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Archive for June, 2011

Since coming back from our mission work in Mexico I’ve been thinking a lot about just how much my life is making a difference. Am I making a difference for the kingdom of Christ? As I’ve thought about it, I’ve been working through “discipleship” with the men’s group…Iron Men. As I’ve been thinking and studying, I’ve become convinced that what we do for people is all that really matters in this life. Jesus cared about people. He came to seek and save that which is lost. He discipled people. He poured His life into 12 men and even narrowed it down on specific occasions to three (Peter, James and John).

I’ve been asking myself, “Who am I really discipling?” I know I preach to 380 people each week, but am I discipling them. The answer is: NO. To disciple someone means to pour your life into them. You don’t just teach them, you live out your life before them. Discipleship embodies a desire to give our lives to the things that last forever: people. After all, after the will is read, the assets are claimed and the money is distributed, the lives of most men and women will be forgotten. For all their success and all their striving, their achievements will turn out to be temporary (temporal). But the person who decides to invest in the lives of others will make an eternal impact.

I’m to begin this process of discipleship in my home with my children. In fact, if I can’t do so in my home, then I’m unfit to do so in the church.

1 Timothy 3:4-5: He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

A friend of mine confessed he was more successful at answering questions at work and solving problems at work than he was talking to and helping to solve his wife and children’s problems. His success at work has allowed him to hide out in his career and not face the fact that he doesn’t know what to do spiritually to shepherd his family. He loves the Lord and talks openly with clients about his faith but has never discipled his own children. Most of us are too busy doing everything else to even have a family life. God help us to make sure our priorities are straight.

However I know people who go the other way and invest nothing into the lives of others outside their own family. I like the words of the song, “My Own Little World” by Matthew West. Take a look:

In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In my own little world
Population me

I try to stay awake during Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate, but I never give ’til it hurts
I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
Yeah, it’s easy to do when it’s
Population: me

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world…

Father break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your Light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me

Sobering words for me, indeed. In Mexico I met and had the chance to lead to the Lord a man named Adrian.

I mentioned him in a post last week. Well, he has no computer and no cell phone. So, the only way to communicate with him is “snail mail.” So, I wrote him a letter and yesterday I received his reply back. Here’s an excerpt:

“I’ve been reading some Scriptures of the Bible with the family. The kids like the time we spend together and learning about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I was very close to losing my faith until you came along. I will never forget you and everyone that came with you. I’m blessed for having you coming into my life and restoring my faith. I love you.”

I’ve teared-up just reading that again.

Also enclosed was a letter from his wife, Kat. Here’s an excerpt…

“You helped save my husband, and brought God into his heart and life! This in turn, I think really saved our relationship. He is truly a different person! Our life has truly changed for the better. Even though our problems aren’t over, I have faith everything will be alright.”

Wow! What a blessing! Now you may be thinking, “Boy, he’s sure bragging on himself here.” Well, that’s honestly not my intent. I’m nothing. I mean that. All my works are as filthy rags. I simply share this with you to show that we can make a difference in someone’s life even through the United States mail system. I will continue to write Adrian and Kat and encourage them, but I’m praying for the Lord to send someone to them that can disciple them. Where they live in Weslaco, Texas there are almost no Bible-teaching churches. There are mostly Catholic churches. Only 4% of the city (76,000 people) attend church according to statistics.

How can we make a difference? We’ve got to see people in the light of eternity. They are either going to heaven or hell. Jesus couldn’t reach everyone. So he preached to the masses and then discipled 12. Who are you discipling? Begin at home and then ask the Lord to show you who is in your circle of influence that needs you.

Think about this:

If you were the only Christian on earth and you spent one year sharing the gospel with one other person and then discipled them to become a committed believer and they in turn, did the same thing. Your ranks would double each year. Within 10 years your group would have grown to 500 trained disciplers. After 20 years there would be more than 500,000. In a little more than 30 years, we could reach the world for Jesus Christ!

Wow!!!

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I’m hopelessly addicted! I’ve got to come out and tell everyone that. It started about 4 years ago and it’s getting worse and worse. I have talked to Pam about it and even my children. The problem is now I’ve contaminated them. They’re addicted too. We just can’t get enough of this. We’re hopelessly addicted. It’s something that we can’t get out of our system and the truth is…I don’t want to…

My addiction?

MISSIONS

 

Yep…I’ve admitted it! It’s out in the open! I’m an addict. Hopelessly, wonderfully, inexorably and joyfully a missions addict. You know it’s been said that whatever you can’t get enough of is your god. I wish I could tell you that I’ve always had this desire. I haven’t. I caught the bug (the fever), whatever you want to call and Katy and Kandace have too. We are still recovering from Mexico and Texas last week, but it’s a good tired. We have Vacation Bible School

each night this week and so this tired 43-year-old “ain’t as young as he used to be.” I don’t bounce back as fast as I once did, but it’s a good tired! 🙂

I was thinking about addiction. Am I addicted to Jesus? Well let’s see:

Could I live without reading my Bible for 3 days?

Could I live without praying for 3 days?

Could I live without going to church for 3 months?

Could I live without talking to my Brothers and Sisters in Christ for 3 weeks?

Let me think about other addictions?

Could I do without my computer for 3 days? I’m having a problem with mine now and I’m trying to think (when can I give it up to get it in the shop and be without it for 3 days).

Could I go without my cell phone for 3 days? No scratch that…3 hours? Hmm…scratch that…3 minutes?

TV?

Favorite Soft Drink?

Coffee?

North Carolina Tar Heel Basketball

Boy…I know I’m “hoeing close to the corn” aren’t I? Well, sadly, I must admit that I think I’m addicted to many other things more deeply than to my Savior. I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s the truth. I say I love Jesus, but my actions often show something much different. I’m sorry Lord. Please forgive me. You are worthy of my best and often I give you leftovers. When I think of the amount of time I’ve wasted on that last list, it humbles me. I desire to do better and with God’s help I will.

It is true…whatever we can’t get enough of is our god. God help me to make it YOU!

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Mexico 2011

Sorry for the long delay getting a post out about the mission trip to Weslaco, Texas and Progreso, Mexico. It’s been a very fast-paced few days back. We arrived back about 2 am on Sunday morning and then started Vacation Bible School on Sunday evening (running from 6-9 pm) through tomorrow night. Needless to say, I’ve not been around much to do anything on the blog. I’m taking a few minutes this morning before our Iron Men (men’s meeting) to”get the word out.”

We had 36 strong make the trip!

We worked hard for 8 days. We ate together, sweated together (boy was it hot) and laughed (oh did we laugh)…what joy! There is nothing in the world like doing mission work. It’s hard to describe unless you have done it! The beauty of a team coming together by the direction and inspiration of God is an amazing thing and then to watch that team in action and knowing that each and every person on that team HAD to be there to fulfill a certain function and role is surreal.

We built a church in Progreso, Mexico for this wonderful couple (Oscar and Miriam Martinez):

This is the church we are building. Pastor Oscar and his handful of men built what you see below and we came in and finish pouring the concrete floor, building the roof trusses and put on the metal (tin) roofing and stuccoing.

This is where the church had been meeting and where Oscar and Miriam live…

Here’s the finished product…

Oscar and Miriam are the sweetest couple you have ever met. They left all to serve in Progesso. Oscar left his job in Rio Bravo (about 45 minutes away) and came on faith to start this little church. They have about 45-50 people meeting each week. They had a baby that died at 5-months old about 1 1/2 years ago of a rare disease. Miriam is pregnant again and the doctor tells them the same disease may inflict this child. It’s a boy and is due 9/12/11. They asked us if we would pray for the baby and for its health. We did and I’m telling you it was one of the most powerful experiences of the presence of the Lord that I’ve ever been a part of in my life. I believe the baby will be healthy and we are trusting God in His sovereignty. We know that we have not because we ask not.

We also saw souls saved. I had the privilege of building a relationship with this man and his wife at our backyard Bible club in a housing project in Weslaco, Texas. This is Adrian and Kat Cantu. A week ago today I had the opportunity to lead Adrian to Christ!

Here’s another soul for the harvest. Her name is Karly. Cynthia Brame impacted this decision greatly. She is shown on the left.

That’s Donna McNeil to their right! Great ladies!!

One of the things I love best about how we do mission work is that we do it as a family. We don’t take just youth or just men. We go as families. Cynthia’s daughter Allison went with her and here’s Allison doing crafts at the backyard Bible club in Mexico with Geoff Farmer, who came with his two children Grayson and Emily.

This is what I will remember…

Can you hear the laughs? That’s Oscar and Miriam’s laughs of joy. They will be moving from that old house I showed you in the earlier picture this week. They will be living on the second floor of the church.

We are so excited to partner with our sister church in Mexico. I’m so excited to partner with our sister church in Alaba, Ethiopia later this November. It’s exciting living out the book of Acts in the 21st century. Praise the Lord for his goodness! See below the “Church” in action…brothers and sisters helping brothers and sisters as we “make disciples of all nations…”

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Mexico 2011

I wanted to let you know that our team of 36 strong will be heading to Mexico tomorrow. We’ll be leaving from Raleigh around 3:40 and arrive late tomorrow night in Weslaco, TX. So, I’ll be “out of pocket” for the next 8 days.

We’re excited about the prospects of completion of the small church we are helping to build in Progreso, Mexico. We will be completing the second floor, building the rafters and putting them on for the roof and then nailing on the metal roof.

There are doors and windows to install and floors to pour. More importantly is the Bible teaching we’ll be doing daily to men, women and children in a housing project in Weslaco and each evening in Mexico.

We appreciate your prayers and requests to the Father on our behalf that His will may be done. 🙂

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I took my family up to the Cascade Falls last night about 25 minutes from our house along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Isn't that a fine looking family?

As you can see, it’s a beautiful place. The Falls are gorgeous and we enjoyed a nice picnic supper and a stroll through the woods to the Falls. But, I noticed something. I’m assuming with the budget shortfall that we see in our state and nation there is not enough money to go around to keep the paths and steps cleared from overwhelming undergrowth. The paths look very “snakey.” Pam and I were constantly saying, “Don’t go over there. There might be a snake in all of those weeds.”

As I thought about the beauty of what is available to anyone who chooses to take the journey to Jeffress Park, (which is just 2 miles off of Highway 421 in Deep Gap, along the Parkway), I came to the conlusion there may come a day because of our financial problems as a nation that we may never get to see these kind of sites again. We are beginning to see what will happen when you let things get out of control. It’s like undergrowth that just takes over a path. Honestly there were places on the path that in a couple more weeks I wouldn’t dare go down because the path will be overtaken with thick undergrowth.

Sad isn’t it? Reminds me of the condition of our nation. Because of sin we have forgotten to do the work of keeping the undergrowth cleared. The truth is that’s the case in the Church and in our own lives as well. Sin is like undergrowth. if it’s not handled day by day, then it can take over a life, a church, and yes…even a nation.

Read the headlines and see what the leaders of our nation are involved in today. It’s sickening. The undergrowth is killing us. We no longer are a people that can be counted on or respected, as we once were. I know, I know… I lament about this all the time, but it breaks my heart to see where we have fallen as a nation.

Reminds me of the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 6 when Moses was addressing Israel (His chosen people), but the principle is applicable to us today (even though…contrary to popular belief, we aren’t God’s chosen nation):

10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 6:10-15

Does that sound eerily familiar to America? You see over time I have come to believe that the world is flat regarding Christ’s love for it and the people of all nations, tribes and tongues. America is not superior just because we are America. I believe we have been exceedingly blessed over the last 200+ years because we chose to honor and trust in God. However, today, by and large, we no longer do so. We’ve let the undergrowth of prosperity and superiority choke out the Lord. We admire actors and actresses who take off their cloths, curse and make filthy movies. We laud politicians who grew the country economically, yet had an affair in the White House. We look the other way when athletes have sexual trists with women who aren’t their wives, but because they can throw, hit or shoot a ball, we’re still willing to buy tickets to their games. Why? Because of the undergrowth. The paths of righteousness have “grown up” with the weeds. We can no longer even get to what’s really good, the beauty of the Falls…the best things of God in our lives because we are choking on the undergrowth.

You may say, “Who cares about this nation or any other nation for that matter?” Well, the problem with that thinking is the fact that there will be nations that will come in and out of the New Jerusalem. The Bible teaches this in Revelation 21. Take a look…

21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass. 22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:21-27

Did you see where I underlined the word “nations?” There will be nations in the eternal state coming in and out of the New Jerusalem. Isn’t that an awesome thought? Imagine that. What will that look like? What does that mean? You think about it and ask the Holy Spirit to show you. But, I can tell you what I see. I see nations (just like the Scripture says) walking into the city of God. You say, “Well, aren’t we all the family of God?” The answer is “yes.” So, why have nations? I don’t know? But, that’s what the Scripture says. It says “nations.” So, in my heart and mind I’m concerned about the nations, including this one.

Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” That is what he said isn’t it? Make disciples of all nations. So there must be something that the Lord is trying to say to us today about nations. They are important to Him. And yes, I often minimize America and our “position” in the world. Yet, the Lord God cares about nations. So, we must pray for our nation and our leaders (Romans 13). We must pray for our government officials and elected men and women. We must pray that God can bring new life out of this dead and decaying nation before it’s too late. 

Can this happen? You bet it can. Take a look at what I saw on the way back up the path from the Falls…

See the new life coming out of the old tree?

Can this be America? Sure it can. It can be a church, a life. It can be you. I’m grateful that Jesus offers new life for those willing to repent and be cleansed. But, it all starts with the Church…God’s people… We’ve got to get rid of the sin in our lives and turn from our wicked ways in humility and repentance and then we can see healing in this nation. I pray will take out the weedeaters and get to work…
 
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
 
 

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Are you ready for some football? You may ask, “What are you talking about, it’s not Fall yet!” I know that, however, in Wilkesboro, NC we’re playing football. We started this morning with a new league for children at the church that is another tool we are trying to use to reach our community for Christ. Clara’s playing…check out her snazzy jersey! The cost to play is just $20 per participant for football and $25 for cheerleading for the summer.
Clara’s ready to go!

We are using a field that is adjacent to our church cemetery. About two years ago I had the idea of using it for some sort of outreach to our community. Think about it. Do you have people coming to your churches, knocking the doors down to here your preacher or choir? Do you have people waiting in line at each entrance every Sunday? I wish you did and I wish we did. But, none of us do.

Paul reached out to the culture in his day at Mars Hill and that’s what we’re trying to do. You know, we’re trying to scratch people where they itch. Where does our culture itch? Sports and entertainment. When we had our Passion Play at Easter, people were standing at the doors waiting to get in. When we had our Sportsman’s banquet this past winter, they were standing at the doors.

Check out the crowds…

Crowds are coming...

We had some hard working folks line off the fields earlier this week. We had four fields going at one time…
 
We had many who came from within our community. I talked to many who don’t have a church home…building relationships…

Isn't this neat...

We had concessions too!! And some great workers…

Way to go Angela...serving those drinks!

Do you think all of this takes organization? Do you think the Lord uses people and their skills and abilities in the work of the Body of Christ? You better believe it!
That’s Dale Jennings sharing the Word! Just like Dale! Talk about an evangelist! He is constantly sharing the Gospel! He did a ton of organization to get the children (ages K-7th grade) registered. Glenn Shepherd and Tonya Wentz did a bang up job too! Glenn coordinated all the coaches, referees and field work, while Tonya coordinated all the cheerleaders and the cheers.

Super job Tonya and Glenn!

Tonya runs a dance studio and Glenn is an insurance agent…and here they are giving their time to reach children and parents, grandparents and the like with the Gospel.
 
Do you have people like these in your church…

Junior and Gena Hodges

 Junior and Gena are “do it all” kind of folks in the church. They are willing to serve in any capacity at any time. They organize, coordinate, load, haul, fix, run to the store…you name it…they’ll do it. I bet you have some folks like these in your church too. You could be one of them! Boy, we need ’em. They are few and far between in a culture where everyone wants to be served instead of serving others.

Here’s some more great shots of the day…

I think he's gone! Touchdown is coming!

It takes great coaches and helpers to pull a day like this off and we had some tremendous coaches! We also had young adult mentors helping. In fact, the cheerleading coaches were young adult, teenage ladies and many of the coaches were teenage young men…

Way to go Dan!!

The man below in the white shirt is Chris Nichols. He did all of our signage. He used his business to help fund the work of the Lord! Thanks Brother!

Ok team...ready?

Great job Wes! You are always coaching!

What a day! We had around 300 people there today! The salt is getting out of the shaker and I’m grateful for a ton of people willing to do a ton of work to love and care for children and people in general.
 
Oh…another couple of shots you’ll like. Clara and Andrew were trying to convince me to get them a pool. Look at these sweet little faces and their pitiful “swimming box!”
 

Come on Dad! We need a pool!! Purdy pleeeeeease!!

Ok…so I’m a “softy!!”

$79 special at WalMart!

I’m so blessed! Tomorrow is Sunday… I “get” to preach the Word! Can’t wait! And just one week from yesterday a team of 37 of us from MPBC will be in Mexico on mission for Jesus! Building a church and touching more lives! I LOVE IT!!

 

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