Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Going Alone

When Paul found himself alone at Athens he planned on waiting quietly for the rest of his entourage to come down and join him so they could continue to Corinth.  However, as he walked around the pagan city his heart was heavy for the people living in such darkness.  He soon found himself on Mars Hill preaching the gospel which led to debates with some of the greatest philosophical thinkers in the world.  These people were professional debaters who spent their time debating deep philosophical concepts.  They worshiped many gods.  They were well educated. They had no patience for someone from the outside coming and telling them they were wrong.   They had no patience for someone proclaiming something as absurd as God becoming man, dying for the sin of the world and being resurrected from the dead.  Resurrection was viewed as foolishness.  Yet, Paul found himself alone, defending his beliefs.

Paul’s time in Athens is one of the least fruitful times of his ministry.  It was a hard few weeks trying to do ministry alone amid a very difficult culture.  America today is more like Athens than Antioch where the church flourished and sent out missionaries.  We live in a culture that denies God and worships science.  We are an educated nation that loves to debate.  Many times, believers find themselves in situations in the work place where they are isolated and alone without the support of the church.  Like Paul we all have a decision to make.  Do we buy our time and wait for better circumstances or do we open our mouth and preach the gospel?  I believe that Jesus desires for us to go alone with boldness amid a difficult culture. 

Paul understood this truth that he wrote years later to the church in Rome, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

Easter Service 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Help Them Hear

Sometimes we hear only what we want to hear.  Many times, we realize later that we were informed but missed it.  That was definitely the case with the disciples.  Jesus had told them he was going to die and then be raised again.  He even gave the specifics like when he told them “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40). They heard these statements but never understood.  It was not until the resurrection appearances of Jesus that they realized what he had been telling them all along. 

For many people, it will be too late when they realize that they had been told to prepare for death and yet they never understood the significance.  That is why witnessing to someone is not a one-time event.  We must continually be teaching our children about salvation in Jesus Christ.  We must always be seeking for opportunities with our friends and families to help them understand their need to be prepared.  “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27).  It is our responsibility to make sure that our friends and families are not surprised on the day of judgment.

One of the easiest ways for us to help our friends and families be prepared for that day is to get them to places to hear the gospel.  Easter Sunday is one of those opportunities.  The whole service will be a celebration of the victory over death that comes through Jesus Christ.  I am preaching on the passage where Peter runs to the tomb to see if it was true that Jesus was not there.  All our lives are running somewhere.  What is the destination your life is taking you?  What about your friends and family?  We cannot stop them from just hearing what they want to hear, but we can give them multiple opportunities for it to sink in.  Maybe Easter this year will be the day of salvation for that one you have been praying for.

To the Cross, Luke 22:24-34; 54-62

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Helping the Foster Crisis

There is one statement I hear the most concerning foster care. “ I cannot be a foster parent but how can I help?”  I realize that being a foster family is not something everyone can do.  But everyone can help.  I learned last week that the foster population in Oklahoma topped 12,000.  The need is great and is getting worse.  The cut in our state budget has escalated the problem as adults are not getting psychiatric care nor the support of other programs that help keep families together.  The drug problem has escalated over the last couple of years in Oklahoma which leaves in its wake children who experience great neglect and abuse.  All of us should be asking the question of how we can help.  We are called to take care of the orphan and foster children are the orphans of our culture.

The state of Oklahoma has partnered with faith based organizations to help churches minister to these families in great need.  Not often does the state ask for help from churches.  They have provided a lot of ways to help us meet the needs of those the state no longer has the resources to help.  One of these initiatives is the CarePortal.  The CarePortal connects churches with DHS in order to communicate needs.  Washington County is the 4th county in Oklahoma to go live.  I am now receiving requests from local DHS workers when they have needs.  I recently got to help purchase some basic necessities for a grandmother who just took custody of her four grandchildren.  I will soon begin forwarding these requests to our LifeGroup leaders.  I hope that each of our LifeGroups will talk about how they can help and be ready to respond when a need is forwarded.  If you want to help with a specific request just reply back to me and I will work out the logistics.

Another large need for foster families is for respite.  In order for foster children to stay the night at someone’s house they must go through training and screening to be approved by DHS.  It is a hassle and takes time.  However, those with foster kids need to be able to get away for a day or two.  Fostering is mentally difficult and puts a strain on the relationships of all in the family.  There is not a better way to help than being able to give foster families time to refresh.  If there is a family emergency these foster families cannot leave the children unless they have approved respite.   We have several families in our church who foster children.  We are all givers and not good at asking for help.  I guarantee if you go through the training with DHS you will be used and you will be a huge blessing. Being a traditional foster home is not the only way to help with this huge Oklahoma crisis.  Hopefully these two options answer the question of how to help.  Thank you for your encouragement and support.  My family could not help these children without you.

God Provides

God provides in many different ways. I have been reading Ezra as part of my daily devotional time.     Ezra leads the people of Israel out o...