I want to tell you something the Lord has been doing in my heart over the last few weeks both through things going on at St. Andrew and things in my own quiet times. Simply put, I have been reminded of the importance of completely engulfing my day in devotion to the Lord. This started with our Holy Week services a few weeks back. Because it was so early in the morning, I was not able to do my quiet times first thing as I normally do. For that week, Holy Week service became my morning devotion and I moved my own personal time into the afternoons. The very next week, our young adults’ study through Exodus brought us to Exodus 29, where we see the consecration of the priests for the work in the Tabernacle. We saw that they offered two sacrifices a day; one in the morning and one at twilight. This was to be a symbol that their day began and ended in devotion to the Lord. We see that this was to be “a pleasing aroma” to the Lord (Ex. 29:41). This was to be a constant reminder that their entire lives were to be offerings to the Lord, that everything they did was to be pleasing to him. In the same way, Paul tells the church in Ephesus to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 2:1-2).
My prayer these last two weeks has been for God to remind me all day long, not just in my morning quiet times, of this fragrance I am to be lifting to him. That everything I do, whether at church, home, hanging out around town, or anywhere else, is an offering to him. I wonder if you would join me in that prayer. May God make us people who live lives pleasing to the one who has redeemed us.
Grace and Peace,
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
I am sitting here in my office trying to stay clear minded through the jet lag. I am thinking about our trip and trying to quantify all that the Lord has done in our team and the work He has done through our local missionary on the ground. It is hard to put into words all that we saw and experienced. Our team saw the hand of God and His sovereign control over everything. We experienced success and failure, ups and downs, but through it all God was glorified.
Our team landed in country and began working on a college campus with students who loved music and skateboarding. Our team was able to use relationships, music, and sports to share the good new of Jesus. The team took over a music store to sing praises to Jesus. We were able to work with college students in a coffee shop to share the Gospel. We spent some time on the college campus with an entrepreneurial club to exchange ideas for marketing that led to building relationships to share the Gospel. Everything the team did was revolved around sharing the Gospel with college students. God showed himself approved. Listen, first hand, to the testimony of one of our team members, Kelela, tell about what God did in her life this past week:
Our senior mission trip to SE Asia was one of many surprises and was unlike anything we had ever experienced before. We often had no idea what our day was going to consist of and at any moment the schedule was subject to change. We were forced to be completely reliant and trusting of God’s plan for this trip. For example, on several occasions God allowed us to use our musical talents to encourage fellow believers and spark conversations for the Gospel. This was something none of us ever expected! On the second night we were there, we were given the opportunity to play a few songs at a nearby coffee shop. This turned into a pizza party hangout which allowed us to further talk with some university students we had met nearby. I personally had begun forming a friendship with a girl a few years older than me who also had a passion for music. It was through our common interest of music that we were able to bond, but something we struggled with was the language barrier. Something we all soon encountered as we began to direct our conversations to the truth of the Gospel. However, after we had been playing a while, one song in particular struck the interest of my new friend, Amazing Grace. She began to tell me how she had once heard this song in a movie and it inspired her to learn how to play it on her flute. This led to a conversation about God’s mercy and forgiveness as well as some of her own beliefs, but was sadly cut short as we had to prepare to leave the shop. However, God proved yet again how complex and perfect His plans are. About a couple days after, my friend and I were able to get in touch through a social media network. She continued to ask questions about different songs we had played that night in the coffee shop which led into a presentation of the Gospel in Romans. I was able to share with her the love of Christ through Romans 5:8 and the true cost of our sins from Romans 6:23. These verses led to a discussion of God’s love for us and of who Jesus is. However, my dear friend has not yet come to an understanding of faith in Christ. While she has felt God’s love for her, often through music, there are still many questions and truths that she is pondering. Even so, I praise God for His perfect plan and the work He continues to do within my friend and within others we were able to meet.
So, why do we go? Simply put, we go because God has called us to go. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go, make disciples of all nations.” 2 billion people live in South East Asia, but 90% of those people have never heard the message of the Gospel. NEVER. Not even once. The name of Jesus Christ is completely foreign to them. So we go! But as we go we meet Jesus ourselves. We see Him working ahead of us, in us, and around us. On mission, our eyes are opened to see God in ways we never have before. Our distractions and the pressures of American life are left behind us, leaving us open and vulnerable to the crazy love of God. So we go! We go because people need to hear the name of Jesus and the love He offers.
Where will God lead you this year?
-Mark and Kelela
“Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”
2 Corinthians 7:10 MSG
Paul, on one of his missionary journeys found himself in a season of conflicts without and fears within. But he found refreshment for his soul to hear how the Corinthians responded to his letter.
The Corinthians heard the truth and responded rightly. The distress that they experienced at finding themselves at odds with the Will of God drove them to a godly repentance that turned them around and put them back on the path of salvation. This is one of the main reasons that we need a daily time of reading and reflecting upon the Word of God.
As we gaze intently upon the Word of God, Jesus Christ, we see things (thoughts, actions, habits, beliefs, intents of our heart) that do not line up with God's Word. When we slam up against anything that needs to be changed to bring us in alignment with God's Word, we should, in our distress, run back to God in repentance that leads us back into the way of salvation.
Our response shouldn't be one of regret that we've been found out. Our response shouldn't be how we might hide our wrong thoughts or actions but, rather it should be a repenting and a turning from our own ways to the path that God has revealed to us. FOLLOWING MY OWN WAY, AS OPPOSED TO GOD'S WAY, LEADS TO BROKENNESS AND DEATH. It has always been this way. But spending time in God's Word will help us see how we might be transformed to be more like Jesus. More like Him than we have ever been before.
Spiritual disciplines like daily reading and meditating on God's Word are for our benefit. Quiet times - they do a Christian good.
- Bro. Rick
“We should prayerfully and persistently pursue the presence of lost people, then proclaim and persuade at the prompting and in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
- Will McRaney
When it comes to sharing your faith, time is always the issue. In my own conversion experience in evangelism I see this to be true. From time to time we may lead someone to Christ during the first conversation, but most of the time it is through a relationship that we build using different styles and methods of evangelism. If you want to lead people to the grace of Jesus in this postmodern context, building credible relationships that attempt to communicate the message of Christ is the way to go. However, if you are going to pursue a relationship you should know something: it’s going to be messy.
The reason it will be messy is because we as fallen people are messy. People come to Christ with a lot of baggage, and that can take time to work through. It takes time to see that Christ is the only possible way for our sins to be taken away. I would call it the messy work of evangelism because the way one goes about leading someone to Jesus is different almost every time. What works for one may not work for another. People get caught up in different excuses of why they should not follow Jesus. So, as you move forward don’t get stuck on just one way to lead someone to the grace of Jesus.
In my own experience in evangelism I have found service evangelism to be the most fruitful and rewarding. This goes right into helping lost people address their misconceptions/misperceptions regarding the gospel. Many people have a very misplaced understanding of what being a Christian is all about. Meeting people where they are and serving them is a great way to turn the conversation to Christ. Many people who don’t follow Jesus have a misunderstanding of faith that has been shaped by many things and most of those things did not come from the Bible.
Dear Follower of Jesus, keep doing the messy work of sharing your faith. I wish I could tell you a sure fire way to do it, but the reality is that there is no perfect way. But Jesus says, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It is not by my power, but His. Jesus wants your faithfulness. It is through your faithfulness that the Holy Spirit moves so that others may know Him. God can use a believer who is ready to give an account for the faith that is in them to lead people to who Jesus really is.
“So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."”
John 20:21 NASB
After His crucifixion and after His resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples and speaks to their fears and gives them a glimpse into what is in store for each and every one of His disciples.
The disciples were being tossed to and fro on the stormy waters of doubt (where was Jesus - was He raised from the dead), fear (they killed Jesus, will they kill us), indecision (what do we do now that Jesus is gone) and disappointment (our leader, our king is gone). In the same way that He calmed the storm and the waters, Jesus calms the hearts of His disciples. Seeing and hearing Jesus the disciples were freed from their doubt and fear. The disappointment and the indecision are gone and replaced by Jesus' clear command - As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.
In this season of your life, are you in a storm? Are you battling waves of doubt and fear? Are the winds of indecision and disappointment buffeting you? Do you long to have peace? You need to hear from the risen One. The very One that longs to shepherd your soul desires to speak to your storm.
“When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers."”
John 10:4-5 NASB
How can you hope to hear from Him in the middle of your storm if you don't know His voice? How can you hope to follow the Good Shepherd if you don't spend time with Him. Why not make a commitment now to daily spend time reading, meditating and studying the Bible - God's Word to us? Make the time, choose a plan, follow through and be prepared to hear Him speak to your storm. You'll find that God has perfect designs and plans for all areas of your life and when He speaks to your storm, be obedient. Follow the commands.
Follow the Good Shepherd. You need not fear the One who desires to lead you in paths of righteousness for His Names' sake. Follow the One that will lead you beside still waters and desires to pasture you in green pastures. The Good Shepherd protects, leads, provides, and walks with you even when the path leads through the Valley of Death. Let the Good Shepherd lead you in the storms of your life.
Passion 2017, what a week! Our church had the opportunity to take our college students to the Georgia Dome to spend three days with 55,000 other college students! Passion has been a great partner for SABC through the years because they spend that first week of the year teaching and encouraging students that God has a great plan for their college years. He is not waiting for them to get a degree to begin using them. In fact, God has no need for an expensive piece of paper from an accredited university, He desires willing hearts. This year was no different. Our students got to hear from church leaders like John Piper, Francis Chan, and Louie Giglio, as well as many others. The focus of the week this year was built around suffering; something many would not think would be a good idea for 18-25 year olds. It was clear that the Spirit was all over this, however, as we heard story after story from God’s Word as well as the testimonies of His people of how God has used what they thought was the worst trial of their life to become one of the greatest goods.
Something that has become typical of Passion events is the challenge these students send to the world with their generosity. Owning the term “poor college student” these students come prepared to give what they have to a cause. This year that cause was children around the world living without sufficient food, housing, and education, in some of the world’s poorest countries. Through Compassion International, these college students gave to children in El Salvador, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Indonesia. This wasn’t just a one-time gift either. This was a commitment to care for that child from now until they become an adult. They didn’t just give to some of the children in these countries however. By the power and Grace of God, Every child in the Compassion program in all four of these countries was sponsored at passion 2017. That’s over 7000 Children whose lives were forever changed because of the generosity of college students. This was the largest number of children sponsored from a single event in Compassion’s history. God is Good! And He is using “poor college students” to show His goodness to children around the world.
Let the testimony of our college students at SABC challenge you in two ways. First, be challenged and encouraged to know that God is good even when times are hard. Many times, God uses the hardest times in our lives to teach us the most about Him. Let’s not waste our suffering. Secondly, Be challenged as I was that if a college student can give extravagantly off of a part-time wage, my excuses to do so are probably pretty feeble.
Praise God for what he has done in our college students this past week, as well as what he has done in tens of thousands of college believers all around our nation.
Grace and Peace,
Christmas Eve is a special time. I love how society shuts down and people are abounding with anticipation for what is to come. With traditions of many kinds, some look forward to family gatherings, some eagerly await the giving of gifts, and others just enjoy a break from their often relentless and sometimes burdensome schedules.
Whatever you long for, know this;
There is a family for you to gather with – the church,
there is a gift worthy of our anticipation – eternal life,
and there is One who can give you true rest – Jesus Christ.
As for traditions, our family has come to love spending Christmas eve with our Church family. Our girls love coming dress in their PJs. We love being able to worship together, and it is always a blessing to hear what that night might have been like through Bro. Mike’s dramatic monologue of characters around the nativity.
Join us at St. Andrew Baptist Church as we celebrate the promise of God delivered through the birth of Jesus at our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. It’s the perfect way to center your heart by remembering the miracle of our Savior’s birth through song, a biblical character monologue, and of course the glow of our candlelight tradition.
Mark your calendar for Christmas Eve from 5-6pm in the sanctuary. This event is for the whole family, the whole church, and the whole community. Come celebrate Christmas with us!
Last night I went onto the Samaritan's Purse website and ordered my 4th grade Sunday school kids' "shopping list" of items they chose to buy with their missions bake sale money. They bought a cow/ox for a farmer. They paid for a child's entire cleft palate surgery. They donated food, clothes, shoes and blankets to refugee families and those affected by natural disasters. They contributed to children's literacy programs, bought hot meals for a child in a school/orphanage, and provided a week's worth of life-saving nutrition to 4 starving babies. They gave a family a household water filter system and chipped in to a village's clean-water project. They provided soccer balls and sports equipment for evangelistic athletic programs, donated money to help a child receive heart surgery, helped renovate a mission hospital, provided Bibles and Christian literature to churches and paid the postage on 4 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes whose donors couldn't afford to. Last but not least, 3 rural families somewhere in the world will be getting flocks of baby chicks. And in all these projects, the Gospel will be shared.
2,000 years ago, Jesus fed a multitude with 5 loaves and 2 fish that a boy was willing to give. Our kids had a table of brownies and cupcakes to give...and a multitude of people around the world will be blessed by their work and the generosity of our SABC family. $1,100 total!!!
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.“”
John 10:27-30 NASB
In Chapter 10, John relates what Jesus said about Himself and about His followers. He said that He was the Good Shepherd, The Door, and when asked confirmed that He was the Christ and that He and the Father were one. He left little to the imagination in this chapter.
He also left little to the imagination when it came to His followers.
MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE - I know my wife's voice well because I've spent time with her. I've been with her when she's been happy, sad, mad and scared. I know her voice when she is stressed and when she is not. You get the point - spend time in The Word so that you'll know when The Lord is speaking to you.
AND I KNOW THEM - I think that this speaks to a relationship, don't you? A real sheep doesn't just know about the Good Shepherd, he knows Him and the Good Shepherd, in return, knows the sheep. This intimate relationship begins when one makes Jesus Lord of his life and chooses to believe that He is the Christ.
AND THEY FOLLOW ME - a characteristic of Jesus' sheep is that they follow Him. They obey His commands. They are doing what He has commanded in The Word. There should be spiritual fruit that clearly indicates that you are His.
AND I GIVE ETERNAL LIFE TO THEM, AND THEY WILL NEVER PERISH AND NO ONE WILL SNATCH THEM OUT OF MY HAND - the benefits of being His sheep are eternal life and unending security.
These benefits are ones that we want our family and friends to participate in and cause us to go to great lengths to see that they have opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
I hope this precious story will remind you again how amazing our God is!
Sunday morning January 10, 2016 started in a startling way.
While Rebecca David was on her way to pick up Claudia Fowler and her preteen son Nickolas,
she received a call from Nickolas that something was wrong with his mother. Rebecca arrived soon, and called 911.
The paramedics arrived quickly and began CPR. When Rebecca left the apartment, the EMT’s continued trying to revive Claudia.
Rebecca brought Nickolas to church and talked with Mike and I. She was shaken, because she realized that Claudia's condition was serious.
Rebecca was torn about what to do but we encouraged her to go up to the hospital. Nickolas was at home in the Kid Zone and one in her class would step up to lead. And of course their class spent their morning praying.
Nickolas went with me to worship that day. Just before we left for worship, I had a text from Rebecca that Claudia died at the hospital. I wanted Rebecca to be back before Nickolas heard about his mom. So standing by Nickolas in worship with my arm around his shoulder I was praying without ceasing for him. The next song we sang was "The King of Glory." When we sang the phrase "Who makes the orphan a son or daughter..." My tears flowed. God was going to take care of Nickolas! And oh how He has!
A few months back, Claudia and Nickolas had fallen on hard times so Rebecca had invited them to live with her. They lived there for several weeks until they were able to rent their own apartment. So, through that time, Rebecca had gotten very close to them and them to her. Looking back at that I stand in awe of God and His amazing provision. He knew what was coming and He was getting things in place for Nickolas.
After worship Rebecca and Nickolas went to my office and Rebecca told Nickolas about his Mom. It was so precious to hear Rebecca remind Nickolas of the time she had gone to their temporary hotel room to meet with his mom. She asked Claudia how she (our church) could help. She expected her to ask for a material need because clearly there were many. However, Claudia said "I need to get right with God." That night she prayed to receive Christ and to live for Him. Rebecca was able to tell Nickolas that we could know for certain where his mom was. Even to a young boy (age 10), whose heart was broken because of his loss, it was clear that this truth did bring much comfort to him.
He went home with Rebecca and for the next few weeks they worked through their grief, finding other relatives, understanding what the law was, and deciding that the best place for Nickolas was with Rebecca and her family who already knew him. He already felt at home. So many friends stepped up to help Rebecca get Nickolas everywhere he needed to be so she could continue to work. It's a beautiful thing to watch the body of Christ at work. Every need was met!
Later I learned that Rebecca’s daughter Jennifer, a nurse, was working at the hospital the morning Claudia came in. So, together, Rebecca and Jennifer laid hands on Claudia and promised that they would take care of Nickolas until God showed them the right path for him. Soon, Jennifer and her husband Casey became a huge part of Nickolas’ everyday life and quickly fell in love with him. Though there were many legal hurdles to jump, Jennifer and Casey Morefield were able to adopt Nickolas on September 14, 2016!
Needless to say they hosted a celebration party and praised the Lord for what He had done! Nickolas knows how very much he is loved by his new family, his church and most of all by God. Nickolas has now become a Christian too and was Baptized this past Sunday. We should never doubt that even in our darkest hour God is in control. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He is able to do "above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us...to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21)
Sheep who Shepherd: