Christian Heroism Redefined?

What constitutes a hero these days?  Does one have to have a super power or wear an elaborate costume?  Super heroes are fun to watch and read about but they aren’t realistic, we live in the real world and we need real heroes.  Christians used to have heroes. We had men and women of the faith that we could look up to. We would read about their bravery; we would tell our children about their great faith; but no more, our hero’s stories are being rewritten and Christian heroism is being redefined.

On November 17th John Allen Chau was killed by the Sentinelese; a primitive tribe living on an island off the coast of India in the Bay of Bengal.  The tribes people refuse contact from the outside world. They want to continue their primitive ways without interruption. John was trying to share the gospel with this tribe when he was killed by them.  In the days after the missionary died, people were already weighing in, calling him a fool and saying he got what he deserved for his intrusion. Many in our culture looked at Chau with distain claiming he was wrong to go and share his faith.  They said he was simply a privileged westerner trying to push his faith on people who didn’t want it.

Culture does not think that Chau is a hero, but what about Christians?  Should we revere him for his boldness? Should we honor him for living out the great commission?  I think we should. Men and women, for the past two thousand years, have been called fools for standing up for their faith.  They have been martyred for loving Jesus and taking His commands seriously.

Christians today benefit from the fights that so many others have given their life for.  One of the more well-known examples is the plight of Martin Luther in the early 1500’s, when he faced off against the Catholic church.  He claimed that salvation came by faith alone, not through the authority or works of the church. Others like William Tyndale died for their faith. He was persecuted by Henry VIII for a crime of unauthorized translating of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew to the English.  The church didn’t want the common people to have God’s word, they wanted it to remain in Latin. Tyndale died for the belief that everyone should have access to God’s word.

Another hero of mine is Adoniram Judson, who bravely went to what is now Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the early 1800’s.  It is located on the same peninsula as Thailand and Vietnam. His mission work was very difficult. On top of it all two wives and seven of his thirteen children died on the mission field.  Judson had little success during his lifetime, but his legacy was monumental. Today the Myanmar Baptist Convention has 3,700 congregations with 617,781 members. This would not be possible without the work and sacrifice of Adoniram Judson, who died from a disease contracted on the mission field.

So many others have sacrificed much for boldly taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.  These men and women are heroes whose stories should be remembered. Maybe none more so than the story of Jim Elliot who suffered a similar fate to John Allen Chau.  Elliott and team of four other missionaries sought to reach a secluded tribe in Ecuador in 1956. His entire team was killed by the tribe. His wife Elisabeth Elliot went on the minister to this tribe and eventually lived among them for several years.  All of these people are heroes of the faith for the boldness to share the gospel, even though it cost some of them their lives.

To be a hero of the faith means following the commands of Jesus to take the gospel to all nations.  Why? Because the gospel is the power of God to save men from eternal damnation. This is the driving force behind our boldness.  Where the world sees a fool’s errand, Christians should see an essential mission to bring the gospel to all people, no matter the cost.  Let’s remember these and the many other heroes for boldly proclaiming the gospel. But more than remember them, let’s honor their legacy by living with the same gospel passion.  Elisabeth Elliot said it best, “There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for.”

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Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Ministry

On October 10th the residents of Florida endured the third most powerful Atlantic hurricane.  Hurricane Michael destroyed homes and businesses causing over a billion dollars in damage. There were at least 54 deaths recorded by October 22nd.  People are still reeling from the devastation. Of course the Red Cross is there, along with other agencies, but the unsung heroes are the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers.  These volunteers come from Southern Baptist churches from all over the United States. Most of these volunteers have chosen to use their retirement years to chase disasters like these.  Whenever and wherever there is a national disaster the Yellow Hats, as they are called, respond in droves. They have been at every major natural disaster for the last 50 years. From hurricanes and floods to tornadoes, the Yellow Hats, respond.

They have several functions they provide.  The most publicized is their ability to feed people.  Using a combination of mobile kitchens and nearby Southern Baptist church kitchens they are able to crank out 10’s of thousands of meals each day.  Check out this excerpt from a 2011 article in the New York Times, “The Southern Baptists cook the food that the Red Cross provides, and then Red Cross crews help deliver it. Since March 31, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross have worked together to deliver more than 638,000 meals and snacks to communities affected by this spring’s rash of severe weather.”

They don’t just feed people, they also have chain saw crews to cut up fallen trees and mud out crews to clear debris.  The volunteers are not just there to work, they also provide a shoulder to cry on and pray with those affected by the disaster.  They help with the physical needs so they can also provide for the person’s greatest need — salvation. They are able to share hope with people through the power of the gospel.  Below are just some of the key statistics from 2017.

All this should fill us with pride as Southern Baptists.  Our giving to the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering helps fund this ministry.  The national news has taken notice of our efforts, as well as the President and Vice-president, but of course that is not why we do it.  Whether we get recognition or not it doesn’t really matter. The volunteers of this ministry are seeking to please a much greater leader.  They are seeking to bring glory and honor to their Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember to pray for this ministry and its volunteers.  They are scheduled to remain in Florida through Thanksgiving, providing meals for people displaced by the Hurricane Michael.  For more information or to donate to the relief effort visit www.namb.net/hurricane-relief/

Some of the Great Work by SBDR in 2017

  • 1 Million+ Volunteer Hours Worked
  • 3 Million+ Meals Prepared
  • 70,000+ Showers Provided
  • 32,000+ Loads of Laundry Cleaned
  • 4,200+ Gospel Presentations
  • 800+ Professions of Faith

Shame, Shame

Recently, two stories of public shaming have made headlines.  One man well known and the other not. The first was Geoffrey Owens who was working at Trader Joe’s in New Jersey when a woman snapped a picture and posted it online.  He is an actor formerly on The Cosby Show. He was publicly shamed for a moment, before scores of people turned to support the actor. The   other man was a man that was shaving on the train when, again, his picture was posted online to shame him.  It was then found out that this man was homeless and was given a train ticket by his brother to go stay with another family member. He wanted to look presentable, so he was shaving in public on a train. Neither of these men should have been made to feel bad for their predicament.  I read these stories and felt lachrymose. I have had the same feeling when the website “People of Walmart” came out to shame individuals that looked or acted strange in Walmart. I just don’t see why we must shame people, especially if they are downtrodden.

As Christians, we should never publicly or privately shame someone.  Our attitude should be one of humility and love toward our fellow image bearers.  Look at Paul’s advice in Philippians 2: 3-8“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

I love how Paul tells us to count others more significant than ourselves, this is how we should look at other people.  If we see them through the lens of humility, as more important than us, it will be easy to love and serve others. Our mind should not be like the world, rather we are encouraged to have the mind of Christ.  I don’t think Christ would think that the “People of Walmart” is a funny site. I try not to take myself or life too seriously, but I find it hard to believe that God would approve of such mockery of His beloved creation.  Each person has been crafted by God to bear His image, this is the distinction between us and all the other animals on the earth. We bear God’s image, this should mean something to us. So, when we see a poor soul that’s unkept or dressed poorly or has a physical or mental issue we should not laugh, rather we should see them as God sees them—as a precious creation.

Our example for this humble mindset is Christ.  Paul tells us that Jesus, who is God, did not claim His rights as sovereign ruler of the universe.  He didn’t command that we bow before Him. He didn’t stand in front of us adored in all His glory and splendor. Instead He emptied Himself and came to us as a servant.  Born into humanity so He could be like us, and then doing the most sacrificial thing He could ever do; He died on the cross for us. What if Christ looked at us as we look at others?  What if He judged us for our hardships and bad choices? What if He looked down on our slobbish behavior or our propensity for idols? Christ refused to do that, instead He empathized with us, became like us and died for us.

This is the ultimate example of humility and one we need to keep in mind before we laugh at another human being. Of course, I like to have fun and don’t mind some good-natured kidding, but there must be a limit.  We need to be able to tell the difference between joking with our buddies and really making fun of someone in a hurtful way. We must learn to see everyone as Christ sees them, which means learning to serve them. One easy way to serve someone is to pray for them.  If you find yourself making fun of someone, even in your mind, start praying for them. This will train your mind to see them as God sees them. Also, give them the benefit of the doubt. You don’t know their situation, so don’t judge them for things you don’t know about.  Then if you have the opportunity, get to know them. You never know how interesting or amazing they might be. Finally, find ways to share the gospel with them. Remember Jesus died for them and the only difference between you and them is the gospel.

Parenting in the Tech Age

The past eight weeks Pastor Alan and I have been leading a parenting class on Sunday evenings.  The last session we felt it was really important to focus on parenting in the modern age; mainly concerning ourselves with media and technology.  My generation was the last generation to grow up without the internet. I believe we got some form of it when I was in high school; however, it was the really slow dial-up kind that made that annoying sound as it connected.  Kids today will never know a day without the internet. That means they are always connected to media- including games, social media, movies, tv shows, and music. These were things that we have had in some form or fashion for decades; however, never before has there been unlimited access to virtually every form of media.  Whether we want to believe it or not technology has crept into every facet of life, but this is not always a bad thing. I love technology, it enables us to do so much and connect in ways we never thought possible. We can use it to learn and grow in so many ways. The point is not to take all technology away from kids, we don’t need to get off the grid, we just need to be educated and smart about it.  Here are three ways to help parents in the tech age:

1. 
Remember it is About the Heart
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  This verse encourages us to guard our hearts. This literally means to put up a fence around our hearts.  We are to be discerning about what we allow in. This is especially true in the area of technology and media.  So much of what is out there is good and helpful; but there is also a lot that is damaging to our souls. We need to be diligent for our own benefit and also for our children.  Kids don’t have the ability to discern what is good on their own so we must help put up the walls to guard their little hearts. Their heart is the source of life and if polluted with all the trash that can be found on the internet it will damage them long-term; so remember when helping your children in the area of technology we aren’t just making a list of dos and don’ts we’re  seeking to protect their hearts.

2. 
Exercise Parental Control
Parents, remember you are in control!  Don’t just give your child a tablet or phone without exercising your parental authority.  It is lazy and harmful to give your kids what is essentially a pocket PC and expect them to do what is right.  Kids get curious, they hear things from their friends so they want to check it out. This is not to mention that there are people that want to influence and hurt your children via the internet.  We must remember that we are the ones that help to control technology for our children. Practically, we need to study and utilize the built-in parental controls of    various devices (including gaming systems).  We need to set time limits for tech usage. We need to set a bedtime for when our kids’ devices go off. Many of these features are built in, but there are also devices to help, like Circle or Koala Safe. There are also software options like Qustodio, Net Nanny, or Covenant Eyes.

3. 
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Finally, don’t be afraid of technology.  Use it to your advantage. There are so many solutions out there to help families stay safe on the internet.  One great option for whole home filtering and protection is OpenDNS, which is also free. Understand what your kids are playing, what they are watching, what social media sites they are into.  There is a lot of good, helpful information out there to equip parents. Look at a site like pluggedin.com to see the content of movies or video games. There is no reason you shouldn’t have the information to have an informed discussion with your child about various media and technology topics.

3 Outreach Opportunities

Good News Bible Club at Scott Elementary

We are sponsoring a Bible club at Scott Elementary this school year.  April Sharp and I will be leading this mission opportunity in conjunction with Child Evangelism Fellowship.  We are looking for volunteers that love kids to help us out.  The commitment is once a week in the fall and spring.  We are starting our club near the end of August and will be finished before Thanksgiving break.  We are hoping to offer this club on Thursdays after school.  This is a great opportunity to teach kids the Bible and share Jesus with them.  We need about six volunteers that could help us in this ministry.  Please let me or April know if you are interested.

Oakhill Baptist Church Food Pantry

We are in need of some volunteers for our food pantry.  Specifically, we need people that put   together food boxes and take boxes out of the cars.  There are lots of other ways to serve in the food pantry, as well.  The best way to get involved is to come out one Saturday and see our operation.  We are open twice a month on the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of each month.   Volunteers need to arrive by 8:45 a.m. for prayer and announcements.  We have a short worship service and usually start serving food by 10 a.m. and end at 12 p.m.  We ask our volunteers to make a once-a-month commitment.  We also need people that are musically talented to lead our worship services.  Our food pantry is unique because we sit down with every client to try and minister to spiritual needs, as well as their physical needs.  If you like talking to people, then care giving would be a great way for you to serve; whatever your gifts are we can use you at the food pantry.  Let me know if you are interested in serving in this ministry.

State Hospital Ministry

Our state hospital ministry is one of our oldest outreach ministries at Oakhill.  Once a month our faithful volunteers minister to those in the hospital.  They meet once a month on the 2nd Saturday at 9:45 a.m. at the hospital.  Our volunteers visit with patients and build relationships to show the love of Christ.  The hospital is also needing more volunteers for its Friend to Friend program.  This program is to befriend a patient at the hospital and visit them monthly.  They also appreciate correspondence with the patient.  The commitment to that program is 1 year.  Social parties for program participants are held the 2nd Thursday of each month from 2-3 p.m.  Male sponsors are especially needed.   If you are interested in the Friend to Friend program contact Theresa Arvin at 812-469-6800 ext 4208.  If you are interested in the State Hospital ministry through Oakhill let me and know I can get you the information to get involved.

Texas Mission Trip Report

Our mission trip to Texas took us to what is known as the Golden Triangle, which encompasses several cities in the Beaumont and Port Arthur area.  This region was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey last year. It was amazing to see all the work that still needs to be done, so many people are still not back in their homes almost 9 months later.  Many people didn’t have flood insurance, since they were in areas that were previously not in flood plains.

We partnered with First Baptist Fannett and their Pastor, Scooter Wenner.  They have just recently completed their flood renovation on their sanctuary and began worshipping in it in early May.  They are still working on completing other areas, like a fellowship hall and Sunday school classrooms. Pastor Scooter was able to get our teams plenty of work projects.  We have five teams that went out for the week. Team 1 helped a small church in Stowell, TX with their VBS. Their church was full of sweet people that loved on our volunteers.  That team was overjoyed to be able to connect with local kids and help this church. Team 2 helped a lady named Creedean whose house had been flooded last year. She needed help installing doors and trim.  Our team knocked it out in three days. Team 3 went to a lady named Vicki’s house where they hung drywall all week. Team 4 went over to Trinity Baptist Church in Vidor and helped them with painting, hanging shelves, and caulking.  They were a huge blessing to this mostly elderly congregation. The church showed their appreciation with lots and lots of good food. Team 5 was led by me and helped Pastor Scooter’s church by hanging trim, cleaning, organizing, and painting.

Our teams stayed busy all week and worked very hard.  I was so proud of all the students, they didn’t complain; they just jumped in and did whatever they needed to do.  They were willing to listen and learn from the adults, so they could learn some new skills to complete the projects.  I was also struck by how faithful and joyous all the Texans were. The joy of the Lord was present in all the people we interacted with.  Even though they had been through such a devastating tragedy they were encouraged by the Lord and by people like us helping them out. Personally, I was encouraged to see faithful churches that were reaching out to others for the sake of the gospel.  Pastor Scooter has been at his church for 18 years, faithfully preaching the word. He saw this tragedy as an opportunity for the Lord to do a great work. Not only did their entire church get updated and renovated, he has been able to send groups like us to represent them into the community.  

I was also encouraged by the sweet spirit our group shared during the week.  Any time you get a group of people together in close quarters for a week you will have people getting tired and grumpy; however, for the most part everyone was so nice and kind to each other.  Everyone had a great attitude and was focused on helping others; I was so proud of all the students and adults that went. We were well taken care of by Rick and Cheryl Rollow, who supported our teams with lots of good food.  We also had a very gracious host at the Shepherd’s Inn. This former nursing home is a ministry that temporarily houses people that come from all over the nation to visit loved ones in one of the seven prisons in the Golden Triangle area.  They allow mission teams to stay there during the week in the summer. They were a huge blessing to us.

We loved getting to see that part of Texas and serve the local churches and people there.  As usual, they were a blessing to us as much as we were to them. Please pray for continue helped for the people in this area, there is still much to be done.  Also, pray for the churches as they reach out with the hope of the gospel.

Prepared for Everyday Ministry

Everyone has been called to minister to those in their sphere of influence.  Maybe for you it’s your co-workers, your family, your neighborhood or all of the above; however, people often feel inadequate to minister to others.  They don’t know how to serve them, how to share their faith, or even how to pray for others. This unintentionally leads us to be closed off and ineffective as believers.  This is not from a lack of want-to but from a lack of preparation. Recently I finished reading 1 Kings in which David is told he will not be the one to build the temple because he was a man of war.  That privilege would be passed on to his son, Solomon; but that did not discourage David, instead of sitting idling by he started making preparations for the temple. He gathered all the supplies that Solomon would need such as wood, stone, gold, and silver.  He had it all ready for when Solomon started building. Solomon’s ministry to the people of Israel was easier because of the work that his father had done for him.

This reminded me that I also have a great calling in my life– to minister to those around me.  This is only made possible because of the preparations that Christ has made for me. Like David, who gathered the supplies for the temple, Christ became the cornerstone for the new temple of God.  Only this temple was not built with stone, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:19-22, rather it is built with God’s people joined together by the Holy Spirit. This is only possible because Christ prepared us for this work.  We join in the work of building up this holy temple of saints by ministering to others, by pleading with them to believe in Christ, and by encouraging saints to persevere in the faith. Christ has laid the foundation,or rather become the foundation, all we have to do is be willing ministers.

So, with all the preparations made possible by Christ what is holding us back?  Lack of knowledge, fear, what is it that holds you back from investing your life in those around you?  Ultimately there is nothing really holding us back, however we do have perceived barriers that cause us to shrink back from our calling as believers.  I want to share three very practical things that have helped to prepare my heart to minister to others.

  1. Spiritual Disciplines – You were probably hoping for some amazing truth that would rock your world, however the reality is that spiritual disciplines are foundational for believers.  You will NEVER grow in your faith unless you invest your life in spiritual disciplines. There are several, but the main ones are Bible intake, prayer and fasting.  If we are not doing these things on a regular basis we will not grow and we will never reach out and minister to others like we need to. Spiritual disciplines help us to commune with God’s spirit in a personal way that changes and challenges us.  Don’t neglect spiritual disciplines.
  2. Listen and Read – Find spiritually encouraging things to listen to and read.  Find encouraging sermons and podcasts to listen to. There are too many to mention here, but they will help fill your time gaps with things that will encourage your affections for Christ.  The same is true for reading. When choosing something to read, don’t always pick up the newest book. Find something old. We have 2000 years of amazing books that will challenge you in your faith.  If you don’t know where to start, find a biography of a missionary or reformer. The main thing is to fill your down time with God honoring things.
  3. Face Your Fears – As David is passing the torch to Solomon he tells him to be brave and stand firm.  This is echoed as a challenge throughout the Bible, from God to Joshua, from Paul to the Church; this is a common directive to God’s people.  What scares you when it comes to God’s calling? Stand firm and do that thing which fills you with fear, by the power of God’s spirit be brave.  If talking about the gospel fills you with dread, work to stand up to that fear. If serving others is uncomfortable for you, face that fear and get your hands dirty.  It’s not easy and takes a lot of courage, but that is our calling as believers. Minister in your sphere of influence, do the good works that you have been called to do.