March 28, 2011

Peace

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Several weeks ago I accepted an invitation to speak about the persecuted church on March 27th at the New Madrid Baptist Church in New Madrid, MO, about 250 miles northeast of Little Rock. My nephew, Cary Weaver, is the pastor at NMBC, and has been for about a year.

Sandi and I left home about 1pm on Saturday. We drove to Osceola, AR, about 180 miles away, to visit and spend the night with my sister and brother-in-law. It was great catching up with them in real time. My sister and I email just about every day; sometimes multiple times a day, but being there, I get to visit with my brother-in-law too, get to see their new fixer-upper house. I loved hearing them both talk about their vision for each part of the house. It will be “so them” and Sandi and I are so excited for them.

We got up Sunday morning and drove the last 70 miles on to New Madrid. We got there in plenty of time to set up the Open Doors table of books, DVDs, newsletters, etc., and to greet the congregation as they arrived. I love to meet and introduce myself to as many of the congregation as possible. It actually starts the “connection” that I’m hoping the “it’s about family” message will cement. It feels more like family to know I’m talking to Brian and Courtney and Margaret and Dean and Bill and Alice and Don and … you get the idea.
I faced some challenges in preparing this message.  About mid-week, it became apparent what was going on.  Because I had delivered the “It’s About Family” message before, I wasn’t devoting as much time and attention to preparation of this message.  Once I devoted myself fully to the “new” message, God revealed several new things to me, using most of the same scripture.  It was awesome!  I have at times thought I would pick one chapter or one series of verses and read them every day for a month and write down what new things God reveals every day – from the same scripture.  Still on the “to do” list.

Anyway, I got the message – God doesn’t want our worship to be a routine.  We can get up and go through our morning ritual and get in the car and go to work and only then stop and realize where we are.  The hundred actions we took to get there were all routine and required no conscious thought.  God doesn’t want our worship experience to be like that.  He wants every step to be conscious; He wants us to live in every moment of it, to love in every moment of it, and to always keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Amen?

In building the bridge between the free church at NMBC and the persecuted church, I talked about:

– Who is our family?
(We are all God’s family)

– What’s happening to our family?
(Persecuted for faith in Jesus)

– Why is this happening to our family?
(God uses persecution to build His church)

– What can we do to support our family?
(Pray for the persecuted …
Paul tells us when one suffers, we all suffer)
(Pray with the persecuted as they pray for those who harm them …
Jesus tells us to love our enemies)
(Pray about what else you can do to help the family …
John tells us to show our love by our actions).

The scripture used, the analogies, the persecuted family members’ testimonies, the background on Open Doors and Brother Andrew, the points from Dr. Carl Moeller’s “benefits of persecution” message to the Open Doors Bridgebuilders last fall, the One Hope video that uses the picture frames that come alive with family members’ testimonies, the words from the Day by Day with the Persecuted Church devotional, the stories from Compass Direct News, the personal stories, and the words about “different gifts” and “different hearts”, all come together to tell a very simple story about love for our family.  Over the course of four months, I have prayed earnestly about the message; I would receive inspiration and add more to the sermon outline and maybe another slide to the Powerpoint slideshow.  I would take that back to God in prayer; He would tweek it or throw it out and have me start over because I wasn’t listening the last time, and we continued through the process until it was His message.  It’s hard for me to get out of the way, but I’m learning.  This week showed me I still have a very long way to go. Thanking the Lord for His patience and His persistence.

When He’s done with the message (frankly, I don’t think He’s ever done with the message, but when He has concluded we’re going forward with what we’ve got), then I pray that He helps me get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit do the talking.  If I can do that, I don’t have to even think about the outcome. If the message gets delivered the way God envisioned, then the message will reach the right people and will get His desired outcome.  Just like the message is not mine, neither is the outcome.  He’s got that. My part is to listen, confirm, go, and obey.

I was at the Open Doors table following the service for probably 30 minutes or so, until the last person left. The feedback from the congregation was encouraging:

– “I had no idea! Can I have the newsletter and prayer card to take home with me?” Made sure she had the Frontline Faith newsletter, the World Watch List summary, and the Prayer Card for the persecuted church to take home.

– “Hey, Jean, let’s get one of these DVDs, invite some girls over, and have a prayer group.” I gave them my card and offered to participate by phone.  She bought the Cry From Iran DVD.

– “I don’t know why, but I’m drawn to this book, “Singing Through The Night”.  I really don’t read much but feel that I must buy this book.” And she did.

– Through teary eyes, a woman said, “I can see that there’s more responsibility in being a Christian – more family to pray for and with – more than I realized.” She also took a World Watch List summary, Frontline Faith newsletter, and Prayer Card.

– “I’m not feeling well and wasn’t planning on coming to church today. So glad that I did.”  She bought a “Prayer – The Real Battle” book.

– “I’ve been in the hospital and this is the first time I’ve been to church in a month. Thank you for telling us about this and telling us what we can do about it.”  I put a “Prayer – The Real Battle” book and a Prayer Card in her pocket.

And my personal favorite: a young boy, maybe 10 years old, asked about buying the book, “Faith That Endures”. This is the “Essential Guide to the Persecuted Church”; a 364-page “heavy read” in my opinion.  In fact, I’ve started it a couple of times, but haven’t finished it. 
I asked the young boy if he was sure this was the book he wanted as I handed it to him.  He examined it, handed it back to me, and said he was sure, that was the book.  He asked about the price and I told him it was $7.  He said he didn’t think he had $7 and I gave him the book and told him to enjoy it.  He walked away.  He came back in 10 minutes or so and said, “Mister, here’s $7 in quarters. I want to do my part.” Through teary eyes, I took the quarters, shook his hand, and said thank you.  I’m inspired to finish this book.
After the service, we drove north another 20 miles with my nephew and his family to Sikeston, MO, to have lunch at Lambert’s, “The Only Home of the Throwed Roll”.  This place is a hoot; we had fun, good time with Cary, Sara, Jackson Luke, and Millie Beth, and we got more food than one could eat in a whole day.
31 hours to, at, and from New Madrid … 500 miles … what’s one benefit of obeying God’s direction to you?  Peace.  I think this is “peace on earth.”  It isn’t about no wars, no conflicts, no strife; it is about peace with our Maker.
     Loving the Journey,
     Kevin
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