Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Panama Mission Trip

I had the amazing opportunity to spend last week in Panama working with a small church in developing outreach and evangelistic programs. We took a group of eleven people from our church to a small community called Margareta which is located near the port city of Colon.

We spoke to the church on Friday night in about focusing on a vision for ministry. We were able to be more specific and watch the church members strategically plan Saturday with a men’s prayer breakfast and a ladies’ luncheon. We capped off Saturday night with an evangelistic event that featured a movie for students and a marriage enhancement conference for adults.

One of the highlights of the week was teaching the kids to play American football on Sunday afternoon. After playing for about an hour and a half one of our ministers was able to present the Gospel in which 16 young men gave their lives to Christ.

Monday and Tuesday were spent out in the community meeting people and sharing information about the church. We were able to get two of our group into the schools on Monday and Tuesday to talk about what their life is like in America. Of course going to church and having a relationship with Jesus Christ is a part of that for them and they had the liberty to share that. Of the two people that we go into the schools one is a freshman in college and the other is a senior in high school.

Wednesday we took a tour day of the Panama Canal and some shopping and sites around Panama City before traveling home on Thursday.

I led our first group on a short term mission trip last spring and there were five members from Mayfair who attended. This year the group grew to eleven and each of them said that they would return next year if God opened the door.

It excites me to see how God is not only growing our church numerically but also growing the hearts of our congregation to be more outward focused instead of inward.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ambassadors of Christ

Thursday a team of missionaries will leave from Mayfair Baptist Church for Colon Panama to work a week of ministry in a local church there and in the community around that particular church. I’m excited about the way God has provided for this trip and the way our church has supported this mission effort. I’ve often said that I wanted this trip to not just be a group of people from Mayfair going to Panama but rather Mayfair sending out a group of missionaries. However, with that said we have to understand that even though we are coming from Mayfair Baptist Church we are Ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

Webster defines an ambassador as an authorized representative or messenger.

We talked last week about the Great Commission. In that study we were sure to emphasize the authority of Christ. It’s His command that gives us the initiative to go but it is His authority that empowers, or authorizes us, to go. But here’s what we have to understand. We aren’t Ambassadors of Christ because we are going to Panama. We are going to Panama because we are Ambassadors of Christ. Paul reinforces this fact in 2 Corinthians 5:20.

20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Everyone who has entered into a relationship with Jesus is an ambassador for Him. You represent Christ in every aspect of your life. You attitude towards worship reflects Jesus Christ. You faithfulness in your tithe represents Jesus Christ. The way you treat your family literally everything you do in every aspect of your life represents your relationship with Jesus Christ, but as it is with any type of ambassador when it comes to representing Christ there are good ones and bad ones. Some of us are guilty of grossly misrepresenting what it means to have the attitude and heart of Jesus Christ and the tragic part is that some of you know you are guilty and yet you don’t care because it’s easier for you to stay the way you are than to change to the way you need to be. Which begs the question, are you pretending to be someone you are not when it comes to being a Christian?

So, here’s the question. This is what we are looking at today. Who are you and what do you represent? An Ambassador of Christ…

Represents Christ to the world.

Galatians 2:20
20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Despite the fact that many people actually feel this way we are not here on earth represent ourselves. There is a much higher calling in life.

Paul makes sure to point out that he had been crucified with Christ and that he no longer lives for himself but that Christ now lives through him. This is a concept that we often pay lip service to but fail to actually live out.

When we commitment our lives to Christ, it should be Christ in us directing our lives.

Is an Example

Luke 3:10-11
10"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.
11John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

John is simply just stating that true followers of Christ set examples of how people are supposed to live and not follow other examples that may be out there.

You are to be the example of generosity, love, peace, kindness and most of all what a person who has had a life changing experience with Jesus Christ is supposed to look like.

Instead we respond to hatred with hate and are more than willing to match wrong for wrong in a society that has no sense of morality at all. Whose example is that?
Preaches the Word

There are two schools of thought out there. One, Jesus radically changes your life is such a way that all things change to reflect the attitude of Christ and the word of God becomes your standard for living.

Two, you tell everyone that Christ has radically changed you life when in reality nothing has changed but you keep living the lie.

Now, there are many people out there who set out after number one but end up living number two. The difference?

The Word of God! An Ambassador of Christ will preach Christ at all times and stand firm in the Word of God. The world recognizes a phony when it sees one and only those who are truly reading and living the word can preach it.

Those who don’t take the truths of who Jesus is to heart will give into the pressures and voices of the crowd. The desire to please their own sense of self value and find favor among people rather than God will continue to be their driving force.

You read the story of Pilate in Mark 15. He had Jesus in his charge all night. He asked Jesus point blank who he was (recorded in John 18:35-37) and yet still armed with the knowledge of the reality of Christ he still gave into the voice of the crowd.

Mark 15:15
15Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

I’ll end with a statement about serving Christ and being an ambassador for him made by biblical scholar G. Campbell Morgan, he says we should “Make the must of His life, the must of our life” If a political ambassador represents his or her own country and uses every possible means to promote that countries interests. How much more should those who represent God to a lost and dying world represent God’s interests? We are called to be ambassadors to this world for the cause of Christ. In all situations we are called to be ambassadors…. Let us be diligent in that task!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Church Update

I’ve said this before and it’s very true. God is good all the time! This last week was an amazing week for me in ministry at Mayfair. It started out on Monday of last week when I made a visit to a couple who are fairly new to the church. During that visit the idea of starting up a weekly bible study in their home came up. This is something that I had been praying about for a while because it has not only has the possibility of changing the dynamic of the church but also gives us the ability to reach a demographic that we are not currently reaching, young professionals who have not yet started their families.

This couple would later send me an e-mail expressing their sincerity in the home bible study as well as mentioning some people whom they have already discussed it with and invited.

Sunday morning we had over 100 in our worship service which was a site for sore eyes after a few weeks below the century mark. However the highlight of the service was the invitation time that saw several people come to the altar to pray and one student who gave her life to Christ.

Monday night of this week I had another meeting with our retired missionary friend and some key leaders in the church about the possibility of starting a ministry to reach a minority group. It looks like we have a solid ministry plan to start a Spanish bible study this summer.

To my amazement God continues to bless Mayfair and grow us. I am so blessed by what he is doing and really don’t feel worthy to be involved such a great ministry but I’m glad that I am.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Become A Missionary

A Religion Professor named Dr. Christianson taught a required survey of Christianity course at small college. Every freshman was required to take the course regardless of his or her major. Although he tried hard to communicate the gospel, students viewed the class as nothing more than a waste of time.

One particular year Dr. Christianson had a student named Steve. Steve was the Center for the college football team and also a strong Christian who intended on going to Seminary. One day Dr. Christianson had an idea and he asked Steve to stay after class. "How many push ups can you do?" He asked. Steve said, "I do 200 every night." The professor asked Steve if he could do 300. "I have never done 300 before" Steve said, "but I think I can do it." "Good," the professor said, and he proceeded to tell his plan to Steve.

Friday came and Steve got to class early. Dr. Christianson came in with a large box of fluffy, cream filled doughnuts. The class was excited, it was Friday the last class of the day, and they could start their weekend early. Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the row and asked, "Cynthia would you like a donut?" "Yes," she said. Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?" "Sure." Steve jumped down out of his desk and counted off ten push ups. Dr. Christianson laid the donut on Cynthia’s desk. Joe was next. He asked Joe the same question and Joe said "yes." Steve did 10 more pushups and the professor laid the doughnut on Joe’s desk. And so it went all the way down the first row and half way down the second until it came to Scott. He was a basketball player and friendly to female companionship. Scott replied to the professor’s question by saying, "I want the doughnut if I can do my own push ups." Dr. Christianson said, "No Steve has to do the pushups." Then Scott said, "Well I don’t want one if I can’t do my own." Dr. Christian turned around and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push ups so Scoot can have a donut he doesn’t want." Scott said, "hey! I said I didn’t want one!" Dr. Christianson said, "Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts, Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it." And he put the donut on Scott’s desk.

Steve had begun to slow down a little and sweat had began to form on his cheeks. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?" Sternly, Jenny said, "NO!" Then Dr. Christianson asked, "Steve, would you do ten more push ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?" Steve did ten-Jenny got a doughnut.

By now a sense of uneasiness had filled the room. The students were all beginning to say "no." There were uneaten donuts on every desk. Steve was now putting forth a lot of extra effort to get the pushups done for each doughnut. A small pool of sweat was on the floor, his face was red, and you could see the sweat soaking through his shirt. Dr. Christianson asked Robert, the most vocal unbeliever in class, to watch to make sure Steve did the full ten. Dr. Christianson started down the forth row. Students from other classes had came in and were sitting along the side of the room watching on. When the professor saw them he counted and saw that there were now 34 people in the room. He was worried about Steve, "Could he do that many push ups?" Jason, a recent transfer student, didn’t know what was going on and came in to see. The class yelled, "Go away! Don’t come in!" Steve picked up his head and said, "let him come in." Jason was asked and he said "yes." "Steve will you do ten push ups so Jason can have a donut?" Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great struggle. Jason, confused, was handed a donut and he sat down. Dr. Christianson then finished the fourth row and began on the visitors. Steve’s arms were shaking uncontrollably with each push up. By this time sweat was pouring off of his face and arms. The very last two students were cheerleaders. "Linda, do you want a donut?" Linda cried and said, "no thank you." Professor turned to Steve, "Steve would you do ten push ups so Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?"

Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push ups for Linda. The last girl was Susan. "Susan would you like a donut?" Susan was full of tears and did not answer. "Steve would you do ten push ups so Susan can have a donut?" Susan asked, "Dr. Christianson why can’t I help him?" Dr. Christianson had tears in his eyes also and replied, "I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not. When I decided to have a party I looked at the grade book and found that Steve was the only person with a perfect grade. All of you had failed a test, skipped class, or turned in inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes."

Steve slowly got up off the floor, he had done 350 push ups, his arms buckled beneath him as he started to get up. Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile. "Well done good and faithful servant", said the professor, "not all sermons are preached in words class." Turning the the students the professor said, "My wish is that you may fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God did not spare His only Son but gave him up for all of us. Whether or not we accept His gift is our choice. The price has been paid. Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk?...

I’m always amazed at the number of people who won’t share their faith in Christ with others. Out of fear, stubbornness or even selfishness many Christians treat their relationship with Jesus Christ as though it was a dark nasty secret and if found out would ruin their lives.

In one of the most overlooked passages in the bible Jesus actually commands his followers to go tell people about him. I say the passage is overlooked because many people have heard and read it, they just refuse to be obedient to it.

Matthew 28:18-20
18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

I don’t understand how people can read this passage and just ignore it. There’s no secret code involved. It’s not a riddle and there is nothing to try and figure out. Right there, plain as day, black and white from the mouth of Jesus you are commanded to “go” make disciples. You can’t even play it off by saying that it was something the preacher told you to do and since you don’t like the preacher you’re not going to do it.

It wasn’t the preacher who told you to do this it was Jesus Christ. By choosing not to obey this command you are choosing not to obey Jesus.

What I want to do is break Jesus’ command down into six parts that will help us understand not only the calling but also the priority in fulfilling that calling.

“All authority” – Jesus is the ultimate source of authority. He establishes that fact when he says that, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Who gave Him such authority? God did. Jesus is the most powerful being in all the universe. There is no power above Him and there are none who are not subject to him.

I cringe when I hear people call the devil the prince of the earth or the ruler of the world. The truth is that there is no ruler, no power and no authority other than Jesus Christ.

“Therefore” – Connecting word that links the two verses together. Our action is based on the understanding of the authority of Jesus Christ. You are either obedient to that authority or not but you will not be able to deny that authority.

Jesus establishes himself first as the ultimate source of authority and then connects his authority to the command.

“Go” – Verb/Action word. This word literally means what it says, go! It means to leave or not to stay. We’ve built churches and have modified our personal evangelism styles so that people can come to us on their own terms at their own comfort level.

We’ve become so concerned with offending someone and so fearful of rejection that we have stopped going and started waiting. We’ll talk to people about God only after we find out that they are believers as well. Instead of going we are satisfied with spreading the Gospel only in our bible study groups and call it good.

My friend, that is not going it is waiting and is disobedient to Christ’s command. Find a short term mission trip to be a part of, join your church’s outreach team and do more than just contact church members through it. Go to work and proclaim Christ, go to your neighbors and to your family. Go into your world and proclaim Christ. That’s what missionaries do. They go and take the Gospel wherever they are called.

You can make all the excuses that you want to try to make yourself feel better but truth is truth and failing to follow this command is a willful act of disobedience.

“Make Disciples” – Doesn’t say “find” disciples. It says make them.

A man walked up to a vending machine, put in a coin, pressed the buttons labeled, “coffee, double cream, sugar.” No cup appeared, but the nozzles went into action sending forth coffee, cream and sugar. After the proper amounts had gone down the drain, the machine turned off.
“Now that’s real automation,” said the man. “This thing even drinks it for you.” That is just how some people want their faith. They want to make a deposit, put in some money and let the rest be taken care of automatically. But, there is no such thing as automated prayers, devotion, worship in song or service.

You’ll never make any disciples by stating where you are physically and spiritually.

“Baptizing & Teaching” – The church’s responsibility is to baptize and teach. By that I mean the institution of the church. The pastor’s job is to equip the saints of God to do the work of God. It is the congregation’s responsibility to do the actual work. Without you committing to discipleship through baptism and then following through in actual discipleship the church, the body of Christ, will die.

“I am with you” – Our security is found in Christ. Do you understand what that means? Remember, he is the ultimate authority in the universe and holds all the power that comes with such a title. Not only is he on your side he is actually with you every step of the way, providing comfort, strength and security as you advance His Kingdom.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pastor for Hire?

I got a call from a funeral home on Saturday because a family had suffered a loss and had no church home or pastor to minister to the family. I agreed to help and called the family. I met with them on Monday and performed the service yesterday morning.

Before the service the funeral director gave me a envelope with a check in it. He told me that it was compensation for my time. I certainly didn’t expect it but told them that I appreciated it.

After everything was finished and wrapped up I went to the funeral director to thank him for his help and for giving me the opportunity. Here’s how he responded, “You did a great job. Can we call you again the next time we have a need?” Nothing unusual there but when I replied with a “Sure” he said, “Great, I’ll add you to our vendor list!”

What? Add me to the vendor list? What’s that? One of the other gentlemen from the funeral home told me that was just the list of people they buy things from. “What in the world would they buy from me,” I inquired? “Your services,” he replied.

Honestly, I have no idea what to think of that. I understand that as a minister it is my job to minister to people, which I certainly don’t mind doing. It is also my job in which I use to support my family so why not get paid for performing my “services”? I’ve just never thought of it as selling. As a minister I get called a lot of things, some good some bad. I just never in a million years would have expected to be called a vendor.