Thank You for Giving to the Lottie Moon Offering

Christmas season is a season of giving. For Southern Baptists, this season of giving is important for giving to our International Mission Board through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I hope that you have given your offering already. If not, I hope that you will give soon through your local church.

On behalf of the approximately 3,656 missionaries and their children, let me thank you for that gift. Let me thank you for your investment in the progress of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Specifically, let me thank you on behalf of several individual families that I have met with in recent weeks.

First, thank you on behalf of parents of missionary families who are facing their first Christmas with their children in another country. The sacrifice of the missionaries who go is often talked about by us. This is certainly appropriate. What sometimes is overlooked is the sacrifice of their parents who stay behind while their kids go to distant, often dangerous places.

Second, let me thank you on behalf of a missionary couple whom I know well. In a recent visit with them, they spoke of their car. Knowing that they had not always had a car in their country, I asked specifically about their access to a car. “Oh,” they said, “the car was provided by Lottie Moon.” I smiled. I knew exactly what that meant. They are thankful.

Finally, let me thank you on behalf of a new missionary family I was introduced to by one of our Louisiana pastors. The couple has served in an undisclosed country for 27 years. They shared with incredible joy about their work for several hours. Upon my departure, the missionary said, “Can I ask a favor?”

I said, “Tell me what it is.”

He said, “Promise me that to the next 5 groups you speak to, you will say ‘thank you’ for us.”

I promised them I would. I have. And now, I want to go beyond those five groups and say to all who read and have given, “Thank you.”

But beyond this, thank you on behalf of those who have heard the Gospel in their heart language and responded to the offer of God’s Amazing Grace!

As the old hymn says, “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!”

As we read in Revelation, “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. . . . And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Re-Thinking Our Lottie Moon Giving

Some years ago, our church hosted an International Mission Board speaker to speak to us about his work and the importance of giving to that year’s offering. As I introduced him, I challenged our church to erase whatever we thought we were going to give and be receptive to hearing from God.

At the very end of his talk, our missionary speaker made a startling statement that should cause all of us to rethink our giving. The missionary told about being in a meeting with about 220 other missionary families. In this gathering, the missionaries themselves were asked to make a sacrificial gift to the Lottie Moon offering. These 220 missionary families gave in excess of $300,000.

I did the math so you don’t have to yourself. That’s an average of $1,363.64 per missionary family.

Southern Baptists, how can we ask our missionaries who are already sacrificing so much to “out-sacrifice” the rest of us in this season of giving? Be as generous and sacrificial as you can be this year.

Again, let the words of Lottie Moon, herself, guide you.

Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?

Southern Baptists, Lottie Moon, and Christmas

For Southern Baptists, Christmas season and missions are inextricably linked by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. In short, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is the major funding source for our overseas missions effort as Southern Baptists.

Lottie Moon, the missionary to China of the 1880s summed up best our reason for giving to missions at Christmas:

“Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?”

As we enter the month of December, we will join with other Southern Baptists in a season of giving specific for international missions. A few years ago, I heard a missionary say:

“I do not expect you to go with me, but God expects me to go and I will be disobedient if I do not go.”

But, if God expects him to go and not us, should not we assume that God expects us to help him go? Please join me in giving to this year’s offering.

As you think about giving, let me suggest to you some specific ideas about giving this year.

  • $25-If you are a new Christian or a new Southern Baptist who has never heard of Lottie Moon, this may be a place to start. I always say “start where you are.” Start with this initial gift representing Christmas as the 25thday of December.
  • $365-Some may consider this gift representing $1 a day for the entire year.
  • Empty out that change jar and give it to the Lottie Moon offering.
  • Give an amount equal to the average amount that you will spend on a Christmas gift.
  • Give an amount that is greater than any amount you have previously given to the Lottie Moon Offering.

On behalf of missionaries I know and am privileged to get to represent at some level, I say thank you for your generosity.

A Lesson on Thanksgiving When the Happy Ending Has Not Come Yet!

Habakkuk ended his prophecy like this:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there is no fruit on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18yet I will triumph in Yahweh;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
19Yahweh my Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like those of a deer
and enables me to walk on mountain heights! (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Now, Habakkuk was not always in this praise place. In fact, if you read the whole book of Habakkuk, he was very far away from this place.

Habakkuk most likely prophesied just before the beginning of the exile when the sin of Judah is at the peak. Habakkuk questioned God as to how long He would allow sin to reign in Judah (1:1-4). God answered back that He was preparing the Babylonians to deal with Judah’s sin (1:5-11). Habakkuk’s second question concerns how God could use the Babylonians, who were more wicked, to be the instrument of judgment against Judah (1:12-2:1).

When God answers Habakkuk’s questions we learn several important truths.

  1. God is always at work even if we do not see how He is at work.
  2. God will speak at the right time.

And so, we must learn to walk by faith.

Habakkuk’s name in Hebrew means something like “one who embraces” or “one who clings.”  That’s what we must do sometimes—cling to or embrace our faith in God.  Sometimes all we have is to cling to our faith.

Maybe today your prayer sounds a lot like Habakkuk’s opening words of his praise. Maybe your prayer goes like this:

Though the cane, corn, and cotton crops fail
And the oil wells all dry up
Even though there may be no money in the bank
Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord!

Though I share Christ with all my neighbors and family
But there are no decisions
And, even though, the Doctor called last week
And the news is not good
Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord!
He is my salvation and hope!

You only get to those last words by faith!

Four Steps to Solving Most Any Relationship Issue

Many New Testament scholars give the educated guess that the book of James is among the earliest, if not the earliest, written New Testament books. If this widely-held thesis is correct, then with James, we have a good look into the issues that the earliest believers in Jesus struggled with in their discipleship. We then observe that we struggle with the same issues. Indeed the sin and struggles of the human heart stretch across generations.

At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, but relying on the word of God, can we solve most every relationship struggle with four steps? Let me be the messenger of some “one another” statements from Brother James.

  1. Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. James 4:11
  2. Brothers and sisters, do not complain about one another. James 5:9
  3. Confess your sins to one another. James 5:16
  4. Pray for one another. James 5:16

Think about a church or a convention of churches where we did not criticize one another or complain about one another, but instead confessed our own sin to one another, and prayed for one another.

A Quick Look Back at Our Annual Meeting

To those of you who came to the annual meeting of Louisiana Baptists, thank you. We had about forty more registered messengers than last year. An increase is better than a decrease. We will need to work hard to have an even better participation next year in New Orleans.

Overall, I think we had a great meeting. I thought the preaching was excellent. Jake Roudkovski, Paul Chitwood, Jamie Dew, Eddie Wren, Jeffery Friend, and Clint Pressley all challenged me. I am hearing good reports about the times of fellowship.

We welcomed 17 new churches into our convention. Please pray for these new brothers and sisters.

For those not able to attend, I raised two fundamental questions in my address that I hope every Louisiana Baptists will pray over and ponder.

  • Will we allow our diversity to divide us and distract us from our primary mission?
  • Will we require uniformity in order to cooperate for our primary mission?

The way that we answer these two questions over the next decade will either strengthen or weaken our cooperative ministries.

Are You Registered for the Louisiana Baptist Convention Annual Meeting?

We are days out from the two day annual meeting of Louisiana Baptists. This year we are meeting in Alexandria at the Riverfront Center on November 11 and 12. The staff of Louisiana Baptists are hard at work putting the final touches on the details of the meeting.

Our theme is RENEW. We have some new churches to celebrate, and we want to renew our commitment to our common work. We have new leaders who are planning to be with us. The International Mission Board has a new president in Dr. Paul Chitwood. We will be blessed to hear him on Monday night. We have a new president at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in Dr. Jamie Dew. Dr. Dew will be with us on Tuesday morning. For these two reasons alone, I want you to come to this year’s convention. We want to connect with these new leaders. We want to form strong relationships with them.

Of course, this year will be my first convention as your new executive director. I will be offering a report and challenge Monday night.

Isaiah 40:31 reminds us that “those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength.” Join me in praying that this year’s Convention will prove to be an occasion of genuine renewal—personal renewal and corporate renewal for our common work.

Pastors Need to Be Encouraged

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (1 Samuel 23:16 NIV)

When I accepted the position of Executive Director for Louisiana Baptists, I made this promise:

Pastors will be encouraged. Churches are essential to our work, and spiritually healthy pastors are essential to healthy churches. I have been a pastor of four churches. Each church was a different size and had different strengths and weaknesses, but all required hard work. I want to encourage pastors through public ministry to them and private friendship with them to be all that God has called them to be. This will be my daily prayer, daily goal, and daily evaluation.

Years ago, I heard the Christian motivation speaker Zig Ziglar speak. The only thing I remember him saying is, “Who motivates the motivator?”

We could adjust the words slightly to say, “Who encourages the encourager?” Who preaches to the preacher?” “Who ministers to the minister?” “Who counsels the counselor?” “Who pastors the pastor?”

Your pastor needs all of this. We all need a Jonathan to come alongside of us to help us find strength in God.

My friend Scott, at the time a doctoral student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was taking his written examinations. Written examinations—a grueling three-day test of perseverance—occur half-way through the doctoral program. This three-day period can be a very lonely experience. Another friend of ours knew that Scott was taking these tests. He arranged with the professor to put a note in Scott’s test packet. The note simply read, “Scott, here’s a dollar. When you have your break today, buy a soda on me. I’m praying for you.”

That story has always reminded me that encouragement does not have to be expensive, just thoughtful and intentional.

I pray that all of us find meaningful ways to encourage our pastors this month.

Helping Your Pastor Find His Strength in God

James Stewart was a pastor’s friend. James is the kind of man that every pastor needs one or two, or five of, if he is going to survive. Our memories of James are many. He lived across the street from us in our first pastorate. We cut grass together, ate many meals together, went to football games together, and sometimes investigated strange noises in the middle of the night.

Though he worked long hours as a department manager in a local grocery store and cared for his numerous brothers and sisters, James was faithful. Sometimes I have said that if it wasn’t for James Stewart, I might not have continued in ministry. James encouraged us and believed in us when things could not have been worse at that first church.

Pastors need to be encouraged. The Bible records the relationship between Jonathan and David. There is a particular verse that gives great example to the kind of encouragement pastors need.

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (1 Samuel 23:16 NIV) Do you see that phrase?

Church, your pastor doesn’t need you to just be nice or say nice things (although, that doesn’t hurt). He needs you to help him find his strength in God.

Thoughtful Encouragement

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24 NIV)

Miss Mary Olive McPhaul, Dean McPhaul, as most called her, was a faithful member and Sunday School teacher of First Baptist Church, Lafayette, until her death. Dean McPhaul came to Lafayette, and to the university there, as Associate Dean of Women in 1957. She retired as Dean of Student Life some four decades later. Though she never married or had children of her own, she was “like a mother” to decades of students.

She realized that one of her chief callings in life was to be an encourager. She certainly encouraged me with her affirming words, but also with specific action. Once she kept telling me that she wanted to do something for me, but did not know what to do. I kept telling her that she did not have to do anything for me, but pray. She insisted until one day she called me with the established plans of what she had planned for me. Actually what she wanted to do for me would be for my son, who was about nine years old at the time and crazy about all things related to sports.  She had arranged for my son and me to have a complete tour of all of the athletic facilities at our university, guided by the head baseball coach. We saw every inch of field, locker room, weight room, and training room, all along the way meeting various coaches and athletes who happened to be in the buildings at the time.  For my son, the day is a special memory.  For me, the day holds special meaning because the sole purpose was for my encouragement.

That’s exactly what the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote, “And let us consider…” The goal was encouragement.  If that is the goal, he instructed us to give some thought to how we seek to encourage. Do you want to encourage someone today? Give it some thought before you take specific action.

October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month. The way that you show your appreciation need not be expensive, but let it be thoughtful.