Sandwiches & Stories

“You used a Black & Decker drill to perform surgery on a man in jail?”  That was my response a few years ago as an OB-GYN doctor serving in medical missions in Africa told her story while we were gathered around our dining room table.  Even better was the fact that this man later came to believe in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-13).

This story was one of probably a thousand or more in my lifetime! Growing up in a pastor’s home provided many opportunities for evangelists, college presidents, pastors, and missionaries to put their feet under our kitchen table and/or sleep in our guest bedroom.

I can remember as a grade school aged boy sitting at the kitchen table after an evening church service listening to all kinds of ministry stories.  Those memories are also a part of my junior and senior high school days as well as college.

With eyes wide open and ears open even wider, those narratives told me that life was full of blessings, fun, hardships, trials, laughter, questions, burdens, answers to prayer, rich in Bible knowledge and application, and tears to name a few.  But no doubt about it, those stories from real Christians revealed a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and an unshakable faith in an awesome, faithful, promise-keeping God!

Interesting enough, I did not learn until long after I had left home that it was my dad who invited most of those folks home.  My mom really did not like duty in the kitchen.  That was just not her “cup-of-tea.”  I share this to encourage you.  Our meals were usually very simple.  The table was not elaborately set.  Mom used what she had, and in our early days at home, that was not much.

You see, it was not the food at the table I remember or how the table was decorated that has left an indelible impression upon me.  Most assuredly, it was all those hours in the presence of simple servants of the Lord.

How grateful I am that many, many times, my folks would let me stay up on a school night way past bedtime to sit under the influence of such godly men and women.  The eternal influence in their eyes was always more important than the temporal influence.

May I encourage you to host missionaries, evangelists, preachers, and other servants of the Lord in your home?  How cool it is to have a faithful missionary from a far-away land while eating dessert share accounts of God’s grace, protection, and answers to prayer!  What an impact it is to listen to a preacher tell about a lost soul receiving Christ as his Savior or expound the Word while eating a grilled cheese sandwich!  Oh, how wonderful to hear a college president while enjoying a bowl of corn chowder share how the Lord provided the school’s needs at just the right time!

Parents, your children need to experience this!  They need to experience it often.

Prepare the guest room, fix some sandwiches and invite a servant of the Lord into your home.  By the way, be sure to open your ears, too!

Life Is Never Boring

Back yard

A peek into my Thursday:

Up at 5:30.

Dunkin Donuts coffee, time in the Word and prayer on my back porch while watching the fog roll in. . . and then out.

Write in my journal.

Send out a few texts to encourage others.

See pictures of a new grandbaby of one of our church family.

Take coffee to my wife.

Read the newspaper, my wife and daughter’s blog, and a few tweets.

Add a few pictures to our church Facebook page.

See what’s been happening in the world via World Magazine site.

Receive an encouraging word from an “everydayer” texter.

Communicate with a missionary concerning an upcoming visit in September.

Talk to a guest speaker who is coming this Sunday night to preach.

Send anniversary greetings to one of my dear friends.

Help my wife a bit in the kitchen as she prepares food to minister to a burdened soul.

Rejoice over answered prayer!!!  Watch God at work!!

Put some of the final touches on Sunday AM’s message.

Leave a “Love is . . . ” cartoon for my wife on the towel covering the freshly baked bread.

Receive a phone call that brings tears of joy!!

Lunch on the back porch.

Begin working on Ephesians study.

Hurt for the tragedy in Barcelona, Spain.

Get rid of a stack of stuff that is not necessary.

Answer emails.

See some church family in the parking lot of a local store.  The smiles on their boys’ faces was priceless.

Listen to, counsel and pray with two lives that are bent and broken under the load of sin.  Grateful for the healing balm of God’s Word.

Watch others minister to the hurting.

Disciple a new believer.

Listen to a song that causes my heart to rejoice because the song repeats the phrase, “In the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Share a few thoughts for Sunday’s bulletin.

Enjoy an Ale-8.

Count blessings.

Reflect on some of my reading from this morning in 2 Kings 3 where Elisha tells King Jehoshaphat, For thus says the LORD, . . . This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD (3:17-18).

Have watched God at work all day through the mundane and the important.  Nothing is too hard for our God. It is always a light thing for Him because “in the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Sunday Worship in Mzuzu

Africa 9

One the blessings of our journey to Africa was the opportunity to keep up my journal entries. These writings are very dear to me.  They recount my walk with Christ, my relationship with Denise, the grace blessings of every life as well as many, many other things that my mind would not recall.

Here’s a partial entry from Sunday, July 9

Africa 8 Collage.jpg

What a glorious day!! Sunday worship at Charity Baptist Church was a huge blessing.

  • God gave grace to preach the first service.
  • The congregational singing was powerful; watching Daniel and Mark Anton lead the congregation is fun to watch; then other men get come up to lead a song which they call a special; the choir of young folk was awesome.
  • The offering is received by folks going forward and putting their offering in a basket while the congregation sings.
  • Matt preached a powerful sermon from Ruth 2 on the subject of grace.
  • The service ended in a very touching way. Pastor Daniel had the whole USA mission team line up across the front.  Then he said, “I want our church to come up and greet you and place a love gift in the basket.  It won’t buy the team a car but it will buy you a Coke.  When you all drink it, think of us and pray for us.”  Wow!  These poor folks gave out of their poverty.  As we sang, hugged and swayed, what a special time it was!!!
  • Another brother stood and shared what a blessing it was to have blacks and whites worshiping together in the unity of Christ.

Love Offering

Youth Choir

Africa 11

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

The Gospel Family

 

AFrica 7

Different languages and accents.  Various colors of skin.  Diverse worship styles. Different college backgrounds.  Varied cultural differences.

Africa 4

That’s what I saw in South Africa and Malawi among the natives, the missionaries, the transplants and the travelers.

Africa 5

Whether it was on a plane, in a mission compound, in a Sunday morning service, at a café for breakfast, in the middle of a bunch of teens, or gathered at a camp, I saw something that touched my heart in some very special ways.  It was a foretaste of Revelation 5:8-9 which reads,

Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

For sixteen days I had the blessed privilege to experience the multi-faceted family of God all radically changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ; people from varying tribes and tongues and people and nations.

Africa 6  Africa 3

The family of God needs no introductions; our spirit bears witness with each other (Romans 8:16).

The family of God doesn’t see race but grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The family of God loves one another (John 13:35).

The family of God honors one another (Romans 12:10).

The family of God rejoices and weeps together (Romans 12:15).

The family of God serves one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

The family of God encourages each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Why? Because of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!! (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:9).  What an awesome family around the world from every tribe, tongue, people and nation that will one day gather around the Throne in Heaven!!

From a Pastor’s Heart,

dale

I Surrender!

Paardeberg Mt. Retreat 1
Paardeberg Mt. Retreat, South Africa – 1st Evening of Camp

“How would you like to go to Africa for 16 days and serve with CampsAbroad in South Africa and Malawi?”

“Do what? Are you kidding me? Wow!  How cool would that be? Wow!”

My heart started racing a bit, my mind going from hither and yon.

After some explanation about the trip, some info about travelling to a third-world country, and the dates, I said I would pray about it, but I already knew I might as well be packing my bags.

Africa 1
Traveling north to Mzuzu, Malawi

Of course, I said yes.  (How interesting that those sixteen days were completely empty on my calendar, which is rare. Also, the initial call came on the first day of our evangelism training conference at the church I pastor.)

As I considered all we had talked about, I must admit there was a bit of fear . . . fear of the unknown.  Where would we be sleeping?  What would we eat?  How would we travel?  How long would our flights be?  Could I be gone from Denise for 16 days?  Dan had travelled to Malawi four years ago, but we were headed north to be with folks neither of us knew. Questions upon questions, and . . . they all centered around me.

Then one morning, the Lord led me to Luke 18:29-30,

So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

No more questions.  Truth is, when you are a follower of Christ living for eternity with eternal values and for God’s glory, there are no questions, fears, worries, doubts, just a “Yes, Lord; I surrender.”

Surrender to the will of God is the best choice . . . always.  As for God, His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

Are you willing to leave all for Christ?  Remember, when you do, the present and eternal gain is perfect.  You will never regret following Christ!

My Greatest Heartache in Ministry

 

Africa Camp 1

For the past two weeks I have savored the awesome blessing of spending the first half of the month of July in Africa serving the Lord, seeing souls saved, and ministering together with dear brothers and sisters in Christ through the ministry of The Wilds Camps Abroad!  This trip to South Africa and Malawi was a definite “get-me-out-of-my-comfort-zone” trip.  Although I had made other mission trips, I had never visited a third-world country.

Since coming home, I have intentionally entered in my journal my “take-aways” from this journey.  One in particular stands out to me above all others.  I am ashamed to admit it, but I must say that before this trip, I had prayed, but I had not prayed so fervently, so frequently, so specifically, and as trustingly as I did while in Africa.

Without reservation, all that we experienced by the hand of the Lord was absolutely in direct response to prayer!  We watched God answer in so many ways, and we had a “front-row seat” to watch it happen for His glory and our good!!

Africa Camp 2

 

For instance, without going into great detail, after three days of training the nationals how to operate a teen camp, the first day arrived with great anticipation but a bit of fear of the unknown.  It’s 8:00 a.m.  Where are the campers? We looked out in the yard of the mission compound to see only one teen camper.  You read that correctly . . . one teen camper.  Undaunted but not knowing how to gather more teens, Dan, our leader make the absolute best decision.  He looked at all of the workers and said, “Let’s gather in small groups and PRAY for GOD to bring in campers.”  That’s exactly what we did.

As our group cried out to God for a manifestation of Jeremiah 33:3, for God to surprise us, He did exactly as He promised!

Within 30 minutes or less, the gates to the mission compound opened and a pick-up truck laden with a bunch of eager teens entered the grounds.  Moments later, the scene was replayed.  Eventually, we had 88 teens to begin our first day of camp!!  We saw God at work!! What a time of praise we had as we then saw some of those precious souls hear the gospel and respond to the call of salvation!!

Africa Camp 3.jpg

You may be puzzled as to why I have entitled my post “My Greatest Heartache in Ministry” when the past few paragraphs have been about God’s amazing work in my heart and the lives of others.  Quite frankly, I will say that my greatest heartache in ministry is the lack of prayer among God’s people . . . me included.

I’ve seen folks get up way early to be at church to go on some church fellowship trip.  I’ve seen believers pack out an auditorium or outdoor arena to hear their favorite singer or group and sometimes pay a hefty price for the ticket (Oh, and drive two hours to get there.) I’ve seen church members not miss a business meeting so they could vote their way.  And on and on I could go, but ask a group of believers to attend a prayer meeting, a prayer advance, or even pray, and . . . well, you know the rest of the story.

When are we as believers who have the very ear of our Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent God (Psalm 34:17), the blood-bought invitation by our Righteous Advocate and Great High Priest to enter into the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16: 1 John 2:1-2), and the Holy Spirit to intercede for us (Romans 8:26), when are we going to make prayer a blessed, expectant, humble, dependent, relational priority of our lives?

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:1-8)

From a pastor’s heart,

dale

Let’s Carterize!

wp-1463974026394.jpg How would you respond if you heard this statement about your church  “I would never be accepted at __________Church because I could not break through the clique.” 

For years as a pastor, one thing I have pushed for so much is that our church be really friendly.  Without sounding arrogant or haughty, I believe we are an extremely friendly church. When you walk through the front door, you will be warmly greeted and then by many others.

So, why would such a statement be made?

I’ll answer it this way:  We must do a better job of “Carterizing” others!

Rod and Hope Carter have been married for 70 years and charter members of BCBC for 60 years.  Their health has failed them greatly, so they are not able to do as they once did.

For years, I have watched Rod “campout” in the church foyer just looking for visitors, especially young singles and/or young couples as well as others.  As soon as they entered the building, he was getting acquainted with them.  His greeting was only the beginning of what I am calling here, “Carterizing.”  He would invite them to his house for dinner or out to a restaurant after the morning service and would do the same in the evening.  He made sure some other BCBC folks were invited to join the group.  He wanted folks to go to the next level of relationship and communication.  He wanted those guests to know he cared; that they needed to become a part of the BCBC family of believers.  The bottom line is, he went beyond just a greeting. He was willing to get involved in their lives.  I can call the roll of those who would testify right here!

How do you Carterize?

  1. You come to church expecting to meet visitors, sit with them during the service, and have your meal planned and prepared so you can invite them to your home. If it is not a visitor, it is someone who has been attending for a period of time, yet you haven’t gotten to know them.
  2. When you plan your weekly calendar, you build in an evening to have guests in your home or meet them out for a meal or ice cream or time at the park.
  3. When you get together, you ask questions, you listen, and you share time in the Word and prayer.
  4. Be listening with all your heart as you look for ways to minister and really care.
  5. Invite visitors or repeat guests to your men or ladies’ ministries, small group Adult Bible Fellowship, camp retreats, etc. You have to be intentional.
  6. When at church, do not gravitate to the folks who make you comfortable. You reserve your personal conversations for a later time.  You are there to minister to others like Jesus did.
  7. Make your guests believe they are the most important people on the planet.

You see, getting involved in people’s lives takes planning, preparation, prayer and perspiration.  Instead of coming to church and just being friendly, you must “Carterize!”

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:41-47)

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Ordinary Christianity

images

Ordinary, average, middle-of-the-road, uninspired, undistinguished, indifferent, unexceptional, unexciting, unremarkable, run-of-the-mill.  These are all words synonymous with a word that means “of only moderate quality; not very good.”

That word—mediocre.

Mediocrity describes too much of daily life today at home, the work place, in businesses, churches, entertainment, and sadly at times in my own life.  Yet, I believe that the worst place for mediocrity to raise its indifferent, ordinary head is in a born-again Christian’s life.

Consider what the Bible says about mediocrity:

Romans 12:11  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:31  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:17,23  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.

Simply put, a mediocre Christian is one whose thirst for God has waned over time, and sadly, he/she  doesn’t realize it.  Instead of giving diligence to his growth in Christ, to add to his original faith in Christ (2 Peter 1:3-7, 10), he has become barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (1:8-9).

As we heard last night in our Men with a Mission weekly ministry, “Mediocrity cheapens the grace of God.”

Are you a mediocre Christian?  Here are 10 questions taken from last night’s lesson to ask yourself to determine your level of mediocrity.  Read each one carefully and thoughtfully.  Do not rush through the list or be mediocre about it.

  1. Is your thirst for God growing?
  2. Are you more and more loving?
  3. Are you more sensitive to and aware of God?
  4. Are you governed more and more by His Word?
  5. Are you more and more concerned for others?
  6. Are you more and more concerned over the Church/the Body of Christ?
  7. Are the disciplines of the Christian life more important to you?
  8. Are you more and more aware of sin?
  9. Are you more and more forgiving of others?
  10. Are you thinking more and more of heaven?

When you are cold, you want to be close to the fire.  How’s the fire in your Christian life?  That will be determined by how close you want to walk with Christ.  That will be determined by your vine/branch relationship with Christ (John 15:1-11). You are as close as you want to be; you are as zealous as you want to; you are as zealous as you want to be. God does not force His will on anyone.

The remedy for mediocrity:

For me to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21)

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17‭-‬18)

When we stand before Christ one day at the Bema and our works will be judged, do you want Him to say, “Well done for being completely mediocre.”?

May I Introduce You To . . . . .

introduction.jpg

What is your purpose in life? Please answer before you read on.

Yesterday morning while waiting on my coffee to brew, I scrolled through Instagram and came across these words from Dr. Charles Stanley:

When He (God) saved you, He saved you to do what? To walk in relationship with Jesus Christ so that everybody who meets you meets Him.  Therefore, you have a definite purpose in your life for being saved besides going to heaven.

That middle sentence arrested my attention and churned in my mental mill all day long.

When I was a young boy on into my teen years, I traveled with my dad to many preacher’s meetings and Bible Conferences.  He always introduced me to as many preachers as was around him.  What a privilege to shake their hands, both men of renown and lesser known men, and to hear many of them preach.  Some of them even stayed in our home.  My life was and continues to be enriched by being around such men.

Just as my father would introduce me to those men, those of us who know Christ as our personal Lord and Savior have the greatest privilege and purpose, to introduce Jesus to those who meet us!  In all of life, it does not matter if others know us or remember us.  What matters is if they are introduced to Christ through us!  If when they meet us, they meet Jesus!

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20).

People will meet Jesus in us when . . .

  • When daily spend time reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the Word (Joshua 1:8). You are what you think, so the Word must be in our mind (Proverbs 23:7)
  • When we have met with our God in prayer in the morning and live in the atmosphere of prayer throughout the day (Matthew 6:6-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • When we love Him with all of our heart (Matthew 22:37-40). You talk about the ones you love such as your spouse, kids, or grandchildren.  What about the Lord?
  • When we walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Spirit’s number one responsibility is to point to Christ, so when we surrendered to the Spirit in us, Christ is magnified (Philippians 1:20).
  • When you choose to personally live for Christ alone (Philippians 1:21).
  • When we love others as Christ does (1 John 4:12).
  • When we verbally tell others about Christ in fulfilling our purpose of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • When you talk of Him in conversation, not to show off, but because He is your life (Colossians 1:27).

So, as you go about your day today, who will others meet . . . you or Christ?  Who is the most important?

Jesus Ministered Again on the Sea of Galilee

israel-day-4-019

As I prepared my heart and mind for another trip to Israel, the thought of riding on the Sea of Galilee again brought a renewed spirit of great expectancy!

Five years ago as the boat pulled away from the dock, my wife and I stood near the bow and fixed our gaze all around us.  “This is where Jesus spent so much of His early ministry!”  We envisioned Him walking on the water, travelling along the shore, calming the storm, reaching out to Peter, healing the maniac of Gadara, as well as other events in Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

In a few moments, the owners of the boat began to play over the loud speakers, “How Great Is Our God.”

The splendor of the King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Several of us, gathered at the bow, began to sing along, tears streaming down our cheeks.  The calmness of the sea, the beauty of God’s creation all around us, the person of Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27) and  the fellowship in worship of brothers and sisters like us in Christ was so absolutely awesome!  Once again, Christ was ministering on the Sea of Galilee!!

sea-of-galilee-boat

Well, fast forward to three weeks ago, and once again, we experienced the same, but this time on a much deeper level.  How wonderful to sing “How Great Thou Art,” “10,000 Reasons,” and “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.”  With hands and voices raised up to heaven, our hearts overflowed with praise to our great God for His Son, His salvation, and His grace! Then we heard the Word of God preached to us while we sailed along.  The Christ in us ministered once again on the Sea of Galilee to each of us.

sea-of-galilee-2

Of course we are back home now, and the same Jesus continues to minister to us as we obey His call recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The same Christ, Who through the Holy Spirit, taught us, led us to worship, and ministered to our hearts on the Sea of Galilee is ready and willing to do the same today.  All you must do is open the Word of God and let Him speak to you from the pages of His eternal, life-giving book of absolute truth!

sea-of-galilee-1

So, come along with me today and let’s “ride the boat” as Jesus ministers once again to His redeemed ones!   Go ahead and sing, too!! (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).