What are you Worshipping? August 7, 2013
Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious. Acts 17:22
In Acts 17, Paul comes to Athens and verse 16 says that “his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” Do you think that what Paul found in Athens might be comparable to what we find all around us today? When Paul got the opportunity to address the people, he said, “I perceive that in every way you are very religious.” Unfortunately, being religious is not a compliment. An old preacher once said, “When I came to Christ, I lost my religion.” I believe there are a lot of folks in our communities (and in our churches) who need to lose their religion so they can find Christ. People aren’t too bad to be saved; they are too good to be saved. We must all understand that we are but wretched sinners who are lost without Christ. We are all going to stand before a holy and righteous God to give an account one day. Christ is the only hope for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We must courageously confront our culture with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Not only is our land oftentoo “religious”, I believe our churches have become too worldly. Did you realize that we are all “worshippers”? The word worship means to give honor, to be reverently devoted, and to give allegiance to something. We all worship something(s). Some people worship their bank account, some worship their bodies, some worship their athletic accomplishments, some worship their hobbies or careers, some worship their landscaping, some worship their vehicles, some worship their political affiliation, some worship their music, some worship their status, some worship their relationships, some worship the organizations to which they are connected, some worship their recreation, some worship their family name …, and some people worship God.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. “I worship God first and then I enjoy some of those other things you just mentioned.” Of all those things I just mentioned, there is nothing wrong with any of them (in and of themselves). BUT, I suspect that God gets tired of playing second or third or fourth fiddle to everything under the sun. For some reason, everything seems to triumph over God when it comes to worshipping Him. I just think about some of the things I hear so often… “I had a baseball/soccer tournament, I needed to work, we had a family reunion, I had to feed the cows, the Wildcats were playing, Nascar was on, football practice, band competition, golfing, turkey hunting, fishing, weekend camping trips, and on and on and on and on.”
Well, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This it the first and greatest commandment.” The truth is, if you love God with all your heart, He probably wouldn’t be so low on your totem pole. Think about the first seven months of 2013, what have you put before God. What are you worshipping???
Are we going to impact this community for the glory of God OR are we going to worship ourselves to death?
20/20 Strategy July 31, 2013
The Mission Team at LBC has been working on a seven year (2013-2020) Missions/Evangelism Strategy based on Acts 1:8. Acts 1:8 encourages us to be the Lord’s witness locally, nationally, internationally, and to the ends of the earth. As such, we have identified 7 local strategies (Garrard County), 6 national strategies (Kentucky and US), 3 international objective, and will be working on a plan for engaging an unreached people group.
We will try to communicate more about our 20/20 vision in the weeks to come and share some of the many ways that you can be involved. Locally, we want to continue our REACH efforts each week, plan a monthly outreach event, and periodically attempt special outreaches in our community. We want our church to adopt TeamKID families, do mission projects in our community, complete a community assessment to see what bridges we can build in our community. We are also working with some other Baptist churches in regards to planting a multi-ethnic (Hispanic) church in Garrard County.
Nationally, we plan to continue our mission trips to Eastern Kentucky (GAP), Pontiac Michigan (Grace Centers of Hope), evaluate future mission opportunities in the US, and continue to pray for the city of New Orleans. We are trying to determine ways we can support Chris Dalton as he is planting a church in Charleston, West Virginia. Finally, we are determining how to best support “Send North America” with the desire to be involved in church planting in the next five to seven years.
Internationally, we plan to continue mission trips to Haiti. We will be working on a future trip back to Belize and a rolling three year mission trip schedule to help us plan mission trips further in advance.
Additionally, we want to be a church that is going to the ends of the earth. We are beginning to explore what we can do to engage an unreached people group. We will be developing a 7 year plan that will include a prayer focus, determination of location, exploratory efforts, engagement plan, actual engagement of people and ongoing support.
Again, there will be lots of opportunities for you to get involved (go, pray, give, plan, etc.) in the next seven years. Please know that we value your input and participation as we seek to fulfill the great commission and be witnesses around the world.
Investing July 17, 2013
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matt. 6:19-20
As we finished up a great week of VBS, I got to thinking about how God might use a week of teaching children about the truth of His word and putting on the whole armor of God. I was able to hear several VBS lessons last week and was reminded that God has given us an arsenal of spiritual weapons to stand strong in the battle for truth. Truth is definitely under attack and the lessons during VBS were especially valuable for the younger generation.
I was thinking about how we invest our time and our money here on earth. I was humbled and thankful to see so many volunteers come out last week and help with VBS. I have been blessed to see the church’s heart for the people in Eastern Kentucky, Haiti, and in our local communities. I thank God for helping us to see the needs that are all around us. I hope that we are investing in a way that brings many into the kingdom and much glory to our great God.
Sunday night I had the privilege of preaching from Matt. 6:19-24 and talking about investments that last. We talked about evaluating our investments in light of 3 test: the Longevity Test (are our investments of an eternal nature or are they only temporary), the Light Test (do our investments allow the light of Christ to show forth through them), and the Lordship Test (do our investments affirm that Jesus is Lord). Personally, I want to put more energy into laying up treasures in heaven.
This week, we have 43 people serving in Pontiac Michigan. They are going to be surrounded by people who have battled drug addictions, alcohol addictions, prostitution, pornography, and everything else you could imagine. Many of them have found victory through Jesus Christ. Many of them recognize that God came to their rescue. They so appreciate the grace extended to them via the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Let us be warned, folks often come back from Pontiac with a renewed since of gratitude for God’s amazing grace. They see how thankful those folks are for their salvation and God’s rescue of their destitute lives and they often recognize how unthankful most of us are. Many of us were raised in Christian homes (praise the Lord) and aren’t really amazed that God would save us. We regularly need to be reminded that we were just as lost as the worst sinner in the world. God opened our eyes to our great need for a Savior and gave us a new life in Christ..
May we be thankful afresh for our great salvation and let’s invest our time and treasurers in making sure everybody around us know the good news of the Gospel. Who do you need to share this good news with this week???
Things Churches Love That KILL Outreach July 10, 2013
We are having an excited week at VBS. It is such a blessing to see so many people put forth so much effort in reaching children with the truths of Scripture and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us pray that many seeds of the Gospel will be sown and harvested this week!
We’ve been talking about ways to increase our Sunday School participation. In a recent Outreach Magazine article, Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, shared three things churches love that kill outreach. I encourage you to check out the article: 3 Things Churches Love That KILL Outreach.
Allow me to share his three points but apply them to Sunday School:
Too many churches love past culture more than their current context. I have heard so many Sunday School teachers and leaders talk about their past with fondness and animosity toward their present. This extends to people in their community, ways of life, the need of people for Jesus. Thom Rainer has shared research that states that 62% of the unchurched responded that they are at least somewhat likely to come if invited. That is still a ton of people who need an invitation, many of whom will come. Stop saying no for people. Invite them. Love your community. Love them to Sunday School. Love them to church. Love them to Jesus. Be proactive. Rename your adult and youth class outreach leaders to Community Care Coordinators. The point is enlist leaders to love on and invite the unreached community.
Too many churches love their comfort more than their mission. I have literally been told by teachers that they don't want any additional people in their classes. They were comfortable as they were. They have forgotten that someone cared enough to reach out to them. They have forgotten what our Lord did for them (paid their unpayable sin penalty). They are neglecting the command of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) to make disciples of all nations. Instead, these leaders and classes prefer to focus on selves rather than other. Some would rather hold onto their members than send new leaders out for new classes to reach new people that will never come to their classes. Some invest time and money on chair cushions and fellowship rather than reaching out in care. They neglect to schedule for the class to carry out the mission. They neglect to enlist leaders whose focus is to help the class pray, care, and invite.
Too many churches love their traditions more than their children. Ouch! That one is painful. What if our traditions were preventing us from reaching our children and grandchildren? Would you be willing to sacrifice a sacred cow? What if it was the time for youth and young adult Sunday School? What if it were the type of Bible study experience or materials? What if it had to do with how the class time was structured? What if it meant moving away from an expert teaching a lesson toward a facilitator leading a life-changing encounter with God in His Word? What if it meant giving up your classroom for a class for your children or grandchildren? Traditions can be good, but they are problems when they prevent us from carrying out the Great Commission most effectively. Sometimes the enemy of the great is something that is good (or used to be good).
Vacation Bible School June 26, 2013
Are you getting excited about Vacation Bible School? VBS is the church’s biggest outreach to children each year and often the time when many children come to faith in Christ. This year our theme is Kingdom Chronicles: Standing Strong in the Battle for Truth. While our children regularly hear such things as, “Truth is relative. There are no absolutes. Truth is what you make it,” the Bible plainly teaches that God is truth and always tells the truth in His Word.
There is definitely a real battle for truth. We need to help our children stand strong in this battle by equipping them with the armor of God. At The Kingdom Chronicles, they’ll learn to put on the pieces of God’s armor that Paul writes about in Ephesians 6: belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and covering everything with prayer. We want them to become mighty warriors for our Lord.
Most importantly, we want to encourage kids to trust the absolute truth of God’s Word so they will come to see their need to be saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Let us be praying for God to save several children during our VBS this year. The battle for truth begins on Sunday evening, July 7th and runs through Thursday evening, July 12th (6:00—8:30). We will have commencement on Friday evening at 6:00 PM. I am looking forward to our best VBS ever. We will be doing a things a little different (like beginning with a meal at 6:00 for all the kids and having the lesson in one room and allowing the children to rotate for lesson time). I hope you are making plans to participate in some way. Please be praying for lots of children, workers, and God to bless our efforts and teaching truth to our children.
SBC Convention Review June 16, 2013
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Texas. The theme of the convention was Revival Us: That We May Be One. The SBC President, Fred Luter, put lots of emphasis upon the need for unity in our denomination. Some of the statics reported for Southern Baptist churches was alarming. SBC membership declined by more than 100,000 last year (down .7 percent) and primary worship attendance declined by 3.1 percent to 5.97 million Sunday worshippers. Baptisms decreased by 5.5 percent over the previous year with the lowest reported number on record since 1948. Sadly, we are reaching less and less in our Southern Baptist churches in North America.
The reports were not all bad. God is on the move around the world. The International Mission Board reported 28K new churches and over 333K baptisms. Plus, over 442K new believers who heard a Gospel witness. The church is growing rapidly in China and other hostile parts of the world. While the statistics for North America seem bleak, the North American Mission Board is putting a tremendous amount of effort into encouraging church planting in major cities around America and Canada (Send North America is the emphasis). Lots of churches are getting involved in church planting in these areas of great lostness.
I must say that I came home encouraged at some of the things going on at LBC. Our mission team came back from doing mission work in Eastern Kentucky with a zeal to reach out more to our community. Monday night the choir went to Cardinal Circle and invited them to join them on Wednesday evening as they plan on going there to play wiffle ball and give out popsicles. Friday evening we will give out cookies on the square and Saturday will be having a block party in Village Square Apartments where we will share Bible stories, crafts, food, and other fun activities. Tuesday we will be going to feed the fair workers and share some encouragement from the Scriptures. All the while, we have several working on getting ready for VBS and a mission trip to Pontiac in July. I don’t even know exact details of these various activities but I know the church is being salt and light in the community and that is what is important.
We can bemoan the moral decline in our nation or we can shine the light of Christ. I prefer the later. Over the next few months I’d like for us to come up with a 20/20 Missions/Evangelism Strategy that will provide us with a roadmap for 1) reaching out to our community (REACH, special outreach events, community assessments, local ministry projects, and a plan for reaching multi-ethic people in Garrard County), 2) reaching out to our nation (mission trips, prayer emphasis, and how we can support Send North America and church planting efforts in North America), and 3) reaching to the ends of the earth (mission trips and engaging an unreached people group).
I think it was Zig Ziglar that said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” I hope that the Lord returns for 2020, but if He tarries, let us be found faithful to fulfilling His Great Commission. LBC, we’ve got lots of work to do. Let’s ask God for guidance and let’s get with it. May God bless our efforts!
Year End Review May 29, 2013
This Sunday will be my 1 year anniversary as serving as your Pastor. I have enjoyed one of the greatest years in my life. It has been a joy and privilege to serve the Lord at LBC. I am thankful the Lord led me to LBC and I feel like I am right where He wants me (that is a great feeling). I wanted to do a little reflection on the past year.
I began with 5 personal priorities: 1) Prayer, 2) Preaching, 3) People, 4) Patience, and 5) Passion. Going forward, I want to lead LBC to be a praying people who live in deep dependence upon God. I have had the opportunity to meet lots of people this year and build some encouraging relationships. I hope I will get to know many more LBC folks on a much deeper level in the years to come. I have tried hard to be patient in following the Lord and moving people along in a way that honors Christ. I pray that the Lord will continue my passion (and yours) to have a greater impact on our community for the sake of Christ.
We sometimes talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. I have seen so many good things going on at LBC this year. We saw 26 people come to profess Jesus Christ and be baptized in the past year. We just finished a great year in TeamKIDS (what a blessing and privilege to see so many children come out each Wednesday evening). We had an awesome Upward basketball and cheerleading season. (The leaders of Upward are so faithful in organizing and leading that ministry.) We had mission trips to Eastern Kentucky and Haiti. We gave nearly $14,000 to our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (goal was $10,000) and collected over 4,000 cans. We had an outstanding D-Now weekend with over 200 students We called Bro Stephen to full-time ministry starting this June. That should help us greatly as we try to impact students for Christ. We ministered to several families through benevolence meals after the loss of some dearly loved saints of LBC. We had lots of participants on Monday evening REACH. We tried to minister more to our widows and shut-ins this year. I don’t have space to mention the Ladies Conference, Men’s projects (home repairs, Wild Game dinner, skeet shoot, marriage retreat…). God has been so good and faithful towards us!!!
I don’t think I noticed too many bad things this past year. We didn’t see any growth in Sunday School and that needs to be an area of emphasis this coming year. I’d love to for us to have 75% of our Sunday morning worship attendees in Sunday School. I think we need to work on getting more LBC members to participate in ministry. There is a large percentage of members whom I only see on Sunday morning and who are not involved in the life and ministry of the church. I’d also like to see more men involved in ministry. And, we can definitely improve in the area of discipleship.
The ugliest thing I’ve seen would probably be our budget. We have lots of ideas and opportunities to have a greater impact on our community (and the world) but it takes some funds to be able to accomplish many of these endeavors.
I don’t really understanding the giving at LBC this year. I know our 2013 budget was 10% more than 2012 but our attendance is up. I know I have been giving. I know the church hasn’t had a capital campaign or taken pledges for several years. I haven’t felt led to preach on giving this year. The church voted to build a FLC several years ago, voted to call me to be your pastor, voted to approve the 2013 budget, voted to call Bro Stephen full-time. All of these decisions have some financial ramifications. We know God is blessing in many areas so I want to encourage your faithful giving. Maybe you could add 1% more for the remainder of 2013 so we can catch up and not have to limit any of the ministries of the church.
All in all, the good far outweighs the bad and the ugly. I’m excited about starting year 2 and seeing what the Lord has in store for LBC. I hope and pray that you will be an integral part of what God wants to accomplish in and through our church. If you would like to play a more active role this year, let me know. I’d love to talk to you about how God is working in your life and where we have some needs in our church.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Pastor. I so appreciate all the prayers and encouragement you have offered me and my family this past year. May God bless us and grow us as we strive to be a community of grace that is growing and going.
Rejoice and Weep May 22, 2013
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
It seems like life often brings with it a series of roller coasters. This week we rejoice with our graduates as they receive the diploma for which they have worked for all these years. Parents and grandparents gather to celebrate this accomplishment. They prepare to begin a new chapter of their lives and look forward to a bright future.
This week we also mourn with those in Oklahoma that were devastated by the tornado on Monday. We can’t imagine the loss that community is facing with the loss of so many children. The loss of property is often devastating but the loss of such young lives is unimaginable.
Once again we are reminded of the frailty of life. James was right when he said that life is but a vapor, here for a little while and then it vanishes away. Life is precious and it is so important that we do not waste our lives. It is important that we live with no regrets, reconcile our broken relationships, tell people we love them, and consider the eternal destiny of those we love.
I saw Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin interviewed several times this week and every time she has asked for prayers for Oklahoma and their recovery. We will have opportunities to reach out to Oklahoma with acts of care, compassion, and giving. But right now we can certainly pray for the hurt that is being experienced by so many in Moore, Oklahoma. Let us pray for comfort, healing, hope, and that God will pour out His grace in extraordinary ways. Let us thank also thank the Lord for so many brave people who did their best to save lives as the tornado was raging all around them.
So, we rejoice with our graduates while we mourn with moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, classmates, teachers, rescue workers, and countless friends and neighbors in Oklahoma. And, we pray. We pray without ceasing for those who are grieving and those who are graduating. Let us recommit ourselves to praying for the needs that are all around us. We are never helpless because we have this awesome privilege of petitioning our omnipotent creator to move in the midst of such tragedy. And, part of our prayer should be, “Even so, Lord come quickly.”
IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ May 15, 2013
Does God ever open your eyes to something that has been right in front of you for a long time??? In years past, I have done baby dedications where babies and parents lined all the way across the front of the church. That was exciting!!! This past Sunday, I noticed that we only had two babies (Ava and Audrey May) born in 2012 and it looks like we will end 2013 with only two more. Now, I’m not big on numbers but I think God sometimes uses numbers to help get our attention. I have noticed that we have a big nursery but there is only one baby in the nursery during Sunday School each week. We only average about four children in our 2-3 year old class. (That means that we only have five children from birth to three for Sunday school each week.)
Maybe we have looked at TeamKIDS, VBS, and Upward and thought “man we are reaching a lot of kids” without realizing that we aren’t reaching many young parents or young adults. We only average 4-5 students in our College & Career Sunday School class and we really don’t have any young couples attending our Couples class. Now that the Lord has opened my eyes to this, “What can we do???” We can pray for that age group and we can roll up our sleeves and try to reach them.
Think about it. We spend thousands of dollars in our children and student ministries to help reach students and give them a solid foundation in the word of God. Then they graduate (and we recognize and celebrate their graduation) and maybe the only connection they have with the church after they go off to college or the workforce is an hour or so on Sunday mornings. Research says that between 50 and 80 percent of students in youth groups fail to stay connected with their church (or connect with another church family) after they graduate.
While I don’t have many answers to this problem, I want to say to our 20 and 30 year olds, “We want you. We need you. Seriously.” I want to sound the alarm! The building is on fire (if you will)! I’ve been standing around watching people burn instead of trying to put out the fire or rescue some. All of us need to pull up our sleeves and fight for this generation. Will you help???
If you are in that generation (born between 1975-1994), it’s time for you to fight for your generation and that of your children. God can use you to make a difference. You can help us take the church into this new millennium. You can help us in this social networking age. You can help us teach the truth about marriage, about parenting, about reaching our community for Christ, about caring for orphans and widows, and even leading our land back to God. It’s time to stop making excuses and help us come up with some solutions. It’s time to join the fight for your generation and be reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:12), "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."
Teacher Appreciation May 8, 2013
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. We have many godly teachers in our church. We have some men and women who have given their lives to teaching our children in school. Teachers are a role model for their students. We often forget that our children spend the majority of their day under the influence of their teachers. Teachers have the opportunity to show forth the love of Christ to their students. Someone has said, “A good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself to light the way for others.”
I doubt it has ever been more challenging to be a teacher than it is today. The expectations on teachers are higher. The demands on teachers are higher. Plus, our teachers are expected to deal with all the issues our students bring with them to school every day. So, let us be reminded to be thankful for our teachers and remember to pray for and encourage our teachers.
Thank you for Teachers! Thank you for giving them the privilege of impacting the lives of their students each day. I know their work is challenging. I know their frustrations are many. I know the expectations placed upon them can be overwhelming and their impact is rarely acknowledged or appreciated. I know they take lots of concern for their students home with them each day.
As they come to the end of another school year, I pray you will multiply your mercy and grace toward them. I pray for their endurance in this high calling. I pray that you might grant them peace, mercy, grace, compassion, gentleness, self-control, kindness, and much love toward their students. May they be a witness to the love of Christ to their students. I pray that in their teachings they will show integrity, dignity, and sound speech so that no one will have anything evil to speak about them. Renew their strength, encourage their hearts, and pour out your special blessings upon our teachers. We thank you again for them and pray that you will be glorified through them. In Jesus name we pray, Amen!
Our All-Sufficient God May 1, 2013
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
For much of my life I was very frugal (some would refer to that as a “tightwad”). To be honest, I loved money. I worked hard as a teenager in tobacco and hay to make money. I was able to write a check for my first car. I got a good job after college and enjoyed saving money. In 1998 I left a job I really liked to take a job that paid significantly more. I wasn’t long into that job that God really taught me some lessons about money. In particular, He taught me that money will not satisfy and does not make you happy. While I can remember many long hours and tough days at work , through it all, I am thankful to God for teaching me about the vanity of money.
I’ve told lots of people that I thought God had to take away my love for money before I was fit for ministry. Maybe you have heard, “God is not after your money, He is after your heart. But He doesn’t have your heart until He has your money.” I have found that to be very true in my life and I have witnessed it in the lives of others.
Several years ago, Mildred Drake (WDFB) gave me a cassette tape with a sermon from 2 Corinthians 9:8 (quoted above). That message has had a long-term effect upon my life. It seems like everybody is always asking for something and often you have to prioritize where and what you are going to give to support. This verse reminded me that God’s arms are not short and He is able to make all grace about toward us. I think grace, in this verse, speaks of blessings (including finances) that God is able to provide us with in order that we can meet the needs of others. I realize often that I have been blessed by God and He expects me to be a blessing to others who have needs.
In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul asked the question, “What do you have that you did not receive?” We know the answer is nothing. God has graciously given us everything we have. We are to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to our care. I think that applies to us as individuals and corporately as the body of Christ.
As a church, our 2013 budget was raised considerably over our 2012 budget because we have lots of ministries and missions we want to be able to do. Our various missions budgets (local and national) were raised and we added a full-time position to help us minister to the many needs of the church. While our attendance has steadily increased, our overall giving has been pretty flat (even a little less than last year). With that said, maybe we can all evaluate our giving and make sure we are being good stewards of what God has entrusted to our care. Maybe we can consider giving a little more as God has blessed us so bountifully.
What I have found out is the more I give the more He provides in order to meet all the needs that He puts on my heart. I have found 2 Corinthians 9:8 to be so true over and over again. I’m sure God will bless our sacrificial giving to the work He wants to accomplish in and through Lancaster Baptist. Please prayerfully consider your giving to this work. God bless you and your faithful giving! Bro Harold
Characteristics of a Christian Friend April 24, 2013
Yesterday I did the funeral for my best friend. David was 49 years young. He was my hunting buddy, prayer partner, repairman, UK sports companion, and Christian brother. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” I was blessed to have a friend like David who really did stick closer than a brother. David’s passing has prompted me to think a little more about friendships and what makes a good friend.
Do you want to be a Christian friend? Here are some characteristics:
- You must be caring and considerate. David had lots of medical issues but when I went back and looked at all the texts that he had sent he was always asking, “How you doing?” Friends check on each other because they genuinely care. Friends care enough to be inconvenienced. I don’t know how many times David stopped what he was doing to help me.
- You must be candid and constructive. Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted…” A real friend will level with you. A true friend will shoot straight with you. It might hurt but is so helpful when the motive is love. Someone has said, “If you are aware, and you care, you will share.” An old Jewish Proverb says “A friend is one who warns you.” Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Christian friends ought to bring out the best in each other, lift up one another, and encourage each other to be the best they can be.
- You must be committed and consistent. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” A true friend is in your corner when you are cornered. A real friend walks in when everybody else is walking out. I stayed at David’s visitation and funeral until the lights were turned out because that is what David would have done for me and my family.
I’m thankful that my friend David was also my brother in Christ. I’m thankful that I’ll see him again one day. I’m thankful that Jesus defeated death. I’m blessed in knowing the David is with Jesus now. I look forward in joining him one day in worshipping our Lord together (again). Thank God for Christian friends!!!
Sunday School April 17, 2013
I’ve been praying and thinking more about Sunday School this week. I think that it is worth my time to continue to encourage all members to get connected to a Sunday School class. I think it will help you grow spiritually, minister more effectively, and have some regular accountability and encouragement in your life.
I started teaching Sunday School class when I was around 17 at New Harmony Baptist Church in Mackville Kentucky. I think there were 3-5 in my class. When I got married, Bro Barry asked me to consider teaching the college and career class at Immanuel Baptist. I grew more spiritually in those years than ever before. I loved teaching and I loved my class. However, I must admit a few things about teaching.
Teaching is hard. Sometimes I would prepare all week and no one would show up (except my wife). Sometimes I would ask questions and no one would answer. Sometimes I would contact members, and no one seemed to care. Sometimes we would schedule class outings and few would attend. Sometimes I would have extremely busy weeks at work and it was difficult to find time to adequately study my lesson. Remember, teachers have their own issues going on in life (newborns, late hours, school work, troubled teenagers, aging parents, bills, …).
I’m going to be meeting with our Sunday School teachers on Sunday night to pray and talk about how to grow our Sunday School. However, I’d like to remind us all that our Sunday School Teachers have some needs.
First, they need you to love them. They need you to pray for them. It would be nice for you to stay around a minute after class and let them know how great a job they did. They need you to notice when few show up and try to be an encouragement to them (and help call those who were absent). You are welcome to celebrate with them when the room is full, a new couple is added, or somebody in the class trusts in the Lord.
It would be nice for you to send them a note of appreciation. It would be nice if you remembered their birthday. They would be encouraged if you came to class having studied your lesson and ready to offer some input. They might appreciate it if you invited the class to your house for a cookout. What if you asked your teacher what you could do to aid him/her in your class?
Please take a few minutes and pray for your Sunday School teacher. Perhaps God has put you in that particular class to provide much needed encouragement to your teacher. What will you do this week to provide some encouragement to him/her??? Bro Harold
Making Disciples April 10, 2013
This week I’ve tried to take a little time to think about Jesus’ instruction in Matt. 28:19 regarding “making disciples.” I think small group studies (like Sunday School) are helpful in making disciples. I came across a bulletin from March 29, 2009 and noticed that LBC had 305 in Sunday School (389 in worship) on that Sunday. That is over 78% in Sunday School. I looked at our Sunday School numbers for the first 3 months of 2013 and we averaged 188 in Sunday School (338 in worship) which is only about 56%. While we may never get everybody into Sunday School, let shoot for 75%. If you are not currently in a SS class, will you consider trying some SS classes? I’m certain it will be a blessing and will boost your spiritual growth.
In Seminary I was blessed to have some classes with Dr. Chuck Lawless. He has written much on the importance of discipleship and mentoring. I’d like to share some information Dr. Lawless recently provided in an article about mentoring. He pointed out that Jesus produced disciples by investing first in a group of twelve men, and then more pointedly in a group of three. He called them to be with Him, taught them, empowered them, prayed before them, sent them out, challenged them, called them to account, and even fixed a meal for them. They in turn became leaders of the early church. The Apostle Paul mentored Timothy.
Why should we make disciples through mentoring?
The approach is biblical. If Jesus and Paul made disciples through this means, how can we
not follow that pattern? Older men and women teaching the younger generation is not
optional for the church (Titus 2:1-8). A commitment to the Word requires a commitment to
Christian teaching lived out reinforces the truth of the Word. The mentee who watches his
mentor do personal evangelism is more likely to catch that fire. A mentor with a godly
marriage gives his disciple the invaluable gift of Christian living modeled in the home.
Faith exhibited during times of crisis becomes a challenging example for the disciple to
emulate. Simply stated, it is in the classroom of life that we best see the Word in action.
Mentoring discipleship requires the mentor to guard his life against the Enemy’s attacks.
Committed disciple-makers wear a bull’s eye on their back for Satan. He knows that if he
can seriously wound the mentor, the disciples bear the scars of that fall. Knowing that their
actions affect a second generation of believers, good disciplemaking mentors stand strong
against the enemy.
A strong disciple-making relationship provides a safe place to deal with failure.
Confession is good, for it brings our sin out of the Enemy’s darkness into the light—where
we can deal with the wrong through repentance and forgiveness. Most believers, however,
have no one to hold them accountable to Christian living. A disciplemaking mentor models
holiness, calls his disciples to the same, and holds them accountable to that standard.
Should they fail, he offers forgiveness and encourages them to return to the fight.
This kind of disciple-making is, of course, costly—and often risky. Finding the time to invest in others usually means deleting something else from the calendar. Your own sin becomes magnified when others are watching. The costs of study resources, shared meals, and occasional travel expenses quickly add up. Yes, there is an investment BUT you might have the privilege of watching someone grow far beyond you and be used by God in ways you had never dreamed.
IS LBC GUEST—FRIENDLY??? April 3, 2013
When I go on vacation I almost always try to visit a church. I am often reminded of how awkward (sometimes difficult) it is to go to a church as an outsider. I don’t want that to be the case when somebody visits Lancaster Baptist.
However, I have noticed that some of our guests do not get overly welcomed. I’d like for us to get out of our comfort zones and make sure we welcome people we don’t know. Just getting into our sanctuary can be a little bit of challenge so we need to do everything we can to help people find their way around and find friendly people once they get inside.
I recently ran across and article by Thom Rainer (President of Lifeway) called “Ten Commandments for Guest-Friendly Church Members.” I hope maybe it will help us be more guest-friendly.
1. Thou shalt pray for people in the services whom you don’t recognize. They are likely guests who feel uncomfortable and uncertain.
2. Thou shalt smile. You only have to do so for about an hour. Guests feel welcome when they see smiling people. You can resume your somber expressions when you get home.
3. Thou shalt not sit on the ends of the rows. Move to the middle so guests don’t have to walk over you. You’ll survive in your new precarious position.
4. Thou shalt not fill up the back rows first. Move to the front so guests don’t have to walk in front of everyone if they get there late.
5. Thou shalt have ushers to help seat the guests. Ushers should have clearly-marked badges or shirts so that the guests know who can help them.
6. Thou shalt offer assistance to guests. If someone looks like they don’t know where to go, then they probably don’t know where to go. Get out of your comfort zone and ask them if you can help.
7. Thou shalt not gather too long in your holy huddles. Sure, it’s okay to talk to fellow members; but don’t stay there so long that you are not speaking to guests.
8. Thou shalt offer your seats to guests. I know that this move is a great sacrifice, but that family of four can’t fit in the three vacant seats next to you. Give it a try. You might actually feel good about your efforts.
9. Thou shalt not save seats. I know you want to have room for all of your friends and family, but do you know how a guest feels when he or she sees the vacant seats next to you occupied by three hymnals, one Bible, two coats, and an umbrella? You might as well put a “Do Not Trespass” sign on the seats.
10. Thou shalt greet someone you don’t know. Yes, it’s risky. They may actually be members you don’t know. And you may get caught in a 45-second conversation. You’ll be okay; I promise.
Let’s see if we can take some of these suggestions and make some improvements in the way we welcome people to LBC!
PRAYING for a HARVEST March 20, 2013
Let us be reminded of some not so pleasant EASTER is just a little over a week away. We have printed over 1,000 Easter invitations for our church members to distribute between now and Easter. I hope everybody will take the time to invite two or three people to join them this Easter. We will have a 8:00 & 10:00 AM service with Sunday school and some breakfast items be served in the middle. What a great time to invite somebody to join you!!!
statistics. “Only 21 percent of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a given year. But only 2 percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church.” Again, I sure hope those statistics are not representative of Lancaster Baptist Church.
When asked, “eight out of ten unchurched persons said they would come to church if they were invited.” Now most people (about 96%) who come to church and get saved are invited by a Friend, Relative, Associate, or Neighbor (FRAN). We have room for nearly 1,000 people on Easter Sunday morning (counting both services). I know there are unchurched people all around us who need to hear the good news that Christ was raised from the dead and offers salvation to sinners.
Back in January, I challenged each of us to seek to lead one person to Christ in 2013. We still have over 40 weeks left in 2013. Let me refresh this challenge by asking you to consider 3 things: 1) pray daily for a lost friend/family member this year; 2) invite one person/family in your neighborhood to breakfast, lunch or dinner with you (or over to your house for a meal) this year and share your testimony with them; 3) invite one unchurched person/family to join you for a service at LBC this year (maybe Easter would be the best opportunity).
What would happen if we all took this challenge? If you are up to the challenge, will you let me know. I’ll be thrilled to hear from you. If you have somebody you’d like me to join you in praying for please let me know (it would be my privilege). May God bless our faithfulness and allow us to see a harvest of souls!
Thankful for Revival… March 13, 2013
I am very thankful for the time of revival we have had this week. Sunday morning we were reminded of those 3 BIG, wonderfully amazing words: justified, redemption, and propitiation. All are available as a gift of our great God. Sunday evening we were challenged to return to the Word of God. May we be a Word (Bible) centered body of believers who cherish the Words of God.
Monday night we were warned to flee from the idols that have taken our affections away from God. So many things try to pull us away from God. Some of the things we pursue are good things but a good thing can become a bad thing if it becomes the main thing. We must be alert to the idols of our heart.
Tuesday night Bro Zach highlighted the glory that God has prepared for us in Heaven. Not only is it going to be an amazing place, but most importantly, Jesus will be there and we will be forever with Him. Wednesday evening Bro Zach will be speaking on the horrors of hell. We want all people to know about the love and sacrifice of our Lord that makes salvation possible for all who will repent and believe. We want people to be saved from their sins and go to heaven.
So, God blessed by a great week of revival. I appreciate the way you welcomed and encouraged Bro. Zach and his family. The attendance was terrific and it really seemed that God removed many distractions so that we could clearly hear His word proclaimed. I’m excited about how God will use this time in the life of Lancaster Baptist Church. I hope you are going to be an active participant in the ministry that God wants to accomplish in and through LBC!
Now that revival services are over (hopefully revival isn’t over) we can turn our attention towards Easter and be reminded once again of our Lord’s great love for us. A love that would lead Him sacrificially to the cross to die in our place. I hope that we are so in love with Jesus that we can’t help but speak of His goodness to everybody we meet.
The next couple of weeks we want to be intentional about inviting our community to join us on Easter. We have several hundred invitations printed up and will be asking you to help us send them out to your friends, relatives, associates and neighbors. The good news of the cross and Christ’s resurrection is too good not to share it. May God help us reach Garrard County for the sake of His great Name.
Thoughts about Revival… March 6, 2013
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas
for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. Daniel 9:3
We all have a need for personal revival. Sure other people need a fresh touch from God but we must first deal with our great need. Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 9:4-19) is good prayer to consider. Daniel confesses personal sin, acknowledges rebellion against God and the shame it has brought, and He appeals to God’s steadfast love, mercy and forgiveness.
In Daniel 9:17-19, Daniel appeals to the mercy of God and request that God would “make Your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ears and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by Your name. For we do not present our please before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” Let us pray for our own souls first. May revival start with me!
We also need revival for our whole community of faith. Prayer for a great awakening should be the plea every time the church gathers. "Prayer for revival must also become a major part of the prayer life of the local church. It ought to find its way into the public services of worship. It ought to dominate the prayer meetings of the congregation . . . . A mighty concert of prayer is needed" (Roberts, Revival, p. 147).
Below are some good passages to pray for revival.
"Revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved” (Ps. 80:18-19).
"Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" (Ps. 85:6).
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7).
"Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence" (Isa. 64: 1).
Remember, revival preparation is not based on some formula. If and when revival comes, it will be the gracious work of Him "who works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11). However, we must never be slack in our duties to strive for revival in the biblical sense--both in our own lives and in the church at large. Our preparation involves looking up, praying, working for that for which you are praying, and much persistence. With a zeal for His glory and a desire to advance the gospel and His kingdom, let us do all we can to prepare ourselves. Let’s get started now!
Noticing the Culture Shift? February 27, 2013
As a church and a denomination, we will take next week to pray for North American Missions. We need to pray for the lostness in North American. We also need to pray for boldness among Christians as we notice the increased moral shift in our culture. Last week there was much controversy created when Tim Tebow decided to cancel his speaking engagement at First Baptist Church of Dallas (they are celebrating a 130 million dollar expansion and renovation of their downtown church).
Tebow wrote, “While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance… I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!”
Now, I’m a big Tebow fan and he must be applauded for the Christian role model he has become. He has unashamed stood for Christ, stood for life, and even stood for abstinence before marriage. He has used his platform for much good and to tell people about the love of Christ. At the end of the day, Tim Tebow is not a theologian or public relations expert, he is just a young man who is trying to play football and stand strong for His Lord. While I wished he hadn’t canceled going to FBC Dallas, I think Christians (especially Christian leaders who have been so critical) should show him a little grace.
With all that said, I also want to say that Dr. Jeffress is not a radical preacher and First Baptist Church of Dallas is not a radical church. They simply believe the Bible. They believe the same things we believe. We are not anti-gays just because we believe that sex is to be between a man and woman within the bond of marriage. We should be able to honor Biblical marriage without being considered radical. We are not anti-Semitic (or anti-Mormons,…) just because we believe that you must trust in Christ in order to go to heaven. Conservative Christians have held these beliefs for two thousand years. What we are seeing is a major culture shift. As Christians, and as a church, we must be careful not to bow the knee to public opinion. God’s Word is truth. We must stand on God’s Word without compromise.
Yes, it is becoming harder to stand for Christ and Christian values in America. We must pray for God to send revival. People need the Lord and the Gospel is the only hope. We must also pray for boldness to speak truth (in love). May we, as a church, recommit ourselves to believing and proclaiming the Bible without comprise or apology. God help us!