Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Southern Gospel Concerts and Sunday School Teachers

First up, let me say I appreciate everyone who came out to hear The Lesters last Friday night. Didn’t it feel like you’d been in the presence of God? I believe our Lord was glorified through the message of the music, and I hope each person received a special blessing of encouragement.

I’ll say this about The Lesters – whether they’re singing for thousands or tens, their heart is in it. I can imagine that singing the same songs night after night might become routine, but you’d never know it with this group. It was a real joy to experience worship with them.

That said, I also want to invite you to come hear The Whisnants on Thursday, Sept. 9. The Whisnants are one of the most highly-acclaimed groups in Southern Gospel music, and one I believe is genuinely in it to minister to people as they exalt the name of Christ. You’ll hear it in their songs and testimonies.

That concert will be held on the Popcorn Stage downtown Ridgway beginning at 7:00. And, yes, it’s free! Join us in praying for good weather, and invite someone to come with you. Don’t forget to bring a lawn chair, and if you’d like to listen to The Whisnants while munching on some ribbon fries and sipping a lemon shake-up, well that’d be all right.

Parents, can I have your attention for a moment? Our new Sunday School year starts this coming Sunday, and we would love to invite your children to be a part of it. Some of the best Sunday School teachers in the world are getting ready for their arrival already.

Let me share with you in brief what I shared with the church this past Sunday morning. Here are some principles that define our teachers, and standards we continually want to strive toward as we seek to become even more effective as teachers. And by the way, parents, these principles just as easily apply at home as you seek to become more effective in your role. You can take the first letter of each statement to form the acrostic TEACHER.

Ridgway First Baptist Church teachers:

Train others to follow God’s Word. It’s not our goal simply to fill heads with Bible knowledge. That might work great for answering questions on Jeopardy!, but our aim is to teach students to obey everything that Christ has commanded. His Word is our guide, and we unapologetically want to train people to follow the teachings of Jesus.

Encourage others to grow strong in the faith. We want to help motivate and inspire each other to hold on to the truths of the Christian faith. We seek to build an environment where we’re spurring one another on toward love and good deeds and to stay true to the message of the gospel.

Appeal to God on behalf of their students. If you want to know that someone is praying to the Almighty Maker and Sustainer of heaven and earth on behalf of your children, then bring them to Sunday School. We believe God acts in response to prayer, and as we lift up your children before Him, we trust He will guide, protect and save them.

Care for others with Christ-like love. We are all called to be imitators of God as His beloved children and to walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. We truly desire to let the love of Christ flow through us as we teach and minister to your children. They may not remember everything they’re taught about the books of the Bible, but they’ll remember they were loved.

Handle the Word of God correctly. A great teacher must first be a great learner. We want our teachers to be saturated in the Scriptures so that the Bible first permeates their own lives, and then they’ll be able to teach others how to feed on God’s unchanging Word.

Evangelize the message of Jesus Christ. The proclamation of Jesus as Lord and Savior is central to everything else we teach. Apart from the truth of His death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and His resurrection victory over the grave, we have nothing to offer but empty moral platitudes. The whole of the Bible focuses on the message of Jesus, and we teach this unashamedly.

Rely upon the Holy Spirit for guidance. If we attempt anything in our own strength, our own wisdom or our own abilities, we’ll fail. But when we rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide us, then how can we go wrong? God is able to take ordinary men and women and transform them into vessels of His grace, and so He does.

Hope to see you in Sunday School this Sunday at 9:30!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life's Humbling Experiences

Coming back from lunch on the Eldorado blacktop, nice day outside, windows rolled down because my air’s not working, left elbow resting on the driver’s side door and my hand’s hanging out, when the next thing I know a bug has splattered his guts all over my finger. Yuck.

That’s never happened to me before. The windshield always seemed to catch them pretty well, but not this time. I have no idea what kind of flying bug it was, but it left a nasty yellow stain.

So I reach for some Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes which we have in our car. When you have young kids you learn to carry Wet Ones because, well, you never know. I didn’t really want to wait until I returned to Ridgway to wipe what used to be a bug off of my hand.

This happened to be a new container. I’m talking about the plastic cylinder containers with the red flip-tops, where the wipes are wrapped around each other and they’re meant to feed through the double-slit opening, then you can tear them off one at a time. Well, new containers do not come with the wipes already fed through the opening. So I had to take the lid all the way off and try to find the origin of that first wipe somewhere in the middle of the wrap.

I’m driving down the blacktop at highway speed, mind you, and let’s just say it’s handy to drive a small car where you can steer with your knees. I remember learning that trick from my dad a long time ago when he used to try to scare us kids by taking his hands off the wheel while driving. It definitely takes two hands to get that first wipe out of the container.

All right, so far so good. Hand is wiped, finger is bug-guts free, and I’m motoring on down the road. Thought then that I should go ahead and try to feed the next wipe through the double-slit opening so that it would be easier to access next time I need it. There really ought to be some instructions on the proper way to do that. Usually, of course, it’s my wife who handles those kinds of things, and I’ll know next time to let her keep that job.

I took the next hand wipe and with my left thumb tried to push it through the opening. By the way, that opening is really tight. Well, I couldn’t get enough of the wipe through to grasp it with my right hand and pull it on through. So I pushed it harder with my thumb, but instead of just the wipe getting fed through, the tip of my left thumb came through as well, and got stuck!

I mean, stuck! The four corners of the plastic gripped my thumb and I could not pull it back out. Did I mention how sharp those corners are? I felt that if I tried to pull it out I would inflict serious damage to my thumb. Kind of like trying to extract a prey fish from a piranha’s mouth.

I really didn’t know what to do. I guess I could have pulled over and tried to work it loose, but I thought I could handle the pain for a few more minutes until I got home. So I drove halfway back to Ridgway with a Wet Ones Antibacterial Hand Wipes container clamped to my thumb. If you met me on the road that day and I didn’t wave, you now know why.

When I got home it took a couple of minutes, but I was able to free my thumb from the pinchers without major injury. Just a sore thumb with three fresh indentions (the fourth corner was on my nail), and a bit of a bruised ego. Some experiences in life are quite humbling.

Like when we recognize that we’re truly undeserving people when it comes to God’s grace. In light of how good and holy and righteous and just God is, who am I to think that somehow I have earned or deserve anything. Not a single blessing, not a single promise from His Word, not a single act of His mercy. Nothing. That’s what I deserve. No, not nothing, but in fact something much worse – death and hell.

My prayer rises with the penitent tax collector, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ready for the Next 120 Years

Our 120th Anniversary Homecoming Celebration on Sunday proved to be a wonderful day of rejoicing in the Lord. Through worship, fellowship, testimonies and the preaching of God’s Word, our time together served to encourage the church and exalt our Savior.

I want to say that I am so thankful for our Homecoming Committee members and many others who have worked so hard in planning and preparing for our celebration. I want to thank those who have given financially to help cover the expenses. And I want to thank those who participated in the service, and everyone who attended.

God has been so faithful to us! For 120 years, the Ridgway First Baptist Church has experienced abundant blessings from His hand. He has given us godly teachers, zealous missions workers, wise leaders, faithful pastors, servant-minded deacons, inspiring musicians, sacrificial givers, fervent prayer warriors and bold evangelists. He’s given us caring nursery workers, effective children’s ministers, patient youth directors and faithful adult leaders.

God has given His church caring and compassionate minds, generous and gracious spirits, loving and helpful hands, merciful and kind hearts, and willing and beautiful feet.

Some serve behind the scenes while others minister in the spotlight. Whether helping with crafts at VBS or going on Disaster Relief missions, whether delivering meals to the homebound or giving money to feed the poor in foreign lands, God’s love and grace have reached through us into our community and throughout the world. God has raised up countless servants of the Lord Jesus from the pews of Ridgway FBC who have been encouraged and equipped to take the gospel to our neighbors and to the nations.

Though the gifts are diverse and the members are many, all are equally needed and useful in the Body of Christ. Indeed, God has equipped the church with everything we’ve needed to carry out the work He’s given us to do. And it’s all for His glory.

That’s not to say we’re perfect or that we perfectly follow His lead as we should. In the course of our 120 year history there have been some highlights and there have been some lowlights. But God has brought us through, and we continue to praise Him for who He is, what He’s done and what He’s promised He will yet do.

Why not come and join us for worship this coming Sunday? If you do not have a church family where you belong, where you’re loved and valued, where you’re hearing from the Word of God, where you’re encountering Christ as Lord, and where you’re expected to use your gifts and abilities to serve and help build up the Body for the glory of God, then I want to ask you to come and experience God’s faithfulness to His church as we move forward into the rest of His story.

Let me also give you a heads up on what’s next on the calendar for us. On Friday, Aug. 27, at 7:00 p.m., we are privileged to welcome The Lesters in concert! You may remember The Lesters performing last year for Gospel Night during Popcorn Days. They are an incredibly talented and warm-hearted family, and I know you’ll be blessed by their music and ministry. This will be a free concert event, though we’ll receive a love offering to help with their expenses. Everyone is welcome, and we’d love to see you at the Ridgway First Baptist Church on Aug. 27.

Then for this year’s Gospel Night, on Thursday, Sept. 9, a group called The Whisnants will be featured on the Popcorn Day stage. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear one of Southern Gospel’s top performers. Bring your lawn chair, bring a friend, grab some funnel cakes or cheese fries when you get there, and be prepared to be encouraged through the music ministry of The Whisnants.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ready for the Big 120

Well, the big 120th Anniversary event we’ve been planning for months now is less than a week away. Personally, I can’t wait.

If you didn’t get your invitation in the mail or haven’t been personally asked to come, then consider this a special invite from me to you. We would love to have you be here on Sunday to help us celebrate. Our service will begin at 10:00 a.m. We’ll hear testimonies of God’s work through this church, we’ll sing songs of His victory and His faithfulness, and we’ll engage in His Word as we pray He’ll speak clearly to us.

Our guest preacher will be Duane Faulkenberry. Bro. Duane served as the pastor of Ridgway FBC from 1984-1991, and we’re looking forward to welcoming him back. Duane is currently pastoring Bryan St. Baptist Church in Herrin, IL.

Don Moye will be leading the music on Sunday. Many of you know that Donnie grew up here, and his family has long been a vital part of the church. He now serves as Executive Pastor at the First Baptist Church in Vidalia, GA.

After lunch on the grounds we’re looking forward to The River City Quartet ministering to us through music. This will be a free concert, starting at 2:00 p.m., and we’d love to have you come even if you can’t make it for the morning service.

I love what God has done and is doing through the church! Not just locally, but globally. His church in Ridgway has a rich history of experiencing His mercy, His grace and His faithfulness throughout the years. I’m praying that our greatest days are yet to come. I believe God is raising up prayer warriors who are calling on Him to bring salvation not only to our neighbors but also to the nations. I believe God is calling out more and more workers into His harvest fields. I believe God is instilling in us a greater love for Him and for one another that will result in magnifying His glory in our world.

Globally, the Lord is doing amazing, mind-blowing things in building up His church and His kingdom. People are coming to Christ in Muslim countries where their faith in Jesus literally means risking it all. In the Pacific Rim God is opening doors for the Word and people are responding in faith. In Southeast Asia missionaries are taking the gospel to places where it’s never gone, and many are believing as if they’ve waited their whole lives to hear this message.

God’s “Plan A” for bringing life to a dying world is the church. His plan is for His people to take His message to the ends of the earth. That means that the church lives out the gospel so that others will see the light of Christ shining in us and through us. It means that the church boldly proclaims the truth that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

And guess what. There is no “Plan B.” God has equipped and empowered His church by His Holy Spirit, giving us everything we need to carry out His mission. Worldly wisdom and strategies, worldly wealth and resources will never get the job done. It is the “foolishness” of the message of the cross we preach that saves sinners from death and hell to everlasting life. It is the message of the gospel that showcases the power of God to transform sinners into saints.

And it is the church to whom the message of reconciliation is entrusted, and as His ambassadors God’s appeal through us is this: “Be reconciled to God. God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:20-21).

Friend, if you’re not living a life that is reconciled to God by turning away from sin and trusting in Him, then I want to urge you today to receive His offer of salvation. You may not have another day to think it over.

And if you’re a Christian but are not an active part of a local church, then I want to invite you to join us and see for yourself what God is doing in the church. You need the church, and the church needs you.

Finally, to those who are faithfully serving as the Body of Christ, I so want to thank you for your labor in the Lord, for you know it will not be in vain.