Wednesday, April 23, 2014

There's Only One (Holy One)

I mentioned in a recent post about my trip to Farmington, MO for the annual meeting of Churchnet and commented that it was a long drive there.  Consequently, to pass the time, I pulled out a bunch of old Christian music CD's to provide some listening entertainment on the way.  One of the CD's I grabbed was the 2-album WOW 2007 collection of top Christian songs for that year.  Among those I really enjoyed listening to again after many years of not having heard it was the "There's Only One (Holy One) by Caedmon's Call. 

I absolutely love the imagery in a couple of the lines in the chorus of the song:

There's only One who never fails to beckon the morning light,
There's only One who sets loose the gales and ties the trees down tight,
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay,
There's only One, only One, Holy One.

If you've never heard it before, here's a link to a YouTube version of it.

Enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Friends

One of the challenges of serving as a minister to senior adults in a church in which this segment of the population is amply represented is that of having to say goodbye to them as they complete their earthly journey and are welcomed into God's presence.  Having served on the staff of our church now for ten and a half years, I've come to know, appreciate, and deeply love these wonderful folks who in many cases have been walking with the Lord for six or seven decades or even longer.  Today we'll celebrate the life of the third member in the last ten days to have moved from "pilgrim status" here in this world to being at home with the Lord in heaven.  Each one of them has left a huge hole in the lives of their families by their departure, as each touched countless lives by their kindness, acts of service, and love for God, their family, and others.

When I witness the peace with which these folks faced their approaching death, I'm reminded of a story told about John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church.  A man approached Wesley one day, asking him how he could become a Christian .  Wesley led him to profess his faith in Christ of course and to experience God's forgiveness through salvation.  Afterwards, Wesley asked the man why he had sought him out to ask how to be saved.  The man responded, "Because I've observed that your people die well."  

I'm reminded as well of a wonderful passage in Heb. 2:14-15 that speaks of one of the purposes of Christ's coming into the world and what He accomplished through His death on the cross.  The writer of Hebrews states, Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.  If there's one thing that characterizes the majority of those living who don't know Christ as Savior, it's an absolute, overwhelming fear of death.  For the believer who knows Jesus as Lord, death holds no such fear because Christ through His resurrection has forever vanquished this enemy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Churchnet's Annual Meeting

I had a very enjoyable time this past Friday and Saturday at Churchnet's annual meeting, hosted by the First Baptist Church of Farmington, MO.  As you used to say in south Texas, Farmington is a "fer piece" from Lee's Summit where I live.  For those who don't speak "Texanese," that translates as a long distance.  It's right at 300 miles one way and there's no direct route from northwest to southeast Missouri.  I took I-70 across, skirting St. Louis to the southwest and then heading down to my final destination.

We kicked off the meeting as we have in recent years with our annual missions banquet.  The food was delicious and the program featured a verbal report and pictures from Andrij Pismenyuk, a Ukrainian church planter whom we help to financially support.  Next we heard from Ned Walsh about an upcoming opportunity in October to visit Cuba for a gathering of the four Baptist conventions on the island and to visit places where Missouri Baptists labored when Cuba was still under the work of the Home Mission Board prior to the revolution.  David and Susan Holman, both pharmacists and members of FBC Farmington, shared about their participation last summer with a medical missions team from our church to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.  Finally, I shared an update about our ongoing partnership with Guatemalan Baptists and the leadership training events that we host there twice each year in January and July.  A major component of the banquet each year is a missions offering that helps underwrite the expenses of the training events in Guatemala as well as facilitating other missions endeavors like the support for the Ukrainian church planter.  Almost $7000 was pledged or given at the meeting and we'll be contacting others on our mailing list to give them an opportunity to participate in this offering.

The worship experiences on Friday evening and Saturday morning were a wonderful mixture of musical styles with everything from a traditional robed choir to a contemporary praise band, an African American quartet from a St. Louis church, a Hispanic praise band composed of members from churches in California and Jeff City, and a trio of Filipino young ladies.  Jerry Cain did an outstanding job as always with his Bible study focus and a highlight was being able to hear Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, author of Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests.  Jonathan ministers at the Rutba House in North Carolina, a community of believers sharing life together.  He told the story of the origin of the name Rutba--the name for a village in Iraq where he and team members received shelter and medical assistance from a local Iraqi after a team member had suffered injuries when the car in which he was riding overturned after hitting a crater in the road which had been caused by a bomb blast.

We had the opportunity as well to attend some outstanding breakout sessions dealing with a wide diversity of topics.  We also heard from leaders of the many Baptist agencies that Churchnet partners with in Missouri including The Baptist Home, The Baptist Foundation, Word & Way, The Children's Home, Windermere, and the various Baptist universities.  It was great to see many friends from across the state and to make some new ones as well.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

An Internal GPS

Since the advent and growth in popularity of GPS devices, most of us no longer utilize what was once a standard item in a car for any road trip--a good old-fashioned map.  It was often our practice to pull into the visitors' center when you crossed over into a new state on a long trip to acquire the latest map of that state's highways.  Doing so provided a necessary break to stretch one's legs, visit the restroom facilities, and confirm with the new map that you were on the right course.  Nowadays, most of us simply punch an address into a dedicated GPS device or into our smartphones and we follow the verbal commands we are given until we arrive at our destination.

The new GPS systems are certainly handy and probably more accurate as a rule as well, given that they are constantly monitoring your progress along the journey via satellites that communicate with your device.  There's something nostalgic though about pulling out the good old road map and seeing at a glance where you'll be traveling--the cities you'll pass through, the major landmarks along the way, rivers and lakes that you'll encounter, etc. 

Deep down we all probably wish that God had given us a road map in advance for this journey called life--a map that highlighted every potential pitfall, danger, setback, and detour.  Rather than a map though, He's given us the opportunity to grow and mature in our faith as we follow Him one day at a time.  He gives us sufficient grace and strength for today alone, and He's given us His Word and the indwelling Spirit to provide guidance for our travels.  Come to think of it, we all have an internal GPS (God's Powerful Spirit).  Let Him direct your way.