbook for the Bible, publishing a Baptist hymnal, and creating the Baptist Women's Organization in Surabaya.  Wilma served in multiple capacities as a teacher and evangelist, as well as in helping start new churches.

When she returned stateside in 1978, Wilma moved to Lee's Summit, MO and settled in as a resident at John Knox Village.  She didn't rest on her laurels or her past accomplishments as a missionary though.  She began serving as a volunteer in the Chaplaincy Department soon after her arrival and she continued in that capacity from some 23 years until failing eyesight forced her to abandon that ministry in 2002 at the age of 91.  She loved serving the elderly and sharing Christ's love with them.

It's been my privilege to know and get to visit with Wilma for the past ten years that I've served on the staff of FBC Lee's Summit where Wilma was a member.  She's been a great friend down through the years and her faithfulness to God is both challenging and inspiring.  I look forward tomorrow to the opportunity to pay tribute to a life lived well in the service of God and others as we celebrate Wilma's home-going.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Reflections on Approaching 60

The arrival of another Groundhog’s Day signals the completion of another year of life for me.  This one holds a bit more significance for me as it’s one of those birthdays that marks the passage of another decade.  I don’t remember getting very excited about turning 10 or 20, but the next 3 decade markers each seemed a bit more momentous.  Anticipating turning 60 is a bit more sobering still.  Where has the time gone?  It seems that just yesterday I was saying “I do,” witnessing the arrival of our firstborn son, finishing up my formal education, heading off to the mission field, etc.  There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since each of those milestones occurred.  I’m left wondering, “What will the next decade bring, assuming the Lord allows me to reach 70?”  An even more pressing question to answer is “What would He have me do with my life in these coming years?”

The Bible is abundantly clear that we walk by faith and not by sight.  God doesn’t give us a detailed roadmap for the entirety of our earthly journey.  Rather, He expects us to trust Him with each new day He allows us to experience by His grace.  That certainly doesn’t rule out making plans or dreaming dreams about things we hope to accomplish.  It does mean that we must hold those dreams loosely in our hands, recognizing that life’s circumstances can suddenly and radically alter our best-laid plans. 

One thing I am committed to doing in whatever time I have remaining is serving the Lord wholeheartedly—giving Him my best efforts.  A great way to accomplish that is to live out our church’s mission statement: Love God, love people, make disciples.  I want those priorities to characterize my life in the years ahead.  How about you?