Monday, November 28, 2011

Who is Lottie Moon and why does she want my money

If you look around now, you will see all of the tell-tale signs of the Christmas shopping season:  Stores decorated and lit up, newspapers stuffed with advertisements, e-mails telling about the great Cyber-Monday deals, shopping center parking lots filled with cars, Salvation Army kettle ringers, sleep deprived people driving from store to store on Black Friday, people in a hurry and looking stressed/haggard, and the smell of pepper spray in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Okay, sot his last paragraph was written with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.  However, we Americans have left ourselves open to such ridicule because of our obsessions with material possessions at this time of the year.  Yet as a Southern Baptist, there is another tell-tale sign of the celebration of Jesus' advent:  The Lottie Moon Christmas offering for International Missions.  The uninitiated may ask, "Who is Lottie Moon and why does she want my money"?  Well, she doesn't really want our money since she died in 1912.  However, she was a Southern Baptist missionary to China who gave her life to spread the message of Christmas/Easter with the Chinese people.  She also worked tirelessly to get SBC churches in America to support spreading the Gospel to International lands.  Long before the Internet and e-mails, she wrote letters in her own hand and mailed them to churches and individuals.  So the Southern Baptist Convention has named the offering to support International missions after her.  In reality, the over 3,000 career SBC missionaries are the ones who need our money so they can continue to see a Kingdom harvest.

The International Mission Board estimates that there are over 11,545 people groups in the world.  Of those, there are 6,672 who have a population of less than 2% Christians.  3,575 of those people groups are not actively engaged by any Christian mission group or movement.  So we are facing a huge task as we look at the need for Christ in our world today.  Most of us will not be able to go and spend our lives sharing Christ with one of these people groups.  However, as we mentioned in Sunday's sermon, we can make a difference by giving so others can go.  Some are "Goers" and some are "Givers".  If we aren't going, we should be giving.  Don't get sidetracked by the amount of the gift because a little goes a long way in the hands of the King of Kings.

This Saturday, our Missions/Outreach Committee is hosting a White Elephant auction with the proceeds going to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.  We will decorate the church at 2:00, have our coffeehouse at 3:00 and then have our auction at 4:00.  So bring your wallet, your wrapped white elephant gift along with a spirit of giving and adventure as we begin our journey towards reaching our goal of $2,012.

Which brings me full circle in this blog.  You can fight the crowds or spend all day on line looking for the perfect gift which probably won't last past Christmas Day.  Or you can make an investment in eternity by giving to International Missions.  It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition, but for most of us to give to missions, we will need to make some sacrifices in our Christmas spending.    Giving to the Lottie Moon offering will make a difference for people in foreign lands.  I believe that you will be greeted in Heaven by those who have heard/responded to the Gospel through the opportunity you gave them with your financial support.  Think and decide which gift is best and make this Advent season really count.  See you Saturday.

Monday, November 21, 2011


From 1861 until 1865, the United States fought her bloodiest war ever, the American Civil War.  One of the major catalysts for this war was the issue of slavery which had been causing divisions since the first slaves arrived on these shores.  Over 625,000 men lost their lives during this war as American liberated her slaves, more casualties than any other war in American history.  This war was fought on American soil with farms, homes, building and entire cities being destroyed.  All of this done in the name of freedom.

Today, many mistakenly think that we no longer have slavery in America, but that is not true.  The United States Congress today estimates that there are over 100,000 American minors exploited in domestic minor sex trafficking, through the pimping industry, using the internet and on the streets.  Much of the illegal immigration coming to America are minors being brought for the express purpose of the sex slave trade.  There is no easy way to gloss over what is happening in our country.  California is one of the major destinations for human trafficking and our laws are very lax.  The penalty for human trafficking amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist.  As we learned at the Higher Ground Coffee House, there is something we can do about it.  If you weren't there, please go to  where you can learn more about this and how to get involved.  So within the borders of our country there are over 100,000 slaves right now who need to have freedom.  It is the task of the church to bring freedom to the captive.

Please take a moment to read John 8:34-36.  In this passage, Jesus reminds us that if we are His followers then we are free.  Jesus came for the express purpose of setting us free from the penalty of sin.  Now, we will still have to face the consequences of our sin, but the penalty has been paid.  Romans 6 reminds us that this is the free gift of God.  We cannot earn it, only receive it.  If you haven't received the freedom from sin found only in Jesus, today is the day for you to cry out to God and accept that gift of salvation.

Once we receive that gift of freedom we can now utilize that freedom to bring about change in our lives and the world or abuse that freedom and harm those around us and ourselves.  I Peter 2:16 says, "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil;  live as servants of God."  What a powerful reminder of the responsibility that comes with our freedom.  Do we use our freedom as an excuse to feed the flesh?  I have been amazed at how many Christians as so enamored with the "Twighlight" series which glorifies the very things God has warned us about.  I have heard a multitude of Christian justifications this weekend as the latest movie drew record crowds.  I listen to the reasons for seeing these movies and I can only hear the sound of people feeding the flesh.  I'm not slamming this particular movie;  It just happens to be a perfect example of abusing our freedom in Christ.  What we do with our freedom will affect how others view Christ and whether they come to Christ or not.  

This I Peter passage reminds us to live as servants of God.  We have had our freedom purchased at a high price so we can actually become slaves to Christ.  But he certainly is a more benevolent master than sin.  Not only does He give us eternal life, but He will give us a meaningful and purposeful life.  So what are you doing with your freedom?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Who will triumph this week in your life?

Most of us have heard the saying, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."  It is attributed to Edmund Burke, a British Statesman in the 1700's, although the quote is not found in any of his writings.  Burke warned England about engaging in a battle with the American colonies and took a very unpopular stand in desiring to grant the colonies freedom.  He also spoke out against the French Revolution and the excesses taking place in that country.  Even if he did not directly make the quote, he certainly gave a framework for its understanding.

This past week, college football was rocked by the news that a prominent assistant coach at Penn State had sexually assaulted several underage boys.  As more details have been released, it appears that those in leadership at Penn State knew of this activity and did the bare minimum about it.  No one stepped up to stop this man or hold him accountable as he still had access to the Penn State facilities through the week before the accusations became public.  All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  I listened to an interview done with a former professional football player named Heath Evans  He has started a foundation to minister and care for victims of such heinous crimes.  I was almost brought to tears as I listened to him plead at the end of his interview for anyone who had been abused to call and his foundation would pay for counseling and help.  His stand was that Penn State should show support for the victims by cancelling the rest of the season, all football players should be released from their commitment and allowed to play at other schools with no penalty and that the NCAA should give the "death penalty" to the Penn State football program for a lack on institutional control.  Many who follow college athletics would say that is too harsh of a penalty.  However, we live in a culture which allows predators multiple chances and opportunities.  We allow the enablers of predators to pay no price.  We no longer have an attitude of caring for those in need.  We don't want to get involved.  We don't want to make waves or cause a problem.  We are afraid to step in and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

As followers of Christ, involvement is not an option.  Jesus told the parable of a man who was beaten and left for dead.  Two religious leaders pass by this beaten man and do nothing.  They easily justify their actions by their busyness and religiosity.  However, one man stops and renders aid, going beyond what is expected to care for this man.  He ends the parable by asking this question:  "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"  Then Jesus tells His hearers to go and do likewise.

This parable screams to us today.  The Church cannot just pass by on the other side and justify neglect by saying we are busy or our faith forbids us.  We are called to get involved with those who cannot stand for themselves.  This Sunday evening gives you the opportunity to do this at our Higher Grounds Coffee House as we hear about slavery in California today.   It is an opportunity for you to get involved in standing for those who have no power to stand for themselves.  But throughout this week, we will have opportunities to speak for those who need help, to assist someone who has nothing and to be a good neighbor.  Will we justify our inactivity and allow evil to triumph because we have done nothing?  Or will we get our hands dirty and get involved in the mess of life by caring for the least of these?  Will you be a good neighbor?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You need to read this

On Sunday morning, I told you about the Youth Minister from my teen years who was facing cancer and how he broke the news on his blog.  I went back and read it again today and felt like everyone I know could benefit from reading this response to cancer from Don Brock.  So in this week's Sip from the Well, I will defer to "Daddy Don" and let his words minister to you.  Below is a link to this blog. Please take the time to read it.  You will be blessed.  I hope it will encourage you to face whatever "tragedy" is in your life with faith, which gives an abiding peace.