Monday, January 18, 2016

Moved by Gratitude

I returned to the States this past Thursday after a short, quick trip to Guatemala for our twice-a-year leadership training conferences that we conduct in the western city of Quetzaltenango.  This was a special trip in many respects.  It marked the 10th anniversary of our initial training trip there back in 2007.  I was also blessed to be accompanied by Jim Hill, executive director for Churchnet, who accompanied me on that first training trip many years ago.  As always, the group of pastors and leaders who had gathered (81 on this occasion) welcomed us warmly and demonstrated profound gratitude for the efforts of Missouri churches affiliated with Churchnet over the past decade to provide leadership training, as well as other books and resources to help them in their ministries.

Jim did an outstanding job with his sessions--focusing on strategic planning in 2 sessions under the theme "Finding God's Vision for Your Church" and two other workshops on leading a stewardship emphasis in the local church and supervising church volunteers.  I wrapped up with a session on seeking balance in our personal lives and pastoral ministries through various Christian disciplines.

One of the highlights of the gathering was a time at the end of our teaching sessions on the final morning when we typically give the participants a book purchased for the occasion that relates to one of the workshop themes and also receive a gift from the participants.  In addition to this, the leadership team of the association of Baptist pastors in the western region presented us with a formal statement they had drafted the previous evening.  It was a beautiful statement of appreciation for the efforts of our network's churches to make available the training they've received over the past decade.  I was especially encouraged by a statistical highlight that they included in the official statement.  They noted that when the partnership began 10 years ago, there were 15 churches involved in the western region.  In last week's training, 81 participants came from a total of 38 different churches and they clarified that there are actually 60 churches and missions that are currently affiliated with this western association of Baptist churches.  It's been a wonderful joy to have been a part of each of these training sessions over the past 10 years and we look forward to a continued relationship with these wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ in Guatemala.

The above photo was taken during one of our worship times prior to the teaching sessions.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Elijah Brown on the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Almost 2 years ago in March 2014, I was privileged along with several Churchnet colleagues to attend a meeting of the North American Baptist Fellowship in Philadelphia that focused on the future of missional collaboration among Baptists.  On that occasion, I was very impressed with some of the insights shared in small groups by a young professor from East Texas Baptist University.  I've since read other things written by Elijah Brown and greatly appreciate his written contributions in the area of church/state relationships and even more recently in the area of justice issues.

He had a great article today in Ethics Daily that is well worth the read.  In the midst of so much angry rhetoric about Muslim immigrants and refugees fleeing the ongoing crisis in Syria, Elijah shares a positive and hopeful message about our role as Christians in addressing their needs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Thanksgiving Reflections

I wrote the following thoughts on motives to be thankful as an article for our upcoming church newsletter, the Views.  If you're a member of FBCLS and see it here first before reading it there next week, consider yourself ahead of the game and an overachiever.

As 2015 rushes forward towards its conclusion, I'd like to take this opportunity in the spirit of Thanksgiving to express my gratitude for many things that I count as blessings from God.  I'm grateful for both my immediate family and my church family here at FBCLS.  I count it a high privilege to be able to serve among you.  I'm thankful for countless hours that volunteers have invested this year in many different ministry settings--teaching God's word; caring for children; providing lunches this summer at two apartment complexes; reaching out to Lee's Summit via Downtown Days, Oktoberfest, and Trunk or Treat; and serving the poor, hungry, and ill in Guatemala to highlight just a few areas of service.  I'm grateful for the generosity of our members that make all of these ministries possible.  I'm thankful too for new folks that the Lord has led to join our fellowship this year and for the gifts and talents they bring.  Finally, I'm extremely grateful to serve alongside a wonderful church staff. I am blessed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Memorable Night

This photo was taken in the bottom of the 14th inning of the opening game of the 2015 World Series.  I had the awesome opportunity to attend this series opener with my son Jonathan and we were treated to an epic battle between the Royals and the Mets.  Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly during this at bat to score Alcides Escobar from 3rd.  It was an incredible moment to conclude a game that lasted more than 5 hours.  Very few fans left as the picture can attest.

Unless you've been living on a remote island in the Pacific the past couple of weeks, you know that the Royals went on to win the series 4-1.  These comeback, cardiac kids never gave up, even when trailing in 7 of the postseason games and often very late in those contests.  The city celebrated in grand fashion yesterday with a parade and rally at the Liberty Memorial/Union Station.  An estimated 800,000 people turned out to cheer our hometown heroes and did so in an incredibly orderly fashion.

Those of us who closely followed the Royals all season will undoubtedly be experiencing withdrawal symptoms from baseball until next spring, but for now, we get to bask in the glory of a world championship during this off-season.  Well done, guys!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Impartation of Blessings

I read a powerful piece today on Scot McKnight's blog by Josh Graves that deals with the practice of blessing others.  It is well-written and worth reading.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

God's Timely Provision

It's always exciting when the Lord does something in a serendipitous manner--unexpectedly and often without fanfare or build-up.  I was privileged to experience such a moment a couple of weeks ago.  One of our church members who is a veteran of multiple missions trips and a leader in our Women on Missions program asked if she could visit with me prior to the meeting of one of the groups.  When she did so, she shared that for quite some time that group had been raising money to help dig a water well somewhere in the world.  The initiative began with one of the ladies having a burden to supply fresh water for those who didn't have access to it.

The issue was that the ministry that they had been considering channeling the funds through had established a cost of around $4000 per well.  The ladies had collected about $650 and wanted to know if some other group might be able to use it to complete a well for much less. 

I shared that one of the churches that we've worked with twice on previous trips to Guatemala has been trying for a prolonged time to obtain a water well on their church property without success and suggested that I'd contact the pastor and see where they stood on the project.  Taking advantage of Facebook Messenger, I had an answer back from him in a few short hours.  The estimated cost to finish the well and also obtain a pump to bring the water to the surface was $670.  When I shared that news with the leader who had brought up the matter to me, she informed me that additional funds had been received that day from among the ladies in the group, pushing the total beyond the figure that the church needed to complete the well.  She excitedly told me that they were thrilled to designate those funds for a church with whom we've previously served in Guatemala and the funds have been sent to Churchnet to be transferred to the church in Guatemala. 

I eagerly anticipate in the near future learning that the church has received those funds and is proceeding with the drilling of the well.  I'm overwhelmingly grateful to the Lord for the generous actions of the Women on Missions group and for international connections that facilitate being able to meet a critical need.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tips for Using the Bible on Social Media

Please pardon the lengthy absence from posting on this blog.  My family and I were able to take a couple of weeks of vacation to beautiful Alaska and Seattle on a cruise to celebrate a bit early our 40th anniversary.  At some point, perhaps I'll share a few pictures of the beautiful scenery that we were able to appreciate as we marveled at God's handiwork so evidently on display there.

Today I wanted to share a link to a very good article about how we use the Bible on social media.  The author, pastor Larry Eubanks of the FBC of Frederick, Maryland, suggests that instead of using the Scriptures to bash others and attack their positions, we need to read the Bible and share it on social media through the lens of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul describes in Gal. 5:22-23. 

It's a good article and well worth reading.  Here's the link to it: