Pastor Top and Easter

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.

Pastor Top was planning his preaching for the six weeks before Easter. He wanted this to be a challenging and reflecting time for his church. He felt very convicted that both he and the folks at Little Oak might have grown a bit complacent about the very people God wanted them to reach. He joked with other pastors about the casual attendance patterns of many people who considered themselves to be regular attenders. Some called them CME attenders: Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter. Despite his desire to have them come more often Top wondered if there was something both he and the folks at Little Oak could do to help the casual attender connect with God. The God connection was what they needed to transform their life.

Top thought about the sermon he would preach the week before Easter. He would us the passage on the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Luke 19: 41 As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The Lord impressed on Top that the triumph folks needed in their lives today was peace, the peace that only Jesus could bring. The point of Palm Sunday was to present the entry of Christ to Jerusalem where people there saw a savior. They saw the everyday Jesus who identified with their hurts and frustrations in everyday life. That was the Jesus who saw their poverty and sat with them. The Jesus who touched them no matter how messy and dirty their lives were is the savior needed today. That same savior is the savior that both the casual attender and every Sunday attender needed to know personally.

Weeping compassion was what Jesus had for his people. Top paused and asked himself if he had wept over the people of his area? Little Oak was an open country church yet there were houses in around the church. Each time he drove to church he gave little thought to most of the houses. That was his first challenge. He needed to see homes instead of houses. Homes with people like he and his family inside. Homes filled with parents, teenagers and grade school kids who loved their family and needed a savior to walk with them through life. Top realized he drove by thinking about church not the people he drove by. The savior entered and saw lives as he entered the city not just buildings. Top needed to not only see lives but souls who the savior wanted to transform into his image.

Years ago when Top began to Pastor he would take an evening or two a month and visit the homes of people around the church he pastored. Life got busier as his kids got older and families changed. Perhaps he needed to make the time to stop by some of these homes and introduced himself to the people. That would be a start. Top had the sense that God told him to start praying for the people in the homes as he drove by. Pray God would touch them and then after a period of prayer go and visit them. Top knew from past experience with God that praying for people even when he didn’t know them would move him to compassion. He also felt God was leading him to ask a few folks to join him in praying. Two of the prayers were in the nursing home. They were alert and concerned about their church and area. They asked him each time he visited them what they could do for the church.

Pastor Top is a bi-vocational pastor in a rural area

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Pastor Top was feeling humbled and thankful for many things. Earlier today there was an accident on the job site where he worked. A co-worker had been injured by a falling board and taken by ambulance to the area hospital. Top had prayed with the man before the ambulance arrived. He would remain in the hospital a few days and be off work awhile. Complete recovery was expected. Top was thankful he was there to pray and would have the opportunity to share Christ with the man while he was in the hospital. Perhaps he would be open to the Lord. Top had discovered his bi-vocational role allowed him many opportunities to share the Lord. He smiled as he recalled one of his co-workers called him the Chaplin of the job site.
Top felt very humbled as the folks at Little Oak Baptist Church had honored both he and his family the entire month of October during Pastor Appreciation Month. There were times recently when Top had thought about resigning the church. The previous pastor had been a great man, servant of God and still referred to by many in the church as the Pastor. Top was not jealous of the man, in fact he admired him also. It was time for the church to look forward to new days not live in the past. He couldn’t say those things out loud. The appreciation times were humbling to Top because he felt the church had turned a corner in its attitude toward the past. The church had given his family a generous amount of money, even including his children with individual gifts. The notes of appreciation were what he was most thankful for. Folks expressed appreciation for things seen and unseen. One lady had mentioned the many visits made to her lost friend on evenings after Top got off work. Another person had mentioned his easy smile and laugh which could diffuse a tense situation. Still another mentioned that his preaching had a point and wasn’t random each week. They had been a bit skeptical at first of his preaching through the book of James, then after a couple of weeks looked forward to the next passage in James. Top was humbled and thankful as he realized that the church was beginning to look ahead and adjust to him as pastor and he to the church. The Lord is gracious and good.
Thankful according to Webster meant: glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc.: of, relating to, or expressing thanks
Thankfulness should be the first thought of believers each day. Believers should be Thankful that a holy God in heaven would be concerned about the routine and mundane things in life. Thankful that God would in his patience would put up with the complaining and whining of his people when they didn’t see the big picture. Top was very thankful for his wife and children. They had willing went to Little Oak leaving a church that they loved and were loved by. They had come to love the people of Little Oak and viewed them as their extended family.
Top was most thankful and humbled by the way the Lord continued to use him. He was never amazed whether on the job or at church or at Wal-Mart the opportunities God gave him to touch lives for Jesus. Thank you Lord for being gracious and good to me.

Grubby Angels

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Recently I was traveling from Branson, MO to Vandalia, IL. I had the travel schedule down in my mind. I could drive without stopping, get home around 9pm, catch up on some work, and still get several hours of sleep. Less than an hour into the trip the low tire light came on the dashboard of the car. I got off at the next exit. While putting air in the tire I saw the problem that looked like a nail in the tire. I went to a nearby tire shop but they only did truck tire tires. They recommended a place a mile away behind McDonalds. It was 5 till 5. I thought I was stuck. I pulled into the next shop and three young guys were there sweaty and grubby from their days labor. I stated my problem they said wheel it in. I made small talk as one worked on my tire. All three were busy yet chatty. We had a couple of laughs. The tire was fixed really well. I asked how much, the young man in charge said no charge. What a blessing. These guys stayed late and helped me. Who can I bless like this?

Camping On!!!!!

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Camp has been a very God filled awesome experience this year. One young man told me after Older Boys week that this was his last year. God always speaks to him during camp. He is preparing to go into the Air Force. He knows God will be with him. A girl spoke with me one afternoon and said I got saved last night. A counselor told me what a great time he had. It was his first year at camp. He has committed to come back next year. The spirit and attitude of Rehoboth Camp may be summed up in this verse. Ephesians 4:16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. (HCSB)
The whole body referred to in this verse can broadly mean all the believers in Christ; more narrowly defined it could be the churches of Rehoboth. I am very thankful and proud of our churches. We fit together and are knitted together by our faith in Christ. We support many mutual ministries one which is camp. Camp calls upon many to do much. Camp directors meet and plan year round. This provides a well thought out camp program and theme. The counselors are enlisted as early as possible. Nurses, rec leaders, track leaders, Bible Study leaders, pastors, worship leaders, and kitchen staff are all enlisted along the way before camp begins. The people of Rehoboth work together.
Paul writes in Ephesians that the whole body is knitted and fit together for the growth of the body. This year we had 235 kids register for camp. This was a significant increase of almost 30 percent. Wow!!!!!! We are knit together and fit together by love. Paul writes in this brief verse that he love is the motivation and result of working together. Love is multi-purpose.
Love motivates people to give a week of intense time. Love compels us to work together. Love drives us to share our faith in small groups, with campers, and other counselors. Love also challenges us to do things in humility and with a servant’s attitude. Love must be the foundation of all we do at camp and in our churches. When we bring meals as church family cook and serve with love. A few years ago we had a camper who didn’t want to go home. He hid in the woods for an hour while we looked for him. Finally he came out. We talked about home and why he didn’t want to go home. He was afraid of parents, didn’t eat regularly, and he loved the food at camp. He could eat as much as he wanted. Bless our churches which serve food generously.
A generous spirit drives many to support camp in a variety of ways. Thanks to all who have and are continuing to contribute to the camp and building funds. Thanks for those who have given hours of time for remodeling. Thanks to all who have prayed for and worked hard at the camp. Thanks to all who have given generously for specific items at camp. Camp continues to cost a great deal above the registration fee. We have an unwritten understanding that all kids go to camp who want to go. That means that some kids come to camp and we pay for everything. There is no magic money available. We simply ask the Lord to provide and in turn ask that you prayerfully consider giving more. Our cost for the four weeks of camp not covered by registration and other gifts will be about 20,000. My belief and the way I have led in the past is to spend wisely, all kids go to camp who want to regardless of their financial ability, and God will provide. The camp committee believes that our registration fee is high enough that it could easily discourage some campers from coming. My faith says God provides through the love of many churches.
We are on mission together as an association of churches. Rehoboth churches have been generous for years and I am sure will be generous in the future

Keep your focus

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I enjoy being around children. I find them refreshing and yes sometimes a bit annoying with their open honesty. Joy and I have been around kids playing T-ball and softball and I am reminded again how important it is to keep an eye on the ball. The ball is pitched, here it comes, the child swings, yet keeps looking at the hand of the pitcher and so misses the ball. The T-ball batter sees the ball on the T and swings with all his might and misses the stationary object sometimes as he is looking not at the ball but at a teammate or the base he is to run to. The difference between hitting the ball and missing is a matter of an inch. The difference between a solid hit and a soft grounder is a fraction of an inch. The older the child the quicker the ball comes, the more difficult it becomes to keep focused on the ball. The whiff of a bat at 5 is usually met with encouragement. You can do this; keep your eye on the ball. Don’t quit. All statements met to cheer on the child. ENOCURAGEMENT is a must for a child and also necessary for adults. We must become people of encouragement.
Scripture teaches us to be encouragers. Woven throughout the word of God are instructions to keep us in the mindset of encouragement. I have found Hebrews 12:1-3 to be one of those passages. Hebrews 12: Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus,[a] the source and perfecter[b] of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him[c] endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. (HCSB) The KJV uses the words compassed about the Message uses the phrase “pioneers who blazed the trail.” Regardless of your preference for Bible translations each translation agrees that we are surrounded by witnesses past, present, and future. These witnesses cheer us on telling us not to give up on God. Share the message of Christ. Keep living the Christian life. Follow Christ. Don’t give up or grow weary and lose heart. Keep your eyes on Jesus. That is correct keep your focus on Jesus.
Life can be tiring at times and we want or need to rest. Jesus tells us to rest in Him. While we are resting keep our eyes on Him. When I keep my eyes on Jesus I won’t grow weary. In my personal walk with God when I keep my eye on Jesus I live with confidence and follow Christ. Fellow believers should be cheering me on, those who have gone to be with Jesus cheer me on as I reflect on how they lived their life. The future generations cheer me on to remain faithful so they will have a model for faith. Each of these generations is telling you and me to remain faithful. Don’t give up. Keep pressing on.
There are two questions kids may ask that make adults uncomfortable: How old are you and How much do you weigh? Perhaps a better question might be what weighs you down or distracts you? Daily schedule? Money? Worry about family and friends? Many many things pull our focus off Jesus onto ourselves.
Remember to keep your eye on Jesus. He will blaze your path, light your way, and keep you from discouragement.