Monday, November 21, 2011

Rejoicing in the Victories; Weeping for the Wounded; Longing for the Lost

I've had a pretty fantastic fall season as far as ministry goes. I've been blessed with great opportunities, great audiences and great responses to the callings of the Holy Spirit. This past weekend found me in Trenton MO for two magic events and one Sunday morning message. Friday night was a youth rally; Sunday night a college Thanksgiving dinner.

I recently wrote about celebrating our victories, so I wanted to share some things with you.

The youth rally was sparsely attended but it is a ministry that is just getting started and is in a building phase. Even so, there were several kids that brought their friends and some (6) that responded to the message of salvation through our Lord and Savior, Jesus. I'm extremely grateful for the adults that are working to build an associational youth ministry and provide activities that kids and their friends can enjoy and know that there are people and a God that love them dearly.

The Sunday night Thanksgiving dinner at North Central Missouri College is a very interesting venue. NCMC is a two year college that has limited on campus housing. As with most two-year colleges, the majority of the students live in the area and commute daily.  However, NCMC also has students that are from distant areas of Missouri and even some from out of state. These students live in campus housing. Every Sunday night, volunteers from the local Southern Baptist association prepare a meal that on campus students can enjoy--free of charge! As such, there are followers of Jesus that come, and there are many that are not followers that come. The meal is free. The love is free. There is no condition that you have to stay and listen to somebody preach, nor is there any kind of requirement to make any false promise or claim that you share a common belief. Just being hungry is enough to get you in and get you fed.

For the Thanksgiving feast there was turkey, ham, roast beef, beef and noodles, and chicken and noodles. There were mashed potatoes, stuffing, salads, dinner rolls and a great number of pies, cakes and other desserts. When every body had their fill, plastic containers were handed out to the students that wanted to take some food with them for a late night snack.  I had some fun sharing some close-up magic with some of the students before dinner and then had an after dinner show and also talked to them about my Savior. There were 60+ students that came for dinner and five that made first time professions of faith. I know that the volunteers that work with them weekly will be following up to help these young men and women grow in their faith and walk with Jesus.

In between these two events, I got to share a Sunday morning message with the fellowship at Coon Creek Baptist Church. They were a warm group of people and were generous in their blessing.

I wish that I could say that all is well in the churches of our God. Unfortunately, I am still hearing the stories of those that have left the church; left religion; and left God because of the human failings and judgments of those that claim to follow Him. My heart breaks for those that have forsaken God because of the way that we (the church) have failed them. I hope that they can find it in their hearts to forgive us and that they can love us and love God with the love that they expect from God and deserve from those that claim to follow Him.

Several years ago, I heard this statement from a woman in our Sunday school class:
"If you're willing to let a hypocrite come between you and God, then you must also realize that the hypocrite is closer to God than you are."

Followers of Jesus are far from perfect. We still need forgiveness, too. I firmly believe that my church is unlike most churches when it comes to that. I'm not saying that you won't run into those that harshly judge others and appear to be self-righteous and better than most other Christians. We have a few of those, to be sure. But for the great majority, we are a loving family of believers and would welcome you into our fellowship.  Others that have been hurt by fellow believers are healing and growing in a new found relationship with Jesus.

As an evangelist, I get to visit many churches...
...and there is no place like Home. I truly enjoy my calling to go and preach at every opportunity. But I miss my Hopedale family when I am gone. I had a recent opportunity to query another evangelist that was visiting my church. I asked him what he thought of my church. He responded by saying, "I can see why you love this church!"

Made me so proud of my church family!

Sunday morning, the pastor of the Coon Creek church challenged members to come on Sunday night to pray for the lost. I thank God that there is a growing concern for the lost in our community among the members at Hopedale. More and more, we are seeing people move the focus of ministry away from ourselves and onto those that are separated from God by their sin and by their choice.

As followers of Jesus, we do need to rejoice in the daily victories.
As followers of Jesus, we do need to weep for and work to restore the ones that have been hurt by religion.
As followers of Jesus, we do need to long for those that Jesus came to save. We need to bring the message of love and salvation to a lost and dying world. We need to share His story.

John <><

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