What comes to mind when you hear the word missionary? For some it conjures up images of far off lands and exotic locations. Others may think of language barriers or cultural challenges. Some may think of slide shows and stories of danger and sacrifice.
Do you ever think of yourself as a missionary? Yes or no? You may not think that your comfortable existence qualifies: standing in a long line at Starbucks every morning isn’t necessarily like cutting your way through jungle brush or crossing a river to reach new people groups. I’m going to guess that some of us have embraced that term before but never felt like it really fit us.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting many folks who have served vocationally as missionaries: they were willing to pick up and be sent to a far-off place to spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus to people who had never had the opportunity to hear the Good News before. They responded to God’s call and went where He asked them to go and did what He asked them to do.
Where has God sent you? Where has he placed you? I think it’s critically important that we come to understand the sending nature of God and see ourselves as everyday missionaries called by God to represent Him and carry out His mission of reconciliation. Sure, you may be in a place like Decatur, Risingsun, Altoona or Mayberry, but it’s the place where God has sent you as one of His missionaries!
One of the things missionaries must do is discern where God is working and join Him in that work. So where is God working in your neighborhood? Where is God working in your town or community? Where is God working in the local school?
Being a missionary is less about making something happen for the kingdom of God and more about discerning what God is doing and how to respond to Him in obedient service. He may not have sent you to Bangladesh or Haiti, but He did send you to your neighborhood, your place of employment, your school or your country road. Are you paying attention to how He’s at work in your neck of the woods so that you can join Him in His mission?
The world that is unfolding before us is going to require the followers of Jesus to embrace our call as everyday missionaries sent on behalf of Jesus our King. Are you paying attention to what the Lord is doing in the place where He has sent you for this time?
I’m praying for a bunch of missionaries today.
Pastor’s Meditation July 2020
A Happy Independence Day and month of July to everyone. As I write this, our country is in a state of unrest. Please pray for our nation, that God’s power and love will supersede all the chaos.
For this month’s devotion, I want to share a memory. A few years ago at KFC, I had to help teach the first and second graders. For those that know me, working with and teaching small children is not my forte. It’s not that I can’t do it, but I feel much more comfortable working with high school students up to adults.
In this KFC class I was using an illustrated children’s Bible. The pictures and stories were really good, and I seemed to have the kids attention as we talked about God’s love and provision. I don’t remember what Bible story we did, but the name of the book that was used was “The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.”
Part of that title stuck with me. “Every Story Whispers His Name.”
If we’re honest, sometimes the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is hard to understand. Plus, there’s things that happen in the Bible that don’t seem fair. Why do those who don’t know God seem to do better than those that love God? Why does God allow evil when we know God is pure and his purposes for us are good?
After his resurrection, Jesus met two followers on the road to Emmaus who didn’t recognize Him and were struggling with disappointment over the death of the hoped for Messiah (Luke 24:19-24). Luke 24:21 tells us they “hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Luke then tells us how Jesus reassured them. In 24:27 Jesus started with Moses and the Prophets, and explained to them what the scriptures said about Jesus.
I share this because in the Bible, every story whispers Jesus’ name. Even the hard stories. The hard stories really whisper His Name because it’s in those stories we really see the brokenness of our world and our need for Jesus. Every act, every event, every intervention points to the redemption God designed for us. God gives us Jesus to bring us back to Him. It’s my prayer this month as we read the word of God, that we hear the name of Jesus in every story.
June 2020 Pastor’s Meditation
Happy June to everybody. The church is reopening, life is reopening, and evidence of God working and blessing us is all over the place.
For the meditation this month, I want to talk about time. To do this, I want to talk about Os Guinness. Os Guinness is an author and social critic, he’s a strong Christian & has a doctorate of Philosophy. Guinness has written or edited more than 30 books. I’ve read a few of them, and Guinness is a very good writer.
In 2016 Guinness published a book called “Impossible People.” It’s a great read. In it, Guinness argues that followers of Jesus must engage secularism and atheism in new ways, with a fresh articulation of the Christian faith. Followers of Jesus are called to be “Impossible People,” people that are full of courage and mercy when life is tough and challenging. Very good book, and I would suggest checking it out.
In “Impossible People,” Oz Guinness talks about telling time. He quotes an African Proverb which says, “Westerners have watches. Africans have time.” How many times have we said to people that have a request for us, “I don’t have time.” I thought about a phrase I like to use, “The tyranny of the urgent.” I think about how schedules and deadlines dominate my life. I’ve thought about how I’ve had a break from all that with the lock down, and I wonder how soon all those deadlines and schedules are going to come back, and dominate my life.
Moses prayed in Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-16 “Be very careful, then, how you live… making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”
I’m guessing that Paul and Moses would agree that our wise use of time isn’t just a matter of clock-watching. The situation may call for us to keep a tight schedule, or it may compel us to give someone an extended gift of our time.
We sometimes have only brief moments to make a difference for Jesus in our world and we need to maximize those opportunities. That might mean ignoring our watches, ignoring our calendars and planners for a while as we show Jesus’ patient love to those he brings into our lives. Time management is not about clock watching. It’s about making the most of the time we have.
Dear Great Lakes Conference Churches,
Thank you for giving to COVID 19 world relief through Global Reach 9325. You are helping to give food to people around the world who are struggling with the COVID 19 pandemic. So far, you have given over $37,000 and more than $26,000 of that has been distributed in various parts of the world including Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil and other countries. Continue to give as the need has not lessened and food and starvation issues increase in many areas. Requests for help through our international churches continues to come in. Below are pictures from Bangladesh and India of people receiving food and sanitation supplies.
You may send funds to Churches of God, General Conference Global Reach, 700 East Melrose Avenue, Findlay, OH 45840. Make sure you place GR 9325 on your check or indicate the monies are designated for Covid Relief.
Thank you for your generosity.
Pastor’s Meditation May 2020
A happy May to everyone. As I write these words, I’m like all of you, waiting for life, business, work, etc., to start resuming. Continuing to pray for health care workers, families that are dealing with loss, and people that need to get back to work.
When I was thinking about what to write for May, I stumbled across an article online that talked about an exhibit at the London Zoo. Back in 2005 the zoo had a temporary, special exhibit called “Humans in Their Natural Environment. There were exhibits of live people doing different things, with signs giving information about diet, habitat, & threats. It was the same information you would read about animals in the zoo, except it dealt with humans. One of the reasons for the exhibit was to downplay the uniqueness of human beings. One of the participants was quoted as saying, “When you see humans as animals, the idea is that we’re not that special.”
This mindset stands in stark opposition to what the Bible teaches. God’s word says in Psalm 139 that human beings are fearfully and wonderfully made. Genesis 1:26-27 says that God has made us in his image. I think that teaches pretty clearly that we’re special.
David began Psalm 139 by celebrating God’s intimate knowledge of him and the reality of God’s all-encompassing presence in David’s life. God not only formed the intricacies of David’s internal & external features, but God made him a living soul. God gave all of his human creation a spiritual life and the ability to be in intimate relationship with God. When you take the time to think about God’s handiwork, you can’t help but be awed.
Human beings are special. God created us with marvelous uniqueness and the awesome ability to have an intimate relationship with Him. Like David did in Psalm 139, we can praise God because we’re the workmanship of His loving hands.
Over the past couple weeks, I've had several leaders ask about calling the entire church to a day of prayer and fasting. As a result of this request, I'd like to call all of us and all of our congregations to a day of prayer and fasting.
I'd like to ask everyone to set aside Wednesday, April 22, 2020 as a day of prayer, fasting and seeking the Lord in light of the current COVID-19 crisis.
We have much to lift up in prayer:
Let's ask our gracious and loving Father to bring His kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.
Set aside the day of Wednesday, April 22nd
to share in this day of prayer, fasting and seeking our Lord.
COVID-19 is impacting the whole world. In many of the poorest areas of the world, the shutdown of places to work means day laborers do not have income and many families are facing starvation. The Churches of God, General Conference provides ministry in many areas like this in Haiti, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Venezuela and other areas. Our Global Reach staff in Findlay is working with ministry leaders in those areas to help people in those countries with food and basic necessities at this time. A special fund has been set up to help. Please consider giving to GR9325 Global Reach COVID 19 Emergency Relief Fund. You can send a check with GR9325 in the memo line directly to Global Reach, Churches of God, General Conference, 700 East Melrose Avenue, Findlay, OH 45840.
You can give by going directly to the weblink set up for online giving through the Churches of God
Watch the video from the link below from Global Reach Director Ben Tobias explaining the situation.
From I C N U
This week I was challenged with four simple letters: I C N U.
The challenge was this: who in your circle of influence are you taking the time to tell “I C N U” (I see in you) the potential of what God wants to do or accomplish? We each should be intentionally looking at those that God sends into our lives and be willing to tap on their shoulder and say “I see in you” your kingdom potential and want to help you take a step toward that. “I see in you” the gifts that God has blessed you with and want to help you put those gifts into practice. “I see in you” what God has placed in you and want to see you fully exercise your gifts for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.
Four simple letters: I C N U. Who in your life needs to hear this from you today?
This concept is actually something I’ve been reflecting upon for the past few weeks. The weekend of February 18th, I had the privilege of preaching at the Fort Scott First Church of God in Fort Scott, KS. I’ve been to the Fort Scott Church before for a Western Region Conference meeting, but I had not had the opportunity to worship with our brothers and sisters there before this last month.
One of the discoveries I made during my weekend trip to Fort Scott was the fact that the Fort Scott congregation had produced several sons who had played an important role in my own life and ministry. They have produced three sons who had spoken those important words, I see in you, to me at different times in my own journey.
Randy Jenkins, David Beerbower, and Clarence Thornton all are sons of the Fort Scott First Church of God and all three of these dear brothers have spoken into my life over the years. Randy was probably the first pastors to tap me on the shoulder as a teenager and offer the idea that perhaps there was something that God wanted me to do in His kingdom. He gave me opportunities to serve and lead and invested in me. David graciously gave me the opportunity to give my first sermon under his ministry at the Mt. Pleasant Church of God outside of Assumption, IL. David has been a consistent encourager to me over the past twenty-five years and been a tremendous prayer support to me as well. Clarence was the interim pastor at my home congregation, East Harrison Street Church of God in Charleston, IL. During his brief ministry there, he called me into his office and explained that he understood I was headed to seminary and that he wanted to encourage me and my ministry. He took the time to share how he developed his messages and gave me the opportunity to speak at a service soon after that. He invested in me and encouraged me, even when I was young and inexperienced.
Each of these dear brothers, in one way or another, said those four letters over my life: I C N U. I see in you. I see what God is doing, the potential that He’s placed upon your life and I want to encourage you and help you respond in obedience. I’m so grateful for these men who took the time to encourage me, challenge me and give me opportunities to serve and develop as a very immature and inexperienced young man. Their willingness to encourage me helped me to respond to what God was stirring in my life. They helped me follow in obedience.
I’ve thought a lot about these brothers this week as I was challenged with the letters: I C N U. I’m so grateful for how they served me, encouraged me and spoke into my life.
Who will we encourage to today? Who will we give the opportunity to lead or serve even if they’re not fully ready for the challenge? To whom do we need to say “I see the Lord at work in you and I want to affirm and encourage that work?” Are you watching how God is at work in those around you and are you willing to acknowledge and encourage that work by four simple letters: I C N U?