Archives For God’s love

Difficult golf ball in the mud

A friend of mine told me about a strange experience he had while on a mission trip in Africa. Some of the folks there wanted to play golf one afternoon at a course on the edge of a large city. He was not a golfer, but just to have some fellowship with them, he went along.

He got out on the golf course and saw signs that said, “Play the Ball Where the Monkey Throws It.”

He asked what it was about, and later he found out what it meant. The golf course had areas around it that had monkeys everywhere — just regular, wild monkeys that lived in that area.

The monkeys would come out on the golf course and were fascinated with the little white ball that came flying through the air and landed near them or on the green. The monkeys would run and grab the golf ball and throw it somewhere.

The people who kept up the golf course had tried several things to get rid of the monkeys, including a large fence and noise makers, but to no avail. Many of the people who played golf there got upset because where they hit their ball was not where it was when they had to hit it the next time. The monkeys would run out there, get the ball, throw it to the other side of the fairway or off the golf course.

When things don’t go as planned, God may be redirecting your life towards an unexpected blessing.

Failing to keep the monkeys away, the golf course managers just conceded that they built the course in the monkeys’ domain and they changed the rules to accommodate what happens on the course. So the sign said, “Play the Ball Where the Monkey Throws It.” It’s hard enough to play golf when you are playing against the elements or the wind or the frustrations of just trying to hit the ball fairly straight, but when you’ve got to deal with the monkey population, it’s even more difficult. The people who played the course that day as every day would just begin with the understanding that they would have to hit their ball from wherever the monkey throws it.

The fact is that for nearly all of us, life is somewhat like that. Every one of us is going down the fairway of life and suddenly realize that something has affected the steps ahead and the next shot in life. Sure enough, the monkeys have been on the course.

Yet there are some amazing things that can take place when God changes the course in your life each day. Things that can either frustrate you or bless you. Things that can change the twists and turns of your road of life and take you down a path that is filled with new sights, new joys, new people and new opportunities.

Some people may never see those things. Some of you may never come to enjoy the monkeys of life throwing your ball around on the course, but would choose just to be frustrated about it, angry about it, upset because somebody, something, some monkey pitched your golf ball off in a ditch, and you can’t get over it.

I often think of James in his little book toward the end of the Bible where he said, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14).

James reminds us that the will of God is not always fully known when the sun comes up every morning, and what you plan for the day may not be in God’s plan and purposes for you. Things get shifted around and about mid-morning you realize, yep the monkeys in life have been at work again in my daily routine. Go with the flow. Go with God in the midst of what He has in store for you. Watch carefully and you may see a bright and shining blessing just ahead.

Jim Futral is executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.

This article first appeared on Baptist Press at BPnews.net.

Growing up, letting go

ib2newseditor —  April 5, 2018

Growing up“I have to go to work.”

The 2-year-old in our house pushes her hair away from her face, shoulders a miniature pink backpack, and starts trudging to the back door.

“Don’t go!” we say. “Stay here with us. It’s almost time for dinner.”

She replies, dutifully, “No. I have to go.”

She’s growing up—fast. And she’s not the only one. Everywhere you look, young people are taking on big responsibilities previously reserved for people older than they are. High schoolers take college courses. Tweens have detailed social calendars, and the mobile devices to manage them. There is a 6-year-old who made $11 million last year marketing toys on YouTube.

Some kids are tackling the most pressing issues of our day, the most recent example being the Florida teens campaigning for an end to school violence like the shooting that devastated their community earlier this year.

As an adult, especially as a parent, it’s easy to want to lock the doors, pull down the shades, and resolve to just make life work inside our house for the next 15 years.

At Children’s Missions Day this month, I saw evidence that many parents aren’t parenting like that. Hundreds of mini-missionaries worked in 16 locations across Illinois, baking cookies, tending yards, delivering care packages, and visiting nursing homes—all in the name of sharing God’s love with people who might need to hear about it.

My 2-year-old went with me to take photos at one of the sites that day, and I watched her watch the older kids. On the way home, I heard her voice from the backseat: “When I get older and bigger, can I do projects?”

Her question begs an answer—and a commitment—from her parents. To let her grow up and exercise the faith we pray she’ll make her own one day. To trust that God has a plan for her life that may include going somewhere we’ve not been, and can’t go along.
In a scary world, it’s a heavy commitment. We have time to get used to the idea, but not as much as we once did. They’re growing up fast.

The Briefing

Tragedy in Texas: Christian testimony in the face of evil
Albert Mohler writes in his commentary, “Christians have learned that sometimes we have to wait for an answer, and sometimes that wait goes beyond any answer we can get in this life. Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of the 19th century in London stated this beautifully: ‘When we cannot trace God’s hand, we are simply to trust his heart.’”

Evil has an expiration date: On Sutherland Springs and Christ
Owen Strachan writes in his commentary, “You cannot deny Jesus what is his. He died a terrible death to purchase a people for himself. His atonement was successful. His victory is undeniable. If Jesus suffers the little children to come to him, they will come. He will welcome them to his home. He will take their fragmented, torn-apart bodies, martyrs from over all the face of the globe, and he will make them whole.”

Survivors recount horror of church attack
Witnesses say the gunman who killed 27 people Sunday at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, shot babies at point-blank range and targeted anyone who cried out during his rampage. At one point, he yelled, “Everbody die!” Twenty people survived the attack, and at least five remain hospitalized. https://world.wng.org/content/survivors_recount_horror_of_church_attack

Death sweeps across 3 generations of a single family gathered at Texas church
Houses of worship are among the few regular gathering places left for families, sometimes extended ones and sometimes across many generations. The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., is no different. And within those walls on Sunday morning, together as always, were three generations of the Holcombe family.

Faith helps mass shooting survivors
No one expects their church to become the target of an attack—especially not the kind of spare-no-one shooting that took place Sunday at a Southern Baptist church in rural Texas. For survivors and their neighbors, it’s the kind of unimaginable tragedy that will change their small single-stoplight town forever.

Billy Graham’s 99th birthday offers 12-day radio special
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) will host the Billy Graham Channel Nov. 6–17 as channel 145 on SiriusXM Radio, featuring sermons from Graham’s six decades of evangelism, as well as salvation invitations and reflections from family and friends, BGEA said. A companion website, TheBillyGrahamChannel.com, will offer companion resources.

Sources: AlbertMolher.com, Center for Public Theology, World Magazine, Washington Post, Christianity Today, Baptist Press

Illinois commits to Texas aid

ib2newseditor —  September 25, 2017

Massive Florida storm stretches Baptist response

FBC Galatia flood recovery volunteers do mud-out work on a house in Vidor, Texas, near Beaumont.

FBC Galatia flood recovery volunteers do mud-out work on a house in Vidor, Texas, near Beaumont. They’re working with eight other teams from several states on a list of 200 area homes that continues to grow. Facebook photo courtesy Butch & Debbie Porter

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) continues its marathon response in Texas doing flood recovery work in homes drying out after Hurricane Harvey, providing shower and laundry facilities, and preparing hot meals for relief workers and displaced Texans. And a team of childcare volunteers traveled more than a thousand miles to wipe tears away when the response began in early September.

No sooner had the work in Texas ramped up for IBDR when Hurricane Irma swept through Florida. Many wondered if teams would be deployed to the east. Dwayne Doyle, IBDR state director, notified volunteers, “We have made the decision to focus our ongoing work in Texas as a partner with the Southern Baptist Texas Convention Disaster Relief. Many of the Southeastern state Disaster Relief units are leaving Texas to go work with Hurricane Irma victims in Florida.

“We will continue to focus our efforts in Texas because this is where we have identified a specific and strategic need that IBDR can meet.”

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, noted state Disaster Relief organizations have done “an absolutely incredible job” since the landfall of Harvey in Texas on Aug. 25, followed by Irma in Florida on Sept. 10.

“It’s going to be a long-term response in both places and we need help in the months to come….We have a desperate need for more volunteers in Florida and in Texas,” he said.
Mini Disaster Relief training events were hot tickets in Illinois in September. Nine were held across the state, where at least 150 people received flood recovery training.

Jan Kragness

Jan Kragness at the Dallas Convention Center. Facebook photo courtesy Kragness.

Help for hurting families
IBDR Chaplain Jan Kragness served on the 10-person childcare team that deployed to the Dallas Convention Center to work with some 2,500 Houston-area evacuees housed there. She shared glimpses of her experience on Facebook. On Sept. 2 Kragness shared, “It was a hard day. Many people were rescued by boat day before yesterday. They were brought in at 1:30 a.m. The children and parents were sad and tired. My arms were tired.”

Kragness told the story of one family with three young children. The younger brother “was so unhappy, he could not stand the separation anxiety of being away from Mommy. His 5-year-old sister came into his group area, and held him for comfort. He was almost as big as she was.”

Kragness took the younger brother and sister to their mother. “She loved on the children and tried explaining that she had to get the sister registered for school and there was a long line. But she would be back for them. The mommy looked exhausted.”

That was when the woman told Kragness what had happened. “She explained to me that their home had been broken into and the children assaulted and that was part of the separation anxiety. We had prayer with the mother…So when I took the children back to the childcare area, they were more comfortable but would not integrate with the others and could not let go of me.”

About an hour later, the older brother came to check on his siblings. He told Kragness, “Miss Jan, we’ve got trouble at our house. Big trouble.” She told him, “Well, if you would like to talk about it, I would be glad to listen.”

He shared, “Our house was broken into by a bad man. He knocked down my brother, and hurt my sister. Mommy is scared and Daddy is mad. Our house is scary and we have trouble.”

Kragness said, “I am so glad you shared with me. And I am so glad you are safe now. There really are lots of people who are watching over you, but the greatest of all is Jesus. Shall we pray and ask Jesus to care for you and your family and keep you safe?”

“Yes, please pray to Jesus for me,” he said.

She assured him Jesus was listening to him anytime and everywhere. He prayed, “Jesus, please keep my little brother and my sister safe and help Mommy and Daddy to not be so worried.”

Kragness wrote, “He looked so relieved. He hugged me and ran off to play football. My heart ached to follow him and hold him close. But I knew Jesus had that job handled.”

The response continues
More IBDR teams are on their way to Texas. Volunteers trained in mass feeding, shower/laundry, and flood recovery are needed. If you can go with one of these teams, contact the team leader:

September 26 – October 8
Unit # IL RC 005 – Greater Wabash Baptist Association
Team Leader: Donald Ile
Phone: (618) 599-4234
E-Maildonruthsawdust@gmail.com

October 2-8
Unit #IL25
 – Sullivan Baptist Church
Team Leader: Don Lusk
Phone: (217) 232-8880
E-Mail: pastordon@sullivansbc.org

October 7-15
Unit #27 – Harrisburg First Baptist Church.
Team Leader: Joe Jackson
Cell: (618) 841-5015
E-Mailjoeluj@frontier.com

Teams that have already served in the Beaumont area include:

– A 26-person mobile kitchen team based out of Living Faith Baptist in Sherman which prepared nearly 41,000 meals, along with Incident Command leadership and shower/laundry trailers from both Franklin and Macoupin Associations. It was mobilized with volunteers from across the state.
– A flood recovery team with members from central and Metro East Illinois.
– A team from FBC Galatia with members trained in flood recovery, mass feeding, and shower/laundry trailers.

To learn more about the callouts, training, and how to donate, visit IBSA.org/DR.

– Lisa Misner Sergent, with additional reporting by Baptist Press

Nate Adams IBSA exterior

Former editor Dennis Dawson used to write a column in the Illinois Baptist titled, “Is This a Great State or What?” During those days, I remember many IBSA staff members who would return from a far corner of the state and parody that column’s title by asking, “Is this a great BIG state, or what?”

Illinois is almost 400 miles long from its northern border to its southern tip, and more than 200 miles at its widest point from east to west. Believe me, I know. On a given Sunday, it’s possible for me to drive three and a half hours to a church in southern Illinois, or four or more to a church north of Chicago, even from our central location in Springfield. But when it comes to traveling our great state, I have two secret weapons, or perhaps I should call them secret blessings. I have a mom who lives in the Chicago suburbs, and a mother-in-law who lives in the heart of southern Illinois.

Though both have been widowed for several years, and both are well into their 80’s, these two dear moms still maintain their own homes and are very active in their churches. And they still put a pretty good meal on the table. So when my travel takes me in their direction, my wife or I often call in advance and ask, “Is the Bed & Breakfast available this weekend?”

A word of thanks to faithful mothers for good food and, even better, spiritual refreshment.

Of course, these are our moms, not innkeepers. I would never want to presume upon their hospitality, and I’m sensitive to the fact that I’m sometimes passing through their homes quickly, with little more time than for a bed and breakfast. Yet each time I have apologized for that, our moms have both assured me that they are always glad for whatever time we have together.

Over the years, I have learned that there is more to a bed than sleep, and
more to breakfast than eating. When you’re at Mom’s house, the smells are
familiar. The sounds are familiar. The pictures on the walls and the knickknacks on the shelves are familiar. It’s home.

When you sit around the kitchen table at Mom’s house, you relax and ease up a little. You help yourself from the fridge. You change a light bulb or two, so she won’t have to. You eat, but more than that, you fellowship.

In other words, the blessing that these two moms are to me and my often extensive travel goes far beyond the hours of sleep saved. It even goes beyond the dollar they save the IBSA budget, which I’m sure would be thousands and thousands over the past few years. They refresh me. They refresh my wife and allow us to travel together more. They give me home away from home.

So as Mother’s Day passes this year, and since they both read the Illinois Baptist faithfully, I want to use this brief space to say thank you to two faithful moms, Romelia Adams and Georgianna Schultz. Perhaps in doing so I am helping other pastors or church leaders say thank you to their moms too, for all the ways that they support our ministries, from nearby or afar.

I recall my dad once saying that when his mother passed, he physically felt the absence of her prayers. I don’t know how that works exactly, but I do know that there is something extremely valuable in the support of a mother. I see it in our two moms, and I see it in my wife, not just for me, but especially for our children, and their spiritual lives.

So I will keep cherishing the times when I can pick up the phone and ask, “Is the Bed & Breakfast available?” So far it has been every time.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Blue ribbonNate Adams’s Illinois Baptist column was awarded first place by the Evangelical Press Association.

Open empty tomb. Watercolor painting

The day of Jesus’ resurrection has always been an orienting point for Christians. From the beginning, it was the day for their weekly gatherings. Later it became a pivotal day in the annual Christian calendar.

Prior to Easter each year, we reflect on Jesus’ perfect submission — from His victory over Satan’s temptations in the wilderness to His ultimate act of obedience on the cross. We examine our own devotion and deal intentionally with the temptations and distractions that keep us from full obedience.

Then, on Easter, the commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection pivots us from contemplating the humility of the suffering Lamb to celebrating the power of the risen Lamb; from identifying with the crucified Servant to exalting the victorious Savior.

This shift is rooted in the events that occurred on the very day of Jesus’ resurrection, beginning with the question posed to the women who went to His tomb: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”

Easter posture is not, however, merely standing and facing the resurrected Lord. It is standing and facing our future because of His resurrection.

It is true that the question had something to do with their location at the tomb. Luke reports, however, that the women had “inclined their faces to the ground” and that this posture prompted the messengers’ question. Why? Because early Christians knew they lived in a world governed by the words of Genesis 3:19: “You will eat food by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it; for you are dust, and you will return to dust.” The women’s posture that morning was entirely reasonable in light of these words. Each and every body laid in a tomb would return to the ground, the dust.

A change had occurred that morning, however, that the women’s posture did not reflect. Jesus’ resurrection had brought about a new posture. The women should not be inclined toward the ground looking for Jesus but standing and facing Him as their risen Lord.

Easter posture is not, however, merely standing and facing the resurrected Lord. It is standing and facing our future because of His resurrection.

Forty days prior to Easter, some Christians have ash placed on their foreheads and hear the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” They are reminded of the brevity of life and the urgency of present obedience.

The question is good for you to hear: Why do you seek for the living among the dead?

If you have been to a funeral this past year, you don’t need an ashen symbol to remind you of the brevity of life or that death still grips creation. As you inclined your face toward the body that was to be placed in the ground, you were confronted with the fact that this is not how God created that person. The eulogies testified to the fact that there is no one in the world who spoke, sang, laughed or loved like the one whose body lay in the casket.

It is at just this point where the women’s lesson is vital for us because the Easter posture is a posture of hope. Death results in the body returning to the ground — for now. Sorrow and grief are real — for now. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, however, we can stand and face our future with hope. The apostle Paul says it this way: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Are you struggling to face your future? Maybe you have experienced a great tragedy in your life: the death of a friend or family member, a diagnosis of a terminal disease. Maybe the loss of someone or something that has provided security has shaken your confidence in the future: the betrayal of a close friend or spouse, the loss of a job. Maybe anxiety is just your persistent struggle; you struggle to face the future even in the absence of crises.

The question is good for you to hear: Why do you seek for the living among the dead?

Allow the fact of Jesus’ resurrection to give you the confidence to face your future. With His resurrection in mind, stand up and face your future with hope.

Christopher Graham is assistant professor of theology at Criswell College and its program director for the master of divinity degree and master of arts in theological and biblical studies. This article is adapted from the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Keep Christmas alive

ib2newseditor —  December 29, 2016

pouring-teaIt feels so wonderful! The spirit of Christmas adds oomph to life. We live in anticipation and we’re even nice to strangers. We become very intentional about giving to others.

But as we turned the calendar page to December 26, did that Christmas spirit fade? As you pack up those Christmas decorations, consider these five simple reminders to help keep that spirit of joy and generosity at the forefront all year.

1. Live expectantly. Anticipation is at a high during Christmas, but a sense of expectancy is a good thing all year long. It keeps us on our toes, helps us use time wisely, and reminds us to lean on God. So, live with enthusiasm every day of the year. “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant” (Romans 12:11-12a MSG).

2. Be extra nice to strangers. Are you kinder to total strangers at Christmas? Your job as a Christian is to be God’s ambassador, representing him with your every word and deed. Take your ambassador job seriously all year long. Be nice to strangers.

3. Practice a “shoebox continuum.” Wasn’t it awesome to stuff gifts in shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child or backpacks for Appalachian children? Don’t stop. Each month this year, gift a carefully prepared backpack or box to a local child in extraordinary need. Include a “God loves you” note.

4. Engage in better benevolence. Use Christmas ministry projects as a springboard to yearlong generosity. For example, instead of a give-and-run delivery of gifts or dinner for a local needy family, make a plan to show God’s love to them all year. Get to know them. Listen to their story. Invite them to church and welcome them. Pray with them. Introduce them to Jesus.

5. Smile freely. The Christmas season lends itself to joy. Joy isn’t seasonal for a Christian. It radiates from inside, and it’s there on happy days and desperate days, on New Year’s Day and Groundhog Day and every other day of the year. Radiate the joy of Jesus in non-December months.

The “spirit of Christmas” is not a December event. It’s a Christian’s lifestyle and mission. It’s our everyday marching orders from Christ. Exude the true Christmas spirit—God’s Spirit—as you live with joy, expectancy, love, and generosity.

© Diana Davis, dianadavis.org