Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dixie League: Savior Or Satan

     It is Spring so two things are in the air - pollen and baseball. In the past that meant three practices and two games a week. Now it can mean a lot more. No one likes to lose, but sometimes we get so obsessed with winning that we will make our kids do whatever it takes to win.
     For Christians whose kids are involved in ball, being faithful to God, church and playing ball can be a challenge. Many will attend church less until the season is over. Some will just check out all together. If you've decided that you can substitute ball for church and still be a faithful follower of Christ, we disagree and this article isn't for you. But, if you're trying to help your kids take advantage of a great team sport and still be faithful to God and church, read on.
     Baseball isn't Satan. It won't turn you or your kids into win-crazed sports junkies. It also isn't the Savior. Sports won't save your kids. You still have to parent and they still need Jesus. If your goal is to live your life on mission for God, the ball field provides you a great mission field. The challenge is to remain committed to Christ and His church, while playing ball. How can you love your kids, help them enjoy a great team sport, and have some great family time while glorifying God and making Him known?

#1 - See the mission field at the ballpark. Life on mission means the mission field is wherever you go. So, build relationships with parents and coaches. Look for spiritual and physical needs and meet them. Pray with your children for the team, the opponent, and for your coaches. Ask God to show you doors of ministry in those people's lives. Display the love of Christ by serving, coaching, and caring rather than criticizing and cussing the kids, the coaches, and the umps. Share the Gospel and invite people from the field to your church.

#2 - Make God's glory your goal, not making it to all-stars. We've all either seen or been that parent. You know the one; the parent, grandparent, or coach who loses it. We know how poor a witness that is. When God's glory is your priority, you're much less likely to lose it at the ballpark. You will love the kids, support the coach and be a witness to the sufficiency of Christ whether you win or lose. Remember that you aren't going to glorify Christ if you act the fool at the ballpark.

#3 - Enjoy the experience. Whether your kid starts or not, whether your team wins or loses, when the ball field is your mission field, you'll never lose. Every moment is an opportunity to enjoy the life God has given you, enjoy the game, enjoy the people, and display the joy of the Lord.

#4 - Preach the Gospel with your priorities. Some professing Christians will have no problem practicing and playing while their church meets. Will you or will your priorities reflect the priority of worship and the body of Christ? If you're a coach, don't set practices on Wednesdays and don't play on Sundays. If you're a parent, let your kids and their coaches know you won't practice or play when your church is meeting. Don't do it with a holier than thou attitude. Just humbly make your kids and their coaches aware of what's important to you. 

Imagine how great the season can be when you live it on mission for God.

Photo Credit: Wildernice/Original uploader was en:User:Barry Bonds at en.wikipedia

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Of The Greatest Ways To Reach The Nations

Approximately half of the world's population lives in countries that restrict or ban the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yet we are commanded to take the Gospel to all the world. There is an amazing current opportunity to do that very thing. We can take the Gospel to many, if not most, of those nations without ever leaving the relative comfort of our own nation. And, we can do it face-to-face.

Here's how it works. People from those nations immigrate to this nation all the time. Those immigrants have real needs. While their greatest need is spiritual, they also need to learn the language, navigate the culture, find jobs, and raise families in a strange and foreign land. When they come here, the doors that were shut in their countries are opened.

When an immigrant from a closed country meets and believes in Jesus Christ, and are discipled, they become a missionary to their own people - those living here, and often even those of their own people group living in the nation of their birth. 

Here's a story about how Southern Baptists are supporting this kind of evangelism here in North America.

Read more about them here:Ron &Tim Carr, NAMB

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Ministry Of Showing Up

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a  joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
Acts 2:46-47

     I don't know exactly what to call it, but I know it when I see it. The people who do it are invaluable. What they do makes all other ministries work. They may never teach, lead a song, or preach a sermon, but their ministry is life and church transforming. 
     Maybe this one ministry shouldn't be so important, but after spending the morning with a group of pastors it is clear that it is. And the funny thing is the people who do it probably don't have any idea what a source of strength and encouragement they are. 
     Sunday School after Sunday School, worship service after worship service, home group after home group, discipleship group after discipleship group, event after event they show up. That's what I call this ministry. It is the ministry of showing up. They suit up, and they show up, even when it's tough to put up or shut up. Superstar athletes are exciting, but only if they show up for the game.  You can only win the game with those who show up. 
     I've had the privilege of pastoring the same church for a long time. I've seen many come and go. I've seen many get hot and grow cold. I've also seen those who have been here, come here, and stayed here. Forgive me for not saying thank you enough to those of you who continue to be part of the ministry of showing up. THANK YOU!!!  I don't think you know how much encouragement your faithfulness to this church is.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday, Repeal and Replace, & True Christian Fasting

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.
Isaiah 58:5-7

     It's Ash Wednesday, a tradition practiced by some Christians for over 1,000 years. It's a tradition, first of all, not a command. And, it's a combination of two Biblical practices - fasting and repentance in sackcloth and ashes. Jesus makes it clear that even under the new covenant, His followers will fast, "But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don't show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret." (Matthew 6:17)  But, He says nothing positive about the external show of fasting in sackcloth and ashes, nor does He command it. He actually seems to discourage the outward attention-calling practices of sackcloth and ashes and points to an inward change of heart that results in a change of behavior.
     Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It's the Old Testament practice of repentance in sackcloth and ashes combined with a memorial period of fasting, repentance and reflection. It memorializes Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness. Again, neither ashes nor 40 day fasts are commanded by Christ. Fasting, however, is expected. The length of fasting is not prescribed, but a change of heart is required. 
     Even under the law in the Old Testament, God expected more than lip service. The passage in Isaiah above makes it clear that when His people merely went through the motions of fasting, He was unimpressed. He said that they should deny themselves, but that they should also serve others. They should fast AND lose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share their food with the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked stranger, and take care of their own family as well.
     Forgive me for using a popular (or unpopular) term, but they should repeal their regular religiosity and replace it with pure religion, "Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27) 
     God's heart did not change from Old to New Covenant. He has always expected His people to love their neighbor with acts of kindness and sacrificial love. Here is the Law of the New Covenant, "For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) 
     It's still about loving and caring for others. Jesus describes the judgment of the nations and says that the difference is how they took care of others. To His sheep, He will say on that day, "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited me." . . . "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:35-36, 40) The goats who were not His people did some of these things, but not for Him. They did them only for themselves, perhaps as a religious act of penance or good works to earn a better place in eternity. 
     So, ashes or not, there's probably a need in most of us to repent of selfish religious practices like, "What did I get from church today?" Then we should replace those selfish practices with selfless, pure and undefiled religion - food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, water for the thirsty, justice and freedom for the afflicted and oppressed, clothing for the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoner. 
     Ok, here's one last Scripture. Please do not use this to go off on anyone who has ashes on their forehead. They may well have entered into a 40 day period of repentance and service to others. Let God judge the motives of their hearts. You deal with your own.
     "Whenever you fast, don't be sad-faced like the hypocrites, For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They've go their reward! But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don't show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Mathew 6:16-19) Repent of sin. Replace with active service to Christ and the least of His brethren, meaning whoever He puts in front of you today.