Monday, December 8

How important prayer is for missionaries

We have been Stateside since May of this year. One of the things I have come to realize during our days in the USA is the cost--the sacrifice--involved in our calling as missionaries. For most of my life I have had the attitude of tossing aside any semblance that we are "sacrificing" anything for Jesus. I guess we have always seen our own condition as far more blessed than the vast majority of people we relate to on the mission field. We have been given so much. What are we really sacrificing? God has always provided for our every need. He is faithful.

And yet, being here in the States, I am seeing that following God's call on our life as overseas missionaries has been costly on us as a family. Each member of our family has had to pay a real price in order for us to live and serve our Lord overseas. I don't know if things would have been better or worse living this time in the USA, but I do know it has been costly to us as a family emotionally, spiritually, physically. In a real sense we bear real "scars" of our choice to follow Jesus like we have.
Peter:  "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." Jesus: "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18)
These words were the text of the message preached by Keith Parks at our appointment service as missionaries back in December of '86. I have always focused on the last part that promises we will receive "many times as much" for the little we might have sacrificed. But there is no skipping over the high cost entailed in leaving behind those things (ie. houses, wives, brothers, parents, grand children, comforts, etc.) in order to fulfill Christ's call on our life. There is a price to be paid. It isn't easy.

I guess that is why Christ said count the cost before taking the plunge. Some of Jesus' toughest words are found in Luke 14,
Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Those who do not carry their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples. If one of you is planning to build a tower, you sit down first and figure out what it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don't, you will not be able to finish the tower after laying the foundation; and all who see what happened will make fun of you. 'You began to build but can't finish the job!' they will say... In the same way," concluded Jesus, "none of you can be my disciple unless you give up everything you have.
These days we have spent in the States have highlighted in so many ways, "what might have been" had we chosen otherwise. While America is far from perfect, there is much good and certainly an abundance of opportunities and blessings that few people in the rest of the world can even come close to dreaming about. When we see the houses, cars, and lifestyles of our peers, we can't help but wonder if, we too, might be living like that had we not chosen to follow His call on our lives. When we see the missed opportunities that our children might have experienced had we made different choices, we can easily "second guess" the decisions we have made to live overseas like we do.

Some of the questions going around in my head these days are:
  • has it been worth it?
  • are we really making a difference overseas?
  • have we really made any kind of lasting, significant contribution?
  • is it time to move on and do something else?
  • is the work better or worse off for our being there?
  • have we been faithful?
  • are we supposed to go back?
  • does God have more for us to do there before relieving us of this responsibility?
  • how do we balance of obeying God's call with the needs of our children?
I share these thoughts with you as a means of expressing how important praying for missionaries is. We are common people, with real needs like anyone else. We need your prayers and support (eg. Lottie Moon Christmas Offering). Before William Carey, the "Father of the Modern Missionary Movement" went to India, he said to the small English society of believers sending him, "I will go down the mine, if you will all hold the ropes for me."

Will you continue to hold the ropes for us?

Tuesday, December 2

It's Lottie Moon Season!

While the amount varies from year to year, in 2013 the annual per capita giving of S. Baptists to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for global missions was $9.78.

In other words, if you gave $10 last year to global missions, you were giving more than the average S. Baptist.  As Lottie Moon herself asked over 100 years ago, "Why this strange indifferences to missions? Why these scant contributions? Why does money fail to be forthcoming when approved men and women are asking to be sent to proclaim the "unsearchable riches of Christ" to the heathen?"   I don't know, either, Lottie.

Every year Southern Baptist Churches in the United States collect a special offering in December for international missions. 100% goes for overseas work. The goal this year for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $175 million.

Here is how the offering works:

Since we see first-hand and feel the direct impact of this offering, I would like to say to everyone who gave last year or is planning to give this year, THANK YOU.  Maybe $10/year is all you really can give, and if so, God knows this and will multiply that $10 like he did the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5000.  But there are others who really could give more.

Would you be willing to ask the Lord what he would have you give to make His Name known amongst the nations?

What follows is a list of things we have personally tried over the years or practice regularly as a family.

1) Decide what amount of money you will spend on your family this Christmas and give MORE than this amount to the LMCO. After all, it is Christ's birthday we are celebrating. Shouldn't He be getting more than us if it is his birthday?

2) Something we have done as a family for many years is set aside a monthly amount from our paycheck and have that amount automatically credited to the LMCO. This took a couple of email and phone calls to set up, but we haven't had to fool with it since, and are able to give to LMCO throughout the year.

3) A variation on the idea above would be to have a gift box that you deposit a set amount every week/month throughout the year. Then give this amount to your church when the offering is collected in December.

4) Sell tickets to a mother-daughter or father-son breakfast or brunch. Invite a missionary as a guest speaker. Proceeds go to missions.

5) Auction students to church members for a day of service, from cleaning house to raking leaves. Money members give for the work youth do goes to Lottie Moon.

6) One idea missionaries have done in the past is hold an auction where a volunteer team brings in "goodies" from the States and auction them off to the missionaries. A six-pack of Dr. Pepper went for $120 one year! My son paid $60 for a box of Double-Bubble gum. I myself have paid $35 for a jar of Jiff peanut butter! All proceeds go to the missions offerings. Might your church do something similar with imported foods purchased from your local grocery store?

7) Challenge folks to save money for the offering by giving up something small. Examples include a fast-food meal a week or a movie a month. Host a special ceremony for everyone to give their offering and share what God taught them through their sacrifice.

8) Double (or triple!) whatever you gave last year. Give sacrificially, not what is convenient.

9) As a church body, decide to channel funds to a lost world instead of to building improvements or beautification projects.

10) Watch this video by IMB President, David Platt:

Whatever you decide to give, please do so prayerfully. There are few offerings that make as much of an eternal impact on the world as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Give online by clicking here.

Checks can be mailed to (gifts are tax-deductable)
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering
International Mission Board, SBC
P.O. Box 6767
Richmond, VA 23230

Monday, December 1

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is 24 contributors (including yours truly) writing from differing perspectives what simple church proponents believe and stand for. Originally the title was to have been "What We're For"--a good description of what the reader will find in the 286 pages of this book.

What I personally like about this compilation is its contrast with many other writings out there which tend to place an emphasis on "what's wrong with today's church." Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is a positive attempt to share with fellow believers what simple church is all about.

So, what is simple church? A simple question that doesn't have a simple answer--hence the book! Each of the 24 writers shares from his/her perspective a single aspect of what it means to be the church.

For example, in my own assigned Chapter 17, "A Church That Gives Liberally and Generously," I start out by exploring the difference between 'storehouse tithing' and Kingdom giving:
When Malachi 3:10 “storehouse tithing” ceases to be the standard for how much and where we give, many believers are left wondering: 
• To whom then should I give?
• How much should I give?
• When is the right time to give? 
In New Testament simple churches, giving is based upon Jesus’ teaching on the subject:
Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8). 
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Luke 6:38).
What implications do Jesus' words and teaching on this subject have for believers and the church today? How is money to be handled in the church as exemplified in the Gospels and Epistles? My chapter seeks to answer these and similar questions.

While I have been thoroughly blessed by all the contributing writers, some of my favorite chapters in the book are those which explore the following topics:

  • A CHURCH THAT TAKES THE GOSPEL TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH by Miguel Labrador (a fellow co-laborer in Ecuador)

There is so much great material here and to single out a few chapters is only to whet your appetite for some encouraging, but challenging reading.

Far too often discussions about the church descend into arguments about theology, practices, doctrines, traditions, and methods. None of the writers in this book desire to be a part of that kind of dialogue. Rather, each attempts to shed light and provide answers for a growing number of believers who sense that something is missing in the way we 'do church.'  Why aren't we experiencing more today what is seen in the Gospels and Book of Acts?

If you would like to know more about simple church and are willing to have your thinking stretched a bit about the church, I hope you will read Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity and let us know what you think about the book in the comments section below.